Zemurray Foundation Helps Children

Tommy Lewis
Tommy Lewis


Faubourg St. John neighbor Tommy Lewis explained the benefits of the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association’s quest to make Desmare Playground a great place to play. He was so convincing that they agreed to donate ten thousand dollars to the cause! Many thanks to the Zemurray Foundation for their generous donation and to Tommy Lewis for going the extra mile.


The Zemurray Foundation

The man who made the banana an exotic emblem of affluence for mass consumption was himself a poor immigrant. Samuel Zemurray came to America as a teenager, amassed a fortune to rival the Rockefellers and built great cultural institutions.

Zemurray was a Jewish immigrant who grew up on a wheat farm in western Russia and was sent to the U.S. alone in his early teens. “Unlike a lot of his compatriots, he was a giant man,” Cohen tells NPR’s Scott Simon. “At the time he was like 6 feet 3 inches and he was a big, tough guy.”

Samuel Zemurray came to America from Bessarabia, in Western Russia, in 1892 at age 14 or 15, with nothing but his brain and ambition. He eventually took over United Fruit and made a fortune estimated at $30 million back in the days when that was a genuinely vast fortune. He lived in a New Orleans house with a third-floor ballroom complete with a pipe organ and a crystal chandelier; the building now serves as the residence of the president of Tulane University.

Zemurray saw his first banana in Selma, Ala. He paid a visit to Mobile, where the big fruit ships came in, and saw piles of bananas thrown aside at the Boston Fruit Company. When he asked what happened to the bananas in those piles, he was shocked to learn they were garbage.

“The rule was, if a banana had one freckle it was called ‘a turning’ and if it had two freckles it was called ‘a ripe,’ and they said you could never get it to the market in time. It would rot,” Cohen explains. Zemurray bought the rotting bananas for next to nothing. “If you want to talk about something that’ll make you a good salesman, it’s a banana that you have six hours to sell before it rots.”

Zemurray took those “turning” and “ripe” bananas and rented space on an Illinois Central Railroad train. The train moved so slowly that the bananas began rotting along the way. But he worked out a deal with the railroad conductors and the telegraph guys: They would wire the grocery store owners, who would come and meet the train.

“He sold the bananas right out of the boxcars,” Cohen says. “The New York Times said he used boxcars like a guy on the Lower East Side uses a pushcart.”

By the late 1890s, Zemurray was 18 years old — and had made $100,000.

zemurray2Zemurray became incredibly wealthy and was philanthropic with his money. He made generous donations to Tulane University and helped Jewish refugees after the war.

Zemurray convinced the Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo to allow in some 5,000 Jewish refugees escaping Nazi Europe. He paid for dozens of ships to help Jews in D.P. camps after the war break the British blockade, which barred Jews from entering Palestine. And when the initial vote to create the Jewish state failed at the United Nations in 1948 — but was close enough to allow for a re-vote within 72 hours — Zemurray went to work.

From his mansion in New Orleans (later donated to Tulane, and now the university president’s house), he called several Latin American leaders and got enough of them to switch their votes. “Knowing about the work of Zemurray,” Cohen writes in his book, “certain yes votes that might otherwise seem mysterious — Costa Rica, Guatemala, Ecuador, Panama — suddenly makes perfect sense. Behind them, behind the creation of the Jewish state, was the Gringo pushing his cart piled high with stinking bananas.”

United Fruit owned one of the largest private navies in the world. It owned 50 percent of the private land in Honduras and 70 percent of all private land and every mile of railroad in Guatemala.

When Zemurray took over United Fruit and turned it around, he told Fortune magazine, “I realized that the greatest mistake the United Fruit management had made was to assume it could run its activities in many tropical countries from an office on the 10th floor of a Boston office building.”

banana-chiquitaThe original Chiquita brand logo was commissioned in 1943 by United Fruit when Zemurray was president. It was drawn by cartoonist Dik Browne, creator of Hagar the Horrible. The logo was based on salsa entertainer Carmen Miranda.

After World War II, commercials rolled out featuring the Chiquita banana jingle, which begins “I’m Chiquita Banana and I’ve come to say…” The song touted the benefits of bananas and advised consumers how to eat and store them.

Before he died in 1961, at 84 and with a net worth estimated at $30 million, he left many gifts to the city. He not only built one of the first hospitals for black women in the city, but he also gave millions to Tulane. His house is now the president’s, and several buildings bare his name.






It’s a Bawgin Dawlin

Howdy neighbor,

The dues for your neighborhood association are ridiculously low and the amount hasn’t changed in decades. And, if you fill out the attached form and send it in now, your dues will be paid up until January, 2016!

bargainIf you join now, you can get an extra 3 months of membership for the low low price of 10 bucks for an individual and 15 bucks for a family. Send the attached form, along with your check to P.O. Box 19101 New Orleans, LA 70179

And, while you are at it, why not buy a Voodoo on the Bayou ticket? It’s the most bang for your buck when you consider the open bar, food from great local restaurants and awesome entertainment. Can’t go? Then buy a ticket anyway and know that your 50 dollars will go toward restoring the swings at Desmare Playground at 3456 Esplanade. Terranova’s, Swirl and Pal’s all have tickets or you could be adventurous and save yourself a bunch of time by clicking on the BUY NOW button at http://fsjna.org

Regardless of whether you just fill out the attached form and send in your dues or buy a Voodoo on the Bayou ticket, know that your money is going toward keeping your neighborhood the best place to live in New Orleans.

Enter dues amount $10 for individual or $15 family.


Want to Get Things Done?

We Can Do ItCan you think of a project in Faubourg St. John that you would like to make happen?

The great neighbors of Faubourg St. John are known for getting things done.

But, we can’t do it alone. Community sweat equity is important but money is the deciding factor on many projects.

Desmare Playground is an area in Faubourg St. John that could use some improvement.

How can we make that happen?

You have a voice in how your tax money is spent. Mayor Mitch Landrieu has announced a series of community meetings in each council district to discuss 2014 budget priorities. For more information about participatory budgeting along with where and when you can attend, please visit the link below:


Other neighborhoods will be presenting their needs/ideas at the city’s budget meetings. Unless we show up en masse to demand proper funding for Desmare Playground then our needs/ideas will get lost in the shuffle.

The meeting for District A is being held in Lakeview which has a very strong neighborhood organization. Unless you make it a point to attend and support the needs/ideas of Faubourg St. John your tax dollars will go to other worthy projects elsewhere.

District A
Tuesday | August 20, 2013 | 5:30 pm
Edward Hynes Charter School
990 Harrison Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70124





August 20, 2013
6 p.m.
From 5:30-6 p.m. the City will host a Resource Center with representatives
from several departments and agencies. During that time you will
have the opportunity to talk one-on-one with various departments.

Edward Hynes Charter School
990 Harrison Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70124


Kids Design Playground January 26


Calling all Faubourg St. John Kids!

Please come help us plan upgrades to the Desmare Playground and participate in the first Kids Planning Charrette this Saturday from 9:30 to 11 am. Dress warm and bring your parents!

We will be visioning the space with your drawings, have fun,
drink hot chocolate and enjoy the park! (There will even be a big preliminary plan for Mom and Dad to draw on)

Date: Saturday, January 26th Location: Desmare Park

Time: 10:00 —11:30 am 3456 Esplanade Avenue

“Desmare Family Park” is a project of the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association (FSJNA) a 501(C)(3) organization.

FSJNA will be working to plan and design the space this year and begin fundraising late 2013 thru grants and events.

Need more information? Want to help? Go to http://www.fsjna.org or email: info@fsjna.org or call Linda 504.609-9670

DESMARE | Saturday | September 22nd

Join your neighbors, friends and the Cabrini Dad’s Club as we work together to make Desmare Playground a better place for everyone!

See you at 9 a.m. on Saturday, September 22nd at 3456 Esplanade.

Desmare Playground as it looked in April, 2007

videos by Charlie London