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JULIA STREET WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT

THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS

Dear Julia and Poydras,
My great-grandparents Mum (Louisiana) and Pop (Frank) Daroca owned the Workers Friend Grocery and Market in New Orleans in the 1930s. I think the photo (above) is from ’36. My siblings and I would be interested in any information or history Poydras may be able to provide from his travels around the city.

Susan LaBella Pei
New Orleans

Susan, ever since he got his iPad, Poydras doesn’t travel around the city much. The last time he left the house was on Mardi Gras to go see the Rex parade. Only he made the mistake of watching the parade from an oak tree on St. Charles Avenue, where he got barraged by beads. He has recovered from his bruises and now spends much of his times trying the sell the beads on eBay.

What a wonderful photo!     

While the photo clearly shows the slogan “Workers Friend,” I found no listings for any business by that name. It certainly isn’t unusual for a grocery or bar to appear in official records or city directories only under its proprietor’s name, even if a company name may have appeared on store signs or advertisements.

About 1937, Frank J. Daroca Jr. moved out of his father’s home on Mazant Street and opened a grocery store at 2600 Danneel St. at the corner of Third Street. Joining him in the venture was Nicholas R. Torotrich, an in-law who ran a meat market at that location. Daroca soon left Danneel Street and, within three years, opened another grocery across town at 1300 Governor Nicholls St. at the corner of N. Liberty Street. Frank J. Daroca Jr. ran the grocery on Governor Nicholls until his retirement in the late ’40s. He passed away in ’51 at the age of 64.

If the photograph is correctly dated, it most likely depicts the store at 2600 Danneel St. Unless a vintage exterior photograph surfaces someday, it’s probably impossible to prove whether Daroca’s store was ever formally named the “Workers Friend.”


Dear Julia,
I am interested in my mom’s dad, Robert S. Landry. He died when my mom was 9 years old. She was the youngest of his six children. I wasn’t born until she was in her 30s, so he was a distant memory but, from what I did hear, he was clerk of the House of Representatives in Baton Rouge and president of the old French Opera House. Plus, he had a big home in the 1100 block of N. Broad Street.

Anything you can dig up would mean a lot. Your magazine is my lifeline to New Orleans in Vegas, and I read your column first every time.

Much thanks,
Richard Trotter
Las Vegas, NV

Your grandfather, Robert Samuel Landry (1860-1915), was a popular, well-respected, politically active man. The few details you heard about him are fairly accurate, but he was the French Opera Company’s treasurer, not its president. For more than 20 years, the staunch Democrat served as clerk for the Louisiana House of Representatives. He also served as the bookkeeper and recorder for the Louisiana State Board of Health.

Robert Samuel Landry was born in 1860 to Francois A. Landry and Marie Louise Mire. Educated at Jesuit College, he studied law under Henry C. and John H. Castellanos, whose firm was later known as Cullen & Castellanos.

On April 18, 1888, at St. Rose de Lima Church, Landry married Marie Elizabeth Cecile Degelos (1865-1933), daughter of Ludger “Dick” Degelos (d. 1913), a well-known fireman whose life achievements included an uninterrupted half-century of service with Hook and Ladder No. 4. Years later, Robert and Cecile would celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary in grand style with a Japanese-themed party at their 1122 N. Broad St. home.

The family home was the scene of a far sadder occasion when Landry took his own life there on the morning of Dec. 2, 1915. A Times-Picayune reporter speculated the following day that the act was likely precipitated by Landry’s distress over his wife’s health crisis. At the time, Landry’s wife of 27 years, Cecile, was critically ill and hospitalized at Touro Infirmary; doctors had told him a risky surgical operation was her only hope of survival.

Cecile was not immediately informed of her husband’s suicide but did survive her illness. She spent the next 18 years as a widow, passing away in 1933 at the age of 67. Like Robert before her, Cecile was buried in the family tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 3 on Esplanade Avenue following a funeral Mass from St. Rose de Lima Church on Bayou Road. The family’s grand raised center-hall home was demolished shortly after Cecile’s death; by ’37 it was gone.


Dear Miss Julia,
We have been visiting New Orleans regularly for over 30 years and love the city. Our introduction to French Quarter hospitality was during a stopover from Texas to Florida in 1984.

I wanted to be able to say that I had been in an establishment on the famous Bourbon Street. However, since our 7 year old daughter accompanied us, we couldn’t enter a place serving liquor unless it also served food. We enjoyed a drink and appetizers at a restaurant on Bourbon; the waitress was absolutely delightful and especially cordial to said daughter.

I believe it was called Houlihan’s.

Can you verify that there was such a place? And if so, what business now occupies that space? During many subsequent trips, we’ve never been able to do so.

Many thanks,
Betty Herzik
Schulenburg, TX

Yes, you definitely could have visited Houlihan’s during your 1984 stopover. The French Quarter location of a chain restaurant based in Kansas City, Kansas, Houlihan’s Old Place occupied the former Chinese laundry building at 315 Bourbon St. from ’73 until the late ’80s.

Kansas City restauranteurs Joe Gilbert and Paul Robinson came up with the chain’s somewhat unusual name when transforming a men’s clothing store into the first location of what would grow to a national restaurant chain that currently boasts 72 locations, most of which are in the Midwest and northeast. Tom Houlihan’s haberdashery had been a longtime Kansas City institution so, even after it no longer occupied the site, people continued to refer to the building as Houlihan’s Old Place. The name stuck and was a good fit for the nostalgia-themed restaurant chain.

The surroundings were an interesting mix of stained glass and turn-of-the century nostalgia that was popular at the time. Brunch, lunch and cocktail offerings were geared to mid-American tastes, albeit with a few local dishes and cocktails thrown in for good measure. The “gentlemen’s club” Rick’s Cabaret currently occupies Houlihan’s old Bourbon Street address.


Win a restaurant gift certificate

Here is a chance to eat, drink 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 a tour and Creole breakfast for two at Degas House or a Jazz Brunch for two at The Court of Two Sisters. 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 Betty Herzik, Schulenburg, Texas; and Susan LaBella Pei, New Orleans.

 

 

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