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.
LSUNO lost the “LS” in the name in 1974
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
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.
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 celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 1978.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Abraham Shushan’s monuments marked Lakefront milestones.
New Basin Canal Lock monument, 1930
Two 1930 photos of lakefront monuments. The late 1920s were a time of major improvements to the lakefront. Lake Pontchartrain seawall improved flood protection. So, the Levee Board* erected monuments to the “New Basin Canal Lock” and the “Lake Pontchartrain Sea-Wall.” Board president Abraham “Abe” Shushan supervised their placement.
Abe Shushan inspects the seawall monument, 1930
The “Lake Pontchartrain Sea-Wall” was the finishing touch of a years-long series of land reclamation projects along the Orleans Parish lakefront. In 1915, the south shore of the lake went right up to Adams Street (now Allen Toussaint Boulevard). The Levee Board planned to drain the swampy ground and create new subdivisions. By 1930, the reclamation projects were completed.
The Levee Board built the finishing touch in 1929. Along with the stepped, concrete wall, they created Lakeshore Drive for access to recreational areas along the lakefront. Previous generations traveled out to the lakefront resorts at West End, Spanish Fort, and Milneburg via train/streetcar. With the completion of Lakeshore Drive, driving along the lake became a pleasant experience.
Both of Shushan’s monuments contain the same text, with the name as the only change:
Constructed During the Administration of
HUEY P. LONG, Governor
Board of Levee Commissioners
Orleans Levee District
The stones then list the members of the board and the various people who worked the projects. While John Riess built the lock, Orleans Dredging Company built the seawall.
Shushan’s Monuments display Abe’s name, as president of the board. Shushan is seen in the seawall photo, inspecting the massive tablet. Abe got his start in his family’s business, Shushan Brothers. Shushan Brothers sold dry goods wholesale. Additionally, they operated retail toy stores. Abe left the business founded by his father and uncle, entering government as a strong supporter of Huey P. Long. He moved up in the Long organization. They arranged his appointment to the Levee Board.. Accordingly, the board named New Orleans Lakefront Airport (NOL) for Shushan. In 1935, the government indicted and tried him for tax fraud. Furthermore, they charged him with money laundering. While Shushan was acquitted, the Longs cut him loose. Although he was cleared, the trial exposed massive corruption. So, his name was removed from just about everything it was visible on, including these monuments.
Louis Gallaud played in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in the mid-1960s.
Photo of Louis Gallaud at the piano at Preservation Hall.The Hogan Jazz Archive caption reads, “Band members Louis Gallaud, p; Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau, b; Harrison Verrett, bj; during a performance at Preservation Hall in early July.” The year isn’t mentioned. Slow Drag joined the band in the mid-1960s and passed in 1969, so that narrows it down a bit more.
Gallaud was born on February 27, 1897. He played gigs in Storyville prior to the district’s closing. So, he was working with A. J. Piron, in his late teens. After the district closed, Gallaud continued playing jazz, in Punch Miller’s band. Gallaud played piano on a number of recordings of Miller’s band. He left Miller in the 1920s. Gallaud formed his own band, which regularly played out in Milneburg. These were the waning days of the “Smokey Mary,” the Pontchartrain Railroad. While the railroad no longer served as a cargo-mover, it still brought folks out to Lake Pontchartrain. A number of bands played out in Milneburg, at restaurants and clubs. Additionally, many musicians went out to the fishing neighborhood to busk during the day. They would then hop on the train back to town to play clubs and ballparks in the evening.
Gallaud continued to play Traditional Jazz into the 1940s. He played with a number of musicians and bands. One of his regular gigs was at Luthjen’s Dance Hall, on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Marais Street, just off St. Claude Avenue. Note that this is the original Luthjen’s, opened by Clementine Luthjen, which burned down in the 1960s. Clementine’s nephew, Jerome Luthjen, re-opened the club at Marigny and Chartres Streets. That incarnation of the club closed in 1981.
Louis Gallaud continued playing into the 1950s. Like many of the older Creole Jazz musicians, he joined the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in the 1960s. Louis also hosted musicians at his home in the Treme for impromptu sessions. Louis passed away on November 24, 1985.
Smokey Mary, the nickname for the Pontchartrain Railroad, at the end.
The Pontchartrain Railroad opened in 1831. It operated as mule-drawn service for about a year. The company acquired steam locomotives, and thus began almost a century of service from Faubourg Marigny to Port Pontchartrain in Milneburg. Louisville and Nashville Railroad equipment operated on the Pontchartrain Railroad after that railroad acquired it in 1881. By the last runs of 1932, Pontchartrain operated second-tier L&N locomotives, like 142.
The L&N didn’t take the Pontchartrain seriously. They viewed the Elysian Fields right-of-way as a connector out of town, rather than to the lakefront. As such, service on the Pontchartrain dropped. Shipping customers changed their landing strategies, avoiding Port Pontchartrain. While World War I generated an uptick in activity in Milneburg, the boost was temporary.
By the 1920s, the Industrial Canal offered a direct connection for vessels to travel from the Gulf of Mexico. Ships could enter Lake Borgne, then travel through the Rigolets or Chef Menteur Pass, into Lake Pontchartrain. Instead of mooring at Port Pontchartrain, they could now go all the way down to the river. Ships bypassed the unloading process to get goods into town. The Pontchartrain morphed into an excursion route, as New Orleanians headed out to Milneburg for the dining, jazz clubs, and weekend getaways.
The last locomotives
The Pontchartrain Railroad operated several L&N 4-4-0 locomotives in the 1920s. This photo, from the Louisiana Conservationist magazine, March, 1959. The issue featured stories on fishing, and the Pontchartrain RR pier at Milneburg was a wonderful fishing spot. The trains went out onto the pier, to facilitate loading/unloading. The locals simply went outside the shed area and fished. Trains come, trains, go, the fish stayed. L&N 141 and 142 were Baldwin 4-4-0s. They were built between 1888 and 1891. According to Louis Hennick, 142 wasn’t the last Pontchartrain engine, but it operated in those final weeks.