August 1, 1878
Yellow Jack came to Baton Rouge today in 1878. Louisiana had suffered devastating yellow fever epidemics
throughout the nineteenth century, and although the last cases would be reported in 1905, the last major
outbreak would occur in 1878. It had been an unusually wet spring which led to an increase in the mosquito
population. 236 Baton Rougeans would die between August and November, the most since 1853, when 202
died. At the height of the epidemic, the steamboat John D. Porter left New Orleans with four passengers thought
to be infected. Word spread, and the boat roamed the Mississippi for two months before being allowed to dock
and unload passengers.
August 2, 1885
The town of Zachary was incorporated today in 1889. Much of the land which the city now occupies was part of
a 160-acre farm owned by Darel Zachary, born in 1827. In the 1880’s, Zachary sold his land to the Illinois
Central Railroad, who built a track and a depot on it. A village quickly grew up around the depot, which came to
be called "Zachary" after the original owner. Zachary's first post office was opened in 1885. First Mayor was
Tom Ed McHugh, whose grandson with the same name would be Mayor-President of East Baton Rouge Parish
one hundred years later.
August 3, 1976
As the ads said at the time, Baton Rouge entered a new world of shopping this week in 1976, when Cortana
Mall opened its doors. With two million square feet and two hundred stores, it was one of the ten largest
enclosed malls in the world at the time. The official dedication would be held on August 4th, when new stores for
J.C. Penney, Sears and the Baton Rouge-based H.J. Wilson Catalog Showroom would open their doors.
Goudchaux’s (later to become Dillard’s) would open in September, and the three-screen Cortana Mall Cinema
would open tonight, showing The Omen and Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles.
August 4, 1966
Today in 1966, teen-aged girls flocked to Plank Road to swoon over Omar Sharif as Doctor Zhivago at the
brand-new Robert E. Lee Theater which opened its doors for the first time. The original theater had one screen
and catered to long-running road-show type films like The Sting, which would run for over a year. The theater
would later add a second screen, and in response to the influence of television and the waning enthusiasm for
watching movies in theaters, it would divide each of the screens and reopen in 1974 with four smaller theaters.
But the writing was on the wall, and the theater would close permanently in 1987.
August 5, 1862
Baton Rouge had been the first Southern state capital to fall when General Thomas Williams unloaded his army
at the town at the end of May. By the morning of August 5th, the Confederates under General John C.
Pemberton had marched from Camp Moore in Tangipahoa Parish to the outskirts of the city which were at the
time in the area around 22nd Street. Each side had fought with about fifteen hundred soldiers and each side
lost about four hundred killed and wounded, including General Williams, who was shot off his horse near Florida
and Fourth Street. It was called a draw, but the Confederates were compelled to withdraw.
August 6, 1862
Today in 1862, in the aftermath of the Civil War Battle of Baton Rouge, the Confederate ironclad Arkansas was
scuttled on the river near Port Hudson. The Arkansas to have taken part in the battle, but engine problems
delayed its arrival. On the morning of 6 August, the Union ship Essex came in sight, and the Arkansas moved to
meet her. Just at this time, crank pins on both engines failed almost simultaneously, and Arkansas drifted
helplessly to the shore. The Confederate commander ordered the ship to be scuttled. Today, the Arkansas
currently rests under a levee 690 feet past river mile 233.
August 7, 1968
It might have been Wednesday in the rest of America, but today in 1968, it was Herman's Hermits Day in Baton
Rouge. The Hermits were past their prime by 1968—I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am and Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a
Lovely Daughter had hit in 1965, and their last hit had been 1967’s There’s a Kind of Hush, but their adoring
fans in Baton Rouge didn’t care. They stomped and screamed when the band made an appearance at a
screening of the new film, Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter at the Gordon Theater and packed two
sold out concerts at Independence Hall.
August 8, 1952
The first Pak-a-Sak convenience store in Baton Rouge opened this week in 1952. The first location was 2223
North 33rd Street at Winbourne. Two other locations would open in the next three four months. Pak-a-Sac
would become the chain of convenience stores in Baton Rouge that opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 11 p.m.,
seven days a week. As part of the grand opening sale, a free bag of groceries worth $3.03 was given away with
every purchase. Pak-a-Sak would hold the unique distinction of becoming the first store in Baton Rouge to
serve Icees after the drink was patented in 1960 and started selling franchises.
August 9, 1971
The Mary Bird Perkins Radiation Center, later the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center opened this month in 1971.
Prior to the center's opening, local cancer patients used to go to New Orleans, Houston or Jackson for radiation
therapy. Dr. M. L. Rathbone spearheaded a fund-raising campaign and the Cancer, Radiation and Research
Foundation was formed to locate a center here. Baton Rouge philanthropist Paul D. Perkins donated a gift of
valuable land to help finance the center, which was named in honor of his daughter, Mary Bird Perkins. The
center moved to its new home on Essen Lane in 1996.
August 10, 1940
The Huey P. Long Bridge, now known as the US 190 Bridge was dedicated today in 1940. Legend has it that
Huey Long ordered the bridge to be built unusually low to the waterline in order to prohibit ocean- going vessels
from going upriver beyond it. However, Long had been dead for two years when construction began in 1937, so
while such reasoning might account for the height of the bridge, the blame or credit can’t be given to its
namesake. As a sign of the times, the first vehicles to cross the bridge carried National Guard troops headed to
a training exercise to prepare for World War II.
August 11, 2016
Early today in 2016, a mesoscale convective system flared up in southern Louisiana around a weak area of low
pressure that was situated next to an outflow boundary. That means It Started Raining. Over the next two days,
often- torrential downpours occurred in the areas surrounding Baton Rouge. Many rivers and waterways,
particularly the Amite and Comite rivers, reached record levels, and rainfall exceeded 20 inches in multiple
parishes. Volunteers in boats calling themselves the Cajun Navy would rescue stranded residents for three
days. Thirteen deaths were attributed to the Flood of 2016 would be called the worst natural disaster in the
United States since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
August 12, 1947
Today in 1947, East Baton Rougeans went to the polls and voted to abolish the East Baton Rouge Police Jury.
Changing the parish’s charter to establish the Office of Mayor-President and a Metropolitan Council was
presented as a “good government” measure and denigrated by others as a power grab by residents of the City
of Baton Rouge. The vote was close, 7012 for and 6705 against. Naturally, there were charges of “chicanery,
and the losers threatened a recount. Powers Higginbotham, who had been the mayor since 1944, was elected
the first Mayor-President in 1948. The plan went into effect on January 1, 1949.
August 13, 1978
This weekend in 1978, the Baton Rouge High School (Sports) Hall of Fame inducted its first class of thirty
greats at a banquet attended by more than 350 people. LSU and NBA Hall of Famer Bob Pettit and All-Pro
Jimmy Taylor were among the first honorees. Among the female honorees were Mary Elizabeth Norckauer, a
pfofessional ice dancer in the 1940's and 50's, who would become a Senior Olympian at the age of 90, and
Miss Reine Alexander, one of the school’s first principals who supported the school’s athletic programs and led
Baton Rouge High to become one of the finest schools in the state.
August 14, 1975
Time Warp, Anyone? The Rocky Horror Picture Show opened in theaters to unimpressive reviews and ticket
sales today in 1975. It the years ahead, it would become a cult classic around the world, including Baton Rouge
where midnight showings on weekends regularly sold out first at the Varsity Twin Cinema on Highland Road and
later at Tinseltown USA on Siegen Lane. Singing along, improvising witty banter and throwing things at the
screen were all part of the Rocky Horror experience. In 1999, Tasty Stuff, the "official" Baton Rouge Rocky
Horror cast was formed and became a regular feature of performances until regular showings at Tinseltown
August 15, 1945
Today was VJ Day in Baton Rouge and throughout the Free World in 1945. World War II had finally ended after
three-and-a-half years of American participation, and thousands of Baton Rougeans with horns and confetti on
Third Street. But many others celebrated by going to the service stations. Gasoline rationing had finally come to
an end and motorists were at last free to shout, “Fill ‘er up!” And they did. Herbert Wimberly, owner of the Auto
Hotel on Convention Street, said that he sold six thousand gallons that day after averaging about one thousand
gallons per day during the war.