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2010s Archives - Edward Branley - The NOLA History Guy
New Orleans Public Belt RR at Ursuline Street #TrainThursday

New Orleans Public Belt RR at Ursuline Street #TrainThursday

The New Orleans Public Belt runs along the riverfront.

public belt

Streetcars and trains along the Riverfront

Infrogmation photo (2013) of three New Orleans Public Belt (NOPB) locomotives passing the Ursuline Street station for the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA). From right to left: NOPB 3001, an EMD GP40, NOPB 3003, a GP40-2, and NOPB 2008, a Motive Power Industries (MPI) 1500D. All three locomotives bear the red NOPB livery used at that time.

New Orleans Public Belt

The City of New Orleans created the NOPB in 1908. From the railroad’s Wikipedia entry:

The impetus for the NOPB came at the start of the 20th century era when multiple railroads terminating locally created both congestion at the Port of New Orleans and safety problems on city streets. The railroad began operation in 1908 with the intention of giving the major railroads “uniform and impartial” access to the port.

So, the NOPB regularly operates along the riverfront. Additionally, the NOPB “owns” the Huey P. Long bridge, which connects about one-third of the nation’s east-west railroad traffic. From the Industrial Canal to Jefferson, Louisiana, NOPB horns can be heard.

Streetcars

public belt

Portion of the route map for NORTA’s UPT-Riverfront line.

While there are no streetcars in this photo, the Ursuline Station is a stop on the NORTA UPT-Riverfront line, Route 49. It’s the second-to-last stop as the outbound streetcars approach the French Market terminal. Hopping off the Von Dullen and 400-series arch roofs at Ursuline puts the rider at Latrobe Park. This snippet of NORTA’s map for Route 49 shows the various railroad tracks in this part of the port. While the first incarnation of the Riverfront line operated on “standard gauge” tracks, the line switched to “streetcar gauge” in 1997.

Red to Blue

public belt

NOPB locos in blue livery passing Jackson Square, February 2023. Mussi Katz photo.

NOPB adopted a blue livery for their locomotive fleet in 2019. The blue paint scheme distinguishes them from the streetcars on Route 49. The locomotives use horns, where the streetcar operators clang the traditional trolley bell.

NOLA History Guy December (3) – Legendary Locals – @WendellPierce

NOLA History Guy December (3) – Legendary Locals – @WendellPierce

Our third installment of NOLA History Guy December features one of the Legendary Locals of New Orleans.

NOLA History Guy December – Wendell Pierce

nola history guy december

Wendell Pierce

Legendary Locals

This book, Legendary Locals of New Orleans, is a different concept than the “Images of America books.” Arcadia asked me to pitch for the New Orleans entry in this series. I loved the idea–essentially a Who’s Who of notables from the city’s 300-year history. The folks featured in the book range from the 18th Century origins of the city to modern actors, musicians, and sports heroes.

How far back does the book go? From the Introduction:

Pierre LeMoyne left a man named Sauvolle, along with his brother, Jean Baptiste, at this encampment. Sauvolle died in 1701, leaving Jean Baptiste (who is better known by his title, Sieur d’Bienville) as temporary governor of the Louisiana colony. Bienville returned to Mobile when a replacement for Sauvolle was sent, but found himself in charge again in 1717, when John Law’s Company of the Indies took control of Louisiana. Bienville convinced the directors of the company that the crescent in the Mississippi by Bayou St. John would be a better site for a permanent settlement than Mobile, and he was authorized to go forward with the plan. He founded Nouvelle Orleans in 1718. By 1720, Bienville had transferred enough materials, men, and supplies from Mobile to truly start development of the city. He tasked an engineer, Adrien de Pauger, to develop a plan for the city. That plan became the grid of streets we now know as the Vieux Carre, the French Quarter.

Our first “Legend” for NOLA History Guy December is actor and philanthropist Wendell Pierce.

“Antoine”

At publication time, I’m sure more people knew Pierce as “Bunk Moreland,” from David Simon’s TV series, “The Wire.” I titled his caption “Antoine,” however, because Bunk was a Baltimore copy. Antoine Baptiste was a New Orleans trombone player from the Sixth Ward in “Treme.” Simon nailed it, casting Pierce for his HBO series about New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Here’s the caption:

“Antoine.” Wendell Pierce, was Detective Bunk Moreland in HBO’s The Wire. A graduate of Benjamin Franklin High School and Julliard’s Drama Division, Pierce’s first on-screen role was in the 1986 film “The Money Pit.” He earned critical acclaim in Spike Lee’s 1996 Get on the Bus, and had a recurring role in the television drama NUMB3RS. In 2010, producer/writer David Simon once again turned to Pierce (who grew up in Gentilly) for his HBO drama, Treme, where he plays “Antoine Batiste, a journeyman trombone player who makes his way through post-Katrina New Orleans. In addition to being one of the dramatic faces of modern New Orleans, Pierce is working to give back to his community, financing and promoting a chain of grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods.

Of course, Wendell’s grown way past Antoine by now, earning a Tony nomination for his portrayal of Willy Loman in the revival of “Death of a Salesman” to crushing it as James Greer in “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. Check out his extensive Wikipedia entry.

Legendary Locals of New Orleans

nola history guy december

As mentioned earlier, Legendary Locals of New Orleans differs from the IoA books. A few years ago, a local group of school librarians invited me to speak at one of their meetings. I told them, of the books I’ve written, the one that really should be on their shelves was Legendary Locals. Think about it–a teacher assigns a project for social studies, write a report about someone notable in the city’s history. What’s the kid likely to do? Go to the school library and lay the assignment out for the librarian. Rather than simply suggest a name or two, hand the student my books. Tell them to flip through the short (100-150 word) entries on each Legendary Local. Some may pick an athlete, others a musician. There’s a wide range of personalities.

(NOTE: this book is a great gift for the library at your kid’s school. If you do that, order the hardcover edition of the book. It costs a bit more, but the librarian will appreciate it.

From the back cover:

Since its founding in 1718 by the LeMoyne brothers, New Orleans has cemented its status as one of the busiest ports on the continent. Producing many unique and fascinating individuals, Colonial New Orleans was a true gumbo of personalities. The city lays claim to many nationalities, including Spaniards Baron Carondelet, Don Andres Almonester, and French sailors and privateers Jean Lafitte and Dominique Youx. Businessmen like Daniel Henry Holmes and Isidore Newman contributed to local flavor, as did musicians Buddy Bolden, Joe “King” Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Louis Prima. War heroes include P.G.T. Beauregard and Andrew Jackson Higgins. Avery Alexander, A.P. Tureaud, and Ernest Morial paved the way for African Americans to lead the city. Kate Chopin, Lafcadio Hearn, Ellen DeGeneres, Mel Ott, Archie Manning, and Drew Brees have kept the world entertained, while chefs and restaurateurs like Leah Chase and the Brennans sharpened the city’s culinary chops. Legendary Locals of New Orleans pays homage to the notables that put spice in that gumbo.

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).

NORTA 2007 #StreetcarSaturday

NORTA 2007 is a 2000-series Von Dullen arch roof streetcar.

norta 2007

NORTA 2007 on the Riverfront

A Von Dullen streetcar, NORTA 2007, operating on the Riverfront line, 10-June-2019. Photo by/courtesy of Michelle Callahan. While the 400-series streetcars, built in 1997, operated on Riverfront, after the line’s expansion, the 2000-series operating on Canal Street often turned left as they reached the river. They ran on Riverfront, from Canal to the French Market. So, it was often possible to catch a streetcar at the Old US Mint and ride it all the way to the Cemeteries Terminal, at Canal Street and City Park Avenue.

2000 differences

NORTA designed the 400-series Riverfront streetcars to be as close to the vintage-1923 arch roofs as possible. The Americans with Disabilities Act required accessible operation on Riverfront. So, NORTA retired the streetcars running on the line since 1988. They built new arch roofs that included wheelchair lifts on either side of the cars. The stops along Riverfront allowed wheelchair users to come right up to the side. The operator stops, lowers the lift, secures the passenger, and off they go.

While the 400s are not air-conditioned, the 2000s are. That’s why they have the faux monitor deck on top. The design is that of an arch roof. The aesthetics are challenged, though. The air-conditioning unit, as well as the electronics package sit on the car’s roof. They make for unsightly bumps. So, Von Dullen modified the design. When you’re inside a 2000, it’s clear you’re in an arch roof. From the outside, the faux deck masks the modern stuff.

Along the riverfront

In this wonderful photo, NORTA 2007 passes in front of the Jackson Brewing Company’s former facility, at Decatur and St. Peter Streets. The area along the river, from Canal Street to the Governor Nicholls Street Wharf, was converted into a pedestrian walk in the 1980s. This was expanded to add Woldenburg Park in the 1990s. The Riverfront streetcar line uses the old Louisville and Nashville Railroad right-of-way to transport passengers from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center to the French Market.

Union Pacific 6310 Heritage unit on the #BackBelt #TrainThursday

Union Pacific 6310 Heritage unit on the #BackBelt #TrainThursday

Union Pacific 6310 is a “heritage” engine operating in the New Orleans area.

union pacific 6310

Union Pacific 6310

This engine, Union Pacific 6310, is a General Electric (GE) AC4400CW unit. UP 6310, on the BackBelt at Canal Blvd, Monday morning. This unit was built in 1995 for the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP), and delivered as SP 264. The roster lists don’t mention that it was re-numbered when UP acquired SP. It also explains why I couldn’t find photos of it in yellow/UP livery. This isn’t a “heritage” unit, in the sense that it was painted to look like a previous railroad. It’s always been SP.

Southern Pacific in New Orleans

The New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western Railroad (NOO&GW) operated 83 miles of track, from Algiers (on the west bank of the Mississippi) to Morgan City, into the 1890s. At that time, SP acquired NOO&GW. By 1921, NOO&GW (then known as Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Co) merged into the Texas and New Orleans Railroad. T&NO operated as part of the SP system. NOO&GW operated a passenger station in Algiers, beginning in 1857. SP expanded that facility into a large freight yard. After the opening of the Huey P. Long Bridge in Jefferson Parish, SP moved its Algiers yard to Avondale, LA, on the western side of the Huey. UP and BNSF currently operate the Avondale yard.

So, SP maintained a large presence in the city. Additionally, SP operated (through the T&NO originally) three “name trains” out of New Orleans. The Sunset Limited and the Argonaut provided service from New Orleans to Los Angeles. The Alamo ran from New Orleans to San Antonio, TX. Amtrak retained the “Sunset Limited” name for their New Orleans to Los Angeles route.

EDITOR’s NOTE

When I researched the provenance of this engine, I thought 6310 was purchased originally by UP. The number fit in the range of the UP AC4400CWs. I posted the image to a railroading Facebook group. The members know a lot more about local railroading than I. I appreciate their patience!. While UP has a set of “heritage” engines, 6310 isn’t in the list. That’s because it’s not a UP unit, repainted. It’s always worn SP livery.

 

Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket – From Economical to Metairie

Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket – From Economical to Metairie

Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket opens new, expanded store in #themetrys!

(x-posted to YatCuisine)

Zupardo's Family Supermarket

Economical Supermarket, on Elysian Fields and Gentilly, in the 1950s. (Zuppardo’s photo)

Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket – My grocery

I’ve been going to Zuppardo’s  Supermarket, either the old store on Elysian Fields and Gentilly, or the Metairie store at Veterans and Transcontinental, since I was a kid. That’s going back to the days when the Gentilly neighborhood had an incredible number of groceries and supermarkets.

Economical!

Zuppardo's Family Supermarket

Replica of Anthony Leo Zuppardo’s banana cart from the early 1900s at the new Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket. (Edward Branley photo)

Peter Zuppardo came to New Orleans from Sicily in 1895. He took a job in the wholesale banana business. His son, Anthony Leo, saw an opportunity with over-ripe bananas. Anthony took those bananas around in a donkey cart. By 1930, the Zuppardo’s parked a truck at Gentilly Road at Elysian Fields. At that time, Elysian Fields Avenue was just a dirt road. The Pontchartrain Railroad closed in 1931, and Elysian Fields wasn’t paved until the end of the decade.

The Zuppardo’s bought the lot on that corner, establishing a permanent presence. The fruit truck expanded into a store in 1937. Those were the waning days of the city’s public market system. That system gave way to private stores after the war. The family made a good decision, as the neighborhood grew. After World War II, Gentilly’s population exploded, as men returning from the war looked to start their own families.Those strong ties helped Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket in later years, in their expansion to Metairie.

Bell Supermarkets

Zuppardo's Family Supermarket

Bell Supermarkets newspaper ad from the 1950s (courtesy NOLA.com)

Economical became part of the Bell supermarket co-op. The idea was for independent grocers to join together to better advertise their stores. This was important, because John Schwegmann’s “giant” supermarkets became incredibly popular in the 1950s. Stores such as Economical, Dorignac’s uptown, and Pap’s in the Ninth Ward all sported the Bell logo.

Economical continued its popularity into the 1960s. That was my first personal experience with the store. My momma grew up in Gentilly, on Lavender Street, just off of Franklin Avenue. She and her grandmother made groceries at Economical. Even though my parents moved out to #themetrys when they came back from Boston in 1960, we’d still go out to see my grandma regularly, and I’d tag along for grocery runs.

Expansion and Re-location

zuppardo's family supermarket

Aerial view of Elysian Fields and Gentilly, 1961. Hebrew Rest Cemetery is middle-left. Cor Jesu High is across from the cemetery. Economical Supermarket is to the right edge, below Gentilly Blvd. (NOPL photo)

The Bell supermarkets expanded and re-located as population shifted. The Papania’s opened a “Pap’s” store on Mirabeau and St. Anthony in Gentilly. Dorignac’s and Zuppardo’s opened stores on Veterans Blvd. in Metairie. Dorignac’s built a store in the 700 block of Vets, near Martin Behrman, while the Zuppardo’s opened their Metairie location at Vets and Transcontinental. My family lived closer to Dorignac’s and Schwegmann’s in the late 1960s, so we shopped there.

I renewed my acquaintance with Economical when started at Brother Martin High School, just up Elysian Fields from the supermarket, in 1971. While we mostly stopped at the local convenience store, d’Mart, we occasionally walked down to Economical for things, particularly when d’Mart employees got annoyed with all of the students coming in. I met one of the current owners, Joey Zuppardo at that time. Joey was Class of 1973, I was 1976, so he was a senior when I was a freshman. (For a full run-down of the Zuppardo family tree, check this 2018 Ann Maloney article on the new supermarket in the Picayune.)

UNO and Redeemer Days

I took many a trip down to Economical with my Lambda Chi Alpha brothers from our house on Elysian Fields near Robert E. Lee in the late 1970s. Even though Ferrara’s was just a two-block walk, the prices were much better for guys on tight budgets, working their way through UNO. After I graduated in 1980, I taught at Redeemer High School on Crescent Street, near St. Frances Xavier Cabrini church. Even though Pap’s was closer to the half-double we rented at the time, I found myself heading back down to Gentilly Boulevard for various items.

Life in St. Ann Parish and Zuppardo’s Supermarket

Zuppardo's Family Supermarket

Scenes from the original store on Vets and Transcontinental (courtesy Zuppardo’s)

In 1986, we moved out to #themetrys, near Clearview and Veterans. While my daddy had soured on Dorignac’s over the years and shopped at Schwegmann’s, Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket  at Transcontinental was so close, it became our grocery. My boys grew up coming with me to Zuppardo’s all the time. As they got older, cashiers would ask after them. I’d show photos of them as Brother Martin students and they’d sigh at how time passed. That little boy who pushed a Little Tykes shopping cart, loading it up with things important to him (cookies and fruit roll-ups) is now a Naval officer and submariner.

I’m not sure when they dropped the “Economical” from the name, becoming “Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket.” The original store closed in 2005, as Katrina left the store and all of Gentilly in pretty bad shape. To this day, my wife still says “Economical,” which I attribute to her growing up in Lake Oaks and transferring from the Broad bus line to Elysian Fields, on her way home from Dominican.

The New Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket

Two Saturdays ago, Zuppardo’s Family Supermarket closed. They knocked a hole into the side of the old store and moved everything into the new one. I’ve been an almost-daily grocery shopper for years. When your store is as close (about a mile) as Zuppardo’s is to us, it’s easy to blow off extended menu planning. Most of my “test kitchen” ideas start at Zuppardo’s Supermarket. The new store opened last Wednesday. Those four days drove me crazy, as I ended up at three different supermarkets to get things we usually pick up at Zuppardo’s!