Julia Street with Poydras The Parrot

Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

Dear Julia and Poydras,

I am aware that salmon and trout are not native to Louisiana, and that fish we know as “speckled trout” is really a kind of croaker. A fishing buddy once told me he’d heard that salmon had been caught around Amite in the 1800s. Was that the tall tale I have assumed it to be or is there a remote chance he actually knew what he was talking about? Trace Miller (Covington, LA)

In the mid-1870s, John Leet of Mandeville championed the introduction of California salmon into the Tchefuncte River at Amite. Under the auspices of the United States Fish Commission, California salmon spawn was taken to Michigan where the eggs were hatched and the fry raised until they were large enough to endure transport to Louisiana and elsewhere. The project was not unique to the Tchefuncte – there was a massive push in the 1870s to introduce sustainable populations of edible fish into waterways throughout the country and around the world in which native species were declining.

Although the vast majority of the 15,000 young salmon that had been introduced in the Tchefuncte as two-month old fish in 1874 likely died shortly after their release, anglers until 1879 occasionally reported landing salmon in that waterway. To the best of my knowledge, that introduced salmon population died out about 140 years ago.

 

Dear Julia,

Is it true that automotive racing pioneer Barney Oldfield raced here when both his career and the sport were in their infancy? Carol Higgins (New Orleans, LA)

When Barney Oldfield and Edward C. “Dare Devil” Hausman accepted the New Orleans Automobile’s invitation to race on the last weekend in March 1904, the rival drivers brought with them cars that were celebrities in their own regard – the Winton Bullet No. 2, its sibling the Winton Bullet No. 3 and the Ford 999. The men and their machines had raced the previous month in Savannah, where Oldfield’s Winton Bullet No. 2 won handily over the mechanically temperamental Ford 999 Hausman was driving. It was hoped that Oldfield’s own automobile speed record would fall during the races at the New Orleans Fairgrounds but no new records were set.

Oldfield had previously raced for Ford and, while driving the 999 on a closed Indianapolis track in June 1903, achieved the then-unfathomable speed of 60 miles an hour. Rival manufacturer Alexander Winton took notice, luring Ford’s record-setting driver to race for his company, driving the eight-cylinder 1903 Winton Bullet No. 2 and its four-cylinder sibling, the 1903 Winton Bullet No. 3, also known as the Baby Bullet.

In 1930, the Winton Engine Company donated the 1903 Winton Bullet No. 2 to the Smithsonian.  The vehicle is not on public display but remains among the holdings of the institution’s National Museum of American History. The car’s rival, the 1902 Ford 999, has also survived to the present day among the holdings of Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan but, like its rival, it is not on public display. I do not know the fate of Winton’s Baby Bullet.

 

Dear Julia and Poydras,

In the 1970s and 80s, I would sometimes rent Carnival outfits from a local costume shop called MGM Costume Rental. Many of the items in the store had come from Metro Goldwyn Mayer motion pictures, but I think the business grew from a personal collection and that the MGM in its name may have stood for something else. Do you or Poydras happen to know if that was the case? Grant Foster (Hammond, LA)

While costumes such as Clark Gable’s iconic trench coat from the film “Comrade X” and many of the thousands of other creations found at Robert Cahlman’s popular costume shop had been created for Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) productions, the shop’s name was not taken from that of the movie studio. Although known as “MGM Costume Rentals,” the company’s actual legal name was Mardi Gras Masquerade Company; shop inventory had, as you correctly recall, grown from Cahlman’s personal collection.


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