The New Orleans Of My Youth
In the forties and fifties in New Orleans, the Illinois Central railroad
had, inbound to the city, railroad tracks that ran along where Earhart Blvd now lies. There was an outbound set of tracks
that crossed Carrollton Ave to the right of where Cloverland Dairy was located. These inbound and outbound tracks formed a
large V if they could be seen from the air.
The neighborhood that was situated between those tracks was called “The
Devil’s Elbow” as I was growing up there in the forties and fifties.
I lived in the 8800 block of Fig
St and walked from there to Lafayette school on Carrollton Ave and Walmsley. At the intersection of Fig and Monroe Streets
was the crossing of the railroad tracks. There we would turn and wave to our Mom as she stood in front of our house as we
walked to school.
At the corner of Fig Street and Eagle Street there stood two grocery stores. Johnson’s was
owned my an older Swede, Mr Johnson and across Fig Street from his store was Cali’s Market. The Cali family, Mr
Frank, and his sister Miss Rose ran that store as long as I can remember. I remember buying groceries there with the ration
stamps of WW II.
The house right next door to Johnson’s grocery was the home of a member
of “Doolittle’s Raiders” as I found out many years later when reading a book about the Doolittle raid
on Japan during WWII.
Several blocks down Eagle Street at the intersection of Olive and Eagle Streets was a neighborhood
pub called “Klein’s.” This was considered by us to be the “Heart” of “The Devil’s
I notice now, when I read the Times Picayune online, that when they write
of this neighborhood they call it the “Hollygrove” neighborhood. Well, I was born and raised in that neighborhood
and never, not even one time, had I ever heard of it referred to as “Hollygrove.” I think that is a fabrication
made up by foreign reporters now working at the Times Picayune!
Anyway, at Klien’s bar there was a large sign
on the side of the bar that had the names of all the guys from the “Devil’s Elbow” who served in the military
in WW II. My uncle’s name was right near the top.
When I got old enough (16) Charlie hired me to deliver
beer around the neighborhood on nights when fights were on TV. He just bought a brand new 1955 Yellow and White Ford.
He let me drive that beauty even though I didn’t have a driver's liscence yet! I worked at Klien’s until
joining the Air Force in 1955 where I stayed for 26 years.
mentioned a bar in the Devil's Elbow section of New Orleans and the owner named Charlie Klein. Well some of you may remember
some of my Charlie stories, but this may be a first for some.
Klein’s bar in the mid-fifties still had a large
patriotic sign out front with the names of all the military men who were from the Devil's Elbow that served in the military
and those who died for the cause in WW II.
Next to the sign was a thirty foot flag pole where Charlie came out
and raised that flag every day and lowered it every night. Now Klein’s bar was at the very heart of the Elbow and most
of the grownups gathered there every Friday night. All the teenagers hung around outside generally raising hell. Not bad hell,
but fun for all of us.
One evening Charlie came out to lower the flag and a group of us started teasing Charlie about
getting old (he was all of about 25 at the time) and we bet him he could not climb to the top of that flag pole.
took us up on the bet and all our mouths dropped open as he shinnied up that flagpole faster than any of us could. Trouble
was, Charlie was about double our weight and the flagpole could not support him.
We watched in awe as the flagpole
bent at a 90-degree angle letting Charlie dangle over the roof of his bar. The roof was covered in tin, which made such a
racket as Charlie fell on it and rolled down the steep incline and whack! right on the banqett! (New Orleans French for sidewalk).
All the grownups came running out of the bar to see just what the hell us kids were doing out there to find Charlie
banged up and bruised and as he found out at the hospital, a couple broken ribs.
The base of the flag pole remained, but the bent and broken pole
Don’t feel sorry for the bum though because he always got even with us and made us pay for our sinful
One example was when we used to jump up and bang the Public Telephone sign on the outside corner of the bar.
It sounded exactly like thunder when we slammed it with out fist and we would yell “thunderrrrrrrr.”
just never imagined how irritating that would be to the adults getting soused inside the bar and we did it time after time.
Charlie broke me from sucking eggs one cold November night when just as I landed after banging the sign and yelling
“Thunderrrrr,” for the tenth time that night, Charlie threw a bucket of ice cold water on me and yelled,
We never played that game again.
I returned to that neighborhood down through the
years until the last of my family moved away or died and around 20 years passed without me visiting the “Devil’s
Around 1990 or so, I had occasion to drive from Florida to Texas and I decided to drive through
the old neighborhood for one last time for memories sake.
Sadly, no white folks lived in the neighborhood anymore. The
houses were damaged, boarded up and falling down. Stripped, abandoned cars littered the streets and groups of young savages
congregated at each corner where we used to play and argue with Charlie.
I had set up my Camcorder and strapped it
in the passenger seat and let it run as I drove around that neighborhood. As it taped I had a radio station on playing old
time New Orleans Jazz and that was a great background sound for my tape.
I passed the corner of Eagle and Olive Streets
where Charlie’s Bar was located and noticed several things:
First the bar was still open.
Second the base of the flagpole was still there.
Third a Teenaged thug, in a group, was pointing a gun at me and telling me to
get my white ass out of his neighborhood.
I did just that and never looked back.
I watch that tape now and
then, just for the hell of it.
Have a Hot One
Beignets for Breakfast
I was an alter boy at
Little Flower Church on Monroe Street. I served a Mass at 6 AM every morning
during the week with Father Routan, and my breakfast after Mass was Beignets that my Step-dad brought home the night
before and a small carton of milk.
Those beignets were as good cold, to me, as they were hot! The Beignets
cost 5 cents apiece and the coffee was 10 cents when I was a kid and my folks took us there.
Stern Warning and Glance From The Old Man While Climbing a Fence At 4 Years Old
Take my word for it, bare toes are not helpful climbing a wire fence!
Pelican Stadium/Fontainbleu Hotel
A question posted in a New Orleans Forum:
Does anyone have any history with the Fontainebleau that used to be on Tulane
Ave.? I remember going there as a kid. My mother would somehow slip us kids into the wonderful pool there. I remember it being
a great looking place when I was a kid. Too bad it's a storage place now. Any one else has any fond memories of the place?
I not only have many memories of the Fontainbleu, but also Pelican Stadium,
which was in the exact same spot as the Hotel. When we were kids we would climb trees just past the Centerfield Fence and
watch the games.
In 1966, I was in the Air Force stationed at Keesler AFB, in Mississippi. My Mom and Dad lived in
Slidell, and my Dad drove a Checker Cab in New Orleans. I got a permit to drive a cab and would drive my Dad's cab in New
Orleans at night. My Dad only drove his cab from 8AM to 5 PM, so I would pick it up and drive it most of the night.
Fontainbleu had a contract with Checker Cabs to only allow Checkers to line up on its property to pick up fares from the hotel.
I got to know the Manager, Frank R., at that time because I spent many hours waiting for fares to come out of that hotel.
Mr. R. would come out and chat with us as we waited.
In March 1967 I got orders to go to Da Nang, Vietnam so my cab
driving days were over. When I got ready to come back to the States in 1968, I wrote Mr. R. a request for reservations for
a room for a week at his Hotel for my wife and me.
He wrote back that I could have the room as a gift from him and
his staff. All I had to do was pay a nominal fee of a dollar for Tax purposes, I suppose.
I left Vietnam on the 14th
of March 1968 and flew to the Philippines, then on to Los Angeles, switched planes from a Military Charter to a Delta flight
from Los Angeles to New Orleans. My whole family met me at Moisant at 04:00 and after a happy reunion my wife and I spent
our second honeymoon at the Fontainbleu.
Mr. R. was thoughtful enough to have a Bottle of Scotch, a flower arrangement
and a basket of fruit in the room.
Ahhhhh yes, I still have fond memories of the Fontainbleu. I no longer have that
wife, but still have those fond memories.
Directly across Tulane Avenue from the Fontainbleu was a "Copper Kettle"
restaurant where we drank many cups of coffee and ate a lot of hamburgers. A little farther up the block on Tulane was a restaurant
named "Home Plate" I believe. Ate some great Italian lunches in that little restaurant.
When Pelican Stadium was still
standing the "New Basin Canal ran beside the stadium all the way into town where the Union Station is now.
Street Car ran from Washington and Carrollton Avenues to Tulane across a scary bridge on Carrollton Ave over the New basin
At that time there was a wide neutral ground running up Tulane Ave to the River. The Tulane Streetcar would
run all the way to N. Villere, a street in front of Charity Hospital and hook a left turn toward Canal Street.
Canal Street the streetcar would turn right, toward the River and go to Barrone Street where it made a right turn and went
down to Common where it made another right turn, and run back into Tulane Avenue.
I used to take that streetcar every
Saturday. I stood next to the Conductor with the window down enjoying the breeze as we made our way to town, and then, get
off at Barrone and Common to walk a couple blocks on Barrone to the Strand Theater.
Pelican Stadium In Background, Home of a Pirate's Farmteam, The New Orleans Pelicans
I remember lying on my porch in the humid heat of New Orleans' summers in the 1940's listening to WJBW's Mid Day Serenade
and enjoying all the different types music popular in the forties. There was Big Band, Country, Bluegrass and what we called
Rhythm and Blues.
I loved music. I learned to play the clarinet and later the drums. When I joined the
Air Force I joined the Base Drum and Bugle Corps at several bases. As I aged I started listening more than playing music.
Tonight while watching American Idol (nothing else interesting on TV to watch tonight) I watched one "star" sing some kind
of teeny bopper song that I could only catch some of the Spanglish words, "I luvs ya popi" and took a bathroom break while
that screech went on interminably long.
Next there was a band from New Orleans that looked like a bunch of white
teenagers trying to come across as "hoodlums" and all they did was make the sounds of chimpanzees that I used to hear at the
Audubon Park Zoo. I guess I have really entered the age of old foggyism when I hear no redeeming value in the music I hear
on the radio and TV anymore.
Music used to have a beautiful sound. Either a calming affect or a feeling
to get up and dance, or even to clap your hands. Now the crap that passes for music reflects the sounds of the chimps I used
to enjoy . I remember as a eight year old crying at the sadness of the song, "Sentimental Journey" in the summer of 1946.
Or erasing the homesickness of being stationed in Europe while listening to the music of New Orleans on the records I brought
I have a collection of music that I've collected over the years by recording the records I own
plus the CD's bought online. Over 40,000 tracks of music on several computers and backup hard drives.
I don't even listen to the radio any more. I simply call up some of my favorite music in a large file, hook up external speaker
to my computer and play all my favorite tunes that I have in one file. The music continues all day long in the background
as I go about my daily routine. Sad thing is I have no tracks in that long list of favorites that were bought, or recorded
after 1990. Is it just me? Am I alone in not liking the trash that is called music and forced on us today?
something change in our brains when we pass seventy that makes us dislike present day things? I really don't know, but I wonder
what songs the young couples of today will remind them of their young dating days. I still hear songs that remind me of past
loves and the tune brings back beautiful memories. I wonder how "Rap" music and grabbing their crotch while singing the
garbage of today will be remembered by young couples when they grow old.
Ponchartrain Beach! Summertime Fun!
Never Drink Bleach!
My cousin Buck and I were playing bartender on an overturned laundry cart
in my yard, when we were about five and six.
Earlier, I had found a brown bottle that looked like a beer bottle under
our house, and pretending it was a bottle of beer I took the top off and drank what turned out to be bleach.
I went running into the house to my mother. I couldn't talk or catch my breath
and she figured out from my cousin what happened and sent one of my sisters to Mr. Johnson’s grocery store for some
pints of milk in the little glass bottles that were in use in that time.
She started pouring that milk down my throat until I started throwing up.
After I threw up it was all over and she did not even have to call a doctor.
I've never touched a drop of bleach since!
Train Crossing Huey P. Long Bridge, Heading West
The Huey P. Long Bridge
"Built in the 1930s when cars must have been one-third the width they are
today, this bridge has put the fear of God into more people than hundreds of the best sermons.
Amazingly, this all began in 1892 with a proposal from the Southern Pacific
Railroad that a bridge across the river be built. In 1916, the Public Belt Railroad Commission got the state constitution
changed to allow New Orleans to erect such a bridge.
In 1928, Governor Huey P. Long pushed through a constitutional amendment
allowing bonds to be issued. Construction began in 1932. In 1935, the year Huey Long was murdered in our state capitol building,
the bridge was finished and was named for him. It cost $13 million dollars, this in the middle of the Depression when a dollar
In 1988, they started studying widening the bridge. !989, voters approve
$60 million to widen it. 1996, they found what it would really cost to fix this bridge and stopped. 1998, Governor Mike Foster
signs a bill setting aside $220 million for the project. 2002, Mayor Marc Morial offers to sell the bridge to the state for
at least $300 million. Hearing that the Brooklyn Bridge might be for sale, the state rejects the offer. Today, April 27, 2006,
ground-breaking for the widening and reconfiguring.
Don't hold your breath. It will take five years and will cost--you ready
for this?--$600 million. Meanwhile, traffic problems will be the order of the day."
Part of an article written by: Joe McKeever, "It's Something Every
I once rode my Shelby bike across this bridge and back the same day!
The Iceman Cometh
The summer I was 15 I worked for a fireman, Bonnie Loup, who had an ice delivery
route around Carrollton and another around Prytania and all over Uptown, on his days off.
We picked up 300-pound blocks of ice at an icehouse on Oleander Street just
off Carrollton Ave at O Dark thirty.
We would chop that ice into 50 and 25 pound blocks and using newspaper on
our shoulders delivered this ice to the unlocked kitchens of both neighborhoods.
Sometimes there were people home, and sometimes not. They just left the back
door unlocked and we would just walk in their kitchens and drop the ice into their icebox.
Most iceboxes opened on the top, but some opened from the front. A lot of
those iceboxes gave off a God-awful smell when opened. I always turned my head to the side before opening them.
I used to ride on the back of the ice truck and give shards of ice to all
the little kids who followed the truck. Bonnie paid me the tremendous sum of 21 dollars every Saturday and 20 of that went
to my mother! She had her hand out every Saturday when I got off work for "room and board," she said.
This eventually cost me my job. Bonnie Loup was a chain smoker and kept five
packs of Lucky Strikes on the front seat of that icetruck. Since my mother took all my money every payday I could not buy
cigarettes so I filched Bonnie’s.
I would simply smoke his cigarettes without asking and it must have gotten
to him, because one day all there were on the seat were five packs of Picayune Cigarettes.
You’d have to be from the deep south to know what these cigarettes
would be like to smoke. Think of a four-inch hemp knot trying to scrape and claw down your throat as you took a big puff and
inhaled. I never stole a cigarette from Bonnie again. You might could say, "He broke me from sucking eggs."
A few weeks later he asked me why I didn’t buy my own and I told him
about giving the money to my mother and he said, "You’re fired, because if your mother wants the money that bad she
can come deliver ice herself."
Streetcar On Canal Street Heading Out To The Cemeteries
During the late forties I lived on Fig Street in what was then called
the Devil's Elbow."
On Saturdays I used to catch the Leonidas Street Bus at the corner
of Fig Street and Monroe Street, across the street from Vic's barbershop and in front of the Carrolton Lumber Company. For
seven cents I rode the bus to Carrolton Ave and Washington Ave then with the transfer I was given I changed to the Tulane
Avenue streetcar. We had to cross the old Iron Bridge next to Pelican Stadium that crossed the New Basin Canal.
The streetcar then turned on Tulane Ave to go all the way to Charity
Hospital where it turned left on N. Villere Street toward Canal Street.
On Canal Street it turned toward the river and went to Barrone Street
where it turned off Canal Street onto Barrone. This is where I got off by Walgreen’s on the corner of Canal and Barrone.
I then walked on Barrone for a couple blocks until I came to the Strand Theater.
For ten cents I watched a double header of cowboy shoot 'em ups along
with the news and cartoons.
After the two movies were over I would walk a couple blocks toward
Canal and Camp Streets. There was a Waterbury's drugstore on that corner and next to Waterburys on Camp Street was a small
German Diner where I would eat the best Roast beef a young boy could ask for. The sandwich had so much gravy on it that it
ran all the way down to my elbows as I ate it.
After feasting on the sandwich and washing it down with a Barq's Root
Beer I would stroll over to St Charles Avenue to the Rio Theater and watch another cowboy double-header.
When that movie was over I would walk back to Walgreen’s on
Canal and Barrone for a banana split.
After that feast it was back on the Tulane Avenue Streetcar on to
Washington Ave and my change over to the Leonidas Street bus and home.
I always started off with one dollar, which was my allowance
(when I got one, it was hit or miss) and got home with a penny left over. Couple times I had to walk to the Elbow
all the way from City Park when I caught the wrong Streetcar, once or twice
The transfers were for specific connections. Getting on the wrong
bus or streetcar invalidated the transfer and meant a long walk.
The bus and streetcar to town was seven cents. The Strand and Rio
were 10 cents apiece. The roastbeef was 39 cents and the banana split was 25 cents. Return trip home was another seven cents
Not bad for a ten year old's Saturday!
Streetcar Leaving Barn at Willow Street and Carrollton Avenue
During WW II Higgins built ships and landing craft for the US Navy.
At their factory in Gentilly, where Gentilly Woods presently stands, were plywood homes called Higgins Huts. I believe these
were built for employees of Higgins.
After the war Military Veterans were allowed to rent these Huts as they were
called. Two of my sisters were married to Veterans, one Navy and one Army vet. Both these sisters lived for a period in these
Higgins Huts. One of my sisters lived in one of these Huts right where I-10 presently crosses Downman Road I believe. The
other lived in a Hut on the other side of Gentilly Road where Gentilly Woods presently occupies the land. I visited this sister
almost every weekend from the Devil’s Elbow. It seemed to be far in the country to us small fry.
Hut was all the way to the back of the complex and the border back there was a small canal. I used to tie luncheon meat onto
a string and drop it into that canal and would catch buckets of crawfish for boiling on an open fire later that evening. Across
this canal was a wide pasture where a very large, scary Bramah bull
Lurked waiting for us to make a mad dash across that
pasture to jump through a barbed wire fence.
The reason we did that was to make it to the railroad tracks that ran
next to the Baptist College. We’d follow those tracks toward the lake where we had found a large pond to swim. So each
weekend was an adventure of crawfishing, beating the bull across that pasture and going skinny dipping in that pond.
at a map of New Orleans now, it seems a golf course and subdivision is located where that pasture and old swimming hole was.
As far as I know, the Baptist College is still there, but I think th railroad tracks are long gone.
Whenever I see Steven
King’s movie, "Stand By Me’" I am reminded of us racing that bull and following those railroad tracks in Gentilly
behind the Higgins Huts to that old swimming hole.
In the late forties and early fifties, out Jefferson Highway, a couple
miles past the Huey P. Long Bridge, was an old Army Base, Camp Plauche. This was another one of those places that were rented
out to Veterans of WW II. On the river side of Jefferson highway was The Foundation Hospital, an old Army Hospital of wooden
construction. This hospital became the first Oschner Foundation Hospital before the new one was built further down Jefferson
Highway toward New Orleans.
On the opposite side of Jefferson highway was the entrance to Camp Plauche. The barracks
had all been converted into apartments for veterans and their families. Some of the barracks were being demolished when one
of my sisters moved from the Higgins Huts to Camp Plauche.
The bakery and PX buildings were being used by civilians. You could
smell the fresh baked bread all over that complex every morning. The community center was a jumping place for us preteens
and new teenagers with square dancing and arts and crafts on display.
From the complex all the way to the railway
portion of the Hupy P Long bridge was all pasture land. Some folks had horses and would allow us to ride them on weekends.
We would ride them all the way to the bridge and back every weekend.
The last time I visited the location in 1985
or so, where Camp Plauche had been, it was an Industrial Complex. Sure left beautiful memories for a lad of 12 though.
Camp Plauche. Located near Harahan, WWII camp
originally called Camp Harahan was a staging area for troops moving through the New Orleans Port of Embarkation. In 1942 the
camp changed to a training base and battalions of railroad troops, port troops and hospital men were organized and trained
there. When training needs diminished the camp became a prisoner of war camp.
Now located in Old Jefferson, the first Ochsner Hospital was located at Camp Plauche, a military complex built in 1942
on the north side of Jefferson Highway a couple miles west of the Huey P. Long Bridge. The camp hospital included 53 wood-frame
buildings and only had two private rooms.
During World War II, Camp Plauche was, first, a staging area for troops, then, an Army training facility and, later, a
POW camp for German and Italian prisoners. Camp Plauche had 610 housing units and the hospital. Between 200,000
and 300,000 troops were organized and trained there.
The camp was named in honor of Major Jean Baptiste Plauche, who served under Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans.
Major Plauche went on to become the second lieutenant governor of Louisiana under the administration of Gov. Joseph Walker.
They were the first elected officials to be sworn in at the Old State Capitol in Baton Rouge in June 1850.
C. J. Christ, a columnist for Houma Today, wrote that his grandfather cleared sugar cane and weeds on the site in preparation
for building the Army barracks. What his grandfather remembered most about that time were the sounds of chugging steam engines
as they climbed to the top of the Huey P. Long Bridge.
"From the Camp Plauche complex all the way to the railway portion of the Huey P Long Bridge was all pasture land. Some
folks had horses and would allow us to ride them on weekends. We would ride them all the way to the bridge and back every
weekend," wrote George Martin.
In the late '40s and early '50s, the barracks of the old Army Base were all converted into apartments for veterans and
"Some of the barracks were being demolished when one of my sisters moved from the Higgins Huts to Camp Plauche. The bakery
and PX buildings were being used by civilians. You could smell the fresh baked bread all over that complex every morning.
The community center was a jumping place for us preteens and new teenagers with square dancing and arts and crafts on display,"
Across Jefferson Highway from Camp Plauche, was the old wooden army hospital called The Foundation Hospital. This hospital
became the first Oschner Foundation Hospital, before Ochsner moved to its present location at 1516 Jefferson Highway.
Elmwood Industrial Park now stands on the former site of Camp Plauche. Construction of Elmwood Industrial Park began in
the 1960's. There are now hundreds of offices, manufacturing plants and storage facilities located there. There's nothing
left to indicate Camp Plauche ever existed.
Ochsner Medical Center has grown into a major nonprofit health care system comprising more than 17,000 employees and more
than 2,700 affiliated physicians. Ochsner Health System owns, manages or is affiliated with 25 hospitals and more than 50
health centers. The Jefferson Highway campus is now a 505-bed acute care hospital. Ochsner Medical Center is not only the
largest employer in Old Jefferson, but it is the largest non-profit employer in the State of Louisiana. It has come a long
way from its days at Camp Plauche.
Information for this article was obtained from Giselle Hecker, director of public relations for Ochsner Health Systems,
Old New Orleans, http://old-new-orleans.com/, and the writings of George Martin. Their contributions are greatly appreciated.
Camp Plauche Army Camp WW II