Dear Julia, Poydras, and All God’s Other Little Children,

I was just reading your March issue about water meter covers, which reminded me of a recently discovered piece of trivia that shocked my system. Suspect you knew this, but mentioning just in case.

Those water meter covers and their “iconic” crescent have nothing to do with New Orleans. The design was, apparently, the logo of their maker, The Ford Meter Box of Wabash Indiana. How these have been replicated and sold by the zillions with no trademark infringement I leave to someone else. How I discovered this was staring at the sidewalk while walking through Charleston, South Carolina.

If you know something I don’t, please chime in. Did New Orleans do something to get the rights to use this? S&WB is clearly the prominent lettering here, but the manufacturer still is on there in much smaller print. Cheers, Laurent Lutz (Wilmington, Delaware)

What a great question. This is an important addendum to New Orleans cultural history.

The cover plate shown in our March issue was actually for an electric company service hatch, not a water meter. However, you are correct that the Ford Meter Box Company designed and manufactured the iconic crescent moon water meter covers. The example you photographed in Charleston and which accompanies this column is a lockless Crescent Box Lid (CBLL style) which the Ford Meter Box Company of Wabash, Indiana continues to make and sell.

In 1921, Edwin Ford of the Ford Meter Box Company visited New Orleans to meet with the Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) to discuss the problem of soil subsidence as it related to water meters. Consequently, Ford designed not only the Crescent Box, a meter enclosure which could be adjusted to compensate for soil subsidence, but the accompanying Art Deco lid. By the mid-1920s, nearly half of the Ford Meter Box Company’s business came from New Orleans, helping the company weather the Great Depression, a fact for which the company remains grateful.

The S&WB version of the Crescent Box lid is a registered trademark; penalties for its infringement are detailed in the Revised Statutes of the State of Louisiana. In 2007, Louisiana state legislators introduced Senate Bill 319 to provide remedies and penalties for infringement of the Sewerage & Water Board’s “Crescent Cover Logo” trademark. The bill passed as Act No. 470 of the 2007 Regular Session, adding sub-parts J and K to RS 51:300.31 of the state legal code. Under the current state code, unauthorized use of the “Crescent Cover Logo” is punishable by a fine of up to five thousand dollars.

 

Dear Julia,

In the late 1960s, my parents took me to Oak Alley on a hot summer afternoon. I recall little of the plantation tour but vividly recall a strange insect I saw crawling on the plantation’s lawn. It looked like an enormous ant and had alternating bands of what looked like black and bright red-orange fur. I have never again seen such a creature but am hoping you may know what it may have been. Ren Jones (New Orleans)

It sounds as if you saw a female red velvet ant, Dasymutilla occidentalis, a type of parasitic ground-dwelling wasp sometimes called a cow killer because of the wingless female’s painful sting. Males of the species have wings but lack stingers so look somewhat less like a big brightly-colored furry ant.

Dear Julia and Poydras,

The old T.G.&Y. dime store on South Carrollton was a personal favorite, but I have never known what the initials meant. Was T.G.&Y. a local chain? That place sold all sorts of stuff, ranging from kiddie toys to candy, underwear, pets and cleaning supplies. Janel Miller (New Orleans)

Tracing its beginnings to Depression-era Oklahoma, the national variety store chain had nearly 1,000 locations throughout the country; it went out of business in 2001. The company name recalls the first letters in the surnames of founding partners Rawdon E. Tomlinson (ca. 1883–1948), Enoch L. “Les” Gosselin (1901–77) and Raymond A. Young (1904–2002).


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