LSU’s Rural Life Museum’s 1927 food truck is filled with a bounty of New Orleans history

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A 1927 Model T car that WJ Menge brought from the former farming community of the Ninth Ward to the New Orleans French Market is on exhibit at LSU’s Museum of Rural Life.




This is a different food truck that connects images of the Clampetts riding in a time frame from the Ozarks to Beverly Hills.

This is not to humiliate; Even Bill Stark sees similarities between the truck once owned by WJ Menge and the Clampetts opposite of the 1960s sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Stark is the director of LSU’s Museum of Rural Life and Windrush Gardens, home to the truck since 2021.

“It looks like something you’d see in an old sitcom,” he said. “That’s what comes to mind, because you can see it sitting in the back of this truck. But it wasn’t in a TV show. It was real.”







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LSU’s Museum of Rural Life has preserved the interior of a former food truck owned by WJ Menge with artificial production to show what a 1927 Model T Ford would have been like delivering produce to the French market in the early 20th century. The car is part of the museum’s collection.




It’s as real as the story that begins with Menge and his family in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. The truck frame is a little rusty, but it’s sturdy, as is the wooden frame shelter built into the bed.

The truck wasn’t pretty, but it wasn’t meant to be. Its purpose was to transport produce from the Ninth Ward to the French market.

The Menge family may have donated and towed the car to a museum in the spring of 2021, but the story begins in 1927.







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LSU’s Museum of Rural Life has preserved the interior of a former food truck owned by WJ Menge with artificial production to show what a 1927 Model T Ford would have been like delivering produce to the French market in the early 20th century. The car is part of the museum’s collection.




“It’s a 1927 Ford Model T,” Stark said. “That’s when W. Menge bought it. He didn’t have the taxi behind him. So the family took him home sitting on top of the gas tank.”

Yes, fuel tank. It sounds dangerous, but it was part of the necessity of getting the truck from point A to point B where Menge was building his wooden cab.

The frame looks like a portable food stand. But then that was the point.

“At the time, they were using it to harvest produce outside the Ninth Ward,” Stark said. “It was one of those farming communities that helped support New Orleans before we had refrigerated trucks and your food came from all over the world.”







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In the year A 1927 Ford Model T truck racing board once owned by WJ Menge, who farmed in a farming community in the former Ninth Ward. The truck was used to transport fresh produce to the New Orleans French Market and is now part of the permanent collection of LSU’s Rural Life Museum.




Menges would load up on the season’s bounty and drive it to French Market, the nation’s oldest air market, where New Orleanians sought fresh produce.

“Flocks were delivering flowers and stuff around town,” Stark said.

The truck’s history does not include information on whether or not Menge owned Ninth Ward Fields, but the family provided Stark with other stories about the truck, including an interesting tidbit about tire sharing during the Great Depression.







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The owner WJ Menge’s name is stamped on the 1927 Ford Model T truck he used to transport from the Ninth Ward to the French Market in New Orleans. The truck is now part of the permanent collection of LSU’s Rural Life Museum.




“This happened during the Depression and the early 1940s, because we really didn’t get out of poverty after the war,” Starr said. “They go to a neighbor’s house, borrow a tire, put the tire on the truck, go on a day trip to Lake Pontchartrain. When they come back that night, they take the tire off the truck. Advertise it back to the neighbors.”

Menge’s children also took the truck to the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park.







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The front wheel of WJ Menge’s 1927 Ford Model T truck to transport produce from the Ninth Ward to the French Market in New Orleans. The truck is in the permanent collection of LSU’s Rural Life Museum.




“The family told us the last time the car ran was in the early 1950s,” Stark said. “They used to run after the boys came back from World War II. In the Ninth Ward, it was moved to Pearl River in 2004.”

In the year In 2004, Stark paused. That was the last year for New Orleans before Katrina. The following year, the storm’s effects would change the city forever.

“And if you think about it, if the car had stayed another year, it probably would have been gone,” he said. “We wouldn’t have found this story today. The Menge wanted it to be in a museum, so they gave it to us.”







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Front seat and steering wheel of WJ Menge’s 1927 Ford Model T truck to transport produce from the Ninth Ward to the New Orleans French Market. The car is part of the LSU Museum of Rural Life’s permanent collection.




But the truck isn’t the only eye candy among the museum’s agricultural artifacts. Stark and curator Kathryn Fresina plan to include locally produced food products in a permanent exhibit.

Those same products were abundant in the Ninth Ward, which, like a family tradition, worked for Menges, a future rock ‘n’ roll legend.

“The story goes, there was a young man who worked in the fields in the Ninth Ward, he had a little singing voice and he was on the radio,” Stark said, “and when Mr. Menge saw him again, he said, ‘Well, Fats, I guess you’re famous now.’ ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘and I don’t sing behind horses any more.’ That was his job – working behind the plough. And you know the rest of the story.

The LSU Museum of Rural Life is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10-12. For more information, call (225) 765-2437 or visit lsu.edu/rurallife.







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A 1927 Model T car that WJ Menge brought from the former farming community of the Ninth Ward to the New Orleans French Market is on exhibit at LSU’s Museum of Rural Life.






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