Julia Street with Poydras the Parrot
Dear Julia and Poydras,
Many of my childhood vacations were spent taking long road trips with my parents and little brother. Invariably, on our way into or out of town, our family would stop to eat at Roussel’s on Airline Highway in LaPlace. Sadly, that grand old eatery is long-gone. Do you happen to know when and why it closed?
An Airline Highway landmark for more than half a century, the River Parishes mainstay was especially famous for its gumbo and seafood dishes such as crawfish etouffée. Founder Christophe Roussel died in 1939 at the age of 72, remembered not only as the progenitor of the Roussel family of restaurateurs, but as the ultimate authority on Perique tobacco. A slow local economy and the interstate took a heavy toll on Roussel’s as travelers bypassed LaPlace and there were not enough local patrons to pick up the slack.
Roussel established the popular restaurant as a roadside diner in 1927; his son subsequently moved the business to nearby Airline Highway to take advantage of the major travel corridor. By the time Roussel’s folded in 1984, several generations of the Christophe’s descendants had operated it – son Warren, granddaughter Elmire “Coo” Roussel Hachet and great-grandson Kenneth “Bubba” Hachet.
Every August, my mom would drag me to Canal Street to buy shoes and clothes for the next school year. I especially enjoyed looking for shoes because I could look through the machine to see how the shoes fit and what the insides of my feet looked like. I have not seen that type of machine since my childhood and was wondering if you or Poydras may know something about it. Sincerely yours, Joe Stephenson (Metairie)
From 1921 to 1958, shoe-fitting fluoroscopes were a popular sales gimmick in use throughout the country. Generations of youngsters and their parents thought nothing of sticking their feet inside X-ray machines and peering through the attached viewers to see their foot bones revealed within their shoes.
In 1921, the Imperial shoe store at the corner of Canal and Bourbon streets became the first local footware emporium to feature a shoe-fitting fluoroscope. Although competing brands were doubtless used in other local shoe stores over the next 37 years, the first such machine in New Orleans was a Foot-o-Scope from the Foot-o-Scope Company, Inc., of Boston, Massachusetts. Expressly made for the retail shoe store trade, the device then cost about $900, a little more than $12,500 in today’s currency. Housed in a mahogany cabinet, it was pretty. It was also pretty dangerous.
The problem with the machines was that they leaked radiation and were operated by minimally-trained sales clerks. It was not until 1958 that the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 124, which banned the use of shoe fitting fluoroscopes outside a clinical setting under qualified medical supervision. At the time the bill passed, 42 such machines were in use in shoe stores throughout Louisiana.
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