Downtown Signs – 500 Block Baronne is a treasure trove #FadingSigns

Downtown Signs – 500 Block Baronne is a treasure trove #FadingSigns

Downtown signs tell stories of families and their businesses

Downtown Signs

I’m still in the gathering phase for Fading Signs of New Orleans. Last week, I requested locations of electric signs from businesses gone by. They count as “faded” for the book. The response was incredible! Y’all gave me some great suggestions.

Ryan Bordenave of the Downtown Development District commented on the “Ain’t There No More” group on Facebook with a photo of downtown signs. The photo includes wall advertising and electric!

500 Block Baronne

Baronne Street attracted businesses in the CBD because of the streetcars. The St. Charles Avenue line originally used Baronne to access Canal. Both inbound and outbound streetcars on the line passed up and down Baronne.

The 500 block contained a movie theater and furniture store. The theater opened in 1906 as the Shubert The location declined in the 1940s and 1950s. The Shubert offered vaudeville and burlesque, rather than films. New owners renovated the Shubert in 1950. They renamed the theater. It operated until the late 1960s. The location re-opened as a disco in the 1970s . The theater changed ownership in 2012 and reopened as live entertainment venue.

Signs advertising “air conditioning” hearken back to times when the average house in New Orleans didn’t include that feature. Department stores and movie theaters enabled folks to escape the summer heat for a little while. Not every theater offered air conditioning.

Mintz Furniture

downtown signs

Mintz Furniture, 501 Baronne, 1950 (Franck Studios photo)

The Mintz family has operated furniture stores in New Orleans for generations. Their stores included the Baronne Street location, as well as a store in the French Quarter. The current incarnation of the family business, Hurtwitz Mintz, operates on Airline Highway in Metairie.

The height difference between the Mintz building and its neighbor offered the opportunity to place a wall sign on the side. While the electric sign was removed, the painted sign remains. We’ll tie in both to tell the story in the book.

NOPSI 921 Arch Roof – Nighttime on St. Charles Avenue, 1971 #NOLAstreetcars #StreetcarMonday

NOPSI 921 Arch Roof – Nighttime on St. Charles Avenue, 1971 #NOLAstreetcars #StreetcarMonday

NOPSI 921 was one of 35 arch roofs that survived.

NOPSI 921

Arch roof streetcar NOPSI 921 on St. Charles Avenue. Roger Puta photo.

NOPSI 921

St. Charles Avenue at night. This photo, by Roger Puta, shows NOPSI 921 as it’s just made the turn from Canal Street, onto St. Charles, for its outbound run on that line. NOPSI 921 survived the massive cutback in streetcar service NOPSI implemented in 1964. They discontinued streetcar service at the end of May that year. All but thirty-five of the 900-series streetcars were either demolished or donated to museums.

The Route

The route of the St. Charles Line changed a number of times to get to the present configuration. In 1950, NOPSI discontinued “belt” service on St. Charles and Tulane. That change set the current route used by NORTA.

Outbound

  • Start at Carondelet and Canal Streets
  • Right-turn onto Canal from Carondelet, on the “third” track
  • Immediate right-turn onto St. Charles Avenue from Canal Street
  • First stop: pick up riders at St. Charles Avenue and Common Street
  • Head outbound on St. Charles to Tivoli (Formerly Lee) Circle
  • Half-circle around, entering the neutral ground on St. Charles, just before Calliope.
  • Outbound on the St. Charles neutral ground to Riverbend.
  • Right-turn from St. Charles Avenue onto S. Carrollton Avenue
  • Up S. Carrollton Avenue to S. Claiborne Avenue
  • Terminate at Carrollton and Claiborne

Return

  • Depart S. Claiborne Terminal
  • Down S. Carrollton Avenue to St. Charles Avenue
  • Down St. Charles Avenue to Tivoli Circle.
  • Three-quarters around the circle, to Howard Avenue
  • Up Howard Avenue one block
  • Right-turn onto Carondelet Street
  • Down Carondelet Street to Canal, where the run terminates.

ATNM

There are a number of signs in this photo, marking the locations of “ain’t there no more” businesses. The Holiday Inn is now a Wyndham, for example. The Musee’ Conti Wax Museum is closed. The sign on Canal and Royal Streets grabbed drivers’ attention, to entice them to turn into the Quarter and go to the museum.

What other ATNM things do you see?

Fading Signs

I found this photo in the Commons while looking for images for my next book project. The History Press considers old electric signs for businesses that are no longer around to be “fading signs,” so Kolb’s Restaurant (the sign is visible on the left) counts.

 

Typing Class 1979 – Brother Martin High School

Typing Class 1979 – Brother Martin High School

Typing Class, 1979

Typing Class 1979

Brother Lloyd LeBlanc, SC, observes Typing students in 1979.

Typing Class 1979

Brother Lloyd LeBlanc, SC, observes his students in Typing class 1979. The “typing room” you see here was located on the inside side (further away from Elysian Fields) of the old building. You could access this classroom from either the CJ side, or from the second floor resource center.

Typing in the 1970s

Rolling a sheet of paper into a typewriter, then tapping on the keys was still how documents were produced in 1979. Personal computer usage grew dramatically at this time. Still, when I submitted a paper to one of my professors at UNO in 1979, it was typewritten, on the little Smith-Corona we owned at home. I learned how to type in the room in this photo, in 1972-73. The scene wasn’t much different from the photo.

Selectric

We used IBM Selectric typewriters at Brother Martin in the 1970s. The Selectric used the same keyboard as the first IBM electric typewriters of the 1930s. Those typewriters looked quite similar to the original commercial typewriters of the 1890s. The Selectric was A Big Deal in the 1970s.

Typing class, 1979

“Elements” for IBM Selectric Typewriters. (IBM photo)

The element, the ball with the letters on it, was interchangeable. Well, not at Brother Martin, though, since we used just the basic element. Students typing chemical formulas, however, could switch out the basic element with one with, say, chemical symbols, or the Greek alphabet. IBM made a lot of money on this concept. The student of Russian history needed only one machine. She switched from one alphabet to another with ease.

Brother Martin freshmen failed to see the significance of this in the 1970s. That’s OK, we sorted it out quick enough in the real world.

Brother Lloyd

Brother Lloyd LeBlanc, SC, was a wonderful man and teacher. He attended Loyola in the 1950s, with my mom. I’ve told the story before of how my mom knew many of the Brothers from teaching them at Loyola, or, like Brother Lloyd, as classmates there. Loyola is a Jesuit college, of course. She appreciated the skill of the Jesuits. While Brother Jean Sobert, SC, was the front man for the school in those days, men like Brother Lloyd projected a quiet impression.

The typing room’s volume setting was up there. Your typical classroom was a quiet place. All those typewriters hummed, whirred, and clacked. Brother Lloyd sat in the back of the room, supervising it all. He carried a stick, a pointer, one of those wooden ones with the rubber tip. On the first day of class he held up that pointer. Brother announced he never hit students with that pointer. It was a tool for correcting our posture. The first time the pointer poked me was a bit unnerving. Brother wanted me to adjust my hands as I typed. After the first experience, the pointer helped improve your typing.

Brother Lloyd adopted an all-business teaching style. You came in, sat down, and got to work. Outside of class, however, he lightened up. Talking to Brother Lloyd, between classes, passing by the typing room, or catching him downstairs occasionally, was fun. He lived in one of the houses around the corner from the school. Just a quick walk home meant he was around more than a teacher heading for the car after class.

Other Typing Teachers

Brother Lloyd led the Typing staff. Others taught the class, most notably, the Conlin Brothers, Bob and Dan. Coaches taught Typing, since it wasn’t an “academic” subject. The course material was laid out in the book and in the recordings used to keep rhythm. With more coaches than Physical Education classes, coaches needed class assignments. I never heard anything bad about either Conlin with respect to Typing. The noise level of the room made the usual distract-the-coach banter difficult.

Transition to Computer

As the 70s morphed into the 80s, those Selectric typewriters hit ten-plus years in the classroom. Brother Martin retired the typewriters. “Keyboarding” became the subject. The State of Louisiana required students take a class in basic computer skills. Typing simplified the transition. The spot in the freshman schedule changed names.

Identifying the students

This photo is from the 1978-1979 school year. I graduated in 1976, so I don’t recognize any of these guys. If you do, please comment or drop me a line!

Donald Newman, BM ’75, 1957-2018

Donald Newman, BM ’75, 1957-2018

Donald Newman

Donald Newman

Brother Martin High School Varsity Basketball Team, 1973-1974. LHSAA AAAA State Champs. Don Newman is #11, bottom right. (courtesy Brother Martin High School)

Donald Newman, BMHS Class of 1975

We lost a good guy yesterday. Don Newman was a year ahead of me at Brother Martin. He was a basketball player, a member of the 1973-1974 Louisiana LHSAA 4-A championship team. Newman was point guard for that team, and the next year, as a senior. He also played baseball while at BMHS.

After Brother Martin, Don went to LSU, for a year, where he played basketball and baseball. He transferred to Lake City, then Grambling, he played one game at Lake City and not at all for Grambling. Newman landed at University of Idaho, where he played from 1978-1980.

Pro Career

Don was drafted by the Boston Celtics in the third round in 1980. He was the last person they cut before the start of the 1980 season. He signed with the Montana Golden Nuggets of the CBA.

In 1981, Newman tried out for the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL, as a cornerback. He never played football in high school or college. He didn’t make the team, but did play in Canada,first for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Montreal Concordes, Ottawa Roughriders, and Hamilton TigerCats. He began his coaching career at high schools in Idaho. Newman got his degree from Idaho in 1987, and moved up to collegiate coaching.

Coaching

After coaching at Moscow (Idaho) High School, Newman took an assistant job at Washington State. He moved from there to head coach at Sacramento State, then Arizona State. He moved to the NBA from ASU, working as an assistant for the Bucks, Nets, Spurs, and Wizards. While with the Spurs, he earned two rings, as an assistant coach on the 2005 and 2007 championship teams. Newman was still with the Wizards when he passed yesterday.

High School Memories

Don was point guard on the “Robey team” in 1973-1974. Rick Robey was the classic big-man-in-the middle, and Don was the ball handler. Don was as important to the team as Robey, because when Rich would get into foul trouble, it was up to the rest of the guys to pick up the slack. Newman was the leader. Mind you, the rest of the team was pretty good as well, but Don was the best athlete, and I’ll go as far to say that he was a better overall athlete than Robey.

1974-1975

After the state win, Robey graduated and went on to the University of Kentucky, and then the Boston Celtics. That next year, it was up to the four juniors from the state team to keep it going. Newman, along with LeRoy Oliver, Reggie Hadley, and Rodney Montgomery were the subjects of many a “can they do it without Robey” articles. Junior Mike Litwinowicz stepped into the center position, when they weren’t running more of a small-ball offense. Sophomore Dwayne Vantress also got a bit of varsity time in 74-75.

The team didn’t repeat as state championships, but they did win the Catholic League a second year. While many at the school and in the media considered that a let-down, I was proud of those guys. They were under incredible pressure. Brother Martin won state in 1969-1970, 1970-1971, then again in 1974. The school also won state in football in the 1971 season. The combining of Cor Jesu and St. Aloysius made the teams from those early years powerhouses.

Statistician Memories

I didn’t know Don well, even back on Elysian Fields. I had one class with him, a one-semester religion class. I pretty much kept my head down in religion, but that’s a story for another time. I knew a lot about Don even though we weren’t really friends because I was a sports statistician. In the days before even electronic calculators, you had to be able to do two-digit division in your head to knock out shooting percentages. When Johnny Vitrano (JV coach and assistant Varsity coach) was breathing down your neck to get the halftime percentages back to Head Coach Tommy Kolb, you had to think fast!

But having coach bug us was part of the fun. The best perquisite of the statistician’s job was you got to sit at mid-court, at the scorer’s table. Front-row center to see these guys play. While Robey was gone, my junior year was much more exciting. There were a number of games in my sophomore year where I didn’t get to do the book for varsity. There were juniors and seniors who got the mid-court seats. By junior year, though, I was one of the lead statisticians. Keeping the score book or the shot chart for Don, LeRoy, Reggie, Snake, Mike, Bean (Vantress) was a blast. Yelling our lungs out for them up front, even on the other team’s home side–don’t tell Brother Neal, SC, but he should have charged us a fee for doing the games.

Rest in Power, Don. You were one of the good guys.

Maison Blanche Bicentennial – Canal Street Shopping – 1976

Maison Blanche Bicentennial – Canal Street Shopping – 1976

Maison Blanche Bicentennial

Maison Blanche Bicentennial

Maison Blanche Canal, 1976. Leon Winer photo, courtesy Dave Winer.

Maison Blanche Bicentennial

So much 200 in 1976! Like just about every business in New Orleans, Maison Blanche went all-out in 1976 for the country’s 200th birthday. While MB decorated the front of the chain’s flagship store on Canal Street, they also promoted the celebration with sales.

Maison Blanche Bicentennial was a big deal. Advertising and Marketing departments don’t turn down an opportunity to turn a milestone into a sale. They’re in business to get customers in the door.

1776-1976

The Bicentennial was a hot mess of overkill to seventeen-year old me. I graduated from Brother Martin High School in May of 1976. I started the University of New Orleans in June. My senior prom favor has a tag line, “Bicentennial Class”, and the red-and-gold tassel on my mortarboard has a Liberty Bell dangling from it. To say we’d grown weary of All Things Bicentennial would be an understatement.

Take when Professor Ambrose wanted to change the name of the Education Building, on the west side of the UNO campus, for example. Even though the History Department is part of the College of Liberal Arts, the school placed them in the Education Building. Ambrose was the kind of man who took things like the Bicentennial seriously. He led a campaign in the University Sen Save & Exit ate to rename the building. The university listened, renaming it the Bicentennial Education Center.

We shook our heads. Looking back, forty-two years later, it’s not so bad.

Canal Street, 1976

Maison Blanche Bicentennial, part of a bigger red, white, and blue picture. Holmes, Godchaux’s, and Krauss also decorated for the celebration that summer. Some of the smaller stores also added flags and bunting to their facades. The contrast between the purple, green and gold of Carnival, turning into the patriotic displays made for odd combinations.

Transit in 1976

The streetcars departed from Canal Street in 1964. They wouldn’t return until 2004. Maison Blanche Bicentennial meant buses in the “Canal Street Zone”. Most of the time their air conditioning worked. The bus experience at that time was OK. Even though NOPSI operated the system, things ran fairly smoothly. Many people depended on the buses to get to and from the CBD for work.

Working at MB

I missed Maison Blanche Bicentennial as an employee. I started at the Clearview Mall store in 1977. Things were less red, white, and blue by then.

Southern Pacific at Union Passenger Terminal #TrainThursday

Southern Pacific at Union Passenger Terminal #TrainThursday

Southern Pacific at UPT

Southern Pacific

Sunset Limited, operated by the Southern Pacific Railroad, at Union Passenger Terminal, ca. 1970

Southern Pacific at UPT

Passenger train cars running on Southern Pacific’s “Sunset Limited” train. They’re at Union Passenger Terminal, New Orleans. SP’s Sunset Limited ran from New Orleans to Los Angeles in 1894.  Amtrak now operates the route.

Streamliner coaches

The Sunset Limited was one of the last “name trains” converted from “heavyweight” cars to “streamliner” equipment. The corrugated-side steel cars debuted on the Sunset Limited in 1950. While the “Daylight” trains used the red-and-yellow livery, the Sunset Limited cars bore simple red stripe across the top.

In 1970-1971, the last Sunset Limited trains operated by Southern Pacific, the consist was significantly scaled down. By the end of SP operation, both of the sleeper cars were discontinued, as well as the diner.

Here’s the 1970 consist:

  • Box Car Baggage Express
  • Baggage Dormitory
  • 10-6 Sleeper
  • 10-6 Sleeper (Southern Railway through car New York – Los Angeles via the Crescent Limited)
  • Lounge French Quarter
  • Diner Audubon
  • Coach
  • Coach
  • Coffee Shop Lounge Pride of Texas
  • Coach
  • Coach

This fits with the photo. The coach is the last car of the consist, and closest to the terminal building. (Consist via Wikipedia.)

Locomotives

The locomotives used to power the train were Alco PAs and EMD F-7s, which bore the “bloody nose” livery that matched the “Daylight” trains.

Dating this Photograph

The database entry for this photograph says it’s a Franck Studios photo, added to HNOC in 1979, but the photo is otherwise undated. This makes it an interesting to narrow down the date. We know that the streamliners began service in 1950. Union Passenger Terminal opened in 1950.

The Sunset Limited’s consist in the 1950s and 1960s included five Pullman sleeper cars. So, the train ended with three of those sleepers. While the 1970 consist included a sleeper, it wasn’t at the rear. So, the Southern Pacific tried hard to get out of the passenger rail business.

Amtrak inherited “heritage” equipment from the original operators in the 1970s. So, these cars ran in 1979. Amtrak re-painted all the cars with their red-white-blue livery. Therefore, it’s a good bet this photo is from 1970 or 1971.