Dear Julia and Poydras,

While walking through City Park, I happened upon an octagonal fountain which an attached plaque indicates was restored and rededicated in honor of Patrick K. Butler in 1994. A second plaque, found at the rear, shows the memorial was created in 1910 in honor of William Frazer Owen, Jr.

Do you happen to know anything at all about the circumstances of young Mr. Owen’s demise? I am also curious as to why a classical nude female statue adorns the memorial his parents had erected in his honor? Jules Jones (New Orleans)

William Frazer Owen, Jr. was the only child of Southern Pacific Railroad superintendant William Frazer Owen, Sr. and his wife, Jennie Read. William was only 13 when he died of appendicitis in October 1899. His mother never recovered from a fall she sustained in the family’s Mobile, Alabama home in the weeks following her son’s death. Although she lived to see her son memorialized, Jennie Read Owen succumbed to her injuries and followed her only child to the grave in November 1910.

Dedicated in 1910 as the William Frazer Owen, Jr. Memorial Fountain, the structure was built and originally used as a drinking fountain with drinking stations at each of its eight sides. A whimsical statue of a young boy holding aloft a leaking boot, sometimes called the “Unfortunate Boot,” adorned the fountain’s center until it was damaged in the late 1920s.

In 1929, City Park officials obtained from a foundry in New York, a replacement for the damaged statue but elected not to install it when the wife of park resident and benefactor William H. McFadden complained she did not want them to erect a statue, which was identical to one she had installed in her garden. Arrangements were made to sell the replacement statue and Albert Weiblen, whose company specialized in stonework and statuary, imported the classical female nude figure which has adorned the fountain since that time and depicts Chloe, one form of the Greek agricultural fertility goddess Demeter.

Dear Julia,

There is a battered and dilapidated red heart-shaped sign in front of an abandoned building in a Stumpf Boulevard strip mall. No wording remains on the sign and there are holes where something, presumably lettering or neon tubing, was removed. There are no surviving clues about its age or the business it promoted. Can you help solve this mystery? Mary Johnson (Gretna)

The heart-shaped sign, now lacking its original neon, was put up in the mid-1960s, when a Hart’s Bakery franchise opened a discount bread store at 1102 Stumpf Boulevard. At the time, the southern bakery chain had seven local discount stores, most of which were outside New Orleans in Jefferson and St. John the Baptist Parishes. In addition to the Gretna location on Stumpf Boulevard, there were shops in Metairie, Kenner, Marrero and LaPlace; the two New Orleans Parish locations were at 6700 Chef Menteur Highway and 6021 South Claiborne Avenue. The Stumpf Boulevard location lasted less than ten years; by 1975, Kami motorcycles were being sold from a store at that address.

Dear Julia,

Do you have any idea why Poydras’ feral kinfolk, the monk parakeets, seem so partial to power stations? It is really a good idea for them to build their condos there? Jacobi Jefferson (New Orleans)

Jacobi, Poydras does not like to admit that any of his kinfolk are feral. He says they are really professional actors trained to act feral for wildlife documentaries. They think those crime cameras around town really belong to National Geographic.
Monk parakeets are native to South America and may have escaped from the pet trade decades ago. Some of their most impressive communal nests, which are maintained and used year-round and not just during the breeding season, can be found at utility company substations throughout the country. Some northern researchers have speculated the birds are drawn to the substations’ warmth in cold winter months but that explanation does not appear to be universally accepted.

The parakeets’ twig nests can be quite immense and weigh several hundred pounds. If the expanding nests happen to bridge wires, they can cause electrical shorts, electrocuting the parrots while also killing their human neighbors’ electrical service.  The problem is not theoretical, as utility companies in Tampa and Austin can attest, but solutions such as culling the non-native birds have proven controversial and largely ineffective.

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