Dear Julia and Poydras,
On the neutral ground where St. Charles Avenue and South Carrollton Avenue meet, there is a granite monument to Samuel Loewenberg. It is fairly plain and looks as if may have once been a fountain but there is no date on it. Any information? Carol Janis (New Orleans)
Carol, the memorial isn’t really a monument to Mr. Loewenberg. It was a charitable donation his widow, Rosa Marks Loewenberg (1860-1915), made in his memory. Its lower section is now used as a flower box but was originally a drinking trough for horses and mules; a slow flow from the fountain’s center pipe helped assure the trough water remained fresh and sanitary.
Samuel Loewenberg (1857-1907), a native of Prussia, settled in New Orleans as a young adult and found employment in the clothing manufacturing firm of Wolf & Marks. He would remain associated with the company and its successor firm for the rest of his life, eventually becoming a partner and establishing the firm of Loewenberg, Marks and Company.
My late father used to treasure a plastic sweet potato whistle (ocarina) he got while serving overseas during WWII. He never played it well but he played it enthusiastically and loudly, always tooting the only tune he’d mastered, which was part of the chorus of the song “Rum and Coca-Cola.”
Unfortunately, my mother loathed that little ocarina and she remains the prime suspect in its permanent disappearance several decades ago. I seem to recall my father saying the instrument was government issue but, in those days, my attention was captivated by my father’s efforts to play music for me so I gave little thought to how or where he had picked up the ocarina. Can you or Poydras help me fill in the blanks? Phil Reed (New Orleans)
Your father almost certainly obtained the ocarina during his wartime service and most likely got it directly from Uncle Sam. However, it is also possible he received it in a care package made possible through the Louisiana Coca-Cola Bottling Company.
Having found that small simply-played music instruments provided a psychological outlet to troops serving overseas, the U.S. military requisitioned massive numbers of Bakelite ocarinas from the Fred Gretsch Company of Brooklyn and Chicago, with accompanying instruction manuals and song books. This military contract kept Gretsch going during the war. In December 1944, William W. Gretsch filed a patent application for an ocarina; U.S. Patent No. 2,460,931 was granted February 8, 1949.
Here in New Orleans, the Louisiana Coca-Cola Bottling Company jumped on the patriotic bandwagon. In March 1944, it ran a two-week promotional campaign asking the public to provide small musical instruments for troops’ leisure use. Instruments could be dropped off anywhere Coca-Cola was sold. Suggested instruments included ocarinas and harmonicas as well as accordions and banjos – anything would do as long as it was musical and portable.
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