Here's the problem. You are just here at the wrong times. For example, if you come to the Big Easy now, you will find Hansen's closed. In fact, right now you would be hard pressed to find any of our many wonderful sno-ball stands open. However, if you come after April 1 and stick around until Labor Day, you will once again be able to partake in the delights of your favorite sno-ball establishment.
But at Hansen's at 4801 Tchoupitoulas St. -- at this location since 1948 -- you can't just show up any time, even in the spring and summer. They are only open from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and only from Thursday to Sunday. And there's a reason for this. Mr. and Mrs. Ernest and Mary Hansen have been in the business of providing us with our favorite summertime treat for 64 years, and they want to be there to greet you personally when you belly up to the counter. So you can understand why the shop can't be open every day.
One of the reasons these sno-balls are so yummy is the machine invented by Mr. Ernest Hansen to replace the old-fashioned method of hand scraping. His Sno-Bliz machine makes the ice so light and fluffy, you can imagine it's real snow.
Today, nearly every neighborhood in New Orleans has a sno-ball stand and every shop has a machine to shave the ice and every sno-ball that is soaked in syrup, perhaps with condensed milk added, brings joy.
But here we are in November and no sno-balls in sight. Oh well, remember what the poet said: If winter comes, can spring -- and sno-balls -- be far behind?
Several weeks ago you answered a reader's question about the Lakeview area. I wondered why you didn't include any reference to the man who developed Lakeview, Robert E. Smith. Can you expand on his part in the history of Lakeview?
While the column you refer to dealt more generally with the history of the Lakeview area, I would be pleased to tell Gambit readers about an important man who figured significantly in this history.
Robert Smith was a pioneer in the area who had left his job in 1923 with the Southern Railway System to devote all his time to developing Lakeview, buying property and building homes. In the early days, Smith brought in running water, gas, sewerage, and electricity and built roads at his own expense. During the Depression, Smith continued to build homes to "keep trusted and loyal employees at work."
Later, Harrison Avenue became the focus of much of his attention. Mr. Smith decided to build a library after seeing neighborhood children waiting at a book mobile. So he and his wife donated the land at the corner of Canal Boulevard and Harrison Avenue. This library was completed in 1956, and he was presented a plaque by the city for his efforts. However, the original library was replaced by the "new" Smith Library, which opened in November 1979.
Just before World War II, Smith built the Lakeview Theater, also on Harrison Avenue. During the war, Smith donated the theater to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for special wartime activities. Also, when St. Dominic's new church was under construction, the theater was where the faithful attended mass.
Many people still remember the New Basin Canal, much of which was in the Lakeview area between West End and Pontchartrain boulevards. Mr. Smith was one of the leaders in the movement to close this canal as well as all open canals in Lakeview and other parts of the city.
Robert E. Smith died on March 11, 1962, at age 64, having risen from a railroad shipping clerk to a real estate magnate.