Julia Street With Poydras the Parrot

Dear Julia,
The last real circus parade I recall seeing was around 1929 at the corner of Jefferson and South Claiborne avenues going toward Carrollton Avenue where the tents were. Jefferson Avenue wasn’t developed on the north side of South Claiborne Avenue and consisted of big piles of dirt. Later when I had a two-wheeled bike we took great delight in riding over those big piles. The area was known to us kids as “the old airfield.”

Was there ever an airfield there? If so, when and what for?

This was long before Poydras’ daddy learned to fly.

George E. McLean

George, Poydras inherited from his dad a fear of flying. Quoting his dad Poydras has said, “If God intended for parrots to fly he would have given them jet engines.”

In late September 1929, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performed at what was then called Tokay Tea Baseball Park, at the intersection of South Claiborne and Jefferson avenues. The circus’ key attraction at its New Orleans performances that season was Hugo Zacchini, the Human Cannonball.

In the 1910s and ’20s, descendants of German-born merchant Bernard Fellman owned the pasture land at South Claiborne and Jefferson avenues. Free of tall trees and other obstructions, the Fellman Tract proved to be an ideal place for cross-country fliers to land. In May ’19, the airfield was visited by something somewhat larger than a barnstormers’ small craft when one of the world’s largest warplanes came to call. The Handley-Page bomber Andalusia stopped in New Orleans to promote a Liberty Loan drive. Built at Elizabeth, N.J., the Andalusia was en-route to Houston’s Ellington Field, where it would be used for bombing instruction.

Dear Lovely Julia and Colorful Poydras,
My mother was born in 1939 at home, which was 5929 Annunciation St. in Uptown New Orleans. The house faced the Eleanore Playground. As it was only a few steps from their front porch, she played on that playground as a child and participated in the various parades, festivals, Easter egg hunts and activities held there. I have a double-barreled question for you, please:

For whom was the Eleanore Playground named and why, and is it still a site for neighborhood activities such as those my mother enjoyed as a child in the 1940s?

Please note that I live on the Northshore and rarely visit that section of town, but I hope that some of the traditions have remained intact. My mother always spoke fondly of those years and experiences, and now that she’s no longer here the memories are particularly poignant.

Jan Lugenbuhl

Jan, I would be more flattered at being called “lovely” if you didn’t think that Poydras was colorful. Truth is, no one has seen his feathers since February a year ago, when he started wearing a Drew Brees jersey.

The Eleanore Playground was dedicated May 14, 1924, and was originally named for the street where it was located. The street, on the other hand, got its name from Eleanor Smith, wife of Cornelius Hurst, an early landowner and developer of Hurstville, the area in which the playground is located. Other streets in the vicinity were named for the couple’s children: Arabella and Joseph.

The site once known as the Eleanore Playground remains a play spot, but was renamed in the early 1970s in honor of Alma Peters (1896-1973). Miss Peters, who lived nearby, had been associated with the neighborhood playground for more than 40 years. Initially an employee of the city’s Playground Commission, Miss Peters joined the newly created New Orleans Recreation Department in 1947 as recreation supervisor.

Dear Julia,
In the 1960s, when I was in high school, my uncle lived on St. Charles Avenue right next to a florist. We would watch parades from a grandstand erected in his front yard. His name was Joseph David. After he died, his beautiful home suddenly disappeared. Whatever happened to it, could you please tell me? A cousin told me it was moved to the Tulane University campus. Is this true? Any insight would be appreciated.

Gretchen David Jones

Your uncle, Joseph B. David, lived at 2728 St. Charles Ave., across the street from Peter A. Chopin’s flower shop.

Following its owner’s death, the home at 2728 St. Charles Ave. was put up for sale but appears to have remained vacant for several years. In the early 1970s, the house briefly served as headquarters for the Ecology Center of Louisiana.

I couldn’t verify your cousin’s claim that the house was moved to the Tulane University campus. In December 1974, the property at 2728 St. Charles Ave., where the house once stood, was advertised for sale as an unimproved lot. Considering the absence of proof that the home was re-located, I think it is more likely it was demolished in the early ’70s.

Dear Julia,
For the past year, I have been turning over every leaf I can think of to try and unearth the following: In the first half of the 20th century, New Orleans-based World Bottling Company produced several soft drinks, including Wright Root Beer and a unique beverage called Dr. Nut – a somewhat almond-flavored soda, tasting like Amaretto liqueur.

Frank and F.R. Gomila were listed as officers at their bottling plant at Elysian Fields Avenue at Chartres Street. In August 1963, one Evans Howell of Baton Rouge purchased that company with J. Parker Saussy appearing as assistant general manager and Thomas Gibson as sales manager. I can only identify Saussy – probably as the son of Walker Saussy (well-known advertising agency owner).

My question isn’t one of history but rather a “thin-clad’ (a track term for track shorts and T-shirt), skinny man who ran in front of all the then-existing four Carnival parades in the 1930s bearing a banner across his shirt that touted Dr. Nut. I have even found an advertisement featuring a man on the beach dressed in half a nutshell as a bathing suit, and a website says, “characters dressed as this comical figure were a common feature of New Orleans Mardi Gras parades bearing the message: ‘All Out for Dr. Nut.’” From the perch on my father’s shoulders I can still picture him running down St. Charles Avenue in front of the flambeau carriers.

I am a man on an unfulfilled mission hoping maybe Poydras snapped a picture of that fellow one night at Comus, and might restore a piece of history to this frustrated Mardi Gras!

Bobby McIntyre
New Orleans

Thank you for the vote of confidence, Bobby, but that’s a hard nut to crack. I don’t know of any archival photographs of Dr. Nut’s scantily clad parade-going pitch-man. Although I can’t help you with that elusive snapshot, I can tell you about a sort of a dog-and-pony-show with no ponies and lots of sugary goodness that Dr. Nut once brought to St. Alphonsus and other local schools.

In the early 1940s, schools, parents’ clubs and church groups could call World Bottling Company headquarters to book the Dr. Nut Trained Dog Show, featuring Laddie the Educated Dog. Of course, World Bottling Company made sure the good Dr. Nut brought plenty of “ice-cold, delicious and wholesome” ingredients to quench the kids’ thirst.

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