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Trip Report - April 1940

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Trip Report - April 1940

I thought I would share this with those of you who have a passion for history. I was visiting my mother yesterday and she gave me a bunch of my Dad’s correspondence, as he passed away a couple of years ago and she is trying to slowly de-clutter the premises. In the papers was a letter dated April 4, 1940 from my uncle to his brother (my father), in which he is describing a trip from Baton Rouge to New Orleans for the weekend:

“We are all trying to live rather cheaply now, as I am trying to clear up all debts before we get into the war. However we turn loose now and then for a little fling. Last weekend we took a holiday weekend in New Orleans. Left here at 3 Saturday afternoon and ate dinner at Kolb’s restaurant, which is the best German restaurant in the city. Had Wiener Schnitzel for dinner and Apple Strudel for dessert. Saw “Virginia City” at the Saenger that evening. Sunday morning we went out to Audubon Park walking and toured the zoo. Had lunch at a French restaurant then went to the Blue Room at 2:30. Tommy Dorsey was playing and it was a good show. We danced very little and went mainly to hear the music and see the floor show. We got out of there at 5, went down to the Jung Hotel and checked out, then stopped by the French Market for doughnuts and coffee outdoors before setting out for Baton Rouge. Got back here at 8 p.m. and that is what we call a swell weekend.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.


Historical notes: From the driving times, you can tell they drove on the Airline Highway - that’s Highway 61 - which legend has it Huey Long had built from the Governor’s Mansion straight to the front door of the Roosevelt Hotel, which served as his de facto office when he was in town. Kolb’s was a popular restaurant in the 100 block of St. Charles that stayed open until finally closing about 10-15 years ago. They had a really cool system of ceiling fans run on an intricate system of leather belts and pulleys left over from a building built for the 1884 Cotton Exposition. The site of the fair later became Audubon Park. The Blue Room in the Roosevelt Hotel was a popular place for all the big acts of the day from the ’30’s into the 60’s. There were frequent radio shows from there that were beamed out at night as far north as Chicago on the clear channel station WWL. The Roosevelt and the Blue Room have recently re-opened after a lengthy post-Katrina renovation. Across Canal St., the Saenger Theater awaits full restoration. It is one of those grand palatial film palaces from the 1930’s and prior to Katrina was the site of Broadway shows and other concerts events. The Jung Hotel was another very popular hotel of the day. The building is still there, and was a Clarion and something else before Katrina, but I believe is still shuttered.

Edited: 06 January 2010, 03:43
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1. Re: Trip Report - April 1940

Very interesting, thanks for sharing that! I had heard of everything you mentioned except for the Jung Hotel.

Moncton, Canada
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2. Re: Trip Report - April 1940

Thank you very much for sharing that with us, it was very kind.

Holly cow though, hein? What a person did in New Orleans in 1940 is basically the same thing a person does in 2010, 70 years later!! Eating, drinking, great music, Audubon Park and zoo, the market, cafe & beignets. I think that is just awsome!!!! You should send that to the paper, I'm sure they'd publish a little story about it. What a great souvenir. I'm getting teary eyed again (boy, am I do for a vacation). :)

Tucson, Arizona
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3. Re: Trip Report - April 1940

Thanks highway,

My father, too, was a big band fan and I grew up listening to the Dorsey brothers, Artie Shaw, Goodman, Basie, Glenn Miller and fortunately, Pops, as well.

I can only imagine what wonderful times people enjoyed in the Blue Room listening and dancing to all those great bands, week after week, with all the brass wailing. It would have been a fantastic time to be alive and enjoy all the pre-war activities, before the world changed forever...

Thank you for sharing that great memory.

College Station...
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4. Re: Trip Report - April 1940

Wow! Thanks for sharing.

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5. Re: Trip Report - April 1940

Hwy61NO..It was great of you to share that letter. I too ate at Kolb's during what was probably my first or second trip into New Orleans, somewhere in the 70's.

During my last trip there just a few weeks ago, I notice the marquee on The Saenger stating they will re-open in 2011. Coincidentally, there was a small sign on Kolb's saying they will re-open too, but I saw no sign of anything going on. Let's hope so for both, if it's done right like the Roosevelt.

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6. Re: Trip Report - April 1940

highway61, what a great throwback TR! Very interesting read and thanks for sharing.

I've often wondered what New Orleans was really like back in the day. Both this, and one of my favorite Memoirs 'The Last Madam' paint a pretty fabulous picture.


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7. Re: Trip Report - April 1940

One of the first TA trip reports? Is it in our genes?

Hamilton, Canada
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8. Re: Trip Report - April 1940

Thanks for sharing that Highway! I've always been intrigued by stories of New Orleans' past, what a great little letter :)

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9. Re: Trip Report - April 1940

Wow, that is so generous of you to share that. Going to N.O. for the first time in April, and I can't wait to do exactly what your Dad did...plus maybe a hurricane or two. :-)

Houston, Texas
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10. Re: Trip Report - April 1940

When I was in the Army, stationed just outside Washington, D.C., in 1967-1968, I used to get WWL on my car radio. My listening to Leon Kelner and his orchestra, playing in the Blue Room, was my connection to home. In those days, WWL was a 50,000 watt, clear-channel station, and reception on my car radio was excellent on most nights.