It's funny how our memory plays tricks on us.
In the 1950s, the drug store at 540 Canal St. where Camp begins was Waterbury's, not Walgreen's. And at 108 Camp St. was The Spot Sandwich Shop.
Walgreen's was at 900 Canal St., where Baronne Street begins. The Roosevelt Hotel, now the Fairmont, has two entrances: 126 University Place and 123 Baronne St. There was a Lee's Restaurant and Bar at 409 Baronne St., but The Pearl Restaurant was, and is, at 119 St. Charles Ave.
In the early '50s, two Lee's Hamburgers were located at 2709 Bienville St. and 1414 Canal St.
Don't you worry, John, if memory fails. You're talking about 50 years ago!
Growing up in Little Falls, N.Y., my father told me of a famous relative who was a jazz musician. I recently discovered that Irving Fazola (Prestopnik) was that person. Do you know where his ancestors came from? I visited Blatna Brezovica, Slovenia, two summers ago and found some of my relatives who never made it to the USA in the great wave of immigrants in the early 1900s. I imagine that Faz came from the same town. I heard that he never married or had children. Is this correct? We'll be traveling through New Orleans this summer on our way out west and might have the time to stop and visit if available. Is Irving buried in the New Orleans area?
Because you are related to Irving Henry "Fazola" Prestopnik, you owe it to yourself to visit New Orleans where he was born on Dec. 10, 1912. When he died of a heart attack on March 20, 1949, he left behind a wife, Helen Rotis Prestopnik, but no children. His mother and father -- Camille and Domingo -- also survived him. He also had a brother, Louis J. (Blue), who died 10 years later and a sister, Delicia, who became Mrs. Frederick Lingner. Members of his local jazz band were pallbearers at his funeral, and he was buried in St. Vincent's Cemetery Uptown on Soniat Street.
It is very possible that his ancestors came from Slovenia because there were large numbers of Croats and Slovenes who settled in New Orleans as far back as 200 years ago.
Faz, as we knew him, studied clarinet with Jean Paquay, a conservatory-trained musician from Brussels. Paquay had come to New Orleans in 1909 to play in the orchestra at the French Opera House. When he began to give music lessons, one of his students was Irving Prestopnik. Some believe that Paquay's famous student got his nickname from being constantly told to play "Do-re-mi-fa-sol-la ..." Others claim that Irving was given his stage name by fellow New Orleanian Louis Prima. But it wasn't his name that made him great.
A graduate of Warren Easton High School, Faz played with some of the best bands in the country, including Bob Crosby's. In 1939 and 1940, he was rated the No. 1 clarinetist in the nation. In 1940 and '41, he won the Down Beat poll for "Best Jazz Clarinetist," beating out superstars Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. After seven years away, Faz returned in poor health to New Orleans in 1942.
Our own Pete Fountain gives much credit to Irving Fazola for his wonderful clarinet sound. When Pete took up the clarinet as a young lad, he spent many hours listening to recordings of Faz's music. And when Pete himself attended Warren Easton and joined the band, he told people that he had learned how to play from Irving Fazola.