Today in New Orleans History

November 27

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 Happy 89th Birthday, Ella Brennan
Born in New Orleans, 
 November 27, 1925


 A young Emeril Lagasse with his boss, Ella Brennan.
Photo from Wine Enthusiast Magazine

Born in New Orleans on November 27, 1925, restaurateurur Ella Brennan received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Foodways Alliance in 2002.  She began her culinary career working with her brother Owen's Royal Street Brennan's restaurant.  As owner of Commander's Palace, she hired young cooks  Paul Prudhomme (1975) and Emeril Lagasse (1983).

From the the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture

Ella Brennan, matriarch of one of the most prominent restaurant families in South, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on 27 November 1925. At the age of 19, Ella Brennan began working with her brother, Owen Brennan, who had purchased a restaurant in the French Quarter. Instead of opting for college, Ella Brennan went to Europe where she made a study of restaurant service, and New York, where she worked briefly at the 21 Club.

Brennan’s, the seminal family restaurant, specialized in French Creole dishes, served, contrary to expectations, by a family of Irish descent. It is still operated by a branch of the family. In the interim, Brennan’s has birthed a number of inheritors including far-flung restaurants in Houston, Texas, and, as operated by Dickie Brennan, as close as around the corner.

At Commander’s Palace, the Victorian mansion in Uptown New Orleans, operated by the family since 1974, Ella Brennan serves what she calls Haute Creole cuisine—the sophisticated cooking of old Creole New Orleans, reinterpreted for the modern palate.

Over the course of her career Brennan has exhibited a reputation for recognizing and developing restaurant talent. Among the now famous graduates of her kitchen are Paul Prudhomme, who arrived in 1975, and Emeril Lagasse, who began his service in 1983. What’s more, Brennan has worked with farmers and fishermen to cultivate local markets for their goods and provide her restaurants with the best possible ingredients.  In her role as restaurateur, she has promoted the sociability of dining and the art of conversation. As the twentieth-first century dawned, a new generation of the Brennan family, led by Ti Martin and Lally Brennan, has stepped into the spotlight at Commander’s, intent upon upholding the standards Ella Brennan set.

– Scott Simmons for the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture 

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Joe Jones (August 12, 1926 – November 27, 2005) was an American R&Bsinger, songwriter and arranger, who was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Jones is also generally credited with discovering The Dixie Cups. He also worked with B.B. King. As a singer, Jones' greatest hit was the Top Five 1960 R&B hit "You Talk Too Much", which also reached #3 on the pop chart. (Wiki)

Christopher Hemmeter (October 8, 1939 – November 27, 2003) was a real estate developer who pioneered the concept of the destination resort in Hawaii and was involved in casino gaming development, primarily in New Orleans and Colorado. His biggest project was a proposed $1 billion casino in New Orleans. Billed at the time as "the world's largest casino", the original design resembled Monte Carlo's 1861 casino and was described as evoking the New Orleans 1885 Cotton Exposition and Chicago's 1893 the World Columbia Exposition. The developers estimated the casino would attract one million additional visitors to the city and would generate annual revenues of as much as $780 million. (Wiki)

Early Jazz trumpeter Frank Joseph Christian  was born in the Bywater of New Orleans on September 3, 1887. He died on November 27, 1973.

FBI agents interviewed David Ferrie in New Orleans on November 27, 1963 in connection with the Kennedy assasination.

Lenfants, Time-Saver, K&B, Dixiana Bakery, and Sciambra's
November 27, 1957

In the news November 27, 1957, The Mississippi River Bridge Authority accepted a $74,850.00 bid submitted by R. B. Tyler Company of New Orleans which covers the cost of materials and work for the East-West Bank bridge (now the Crescent City Connection) presently under construction.  The work includes using a special Bituminous Concrete paving to be laid in the 24 and 28 foot wide span.  This roadway will cover the steel grid flooring between Pier No. 1 and Pier No. 3 of the 52 foot-wide roadway of the manin span.  The bridge will have two 12-foot traffic lanes in each direction.  The only other bid for this project was submitted by Texas Bitulithic Company.
State spending was escalating as was its income (unusual for today).  The skys were cloudy but the weather was typically mild for this time of year.  Bit it's the ads that make this page of the Picayune so wonderful for us now.  None of these popular businesses still exist.
TodayInNewOrleansHistory/1930October17LenfantsAtBeverlyGarden.gifLenfant's was offering a Thanksgiving Day (all day) dinner menu in 1957 with Broiled Choice Prime Rib Steak with French fries, an appetizer, soup, vegetable, and dessert being the most expensive choice at $2.25.  The Shrimp Lenfant, and Crabmeat a la Ritz sound devine.
John L. Lenfant was an entrepreneur who started out as a barber in the Faubourg Marigney who had a grocery and bar on Elysian Fields at Villere Street.  He was a sparring partner of boxer Jake Kilrain.  Then he had a drugstore and a nightclub at St. Claude and Elysian Fields which featured an open-air dance garden.  He owned the Elysian Fields Theater back in vaudeville days.  He owned Eclipse Bottling Works, makers of Whistle soda and Glean cola -- both jumbo-sized drinks.  He brewed beer for Joe Brown's nightclub, during prohibition, on the 2nd of a building at Canal and Carondelet.  He bought and sold real estate.  He even owned hearses which he'd rent to funeral homes. 
TodayInNewOrleansHistory/1942August22LenfantsWantsFrogs.gifThen he got into the restaurant business. He opened several popular Rosedale Inn sit-down and drive-in restaurants around town. Some locations including one at 1915 Canal Street, one at 5236 Canal Boulevard, one at 5205 Canal Boulevard, and another at South Claiborne and Jackson Avenue.  During the 1930s he owned Lenfant's on Metairie Road at the former location of his Beverly Gardens gambling house.  Leon Prima and his Orchestra (were playing there on October 17, 1930 (Louis played there, too) and auto service via car-hops was available in the rear. When John Lenfant retired he left the businesses to his sons.
Lenfant's Sea Food Restaurant at 5236 Canal Boulevard opened in 1941.  Diners could eat inside the Streamline Moderne dining rooms or drive up to the huge shell parking lot where car-hops filled the bill. An interesting item from those years is an August 22, 1942 want-ad for 1000 pounds of jumbo frog legs.  Many New Orleanians celebrated weddings and bridal and baby showers at Lenfant's.  Many clubs regularly met there. The adjoining Boulevard Room was well known locally.  The building was demolished during the early 1990s and was replaced with Greenwood Funeral Home (which John Lenfant might have rented hearses to if her were still alive).
Dixiana Bakery, at 2631 Bruxelles, on the corner of Broad Street opened in 1910 at the home of Dalile Rousseve and his wife Jeanne Becnel. Dixiana was most famous for its Sarah Bernhardt Cake -- a rich wine cake with nuts, a red apple jelly glaze and whipped cream -- "Looks just like a king's crown", read the advertisement.  One could be had in 1957 for $1.25.  Cocktail sized pattie shells (for making oyster patties) were only 45 cents per dozen, and a fruit cake would set you back $1.25.  Dixiana copyrighted their famous "Melt-O-Way" products. Dixiana goodies could also be found in the Schwegmann Airline Highway location.  After a modernization and remodelling of the building, Dixiana held a grand reopening on Saturday, March 25, 1950. In the final years it officially became Klotzback-Dixiana Bakery, Inc. but everyone still referred it (even today) as simply "Dixiana". It closed during the 1980s. Recipe for Dixiana's Sarah Bernhardt Cake.
The first Time-Saver store opened on Monday, March 8, 1954 at 1201 South Carrollton Avenue at Oak Street.  It offered a unique service -- motorists could drive INTO the store and park at display counters. Stressing quicker service, the store sold "staple and unusual products".  Its exterior signs advertised groveries, ice, beer, and milk.  It was open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. By 1964 there were Time-Saver stores in 15 locations in the greater New Orleans area.  By 1986, there were more than 100.  The first location of Time-Saver is now a Fidelity Bank location.
Jake Sciambra had two restaurants with bars, one at 3201 Tulane and the one advertised here at 452 South Jefferson Davis Parkway, which was also he and his wife, Lena Gallo's, residence.   After running this place for some 30 years, Jake passed away on April 8, 1970 at age 77.  He was a native Contessa Entallina, Sicily and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
Gustave Katz and Sydney Besthoff opened their first drug store in 1905 at 732 Canal Street.  Ninety-two years laster the company had grown to include 186 stores in six states.  It was sold to Rite Aid in 1997.  For a  history of of the company, read K&B Drug Stores by John S. Epstein.

 Willie Pastrano is Born
November 27, 1935
Born in New Orleans on November 27, 1935, boxer Wilfred "Willie" Raleigh Pastrano was the light-heavyweight boxing champion of the world from 1963 until 1965.
A close friend of boxer Ralph Dupas, as kids they trained under Coach Ernest "Whitey" Esneault at St. Mary's Italian gym on Chartres Street in the French Quarter.  The first mention of Pastrano in the Times-Picayune reported his upcoming bout for the Southern AAU boxing charmpionship at Buras Auditorium on June 1, 1951, representing St. Mary's CYO.  He weighed 135 pounds.  Several months later, he made his professional debut at age 16 on September 8, 1951 against Leo Bayard at Municipal Auditorium.  
As a pro he was managed by Angelo Dundee and often sparred with Dundee's greatest champ, Cassius Clay/Mohammad Ali.  Pastrano won the light heavyweight championship on June 1, 1963 against Harold Johnson in a 15 round decision at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  He held the title by defeating Argentine's Gregorio Peralta with a technical knockout in the fifth round at the Municipal Auditorium on April 10, 1964, and again on November 30, 1964 at King's Hall in Manchester, England in an 11 round TKO.
Pastrano appeared on the cover of  issue of Sports Illustrated with the caption reading "Light Heavyweight Willie Pastrano Ready to Defend His Title" against Jose Torres at Madison Square Garden.  He lost that title on March 30, 1965 in a 9th round TKO, and never fought professionally again.

Willie Pastrano died n New Orleans on December 9, 1997 at the age of 62.

West End Land Reclamation
November 27, 1931
In West End the reclamation project was also taking place. This caption reads "ZONE 1. 25 feet east of the West End light house shell road and 200 feet south of the seawall. Picture taken Nov. 27, 1931. Dredge "Houston" stopped pumping in this zone on November 7, 1931. Arrow [barely visible] points to Arthur Barry standing in fill 2.4 ft.” (Courtesy New Orleans Public Library.)  #128lp 

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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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