JC Ellis Memories of my elementary school days.
JC Ellis Memories
I’ve been working on de-cluttering my home office this week. In the back of my desk drawer, I found a ziplok bag with a bunch of stuff from my childhood. Boy Scout medals and patches, assorted pins and buttons, etc. I pulled out a button from J. C. Ellis Elementary School in #themetrys. I attended J. C. Ellis (after Kindergarten at Kehoe-France in 1963-64) for grades 1-4, 1964 to 1968. Momma moved my sister and I from Ellis to St. Angela Merici for the 68-69 school year. She felt that attending Catholic school would improve our chances of getting into Catholic high schools. Keep in mind, this was peak baby boom, and acceptance into those schools (Brother Martin for me, Archbishop Chapelle for my sister) wasn’t a given.
Private to Public to Catholic
Jefferson Parish Public Schools didn’t offer Kindergarten back in the day. So, my parents sent me to Kehoe-France. While we lived in the area for Metairie Grammar School on Metairie Road, my mom, the late Anne Finicle Branley, was principal at Ellis. Therefore, she brought me to her school. I don’t recall much in the way of privilege by being the principal’s kid. In fact, I don’t remember seeing my mom much during the school day. After class ended, I went over to the library to wait for her to go home. I read encyclopedias. Yeah, I was that kid.
I don’t recall specifically why I received this award button. At first I thought it was for Safety Patrol, but I didn’t do that until fifth grade at St. Angela. So, I’m stumped on the details. Even though Ellis had a Cub Scout pack, I joined the pack at Mulholland Memorial Methodist on Metairie Road. Momma was adamant about not mixing work and family. She didn’t want to have to talk to Ellis parents outside of work. I did Boy Scouts at St. Angela.
Ellis is still there more
My JC Ellis Memories come back when I’m in the school’s neighborhood. That’s relatively frequent, since I shop regularly at Martin Wine Cellar. That store is the old Sena Mall movie theater. While many of the businesses on Veterans Blvd. changed, go one block back on Brockenbraugh Court, and Ellis is still rolling. I’ve been thinking about my mom and her years of work in the parish public school system. I don’t think she would approve of the rush to return to school in the face of the novel coronavirus.
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This week’s pic for “Today in New Orleans” on NOLA History Guy Podcast 29-June-2019
Canal Street, 7-June-1960
NOLA History Guy Podcast 29-June-2019
A Lakeview flashback for the NewOrleansPast.com pick this week, along with a photo unpack for NOLA History Guy Podcast 29-June-2019. Also, a brief farewell to the Times-Picayune.
Menu from Lenfant’s on Canal Blvd, 1940s.
John L. Lenfant began his career as a barber in the Marigny. Campanella’s entry for 25-June marks Lenfant’s application to open a bar and grocery at 2001 N. Rampart. Gotta love New Orleans, Lenfant wanted to combine a bar and a grocery. A charming cottage occupies 2001 N. Rampart (corner Touro) now.
Inside Lenfant’s in the 1940s. (courtesy NOLA.com)
John Lenfant opened a variety of businesses in the Marigny, Bywater, and Gentilly. John passed before he could open his restaurant on Canal Boulevard. The sons completed the project. It is by far the best-remembered Lenfant’s business
Lenfant’s on Canal Blvd. opened in 1941. The restaurant offered mostly seafood, in dining room styled as “Streamline Moderne.”This style is similar to Art Deco.
In addition to dining in the restaurant, folks could park in the shell lot outside. Car hops would come out and take orders.
Lenfant’s expanded in the 1950s. They opened the “Boulevard Room” next to the restaurant. This expanded Lenfant’s event and catering possibilities. I grew up hearing lots of stories from folks who went to dances at the Boulevard Room in the 1950s. Over time, the ownership of the ballroom and the restaurant separated.
Today in New Orleans History
Canal Street, 1960
Canal Street, 7-June-1960
Unpacking a cool photo from 1960. Streetcars operated on a two-track main on Canal at this time. Palm trees date the photo after the 1958 beautification project. So many signs!
According to “Streetcar Mike” Strauch, “The GMC old look [bus] is on an uptown express, 70 or 71, with the lamps turned on. Jackson trolley coach behind.”
Diesel buses replaced the trackless trolleys in 1964. The Canal Line transitioned to streetcars in 1964 as well.
The Center Theater became the Cine Royale, which ended its days as a porno house.
Last Week’s Pod
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Talking green streetcars and Benjamin Butler in NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019.
NOPSI 865, rounding the turn from S. Carrollton Avenue to St. Charles Avenue in 1960
NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019
Two segments this week. We talk about our pick of the week from Today in New Orleans History. Then we “unpack” a photo from 1960.
May 1, 1862
top of the broadside printing of Butler’s proclamation of martial law and occupation, 1-May-1862
While the United States Navy compelled the surrender of New Orleans on 25-May-1862, it was the Army that did the heavy lifting from there. Major General Benjamin Butler, USA, issued a proclamation on 1-May-1862, announcing that New Orleans was under the control of the federal government. He also declared martial law.
The rebels lost the war on the night of 24-25 April, 1862. While many people died and much was destroyed before the formal armistice, it was all over when New Orleans returned to Union control. Farragut forced the rebels to retreat north of the city. Butler came over from Ship Island with his invading force and moved in. Once martial law was established, most of the occupying force moved North as well, in pursuit of the rebels.
Butler was pretty much an awful person. He had a massive ego. To be fair, so did Farragut and Porter. All three commanders claimed credit for the victory in New Orleans. It’s hard to say who was the worst in this respect, but Butler received the most disparagement. The Lost Cause mythos plays out locally, portraying Butler as a venal man and petty thief. The “spoons” legend is an example. Butler and the USA had orderly procedures for occupying New Orleans. They confiscated gold and silver from residents. Butler didn’t pocket spoons, he sent his troops to loot entire houses!
May 1st is Inauguration Day in New Orleans. Two notable 1-May inaugurations were in 1978, when Ernest Nathan “Dutch” Morial officially became the city’s first African-American mayor. Last year, 2018, Latoya Cantrell became the city’s first woman mayor. It’s important to note that 1-May was set as inauguration day by the charter changes of 1954. As much as grumpy liberals who hate Mitch Landrieu want to slander him, he didn’t engineer a way to stay around through the city’s Tricentennial.
NOPSI 865, 1960
Our photo this week is of NOPSI 865, a vintage-1923 arch roof streetcar. This “Charley car” turns from S. Carrollton Avenue to St. Charles Avenue, on an inbound run. We unpack the photo in NOLA History Guy Podcast 4-May-2019.
I’m working on a long-form pod about Da Paper, now that it looks like John Georges is going to vaporize it. That will go up in 2-3 weeks. Working on preserving the memories of the “digital” years.
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If you didn’t have air-condition or a lot of fans, you might have lived in screen porch houses growing up.
(cross-posted to Eloquent Profanity)
House with a screen porch on Iberville Street in #NOLAMidCity
Screen porch houses
Before central air-conditioning became part of everyday home life, screen porch houses lined the blocks of New Orleans neighborhoods. Residents escaped the heat of summer by going outside. There were two problems with being directly outside, though. First, most folks avoided direct sunlight and sunburn. Second, the mosquitoes! So, homeowners screened in their front porches. Screens allowed the breeze in, but not the bugs. The offered protection from the sun. The wood floor gave the rocking chair a smooth surface.
Nothing to fans to a/c
It’s hard to remember a time before so many homes in New Orleans had air-conditioning. By 2011, 88% of homes in the United States were built with central a/c. Prior to the suburban expansions of the late 1960s/early 1970s, homes lacked a/c. While many were retro-fitted with wall units in bedrooms, living spaces often were not. Families believed you should go outside. Sit on the porch. Talk to the neighbors. Many a writer and literary critic supports the notion that central air conditioning dramatically changed the genre of “Southern Literature”, because people just didn’t socialize like they used to. They holed up inside and stayed cool.
There’s a lot of merit to this concept, In New Orleans, we sit outside for a few weeks in the Spring and the Fall. The rainy season (what the northern parts of the US call, “Winter”) just doesn’t accommodate outside activity. The humidity of the Summer and early Fall drain us.
New Orleans homes
Not everyone has a Spanish Colonial courtyard to retreat to on a hot day. Shotgun homes offer good airflow, but privacy concerns often outweigh the breeze running through the house. That leaves the backyard. Thing is, the backyard isolates the family from the neighborhood. Porch-sitting brings folks together.
Hurricane Betsy showed how resilient and strong the Third Coast is.
Damage to the old NAS New Orleans buildings at then-LSUNO, 1965 (Courtesy Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans)
On 10-September-1965, Hurricane Betsy hit Grand Isle, Louisiana. The storm formed as a tropical depression on 27-August-1965, in the Caribbean, near French Guinea. After Grand Isle, Betsy crawled up the Mississippi River. The wind pushed “storm surge” water from Lake Pontchartrain into New Orleans. The monetary damage from Betsy surpassed $1B. Betsy was the first storm hitting that mark.
Damage to New Orleans
Classroom damage at then-LSUNO, 1965 (Courtesy Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans)
Betsy damaged New Orleans on three fronts. Water pushed by the storm’s winds topped the levees along the lakefront. That flooded the “levee board neighborhoods”, subdivisions between Robert E. Lee Boulevard and the lake. Surge in New Orleans East pushed into the Lower Ninth Ward. That surge, as well as flood walls from the south slammed St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes hard. Second, wind blew down trees, utility poles, large signs, etc. Those falling objects damaged houses and businesses. Roofs fell victim to wind as well. As if this wasn’t enough, Hurricane Betsy spawned tornadoes in Metairie and Jefferson. While tornadoes are more localized, they still inflicted tremendous damage in small areas.
Hurricane Betsy ran up a big tab. New Orleanians paid the bills. They city was wet but not defeated. The people were windblown, but fully intended to stay.
The US Army Corp of Engineers, along with the city, learned much from Betsy. They learned the levees along the lake needed to be much higher. The Corps raised the levees. We built new floodwalls. City Hall developed new evacuation strategies. All that work protected the city for almost forty years.
Flood waters from Katrina swallow the Lakeview branch of NOPL, 2005 (courtesy Loyola University New Orleans)
Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans on 29-August-2005. The preparations of the late 1960s and 1970s, for the most part, held. Some failed, most notably the levees and floodwalls on the city’s outfall canals. Evacuation strategies worked, particularly the “contraflow” lane configurations on interstate highways around the metro area.
The city got wet. The people got windblown. New Orleans and the federal government paid the bill. The people recovered from the damage. Others moved here, strengthening the city. Even the Superdome area came back strong, after serving as the “shelter of last resort”. The Katrina Diaspora continues to affect the city’s culture. While city wrestles with gentrification and “new” influences, groups and neighborhoods preserve what was here before Katrina.
Folks on the Florida Gulf Coast tell similar stories of wind and rain. National writers would be best advised to take a deep breath and consult history before writing off any town on the Third Coast as “gone”.
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Huey P. Long Bridge HAER survey documents the old bridge.
Huey P. Long Bridge, 1968 (Library of Congress)
Huey P. Long Bridge HAER survey
The first bridge to cross the Mississippi River in Louisiana, the Huey P. Long Bridge links the east and west banks of Jefferson Parish. The bridge opened in December, 1935. US Senator (and former Governor) Huey Pierce Long died on September 8, 1935. Therefore, the state named the bridge after him. So, the railroads switched from ferrying trains across the river to taking the bridge.
The National Park Service completed a HAER (Historic American Engineering Record) survey of the bridge in 1968. The Library of Congress houses HAER surveys.
There are 213 photos of the bridge in the HAER collection. The Huey P. Long Bridge HAER survey is HAER LA-17. Here are the notes attached to the link:
– Significance: The Huey P. Long Bridge, the first bridge to cross the Mississippi River in Louisiana, was named for governor during whose administration it was built. is still considered a major engineering accomplishment and was recognized as the world’s longest steel trestle railroad bridge at 22,996′ (4.36 miles of structure) in length. It has two railroad tracks between two trusses and two, two-lane highways bracketed to the outside. It was built during the depression of the 1930s at a cost of $12.8 million. The bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
– Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: N1071
– Survey number: HAER LA-17
– Building/structure dates: 1935 Initial Construction
LOC archives a number of surveys for Louisiana locations. The government also does Historic American Building Surveys (HABS). Many exist for New Orleans buildings, like the old Canal Station streetcar barn.
The Old Huey
HABS/HAER documentation is valuable. Researchers step back in time. In the case of the Huey, the bridge underwent a major expansion. The state started that expansion in 2008. They completed the work in 2012.
The expansion removed the narrow auto lanes. So, no more tales of trying to pass an 18-wheeler as they head across the river! The HAER survey preserves the old bridge and the memories.