JULIA STREET WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT
THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS
photo courtesy of the new orleans historic collection
Dear Julia and Poydras,
As you both are well aware, in the early days of Saints football in old Tulane Stadium there were very elaborate halftime shows. There were ostrich races, people hang gliding on to the playing field and so on.
One very memorable show had a large band playing the “1812 Overture” at one end of the field while cannon were fired from the other end by, I assume, the Washington Artillery. This required repeatedly firing those old muzzle-loaded field pieces at the correct places in the score. Tragically, as one cannon was being reloaded to be fired again, the gun fired inadvertently as the powder charge was being rammed home. The ramrod flew toward the band, fortunately not hitting anyone. The gunner who had handled the ramrod was carried from the field. I have wondered for years how badly injured that man was and how he is today. I am sure that you can tell me and for that I thank you in advance.
The incident in question happened during the halftime show at the Saints-Rams game held in Tulane Stadium on November 1, 1970. A total of four people, including two re-enactors and two onlookers, were injured when an antique cannon misfired as Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” played. According to The Times-Picayune’s coverage the following day, David Widdicombe and Leslie Germain, both of Memphis, were the most seriously hurt. Widdicombe sustained powder burns and lost his right middle, ring and little fingers as well as a portion of his right hand. The young man’s left ring and little fingers were also broken, and some powder residue got in his eyes. Germain suffered a badly fractured left hand, burns and lacerations. Also injured were onlookers William Bagley and Mrs. Becky High, both of Metairie. I do not know their current whereabouts.
The Washington Artillery had no connection with the incident. According to United Press International (UPI) wire coverage of the accident, the young re-enactors belonged to the Chalmette National Park Association, a group that dressed in period military attire and traveled throughout the country, firing antique cannons. After that incident, the Saints switched to me normal halftime shows.
When my wife and I were seniors in high school, we often dined at a restaurant named de Latour’s on Robert E. Lee Boulevard. It was located not too far from Mount Carmel Academy. We would have their half-chicken and a salad. My future bride complained that she could not eat the full meal and my response was that it was costing me a lot so she had better learn to be prepared for a big meal when we dated.
I know the restaurant has long since closed, but I wonder if the owners opened any replacement restaurants and where. Can you shed any light or aroma on this question?
Although more often remembered for his fried chicken, restaurateur Louis de Latour started out selling seafood. With business partner Charles Schmidt, de Latour ran de Latour Sea Food House, which in the early 1930s was located at 101 Lake Ave. in Bucktown.
By 1935, de Latour’s Chicken Inn was operating at 540 Robert E. Lee Blvd. The business was quite successful and soon remodeled and expanded. Following Louis de Latour’s death in ’49 at the age of 60, his daughter, Shirly de Latour Cheer, managed the Chicken Inn for a few years. By the mid-’50s, de Latour’s Chicken Inn was no more and LaRocca’s Chicken, Steak and Seafood House was operating at the 540 Robert E. Lee Blvd. location.
I have just perused Fabulous New Orleans by Lyle Saxon and write in response to his Chapter XIX, “The Quadroon Balls.” Yet, let me pause and introduce myself and tell of why I love New Orleans.
I am a retired Pediatrician and, in 1930, the year of Mr. Saxon’s book’s last printing, I was born in this fabulous city at Touro Infirmary.
Growing up during the Great Depression isn’t a memory of mine but, through my family’s stories, I know of its terrible times.
My paternal grandmother, Goldie “Bee” Burgess was a personal friend of Mr. Saxon and of Pops Whitesell (I have several of his photographs, inscribed “To Bee, one of my sweeties,”) and of Flo Fields, Society Editor of The Times-Picayune (later curator of the Apothecary Shop and museum in the French Quarter) and of Mr. Augus Werner, owner of the long-gone drug store at Royal and Canal streets, and quite active in Louisiana politics in the 1940s and ’50s.
As a child, I often rode the Swan Boat at Audubon Park and marveled at the gigantic Kodiak bear in the zoo there.
We moved away to Tupelo, Mississippi, yet I returned, attending Tulane Medical School and obtaining my M.D. in 1955 – then the greatest day of my life.
Now let me return to my first paragraph. While in the French Quarter, I often toured the grand ballroom of the St. Anne Hotel, where there were a series of magnificent oil portraits – maybe 15 or more – of beautiful Quadroon ladies adorned in lavish gowns and plumed hats. Thus my question: Where are they now and what happened to the St. Anne? My still-vibrant love for old New Orleans and the olden ties makes me muse and ponder their fate.
Bless you (and Poydras) for your columns, for they’re the main reason I subscribe to New Orleans Magazine.
Dr. Marion Winkler
I have greatly enjoyed reading your recollections, but I’ve been unable to locate a St. Anne Hotel that was open in the 1950s and ’60s, from your medical school years through your early years in practice. Are you, perhaps, thinking of a hotel which was on or near St. Anne Street?
On the other hand, I do recall Audubon Zoo’s massive Kodiak bear and can give you a little background on him. In June 1938, Louisiana Governor Richard W. Leche accepted from hunting guide Charles Madsen, the gift of a Kodiak bear. The young bear, then weighing only 100 pounds, arrived at Audubon Zoo the following month and was named Richard in honor of Governor Leche.
Win a Court of Two Sisters Jazz Brunch
Here is a chance to eat, drink and listen to music, and have your curiosity satiated all at once. Send Julia a question. If we use it, you’ll be eligible for a monthly drawing for one of two Jazz Brunch gift certificates for two at The Court of Two Sisters in the Vieux Carré. To take part, send your question to: Julia Street, c/o New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 or email: Errol@MyNewOrleans.com. This month’s winners are: Don Burnham, New Orleans; and Dr. Marion Winkler, Tupelo, Mississippi.