I’ve written several pieces for GoNOLA.com on how New Orleanians beat the summer heat. Since leaving New Orleans and escaping to the Mississippi Gulf Coast doesn’t fit with the tourism-promotion mission of that website, let’s talk about it here.
Prior to the widespread use of air conditioning, folks in the city and along the coast had to rely on nature to cool off. You can see it in the architecture of old houses, with high ceilings, transoms to allow for good natural air circulation, big porches, and lots of trees and other shade plants. In spite of all these things, there are days where you just couldn’t beat the NOLA heat.
The men didn’t have many options on this; they had to go to work. The wives, however, were at home with the kids, often trapped without a car. With no 24/7 cable television, kids were left to their own devices for entertainment, and got bored easily. After a week or two of this, mom would be totally done. Stick-a-fork-in-her done. It was time to go to Waveland. Or Bay St. Louis. Or Long Beach. Families would team up to buy some property in one of the towns along Highway 90 in Mississippi. They’d build small camp-style houses there. The women would pack up the kids and head out of town. The men would head out N. Claiborne Avenue, to Chef Menteur Hwy, across the Rigolets Pass, and out to the coast on Friday afternoons, driving back to the house in the city on Sunday night.
In an on-line political discussion a couple weeks back, one person mentioned that they were surprised that one of Louisiana’s most powerful politicians of the 20th Century, T. Hale Boggs, was born in Mississippi. I pointed out, yes, he was born in that state, but he was born in Long Beach. Clearly the Boggs family did the escape routine in the summer, and momma gave birth to baby Hale while away from the city. That didn’t make him any less a New Orleanian, that’s for sure.
Not everyone could get away to the coast for an extended period of time, though, and the kids still drove those parents crazy. When you just couldn’t pack up and get out, one of the other options was to pack up the kids and send them off. One possibility for that was to send the boys over to St. Stanislaus College in Bay St. Louis. The college-prep high school, run by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, has been around since 1847, as a boarding school for young men from New Orleans. In the summer, the students go back home, so the Brothers monetize the campus with Camp Stanislaus.
The photo above is from the 1950s. Campers are moving from one place to another on the SSC campus. Below, a shot of the Camp Stanislaus staff from 1939. Some of the BOSH loved working summer camp, but for others, the camp was a sticking point. The BOSH are a teaching order, and summer sessions were the only time many of the Brothers could continue their personal education paths. It’s hard to finish that master’s degree when you’re running around after a group of kids.
Camp Stanislaus continues on to this day. It’s a great experience for young boys, to get out of the city for a week or two, exposing them to the MS Gulf Coast, and putting them in touch with an earlier time.
Of course, if a family doesn’t want to pack up and send off the kid, the BOSH community at Brother Martin High School has day camp sessions, too.
These photos, along with several others of SSC through the years, are included in my book, Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans.