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Creole Belle: 1938

Creole Belle: 1938

1938. "Petitin's Store, Grand Coteau, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. Building dates to ca. 1834." While this ad-encrusted grocery might strike you as charmingly rustic, the Dr. Pepper sign seems to have so offended the photographer's sensibilities that for the other pictures she took, she draped it with a cloth. 8x10 acetate negative by Frances Benjamin Johnston. View full size.


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And Black Draught laxative syrup...

was another fine product pitched by the Porter Wagoner show personnel - it, along with Cardui Tablets, was a product of the Chattanooga Medicine Co., which discovered that TV country music shows were a great venue for pitching their products to the folks. Some great memories watching that show Saturday afternoons at my grandparents - the comely Miss Parton was a vision for adolescent eyes, but it was the frenetic picking of sideman Buck Trent and his electrified banjo (why would one need or want to amplify the musical mayhem produced by the instrument?) that really caught my attention and contributed to my penchant for playing loud and annoying rock-and-roll music in my later teen years.

Black Pepper

I count three Dr Pepper signs--the one up front and two more above and next to the crawlspace window. What good does it do to black out only one of the three?

Numbskull ad language.

Was probably why Ms. Johnston covered the sign. "Drink a bit to eat" not only doesn't roll off the tongue well; it doesn't make sense and is bad English.

These Places Still Exist

Part of my job sometimes involves traveling through an entire county (Parish in Louisiana) to visit and photograph every gas station open for business. I have encountered many in Louisiana that are nearly identical to this place and still operating. The signs may be more up to date and there may be an ice freezer on the front porch and a couple of Texaco pumps out front but basically the same place.


From a vintage advertisement for Wine of Cardui: "Taken at the proper time it relieves pain, corrects derangements, quiets nervousness and cures Whites, Falling of the Womb and Suppressed or too Frequent Menses."

Whatever curative powers it may have had were likely attributable to its 19% alcohol content.

The anti-Dr movement

was the benign predecessor to the anti-vaccine campaign of the internet age.

Creole Belle

At the time, a brand of relatively newly introduced pre-roasted/ground coffee.

Cardui Tablets

While spending a year at Fort Benning, Georgia in the late 1960s, I occasionally noted a young Dolly Parton doing ads for Cardui on TV's "Porter Wagoner Show." (She also sang, of course, but that part I understood). Given the social conservatism of that program's viewership, Ms. Parton was required to circumlocute her way around the particular aspect of being a woman for which Cardui was helpful. Ever game, she did so with charming enthusiasm and, however her male viewers may have been mystified by the product and its uses, I am sure that her target audience understood completely. Now, of course, everything from prescription meds to marital aids is advertised with diagrams, animation, and brass bands, but those were indeed simpler, more innocent times.

Dr Pepper edit

Photoshop 1.0 Beta.


Maybe she decided that the separate sign, on a mini-billboard, detracted from the building's charm.

Dr Who?

That cloth covering the Dr Pepper sign was not installed by Ms Johnson, but by the Coca-Cola Bottler, who had recently been promised exclusivity at the entrance of this key St Landry Parish hot spot.


Dr. Pepper, censored! Now only 45 more signs to go ...

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