I tell stories

I tell stories

Re-introducing myself – I tell Stories.

maison blanche postcard

Detroit Publishing Company postcard of Maison Blanche Department Store, 1910

I Tell Stories

I’ve written six books on various aspects of the history of New Orleans. They’re stories ranging from streetcars to department stores to schools to Jazz. I earned a BA in Social Sciences Education from the University of New Orleans in 1980. I taught Social Studies at a local high school for a few years. Teaching History is indeed storytelling. It’s a good bit more, of course, particularly when working to improve students’ reading skills, but the content is stories about things in the past. I moved on from high school, using retail sales as a bridge. Invariably, I came back to telling stories, as an adult education instructor (UNO Metropolitan College), and later moving into the world of corporate training. Everything involved storytelling.

While delivering corporate training, I needed things to stay occupied when out of the classroom. So, in 2003, I pitched a book idea to Arcadia Publishing. Streetcars vanished from Canal Street in New Orleans in 1964. The city planned to bring them back, forty years later. It was a great story to share. Even though many stories exist about the older, senior streetcar line, St. Charles Avenue, Canal Street remained essentially an untold story. Arcadia liked the idea and I wrote the book. Promoting a book means telling stories to get folks to buy it.

More stories

St. Alphonsus Church, New Orleans, by Theodore Lilienthal, 1880

St. Alphonsus Church, New Orleans, by Theodore Lilienthal, 1880

After the first book, more storytelling opportunities materialized. I pitched a book about my high school, Brother Martin, in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans. The school’s roots go back to 1869, when the Brothers of the Sacred Heart opened St. Aloysius in the Vieux Carré. Promoting two books opened up more possibilities. I told shorter stories as the “history blogger” for GoNOLA.com, a site sponsored by the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation, now New Orleans, Incorporated. Monthly exposure led to weekly exposure. Various groups around the area invited me to speak to their membership. I’m particularly flattered that the Friends of the Cabildo’s Tour Guides regularly have me in to talk.

Of course, none of this history stuff, from teaching to writing to speaking, pays quite like corporate computer consulting and training. I lived a double life in this respect. That presented challenges for my LinkedIn Presence.

Ramping up LinkedIn

The "second" St. Charles Hotel, stereo card by Theodore Lilienthal, 1880.

The “second” St. Charles Hotel, stereo card by Theodore Lilienthal, 1880.

I’ve had a presence on LinkedIn since 2007. While I was a good bit active when developing a client base for YatMedia, my activity diminished after that side of what I do scaled back. The computer work I do rarely involves anything local. I traveled extensively for years, teaching UNIX and Enterprise Storage for international companies. The market for those products and services only touches New Orleans very lightly. So, I flew literally around the world, delivering training. The sales staffs of the companies I’ve taught for did the dirty work. I showed up and taught. I still do, in fact, even though “showing up” now means walking here to my home office and firing up WebEx.
The corporate training landscape changed dramatically around 2016 or so. I remember, during the pandemic, a good friend started a podcast for IT professionals. Jeff interviewed folks, and we talked about how the pandemic changed work habits, etc. I explained that my training workload went “virtual” long before people knew what Zoom was about. Traditional job recruiters didn’t help me, since I work through a training company that contracts me out to computer companies. So, even though I’m self-employed, I don’t present a target for those looking to increase their business using LinkedIn.

Local/History LinkedIn

It’s fun to include LinkedIn users when I tell stories. The larger the audience, the more people I can interest in buying the books! Still, LinkedIn remained secondary to Twitter and Facebook. Now that those platforms morphed into dumpster fires in many ways, the stability of LinkedIn is appealing.

Architectural Rendering of Shushan Airport

Architectural Rendering of Shushan Airport

Shushan Airport is now known as Lakefront Airport.

 

Art Deco administration building at Shushan Airport

shushan airport

2010 photo of the restored art deco facade of the Lakefront Airport administration building. Infrogmation photo.

Architectural drawing of the Administration building of Shushan Airport. The state built the airport on the eastern side of the Industrial Canal. Then-governor Huey P. Long authorized the construction of the airport in 1929. The airport opened in 1934. Airport visitors pull up to this splendid example of art deco style. The Army Air Corps hardened the administration building at the outset of World War II. While the original art deco design remained, the AAC covered it with a “bomb proof” exterior. The building underwent extensive renovations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Its original facade was restored, as well as the art deco fixtures, floors, etc., in the interior.

Shushan to Lakefront

shushan airport

architectural rendering of Shushan Airport administration building.

The state originally named the airport after Huey Long ally Abraham Shushan. Long rewarded Shushan’s loyalty (and financial contributions) with a position on the Orleans Parish Levee Board. Shushan became president of that board. That’s why the airport took his name. Shushan got caught up in several political scandals in the 1930s. Abe became a liability to his patron. The Long faction cut him loose and re-named the airport in 1939. It became New Orleans Airport, with the three-letter designation, NEW. When Moisant Field in Kenner evolved into the city’s primary airport, New Orleans Airport became Lakefront Airport. It still retains NEW as its code, with now-named Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport as MSY.

This rendering is part of the Franck Studios collection at THNOC. The architectural firm that created it is uncredited.

Bomber Base

As tensions increased in Europe in the late 1930s, the United States Army Air Corps created antisubmarine aircraft squadrons along the Gulf of Mexico. One of these bomber squadrons operated from Lakefront Airport. While the planes parked at the airport, there wasn’t enough space to house the squadron’s personnel and offices. The Army acquired land on the west side of the Industrial Canal. They built the support facilities for the squadron there. Pilots and maintenance crew worked back and forth across the canal. The western base later became part of Camp Leroy Johnson, an army supply depot.

 

LSUNO to the University of New Orleans (@uofno)

LSUNO to the University of New Orleans (@uofno)

LSUNO lost the “LS” in the name in 1974

LSUNO - University of New Orleans sign at the lakefront campus

LSUNO gets a name change

Newspaper article from 3-February-1974 reporting on the passage by the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors of the name change for LSUNO. By an 8-2 vote, the university became the University of New Orleans. The article notes that students and alumni pushed for the name change for years. While LSU in Baton Rouge, the state’s flagship university, received the lion’s share of state funding, many felt that losing the “LS” in the name of the New Orleans campus would help change the branch school’s image. That push came to a head fifteen years after the school’s founding in 1958.

From Naval base to university

LSUNO - the official seal of UNO

Official seal of the University of New Orleans

LSUNO took over the old Naval Air Station New Orleans, when the Navy moved to Belle Chasse. The school addressed the demand for “commuter” programs in the city. Men and women returning from World War II and Korea didn’t want to spend four years at a traditional school. They had jobs and families now. The GI Bill would pay for college, if they could make time for it. LSUNO offered them the opportunity to continue educations interrupted by war. Later, the school provided the same assistance to veterans returning from Vietnam.

In spite of its contributions to the community, the flagship school received most of the largesse. As the years grew on, New Orleans students felt less and less of an affinity for the “…Stately Oaks and Broad Magnolias…” LSU’s alma mater speaks of. They connected with a thriving international city.

Opposition

Not everyone approved of the name change. Many on the faculty felt there was more to the “LS” than just a name. Louisiana State University was known internationally. Faculty members believed their opportunities for both government and private research funds would decrease without putting the relationship with Baton Rouge up front. The article cites the opposition of Dr. Mary Good to the name change. Dr. Good, a member of the Chemistry Department, was a Boyd Professor, the highest academic rank bestowed by the LSU system. She and a majority of the tenured faculty wanted to maintain the name link.

UNO in 1974

LSUNO cheerleaders pose on the Elysian Fields sign for the lakefront campus in the early 1970s

The students and alumni carried the day. After all, there were more of them than there were faculty, and they voted. State legislators voiced their opinions to the LSU Board, who voted accordingly. Once approved, the first outward sign of the change was when students covered the L and S in the sign at the Elysian Fields entrance of campus. A stone overlay with the UNO logo would come later, and the school’s official seal a few years after that.

Somewhere up in my attic are trophies from the last LSUNO Speech and Debate Tournament for local high schools. The tournament was held the following weekend. While the name change was official, the trophies still said, “LSUNO,” an amusing distinction for us at the time.

Full article below:

UNO’s Twentieth Anniversary 1978

UNO’s Twentieth Anniversary 1978

UNO celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 1978.

 

Twentieth Anniversary

Photo from The Privateer, the University of New Orleans yearbook, documenting the twentieth anniversary celebration of the school’s founding in 1978. In the center is Dr. Homer L. Hitt, UNO’s founding Chancellor. He would retire in the Summer of 1980. To Chancellor Hitt’s right, in the darker suit, is Lt. Governor James “Jimmy” Fitzmorris. To Hitt’s left is James Donelon. Now Louisiana’s Commissioner of Insurance, Donelon, a UNO alum, was a member of the Jefferson Parish Council at the time of this photo.

UNO SGA

The students behind the dignitaries are a veritable rogues’ gallery of the school’s Student Government Association. On the left side, the two tall guys are Bernie Cyrus and then-SGA President George Vujnovich. Directly behind Fitzmorris and Hitt is Robert Quasius, SGA Vice-President. Directly behind Hitt and Donelon, with his head turned, is me. I was the director of the SGA’s Legal Aid Program that year, as well as a member of Student Congress from the College of Education. On the far right of the photo is Sal Lejarza, who would be SGA Vice-President the next year.

I’m sure I knew most of the other folks in the photo, but time has blurred my memory. Feel free to point out others in comments!

Origins

The state chartered the school as Louisiana State University in New Orleans, in 1958. The “LS” was dropped in 1974, and we’ve been the University of New Orleans ever since. Then-Governor Earl K. Long scored a coup over his biggest rival, Mayor Chep Morrison, with its establishment. Long and Morrison were bitter political enemies. So ugly was this rivalry that Morrison barred the Louisiana State Police from exercising their commissions in Orleans Parish. The tit-for-tat went on for years.

During World War II, the lakefront location that became the university was Naval Air Station New Orleans. The land was owned by the state, and administered by the Orleans Levee District. After the war, the Navy re-located NAS New Orleans to Alvin Callender Field in Bell Chasse. As Naval Aviation implemented jets, noise became an issue. With thousands of men and women using their GI Bill benefits, it made sense to open a satellite campus of LSU in the city.

Governor Long got on board with this idea, because it meant dropping a state-controlled facility in Morrison’s city. That was all the encouragement Long needed. His support of the school is why the library bears his name.

1978

Having graduated from Brother Martin High School, just down the street, in 1976, I started UNO that summer. I joined SGA as a Student Congress member from Junior Division that fall. Such good times.Thanks, Angie, for sharing this photo and memory.

 

Brother Martin State Championship 1971

Brother Martin State Championship 1971

The Brother Martin State Championship football game comes 51 years and a day later.

brother martin state championship post game 10-December-1971

Brother Brice, SC, Coach Bobby Conlin, and an unidentified news reporter stand by as the 1971 Brother Martin High School Football Team accept the state championship trophy, 10-December-1971

Brother Martin State Championship

There’s lots of hype out there on the current Crusader football team, in the run-up to tonight’s championship game in Da Dome. While the team played in the 1989 state championship, they lost that year. So, the one and only football state championship in the school’s history was 51 years and one day ago. Brother Martin defeated neighborhood rival St. Augustine, 23-0, on 10-December-1971. The teams met at Tad Gormley Stadium that evening. Here’s Brother Neal’s summary of the game:

25,000 filled the horseshoe in City Park for the rematch with the Big Purple. The game wasn’t as close as the regular season finale. Senior end Steve Mallerich set the tone on the first series by sacking QB Keith Pete. Later in the period, Farnet picked off a Pete aerial to set up a [Steve] Treuting TD plunge for a 7-0 lead. [Darryl] Brue kicked a 32-yard field goal on the last play of the half. The second half belonged to the Crimson and Gold as well.
Blindsided by [Ken] Bordelon as he threw, Pete saw another pass picked off, this time by Brue. Seven plays later Treuting scored again for a 17-0 lead. Junior Marc Robert recovered a fumble at the Knight 11 which set up a [Joe] Mattingly four-yard run to complete the eighth shutout of the season, 23-0.

While most of the champion starters graduated in 1972, Juniors Joe Mattingly, Darryl Brue, and Marc Robert returned, leading the 1972 team to a Catholic League district championship.

Coaches

brother martin state championship football coaches 1971

Head Football Coach Bobby Conlin (center), Dan Conlin, (left), and Emile “Chubby” Marks, 1971.

Head Coach Bobby Conlin, his brother Dan, and Emile “Chubby” Marks shepherded the team through the regular season and playoffs. The offense ran a Bama-style wishbone, and Coach Marks’ defense was simply a brick wall. If you’re ever wondering why the school’s gym is named after the coach who won the school’s only football state championship, it’s because he didn’t start out as the football coach. When Cor Jesu started its football program in 1965, Principal Brother Roland, SC, hired Andy Bourgeois (SA 1956) as the head coach. Bourgeois played on the LSU team that won the national championship in 1958. He was one of the “Chinese Bandits,” immortalized by the Golden Band from Tiger Land. Brother Roland named Bobby Conlin as the Kingsmen’s first basketball coach that year.

When Cor Jesu and St. Aloysius merged in the fall of 1969, Bourgeois moved on. Bobby Conlin moved from head basketball coach and assistant football coach to head football coach. Andy Russo, basketball coach at St. Aloysius, moved to Elysian Fields.

Crusader Band

brother martin state championship football game 1971 - crusader band halftime performance

Brother Martin Crusader Band performs at halftime of the state championship football game, 10-December-1971.

Fall of 1971 was the days of the Naval Junior Officer’s Training Corps (NJROTC) band. While Cor Jesu and St. Aloysius both had classic, corps-style uniforms for their respective bands, Brother Mark, SC, opted for the Navy blues for BMHS. NJROTC was a required class for 10-12 grades. So, the band upperclassmen all had the uniform already. It was easy to outfit the freshmen. At halftime for the state game in 1971, Crusader Band took the field in the double-breasted blue coats, trousers, and white combination caps of NJROTC cadets. While the band had a crisp, disciplined presence, they were stiff compared to the high-stepping Purple Knights of the Marching 100.

Then the drum major blew the whistle to start the Crusader Band program. The band opened with a stutter-step march, the kind of thing you’d expect from the Marching 100 or the Human Jukebox. In Navy uniforms. Even eighth-grade me, sitting up there with my gold BMHS sweatshirt and spirit ribbons, was stunned. Now, the band were good musicians, but this was so totally different. Brother Virgil, SC, had us all talking more about the band than the team for a while. The reception from the Purple Knights was mixed. They were both laughing and flattered, knowing that, even though they lost the game, they won halftime.

Maison Blanche Gentilly 1948

Maison Blanche Gentilly 1948

Maison Blanche Gentilly was the second store off of Canal Street.

Maison Blanche Gentilly

MB Gentilly, 1948. Franck Studios via THNOC

Maison Blanche Gentilly

Franck Studios photo of Maison Blanche Gentilly in 1948. The department store opened its third store just off Gentilly Boulevard, at Frenchmen Street. This strip mall anchored a large commercial development near the corner of Elysian Fields Avenue and Gentilly Boulevard. Other stores in the strip at this time include Walgreens, Morgan and Lindsey (a five-and-dime store) and Capital Stores Supermarket. A huge billboard for JAX Beer stands above the Walgreens. The MB is the only two-story store.

Gentilly Growth

The intersection of Elysian Fields and Gentilly Blvd grew into an important commercial area towards the end of the 19th century. The Pontchartrain Railroad operated along the length of Elysian Fields, from Chartres Street to Milneburg at the lake. The railroad marked the road along the Gentilly Ridge, Gentilly Road, the half-way point of the route. The train stopped there if a passenger notified the conductor. The train also stopped for pick-up if it was flagged down. The rail stop evolved into a local hub. The Zuppardo’s parked their produce truck there. That evolved into a brick-and-mortar store. Several Jewish congregations purchased the high ground on the ridge. They built cemeteries there, so they could bury their loved ones in-ground.

World War II

After the war, men and women came home, ready to start families of their own. Developers created subdivisions around the commercial hub. While housing remained segregated, Pontchartrain Park opened as a subdivision for Black families. So, more businesses opened. The Frenchmen strip mall reflected that demand. Residents of Gentilly appreciated the convenience. Instead of taking the Gentilly streetcar (on Franklin) or the Elysian Fields bus into the CBD, they shopped at Maison Blanche Gentilly.

Working women

maison blanche gentilly

T-P ad, 24-October-1953

“The Woman who works shops at MB for smart, thrift-wise wearables” in this ad in the Times-Picayune, 24-October-1953. MB enticed the working woman with nylon blousettes, wool suits and dresses, and butter calf handbags. With the Gentilly Store, woman shopped without having to schlep back downtown!