Julia Street | WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT
THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS
While walking in Woldenberg Park, I came across a beautiful marble statue dedicated to the immigrant, donated by many immigrants who have enjoyed the fruits of living in the U.S. who have immigrated from other countries. Do you have any history on this monument that could inform those who are in New Orleans about our immigrant past since the topic is so political right now?
C. Scully Sr.
The immigrant past and the immigrant present look rather similar. It was philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952), himself a Spanish immigrant to the United States, who once wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Nearly 170 years ago, waves of Irish escaping famine and Germans fleeing revolution converged upon New Orleans at a time when nativist political movements such as the “Know-Nothings,” which were openly hostile to foreigners, enjoyed local and national popularity.
German and Irish immigrants who arrived in the mid-19th century, and the Sicilians who came here in the 1890s, are among the better-known immigrant groups to have settled in Louisiana but there have been other foreigners among the state’s past and present residents. These have included Acadian and non-Acadian French, Colonial Spanish subjects from the Canary Islands, Chinese, Yugoslavs, Vietnamese, Syrians, Filipinos and others.
For many immigrants, their travels led to or through New Orleans – once the country’s second-largest port of entry. The Monument to the Immigrants, installed on the Vieux Carré riverfront, symbolizes all who left behind their native land to pursue a new life in America. The present-day New Orleans riverfront looks far different than it did in the days of sailing ships and steamboats, but visitors to the Monument of the Immigrants look out at a stretch of river along which their immigrant ancestors may once have traveled.
Funding from private citizens and cultural organizations, many of whom donated monies in honor of their own immigrant forebears, covered the statue’s half million dollar cost. New Orleans resident Franco Alessandrini, a native of Italy, sculpted the memorial, which depicts an immigrant family following an allegorical female figure whose outstretched hand reaches toward a guiding star. According to press accounts of the statue’s dedication on St. Joseph’s Day 1995, the sculptor found artistic inspiration in historic photographs of actual immigrants. His subjects’ facial features and expressions are based upon the people depicted in those images.
One real person whom Alessandrini has sculpted on numerous occasions is the Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, a Bavarian-born Roman Catholic Priest who may one day be declared a saint. Between 2001 and 2008, Alessandrini created for installation in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Louisiana a total of six works – two in marble and four in bronze – honoring Fr. Seelos, who once ministered to the people of New Orleans.
A prolific and internationally acclaimed artist, Alessandrini most recently created the Monument of the Veterans. The work, which honors all veterans, depicts a Word War II-era American soldier as he genuflects and leans against his rifle. It is a focal point of the St. Landry Parish Veterans Memorial, located at 5348 Highway 182 South in Opelousas.
I have a picture of my maternal great grandfather Judge Louis Edgar Arnoult with George Riviere. Judge Arnoult and Mr. Riviere were members of two pioneering families of Jefferson Parish. The picture was taken at the Jefferson Parish Racetrack, Shrewsbury in 1910. The picture is included in two publications: Metairie: A Tongue of Land to Pasture, by Msgr. Henry C. Bezou and Legendary Locals of Metairie, by Catherine Campanella. Do you or Poydras know where this racetrack was located?
Opened in 1917, the track prospered until the Great Depression, when it fell on hard times. Racing enthusiasts take note: When thoroughbred Black Gold won the 1924 Louisiana Derby, he did so at Jefferson Race Track. Later, the Oklahoma-bred colt won the 50th running of the Kentucky Derby.
In the late 1940s, the 82-acre Jefferson Race Track site was sold and redeveloped as the new Jefferson Park residential subdivision. Jefferson Park Avenue is the main street in the neighborhood, the streets of which are laid out in concentric ovals recalling the former racetrack. The entrance to the Jefferson Park subdivision faces Jefferson Highway, roughly opposite Riverdale High School.
Dear Julia and Poydras,
I have a dim childhood memory about a sweet strawberry soda called Pop Rouge. I haven’t seen it in years and I can’t honestly say I’ve missed the stuff. Do you remember it or know who made it?
The Louisiana Coca-Cola Bottling Company produced and trademarked both the carbonated strawberry soda Pop Rouge™ and its running mate, a grape-flavored soda pop called La Grape.™ The brand names, incidentally, are rendered in glorious Franglais – a mix of random English and French words. I will admit that La Grape sounds catchier than Grain de Raisin (grape).
When Pop Rouge™ and La Grape™ were introduced around 1970, local shoppers could buy a six-pack of 12-ounce cans for 49 cents while extreme soda junkies could haul home a 24-can case for $1.79. If those prices sound outrageously cheap, bear in mind that the current equivalent is $3.08 per six-pack and $11.24 per case.
Both Pop Rouge™ and the associated La Grape™ brand were relatively short-lived and faded into popular memory. When their trademarks expired in 1990, neither was renewed.
Win a restaurant gift certificate
Here is a chance to eat, drink 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 a Jazz Brunch for two at The Court of Two Sisters. 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 C. Scully Sr. and Jack Schott, New Orleans.