Tulane Trackless Trolley 1963

Tulane Trackless Trolley 1963

Tulane Trackless Trolley, a trolley bus operating on the Tulane line in 1963.

tulane trackless trolley

Tulane Trackless Trolley

A trolley bus (also known as a trolley coach or trackless trolley) from the St. Louis Car Company. Photo is of New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) 1190, operating on the Tulane line. The bus rolls inbound on Canal Street, approaching S. Saratoga Street. Hotel New Orleans stands just behind the bus. An ad for American General Insurance (now AIG) occupies the space on the front of the bus. American General’s office was at 222 Carondelet.

NOPSI trolley buses

NOPSI purchased trolley buses from both the St. Louis Car Company and Marmon-Herrington of Indianapolis, Indiana. They operated the electric buses on transit routes formerly running streetcars. So, when the company discontinued  streetcar “belt” service on the St. Charles and Tulane lines, St. Charles continued operating streetcars. Tulane trackless trolleys operated until 1965. At that time, all trolley bus lines converted to standard buses.

The Hotel New Orleans

This photo caught my eye because of the sign behind the trolley bus. The Hotel New Orleans stood at 1300 Canal Street. The building dates to the 1930s. The hotel sported a huge neon sign proclaiming “HOTEL NEW ORLEANS.” That neon sign is visible in the background of so many photos of Canal Street. While the rooftop sign is ubiquitous, the street-level sign is a neat catch.

The photo

My friend Aaron posted this photo on Facebook. He catches stuff from everywhere. Looking for more info on NOPSI 1190, I turned to Streetcar Mike. This is his copy of the photo, with the credits. Here’s his entry for 1190:

St. Louis 1190 on the Tulane line at Canal and S. Saratoga Sts. on an unknown date. I presume it’s after 1957, when the Canal neutral ground was rebuilt to eliminate the unused outer streetcar tracks. Hotels and bars dominate this section of Canal just out from the Joy Theatre (out of picture to the left). Photo comes from the collection of Gerald Squier courtesy of Scott Richards and was added 03/22/14.

Thanks to Mike and the photo sources!

Cor Jesu Prom Favor 1969

Cor Jesu Prom Favor 1969

The Cor Jesu prom favor for 1969 was a miniature senior ring.

cor jesu prom favor

Cor Jesu prom favor

Photo of the last prom favor for Cor Jesu High School in Gentilly. The school formally closed after the graduation of the Class of 1969. I don’t know the full story on this favor, perhaps someone from that year does. Schools usually offered these miniature rings as favors for the seniors’ ring dances. I suspect this was special because senior prom in 1969 was one of the last events.

Dance favors

Brother Martin High continued the tradition of these miniature rings as dance favors. I bought one for my date to the ring dance in the fall of 1975. I’m not sure how long after that the tradition continued. Another for the younger guys! I know this went out of fashion by the time my boys attended BMHS (classes of 2006 and 2012).

Speaking of dance favors, who had the big beer schooners as prom favors? While those lasted through the 1970s, they didn’t make it to my sons’ time. The class of 1970’s favors said, “Charter Class.” The favors in 1973 said, “First All-Martin Class.” At the time, they gave the title to 1973, since they attended BMHS from Freshmen to Senior. In 1974, Mark Romig wrote a short article for the student newspaper, arguing that 1974 was the first true All-Martin class. A number of graduates that year attended the school for five years, starting in eighth grade. The number of eighth graders was small at that time, less than a third of the graduating class. The trend of starting high school in eighth grade didn’t pick up until later. So, 1973 was All-Martin.

My class, 1976, was the next prom favor to have a special designation. We were the “Bicentennial Class.” At the time, most of us were experiencing Bicentennial burn-out. By prom, we figured, so long as they didn’t make the favor itself red-white-and-blue, it would be OK.

If you’ve got photos of prom and ring dance favors, please share them!

1964 Transit Improvement

1964 Transit Improvement

1964 Transit Improvement Program ended the Canal streetcar line.

1964 transit improvement

1964 Transit Improvement

Flyer updating riders on the 1964 Transit Improvement Program. New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) planned the removal of streetcars from the Canal Street line for May 31, 1964. While advocacy groups organized in late 1963/early 1964 to oppose the program, it was too little, too late. The plans for this removal began in late 1959.

This flyer emphasizes the advantages of switching Canal to bus service. NOPSI rolled out new buses as part of this “improvement.” Those Flixible company buses were air-conditioned. Riders in Lakeview and Lakeshore could get on the bus close to the house and ride all the way into the CBD.

Phase 1

This flyer promotes the Phase 2 changes. In Phase 1 of 1964 Transit Improvement, the city cut back the width of the Canal Street neutral ground. This allowed for three traffic lanes on either side of the street. When streetcars returned to Canal Street in 2004, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA, successor to NOPSI’s transit operations) built a single-track terminal at Canal Street and City Park Avenue. There was no space to re-create the two-track end of the line. So, at the time, New Orleanians approved these changes. Preservationists were caught off guard.

Phase 2

NOPSI immediately cut down the electric overhead wires on 31-May-1964, as part of Phase 2 of 1964 Transit Improvement. The city ripped up the streetcar tracks within weeks of the switch to buses. Additionally, the air-conditioning started on 31-May.

Express Buses

NOPSI expanded the “suburban” bus lines. They extended buses going to West End and Lakeview into downtown. Streetcars on the Canal line ended their runs at City Park Avenue. So, a rider living, say, off Fleur-de-Lis Avenue walked to Pontchartrain Blvd. They caught the bus to City Park Avenue, transferring there to the streetcar. While that doesn’t sound like a big deal, NOPSI discovered an opportunity. The rider starts on a bus with a/c, but switches to a hot, humid streetcar. If it’s raining, well, you get the idea.

Additionally, NOPSI offered an enhanced service, the “express” lines. Express 80 followed the Canal-Lake Vista (via Canal Boulevard) route. For an extra nickel, riders boarded Express 80 rather than the regular line. When the express bus reached City Park Avenue, Express 80 made no stops until Claiborne Avenue. Same for Express 81, which followed the Canal-Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Boulevard line. So that rider could not only stay on the bus from home, they got to the office that much quicker.

1964 Perspective

Downtown workers relied upon public transit so much more in 1964. When something is part of your day-to-day routine, improvements that enhance your experience are easy to sell. Preserving forty-year old streetcars didn’t seem like a big deal compared to not sweating through your clothes by the time you arrived at work.

Thanks to Aaron Handy, III, for this image of the flyer!

Maison Blanche Tire Store

Maison Blanche Tire Store

Maison Blanche tire store on Airline Highway in Metairie.

maison blanche tire store

Maison Blanche tire store

The “Greatest Store South,” Maison Blanche operated a Tire Store at 1920 Airline Highway, in Metairie, from the late 1950s to the 1970s. The store was in between the store at S. Carrollton and Tulane (where Airline Highway began) and the Airline Village store, a couple of blocks further up the road. The photo is from Franck Studios, via the HNOC. It was shot on 17-October-1960.

Auto service

The big-name department stores included auto service and tire sales in their portfolios. In addition to Maison Blanche, D. H. Holmes, Krauss, and Sears all offered auto service. While the draw to downtown customers was get the car serviced while shopping, the stores offered local convenience to suburban New Orleans.

What attracted customers to the department stores for auto service was credit. Your MB tire purchases could be charged to your MB account. Same for the other stores. At a time where there were no bank cards like VISA and MasterCard, this was important. Tires weren’t cheap, and the department stores set up payment plans for their customers. This built loyalty to the store.

The department store-owned auto service stores began to fade out in the 1980s. By the 1990s, only Sears operated an auto center, next to their store in Clearview Mall in Metairie. Goodyear and Firestone expanded their chains, and Walmart entered the market. The Sears auto center at Clearview remained until 2019. Sears closed both the department store in the mall, as well as the auto center. The mall demolished the auto center. A branch of Regions bank now stands in its place.

1960s Airline Highway

Airline Highway is US 61, which connects New Orleans to Baton Rouge and points west. Prior to the construction of I-10, Airline Highway was the main route to the state’s capital city. As Metairie grew, so did retail outlets like MB and the tire store. A billboard for Brennan’s Restaurant stands behind a Mobil Oil gas station, with the company’s well-known red Pegasus sign.

Canal Line Arch Roofs 1960 #StreetcarSaturday

Canal Line Arch Roofs 1960 #StreetcarSaturday

NOPSI 934 and 935 were Canal Line Arch roofs in the 1960s.

canal line arch roofs

NOPSI 934 and 935 at the Cemeteries Terminal, 17-Feb-1960. Photographer unknown. Thanks to Aaron for the find.

Canal Line Arch Roofs

900-series streetcars operating as Canal Line arch roofs, 17-February-1960. I can’t make out the ads on either streetcar; if you can, let me know! NOPSI 934 and 935 sit at the Cemeteries Terminal. Tennessee Williams mentions the “cemeteries” in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” While Williams employs a bit of artistic license, connecting Elysian Fields to the cemeteries, this is the real-life basis.

Perley A. Thomas streetcars

The arch roof design dates back to 1915. New Orleans Railway and Light Company (NORwy&Lt) acquired several from the Southern Car Company. Perley Thomas designed the streetcars. New Orleanians liked them. The streetcars offered decent seating and lots of windows for ventilation. Thomas opened his own streetcar company in High Point, NC. He took the arch roof design with him. NORwy&Lt’s successor company, New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) purchased two production runs of the arch roofs. They ordered the 800-series in 1923. NOPSI worked with Thomas, changing aspects of the design. That produced the 900 series. So, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, three generations of arch roofs operated in the city. The original 400s, then the 800s and 900s.

NOPSI kept 35 of the 900 series when they discontinued streetcar service on Canal in 1964.

The Terminal

The streetcar tracks at Canal Street and City Park Avenue underwent numerous changes over the years. After the West End line converted to bus service, the city cut the streetcar tracks back. Instead of turning left upon reaching City Park Avenue, the Canal line arch roofs terminated on Canal Street. They stopped in between Cypress Grove Cemetery and Odd Fellows Rest.

NOPSI designed this iteration of the terminal with two tracks and a double crossover. This is similar to the terminal built at S. Carrollton and S. Claiborne Avenues uptown. When NOPSI discontinued belt service on the St. Charles, Tulane switched to buses. St. Charles ended at S. Claiborne. That location remains the line’s endpoint today.

Back on Canal Street, the line used this terminal until 1964. When NORTA restored streetcar service on Canal in 2004, they built a single-track terminal. This was meant to be temporary. The line now ends in the 5500 block of Canal Boulevard, between Greenwood and St. Patrick No. 3 cemeteries.

Jazz Funeral for Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau

Jazz Funeral for Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau

Jazz Funeral for Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau

jazz funeral

Early Jazz

Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau was born in New Orleans, in 1888. He was related to many early Jazz musicians. While Pavageau began his career as a dancer, Alcide also played guitar with a number of early Jazz musicians. He learned double bass in 1927, constructing his own 3-string instrument, at the age of 39. At the age of 55, he joined George Lewis’ band, touring with him through the 1950s. Alcide also played with Bunk Johnson, in New York, in 1945. He spent time in the 1960s, playing with the Eureka Brass Band and at Preservation Hall.

Jazz Funeral

Alcide passed at his home at 932 S. Ann Street, on January 20, 1969. The jazz community carried him home with a traditional jazz funeral on Wednesday, January 22nd. Alcide arrived at Morning Star Baptist Church at 910 Burgundy Street, for an 11am service. They brought him to St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 after the service. The Times-Picayune’s Marcelle B. Wright wrote of the day:

Clappng hands, tapping toes, brightly festooned parasols and a slow drag music — a traditional jazz funeral. Such was the scene when Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau took his last journey through the French Quarter. He was accompanied by hundreds of jazz fans who were bidding farewell to the veteran jazz musician.

Then came the las’ slo’ drag to old St. Louis Cemetery zNo. 2. Many of his fellow musicians, Chicken Henry, Harold Dejan, Fats Houston, Minor Anderson, Darreil Johnson, Kid Shiek Colar and Percy Humphrey joined in playing those old haunting spirituals: “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” and “The Old Rugged Cross.” And carrying through with tradition, the brass bands, with their second liners carrying multicolored umbrellas, led the crowd from the cemetery with the most popular, “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

“Marcelle B. Wright” later dropped her married name. You may know her and her work under her maiden name, Marcelle Bienvenu.

“Slow Drag”

Pavageau got his nickname from his mastery of the “slow drag” dance step. Since double bass wasn’t a practical instrument to play in parades, Alcide took up the job of Grand Marshal. He led many a parade and jazz funeral with his famous slow drag step.