Julia Street

Dear Julia,
I’m a big fan of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces so, when Dr. Nut was re-introduced around the time of the World’s Fair, I had to try it. After a few sips, my curiosity was satisfied; I thought it was the soft drink equivalent of Billy Beer. Was there something different about the “new” Dr. Nut or did I just lack an appreciation for the stuff?

Jason Alexander

Introduced before 1930, Dr. Nut was an almond-flavored product originally bottled by the World Bottling Company, which was located at the corner of Elysian Fields Avenue and Chartres Street. By the ’60s the Wright Root Beer Company made the popular beverage; production of the original Dr. Nut ceased during that decade.

A generation later, in an effort to cash in on the immense popularity of A Confederacy of Dunces, a company in Jennings, La., introduced a beverage called Dr. Nut. Unfortunately, the new product didn’t taste like Dr. Nut. Plenty of original Dr. Nut drinkers were still around and they weren’t impressed with the cherry cola that should have tasted like almonds. The venture was short-lived.

Dear Julia,
Could you please tell me who or what occupied the empty corners of Burgundy Street and Elysian Fields Avenue?

As long as I’ve been in New Orleans (over 25 years) I’ve always wondered what was there and why no one has built on this very busy thoroughfare. Your column is the first thing I read when receiving New Orleans Magazine.

 Rick Reiners
New Orleans

The Uptown lake corner was, since 1903, home to the Elysium Theatre. Renamed the Dreamland in the early ’20s, the theater became, in the ’60s, the adult-oriented Paris Theatre. Damaged by fire in the late ’80s, it was subsequently demolished.

The downtown river corner property at 839 Elysian Fields Ave., was, for many years, a bar run by members of the Marphis family, who also operated a feed store at 831 Elysian Fields Ave., in the middle of the same block. It appears as if there was an attempt during the mid-1950s to make the business more family-friendly; a city directory from that time identifies as the Marphis Snack Shop the same address where, since at least the ’30s, the Marphis family had operated a liquor store and bar. I don’t know when the building was demolished, but some of its foundation remains visible in aerial views of that location.

I am not going to speculate about why these – or any other lots around town – haven’t been developed. More often than not, the answers to questions about real estate development involve money, contentious estates or politics, and aren’t always clear-cut matters of public record. Good manners, common sense and an allergy to libel attorneys are all good reasons to stick to the publicly documented facts and only the facts. My editor likes it that way.
Dear Julia,
In researching my family tree I have found that there’s a playground in New Orleans named Pradat Playground. Can you give me any information as to when the playground was built? Was the property formerly owned by the Pradat family or was it named for some other reason?

Linda Bellisario
Edwardsburg, MI

Pradat Playground is located on the block bound by Prentiss Avenue, Dreux Avenue, Camelia Street and Tulip Street in Plum Orchard, an eastern New Orleans subdivison that opened in 1946. It seems most likely that Pradat Playground first opened in the 1950s or ’60s, when Plum Orchard was in its heyday. The land on which Plum Orchard was developed was a site Charles Temple had purchased in the mid-1880s.

I was unable to determine when or why the park was named but it seems most likely it honors either Alvin Joseph Pradat or Gene Pradat. Pvt. Alvin Joseph Pradat was killed in action at age 19 during the Korean War, at a time when Plum Orchard was a new and developing subdivision. Was the park intended as a memorial to this young man’s untimely passing? On the other hand, there was a Pradat who, in the 1920s, was a catcher in the Playground Baseball League. Perhaps the park was intended to honor someone; Gene Pradat, in his youth, had been an athlete associated with public playgrounds.
Dear Julia,
Years ago, while riding the Algiers Ferry, I watched as a crewman showed off a big odd-looking humpbacked fish he had caught in the River. He called it a “Goo” but when I asked him to tell me more about it, the only thing he seemed to know was that it was edible. Have you ever heard of such a fish?

Sarah Ziller
New Orleans

Sarah, you have to figure that anything known as a “goo” has a public relations problem. The name is short for gaspergou or Freshwater Sheepshead. It is a freshwater drum, related to the better-known saltwater Redfish and Black Drum and its scientific name is Aplodinotus grunniens. Yes, it’s edible.

In the mid 1700s, Le Page du Pratz, an architect who spent considerable time in early French Colonial Louisiana, described the fish in his book Histoire de la Louisiane, calling it Casse-Burgo (Burgo breaker) because the fish crushed and ate a type of shellfish. With time, the French word Casbargot was corrupted into Gaspergou.
Dear Julia,
Who designed the Joan of Arc statue that used to be at the foot of Canal Street but now stands on a pedestal by the French Market?

Kathy Randolf

The Maid of Orleans statue is a copy of an original work by Emmanuel Frémiet (1824-1910).

The original 19th-century work can be found in the Place des Pyramids in Paris.

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