JULIA STREET WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT
THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS
Dear Julia and Poydras,
My late father was a plumber and found this bottle years ago while working under a house. Can you please tell me anything at all about the soft drink B-Up?
The Jefferson Bottling Company, 716-724 Frisco Ave., introduced B-Up, a lithiated lemon-flavored fizzy soft drink, about 1941. Like its better-known competitor, 7-Up, it really did contain lithium – yes, the same stuff used in some antidepressants. (The ingredient was banned in ’48.)
I am not certain exactly how long B-Up remained in production, but your bottle is most likely from the 1940s or ’50s. Jefferson Bottling Company, part of Pailet Industries, also produced the popular Big Shot line of soft drinks until ’87, when the company and its 10-flavor line were sold to Affiliated Food Stores of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Before the New Basin Canal was closed and filled in, there was a derelict wooden boat moored there by the name of Argo. The story at the time was that it was a World War I sub chaser. This was the only information that I knew of them.
We used to dive off the boat and swim in the polluted water of the canal. Barges loaded with watermelons would pass on their way to the markets in New Orleans. Sometimes, the crew would toss one of the melons into the water for us to retrieve. Oh, happy days!
I, along with others, would appreciate any information that you can offer about the Argo.
Howard V. Z. Kavanaugh
During World War I, 441 wooden-hulled submarine chasers were built, six of which had their hulls laid in New Orleans. After the war ended, many were sold to private owners and renamed. While I have every reason to believe your story about the Argo, I have been unable to connect that name with the hull number of any of the documented WWI-era submarine chasers. I can, however, verify that a former submarine chaser, which became the yacht Blueridge before being renamed the Mercedes, passed through the New Basin Canal on what may have been its only voyage to Cuba.
In late 1921, the Mercedes’ owner, Mark Boasberg (aka Jack Sheehan), claimed the vessel was lost at sea while conveying a load of coconuts from Cuba to New Orleans. Neither the local press nor federal revenue agents believed the tale; rumor had it that the boat’s captain had been sighted in New Orleans and the vessel itself had likely been conveying something other than coconuts.
While Sheehan’s Prohibition-era dreams of amassing a fortune in the coconut trade never materialized, his home adjoining his Suburban Garden resort was raided in January 1922, soon after the Mercedes was allegedly “lost;” $100,000 of liquor was taken in the raid. At the time, authorities alleged Sheehan was smuggling liquor by boat – possibly on his coconut fleet – and warehousing it in Jefferson Parish. The stash was returned to the Sheehans six months later when a court ruled that search warrant had been improperly issued; litigation, however, continued.
Was the Argo you played on as a kid a sister vessel of Sheehan’s allegedly ill-fated Mercedes? Was she, too, a former submarine chaser? Did she have an illicit career as a rum-runner? Maybe. Using the resources at my disposal, I just can’t say for sure.
I am married into the Nami family.
There is a building on the corner of Esplanade Avenue and Decatur Street that now houses the BMC music club. My husband’s family once owned this building and the jewelry store, Nami Jewelers, that took up the bottom floor. He remembers living on one of the floors when he was much younger.
There is a mosaic tile inscription with “Nami” entering the building and a “Nami” clock hanging on Buffa’s Bar on Esplanade. We would love to know more about the history of the building and of the clock.
The building at 1327 Decatur St. at the corner of Esplanade Avenue, was home to the George A. Nami jewelry store. The property, which Nami purchased in 1912, remained in his family until ’83.
George Assaid Nami, who died in 1954 at the age of 83, was a native of Schwire, Lebanon. Like many other members of New Orleans’ Lebanese colony, he arrived in the Crescent City in the 1890s and settled in the French Quarter. In 1912, George purchased from the Banville family the building at Decatur and Esplanade, which had until that time housed the Banvilles’ millinery shop. For more than half a century, 1327 Decatur St. was home to the jewelry store Nami owned and operated with his two sons, George Jr. and Philip.
The shop continued to prosper for more than a decade after George A. Nami Sr.’s death, but closed soon after George A. Nami Jr.’s August 1967 death. The founder’s widow, Henriette Werling, had passed away nine months earlier, in December ’66. Both George A. Nami Jr. and his brother, Philip, were sons of their father’s prior marriage to Beynout Sawaya, which ended in divorce in ’36.
The clock at Buffa’s, 1001 Esplanade Ave., has been there since Vincent Buffa opened his doors in 1939. Jewelry manufacturer and distributor George A. Nami Sr. gave it as a gift to his friend, Buffa, on that occasion.
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 Howard V. Z. Kavanaugh, Mandeville; and Sharon Nami, New Orleans.