Maison Blanche Airline

Maison Blanche Airline

Maison Blanche Airline

maison blanche airline

Maison Blanche Airline, 1956 (Franck Studios photo)

The first suburban MB – Maison Blanche Airline

When S. J. Shwartz founded Maison Blanche in 1897, MB was a single store on Canal Street. It remained that way until 1947, when the company opened its second location, at Tulane and S. Carrollton Avenues. A year later, the company went out to Gentilly, opening a store at Frenchmen Street and Gentilly Boulevard. In the late 1940s, post WWII, Gentilly was considered a “suburb” with respect to the rest of the city.

The “real” suburbs of New Orleans at that time were around, but did not have the economic significance they would have later. Jefferson Parish had three distinct neighborhoods close to the city: Jefferson, Metairie, and Bucktown. Going downriver from the city, St. Bernard Parish had Arabi, Chalmette, and Meraux. While both parishes had towns further out, these were the ‘burbs.

Getting to Jefferson Parish

maison blanche airline

Tulane Avenue in the 1950s (Morrison Collection, NOPL)

The main conduit connecting modern East Jefferson to New Orleans is I-10, but the interstate highway system was just in the planning stages in the 1950s. President Eisenhower saw the value of the autobahn system in Germany, and wanted that for the US. In the meantime, folks living outside the city proper needed routes to get back into the stores, shops, and other establishments.

mid-city new orleans maison blanche airline

Shopping center at S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues, 1952

Rather than expand out into Jefferson Parish immediately, MB opened their first store in Mid-City. The Tulane and Carrollton location appealed to the the growning Mid-City and Lakeview neighborhoods, because folks didn’t have to go all the way to the CBD. S. Carrollton Avenue was where Tulane Avenue became Airline Highway. Airline was US Hwy 61, which led out of town and northwest to Baton Rouge. As Metairie began to expand, those folks came to the edge of town to shop at MB.

Opening in the suburbs

Crescent Drive-in on Airline Highway in Metairie, 1950 (Franck Studios Photo)

The property along Airline Highway in the late 1940s was largely undeveloped and inexpensive. In 1950, the Crescent Drive-In opened, along with the Crescent Shopping Center next door. The main reason drive-ins across the country closed was rising property values. The owners would sell to developers, and they’d move the drive-in further out into the burbs. By 1955, this happened to the Crescent. Developers built the Airline Village Shopping Center on the property. The main anchor of Airline Village was Maison Blanche Airline.

MB Airline attracted shoppers from the growing subdivisions along Metairie Road. Folks who lived near St. Martin’s Episcopal and St. Catherine of Sienna churches took Metairie Road to Atherton Drive, and turned towards Airline. They’d cross the railroad tracks (the “back belt”), and ended up right in the back parking lot of Maison Blanche Airline.

Shopping at MB Airline

Maison Blanche Airline

Like the stores on Carrollton and in Gentilly, MB Airline carried the same product lines the main store on Canal Street did. If there was something advertised in the paper that wasn’t available on the sales floor at Airline Village, the store gladly transferred it from downtown, or the customer could arrange for free home delivery.

My personal memories of MB Airline were when we lived in Old Metairie. I was a Cub Scout in the pack that was sponsored by Mullholland Memorial Methodist Church on Metairie Road. My parents would bring me from our house on Dream Court, up Metairie Road and that back route into Airline Village. MB was one of the “official” Scouting stores back then. So, that’s where we bought my uniforms, t-shirts, pocket knives, etc.

Clearview and decline

maison blanche airline

Architectural rendering, Airline Village Shopping Center

MB Airline was a resounding success for the chain well into the 1970s. When Interstate 10 opened and dominated the traffic patterns, Maison Blanche recognized the shift. They opened a new store in the Clearview Shopping Center. That mall is between I-10 and Veterans Boulevard, at the Clearview Parkway exit.

MB Airline declined rapidly after the Clearview store opened. New subdivisions developed between Veterans and the lake. Lakeside Mall and Clearview Mall became the focal points of retail shopping in Metairie. While MB Airline was convenient for residents of “Old Metairie”, everyone else favored the malls. Maison Blanche recognized this, and closed the Airline Village location.

Airline Village Today

maison blanche airline

Celebration Church (Darrell Harden photo)

The main anchor of Airline Village is now Celebration Church, a non-denominational Christian congregation.

Be sure to check out my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores by “liking” our page on Facebook.

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Podcast – “Ain’t Dere No More” with Heather Elizabeth Designs

Podcast – “Ain’t Dere No More” with Heather Elizabeth Designs

Heather Elizabeth Designs!

heather elizabeth designs

“Ain’t Dere No More Affirmation Bracelet” by Heather Elizabeth Designs

Heather Elizabeth Designs – Ain’t Dere No More!

This week’s pod is a departure for NOLA History Guy Podcast – it’s an interview! Been wanting to get this started for a while now. Heather and I were brainstorming a couple of weeks ago about tying promotion of my books with her ADNM jewelry, nightlights, and other items. I bought a Zoom H5 digital audio recorder a few weeks back. It’s incredibly portable, and the built-in mics are so good, many podcasters use the Zoom mic as their primary microphone, connected to a computer. So, I told Heather that we needed to sit down and talk history. This lady researches her pieces and knows her stuff.

What we did for the pod was to go around her “Ain’t Dere No More Affirmation Bracelet” and talk about the places represented by the various logos. It was a fun conversation. Here’s a brief run-down:

Rosenberg’s Furniture

You’re already singing the jingle. Admit it, you know you are.

Da Beach!

Heather Elizabeth Designs

Pontchartrain Beach t-shirt from New Orleans Public Service

Heather and I decided we need to do a full episode together and talk about Pontchartrain Beach. We’ll do that in May or so, since that’s when Da Beach opened every year. New Orleans Public Service not only has a Pontchartrain Beach t-shirt, but it features the Art Deco-style entrance to the Zephyr, the wooden roller coaster that was the amusement park’s signature ride.

Falstaff

heather elizabeth designs

Falstaff Brewery, now the Falstaff Apartments (courtesy Flickr user “Falstaff Tulane Broad”

A long-time New Orleans landmark, the old brewery is now the Falstaff Apartments, at 2600 Gravier Street.

K&B

K&B Drug Stores, by John Epstein.

Everybody’s got a K&B story or four. We shared some of ours. This will definitely be another pod at some point. The photo here is the cover of John Epstein’s wonderful book, K&B Drug Stores, from my publisher, Arcadia.

D. H. Holmes

Heather Elizabeth Designs

800 block of Canal Street, 1864 featuring the D.H. Holmes Dry Goods Store

Daniel Henry Holmes opened his dry goods store in 1842, and it became a New Orleans fixture and landmark. The building is still there, as a hotel.

Schwegmann’s

heather elizabeth designs

Schwegmann Brothers Giant Supermarket, 2701 Airline Highway, in 1954. (courtesy NOLA.com)

“Makin’ Groceries, Schwegmann Style” – the photo is of the Schwegmann’s Heather talks about, not the smaller store on Airline that I remembered. Ann Maloney of Da Paper did a nice article on The People’s Grocer: John G. Schwegmann (2017, Neutral Ground Press, $20). The article has a bunch of other great Schwegmann’s photos.

JAX Beer!

heather elizabeth designs

JAX Brewery, the Moonwalk, and a Riverfront Streetcar (Infrogmation photo)

The Fabacher family’s brewery, located across the street on Decatur from Jackson Square.

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

Heather Elizabeth Designs

Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store by Edward J. Branley

My latest book! It’s available for pre-order on Amazon.com now, and will be in local shops on September 25th. Heather has the logo as it was used regularly by the store on the bracelet. The book’s cover is reversed to make the store’s name stand out a bit more.

Heather Elizabeth Designs

Sacred Heart brass-and-silver cuff, from Heather Elizabeth Designs (Edward Branley photo)

In addition to Heather’s ADNM bracelet, I could not take my eyes off her latest piece, a brass and sterling cuff with a Sacred Heart charm set in it. Heather’s an Academy of the Sacred Heart girl, and I’m a Brothers of the Sacred Heart boy!

Shout-Outs

New Orleans Public Service and LA46 – great t-shirts and a great store and venue

Beyond Bourbon St – Mark Bologna’s fantastic podcast

heather elizabeth designs

The Station – coffee shop on Bienville at N. Alexander Streets

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Krauss – The New Orleans Value Store

by Edward J. Branley

Heather Elizabeth Designs

For almost one hundred years, generations of New Orleans shoppers flocked to Krauss. The Canal Street store was hailed for its vast merchandise selection and quality customer service. In its early days, it sold lace and fabric to the ladies of the notorious red-light district of Storyville. The store’s renowned lunch counter, Eddie’s at Krauss, served Eddie Baquet’s authentic New Orleans cuisine to customers and celebrities such as Julia Child. Although the beloved store finally closed its doors in 1997, Krauss is still fondly remembered as a retail haven. With vintage photographs, interviews with store insiders and a wealth of research, historian Edward J. Branley brings the story of New Orleans’ Creole department store back to life.

The Irish-Italian Podcast!

The Irish-Italian Podcast!

The Irish-Italian connection/tradition originates with the two cultures merging in New Orleans after WWII.

The Irish

In terms of numbers and influence, the Irish were first in New Orleans. O’Reilly is an outlier on this; the Irish influence begins in the 1820s.  That first wave of Irish immigrants provided the manpower to build the New Basin Canal.

Crescent City Living’s video on the Irish Channel, produced by Crista Rock, with commentary from NOLA History Guy.

The Irish in New Orleans

Love New Orleans? Thank an Irishman

The story of St. Alphonsus and St. Mary’s Assumption churches

The Irish Cemeteries

Ten Contributions the Irish Made to New Orleans

These are articles about the Irish I’ve written over the years. This podcast doesn’t go into a ton of detail, since its focus is how all these folks ended up in the same parade. 🙂 Don’t let that deter you from looking further into the Irish. Their story is an important part of the bigger story of New Orleans.

The Italians

In many ways, the Italians get more exposure in the touristy writing than the Irish. That’s mainly because the Italians all but took over the French Quarter. This was in the 1880s and 1890s. The Italians left a lasting mark on the French Quarter. It’s the one neighborhood just about every visitor sees. Naturally, this is going to leave an impression. The Italian groceries, St. Mary’s Italian church (next to the convent), so many other Italian-owned businesses. Even the building the Louisiana State Museum currently uses as a warehouse for their massive collection was at one time a pasta factory!

Anyway, I wasn’t kidding about going to the Beauregard-Keyes House, either. The mafia connection is fascinating!

It’s not all about the Quarter, though, for the Italians.

Five Italian Contributions to New Orleans

The Hotel Monteleone was built by Italians

So, the Italians migrated from the Downtown side of Canal Street. They went to Gentilly, Metairie, and St. Bernard Parish. The folks who went out to Metairie teamed up with the Irish for the big parade.

 

 

Elmwood Plantation on River Road

“Ain’t There No More” Restaurants

Elmwood Plantation restaurant menu, 1970s

Elmwood Plantation restaurant menu, 1970s

Elmwood Planataion dated back to 1762. It was built by Nicholas Chauvin, for the first American governor of Louisiana, W.C.C. Claiborne. The two-story mansion was a fixture on the river, just above New Orleans. The house caught fire in 1940, causing heavy damage. The house was re-built as a single-story building. In 1962, a group of investors acquired the house, refurbished it, and opened it as a restaurant. Elmwood Plantation was popular out-of-the-way dining destination from the 1960s to the 1980s, when a second fire destroyed the restaurant.

The image is a copy of the menu, from the State Library of Louisiana’s menu collection. It dates from the late 1970s. View the entire menu (PDF) here.

My favorite part is the wine list:

Portion of Elmwood Plantation's wine list.

Portion of Elmwood Plantation’s wine list.

Wines are offered by location in France. For the Bordeauxs, there’s no breakdown by winery or vintage.

There’s a good section on the history of Elmwood Plantation in the book, Lost Plantations of the South, by Marc R. Matrana.

(cross-posted to YatCuisine)

The Day The Music Died

Screenshot from 2016-02-03 07:53:54

WTIX listener survey flyer, 1969 (Courtesy Las-Solanas.com)

“But February made me shiver,
With every paper I deliver.”

In his song, American Pie, Don McClean sings of “The Day The Music Died”, February 3, 1959. On that day, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. Richardson (“The Big Bopper”) were killed in a plane crash in Texas. Based on interviews he gave in later years, McClean was clearly quite moved by the loss of Buddy Holly, and he used the tune to get that out of his system.

I wasn’t even a year old on The Day The Music Died, but I grew up listening to the music of the men who died that day. In the 1960s, that meant listening to WTIX-AM, “The Mighty 69o”. McClean released “American Pie” in 1971, and it shot to the top of the pop charts in 1972. I was in eighth grade at Brother Martin High School in the 1971-72 school. When “American Pie” flooded the AM airwaves, I would listen to it over and over, trying to sort out the numerous references to pop culture and music in its lyrics. Fortunately, WTIX did New Orleans tweens/teens a favor by releasing an “annotated” version of the tune, where one of the DJs (Bob Walker?) cut in on the song quickly after each cultural/music reference. For example:

“I met a girl who sang the blues” – and the voice over cut in, saying “Janis Joplin”.

“And I asked her for some happy news.
But she just smiled, and turned away.”

–and the voice over cut in saying “her death”

It was a wonderful reference for a word nerd like me.

“American Pie” was very much a pivotal point for me. Moving from elementary school (St. Angela Merici in #themetrys) to high school exposed me to music the older boys listened to, which was album-oriented rock. I went from the pop focus of AM radio to the folk-rock of CSNY and Joni Mitchell, the spacey rock of Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and the funk/R&B of War. I never gave up on The Beatles, The Who, Motown, etc, but 1972 was the summer where my interests expanded.

To Holly, Valens, and Richardson: Thank you, gentlemen. Your music was cut short, but you inspired oh so many.