Julia Street With Poydras the Parrot
The Pursuit to Answer Eternal Questions
As a small kid back in the early 1960s, I can remember being with my parents, enjoying a weekend afternoon walking or riding bikes through City Park. At that time, there was a series of concrete statue “scenes” of storybook characters that we loved to climb upon and run around. These scenes included a whale (that had a goldfish tank in the mouth), small dwarfs and other fantasy creatures. Can you give me the history of what they were, where they were located, why they were placed in City Park and when they disappeared? Certainly Poydras will remember the perches these statuaries offered under the Spanish moss-encrusted oaks.
Curt, Poydras doesn’t like kids, so he never hung around Storyland that much. The only moss he knows is what’s stuffed into his old mattress.
Storyland, which officially opened on Dec. 30, 1956, isn’t gone, Curt, but has been expanded and renovated since you were a child.
It is located next to the Botanical Garden and is separate from the amusement area where rides are found. As of press time, the City Park website (NewOrleansCityPark.com) lists Storyland hours as Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.
Storyland was inspired by Children’s Fairyland in Oakland, Calif., which had opened in September 1950. Similar storybook-inspired children’s theme parks quickly popped up across the country, but most were short-lived curiosities. There were at least two notable exceptions that have survived to the present day. One is Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Anaheim, Calif., and the other is Storyland, located in New Orleans City Park. Both the Magic Kingdom and Storyland have direct ties to Fairyland. When Walt Disney started the Magic Kingdom he took with him not only the Fairyland inspiration, but some of its staff as well. In the mid-’50s, City Park management had seen a film about Fairyland that inspired them to create a similar attraction in New Orleans.
When Storyland opened in late 1956, its 13 attractions included the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, Willie the Whale, Little Miss Muffet (with spider) and Rub-a-dub-dub, Three Men in a Tub. Other exhibits, some of which included live animals, were Peter Rabbit, Mary Had a Little Lamb and Goosey Goosey Gander. Storyland also featured a wishing well that served a practical purpose; money thrown into the well was used for Storyland’s maintenance.
Made possible, in part, by a generous donation from Harry Batt Sr., Storyland was an immediate success. More than 13,000 visitors showed up on opening day to view attractions created by New Orleans designer Joe Lentz. Time, vandalism and changing tastes took a toll on Storyland, but it has always managed to bounce back. Renovated and expanded, it now boasts 25 attractions.
Our question is about the very old, vacant “Lakeview School” building in the 5900 block of Milne Street in Lakeview. When passing there recently, we began talking about the possible age of this building and when it operated as a school. As long as we can remember it has been empty and in disrepair. Can you give us any information on this little old schoolhouse?
Fay Cortello and Donna Haydel
Dedicated in early 1915, the old Lakeview School was designed by Edgar A. Christy (1880-1959), who was then serving as City Architect. While employed by the city, Christy designed numerous public buildings including fire stations and Lafayette Elementary, Eleanor McMain Junior High and Henry K. Allen schools. In July ’14, The Times-Picayune described plans for the Lakeview School as calling for six classrooms, a library, an emergency infirmary and a principal’s office; amenities included 14 sanitary toilets and a special “eye-comfort” lighting system. Around the time Edgar A. Christy was working on the Lakeview School, he also designed the 3rd District Police Station, which once housed the Second City Criminal Court, at 410 Chartres St. Privately owned since ’93, the former courthouse and police station was thoroughly renovated and now serves as the Williams Research Center of the Historic New Orleans Collection.
I hope you can help me unravel a piece of family history. According to my mother, her grandfather (Henry Wolpern, who married Julie Morgan) had a saloon on Elysian Fields Avenue between the original Schoen’s Funeral Home and the river. In fact, my mother’s uncle’s godfather is Jacob Schoen. I am trying to find out the name of the saloon and the actual address of the establishment. If you can dig up a picture that would be great! Eternally in your debt.
H. Ray Copeland Jr.
I have some good news and some bad news for you. The bad news is that, even if saloons had names, those names may not appear in city directories, phone books or public records. Especially in the case of older barrooms, it’s easy enough to prove who owned a property and verify that the establishment sold intoxicating beverages. However, if a business had its own name, such as the Black Bull, there may be no public record indicating that John Doe’s bar was popularly known as the Black Bull. Furthermore, the place could’ve been owned by John Doe and rented to an unrelated bar manager. These are the sorts of research problems that routinely frustrate jazz historians as they try to identify early music venues. In short, bars are a “bear” to research.
The good news is that your mother’s story checks out. In 1900, her grandfather, Henry Wolpern, lived and worked at the corner of Chartres Street and Elysian Fields Avenue, where he operated a saloon. Henry died the following year, at the age of 37 years and seven months. Soon after Wolpern’s death, Erwin Auffurth is listed as proprietor of the saloon at 601 Elyian Fields Ave.
Do you know the origin of the expression “ya ya?”
I assume you’re asking about the term as it relates to local usage. Although I’ve heard it said that it refers to crosstalk – multiple people taking all at once – I have been unable to find scholarly verification of that definition and its exact linguistic origin. Nor have I been able to find the expression used in Louisiana literature prior to the 1930s publication of the book Gumbo Ya-Ya. In that context though, the term seems to represent a montage of ideas, as is expressed in the book’s liner notes. They refer to a “racy kaleidoscope of incident, superstition, character, history” and “the nostalgia of a blues song, the immediacy of a tabloid, and the literary quality of the best folk poetry.” Those words seem to lend credence to the “crosstalk” definition.
I am 94 years old and have lived in New Orleans all my life. I grew up in the neighborhood not too far from the bayou, but I don’t know where Bayou St. John starts. Could you please tell me?
Lois G. Beyer
Ninety-four years is an awfully long time to have to wait for an answer, so I won’t keep you waiting any longer.
Bayou St. John begins roughly at the end of Lafitte Street, in an area where several natural streams once converged.