Today in New Orleans History

January 5

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Metairie Theater Opens
January 5, 1926

When Metairie Theater opened at Metairie Road between Frisco and Aris Avenues on January 5, 1926, Eli T. Watson was the proprietor. In addition to stage shows and motion pictures the theater was used for political meetings and rallys including meetings of the 8th Ward Dumestre Club in support of Alexis Casimir Dumestre's run for police jurist. A 1928 Times-Picayune article described Dumestre as the “Owner and manger of the show” which was holding a benefit with proceeds supporting the neighborhood boy scout troop. In 1929 meetings were held here to discuss a proposed water plant, exorbitant gas rates, better streetcar service, lower telephone rates, and improved roads. Dumestre is pictured below in 1937 with his wife Winona at their home on Iona Street.


C. E. Strause and H. A. Johnson took over management of the theater, added heating, and reopened it on April 29, 1930 touting an RCA Photophone to show The Cock-Eyed World starring Victor McLaglen, Lily Damata, and Edmund Lowe.

In 1932 C. F. Bullard leased the building and Joseph Gruner became the manager. A highlight of that year was a rally on February 21 at DeLimon Park (now DeLimon condominiums) for the 8th Ward Democratic Club with motion pictures run before and after the speakers presentations. It culminated with Dumestre's speech from the theater which was broadcast on WTBO radio at 6:30 P.M. Meetings and benefit shows continued and in 1935 the theater was used to distribute tax exception forms.

The building was sold in 1937 to the United Theatres chain. The image above appeared in the June 6, 1937 edition of the Times-Picayune. The theater reopened the evening of June 11, 1937 with interior and exterior renovations along with updated equipment, a new screen, and sloped floors. “Various special features for the comfort of the patrons have been introduced and an effort has been made to have the theater one of the most artistic in the United Chain” boasted the owners' advertisement. Another ad announced “Rogers & Astaire to open new Metry Theater with Shall We Dance with 8 fresh songs – one of the most attractive playhouses in the City – 6:30 Admission 10 cents & 20 cents”.

On June 30, 1940 Miss New Orleans candidates were chosen at all local United theaters including the Metry. By 1952 the theater was unused but made front page headlines -- “Jefferson Boys Nazi Club Bared – Nazi Storm Trooper Club”. Nine teenage boys were arrested for allegedly planning to bomb it. It has been alleged that Gordon Novel, who was later accused by Jim Garrison as a conspirator in the Kennedy assassination, was one of theses boys. (Dumestre photo from the Louisiana Digital Collection).

From Legendary Locals of Metairie by Catherine Campanella

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"Pistol" Pete Maravich died on January 5, 1988.

The South Claiborne Avenue streetcar  ran from February 22, 1915 – January 5, 1953. In its later years, this line operated at the edges of the neutral ground, which covered a large drainage canal, part of which was open. The part of the neutral ground that was covered was planted in grass and ornamental trees and bushes was quite beautiful until it was destroyed to make way for an expressway.

Laten John Adams (January 5, 1932 – September 14, 1998), known as Johnny Adams, was an Americanblues, jazz and gospel singer, known as "The Tan Canary" for the multi-octave range of his singing voice, his swooping vocal mannerisms and falsetto. His biggest hits were his versions of "Release Me" and "Reconsider Me" in the late 1960s.

Natchez VIII was launched August 2, 1879 by the Cincinnati Marine Ways. It was 303.5 feet  long, with a beam of 45.5 feet, 38.5 feet floor, and 10 feet  hold depth. It had eight steel boilers that were 36 feet long and had a diameter of 42 inches, and thirteen engines. It had 47 elegant staterooms. Camp scenes of Natchez Indians wardancing and sunworshipping ornamented the fore and aft panels of the main cabin, which also had stained glass windows depicting Indians. The total cost of the boat was $125,000. Declaring that the War was over, on March 4, 1885, Leathers raised the American flag when the new Natchez passed by Vicksburg, the first time he hoisted the American flag on one of his ships since 1860. By 1887 lack of business had stymied the Natchez. In 1888 it was renovated back to perfect condition for $6000. In January 1889 it burned down at Lake Providence, Louisiana. Captain Leathers, deciding he was too old to build a new Natchez, retired. Jefferson Davis sent a letter of condolences on January 5, 1889, to Leathers over the loss of the boat. Much of the cabin was salvageable, but the hull broke up due to sand washing within.

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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