JULIA STREET WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT

THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS

photo courtesy of the historic new orleans collection

Dear Julia,
How long was Kreeger’s Department Store in existence and why did they close? Any information would be appreciated.

Allison Hamilton
Covington


Kreeger’s operated for 121 years, from 1865 to 1986; it was still under family management when it closed and its last president was Harbey Kreeger Jr. Best known for its store at 805 Canal St., Kreeger’s hit hard times in the 1980s. Hoping to weather a soft economy and changing fur market, they opened outlet stores at Canal Place, Uptown Square, Lakeside and in Lafayette. The effort, however, failed and the venerable department store soon fell into bankruptcy. A well-regarded furrier, Kreeger’s often allowed valued customers to store their furs in the department store vaults; when they closed their last store – the Lakeside Mall location – approximately 4,000 customers were notified to please retrieve their coats and stoles.

Dear Julia.
I’ve enjoyed your column for almost 20 years since I moved to the Big Easy. In any case, in your April 2014 issue you gave a history of Solari’s that included a picture but, curious as I am, I was intrigued by the building next door. It appears to be very ornate and it looks like there are drapery tassels on the facade. Can it have been a department store? Please give me, if you will, the origin and any history of this building.

Thank you,
Ralph Ruder
New Orleans


You saw far more detail than I did in the photo we ran of Solari’s in our April 2014 issue, but you didn’t see an old department store. My best guess is that you were wondering about the adjacent La Louisiane Restaurant, which, like Solari’s, is long-gone. A long-lived and elegant restaurant, La Louisiane in its later years was associated with “Diamond Jim Moran.” A larger-than-life man whose real name was James Brocato Sr., Moran once served as Huey P. Long’s bodyguard.

Moran purchased the eatery in February 1954. At La Louisiane as well as Moran’s other restaurant holdings, diners were informed some lucky guest might find a real diamond nestled in a meatball. Thus, the proprietor’s enduring nickname: Diamond Jim.


Dear Julia and Poydras,
When I was a kid, back in the early 1960s, my family and I used to drive down Franklin Street to St. Claude Avenue on our way back from Pontchartrain Beach. Along the way, we would pass a number of neon signs. The one I remember best was a barbecue place about a block away from St. Claude Avenue on Franklin Street. It had a flashing neon sign showing three or more pigs of ascending sizes.

Our family had a black-and-white television set but the programming schedule was limited. I guess we were easily amused but animated neon pigs were a must-see attraction in those days.

The side of the building faced Franklin Street and was brightly lit. It looked like a house that had been converted to commercial use. We never went there to eat – I wish we had – perhaps I’d remember the name. Do you happen to know anything about this unique sign or the business it advertised?

Allen Mayfield
Lakeview


Your little glowing piggies adorned Fletcher’s Barbecue Restaurant, which, from the late 1940s though at least the ’60s, served up basted beasties from their location at the corner of Marais and Franklin streets (formerly Almonaster). The A. Fletcher Harvey family ran the business from their home. City directory listings indicate the business address appeared variously as 2601 Marais St. and 1201 Franklin St.

Dear Julia,
My dad and I used to go crabbing when I was little. We used chicken necks and backs for bait – whichever one was cheaper – but I’ve heard that melts are better, though my father never could never tell me exactly what part of a cow constituted its melt. He was quite squeamish so he never bought melts for crab bait but he’s occasionally pointed out bloody packages in the grocer’s freezer. Can you please solve this childhood mystery for me? What are “melts?”

Looking forward to your reply,
Stephanie Holder
River Ridge


I could have gone all day without thinking about this but, since you ask, “melts” refers to a slaughtered bovine’s spleen. The term is derived from the Middle English word, milte, generally meaning spleen but more specifically referring to the spleen from a bovine that has been slaughtered for food.


Dear Julia and Poydras,
In the 1910s and ’20s, a locally made soft drink called Grapico became so popular that it was sold far beyond Louisiana and advertised itself as “The Drink of the Nation.” However, despite its widespread popularity I know very little about it. I think I would’ve liked it since one of my favorite summer treats remains a grape snowball with whipped cream. Do you or Poydras know anything about Grapico?

Mike Boureaux
New Orleans


The brand name, which was introduced around 1915, was pronounced “GRAPE-E-CO.”

J. Grossman’s Sons, previously known as successful liquor merchants, manufactured the sparkling grape-flavored soft drink. By August 1916, brothers August and Isidore Grossman were marveling at Grapico’s stellar success and eagerly describing to the local press some details about the popular product and the manufacturing process overseen by chemist Harry H. Forst. In its first year of production, Grapico’s output surged from 28,000 cans to 2,288,000 – nearly 3 million – cans sold throughout Louisiana and the southern United States,
Most of the details simply note the sanitary conditions prevailing at the bottling plant. However, one processing step would raise modern eyebrows and safety concerns; once the syrup formed, it was first run though a particular asbestos filter, which had been specially imported from Germany. While the chief danger from asbestos is that its fibers are early inhaled and carcinogenic, the idea of running hot fruit syrup though an asbestos filter wouldn’t have raised concerns at the time because the dangers of asbestos were not known during Grapico’s heyday.

 

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: Allison Hamilton, Covington; and Ralph Ruder, New Orleans.

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