Dear Julia and Poydras,
Born and raised in New Orleans, but now living in Fort Worth, Texas, I still keep in touch with family and friends and get back to visit occasionally. Recently in a conversation with friends about streetcars, I mentioned the old Cemeteries streetcar that ran alongside the New Basin Canal from Metairie Road to the lake. However, none of my friends remember it and say it’s a figment of my imagination. I know it was still running in the early 1950s because I rode on it. Julia, could you verify my sanity and find out when it went into operation and when it stopped running?
Fort Worth, Texas
Sorry Robert, sanity verifications cost extra, however, your memory is fine. There most certainly was a Cemeteries-West End streetcar line.
Originally run by the New Orleans City Railroad Company, the West End streetcar first ran on April 20, 1876, carrying passengers from the Half Way House, a jazz club near the cemeteries, to the lake. Two months later, its route was extended along Canal Street to the intersection of Canal and Carondelet streets. Electrified in 1898, the West End line would, by the 1920s, run all the way from the lake to the foot of Canal Street. Known in its later days as the Cemeteries-West End streetcar, the line converted to bus service on Jan. 15, 1950.
There is a small cemetery located next to the railroad tracks under the Causeway Boulevard overpass at Airline Highway. Can you tell me anything about it? Perhaps Poydras could do a fly-over. It’s little bitty and somewhat forgotten.
Cheryl, there are two things that Poydras does not do when he does not have to: fly and visit cemeteries. And if a request takes him away from watching his soap operas he concludes that he does not have to. Tucked away between Scott Street and the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad tracks, the little cemetery is sometimes called the Shrewsbury Cemetery but it’s actually not located in Shrewsbury; it’s found in the old Jefferson Parish settlement of Harlem. In continuous use since shortly after the Civil War, the cemetery near Camp Parapet was established to serve the First Zion Baptist Church and the Ross Chapel, two nearby Black congregations that had been founded during the war. In the mid-1930s, the congregations sold to the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad some of the square in which the cemetery is located.
Dear Julia and Poydras,
Many years ago at Christmas, my family took us kids to see Santa Claus on Canal Street. The entrance was like an “enchanted forest” we walked through to get to Santa, full of artificial trees and rather dark. This was before the photographers started, when Santa actually asked what we wanted for Christmas. It was a magical little trip and it had to be in the late 1940s. Julia, I know you’re too young to remember this but I seem to remember a parrot in one of the trees and I’m pretty sure it was Poydras. Would you ask him where this could’ve been? I’m thinking probably Maison Blanche. Also, does he remember any details of the tableau? It’s a warm, fuzzy memory for me but I’ve forgotten a lot of the details.
Mary Kern Santos
Mary, because of his unfortunate addiction to rum balls, Poydras does not remember what he did this past Christmas much less long ago.
A fantasy village inhabited by animated bears engaged in a wide variety of familiar activities, the Enchanted Forest never did catch on as thoroughly as Maison Blanche’s other holiday attraction, a certain little snowman named Mister Bingle. Once the novelty wore off, Maison Blanche sold the animated holiday display.
The Enchanted Forest that once graced the Canal Street Maison Blanche was sold, in the early 1960s, to the Pizitz department store of Birmingham, Ala. Maison Blanche, incidentally, was then owned by City Stores, the same company that owned Pizitz’s archrival, Loveman’s. The tableau, a popular Birmingham holiday attraction, was soon expanded to include scenes throughout Santa Claus’ household. Some elves busily made candies and sewed while others, in the stable, groomed the reindeer in preparation for their holiday flight. In later years, a speaking Christmas tree added a slightly creepy touch to the animated scenery.
As a youth I was fortunate to play baseball in three very good city ballparks. Muny Park off Carrollton Avenue behind the Sealtest dairy had a great hitting background and the playing field was always in great shape. I can still see Rusty Staub beating my De La Salle team and others with blasts over the right field fence. Perry Roehm park also had a good hitting background and, for us banjo hitters, it offered the hope of an off-the-wall double. Kirch Rooney, where I played last as a collegian in 1965, had an outfield that never ended. I remember a televised Nicholls State-Loyola game from Kirch Rooney that starred a childhood friend, Ray Ferrand, when he was a standout at Nicholls State. Do these ballparks still exist?
Yes, they all still exist. As of this writing, however, only two are operating as ballparks. Muny Park, now known as Larry Gilbert Stadium, is located at 8400 Olive St. Restored shortly before Hurricane Katrina, it remains in use as a New Orleans Recreation Department baseball facility. Kirsch-Rooney Stadium, at 5400 Gen. Diaz St., has also returned to active recreational service.
Perry Roehm Stadium, at 2600 Abundance St., saw post-storm duty as a FEMA trailer park. Still listed as a NORD property, it has not, as of this writing, returned to use as a recreational facility.
For many years I have seen the name “Prosper’s Cafe” written on the floor in front of a door at 1113 Saint Mary St. At the corner is now the Half Moon Restaurant.
I would appreciate you telling me about the sign’s origin.
Your mystery sign refers to Prosper Ballex. A native of Bordeaux, France, Ballex arrived in New Orleans in the 1890s. Until about 1920, he operated a saloon at 1113 St. Mary St. Prosper Ballex died in 1942, at the age of 69. He was survived by his widow, two brothers and four sisters.