Julia Street with Poydras The Parrot


Dear Julia and Poydras,
My late mother grew up in the 1920s and used to talk about a Prohibition-era soft drink called Whistle. Have you ever heard of it? Do you have any idea of its flavor?
Sincerely yours,

Harold Ramier
River Ridge

Whistle was a product of the Whistle Bottling Company of New Orleans, Inc., a short-lived franchise that operated only from 1919 to ’26. When Whistle opened its factory at 416-418 Canal St. in April 1919, New Orleans was already acquainted with the Chattanooga-based sweet orange beverage. At the time, at least seven other Whistle factories were in operation at: Chattanooga, Tenn.; Dallas; Evansville, Ind.; Greenville, S.C.; St. Louis; Birmingham; and New York City. Daily output of the New Orleans plant was 24,000 bottles.

As Whistle established itself in the New Orleans market, it made a point of touting its simplicity and purity. It was said to have contained only three ingredients: pure Louisiana cane sugar, orange juice and triple-distilled water. One wonders, however, just how much sugary goodness was crammed into each bottle; I suspect it was a staggering amount. Whistle’s period advertisements made a point to tell consumers the product’s cloudiness simply “denotes its rich substance” and that the drink was “full of rich goodness and energy.”

 Whistle later moved further out along Canal Street but it didn’t remain in the New Orleans market very long. The Whistle Bottling Company of New Orleans liquidated in 1926.

Dear Julia,
After viewing the movie, Philomena, I seem to remember many years ago riding the streetcar, and on the corner of Peniston Street and St. Charles Avenue there was a large stone home used for unwed mothers. This was in the 1960s and early ’70s.
I have looked it up and have really found nothing on the house or group that ran it. Is there a site or any information on the home with which you can enlighten me?
Carl Scully
New Orleans

The facility you’re recalling was the Volunteers of American Maternity Home at 1514 Peniston St., between St. Charles Avenue and Pitt Street. In mid-January 1964, in response to increasing community demand for maternity and childcare services, VOA broke ground for a larger and more modern nursery.

The VOA Maternity Home on Peniston Street remained in operation through the 1970s. Open all hours, it was described in a newspaper listing of local charities as being a treatment-oriented group home for expectant mothers who could receive services there for up to six months. The facility charged what it described as “basic medical fees” and served the metropolitan New Orleans area.

Dear Julia and Poydras,
For years I’ve been intrigued by a little brick structure on Loyola University’s campus, tucked away between the back of Holy Name of Jesus Church and Marquette Hall. It was apparently built as a seismic observatory and dedicated in the memory of a young man named Nicholas D. Burke.
Can you please let me know if it still serves its original purpose? Also, do you know anything about the Burke boy in whose honor it was built?
Thank you.
Shannen Dolenson
New Orleans

Nicholas Daniel Burke was the oldest son of prominent wholesale grocer William P. Burke and his wife, Mary A. Cahill. Intelligent and well regarded by his teachers and classmates, young Nicholas was considered to be one of Loyola College’s top students. He died suddenly of blood poisoning in July 1909 at 15 years old. He was laid to rest in Metairie Cemetery. The following year, Burke’s family asked Loyola officials how best to honor their late son, who had an aptitude for science. When a seismic observatory was proposed, the Burkes underwrote its construction in Nicolas’ memory.

Built in 1910, the Nicholas D. Burke Seismic Observatory was the newest in a series of 15 such earthquake detection laboratories the Society of Jesus operated at Jesuit institutions throughout the United States and Canada. Measuring only 20-by-20 feet and standing only 18 feet high, the tiny building was equipped with two Wiechert 80 kilogram seismographs, one horizontal and the other vertical. The observatory remains in use.

Dear Julia,
I know the bronze statue of Benjamin Franklin that now stands in Lafayette Square isn’t the original marble one which Hiram Powers sculpted in the 1870s, but I know nothing about the present statue. Can you enlighten me?
Guisele Markel

Henry Wadsworth Gustine, a Civil War veteran and resident of Chicago, often visited New Orleans, always stopping to pay his regards to the statue of Benjamin Franklin in Lafayette Square. Gustine continued his pilgrimage for more than 40 years, but one day he arrived to find the statue had been removed and a vacant pedestal left in its place
Weather and time had compromised the pedestal’s structural integrity and damaged the statue. Consequently, the city thought it best to take the statue down and store it at the public library. Unfortunately, there was no money to commission a replacement statue.

Having visited New Orleans and found his beloved statue had been removed, Gustine was distressed to hear the city lacked the means to replace it. Returning to Chicago, Gustine raised enough money to commission a new bronze statue of Benjamin Franklin, which the aged veteran donated to the city of New Orleans. Before it could be installed, something had to be done about the original pedestal, which was not sufficiently sound to bear the weight of the new statue.

 The New Orleans Typothetae and other printers’ organizations came to the rescue. In recognition of Benjamin Franklin’s contributions to the printing industry, the groups donated a new pedestal.

Dear Julia,
My grandfather used to tell me about Sam the Waffle Man. He would make me so jealous when he’d describe the hot and fresh sugar-dusted waffles people used to be able to buy from people like Sam, who used to travel though local neighborhoods, peddling all sorts of delicious things.
Can you tell me anything else about Sam? There were other waffle men, but Sam was Grandpa’s favorite.
Michael Castain
New Orleans

Although he’s fondly remembered as “Buglin’ Sam, the Waffle Man,” his name wasn’t Sam, it was Matthew Andrew Antoine Desire Dekemel. His father, also named Matthew Dekemel, started a waffle business when the family still lived in San Antonio. It was the younger Matthew who, in the 1920s and ’30s, sold hot waffles throughout New Orleans.

Bugles have no valves, and as such, are not especially well-suited to subtle musical expression. It would be a mistake, however, to dismiss Matthew Dekemel as just being a waffle seller who tooted a regulation U.S. Army bugle to attract customers to his waffle wagon. Selling waffles was just his day job. At night, he was a professional jazz musician who played with Sharkey Bonano and Tony Almerico, and was heard on local radio.

In later life, Matthew Dekemel was a policeman, and when he retired from law enforcement, called races at the New Orleans Fair Grounds. He died in 1967 at the age of 64.

Win a Court of Two Sisters Jazz Brunch
Here is a chance to eat, drink and listen to music, and have your curiosity satiated all at once. Send Julia a question. If we use it, you’ll be eligible for a monthly drawing for one of two Jazz Brunch gift certificates for two at The Court of Two Sisters in the Vieux Carré.

To take part, send your question to: Julia Street, c/o New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 or email: Errol@MyNewOrleans.com.

This month’s winners are: Carl Scully, New Orleans; and Guisele Markel, Lafayette.

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