NOLA History Guy December (10) – Brother Nicholas Geisenberg, S. C.

NOLA History Guy December (10) – Brother Nicholas Geisenberg, S. C.

Our tenth installment of NOLA History Guy December features Brother Nicholas, SC – Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans (BOSH)

nola history guy december

NOLA History Guy December – Brother Nicholas Geisenberg, S.C.

Brother Nicholas, SC, was a long-time Maths teacher the BOSH Schools. I had the privilege of taking “Senior Math” with Brother as a Junior, in 1974-75. If you’re wondering how that worked, I attended Brother Martin High School as an eighth grader. My maths skills weren’t top/honors, so, I was routed to “regular” Geometry class as a ninth-grader. The honors guys took “Geometry A” with Brother Neal, SC. The “A” track finished Trigonometry in Algebra IIA, as tenth-graders. They took Calculus as eleventh-graders, and went on to UNO for Calc I as seniors. Not me! I took Trig, “Senior Math” in the old terminology. Brother Nicholas (never “Brother Nick” to his face) was a serious teacher who brooked no nonsense in his class. He objected to the number of Fridays I was away from class because of Debate and Quiz Bowl, and regularly chided me about that.

Outside of class, Brother was a nice man. He chaperoned the school trips to Europe in the summers. Brother studied German with Ms. Palmisano. I would say a few words to him, “auf Deutsch” as he left German II and I came in for German I as a sophomore.

nola history guy december

Brother Nicholas, S. C., throwing out the first pitch at a Crusader baseball game.

As we’re doing with all our images for NOLA History Guy December, here’s the caption for the two photos of Brother Nicholas in the book:

“Brother Nick.” Brother Nicholas Geisenberg, S.C., beloved teacher of generations of St. Aloysius, Cor Jesu, and BMHS students. In addition to teaching Math, Brother Nicholas served as assistant principal at Cor Jesu in 1969. After retiring from the classroom, Brother Nicholas remained active on campus, managing the school’s bookstore and as a dedicated fan of BMHS sports, particularly baseball. Above, Brother Nicholas on duty in the bookstore in the late 1990’s. Below, the BMHS baseball team honored Brother Nicholas by asking him to throw out the first pitch of the final game of the 2003 season. (Lower photo courtesy of Mr. Danny Ford, father of Jeremy (’03) and Braeden (’09))

 

The Book

nola history guy december

Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans by Edward J. Branley

From the back cover:

When New Orleanians ask “Where did you go to school?” they aren’t asking what university you attended but what high school. That tells a native a lot about you. For over 150 years, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart have educated the young men of New Orleans, giving them the opportunity to answer the question proudly by replying St. Stanislaus, St. Aloysius, Cor Jesu, or Brother Martin. Images of America: Brothers of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans showcases photographs, illustrations, and maps tracing the role of the institute in making New Orleans a vibrant and dynamic city, able to overcome even the worst of adversity. From their roots in the French Quarter, moving to Faubourg Marigny, and finally settling in Gentilly, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart continue to make a major contribution to metro New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana.

Available at local bookstores, Walgreens stores, other local shops, Bookshop, and other online outlets. Give history! Support NOLA History Guy December.

Marching Festival, 2007

Marching Festival, 2007

LMEA Marching Festival brings local bands together to perform.

LMEA Marching Festival

Each year, District 6 of the Louisiana Music Educators Association (LMEA) holds a “Marching Assessment” in the Fall. Crusader Band (along with other local bands) call it “Marching Festival.” At the end, when the scores are announced, the officers of the participating bands gather on the field to accept their awards.  For the 2007 Festival, Crusader Band’s Drum Major and two Band Captains, along with the co-Captains of the Dominican Debs wait for wait for their scores. I don’t have names for these young men and women at this time. If you know them, let me know. (I sent the photo to my class of 2012 kiddo, who was Brass Captain in his senior year, but he’s in Palo Alto and not awake yet).

Football Season for Crusader Band

In the Fall, Crusader Band is a football band.Going back to the beginning, the band turned out to perform in the stands at games. While some band programs place football as a second priority, behind band competitions, the Crusader Band’s mission was to support the team. The school and the Athletic Department recognized this, and funded a good bit of the program’s expenses. So, as a five-year band dad, I remained silent when parents whose kids attended other schools fussed about money. They were going out of pocket for trips to competitions. I paid a $50 uniform cleaning fee.

The late Mr. Marty Hurley, long-time Band Director, had a solid strategy for preparing for Festival. The festival program called for performance of three tunes and a percussion performance. Hurley chose a theme, picked three tunes, then worked up the drum routine. One of the tunes always featured the auxiliary unit. Crusader Band partners with the “Debs” of Dominican High School.

The band wore the NJROTC service dress blues in those early years. When NJROTC became an elective course track, Crusader Band switched to a classic-style uniform. The style changed over the years. They wore this set of uniforms through my son’s senior year (2011-2012).

Main Entrance, Brother Martin High, 1971

Main Entrance, Brother Martin High, 1971

The main entrance at Brother Martin High School in 1971.

main entrance

BMHS Main Entrance

From Yesterday 1972, this photo shows the main entrance to Brother Martin High School in its third year of existence. To the left is the oeriginal Cor Jesu building. To the right is the lobby and administration wing. The main entrance connected old and new. Over time, these doors were secured, and entrance and exit routed through other parts of the campus. The Cor Jesu building dates to the predecessor school’s opening in 1954. The building served as a Civil Devense “fallout shelter” in the late 1950s and 1960s. The iron-lettered “Brother Martin High School” sign said, “Cor Jesu High School” until May of 1969, when Cor Jesu was formally closed. The sign changed that Summer. Three years later, I walked through those doors, as an Eighth grader.

The Old Building

In 1971, the classrooms that fronted Elysian Fields Avenue didn’t have a specific name/designation. The first classroom to the left of the main entrance was Room 101. As Eighth graders, my class, 8A, had our first three classes in that room, Louisiana History, English 8A, and Religion. The 8B class was in room 102, and 8C in 103. That way the three teachers could move easily between the classes each morning. The hallway ended with the Physics Lab.

The interior side of the building contained the audio-visual storage room, faculty room, and a science lab, for 8/9th Physical Science. My 8A class ended the day in that lab, with Mr. Lloyd Brinker (SA65). Our lockers were right around the corner from that lab, in the stairwell. A simple covered walkway connected that side of the building with the Brother’s Residence next door.

Place Sacre Couer

In 1994, the BOSH changed the access layout of the school. While the main entrance was welcoming, it always had a significant design flaw. Visitors to the school could enter the campus unobserved. This also included the lake-side door of the old building. So, the school modified the traffic patterns. The main entrance remained unlocked, but students were discouraged from entering and exiting through it. The school transformed the front from a basic walkway to a formal plaza, “Place Sacre Couer.” All the BOSH school principals alive at the time gathered for a formal dedication.

 

Brother Leo Godin, SC #BOSHSunday

Brother Leo Godin, SC #BOSHSunday

Brother Leo Godin in the “Bursar’s Office,” in the late 1970s.

brother leo godin

Brother Leo, SC

Working the Brother Martin High School bookstore was Brother Leo Godin, SC’s job in the late 1970s. Note the all-khaki uniform of the time. I can’t identify the student in this photo. If you can, please drop me a line or mention it in comments!

The “Bursar’s Office”

At a college or university, the Bursar was the school’s financial manager. While the financial and accounting operations at BMHS were in the “Business Office,” at the beginning of the Administration hallway, the bookstore stood in the Mall, next to the (original) Library and behind the Auditorium. The Bursar’s Office serviced students. The Business Office didn’t want to deal with students, beyond accepting tuition payments from home.

Since a college bursar’s office interfaced directly with students, I suspect this is why the Brothers labelled the bookstore this way. In reality, it wasn’t a financial office. It was where you grabbed a candy bar or a new t-shirt for P.E. class.

The selection of crimson-and-gold merchandise increased dramatically after my time (1971-1976) at school. We were just getting team- and club-specific shirts and sweatshirts by my junior and senior year. By the late 70s and into the 80s, parents were more willing to open up their wallets to buy their sons that spirit tee, or that Crusader cap.

Managing the bookstore

Responsibility for the bookstore fell upon a more-or-less “retired” Brother. There were more of those men around, back in the day. The older brothers lived in the residence next to the original Cor Jesu building. Even though these brothers weren’t in the classroom, they still helped out. Brother Marion in the downstairs resource center, Brother Eugene in the upstairs resource center, and Brother Leo in the bookstore.

Brother Leo taught me Algebra I in 8th grade. The whole four-courses-in-three-years for Math was in place since the start of the school, but all three 8th grade sections, A, B, and C in 1971-72 got “regular” Algebra I. Brother Leo was an old-school teacher. While I moved on to “regular” Geometry, rather than Brother Neal’s Geometry A, the foundation Brother Leo gave us was solid.

It doesn’t surprise me that Brother Leo was one of the teachers who didn’t want to let go of the school experience. Teaching can be a grind. Spending some time talking to the boys, even over the counter and that glass barrier was a great way to keep going.

Stephen Massicot 1898 #BOSHSunday

Stephen Massicot 1898 #BOSHSunday

Stephen B. Massicot was a “promising young Orleanian.”

stephen b. massicot

Stephen Massicot

Obituary for Mr. Stephen Massicot (click for a PDF copy), who passed away on June 4, 1898. This column ran in the Daily Picayune on Wednesday, June 8, 1898. Massicot graduated from St. Aloysius College in 1897.

St. Aloysius in 1898

St. Aloysius opened in New Orleans in 1869. The original campus was a house on Barracks and Chartres in the French Quarter. By 1890, the school outgrew that first location. In 1892, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart acquired a mansion just outside the Quarter from the Ursuline Sisters. The nuns desired an uptown location. They moved to State Street. Their campus, at the corner of Esplanade and North Rampart. reverted back to the Archdiocese. The archbishop leased it to the BOSH.

So, Stephen Massicot entered St. Aloysius in its second year on Esplanade Avenue. That mansion remained until 1924. That’s when the building known to generations of Crusaders was built.

Life after St. Aloysius

Stephen Massicot was valedictorian of the Class of 1897. After graduation, he went to work for Gotfried & Muller. They were cotton buyers. While cotton plantations no longer used the enslaved for labor, cotton was still huge in New Orleans. Riverboats still brought cotton down from the plantations. Mule -drawn wagons transported raw bales to cotton presses along the riverfront. Those presses compressed cotton for transport. Wagons returned the pressed cotton to the riverfront. Ocean-going ships took it up the east coast or to Europe.

So, cotton was a commodity. Buyers purchased cotton, either at the source (the plantation), or upon arrival in New Orleans. The grower moved on. The buyer then flipped the commodity, selling the pressed cotton to ship owners. They carried the product to textile mills. Those mills transformed raw cotton into bolts of fabric.

Typhoid Fever

The obit describes how Stephen Massicot complained of discomfort and a fever two weeks before his passing. Doctors diagnosed his discomfort as typhoid fever. Five days after the diagnosis, the young man died.

The paper reports that the student body of St. Aloysius attended the funeral. His surviving classmates served as pall bearers. After the funeral, his mates laid him to rest in St. Louis Cemetery.

 

Basketball Championships #BOSHSunday

Basketball Championships #BOSHSunday

Brother Martin High School has a rich history of basketball championships.

basketball championships

Basketball Championships

Crusader forward Leroy Oliver (1975) goes up over Felton Young of Holy Cross in second-round district play, 1974. Center Rick Robey (1974) looks on, hoping he doesn’t have to go for a rebound. (photo courtesy Brother Martin High School)

I was reminded of the 1973-74 season yesterday because of the current story of St. Augustine defeating Scotlandville High School yesterday (13-March-2021) to win the state championship.

This year’s story is of a team that wouldn’t be denied three years in a row. St. Augustine lost to Scotlandville in the championship game in 2019 and 2020. The story in 1974 was of two teams that played each other five times in the same season.

Brother Martin vs. Holy Cross

Two top-flight teams in the Catholic League make for a grueling season. Brother Martin, state champions in 1970 and 1971, returned as a contender in 1973-74. Coach Tom Kolb returned to coach the Crusaders after running the Jesuit program. Four letterman, Leroy Oliver, Rodney Montgomery, Jimmy McCulla and Rick Robey, along with Donald “Duck” Newman, started.

The Crusaders defeated the Holy Cross Tigers in their first district game, at Holy Cross. Both teams ended the first round with 6-1 records. They played for the first round championship at Tulane. Holy Cross won. They met in their very next game, at Brother Martin. The Crusaders defeated the Tigers. They went on to win the round undefeated.

So, the teams met a fourth time, again at Tulane, to decide the district champion. The Tigers lost, 57-58. The teams advanced to the playoffs. Each team won four games on the road to the championship showdown in Alexandria, LA. The Crusaders won that fifth meeting of the season, 67-56.

As Brother Neal Golden, SC, wrote about that year:

Robey completed an outstanding senior year.

  • He made All-District, All-City, and All-State and was selected the best player in the Top Twenty tournament.
  • Rated as one of the top four seniors in America, he signed with Kentucky where he played four years before going to the NBA.

That was three state championships in the first four years since Brother Martin opened. Crusader basketball continued to bring hope district and state titles.

Brother Martin vs St. Augustine

So, the big basketball rivalry wasn’t always with St. Augustine. Like many successful runs (like the Scotlandville run that just came to an end), a school gets that one (or maybe two) players who stand out. The Crusaders experienced this in 2002-2003, when DJ Augustin came to Elysian Fields. The Crusaders were state runner-up that season. They won the championship in 2004 and 2005. Augustin and his teammates were odds-on favorites to win a third championship, but Hurricane Katrina had other ideas.

2009-2010

My band kiddo’s sophomore year was an exciting, albeit grueling one for Crusader basketball. The team played St. Augustine four times that season, losing to the Purple Knights three times. Fourth time was lucky, as they defeated their Catholic League rivals in the state semi-finals, going on to win the championship.