My Veterans Bus memories go back over fifty years.
Veterans Bus Memories
Old and new photos of buses operating on the Veterans Blvd. line. The line, originally operated by Louisiana Transit Company, now Jefferson Transit (JeT), originally ran from Canal Blvd. and City Park Avenue, out to Veterans Blvd. and Loyola Avenue in Kenner. The photos from the 1970s (courtesy of Mike Strauch, the man behind streetcarmike.com) are of General Motors “New Looks” buses operated by Louisiana Transit in the 70s. The newer buses are from 16-August-2022, shot at the Cemeteries Transit Terminal. The Veterans line (now known as the “E1” line services the “new” terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY).
MC 320 on the Veterans Memorial line eastbound east of Oaklawn Dr. in the late 1970s. (Courtesy streetcarmike.com)
When I attended Brother Martin High School in the mid-1970s, I had two basic options for getting home in the afternoon. One was to take either the then-NOPSI Broad or Carrollton bus lines to Canal Street, transfer to one of the outbound Canal lines, then catch the Veterans line at City Park Avenue. The other option was the “Lakeview” run. We’d take the then-NOPSI Cartier Line, which ran on Mirabeau to Spanish Fort, then transfer to the Canal (Lake Vista via Canal Blvd) line heading inbound. When that bus got to Canal Blvd, we’d transfer to the Canal (Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Blvd) line, and ride that to Pontchartrain and Veterans Boulevards. Then out to Metairie on the Veterans. The buses were GM “New Looks,” and occasionally, the air conditioning actually worked.
The Modern Veterans Line
Map of the Veterans E1 line, via JeT.
Da Airport’s “new” terminal opened in 2019. That changed access to the airport dramatically. Instead of approaching the original terminal from Airline Drive (US 61), flyers exit I-10 at Loyola Avenue, cross Veterans Blvd, and enter the terminal from there. So, instead of the old “Airport Express” and “Kenner Local” bus lines, access to the airport via public transit is by the E1 – Veterans (Airport) line. The E1 now goes all the way into the CBD, on Canal Street. It picks up passengers at limited stops along Canal. When the line reaches the end of Canal, at City Park Avenue, it returns to its traditional route. The line enters I-10 at City Park Avenue, then immediately exits at West End Blvd. It runs onto Veterans Blvd, where it heads west to Loyola Ave. The E1 then turns into the airport. It terminates at the airport and returns for the inbound trip. While there is no “express” service to the airport, the price ($2 one way from the CBD) is right.
Rear view of JeT E1 bus. at the Cemeteries Terminal.
Jefferson Transit (JeT) was created in 1982. Prior to that, Louisiana Transit operated buses on the East Bank, and Westside Transit on the West Bank. When the state created the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority in 1984 to assume operations of transit lines in Orleans Parish, Jefferson Parish chose to operate buses in the suburbs independently. (The City of Kenner did join NORTA at that time). JeT purchased buses from the two legacy companies and contracted with them to operate the lines. In 2006, JeT consolidated operations under a single contract, awarded to Veolia Transportation, Inc. They assumed control of operations in 2008.
New Orleans offered great options for Dining, Dancing, Entertainment in 1978.
Dining, Dancing, Entertainment.
Summertime in New Orleans in the 1970s offered a wide variety of going-out options, from dining to live music, to a night at Da Beach. Begue’s at the Royal Sonesta Hotel offered a different spread on the lunch buffet daily. We would go on Thursdays, when it was the big seafood buffet (above).
Vincenzo’s, 3000 Severn, in #themetrys tempted folks into their world “of Good Food, of Good Drinks, of Great Entertainment.” Creole-Italian food, a solid bar and a good wine list, and a piano man for live music, five days a week. The location is the strip mall next to Breaux Mart on Severn. It’s now boutiques and a Hallmark store.
The Monteleone Hotel on Royal Street presented “Steaks Unlimited” as one of their restaurants. The Sunday Brunch at the hotel featured breakfast food and Creole classics. While some brunch spreads provided the bare minimum for guests who didn’t want to venture out, The Monteleone competed for locals coming into town for a day of sightseeing.
Dancing and Live Music
Disco Dancing at Da Beach (top)! A night out riding the Zephyr and the “Ragin Cajun” roller coasters required fashion choices other than nice clubbing clothes. Still, 1978 was peak disco. So, the amusement park turned the main stage (more-or-less in the center of the midway) into an outdoor disco, Monday thru Friday nights. On Saturdays and Sundays, Da Beach held a “Gong Show.” Local radio DJs emceed these crazy talent shows.
For a show/club experience, The Front Page featured a classic two-shows-a-night band/review. Tommy Cook and the Platters entertained at the Fat City club the week of 13-18 June, 1978. No cover, weeknights and Sundays.
Not interested in sweating out at Da Beach? Tulane’s Summer Lyric Theater presented three musicals in the Summer of 1978. Theater enthusiasts turned out at Dixon Hall on the Uptown campus for “Girl Crazy,” “Die Fledermaus,” and “Camelot.” Tulane’s Summer Lyric Theater is still going strong in 2022.
New Orleans entertained itself nicely during the Oil Boom of the late 1970s. As Boom turned into Bust, we began to re-invent ourselves, offering tourist-oriented attractions on a larger scale.
The Sheraton Charles Hotel was the last incarnation of the venerable hotel.
Sheraton Charles Hotel
Ad for the Sheraton Charles Hotel, May 7, 1973. The Sheraton chain bought the hotel in 1965. They re-branded the property, “Sheraton-Charles,” enticing tourists with its proximity to the French Quarter:
Sheraton Gives you modern comfort in an Old World atmosphere, one block from the famous French Quarter
And check those prices! Single rooms $18-$22.
The ad shows an illustration of the third incarnation of the hotel. The summer of 1973 was its last tourist season. The owner, Louis J. Roussel, Jr., demolished the building in 1974. the location became the Place St. Charles office building in 1984.
St. Charles the third
The St. Charles Hotel’s third incarnation, 1940s
Over the decades, the ground-floor storefront shops of the St. Charles Hotel housed ticket offices for railroad and steamboat companies. While some companies operated their own services. others engaged ticket agents. These were the predecessors of travel agencies. All a traveler staying at the St. Charles had to do was go downstairs to the street, find the, say, L&N or Southern Pacific office, and make any changes necessary to their itinerary. Over time, the airlines opened ticket offices, as the railroads migrated over to Union Passenger Terminal, when it opened in 1954. The offices morphed into pick-up points over time. Travelers used the telephone to call, then come get the physical tickets when they were ready. By the time of this 1973 ad, a concierge in the hotel lobby booked travel for guests. Travel agents acquired access to airline and railroad computer systems. They booked and printed out documents for almost all carriers.
The first incarnation of the St. Charles Hotel opened in the 200 block of St. Charles Street in 1837. That building burned in 1851. The second incarnation opened in 1853. It too burned, in 1894. This building dates from 1896. So, while many New Orleanians mourned the loss of the St. Charles/Sheraton-Charles, Sheraton moved to Canal Street. Their 49-story hotel at 500 Canal Street opened in 1982.
Sheraton, as part of the Starwood Group, later merged with Mariott Hotels. So, the ownership of the two towering hotels on either side of Canal Street are essentially the same.
A buggy ride is still a fun part of a visit to New Orleans.
“Carriage driver. Mardi Gras, New Orleans. February 1976” by Elisa Leonelli, via Claremont College’s Special Collections. A dapper buggy driver for Gay 90s Carriages sits at Jackson Square, waiting for the next customer(s). Cafe du Monde is visible top left background. This driver is a bit far back in the line. Hopefully it was a busy day, and he moved up to the front of the line, (at Decatur and St. Peter).
Buggy Ride evolution
The business of offering buggy rides to Vieux Carre visitors began before WWII. Clem and Violet Lauga founded Gay 90s in the early 1940s. They retired, turning the business over to their son, James Lauga, Sr., in 1971.
Carriage tours were regulated by the city as a conveyance. They fell under the purview of the city’s Taxicab Bureau. So, what mattered to the regulators was the safety of the carriages and how they were operated. Nobody took an interest in the stories the buggy drivers actually told their customers. As a result, a lot of fanciful and inaccurate stories about New Orleans went home with visitors. Licensed tour guides dismissed those stories as “buggy ride history.” The tour guides enticed tourists seeking facts and accuracy. Riding a carriage through the Quarter was fun, but come to us for the stories.
In the 1990s, the city put its foot down on “buggy ride history.” Carriage drivers are now required to be licensed tour guides.
Horses versus Mules
Until the 1970s, carriage ride operators used retired race horses to pull tourists. They purchased horses from owners who ran them at the Fair Grounds. When he took over management of the company, James Lauga, Sr., investigated the use of mules. He learned that draft mules were superior to horses for pulling wagons and carriages. Jim Sr. purchased six mules in 1972. The company has operated with mules ever since. Mules have played an important role in the New Orleans economy for centuries, from riverfront wagons to streetcars.
In the mid-1970s, around the time of this photo, hot summers took a toll on the horses pulling carriages. Horses dropped dead of heat exhaustion in the Quarter. The city council then required all buggy-ride companies use mules.
Royal Carriages today
As mentioned above, Gay 90s Carriages is now Royal Carriages, where scholar, museum operator and buggy-ride tour guide Charlotte Jones roamed the streets with Chica.
Department Store Artwork served as the foundation of newspaper retail advertising for over a century.
Department store artwork vs. photography
Ads from D. H. Holmes and Maison Blanche Department Stores in the Times-Picayune, 4-March-1976. The Holmes ad presents ladies sportswear illustrations. The Maison Blanche ad features photographs of models wearing London Fog coats.
Department Store art departments
The artists that worked for Holmes, MB, Godchaux’s, and Krauss provided the ad copy to the newspapers. While some manufacturers offered “camera ready” artwork of their products, the store artists usually fashioned their own interpretations. They transformed illustrations and photos of anything from clothing to washing machines into ads. Even when provided with artwork, the ad creators still had to size and shape it into the newspaper-ready form.
D. H. Holmes
“Summer Separates by Koret of California” – this ad (top) entices ladies to the “Pontchartrain Sportswear” section of the chain’s stores. Additionally, note the mail order form in the bottom left. Holmes regularly presented ads in one section of Da Paper, with MB doing the same in another.
D. H. Holmes operated their iconic 819 Canal Street store, as well as locations at Lake Forest, Lakeside, Oakwood, and Southland Mall in Houma. Notice the ad, in the New Orleans newspaper, doesn’t list the mall’s name in Houma. Most folks in the metro area wouldn’t make the connection. The Lakeside and Houma locations listed here continue as Dillard’s stores.
MB departs from the regular format on this day. While the ad features quality ladies fashion items, there’s a lot of text here. Three models present London Fog coats for women. The chain invited shoppers to meet Lou Ferrari, a representative of London Fog.
Additionally, Maison Blanche announced several events in this ad. In partnership with the Humanities Committee of Greater New Orleans, they presented a forum in the Canal Street store’s auditorium. Models made informal presentations at lunchtime at the Caribbean Room of the Pontchartrain Hotel, and the store sought instructors and staff for a new in-house program. MB operated their store at 901 Canal Street, as well as at Airline Village, Clearview, Lake Forest, and Westside.
Buy the book!
Maison Blanche Department Stores, by Edward J. Branley
Want more photos and stories about New Orleans retail? Get my book, Maison Blanche Department Stores.
The Napoleon Avenue Tunnel proposal would connect Uptown to a new bridge.
Napoleon Avenue Tunnel
Diagram of proposed approaches to a second bridge across the Mississippi River at New Orleans. The concept was to use Napoleon Avenue as a major traffic approach to the bridge. Instead of wiping out the neighborhood, cars would come to the bridge via a tunnel.
This diagram was published in the Times-Picayune on 17-January-1970. The traffic congestion on the original bridge grew to the point where it was clear a second bridge was necessary.
The first bridge
The Greater New Orleans Mississippi River Bridge opened to traffic in April, 1958. New Orleanians relied on ferries for the 250 years prior to its opening. As the Interstate Highway System grew in the 1950s, a bridge across the river at New Orleans made sense. (Ironically, the Interstate system uses the bridge at Baton Rouge). While the metro area had a bridge in Jefferson Parish (the Huey P. Long Bridge), that structure was designed for railroad use, with automobile lanes tacked on.
So, with states and the federal government throwing money into highway expansion and improvements after WWII, New Orleans got a bridge. It was five lanes, two in each direction with an emergency lane in the center.
By the late 1960s, the West Bank of the NOLA metro area grew dramatically. Algiers and Gretna appealed to younger residents looking to get out of their parents’ houses in town. Housing on the West Bank was affordable. You just had to cross the bridge.
Building a new bridge
Lots of proposals came forward for a second bridge. Locations ranged from Uptown by the parish line to down in Chalmette. From an access and traffic perspective, putting a bridge at Napoleon Avenue made some sense. The Jackson Avenue ferry put people out in downtown Gretna. Put a bridge just upriver, and you split the difference between Gretna and Harvey. Folks going to Algiers would continue to use the existing bridge.
While the concept looked interesting, it never got past this diagram. A tunnel? In New Orleans? Good luck with that. And the construction! Those who argued against tearing up Napoleon Avenue for a tunnel and bridge approach were vindicated in recent years with the nightmare that was drainage upgrades on that street. Combine that with the general NIMBY factor from every neighborhood, and we ended up with a second bridge next to the first one.
Still, ideas spark discussion, and a bit of amusement after fifty years.