My family and I used to love watching the decorated trucks parade along on Canal Street in the 1950s. When did this family-oriented Mardi Gras tradition start?
Lodge 30 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks sponsored the truck parade, Elks’ Krewe of Orleanians, which debuted March 5, 1935. Sororities, fraternities and pretty much any local group able to round up 30 or more like-minded party people, a decorated truck and coordinating costumes could meet the basic qualifications for participation. Each group registered well in advance of the parade, and all riders were required to decorate their trucks and wear only approved Carnival costumes. Advertising of any sort was strictly forbidden. While the majority of riders were local, one truck, “Orleanians For a Day,” carried costumed out-of-town visitors whose home towns were acknowledged in the truck decorations.
I spent my childhood in Lakeview, where for many years my friends and I enjoyed many of our favorite movies at the Lakeview Theatre on Harrison Avenue. No matter if it were a weekend matinee or Saturday date night, the same “usherette” was running roughshod over all of us hooligans. A tall, stately, no-nonsense woman with a black bee-hive hairdo, she struck fear in our hearts as she wielded a huge flashlight and regularly expelled rowdy patrons, while making sure no one snuck in. I’ve often wondered who she was and thought maybe you could find out.
She wasn’t one of my favorite people when I was an adolescent, but I sure wish there were people like her in today’s theaters, where it seems that anything goes.
We have gotten several questions about this woman throughout the years. Poydras has even been driven back to drinking by this question. If anyone knows who she is, please let us know.
Meanwhile, I wonder if she was the reason why, in the mid-1950s, the Lakeview often ran ads seeking female help and seemed to have difficulty retaining workers.
On one notable day, a decade earlier, the Lakeview was full of enforcers far more formidable than your beehive-wearing lady bouncer – the G-men themselves – the FBI. Noting a wartime increase in juvenile delinquency, which it attributed to economic insecurity and lack of home supervision, the Federal Bureau of Investigation held meetings at selected theaters throughout Louisiana to educate local law enforcement personnel about the problem.
In September 1943, more than 150 policemen and FBI agents from New Orleans and eight surrounding parishes met at the Lakeview Theatre to hear Robert A. Guerin, agent in charge of the FBI’s New Orleans office, speak about the issue. Something tells me that not even the naughtiest kid in the neighborhood chose that day as a good one for sneaking into the Lakeview!
During my hippie days, I recall the Hotel Senator was destroyed in a large fire. Do you know anything about the hotel’s history? Was it named for anybody in particular?
The hotel that eventually became The Senator began as the Hotel Bruno. Built by clothier D. A. Mercier, the hotel opened in December 1904 when it was named in honor of Pickwick Club member Bruno Schlegel.
The hotel expanded and changed names throughout the years. By the 1920s, it was known as the Planter’s Hotel and was, because of its prime location, especially popular among vaudeville performers. The hotel was renamed The Senator during the ’30s when Senator Huey P. Long was especially popular. The Senator closed in early May ’67 as a result of declining business.
The shuttered hotel then became a warehouse facility for the D. H. Holmes department store and was used to store holiday decorations until the massive structure was destroyed by fire on Jan. 3, 1968.
Where was Turtle Back Road? I’ve heard of it but have never been able to find anyone who knew where it was located.
Turtle Back Road was a shell road that ran along the Orleans Canal near City Park. Unlit and poorly maintained, it was a dark and dangerous place. In April of 1920, one of New Orleans’ most notorious and brutal murders, that of Bertha Neason, occurred there.
Where was the Veterans Administration’s hospital located before it moved to Perdido Street, behind Big Charity in the 1950s? What’s there now?
The Veterans Administration Hospital was formerly located at 7273 Canal Blvd. It was a short-lived operation that opened in 1946, when its 500-bed facility was built across the street from the United States Naval Hospital.
Built at a cost of nearly $3 million, the United States Naval Hospital was dedicated June 1, 1943, as an innovative 15-ward hospital complex that included an administration building, laboratories, clinic rooms and 15 auxiliary buildings. It stood on more than 60 acres of reclaimed land the military leased from the Orleans Parish Levee Board. In June ’45, the Canal Boulevard bus line was extended to serve the Naval Hospital, which closed its doors less than a year and a half later, in November ’46. The following month, in December ’46, President Truman granted approval for the Veterans Administration to temporarily occupy the shuttered 600-bed naval hospital, thereby boosting its capacity from 500 to 1,100 beds.
The Veterans Administration utilized those beds for only six years before leaving the lakefront facilities when the new $9 million Veterans Administration hospital opened adjacent to Charity Hospital in November, 1952. The location where the Veterans Administration hospital formerly stood is now the present-day upscale Lakeshore neighborhood, between Ring and Jewel streets.