It is with great misfortune that I refer to myself as an "expatriate" New Orleanian. Every time I come home, I have to ask myself the question, "Why on earth would anyone live in a place where you can't buy alcohol on Sunday?"
On my most recent trip home, I paid many visits to my favorite watering hole, The Club, on the corner of Magazine and Napoleon. Nothing beats a $4 pitcher of Dixie from The Club. But there are a few things I have always wondered about The Club. How did it get its name? There are some tiles outside the front door identifying it as the Library Café. What other businesses have occupied this space?
M. Marvin Henderson
Dear M. Marvin,
So you tell me, "Why on earth would anyone live in a place where you can't buy alcohol on Sunday?'
If it's been a while since your last visit, you might like to know that your favorite tavern has a new owner. Since 1996, the lady of the house is Mae Brigham, and a neon sign lets everyone know that The Club is now Ms. Mae's.
But long before that, the tavern belonged to the Engelbracht Brothers. About a hundred years ago, Henry and Joseph Engelbracht ran a tavern on Tchoupitoulas Street; then around 1910, they moved to 4336 Magazine. The business stayed in the family. This accounts for the tile in front of the door: "H. & A. Engelbracht." Henry and Albert continued to operate the establishment, which at various times was called a beer parlor, tavern, or saloon. It was only during the Prohibition era that the establishment sold "soft drinks."
In 1953, Engelbracht's Beer Parlor made the front page of The Times-Picayune. It seems that although the Second District Police Station was just across the street, a mere 100 feet away, the beer parlor was doubling as a horse parlor where a betting man could read the form -- provided by the management -- place a bet, and listen to the races. However, it turned out that no federal wagering stamp had been issued to the owner.
In a couple of years, the place had a new name -- the Library Café -- and became a restaurant operated by Mrs. Pauline Engelbracht. It remained a restaurant for about 10 years. But this, too, didn't last. The building stayed vacant for a while in 1964 then opened again in 1965 as the ELL Bar. Three years later, it was the B & J Bar. Finally, in 1971, the owners renamed it The Club.
This ought to give you something to think about when you're back in The Big Easy drinking a pitcher of Dixie on a Sunday at Ms. Mae's and wondering why you ever left town.
Where did the word "Razoo" come from? How is it used in conversation, and what does it have to do with the game of marbles?
Every game has its particular slang, and marbles is no exception. One of the special words in marbles is "dubs!" -- a call claiming all the marbles. Another is "grab baits" or "grab dates," meaning to grab all the marbles in the ring and run. As an interjection, "grab baits!" is a signal, as when the bell ending recess rings, to grab whatever marbles one can get.
Here in New Orleans, the word "razoo" is used in the game of marbles in the same way as "dubs" and "grab baits" or "grab dates." But it seems that "razoo" is used only in Big Easy marble games.
In Australian slang, "razoo" is defined as a small amount of money. It's usually used in a phrase describing someone who is absolutely penniless as in "He doesn't have a brass razoo."
Generally, it is also a slang word which means to ridicule, such as to give someone the razz or the razoo.
In New Orleans general usage, "razoo" can be used when you want to get something before someone else does. For example, "Let's get to the game early so that we can razoo the best seats." Or "Look! There's the last Gambit in the store. Let's razoo it."