Julia Street with Poydras the Parrot

The Pursuit to answer eternal questions

From 1947 to ’81 Riders’ Digest, a weekly brochure, was available on local buses and streetcars.

Dear Julia,
It is my understanding that during the height of streetcars being used in New Orleans prior to the start of their replacement by buses, recipes would be posted inside the streetcars for information to the riders. Were they available to be taken by the public, were those ever assembled into a publication available for purchase and were those recipes provided by the streetcar crews and/or maintenance personnel?

Alan Maier
Lafayette


You are remembering Riders’ Digest, a weekly brochure which could be picked up free of charge on local buses and streetcars. From 1947 to ’81, Riders’ Digest was a major community outreach tool allowing New Orleans Public Service, Inc. (NOPSI), the city’s sole utility provider at the time, to provide its customers with a wide range of information including safety and home economy, community news, company information and local history.

In the first few decades of the 20th century, electric and gas appliances revolutionized home food preparation and domestic chores, such as floor cleaning and clothing care. Not only was there a market for new appliances, but also there was a sudden demand for information about how to use the new gadgets. All over the country, power companies assured themselves a piece of the action by hiring home economists, holding cooking and product demonstrations, and opening showrooms where customers could purchase the latest and greatest labor-saving – but fuel-consuming – household appliances.

New Orleans was no exception to this general national trend. Recipes that made their way into Riders’ Digest tended to originate from NOPSI’s in-house home economists. Entergy, NOPSI’s corporate successor, included some Riders’ Digest recipes in its 1997 publication From Woodstoves to Microwaves: Cooking With Entergy, which is currently out of print.

Dear Ms. Street,
In the 1940s and ’50s, when my sister (in the ’40s) and I (in the ’50s) were young and “sowing our wild oats” after a Saturday night filled with fun and frivolity, we would attend what was called a 3 a.m. “Fisherman’s Mass.” However, neither of us can remember the name or location of the church. Perhaps Poydras was brave and daring back then, flying around studying and scrutinizing activities and locations, and he might remember the church. It would be nice to bring back the memory of fun nights and afterwards kneeling in prayer asking forgiveness for our youthful indiscretions.

Maureen Pfister
Metairie

 
Maureen, there are two words that should never be associated with Poydras: “brave” and “daring.” The word “flying” is also used advisedly since Poydras finds wing-flapping to be tiring and he is afraid of heights. His favorite mode of transportation these days is to perch atop one of those mule-drawn carriages. His worldview is limited to where mules lead him.

As for your question, it sounds like some of those wild oats you and your sister were sowing may have been fermented.

Rev. Joseph Albert Levesque introduced the extra-early Mass in the 1930s, while serving as Pastor of Our Lady Star of the Sea, a Roman Catholic church located at 1835 St. Roch Ave. The early Mass, which was held on Sundays and holy days of obligation, began at 3 a.m. in summer and 4 a.m. in winter so sportsmen could satisfy their religious obligations before leaving town to hunt and fish. People who pursued nocturnal wildlife of a different sort were also known to patronize the Mass.

Fr. Levesque retired for health reasons in 1938 and, in ’39, Archbishop Rummel called for the Fishermen’s Mass to end because Church law called for Mass to be held no earlier than one hour before dawn. Hundreds of people petitioned the Archbishop to reconsider his position and, in late ’40, he did. After obtaining special permission from Church authorities, Archbishop Rummel allowed Our Lady Star of the Sea to reinstate its Fishermen’s Mass.

Dear Julia,
 As a child I attended Mardi Gras in the 1950s and seem to remember the krewes threw glass beads. I would like to know if the Mardi Gras krewes ever threw glass beads and, if so, when did they change to plastic beads?

Norma Sherman
Monroe


Krewes most certainly threw glass beads. Contrary to popular belief, glass beads weren’t banned. Instead, several factors influenced the gradual voluntary switch from glass to plastic beads, a trend that began in the late 1960s.

At the time, most glass beads were made in Czechoslovakia and, in 1968, that became a large problem when Soviet, Polish, East German, Hungarian and Bulgarian troops invaded that country. Political upheaval followed, one consequence of which was that Czech beads became costlier and more difficult to obtain. In addition, krewes found themselves confronted with the questions of whether buying goods from a Soviet ally was an unpatriotic act or if money from bead sales may be used to fund enemy arms purchases. Plastic beads were cheaper, quicker and easier to get, and less controversial than Czech glass.

The late 1960s also saw the birth of the Superkrewes as Bacchus and Endymion burst onto the scene. Much larger than traditional parades, these huge street pageants soon gained a reputation of throwing much more loot than their more traditional counterparts. Increasing demand for beads coincided with a costly and dwindling supply of the traditional commodity so krewes gravitated to cheaper and more readily available plastic throws.

Dear Julia,
 The last time I was in New Orleans I happened down a side street and saw an old faded painted sign that read “Reily Coffee Company.” I immediately thought of Lee Harvey Oswald and the time he worked there while in New Orleans and all kinds of stories and legends about it.

 Can you tell me about the history of the Reily Coffee Company? Is it sill in business today?

Philip Supina
Harrogate, Tenn.


In 1902, Monroe wholesale grocer William B. Reily arrived in New Orleans and, with Warren Taylor, formed a company located at 413-415 South Peters St. Initially called Reily, Taylor & Co., Ltd., the firm quickly introduced the popular Luzianne brand. Roasting and canning their own coffee, the company also imported tea, made flavoring extracts and sold grocers’ sundries.

In 1906, Jacob Aron, a family friend and importer of green coffee, joined the firm that, in 1919, was reincorporated as Wm. B. Reily & Company, Inc. The same year, the company introduced Standard Coffee Service to residential customers.

Over the years, W. B. Reily & Company bought several popular local and regional brands. In 1965, it bought JFG Coffee Company of Knoxville, Tenn., then, in ’68, purchased CDM coffee, a brand originally owned by Blue Plate Foods. Later, other brands, including Swans Down Cake Flour, Wick Fowlers 2-Alarm Chili and French Market Coffee joined the product line. Now known as Reily Foods Company, the 110-year-old company currently produces more than 100 different specialty products for the home and commercial market.

Dear Julia,
 My fifth great-grandfather, Jean Baptiste LeGros, aka La Grand Cour, aka La Tendresse was in New Orleans in the early 1700s. His marriage took place in St. Louis Church in 1740. The Gonichon Map indicates tract No. 104 is assigned to La Grand Cour as well as tract No. 117 on the Plan de La Ville of 1728. Other records have shown that he ran an inn on Royal Street before 1758, but had to flee the city because of an accidental shooting. I would like to know if he sold the property on Royal Street and if it’s possible that the Royal Hotel at that site could possibly be part of the original inn.

Kathleen Smith
Jennings


Although Jean Baptiste LeGros owned no fewer than five properties in what is now the French Quarter, all of the corresponding present-day locations – 1035-37 Royal St., 1039-41 Royal St., 708-12 Ursulines Ave., 714-16 Ursulines Ave. and 1018-24 Bourbon St. – contain 19th-century main structures that didn’t exist during LeGros’ lifetime. Surviving property records don’t reveal precisely when LeGros disposed of any of his properties, but clearly show he didn’t own the lot underneath the current Hotel Royal – a building which stands at what is now 1006 Royal St., and is estimated to date from the 1830s.
 

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