Dear Julia,
A question of historical importance has arisen, on which you may be able to shed some light. What is the correct spelling for the Smoky Mary? A Google search yields two spellings in discussion of the original train, while the Orpheus parade float exhibits the “Smokey” spelling. No doubt you and Poydras have an eternal answer to this eternal question.

D. Witcher
Houston, Tx

 The Pontchartrain Railroad was one of the nation’s earliest passenger rail lines, dating back to the early 1830s. “Smokey” is a recognized variant of the preferred spelling of the adjective “smoky.”

 In those days cars were pulled by horses or mules, so there initially was no smoke. When steam engines replaced horsepower, multiple Smokey Mary coal-stoked steam engines operated along the railroad’s route to the Old Spanish Fort resort. The Pontchartrain Railroad’s last run was on March 15, 1932 but not all sections of track along Elysian Fields Avenue were removed at that time.

Dear Julia,
 Please clarify some facts for me. I know that in the early 1950s there were two abattoirs (“slaughter houses,” to Poydras) in Arabi: I not only saw them, I also smelled them. I don’t recall any in the city of New Orleans but think there was one or more in the Carrollton section before being annexed by the city. After Carrollton was annexed, they had to close or move out of town. Is there a law prohibiting an abattoir from operating in the city?

The only fact I’m sure of is the abattoirs in Arabi, the rest is stuff I think I’ve read or heard. Please clear this up for me.

George E. McLean

 “Abattoir” is such a lovely-sounding word but its associated smell is just offal [pun intended]. While laws restricting slaughterhouse locations were once on the books, those geographic restrictions appear to have been rescinded prior to 1893, when Council Series ordinance No. 7494 granted Simon Oestarly permission to “maintain and operate a slaughterhouse on the square bounded by Green, Seventh, Burdette and Washington streets, the Seventh District of New Orleans; provided that no killing be allowed except for the consumption of the district …” The city’s current municipal code, Section 30-1411 through 1416, covers the cleaning, inspection and operation of slaughterhouses, as well as disposition of rejected animals and condemned meat, but appears to include no regulations regarding or geographically restricting slaughterhouse location.

Dear Julia,
I was raised around City Park and spent countless hours enjoying this enchanting place, especially the “Rose Garden,” which was free when I was growing up.

In 2005 I visited the gardens on a beautiful June day. Everything in bloom was particularly beautiful with the roses being more exquisite than any year I could remember. I thought to myself that, “There must be a reason why these gardens were so outstandingly gorgeous this year.” I felt compelled to take pictures of everything, and I did.

Two months later, Hurricane Katrina hit and destroyed the beautiful Rose Garden. As Katrina also handicapped me, I’ve not been able to go back for a visit on my own, let alone attend any of the garden shows, which I loved. I really miss them.

There were many decades-old “Old World” roses that were destroyed. I was wondering if you could tell me if, by now, the Botanical Gardens were able to replace them. All I have left of them are my beautiful pictures.

Julia Hertz

In the seven years since flooding from the post-Hurricane Katrina levee failures submerged and destroyed the New Orleans Botanical Garden’s collection of more than 1,000 roses, the garden has made a remarkable comeback. With the help of volunteers, many destroyed plants have been replaced and replanted. Thanks in large part to the Azby Fund’s generous $1.2 million contribution, it was possible to not only purchase new plants but to re-hire park personnel. Other contributions of money, materials and labor also contributed to the garden’s recovery. People showed up from all over to help in whatever way they were able. Included among the many who went above and beyond the call of duty were retired New York policemen who protected the New Orleans Museum of Art and then spent their spare time trying to locate and save botanical specimens; they’re credited with saving a rare cactus collection. Thanks to a gift from The Garden Club of Virginia, the Pelican Greenhouse will be restored. Even local citizens whose own gardens had been spared showed up at the park, bringing with them plants and cuttings to help replace at least a little of what had been lost.

The popular Celebration in the Oaks opened in December 2005, attracted more than 50,000 visitors. Soon, another sign of recovery would be noted when, in February ’06, New York Times correspondent Anne Raver reported that one of the garden’s new roses, a small pink climber named Clotilde Soupert, then less than one foot tall, had bloomed.

 I don’t remember where I came across this advertisement of  “Yeah You Right” pilsner beer; can you tell me whether this was a real beer? Who produced it and what happened to it?
 More importantly, was it any good?

Patrick Mulhearn
Santa Cruz, CA

I have never heard of Yeah You Right pilsner beer. In my opinion, your beer ad looks like it may be a digitally altered vintage magazine advertisement. The lettering and background appear altered, and the product labels also don’t look quite right. I think it’s likely the slogan at the top may have originally read “Treat Yourself Right” but was later modified to read “Treat youself (sic) right … yeah you right” in an attempt to evoke somebody’s idea of a New Orleans dialect.

Dear Julia
 You have been answering obscure and interesting questions from readers for years now. What is your favorite or most interesting question? Also, does Poydras have a favorite cocktail? I believe I saw Poydras at the French 75 the other day after he had one too many, being escorted out the door by Chris Hannah.

Ron Hill
New Orleans

Yes that was Poydras you saw at French 75. He says he doesn’t recall being escorted out, but he’s not sure.

   As for my all-time favorite question, that’s easy. Without question, the strangest and most memorable question I ever recall answering was one in which somebody wanted to know why cockroaches often die upside down.

Since we didn’t yet have an insectarium, I called the zoo and relayed the question. Once the laughter subsided, I was told that one possible explanation is that popular modern insecticides contain neurotoxins and that roaches – or any other critter with an exoskeleton – cannot convulse like vertebrates. A poisoned bug may twitch and fall over but, since it has a stiff exterior shell rather than a flexible spine, it cannot bend and right itself so it gets stuck and lies upside down until poisoning or dehydration eventually kills it.

Julia on TV
Look for the Julia Street question on “Steppin’ Out,” every Friday at 6:30 p.m. on WYES/Channel 12. The show features reviews, news and features about the New Orleans entertainment scene. Viewers who can answer Julia’s weekly question can call in for prizes. Tell ’em you read about the show in New Orleans Magazine.