July 16, 1948
“Fiesta” starring Esther Williams was the opening night selection at the brand new Tiger Drive-In on Airline
Highway tonight in 1948. The theater featured the largest screen in the South and other novelties such as
baby bottle warmers and adjustable volume controls. It would close forty years later in 1988, but during the
middle of the twentieth century, there were no fewer than six outdoor movie theaters in Baton Rouge. In
addition to the Tiger, they included the Dreamland--later the Florida Drive-In in 1941, the Airline Drive-In in
1950, the Rebel on Government Street in 1952, the Elm in 1955 and the Showtown Twin on Airline Highway in
July 17, 1930
Today in 1930, Lieutenant Governor Paul Cyr complained that Governor Huey Long vetoed three bills enacted
at the last legislative session just to spite him. Long had vetoed a bill appropriating $500 for salary to the
lieutenant governor while the governor is out of the state, stating that it was unnecessary as he had no plans
to leave the state. Cyr retorted that perhaps Long shouldn't leave the state. "I would like to get hold of the
state machinery for about forty-four minutes. I am quite sure I could do more the people in that short time than
he had done in the past two years."
July 18, 1961
The first Hopper's Drive Inn in Baton Rouge in 1947, and by 1961, the future looked bright as the company
had just opened its newest outpost on Highland Road near LSU and announced this week that it was
expanding to New Orleans and other cities in Louisiana. Baton Rouge loved Hopper’s, and there was no better
time to be there on a warm night in July when a milk shake sounded like just the thing. But despite the
optimism, the writing was already on the wall for Hopper’s and its ilk. Within two years, the first McDonald's
franchise in Baton Rouge would open and the burger business would never be the same.
July 19, 1897
The new Baton Rouge Post Office and Courthouse opened at the corner of North Blvd and Fourth Street
today in 1895. The venerable yellow brick building would be the hub of the city until 1935, when the
courthouse and post office moved to new quarters at the intersection of Florida and Seventh Streets. At that
time, the old building would serve as Baton Rouge’s City Hall until the Municipal Building was completed at the
corner of North Boulevard and St. Louis Street. After an extensive renovation In 1957, the old building became
the home of the City Club, a private dining establishment.
July 20, 1969
While most Baton Rougeans were glued to their televisions watching the big show from the moon today in
1969, a giant leap for Baton Rouge aviation was taking place at Ryan Field. Helicopter Airways, Inc., of
Memphis established jet helicopter service between the airport to the White House Inn near the Capitol and
between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, making Baton Rouge one of the first four cities in the nation to have
such a service. Three more copters were promised to be put into service in January, 1970, but instead, the
company shut down and dissolved a couple of months later.
July 21, 1787
Today in 1787, Jose Vesquez Vahamonde, commander of Spanish Fort San Carlos at Baton Rouge, awarded
a lumber contract to a local sawmill. The old fort that Bernardo de Galvez had taken from the British eight
years earlier was crumbling and in need of extensive repair and upgrading. Like too many government
contracts over the course of history, something went wrong and the lumber was never delivered. Fort San
Carlos would continue to be described as decaying or decrepit until it fell to West Florida rebels in September
of 1810, when the fort’s last commander, Don Antonio de Granpre would die, defending the flag of Spain.
July 22, 1997
Today in 1997, Rite-Aid announced that it had purchased the chain of Katz and Bestoff drug stores. K&B had
begun in New Orleans in 1905 and expanded to Baton Rouge in 1966. They were noted for their signature
color--not quite violet, not quite lavender—that came to be known as K&B purple. In the days before paper
bags, pharmacists would wrap a purchase in brown paper and tie it with a string. A New Orleans merchant had
a car load of purple wrapping paper he couldn’t sell, so K&B scooped it up. It was good advertising. When
customers carried their purple parcels home, everyone knew where they had shopped.
July 23, 1943
Today in 1943, Governor Sam H. Jones announced that he has notified Delta Air Lines that the state had
acquired equipment needed to establish regular air service to Baton Rouge. It was final step in inaugurating
passenger service to the city. Governor Jones said that he’d received a telegram from C. E. Woolman, vice
president and general manager of Delta--and a former LSU extension agent and Spanish Town resident--that
he had been notified that the equipment had been obtained. Delta's initial Baton Rouge flight, didn't go
anywhere near Atlanta, instead, originating in Fort Worth and flying through Shreveport, Alexandria and Baton
Rouge to New Orleans.
July 24, 1975
Today in 1975, the Old Governor’s Mansion on North Blvd. was added to National Register of Historic Places.
When Long was first elected governor in 1928, an older Governor’s Mansion on North Boulevard was
something of a mess, with holes in the roof, leaking pipes and crumbling masonry. The legislature was not
disposed to build a new residence, so one evening, a squad of convicts from the state penitentiary was
brought in to tear down the old house. Long lived at the Heidelberg Hotel until a new residence could be
completed. The building cost $150,000 to complete, and $22,000 to furnish with crystal chandeliers and other
July 25, 1964
Today in 1964, Councilman W. W. "Woody" Dumas upset incumbent Jack Christian in a primary election for
Baton Rouge Mayor-President. Dumas was born in Opelousas and named for Woodrow Wilson, the U.S.
President at the time of his birth. In 1924, the Dumas family moved to Baton Rouge. He served in the United
States Navy on a submarine during World War II and the Korean War. Aft Dumas moved to Baker to play semi-
professional baseball. In 1952, he was elected to the Metro Coucil for the first of three terms before running for
Mayor-President. He would be re-elected three terms and eventually leave office at the end of 1980.
July 26, 1781
Today in 1781, a Baton Rouge woman named Marie Glass was hanged for torturing and killing a fifteen-year
old girl. It didn’t help her case that she was black and the girl was white. She was tried and hanged on the
same day--the first Baton Rouge woman to earn such a distinction. One of the more interesting aspects of the
disposition of Ms. Glass’s case was that court documents were written in three languages—English, French
and Spanish. It’s disconcerting to imagine a time in the city’s history when there were only about a thousand
people in the entire settlement, and not all of them spoke the same language.
July 27, 1953
The armistice ending the Korean War was signed today in 1953. 422 Louisianans had been killed in the
Korean War between 1950 and 1954. Over the next fifty years, veterans of that war and the one in Vietnam
that followed it would sometimes sense that their service to the country had been overlooked or
unappreciated. To address that misgiving, Korean War veterans raised funds and dedicated a memorial near
the Louisiana Arts and Science Center Museum on River Road. The plaque at the museum states that it was
"erected by those who served in honor of the more than 34,000 Americans who made the supreme sacrifice."
July 28, 1968
Many Louisianans were scratching their heads this week in 1968 when it was announced that Governor John
McKeithen had dropped by Buckingham Palace to have a cup of tea with the Queen during a visit to London.
In reality, it was part of a trade mission to the UK. One newspaper wag at the Advocate went so far as to write a
front-page article pondering what could have been discussed, even managing to squeeze in the tag line from
McKeithen’s first campaign for governor in 1964.
McKeithen: “Your Majesty, may I ask a small favor of you?”
Queen: “Anything, my dear Governor.”
McKeithen: “Won’t you he’p me?”
July 29, 1938
This week in 1938, Thousands of Baton Rougeans lined up on the city dock downtown to tour Standard Oil
Company's new oil tanker, the "Esso Baton Rouge", which had just been completed and about to go into
service. When asked for an estimate for the number of people visiting the ship during inspection hours, one of
the members of the crew asked with another quesiton, "What's the population of Baton Rouge?" The Esso
Baton Rouge was 464 feet long, 64 feet wide and had a capacity of 106,000 barrels of oil. The tanker’s life
would be a short one. It was sunk by a German u-boat in 1943.
July 30, 1968
Tonight in July of 1968, the Jimi Hendrix Experience played at Independence Hall in Baton Rouge. The oddly
cylindrical Independence Hall had opened as the Lakeshore Auditorium in May of 1966. It was built as a
convention and event venue for the Lakeshore Hotel next door when had opened in 1965. Like the hotel which
changed names practically every year, the auditorium had become Independence Hall by the summer of 1968
when Hendrix came to town. It was a popular venue for musicians as varied as Three Dog Night, Alice Cooper,
the Blue Oyster Cult, Black Oak Arkansas, Charlie Daniels, Kris Kristofferson, Otis Redding and Kiss.
July 31, 1968
Today in 1968, the "New Mississippi River Bridge" on I-10 was named for Horace Wilkinson. In reality, it was
named for three different Horace Wilkinsons. Three generations of the Wilkinson family of West Baton Rouge
Parish served in the legislature for a total of fifty-four years. Horace, Sr. served in the legislature for twenty-six
years and introduced the bill to buy the land for the new LSU campus. Horace, Jr. served for sixteen years and
fourteen years on the LSU Board of Supervisors. Horace III had served for ten years when he suffered an
apparent stroke while preparing to go onstage to make a speech at the Capitol House Hotel.