Norfolk Southern Back Belt map 1918

Norfolk Southern Back Belt map 1918

The current Norfolk Southern Back Belt dates back to the beginning of the 20th century.

norfolk southern back belt

Norfolk Southern Back Belt in 1918

Map of New Orleans Terminal Company (NOTC) trackage as of 30-June-1918. This path across Orleans Parish became known as the “Back Belt,” in comparison to the “Public Belt” route that hugs the river and services the wharves. The NOTC acquired the land for the Back Belt in the early 1900s. While I don’t have documentation, it’s likely no coincidence that merchant and developer Leon Fellman bought the 1201 block of Canal Street. Did he know about the plans of the railroad men? NOTC later merged with the New Orleans and Northeastern Railroad, which in turn merged into the Southern Railway system in 1916. That’s how the route became part of the current Norfolk Southern System.

City bypass

The idea behind the Back Belt was to bypass most of the populated areas of Orleans Parish. The Back Belt originates in Jefferson Parish. It splits off of the former Illinois Central (now Canadian National) main line at Causeway Blvd. That’s the “Shrewsbury” reference on the map. It crossed the New Canal via a bascule bridge just north of Metairie Road. From there, the route crosses the city, then turns towards the river in St. Bernard Parish.

The city naturally developed in succeeding years. Lakeview and Gentilly caught up with the Back Belt by the 1920s. The Levee Board’s land reclamation projects in the 1920s opened up the area. As part of the Works Progress Administration projects of the Great Depression Era, the Back Belt expanded. WPA constructed underpasses at grade crossings throughout the city. So, once the route clears Carrollton Avenue in Metairie, there are no grade crossings for trains until they cross Lake Pontchartrain and reach Slidell.

The Terminal

The last Southern Railway train,

Terminal Station, late 1910s

NOTC connected the Back Belt to downtown in 1908. They built Terminal Station at Canal and Basin Streets. The route ran adjacent to St. Louis Street through Mid-City. It linked up with the Back Belt at Greenwood Cemetery. Southern Railway used this connection for their “Bernadotte Yard,” so named because the yard started just below the connection point, at Bernadotte and St. Louis Streets.

Terminal Station operated from 1908 to 1954. The city constructed Union Passenger Terminal, shifting all passenger rail operations to the new station. The city demolished Terminal Station in 1956. The link to the Back Belt re-routed to follow the Pontchartrain Expressway. Today, Amtrak’s Crescent route uses that connection. The Back Belt continues to be incredibly busy, used by Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, CSX, Canadian National/KCS and Amtrak.

Spring Planting 1962

Spring Planting 1962

Spring planting collided with Mardi Gras in 1962.

spring planting

Planning your Spring planting

Several ads in the Times-Picayune enticing the reader to get started on the spring planting! Guillot’s off S. Carrollton, Perino’s off Causeway, and Arnber off Clearview. They’re all on the same page of the Times-Picayune on 3-March-1962.

Guillot Camellia Gardens

Guillot’s recognized Election Day in this ad. City elections took place this day. The big races were on the Democratic side, runoffs that, for all intents and purposed, determined who would hold office for the next four years. While Guillot’s encouraged everyone to vote, they still pitched getting the spring garden work going.

Guillot Camellia Gardens operated at 8301 Olive Street, just behind the old Cloverleaf/Sealtest Dairy on S. Carrollton and Olive. The dairy closed in the 1980s. The US Postal Service acquired the land. They preserved the front of the old dairy building, So, now the neighborhood post office stands there. Schmelly’s Dirt Garden occupies the location now. It’s a compost/garden soil vendor.

Arnber

spring planting

In 1962, the corner of Veterans Highway (the change from “highway” to “boulevard” would come years later) and Lime Street was the Arnber Seed and Garden Center. As real estate in Broadmoor and Mid-City grew in value, businesses like nurserys and garden centers migrated out to the suburbs. The cheaper rents in Metairie improved profit margins. Arnber’s promoted azaleas, shade trees, fruit trees, and roses in their 3-March ad. The location, 4640 Veterans is now Leslie’s Pool Supplies.

Perino’s

spring planting

Perino’s started up at S. Claiborne and S. Carrollton Avenues, across from the streetcar terminal. By 1962, the business had moved to to Metairie. It’s Still There More at 3100 Veterans, just off of Causeway. There wasn’t much around the corner in 1962. Lakeside Shopping Center was growing out and the House of Lee restaurant was directly across from Perino’s. Now, of course, they’re surrounded by all sorts of businesses.

Hanes Once-a-year sale at NOLA stores

Hanes Once-a-year sale at NOLA stores

Hanes hosiery co-op ads at various NOLA stores.

nola stores

NOLA stores and Hanes

In the 1970s, Hanes, known for ladies hosiery and underwear, held a “once-a-year” sale. Various NOLA stores, Maison Blanche, D.H. Holmes, Labiche’s, and Gus Mayer, participated in the sale. They leveraged ad budgets by placing Hanes-specific ads for the sale. These “co-op” ads were paid for mostly by the manufacturer. So, the store promoted their brand and the product brand at the same time.

The sale in 1973 took place over the weekend of 13-January. NOLA stores enticed women to come in for the pantyhose and other items on sale. It’s fun to look at the styles from the advertising and art departments of the local stores.

Maison Blanche

westside shopping center

Sign for Maison Blanche in the parking lot of Westside, August, 1958. Sonny Randon Photography via the West Bank Beacon.

OK, yes, I’m a homer. I wrote a book on MB, so we start there. “Hanes sheer-madness annual sale of fashion hosiery in popular shades.” Note the mail-order form as part of the ad. Stores in 1973 were 901 Canal Street, Airline Village, Clearview, Gentilly Woods (The Plaza wouldn’t open until 1974), and Westside.

Labiche’s

nola stores

The talented artists at Labiche’s opted for a bolder presentation than MB. A woman wearing nothing but a scarf in her hair and jewelry, and the pantyhose. Gorgeous. Stores for Labiche’s: 714 Canal Street, Carrollton (the old shopping center, where Costco is now), Gentilly Woods, and Westside.

Holmes

nola stores

Daniel Henry Holmes’ dry good store on Canal Street grew to a number of suburban locations after WWII. In addition to the flagship store, Holmes locations included Lakeside Shopping Center, Oakwood, Baton Rouge, and Houma. While Holmes didn’t have a Gentilly store, they opened a location in The Plaza in 1974.

Gus Mayer

Originally in the 801 block of Canal Street, just up from Holmes, Gus Mayer built a big store across the street in 1948, demolishing the old Pickwick Hotel building. They also participated in the Hanes sale promotion. Gus Mayer operated not only the Canal Street store, but one at Elysian Fields and Gentilly  Blvd., as well as Carrollton, Clearview, and Oakwood Shopping Centers. While Gus Mayer ATNM as NOLA stores go, they still have stores in Birmingham, Alabama.

Godchaux’s

nola stores

Godchaux’s originally occupied the 501 block of Canal, later moving to the 801 block, next to the Boston Club. By the 1970s, they expanded to Lakeside and Edgewater Plaza in Biloxi. Their take on Hanes was different than the other NOLA stores. Godchaux’s opted for a cold-weather appeal,

Maison Blanche Halloween #MB Monday

Maison Blanche Halloween #MB Monday

Maison Blanche Halloween wasn’t a big deal. Christmas was the big deal.

maison blanche halloween

Atrium at Maison Blanche, Lake Forest, mid-1970s. T-P photo.

Maison Blanche Halloween

Interior shot of the Maison Blanche store in The Plaza at Lake Forest. The store opened in 1974. The store incorporated many of the design features of the one in Clearview Shopping Center in Metairie. This photo features the open-air center atrium. The escalators stood on either side, with the Fine Jewelry department on the ground floor. The mall-side entrance to the store stood to the photographer’s left. First floor departments included cosmetics, jewelry, candy, juniors and menswear. Retailers always believed menswear should be easily accessible, on the ground floor.

Halloween

maison blanche halloween

“You’ll be a sleeping beauty in dreamy sleepwear by Gilead…short waltz length nylon tricot gowns with matching coats…” – women’s sleepwear, items a husband or boyfriend find difficult to buy as gifts. So, appeal to the ladies directly, before the Christmas ad onslaught.

This ad, from the Times-Picayune, on 31-October-1978, is a great example of how seriously Halloween was a part of the chain’s Fall marketing. Yes, there’s nothing in the ad for spooky season. That’s because Halloween is merely a blip on the radar. The focus for department stores like MB was always the post-Thanksgiving shopping season. While stores like Spirit Halloween, Party City, discounters like K-Mart, and the old five-and-dimes offered what you needed for Halloween, MB and its competitors didn’t bother. Setting up for Halloween required taking space from multiple departments. The managers of those departments and the buyers they worked for balked at disrupting the holiday mojo. September heralded the “Pre-Christmas” promotions. Those sales carried on through November. The day after Thanksgiving marked the formal start of the Christmas season. To set up displays for special merchandise at the end of October, only to break them down days later made no sense.

Halloween in Men’s Suits

So, Maison Blanche Halloween wasn’t a thing. In fact, I took the day off when this ad ran in 1978. The “Haunted House” we held at the Lambda Chi Alpha (University of New Orleans) house in Gentilly needed more help than the Men’s department at MB Clearview. Since we worked on commission, my colleagues certainly didn’t miss me on a slow night.

Hope your Halloween was a good one! This post goes up a day late, but that’s OK, because we’re still in the middle of All Hallows Eve, All Saints, and All Souls.

Maison Blanche Clearview #MB Monday

Maison Blanche Clearview #MB Monday

Maison Blanche Clearview was a huge department store.

maison blanche clearview

Architectural rendering of Maison Blanche’s store at Clearview Shopping Center, 1968

Maison Blanche Clearview

Architectural rendering of Maison Blanche Clearview, 1968. This is essentially what the store looked like when it opened a year later. This perspective is what you saw as you exited I-10 at Clearview Parkway (North), and drove towards Veterans Blvd. So, this is the western edge of Clearview Shopping Center. Sears, the mall’s other anchor, was on the opposite end. The three-story location had north and south entrances to the parking lots. The entrance on the east opened up into the mall. Clearview was Maison Blanche’s second store in Metairie, the first being at Airline Village.

Westward progression

In 1947, MB expanded beyond 901 Canal Street. The store opened a location in Gentilly, at Frenchmen and Gentilly Boulevard. They also opened a store in a new strip mall located at S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues. This point was the Southern terminus of US Highway 61, known as Airline Highway here. That highway originated in Wyoming, Mississippi. Before the construction of I-10, East Jefferson residents used Airline Highway to get into town. As Metairie developed after WWII, MB moved west. The store opened a location at Airline Village. By 1969, with I-10 nearing completion in Metairie, MB moved further west, to the corner of Clearview Parkway and Veterans Blvd.

While Clearview Shopping Center fronted Veterans, the mall, extended back to the interstate’s service road. MB recognized the incredible growth in the “Above Causeway” real estate market. The Clearview store would be three-stories, larger than any of the existing suburban stores.

Into the Mall

maison blanche clearview

Shot of the mall entrance to Maison Blanche Clearview, 1971. via the Times-Picayune.

This photo shows the mall-side entrance of Maison Blanche Clearview. As the shopper walked west from Sears, they crossed a central atrium, then walked up to the MB entrance. They encountered the cosmetics counters, as was typical of many suburban department stores. After cosmetics was a central rotunda, with the escalators climbing to the second and third floors on either side. Fine Jewelery operated in the rotunda. Continue the walk west, and the Candy Department tempted you. Then came Men’s Sportswear on the right and Junior dresses on the left.

The store’s angle put the exit from the Men’s department in the back, leading to the parking lot behind the mall. There was a four-story office building separating the mall from the interstate’s service road by the early 1970s. That building housed WRNO-FM radio. Remind me to tell you some stories about that another time.

Intiial design

maison blanche clearview

Early architectural rendering of Maison Blanche Clearview

This rendering was an earlier concept for Clearview. The dark panels on the exterior were similar to the Gentilly Woods store. MB dropped that idea, giving us the look at the top.

Veterans Bus Memories

Veterans Bus Memories

My Veterans Bus memories go back over fifty years.

Jefferson Transit bus operating on the E1 line 16-Aug-2022 Veterans Bus Memories

Veterans Bus Memories

Jefferson Transit bus operating on the E1 line 16-Aug-2022 Veterans Bus Memories

Old and new photos of buses operating on the Veterans Blvd. line. The line, originally operated by Louisiana Transit Company, now Jefferson Transit (JeT), originally ran from Canal Blvd. and City Park Avenue, out to Veterans Blvd. and Loyola Avenue in Kenner. The photos from the 1970s (courtesy of Mike Strauch, the man behind streetcarmike.com) are of General Motors “New Looks” buses operated by Louisiana Transit in the 70s. The newer buses are from 16-August-2022, shot at the Cemeteries Transit Terminal. The Veterans line (now known as the “E1” line services the “new” terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY).

Cartier-Lake Vista-Lakeshore-Vets

MC 320 on the Veterans Memorial line eastbound east of Oaklawn Dr. in the late 1970s. veterans bus memories

MC 320 on the Veterans Memorial line eastbound east of Oaklawn Dr. in the late 1970s. (Courtesy streetcarmike.com)

When I attended Brother Martin High School in the mid-1970s, I had two basic options for getting home in the afternoon. One was to take either the then-NOPSI Broad or Carrollton bus lines to Canal Street, transfer to one of the outbound Canal lines, then catch the Veterans line at City Park Avenue. The other option was the “Lakeview” run. We’d take the then-NOPSI Cartier Line, which ran on Mirabeau to Spanish Fort, then transfer to the Canal (Lake Vista via Canal Blvd) line heading inbound. When that bus got to Canal Blvd, we’d transfer to the Canal (Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Blvd) line, and ride that to Pontchartrain and Veterans Boulevards. Then out to Metairie on the Veterans. The buses were GM “New Looks,” and occasionally, the air conditioning actually worked.

The Modern Veterans Line

map of the veterans E1 line, via JeT Veterans Bus Memories

Map of the Veterans E1 line, via JeT.

Da Airport’s “new” terminal opened in 2019. That changed access to the airport dramatically. Instead of approaching the original terminal from Airline Drive (US 61), flyers exit I-10 at Loyola Avenue, cross Veterans Blvd, and enter the terminal from there. So, instead of the old “Airport Express” and “Kenner Local” bus lines, access to the airport via public transit is by the E1 – Veterans (Airport) line. The E1 now goes all the way into the CBD, on Canal Street. It picks up passengers at limited stops along Canal. When the line reaches the end of Canal, at City Park Avenue, it returns to its traditional route. The line enters I-10 at City Park Avenue, then immediately exits at West End Blvd. It runs onto Veterans Blvd, where it heads west to Loyola Ave. The E1 then turns into the airport. It terminates at the airport and returns for the inbound trip. While there is no “express” service to the airport, the price ($2 one way from the CBD) is right.

JeT

rear view of JeT E1 bus Veterans Bus Memories

Rear view of JeT E1 bus. at the Cemeteries Terminal.

Jefferson Transit (JeT) was created in 1982. Prior to that, Louisiana Transit operated buses on the East Bank, and Westside Transit on the West Bank. When the state created the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority in 1984 to assume operations of transit lines in Orleans Parish, Jefferson Parish chose to operate buses in the suburbs independently. (The City of Kenner did join NORTA at that time). JeT purchased buses from the two legacy companies and contracted with them to operate the lines. In 2006, JeT consolidated operations under a single contract, awarded to Veolia Transportation, Inc. They assumed control of operations in 2008.