“At the Beach, at the beach, at the Pontchartrain Beach…”

ad for pontchartrain beach in the times-picayune, 4-June-1974.

Pontchartrain Beach in 1974

“Fresh family fun…
New ride sensation!
Shoot the rapids…
LOG RIDE”

Ad for Pontchartrain Beach in the Times-Picayune, 4-June-1974. Da Beach, Lakeshore Drive and Elysian Fields, in the old Milneburg neighborhood. By June, schools were closed across the metro area. So, Da Beach was open daily, 12 Noon on weekends, 5PM on weekdays. After all, just because the kids were off, parents still had to work.

Evolution

Harry Batt, Jr., opened his amusement park at Bayou St. John and the lake in 1929. When the WPA boosted the sand beach at Elysian Fields and the lake in 1940, they built a bath house facility. They leased the land and the bath house to Batt. So, Harry moved his park to Milneburg. He grew the park, adding rides, attractions, and concessions. Additionally, Batt added a public pool facility, for folks who didn’t want to venture into the lake.

To meet the requirements of Jim Crow, WPA built a bath house facility along the lake in New Orleans East. That facility became the Lincoln Beach amusement park. With the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Lincoln Beach closed, as Batt could no longer refuse entry to Black folks.

Pay One Price

The Haunted House at Pontchartrain Beach

The Haunted House, via Pontchartrain-Beach.com

Until the 1970s, admission to Da Beach was free. You parked and walked in. Attractions, rides, and the bath house required admission fees. Still, folks could just go out and walk the midway without paying anything. This was good for all the military personnel from NAS New Orleans and the Army facilities along the lakefront. By the 1970s, larger amusement parks in other cities charged a single admission. So, all the rides in those parks were included. Da Beach began “P.O.P. – Pay One Price.” You could ride the Zephyr, Wild Maus and the Haunted House as many times as you pleased.

Personal Memory

Going through today’s ads, this one brought back a particular memory for me. I was a rising junior at Brother Martin High School in 1974. One week, I got a call from a friend who said some of his cousins were coming into town from Lafayette that weekend. He needed to get dates from two of the girls, and I was tapped to take one of them out.

So, we pile into my friend’s car and off to Da Beach we go. This is P.O.P. time. I worked at Breaux Mart on Severn in Metairie that summer, so I had couple of dollars in my wallet. We get up to the ticket booth. I said, “two, please,” and slid across a ten-dollar bill. The lady behind the glass dropped back a dime.

A dime.

The P.O.P. admission at the time was $4,95, so the math was right. Still, it was a shock to my system. My hourly wage at the supermarket was $2. That ten bucks was, almost a day’s wages, and I got back a dime in change. We had a blast, though, riding the Zephyr all night. Now, it’s a fond memory and an economic milestone.

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