Public swimming pools have a long history in New Orleans.
Architectural rendering of the City Park Swimming Pool complex, 27-July-1924, by Favrot and Livaudais.
Beat the heat in public swimming pools
City Park and Audubon Park both opened public swimming pools in the 1920s. City Park was first, in 1925, followed by the uptown park in 1928. So much of their stories is enmeshed with local politics and national cultural shifts.
The City Park pool opened in 1924. The Times-Picayune wrote about the start of construction on 27-July-1924:
The park commissioners announce that the pool will include beautiful buildings and equipment complete in every detail. It will be constructed between the famous deulling oaks, in the west section of the park, about 400 feet from Orleans Avenue. the completed structure will blend with the surroundings and make an attractive landscape picture.
The location made sense, as the western side of the park was pretty much undeveloped. The park expanded from the old Allard Plantation. Commercial air conditioning didn’t come to New Orleans until the 1930s, so public strategies to beat the heat were important.
The pool opened upon completion of construction. When the park built the miniature railroad, they naturally added a stop at the pool. The pool operated until 1958. Rather than comply with court orders directing the city to integrate public park facilities, the New Orleans City Park Improvement Association closed the pool. The park converted the facility into a sea lion pool, featuring an island in the center. They populated the island with monkeys, creating a zoo-like attraction.
Monkey re-capture at City Park, 9-July-1965
While I wasn’t able to find a photo of the “monkey island” phase, there was a photo in Da Paper on 9-July-1965. There was a “mass escape” of twelve monkeys the day before. Mr. S. H. Daigle, one of the attraction’s attendant, is shown fishing a monkey out of one of the park’s lagoons.
The park closed “monkey island” in 1967. They converted the facility into a miniature golf course. That feature closed in the 1980s. The Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s office (OPCS) used the facility for storage and maintenance equipment. Long-time Criminal Sheriff (and later Louisiana Attorney General) Charles Foti built the pool area out as a “haunted house” attraction for Halloween. When the park began the incredibly-popular “Celebration in the Oaks” attraction for Christmas, the OPCS would re-decorate the old pool into a “Cajun Christmas” feature.
The entire pool area simply ain’t there no more. After Foti left OPCS, the department lost interest in using the pool facility. The remains of the pool were razed and the area is now green space.
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:
Express 80 bus service made it easy to discontinue streetcar service.
Express 80 bus in Lakeview (NOPSI photo)
NOPSI’s Express 80
From the late-1960s, riders board a NOPSI bus on the Express 80 route. NOPSI operated this line as an “express” option to its Canal – Lake Vista via Canal Blvd line. The bus, NOPSI 251, is a General Motors “New Looks” bus. They, along with buses from Flxable, replaced the maroon and cream GM “Old Looks” buses, and similar designs from White. The sign at the top front advertises color televisions. The amber lights on either side of the roll board (the route designator) flashed, informing riders this was an express bus rather than the local.
The Canal-Lake Vista and Express 80 lines shared the same basic route:
- Canal Street at Liberty Place
- Lakebound on Canal Street to City Park Avenue
- Right on City Park Avenue
- Immediate left onto Canal Boulevard to Toussaint
- Right on Allen Toussaint Boulevard to Marconi
- Left on Marconi Boulevard to Lakeshore Drive
- Right onto Lakeshore Drive to Beauregard
- Right on Beauregard Avenue to Toussaint. (Spanish Fort Terminal)
- Right onto Toussaint, heading west to Canal Blvd
- Left on Canal Blvd to City Park Avenue
- Right, then left, onto Canal Street
- Canal Street to Liberty Place
The difference between the local route and Express 80 was that Canal-Lake Vista made every stop along the way. When the outbound Express 80 reached Canal Street and Claiborne Avenue, it didn’t stop again until City Park Avenue. The bus resumed stops from there.
Riders paid fifteen cents for local bus service at this time. Transfers were free. NOPSI charged an additional nickel for the express lines. When I was a student at Brother Martin High, 1971-1976, I often rode home via Gentilly and Lakeview. We took the Cartier Line (Mirabeau to St. Bernard to Spanish Fort), then Canal-Lake Vista, up to City Park Avenue. I caught the Veterans bus there. Or, if the connections worked. I transferred to the Canal-Lakeshore bus at Canal Blvd and Toussaint. I rode that bus up to the old State Police Troop B station (now the OMV) on Veterans. That’s where I would pick up the Vets bus. When catching either Express 80 or Express 81 (the Lakeshore express), the drivers let me slide on the extra nickel. They knew I was getting off before they went into express service.
Fares in the 1970s went up from fifteen cents to a quarter, with the extra five cents for express.
Sinking the steetcars
How did the express lines help NOPSI discontinue streetcar service on Canal? The Lakeview and West End buses went to the Cemeteries, then turned around. Riders transferred to the green, 1923-vintage arch roof streetcars there. Look at the men in this photo, dressed in business suits. They switched from air-conditioned buses to hot, humid, open-window streetcars. There was no romance of “A Streetcar Named Desire!” So, NOPSI offered them one a/c bus from, say, Harrison Avenue and Canal (or Pontchartrain) into town. That sealed the fate of the Canal line.
Westside Shopping Center was anchored by MB’s fourth location.
Architectural rendering of the re-vamped MB Westside, 1970.
Westside Shopping Center
A re-vamped Maison Blanche Westside was featured in the store’s employee magazine, “Shop Talk,” on 1-February-1970. The store, opened in 1958, as the shopping center’s anchor. After ten years of operation, MB upgraded the two-story location, bringing it into the 1970s. Westside was MB’s only location on the West Bank. The shopping center stood at the corner of Stumpf Boulevard and West Bank Expressway. The open-air strip mall extended out on either side of MB.
The Stumpf family acquired an extensive parcel of land in Gretna in 1901. It stood undeveloped for the first half of the 20th Century. In the 1950s, Dr. John F. Stumpf, a dentist planned a shopping center development. The center would front the new West Bank Expressway. The expressway was built to connect Gretna with the anticipated “new” bridge crossing the Mississippi River.
Unfortunately, Dr. Stumpf passed away before Westside’s completion. Other family members, notably his father, Archie C. Stumpf and uncle, State Senator Alvin T. Stumpf.
Full-page ad for the grand opening of “West Side Shopping Center,” 31-January-1958. Times-Picayune.
Westside Shopping Center opened on January 31, 1958. Dr. Stumpf’s daughter, Susan, dedicated the center. Governor Earl K. Long and Gretna Mayor William J. White spoke. After a flyover of jets from Naval Air Station New Orleans in Belle Chasse, shoppers filled the new stores.
Maison Blanche ad for Westside in the Times-Picayune, 31-Jan-1958.
Maison Blanche welcomed old and new patrons. Additionally, three shoe stores, Rexall Drugs, F. W. Woolworth, Labiche’s Lerner’s, Stein’s, and Western Auto, among others, opened for business. A&G Cafeteria, McKenzie’s Pastry Shoppe, and National Food Store offered various foods, and a Gulf Oil Service Station stood ready to gas up the packed parking lot.
Westside versus Oakwood
The Record Department at MB Westside, 1970
The Greater New Orleans Mississippi River Bridge opened on April 15, 1958. As the west bank grew, a second shopping center opened in Gretna. Oakwood Shopping Center, anchored by D. H. Holmes, offered indoor, air-conditioned connections to its stores in 1966.
Sign for Maison Blanche in the parking lot of Westside, August, 1958. Sonny Randon Photography via the West Bank Beacon.
In many ways, Westside and Oakwood operated similarly to Lakeside and Clearview in Metairie. It wasn’t difficult for shoppers to hop from MB in one to Holmes in the other. After ten years of operation, MB decided Westside needed a facelift. Oakwood presented a newer, more modern location. So, Maison Blanche upgraded Westside. The company touted those upgrades to employees, generating pride and excitement.
Thanks to the Gretna Historical Society for their article on Westside and the Stumpfs.
Maison Blanche Clearview was a huge department store.
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.
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
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.
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.
The Louisville and Nashville operated the Humming Bird train.
The Humming Bird
“The Humming Bird crossing Biloxi Bay – Louisville and Nashville R. R.” – Linen postcard printed in the late 1940s. L&N operated the Humming Bird (the two-word name is correct) between Cincinnati and New Orleans, from 1947 to 1969. While the route originally ran as a no-frills train, L&N added Pullman sleepers by 1953.
Like the other L&N passenger trains, the train operated out of the railroad’s terminal at the end of Canal Street (where the Aquarium of the Americas stands now). They moved to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954, along with all the other railroads.
Blue Humming Bird
The train’s cars originally had a stainless-steel sheathing. After a few years, the railroad removed the stainless because of corrosion issues underneath it. They then painted the cars blue. L&N re-shot the stainless-steel version of the postcard, updating it for the blue cars. These postcards were available on the train for passengers.
When it first rolled in 1947, the train consisted of 7 cars: five coaches, a tavern-lounge car, and a diner. American Car Foundry delivered 48 cars to L&N. The ran two sets of seven on the Humming Bird. Additionally, cars from that ACF order ran on the Georgian.
While the route’s popularity was in its speed and simplicity, L&N expanded the consist in 1953. They added sleepers, “6-6-4” cars from Pullman. The cars contained six open births (“sections”), six “roomettes,” and four double bedrooms. The sections were open areas. You had your bed and that was that. The roomettes were walled rooms containing one bed. Section and roomette passengers used communal toilets and sinks. Bedrooms included en suite toilet and sink.
New Orleans Stations
Humming Bird departing the L&N terminal on Canal Street, 1947
Humming Bird operated in and out of the L&N terminal from 1947 to 1954. Operations moved to Union Passenger Terminal in 1954. The city demolished the Canal Street terminal after UPT opened. This photo shows the Humming Bird departing the Canal Street terminal.
End of an era
L&N discontinued the train in 1969, saying it was no longer profitable. This was two years before the creation of the national passenger rail corporation, AMTRAK.