JULIA STREET WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT
THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS
photo courtesy of The Charles L. Franck Studio Collection at The Historic New Orleans Collection
I am interested to know if you may have information about a place of business that was located at 510 Poydras St. in New Orleans in about 1929 to about ’35 called the Poydras Garage, operated by A. J. Gumina Sr. If you have any information or pictures of that, I’d greatly appreciate it. I’m a relative and I live in Hendersonville, North Carolina by virtue of the Katrina storm.
Angelo J. Gumina
Angelo Joseph Gumina, the New Orleans-born son of Italian immigrants Felix Gumina and Lucy Nicota, was a successful automobile mechanic and entrepreneur. Born in 1893, he entered the automotive service trade as a young man and, by 1917, was operating a successful garage at 4319 Dryades St. between Berlin Street and Napoleon Avenue. As automobiles became increasingly more affordable and popular, Gumina carved a niche for himself by styling his shop as a one-stop destination catering to the needs of the motoring public.
By early 1922, Gumina moved downtown to 600 Carondelet St. at the corner of Lafayette Street, where he established the City Hall Service Station. The new shop offered more than fuel, maintenance and repairs. The garage charged 25 cents for daily parking and $1 for a car wash.
Within four years, Gumina was seeking larger quarters and purchased from grocers Schmidt & Ziegler a three-story building at 510-518 Poydras, Schmidt & Ziegler had, in 1913, obtained the building at auction following the bankruptcy of Smith Bros. & Co., which had for many years operated a wholesale grocery at that location, the former street address of which was Old No. 102-106 Poydras St.
Angelo Joseph Gumina quickly renovated the former grocery, adapting it for use as an automotive garage and storage facility. The Poydras Garage opened in mid-February 1926 and for the next decade was a motorist’s one-stop shop, offering a wide array of services including parking and storage to washing, maintenance, accessories, repairs, towing and painting. Boasting a capacity in excess of 300 cars, the fireproof facility had a sprinkler system and elevators to transfer vehicles from one floor to another.
In 1936, Gumina left the Poydras Garage and set up shop at 1049 Carondelet St. The Poydras Garage building later housed United Distributors, Inc., but has since been demolished. The site was cleared in the early ’70s for construction of the Hale Boggs Federal Building.
Angelo Joseph Gumina Sr., passed away in April 1986 at the age of 93.
In the 1940s, during the Second World War, I was King of the May Festival at McDonogh #23 Public School. In order to be King, I had to raise the most money for the program advertisements. It was such an honor to be King during this stressful time. I was dressed in an all-white military uniform with gold buttons and wore a white officer’s hat trimmed in gold braiding. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of my reign as King with which to remember this event. My question is: Could Poydras fly around to see if May Festivals are still celebrated in New Orleans, or is this a lost tradition?
Thomas J. Roberts
Fairfield Glade, TN
McDonogh #23’s Parents’ Association sponsored the Uptown school’s Spring Fest over which you ruled. Yes, local schools do continue to hold May festivals of various sorts – both secular celebrations of springtime and the ending school year along with religious traditions, such as Roman Catholic schools’ May Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Shortly after it opened, McDonogh #23, which from 1889 to 1950 operated in the old Carrollton Courthouse, was at the forefront for another celebratory tradition when it reputedly became the first Louisiana school to celebrate Arbor Day. On Feb. 11, 1890, children attending McDonogh #23 planted oak trees and umbrella china trees on the school grounds.
Seldom seen these days, umbrella china trees are also known as chinaberry or china ball trees.
I was in your city in December 2014 (second week). I was at a street performance across from Jackson Square on Decatur Street, the large set of stairs by the Café Du Monde. The performers were about half a dozen young black men. They were a combination of tumblers, dancers and just all-around great performers! My question is: Do you know their names; are they local; and will I get a chance to see them again? I’ve never seen anything like them.
Mrs. Robert Furlong
Oak Creek, WI
I am reasonably sure the group you saw performing at the Moon Walk facing Jackson Square was the Calypso Tumblers. I know they were working in the area in early 2015, not long after your December ’14 visit. I don’t know, however, which members of this internationally famous group may have been working on the day you saw them. Since John “Dr. Juice” Allicock founded the acrobatic dance troupe in New York City in the early 1980s, the Calypso Tumblers have performed from coast to coast and around the world. Over the years, the troupe has added and changed members.
Occasional New Orleans visitors, the Calypso Tumblers were finalists in the second season of the “America’s Got Talent” television series. Thanks to the magic of the internet, you can see the Calypso Tumblers any time you like through the many performances – some of them in New Orleans – that have been uploaded to YouTube. The group also has its own Facebook page.
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 Angelo J. Gumina, Hendersonville, North Carolina; and Thomas J. Roberts, Fairfield Glade, Tennessee.