Needing to Help

After her mother’s illness, Dorothy Turnbull returned to the University of Miami and finished school there.

After school. she came back to New Orleans, and felt like she needed to do something.

We had what was called “Sub-Deb Parties.”  The Roosevelt Hotel, it’s still going today I think, but it was one of our main features.  We had the Hawaiian Room where they had a waterfall and stuff. We had a Sunday afternoon tea dance for the officers that were stationed in the area. And we entertained. That’s what our war contribution (laughs). I decided when I graduated I was going to come back to New Orleans and join the Navy in New Orleans. So that’s what I did.

This photograph comes from the collection of Dorothy Turnbull Stewart.

Too Close for Comfort

Dorothy Turnbull’s family brought her mother back to New Orleans from Florida as it became clear she wasn’t getting well. She passed away a short while later.

When she passed away, I was ready to go back to school. So I went to Newcomb because my father was still there. My brother was off in the Navy. I didn’t — I just — my father and I were too close. I didn’t want to go out when I knew he was going to be home. And he worried about when I was out, things like this. So we decided I would go back and finish my college degree at the University of Miami, for the last part of the senior years.

This photograph of Dorothy’s father comes from the collection of Dorothy Turnbull Stewart.

A Mother’s Illness

Dorothy Turnbull attended high school in New Orleans. She was a member of a high school sorority, and then after she graduated she went to Newcomb College in New Orleans and joined a sorority there.

It was when she was in her first year of college at Newcomb, that it was announced that the United States had been attacked at Pearl Harbor. Around the same time her mother was diagnosed with cancer.

We did have rationing.  All this stuff is going on. My mother, of course, wasn’t a house keeper at the time.  She was really bed ridden.  So we had help. (Then) my father decided it might be a good idea to bring her down to Miami. A change of climate and everything.

Dorothy stayed behind in New Orleans for a year or so, and then moved to Miami to be with her father and mother.

This photograph of Dorothy’s mother comes from the Dorothy Turnbull Stewart collection.

The Princess of Dew

Dorothy Turnbull was a member of the Mardi Gras court for the Bards of Bohemia crewe.

We had the sunshine, you see, we had the dawn and the night. Everybody is in costume.  You’re, as a member, you get so many what’s called call outs. Which means you can invite ladies to sit in a reserved place. And during the ball time when people are dancing the ushers come and call you out by name and escort you to the master on the floor. He gives you one of these souvenirs that represents the theme of the ball.  You dance around with him.  He brings you back to an usher and the usher seats you again and he calls another person. So it’s call outs.It’s simply social.  But that was just part of my father’s interest, and mother. Mostly my father. Because the men did all the work. The women enjoyed what they were doing, of course!  (laughs).

This photograph comes from the collection of Dorothy Turnbull Stewart.

The Mardi Gras Theme

Dorothy Turnbull’s father was a member of one of the crewes that planned New Orleans’ annual Mardi Gras celebrations. She says in the 1940s, it wasn’t like it is now.

It’s a social business.  And they planned each year, they have meetings  and socials each year planning a carnival ball. They have to have a theme.   My father was one of the crewe. They go down and they have it at the great auditorium – public auditorium.  I don’t know what they’re doing today.  It looks like they’re on the street drinking constantly (laughs), but those aren’t the crews, you see.  But they plan a theme, and the theme that went along with this one, my father decided I should be in the court.

This is a photograph from the carnival ball in 1940, when Dorothy was a member of the crewe court. It comes from the collection of Dorothy Turnbull Stewart.

Mardi Gras Crewes

Because Dorothy Turnbull was from New Orleans, her family was involved in the pre-Lenten tradition of Mardi Gras. Her father belonged to one of the city’s crewes.

I never was a debutante. They have certain of the crewes, the big old celebration, but certain of them are for the debutantes, the elite of the elite. They pay more, of course, they have the bigger parades. They have all of the atmosphere.

This is a photograph of one of the Mardi Gras celebrations Dorothy participated in, c. 1940. It comes from the collection of Dorothy Turnbull Stewart.


Navy Men

Dorothy Turnbull had a history of service with the Navy in her family. Her father was in the Navy during World War I, and her brother later would become a Navy officer during World War II.

As World War I was ending, Dorothy’s father, the longtime New Orleanian, was sent back to the U.S. in New York. There he met Dorothy’s mother, a New Yorker from German Harlem. They married and moved to the South.

This photograph comes from the collection of Dorothy Turnbull Stewart.

Growing Up

Dorothy Turnbull was born on July 24, 1922 and grew up in New Orleans.

 My father was born in Algiers, which is across the river from New Orleans. I think people today know something about the area from Katrina. Algiers suffered, but not as much as the city proper. But long time ago he was from there.  I always used to tell people though, they said, “Oh, my, you have an interesting background!”  (laughs)  Algiers thinking of the foreign land.

She had one older brother who was two years older. Dorothy’s father was a real estate developer, but she doesn’t really remember any hardship as a child.

This photograph comes from the collection of Dorothy Turnbull Stewart.