The main entrance at Brother Martin High School in 1971.
BMHS Main Entrance
From Yesterday 1972, this photo shows the main entrance to Brother Martin High School in its third year of existence. To the left is the oeriginal Cor Jesu building. To the right is the lobby and administration wing. The main entrance connected old and new. Over time, these doors were secured, and entrance and exit routed through other parts of the campus. The Cor Jesu building dates to the predecessor school’s opening in 1954. The building served as a Civil Devense “fallout shelter” in the late 1950s and 1960s. The iron-lettered “Brother Martin High School” sign said, “Cor Jesu High School” until May of 1969, when Cor Jesu was formally closed. The sign changed that Summer. Three years later, I walked through those doors, as an Eighth grader.
The Old Building
In 1971, the classrooms that fronted Elysian Fields Avenue didn’t have a specific name/designation. The first classroom to the left of the main entrance was Room 101. As Eighth graders, my class, 8A, had our first three classes in that room, Louisiana History, English 8A, and Religion. The 8B class was in room 102, and 8C in 103. That way the three teachers could move easily between the classes each morning. The hallway ended with the Physics Lab.
The interior side of the building contained the audio-visual storage room, faculty room, and a science lab, for 8/9th Physical Science. My 8A class ended the day in that lab, with Mr. Lloyd Brinker (SA65). Our lockers were right around the corner from that lab, in the stairwell. A simple covered walkway connected that side of the building with the Brother’s Residence next door.
Place Sacre Couer
In 1994, the BOSH changed the access layout of the school. While the main entrance was welcoming, it always had a significant design flaw. Visitors to the school could enter the campus unobserved. This also included the lake-side door of the old building. So, the school modified the traffic patterns. The main entrance remained unlocked, but students were discouraged from entering and exiting through it. The school transformed the front from a basic walkway to a formal plaza, “Place Sacre Couer.” All the BOSH school principals alive at the time gathered for a formal dedication.
Brother Leo Godin in the “Bursar’s Office,” in the late 1970s.
Brother Leo, SC
Working the Brother Martin High School bookstore was Brother Leo Godin, SC’s job in the late 1970s. Note the all-khaki uniform of the time. I can’t identify the student in this photo. If you can, please drop me a line or mention it in comments!
The “Bursar’s Office”
At a college or university, the Bursar was the school’s financial manager. While the financial and accounting operations at BMHS were in the “Business Office,” at the beginning of the Administration hallway, the bookstore stood in the Mall, next to the (original) Library and behind the Auditorium. The Bursar’s Office serviced students. The Business Office didn’t want to deal with students, beyond accepting tuition payments from home.
Since a college bursar’s office interfaced directly with students, I suspect this is why the Brothers labelled the bookstore this way. In reality, it wasn’t a financial office. It was where you grabbed a candy bar or a new t-shirt for P.E. class.
The selection of crimson-and-gold merchandise increased dramatically after my time (1971-1976) at school. We were just getting team- and club-specific shirts and sweatshirts by my junior and senior year. By the late 70s and into the 80s, parents were more willing to open up their wallets to buy their sons that spirit tee, or that Crusader cap.
Managing the bookstore
Responsibility for the bookstore fell upon a more-or-less “retired” Brother. There were more of those men around, back in the day. The older brothers lived in the residence next to the original Cor Jesu building. Even though these brothers weren’t in the classroom, they still helped out. Brother Marion in the downstairs resource center, Brother Eugene in the upstairs resource center, and Brother Leo in the bookstore.
Brother Leo taught me Algebra I in 8th grade. The whole four-courses-in-three-years for Math was in place since the start of the school, but all three 8th grade sections, A, B, and C in 1971-72 got “regular” Algebra I. Brother Leo was an old-school teacher. While I moved on to “regular” Geometry, rather than Brother Neal’s Geometry A, the foundation Brother Leo gave us was solid.
It doesn’t surprise me that Brother Leo was one of the teachers who didn’t want to let go of the school experience. Teaching can be a grind. Spending some time talking to the boys, even over the counter and that glass barrier was a great way to keep going.
Stephen B. Massicot was a “promising young Orleanian.”
Obituary for Mr. Stephen Massicot (click for a PDF copy), who passed away on June 4, 1898. This column ran in the Daily Picayune on Wednesday, June 8, 1898. Massicot graduated from St. Aloysius College in 1897.
St. Aloysius in 1898
St. Aloysius opened in New Orleans in 1869. The original campus was a house on Barracks and Chartres in the French Quarter. By 1890, the school outgrew that first location. In 1892, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart acquired a mansion just outside the Quarter from the Ursuline Sisters. The nuns desired an uptown location. They moved to State Street. Their campus, at the corner of Esplanade and North Rampart. reverted back to the Archdiocese. The archbishop leased it to the BOSH.
So, Stephen Massicot entered St. Aloysius in its second year on Esplanade Avenue. That mansion remained until 1924. That’s when the building known to generations of Crusaders was built.
Life after St. Aloysius
Stephen Massicot was valedictorian of the Class of 1897. After graduation, he went to work for Gotfried & Muller. They were cotton buyers. While cotton plantations no longer used the enslaved for labor, cotton was still huge in New Orleans. Riverboats still brought cotton down from the plantations. Mule -drawn wagons transported raw bales to cotton presses along the riverfront. Those presses compressed cotton for transport. Wagons returned the pressed cotton to the riverfront. Ocean-going ships took it up the east coast or to Europe.
So, cotton was a commodity. Buyers purchased cotton, either at the source (the plantation), or upon arrival in New Orleans. The grower moved on. The buyer then flipped the commodity, selling the pressed cotton to ship owners. They carried the product to textile mills. Those mills transformed raw cotton into bolts of fabric.
The obit describes how Stephen Massicot complained of discomfort and a fever two weeks before his passing. Doctors diagnosed his discomfort as typhoid fever. Five days after the diagnosis, the young man died.
The paper reports that the student body of St. Aloysius attended the funeral. His surviving classmates served as pall bearers. After the funeral, his mates laid him to rest in St. Louis Cemetery.
Brother Martin High School has a rich history of basketball championships.
Crusader forward Leroy Oliver (1975) goes up over Felton Young of Holy Cross in second-round district play, 1974. Center Rick Robey (1974) looks on, hoping he doesn’t have to go for a rebound. (photo courtesy Brother Martin High School)
I was reminded of the 1973-74 season yesterday because of the current story of St. Augustine defeating Scotlandville High School yesterday (13-March-2021) to win the state championship.
This year’s story is of a team that wouldn’t be denied three years in a row. St. Augustine lost to Scotlandville in the championship game in 2019 and 2020. The story in 1974 was of two teams that played each other five times in the same season.
Brother Martin vs. Holy Cross
Two top-flight teams in the Catholic League make for a grueling season. Brother Martin, state champions in 1970 and 1971, returned as a contender in 1973-74. Coach Tom Kolb returned to coach the Crusaders after running the Jesuit program. Four letterman, Leroy Oliver, Rodney Montgomery, Jimmy McCulla and Rick Robey, along with Donald “Duck” Newman, started.
The Crusaders defeated the Holy Cross Tigers in their first district game, at Holy Cross. Both teams ended the first round with 6-1 records. They played for the first round championship at Tulane. Holy Cross won. They met in their very next game, at Brother Martin. The Crusaders defeated the Tigers. They went on to win the round undefeated.
So, the teams met a fourth time, again at Tulane, to decide the district champion. The Tigers lost, 57-58. The teams advanced to the playoffs. Each team won four games on the road to the championship showdown in Alexandria, LA. The Crusaders won that fifth meeting of the season, 67-56.
As Brother Neal Golden, SC, wrote about that year:
Robey completed an outstanding senior year.
- He made All-District, All-City, and All-State and was selected the best player in the Top Twenty tournament.
- Rated as one of the top four seniors in America, he signed with Kentucky where he played four years before going to the NBA.
That was three state championships in the first four years since Brother Martin opened. Crusader basketball continued to bring hope district and state titles.
Brother Martin vs St. Augustine
So, the big basketball rivalry wasn’t always with St. Augustine. Like many successful runs (like the Scotlandville run that just came to an end), a school gets that one (or maybe two) players who stand out. The Crusaders experienced this in 2002-2003, when DJ Augustin came to Elysian Fields. The Crusaders were state runner-up that season. They won the championship in 2004 and 2005. Augustin and his teammates were odds-on favorites to win a third championship, but Hurricane Katrina had other ideas.
My band kiddo’s sophomore year was an exciting, albeit grueling one for Crusader basketball. The team played St. Augustine four times that season, losing to the Purple Knights three times. Fourth time was lucky, as they defeated their Catholic League rivals in the state semi-finals, going on to win the championship.
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.
Discussing African-American Literature at Brother Martin in 1975.
Brother Martin teachers discuss creating a “Black Literature” class with students in 1975.
Discussing African-American Literature
Brother Francis David, SC, Mr. Guy Nelson, and Brother William Boyles, SC, discussing the development of a “Black Literature” class at Brother Martin High School, in 1975. The number of black students at the school grew steadily since the early years.
At this time, Mr. Nelson wasn’t the stalwart backbone of the English Department he became in later years. He was one of the “young” teachers. Brother Francis was one of the experienced teachers in the department, having taught everything to English 8 on up. Brother Boyles was chair of the Social Studies department prior to the 1975-76 school year. He moved into the administration, as Director of Student Activities that year. I think that might be Ms. Anita Breslin, sitting in the front, but obscured by the first student on the right. It’s hard to identify the students from the back, but if anybody recognizes someone, let me know.
While in 1975 I would’ve given you my opinion on just about anything, I learned a bit more as time went on. The school was, like many places in New Orleans, socially segregated. The number of black students from the legacy schools wasn’t many. That changed as coaches got the green light to recruit black athletes. At the same time, black families struggled with the decision of where to send their sons. St. Augustine High School was and still is an all-black school for boys. By the 1970s, black families had options. Some liked the idea of their boys attending an all-black school, while others thought the experience of an a racially-mixed school was a better idea. Athletes had different criteria, based on college choices.
The English Department
Brother Martin had one black teacher when I was there, Mr. James Lloyd. Mr. Lloyd taught Religion and them moved into the Guidance Department. The English Department, was the hotbed of new ideas and innovation at the time. They developed the single-semester course program, where students took two different English classes in the same year. Eighth grade and freshman English were fixed. From sophomore to senior years, we took two classes a year. For example, in my junior year, I took Science Fiction in the Fall and Major American Writers in the Spring. It made perfect sense that the English Department would be the teachers that reached out to black students the most.