The Pontchartrain Beach Skyride was a popular 1970s-80s attraction.
Pontchartrain Beach Skyride
Photo of the “Skyride” at the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park.The attraction was a classic ski lift-style ride that carried folks from one end of the midway to another. The photo shows the elevated walkway that led out to the sand beach along the lake. A car traveling in the opposite direction carries three girls wearing jeans. To the right is the main concessions stand. In the background stands the Zephyr, the park’s large, wooden roller coaster.
Harry Batt, Jr., built his original amusement park along Bayou St. John in 1929. He moved it to Milneburg, at Elysian Fields and the Lakefront, in 1939. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) built a bath house at that location. They solicited bids for an operator to run the bath house and expand the site. Batt did just that. The amusement park stood between two large military facilities, NAS New Orleans to the west and an Army facility to the East. The navy base is now the University of New Orleans, and the Army base is now the Lake Oaks subdivision.
Main concession stand at night.
The main buildings of the park were in the Streamline Moderne style, a variant of Art Deco. The main concession stand sold JAX Beer, along with “Coney Island Hot Dogs” and other food items. The photo above shows the night lighting of the building.
The beach midway at night.
The Beach presented a symphony of incandescent and neon lights at night. The lights enticed park-goers to the rides and, naturally, to the food and beer. This photo shows the entrance to the “Wild Maus” coaster, a maze-like ride with many sharp turns and short, steep drops. The multi-disc light tower sits atop another concession stand and indoor arcade combination.
“Pontchartrain Beach” section of the Jazzland amusement park, courtesy Abandoned New Orleans.
This photo, courtesy of Abandoned New Orleans, presents the ruins of the re-created “Pontchartrain Beach” at the Jazzland/Six Flags amusement park in New Orleans East. The park closed after incurring flooding and damage in Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
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 – 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.
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))
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.
The Sheraton Charles Hotel was the last incarnation of the venerable hotel.
Sheraton Charles Hotel
Ad for the Sheraton Charles Hotel, May 7, 1973. The Sheraton chain bought the hotel in 1965. They re-branded the property, “Sheraton-Charles,” enticing tourists with its proximity to the French Quarter:
Sheraton Gives you modern comfort in an Old World atmosphere, one block from the famous French Quarter
And check those prices! Single rooms $18-$22.
The ad shows an illustration of the third incarnation of the hotel. The summer of 1973 was its last tourist season. The owner, Louis J. Roussel, Jr., demolished the building in 1974. the location became the Place St. Charles office building in 1984.
St. Charles the third
The St. Charles Hotel’s third incarnation, 1940s
Over the decades, the ground-floor storefront shops of the St. Charles Hotel housed ticket offices for railroad and steamboat companies. While some companies operated their own services. others engaged ticket agents. These were the predecessors of travel agencies. All a traveler staying at the St. Charles had to do was go downstairs to the street, find the, say, L&N or Southern Pacific office, and make any changes necessary to their itinerary. Over time, the airlines opened ticket offices, as the railroads migrated over to Union Passenger Terminal, when it opened in 1954. The offices morphed into pick-up points over time. Travelers used the telephone to call, then come get the physical tickets when they were ready. By the time of this 1973 ad, a concierge in the hotel lobby booked travel for guests. Travel agents acquired access to airline and railroad computer systems. They booked and printed out documents for almost all carriers.
The first incarnation of the St. Charles Hotel opened in the 200 block of St. Charles Street in 1837. That building burned in 1851. The second incarnation opened in 1853. It too burned, in 1894. This building dates from 1896. So, while many New Orleanians mourned the loss of the St. Charles/Sheraton-Charles, Sheraton moved to Canal Street. Their 49-story hotel at 500 Canal Street opened in 1982.
Sheraton, as part of the Starwood Group, later merged with Mariott Hotels. So, the ownership of the two towering hotels on either side of Canal Street are essentially the same.
Summer football practice meant hot days and hard work.
Summer football practice
Practice in the backyard! Here’s Brother Neal’s caption of this photo, from the Brother Martin High School alumni publication.
Coach Bob Conlin puzzles over a problem during a hot practice. In the foreground is Assistant Coach Emile Fair. The Crusaders finished 8-2 that year, but missed the playoffs because the second-place tiebreaker went to Rummel, which beat BM 21-14 in week six after capitalizing on a fumble at the 11.
This was one of those days when the team didn’t dress out in full pads. While I can’t speak to the football practice conditions, I remember days like this when I was on the NJROTC Drill Team.
Multi-purpose activity area
Prior to the acquisition of the E. A. Farley Florist property, next to the school, all the outdoor activities, from football practice to NJROTC regimental reviews took place in the grassy area. This created scheduling challenges, as you can imagine. Football and band required space for practice in the Fall. The Drill Team usually took to the streets for marching practice, and we would go out to the parking lot at Pontchartrain Beach to work on routines. The backyard was initially large enough to fit a full-size football field.
Things improved a bit as football gave way to wrestling and basketball. While the two squads separated in the Conlin gym, basketball needed space for both varsity and JV teams. Band retreated to their space in the back of the school after football season.
More green space
After the closure of E.A. Farley florist, the school negotiated with the family to buy the land. The florist shop was a storefront facing Gentilly Blvd. The nursery area bounded Gentilly Blvd, Marigny St., Stephen Girard St., and Mandeville St. It’s now part of the campus. The school converted the northeast corner of the property into a full baseball diamond, with bleachers. It’s named E. A. Farley Field. When my younger son (Class of 2012) was in Crusader Band, they continued to practice behind the school, leaving the new space to athletic teams.
Do you have stories about summer football practice in the backyard? Please share them!
1982 athletic fashions
Brother Neal mentions the length of the shorts worn by the students and coaches. He calls them “pre-Michael Jordan” length. I prefer to think of them as “Magic-versus-Bird” length. At least they helped everyone stay cool for summer football practice.
Governor Elect Buddy Roemer at NOCCA, for an event in 1988.
Governor Elect Buddy Roemer
Buddy Roemer made an appearance and spoke at an event at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, on January 18, 1988. At the time, Romer held the Fourth District seat (Shreveport/NW Louisiana), from 1981 to March of 1988. In the Fall of 1987, he chose to challenge Edwin W. Edwards for governor. He won, and became the state’s fifty-second governor, on March 14, 1988.
Roemer as Congressman
While Roemer later switched parties later in his career, he was a Democrat in 1987. In the House of Representatives, Roemer was a “boll weevil.” He embraced much of the agenda of President Ronald Reagan. Additionally, he was openly hostile towards Speaker Tip O’Neil. So, the Democratic caucus denied Roemer choice committee assignments. Congress became a dead end for the ambitious Roemer.
The 1987 governor’s race
Edwin Edwards wound down his third term in the fall of 1987. He declared his intention to run for a fourth term. This was unprecedented in Louisiana. Prior to the re-write of the state constitution, the governor could not succeed himself. Through all of the “Long/Anti-Long” years, the factions traded the governor’s mansion back and fourth every four years. Edwards occupied the office from 1972 to 1980. The new constitution prohibited him from seeking three in a row. So, he sat out the 1979 race, but came back in 1983. By 1987, a number of politicians lined up to take on Edwards, including three Congressmen: Bob Livingston, Billy Tauzin, and Roemer. Roemer emerged from the pack, Edwards realized there was no way he could win the runoff. So, Edwards conceded on election night, leaving Roemer unopposed.
Roemer toured the state as governor-elect in the winter of 1988. One of those stops was at NOCCA, that January.
The New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts offered training in a number of arts:
- Culinary arts
- Creative writing
- Media arts
- Theatre arts
- Visual arts
NOCCA initially operated as an adjunct to a student’s chosen high school. While students completed their basic requirements for high school at their regular school, they divided their time with NOCCA for arts classes. Eventually NOCCA became a fully-accredited high school. The school’s first campus was in Uptown New Orleans. This is where Roemer spoke. In 2000, the school moved to Faubourg Marigny.
BMHS Pep Rally 1982 in the gym on the Elysian Fields Campus
BMHS Pep Rally 1892
Brother Martin High School was into its second decade when this BMHS Pep Rally 1982 photo was taken. As you walked into the gym (it would be some time before “the gym” received a formal name, seniors and juniors sat on the right, sophomores, freshmen and eighth grade on the left. The band and football team sat in chairs on the floor. Cheerleaders alternated between the two sides. The banner, “WE WANT H.C.” on the back wall indicates the team’s next opponent was Holy Cross.
The Brothers of the Sacred Heart designated Cor Jesu High School as a college preparatory school. So, the school didn’t have a gymnasium in the 1950s (the school opened in 1954).. The Brothers changed this philosophy/plan for the school. They planned for a gymnasium in the early 1960s. The provincial at the time, Brother Martin Hernandez, SC, discussed his plan with then-Archbishop Joseph Rummel. Rummel offered to help with the financing of the project. What was the catch, you ask? Of course there had to be one, but it wasn’t unreasonable. The archdiocese put up money to finance the new gym, if Hernandez and the Brothers increased the building’s size. The Cor Jesu gym became the largest high school gym in the city. Rummel wanted the big gym for Catholic functions, such as the CYO Basketball Tournament. Since the school got the better end of this deal, Hernandez agreed.
The gym didn’t change much after the merger of Cor Jesu and St. Aloysius merged into Brother Martin in the fall of 1969. The back wall featured a “Kingsman” which morphed into a “Crusader.” The front side wall, closer to The Mall, sported a “Crazy Crusader” drawing.
After Coach Bob Conlin passed away in 1997, the gym was re-named the Robert M. “Bob” Conlin Gymnasium. This was fitting on multiple levels. Conlin was Cor Jesu’s first basketball coach. He led the BMHS football team for 27 years.