Dear Julia and Poydras,
My uncle gave me an old wooden nickel from Ted’s Frostop Drive-Ins. At one time, it could be exchanged for a free root beer. I know it expired decades ago, but do you or Poydras have any idea when it may have been made? Fred Smith (New Orleans)
You know Fred, funny you should ask. Poydras is actually a world recognized expert on the subject of wooden nickels. This expertise has so far earned him book deals and speaking fees totaling nearly $5. Curiously that’s less than the value of a bag of wooden nickels.
In December 1964, while promoting its new Chalmette location’s grand opening, Ted’s Frostop Drive-Ins cashed in on the nationwide shortage of pocket change, issuing 50,000 wooden nickels. Each promotional coin could be exchanged for a free root beer at Ted’s Frostop.
The promotion resonated with Frostop customers because there really was a nationwide coin shortage. Multiple factors contributed to the lack of circulating pocket change but speculating, collecting and vending machines were frequently identified as culprits. When the price of the component metal exceeded a silver coin’s face value, speculators melted coins and sold the metal. Collectors’ desire to acquire all known variants of each denomination kept many coins out of circulation, while others languished in the change boxes of pay telephones and vending machines.
By the way, this is a good time to note that “Ted’s” is not necessarily synonymous with Frostop, a regional fast food franchise that entered the local market in the 1950s. Ted Sternberg, who once owned 15 Frostop franchises in Louisiana and Arkansas, died in 2014 at the age of 85.
My mother grew up during the Depression and was crazy about cookies. Her absolute favorite was Dad’s oatmeal cookies, which were made right here in New Orleans. Do you know anything about them? Rena Johnson (Harahan)
Although Dad’s Original Scotch Oatmeal Cookies made for the local market were baked in New Orleans, the Dad’s cookie brand actually originated in California during the early 20th century. Franchises later spread throughout the United States and Canada.
Albert W. Balek, who was associated with a Dad’s Cookie franchise in St. Louis, Missouri, appears to have been involved in bringing the brand to New Orleans around 1930, where a bakery was established at 3017 Tulane Ave. Initially, local franchisee Lee Eddy handled production and distribution from an Iberville Street warehouse, using a 6-truck delivery fleet to service accounts as far away as Lake Charles, Baton Rouge and Alexandria. The cookies were promoted as a health food for school children. Because they kept very well, they proved especially popular with sportsmen and travelers.
In the mid-1930s, Otis Luker, who had operated a Dad’s Original Scotch Oatmeal Cookies franchise in Jackson, Mississippi, relocated to the Crescent City, where he incorporated Dad’s Cookie Company of New Orleans. Initially also located at 3017 Tulane Ave., the firm later moved to a larger facility on D’Hemecourt Street before relocating to 3929 Fourth St. in 1949. Luker retired in 1960, turning the reins over to his son.
Dad’s Cookie Company of New Orleans eventually faded away, as did nearly all Dad’s Original Scotch Oatmeal Cookies franchises throughout the country. Only one United States franchise remains in operation and uses the original recipe; it is in St. Louis, Missouri.
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