Julia Street with Poydras the Parrot

Julia
Theda Bara passing an autograph to “Frenchy” a convalescent soldier at the Red Cross Convalescent Home on Lake Pontchartrain a few miles from New Orleans. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, American National Red Cross photograph collection.

Dear Julia and Poydras,

The COVID-19 pandemic brings to mind the Spanish Flu, which my grandparents lived through, although some of our extended family did not. I even heard that the Southern Yacht Club was a hospital. Is that true? – Ralph Stevens (New Orleans)

In October 1918, during the Spanish Flu pandemic, the American Red Cross put the Southern Yacht Club into service as a military convalescent home for soldiers and sailors recovering from influenza. The hospital opened on October 20th; its closure date is less clear, but it did have a celebrity visitor. 

The day after the small hospital opened to care for several dozen patients from Jackson Barracks, cameras were there when silent film star and notorious “vamp” Theda Bara, who was in town to film the WWI drama The Light, stopped by to autograph publicity photographs and cheer the troops. Born Theodosia Goodman, Theda Bara (1885-1955) made a career of playing “vamps” or “vampires,” temptresses who ensnared and destroyed the men who were infatuated with them. 


Dear Julia,

I realize Lincoln Beach, the old segregated amusement park at Little Woods, was far less grand than Pontchartrain Beach, but it did have a midway with rides, including a wooden roller coaster. Do you know anything about the rides that were there before desegregation ended and the park closed? – Rebecca Jones (Houston, Texas)

Some rides were installed at Lincoln Beach in 1951, but when, in 1954, park operator Paul J. Lacassin’s lease was not renewed, he ran a notice in Billboard, an amusement industry trade paper, listing for sale all of the park’s movable attractions. According to the ad Lacassin placed in the October 16 issue, rides included a 24-tub Caterpillar, a 12-tub Whip, a Big Apple, a small carousel and a small gasoline-powered train. It would be interesting to learn where Lacassin had obtained the rides, whether they were purchased new or had been previously used at other parks.

When the renovated Lincoln Beach opened in the mid-1950s, its main attraction was its pool, but it also had a merry-go-round and a roller coaster. I could find no details about the flying horses, but the roller coaster was notable. 

Known as the Junior Coaster, Philadelphia Toboggan Company coaster No. 122 appears to have been the last designed by Reading, Pennsylvania native Herbert P. Schmeck (1890-1956). Between 1922 and 1954, Schmeck designed or supervised construction of more than 80 roller coasters, most for the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, which he headed from 1922 to 1954. 

Few Schmeck-designed roller coasters have survived or remain in operation. One especially notable survivor is the Phoenix. Built in the late 1940s for Playland Park in San Antonio, and originally named the Rocket, Philadelphia Toboggan Company coaster No 111 was saved from destruction. It was rebuilt at Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, Pennsylvania, where it has operated since 1985.


Dear Julia,

When I was a kid, there was a locally made diet soft drink my mom and the women of her bridge club used to buy. It was called Trim, but I don’t think it was around for a terribly long time. Do you or Poydras recall that brand? – Carol Shecksnyder (New Orleans)

In the late 1950s, Abbott Laboratories created a low-caloric cyclamate-based sweetener under the name Sucaryl® which became immensely popular. Trim®, a product of the New Orleans-based Blue Seal Bottling Works was made with Sucaryl®. Cyclamate sweeteners have been banned in the United States for more than 50 years, due to safety concerns.

In 1958, the recently incorporated Trim, Inc., purchased from Blue Seal all rights to Trim® with the intent of nationally marketing a line of diet products. By August of that year, the beverage had proven so popular that demand outstripped supply. An agreement with the B1 Beverage Company of St. Louis soon followed, enabling Trim, Inc. to produce B1’s line of dietetic products. A group of Louisiana investors bought Trim, Inc. in late 1959, planning to relocate it to Baton Rouge.


HAVE A QUESTION FOR JULIA?

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Julia Street,
New Orleans Magazine,
110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005

or email: Julia@myneworleans.com.


 

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