JULIA STREET WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT
THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS
In the late 1940s, I was in elementary school at St. Joseph’s on S. Roman Street. In my class (eighth grade) was a girl by the name of Mary Ann Nami. She had dark hair and eyes and a great sense of humor, but kept to herself. I believe she mentioned a brother named Philip. Every time I pass by the former jewelry store, I’m reminded of Mary Ann. It is nice to hear that some of the family still exists.
I often wonder what happened to some of the girls in my class. We would all be in our 80s now.
P.S. The Nami letter in the November 2016 issue of New Orleans Magazine prompted this note.
Thank you for bringing back some of the memories,
Thank you for writing. I may not know what has happened to each of your classmates, but I do know the fate of your elementary school. Sadly, the school you and Mary Ann attended and that you fondly remember is itself a long-vanished part of the local streetscape. Built in 1903, St. Joseph’s Parochial School closed in ’75 and was demolished shortly thereafter following the Congregation of the Mission’s sale of the school and other properties to LSU.
Julia and Poydras,
I may be off my rocker, but when I read in this column about Laura Miller’s quest for a restaurant on Canal Street with a spiral staircase, I immediately thought of Walgreens – I think that was the name of the drugstore on Canal Street. I can’t remember the side street, but my feeble memory tells me that there was a restaurant on an upper level at the drugstore and you needed to climb a spiral staircase.
Joy van Meerveld
Pass Christian, Miss.
You are most certainly not off your rocker. You are correct that the Walgreen’s at the corner of Canal and Baronne streets had a mezzanine-level restaurant overlooking Canal Street. Although I haven’t seen any pictures of it, it appears to have operated from late 1938, when the drug store first opened at 900 Canal St., well into the ’70s.
When the mezzanine-level restaurant first opened, its double-scoop ice cream sodas cost 15 cents and banana splits cost just a nickel more. Walgreen’s also served more substantial fare, such as its 45-cent Sunday Dinner, which included a choice of five entrées with beverage and other accompaniments. Adjusted for inflation, that meal would now cost about $7.70 – still quite a bargain!
Walgreen’s dining area was apparently quite successful. In the early 1940s, the store frequently advertised to encourage women between the ages of 20 and 35 to enroll in its own waitress school under the direction of Mrs. Cooper.
Following a major renovation in late 1962, Walgreen’s actively promoted its cafeteria overlooking Canal Street as a place where one could “dine in gracious atmosphere.” At the time, a baked chicken breast with dressing cost just 67 cents; adjusted for inflation, that’s about $5.35 in today’s money.
As you go up River Road (LA 18) on the west bank in Jefferson Parish, about 1.5 miles past Avondale Shipyard is the community of Waggaman. Almost as soon as you enter Waggaman, you pass by the Cedar Grove Tchoupitoulas Plantation, which is now a wedding location. Just before you get to that, there begins a line of six very old oak trees at about a 30-degree angle from River Road. Judging by the size of the trunks, I think the trees are at least 200 years old. The first couple of trees in this line are actually in the yards of houses next to the plantation house, and I’m guessing that that land was originally part of the plantation. The other four continue into what’s now the front yard of the plantation. The current house appears relatively newish, and I assume isn’t the original house for the plantation. Did these oaks line a driveway or other sort of entrance to the original house there?
The Cedar Grove Tchoupitoulas plantation home is the original residence, but much has changed since Jean Baptiste Drouet had it built in the late 18th century. For one thing, the levee that now fronts the property wasn’t there in late Colonial times. For another the river changed course, cutting into the bank, threatening Cedar Grove and necessitating the home’s relocation further inland on no fewer than four occasions. When Cedar Grove made its final move to its present location, the main house’s columns and ground story were taken off and the building attained its current appearance.
Although I’m unsure precisely how the oaks were oriented with regard to Cedar Grove’s main house’s original location, it’s quite clear that all six surviving trees stand on land that was originally part of the Cedar Grove plantation. Assessors’ records show both the plantation and its residential neighbors are located in the Cedar Grove Plant subdivision of Jefferson Parish.
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 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 Dave Denson, New Orleans; and Wilmae Spedale, New Orleans.