November 16, 1735
Today in 1735, Jean Louis, a French sailor and boat builder, died in New Orleans
and left his life savings of $1,600 to help establish a hospital for the poor of the city.
The Charity Hospital currently located on Tulane Avenue is actually the sixth in a
series of buildings intended to bring Jean Louis’s dream to life. The first Charity
Hospital was built in the French Quarter and opened on May 10, 1736. Fires,
hurricanes and overcrowding had consumed the first five hospitals before the current
Charity facility opened its doors in 1939 and serve the people of Louisiana until
Hurricane Katrina put it out of commission in 2005.
November 17, 1906
The first Louisiana State Fair opened in Shreveport today in 1906. Each year,
Louisiana’s official state fair offers the largest livestock shows and carnival in the
state, a large midway of rides, free daily circus shows, live entertainment, LRCA
Rodeo Finals, exhibits and competitions. The Shreveport Fairgrounds are also home
to the Independence Bowl Stadium, the State Exhibit Museum in Shreveport
completed in 1939, and the Hirsch Memorial Coliseum, a 4,000-seat multi-purpose
arena completed in 1954 and named for William Rex Hirsch, a former fair president.
Hirsch Memorial Coliseum is where the words "Elvis has left the building!" were first
uttered in 1957.
November 18, 1943
Today in 1943, R. A. Fisher of Baton Rouge decided he'd had enough of waitresses
and decided to do something about it. Fisher considered the term “waitress” to be
demeaning to “the young ladies” who attend diners in restaurants and offered dinner
and a $25 war bond to anyone who could come up with a better name. Considering
that the winning entry was “dineade”, one wonders how many entries there could
have been. But Fisher was as good as his word and entertained the winner at a
lovely dinner at the Patio Restaurant of the Istrouma Hotel. Miss Jewel Smith was the
“dineade” who attended the dinner.
November 19, 1799
They called her Countess Leon. Elisa Heuser Leon was born today in 1799 in
Frankfurt, Germany, married a Christian mystic known as Count Leon and came to
American in 1831. After leaving a Utopian colony in Pennsylvania, they left came to
Louisiana and established their "New Jerusalem" at Grand Ecore north of
Natchitoches. When the Count and several other relatives died of cholera, the
Countess moved to the Germantown colony near Minden which flourished until it
disbanded in 1871. The Germantown Colony (pictured) was the most successful and
lasted the longest of the three Utopian colonies in North Louisiana, peaking at fifty to
sixty followers but usually with fewer than forty.
November 20, 1946
Alfred "Fred" Tate purchased the bar that now bears his name in Mamou today in
1946. Some say that Louisiana’s "French Renaissance" after World War II began at
Fred's. In 1950, local men gathered at the bar to plan the first Courir de Mardi Gras
in Southwest Louisiana. In June 1962, Revon Reed began his popular French
language radio program on KEUN-AM in Eunice and later moved it to Ville Platte
station KVPI. Reed was a high school teacher and started his program in Eunice. To
supplement his teacher salary, he asked Tate if he could do a Saturday jam session
at the lounge.
November 21. 1987
Cuban inmates at the Oakdale Federal Prison in Allen Parish rioted today in 1987.
Seven years after 125,000 Cubans had fled to America in the Mariel boat lift from
Cuba in 1980, hundreds of the refugees with criminal records were still being
detained at the Oakdale facility. Many of them rioted after learning that they might be
sent back to their homeland under the new immigration agreement. The riot resulted
in the death of one inmate, 120 hostages being taken and millions of dollars of
damage inflicted on the facility. Rioters were thwarted by a quick-witted immigration
officer who lobbed gas grenades into the compound.
November 22, 1887
Following a three-week strike by mostly African American sugar cane workers around
Thibodaux, policemen and white vigilantes attacked black workers and their families
today in 1887, killing at least thirty-five and wounding as many as three hundred. It
would be called the Thibodaux Massacre, and it would be one of the most violent
labor disputes in U.S. history. The strike was the largest in the industry and the first
conducted by a formal labor organization, the Knights of Labor. After the massacre,
labor organizing among sugar workers was suspended, and plantation workers
returned to work under the owners' terms.
Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 1989
Lea Johnson, founder of Lea's Lunchroom in LeCompte, appeared on The Tonight
Show with Johnny Carson tonight in 1989. In 1928, Johnson had tired of the long, hot
hours of automobile repair work and decided to do something different. Acting on a
hunch, Johnson traded one car for two countertops, five stools, one coal-oil stove
and a coffee pot. Not long after, he would hire Miss Georgie, who later became his
wife, to manage the café. She would bring the secret to Lea’s eight delicious pies
from her family. Since the 1960s, Lea’s estimates that it sells around 65,000 pies a
year, with Thanksgiving being their busiest season.
November 24, 1989
A culinary sensation was born on Thanksgiving Day this week in 1989 when a local
chef in Dallas delivered a turducken to sportscaster John Madden at an NFL football
game at Texas Stadium. Already stuffed viewers across the country watched in
amazement as the hefty former coach sampled the combination of turkey, duck and
chicken. The Franken-meat had been popularized by celebrity chef Paul Prudhomme,
and most agree that it was created at Hebert's Specialty Meats in Maurice. “Junior”
and Sammy Hebert claimed they created it in 1985 "when a local man brought his
own birds to their shop and asked the brothers to create the medley.”
November 25, 1986
A star was born this week in 1986 when Ellen Degeneres made her first appearance
on the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. DeGeneres was born in Metairie and
raised as a Christian Scientist until age 13. In 1973, Ellen's mother remarried and
moved with her husband and Ellen to Atlanta, Texas. Ellen attended the University of
New Orleans for one semester before dropping out to work as a waitress at T.G.I.
Friday', a house painter, a hostess, and a bartender. By 1981, she was the emcee at
Clyde's Comedy Club in New Orleans. When she began touring as a stand-up
comedian, the Showtime Network would name her America’s Funniest Person.
November 26, 2005
Today in 2005, the Bayou Classic football game between the Grambling State
University Tigers and the Southern University Jaguars was played outside of the
State of Louisiana for the first and only time. The series had begun in 1932, but prior
to 1974, it was a big in-state rivalry between the two schools, but not the media
spectacle it would become. After it was re-branded as the Bayou Classic and moved
to New Orleans, a trophy was added and numerous events were also scheduled to be
held throughout the week leading up to the game itself. After Hurricane Katrina in
2005, organizers moved the game to Houston for one year.
November 27, 1986
On Thanksgiving Day this week in 1986, the Eiffel Tower opened after renovations--
and a trip across the Atlantic to New Orleans. During renovations of the landmark in
the early 1980s, the restaurant at the tower’s second level was determined to be
weighing down the structure and taken apart, piece by piece. John Onorio and
French Chef Daniel Bonnot, paid $1.5 million to ship the pieces to New Orleans to be
rebuilt on St. Charles Avenue. While Bonnot cooked well enough to match the
restaurant’s former glory, the Restaurant de La Tour Eiffel would be short-lived. In
1989, the restaurant would close and be converted to an event venue.
November 28, 2008
Today in 2008, President George W. Bush signed into law legislation to designate the
Friday after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day to pay tribute to Native
Americans for their many contributions to the United States. The oldest Native
American settlement identified in Louisiana to date are the mounds at the Watson
Brake site on the Ouachita River near Monroe. It is estimated to have been built in
the Archaic period around 3400 BCE and abandoned around 2200 BCE. It is the
oldest known mound complex in North America and one of the earliest dated complex
constructions in the Americas.
November 29, 1988
George Gauthier purchased Stawn's Eat Shop this week in 1988. The iconic eatery
had opened across from the Centenary College campus in 1944. Gus Alexander
purchased the restaurant from its original owner in 1958, and promptly hired Lula
McCoy “The Fried Chicken Maker”, Ella Hamilton “The Pie Lady”, and Gladys Duncan
“The Great Waitress”. Over the years, Strawn’s would become a Shreveport tradition.
Gauthier would deny that he won he restaurant in a poker game, and he and his
family would build on the restaurant’s tradition, expanding seating from 50 people to
150 people, and opening Strawn’s Too on East 70th Street, and Strawn’s Also on
Airline Highway in Bossier City.
November 30, 1894
Today in 1894, the first residents of the Louisiana Leper Home, which would later
become the National Hanson’s Disease Center in Carville, moved to the Iberville
Parish facility. In 1892, the Louisiana legislature established the Board of Control to
create the Louisiana Leper Home. The Board rented the abandoned Indian Camp
Plantation on the Mississippi River, and Dr. Isadore Dyer, a dermatologist and
leprologist from Tulane University Medical School, helped to establish the first
patients who lived in the plantation’s slave quarters and fended for themselves. The
first seven patients arrived from New Orleans by coal barge, as a diagnosis of leprosy
made use of public transportation illegal.