During the past few months, I’ve learned that there are many New Iberians who are concerned about area history, and found them very cooperative in helping Steven Stansbury and me establish the existence and location of the New Iberia Opera Houses.
Although I approached a few local historians, I’ve been swamped with letters, stories, and phone calls from people far and near, and I’ve decided to share some of this interesting information with you. Nearly everyone whom I contacted was in accord that one of the New Iberia Opera Houses was located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Main and Fisher streets.
This building eventually became the Elks Theatre. It was later torn down and replaced with a filling station. My Sandborn Map Co. publication (1925) shows the Elks Theatre at that particular location.
The fine people who confirmed the location included Richard Betar, Rocco Musemeche, Smitty Landry, Marx Louviere, Dennis Mestayer, Lilyan LaBauve Jenkins of Fredericksburg, Texas, and Nancy Armentor Lees of Chapel Hill, N.C. Pierre Schwing said two of his sisters remember the Elks Theatre to be at that location as well.
A Remarkable Nonagenarian
I was amazed to receive Mrs. Jenkins’ letter. She was born in 1912, and attended plays at the theatre. She remembers going to Kahn’s Drug Store across Main from the Elks for sodas. Kahn’s location later became Abdalla’s. She included a sketch showing the streets and adjacent buildings. I was so interested in this lady that I wrote and asked for her biography. I learned she is the eldest of eight children, a graduate of Mount Carmel, very religious, loves dogs and worked as a receptionist for two well-known New Iberia dentists — Dr. Andrew Emmer for three years and Dr. W.M. Watkins for 40 years. When her doctor told her not to live alone, she moved in with her daughter where she’s been for the past four years.
Another Cooperative Lady
I was very much impressed with Nancy Lees as well. She mailed me a nice, four-page typewritten letter, replete with much New Iberia history and photocopies of the New Iberia Opera House/Elks Theatre.
Although I knew of some of what she sent, there was a lot she added that I also found very interesting.
Mrs. Lees is a native New Iberian and quite a historian. She, incidentally, is the daughter of Minos and Mina Armentor. Her main references included Maurine Bergerie’s book, “They Tasted Bayou Water,” and Glenn Conrad’s book, “New Iberia.” There’s much to be found in these books about opera houses in our city.
It’s been my contention all along that there were two New Iberia opera houses — built at different times. Steven Stansbury, who got me started on this opera house hunt, agrees with me. In Ms. Bergerie’s book, page 91, she tells about several opera houses, and that the Athenaeum, known later as the Iberia Opera House, was located on Main Street where the Hotel Frederick was eventually located.
This Iberia Opera House was destroyed by fire in 1905.
In the meantime, if anything different shows up, I’ll keep you posted.
My good, literate friend Diane Moore has a hobby of sending out blogs on the Internet. I’m flattered she aired two blogs on my works, and even had a few of my Civil War postcards exhibited. Donald Parker, a scientist in Elkhart, Ind., spotted the cards and was very interested in my painting of the Battle of Nelson Canal.
He stated eight of his ancestors fought there under Confederate Col. William Vincent of the 2nd Louisiana Calvary. Vincent’s brave cohorts ambushed the Union troops there, which were headed for New Iberia.
I have much information on Col. Vincent in my files. Mr. Parker stated he intends to come to New Iberia in the very near future.
He attended school here in the second and fourth grades, as his father was a key employee of the Lane Wells Co. in Bayou Country oilfield operations. Donald obtained his Ph.D. from LSU, and has lived in Elkhart for the past 30 years.
One of Parker’s great-great-grandfathers, David Rogers, died in the New Iberia Central Hospital on Jan. 5, 1863, and is believed to be buried somewhere in New Iberia.
If anyone knows where his grave is located please let me know and I’ll pass it on to Mr. Parker.
Early in the football season, I had the strange premonition that Drew Brees and Peyton Manning would compete in the Super Bowl finals — and, as fate would have it, it’s happening today.
These amazing quarterbacks no doubt rank among the best in professional football history. Peyton has been “king of the gridiron” for quite some time, and it’s high time he gets dethroned. The New Orleans Saints, who are now NFC champs, are well qualified to do the job.
Sports fans from across our nation will be watching today’s contest, which could be labeled, “The Game of Games.”
I’ll be glued to our TV, sitting on the 50-yard line of our living room rooting for the Black and Gold — just as I have for the past 43 years.
I’ll stick my neck out with this Browser prediction: Saints 31 — Colts 21. If the Saints should win, there’ll be rejoicing in the Big Easy and the rest of the state of Louisiana for many years to come.
Hope this one leaves you smiling:
Psychiatrists tell us that girls tend to marry men who are like their fathers. Now we know why mothers cry at weddings.
MORRIS RAPHAEL is a local author and retired engineer.