The Bridgedale branch of the Jefferson Parish Library system.
Photo of the interior of the Bridgedale branch in the Jefferson Parish Library system, 1940s. The photographer is not credited. The State Library of Louisiana dates the photo only to 1940-1949. Their caption says, “B&W photo, Circa 1940s. Jefferson Parish library. Bridgedale Library. Metairie, La. Standing Mrs. Mary Lindsey, seated unknown.” While the caption refers to “Bridgedale,” this is the “Old Metairie” library branch, on Metairie Road. The parish library system expanded in 1949. So, that narrows the date of the photo. It’s possible this photo dates to 1950-1951.
In her book, Legendary Locals of Metairie, Catherine Campanella explains that “Bridgedale” refers to the 1920s neighborhood leading up to the not-yet-built Huey P. Long Bridge. The first library branch in Metairie opened on Metairie Road and Atherton Street. While this location stands outside of the area recognized as “Bridgedale,” the branch picked up the name. After the state completed the actual bridge in the 1930s, the section of the parish from Central Avenue to Transcontinental Drive developed. In 1952, the parish opened Bridgedale Elementary, on Zinnia Street and West Metairie Avenue. Therefore, the nebulous neighborhood designation focused to the area flowing out from the bridge. Additionally, JPL opened the Wagner branch, on Kawanee Street, north of Veterans Blvd.
So, this photo is from Metairie Road. This was the first public library I used as a kid. We lived on Dream Court, just off Bonnabel Blvd. Like the other original library branches, the parish owned the building. They transferred it to the library system. My time as a Metairie branch patron was in the mid-1960s. So, when we moved closer to the 17th Street Canal, this branch was still the closest. We relied on bookmobile service. The parish system appreciated the distance factor. They brought the library to us. Eventually, JPL constructed the Lakeshore Branch. It stands at the corner of Oaklawn and W. Esplanade.
A real Bridgedale branch
In 1997, JPL opened the East Bank Regional Library, at 4747 W. Napoleon Avenue. This 100,000 sq ft facility stands between Clearview and Transcontinental. So, Bridgedale didn’t just get a branch. They got the main library!
Maison Blanche Department Stores sponsored a NORD baseball team in 1956.
Photo of a New Orleans Recreational Department (NORD) baseball team from the summer of 1956. Maison Blanche Department Stores sponsored this particular team. The manager and members of the team are unidentified, so if you know any of these guys, please let us know. Also unidentified is the ballpark. NORD operated many playgrounds featuring full-sized ballparks across the city. While many of them closed or were sold, some still offer places for the city’s youth to play. Commercial sponsorships also continue, in many sports.
This photo is part of the Hayne S. Ragas collection at the New Orleans Public Library. Ragas worked for NORD, and shot many photos of playground action in the 1950s. Maison Blanche sponsored several playground teams. When NORD embraced the growing Babe Ruth Baseball program in the 1960s, the store continued its support. This 1956 team would not yet have been part of Babe Ruth. So, it’s possible the team is from a single playground.
The team photo set shows the coach and players close-in. So, they lack details of the ballpark. The current New Orleans Recreation Department Commission maintains nine stadiums, including Kirsch-Rooney in Mid-City (near Delgado), and Perry Roehm, off of Elysian Fields in Gentilly.
NORD founded its playground leagues in 1947. So, the city segregated playgrounds and teams.
Other Maison Blanche baseball
Additionally, the store fielded an adult team. Employees played in the Commercial League, going back to the 1930s. While World War II temporarily suspended the competition, the Commercial League resumed at the end of the war. Many local businesses, including the department stores played in this league. The Commercial League also offered softball for women, and bowling for both men and women. Maison Blanche won their share of titles in many of these competitions.
The Kenner library branch in 1949 was on Airline Highway.
Kenner Library Branch
Photo of the interior of the Kenner Branch of the Jefferson Parish Library in 1949. The caption from the State Library of Louisiana reads: “B&W photo, Circa 1940s. Jefferson Parish library. Kenner, Louisiana. Airline Hwy. Left to right: Mrs. Beatrice Hidalgo and Mrs. Dixie Stephens.” If anyone knew these ladies, let us know in comments! The Kenner Branch at this time was on Airline Highway, near Williams Blvd. The branch later moved to Williams Blvd, near Kenner City Hall, in the 1960s.
Jefferson Parish Library System
The Jefferson Parish Police Jury authorized a public library for the parish in 1946. In 1949, the first public library opened at Huey P. Long Avenue and Fourth Street, By December of 1949, branches opened in Gretna. Metairie, Jefferson, Kenner, Harahan, Marrero, Gretna, and Westwego. The parish converted existing buildings to libraries. This enabled the quick expansion. Growth of the library system continued into the 1950s and 1960s. In Kenner, the original branch re-located, and a North Kenner branch opened. This fit the growth pattern of Kenner, as folks moved above Veterans Blvd.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita inflicted serious damage to a number of parish library branches. For example, Hurricane Rita damaged 33% of the North Kenner branch. While libraries play important roles in building communities, repairing such damage was a challenge. It’s not something that happens overnight. Fortunately, the system continues to recover and grow.
Growing up in Old Metairie, we used the branch at Metairie Road and Atherton St. So, that branch later moved further up Metairie Road to its current location. While it received damage from Katrina, the branch now thrives. When we bought our house, the Wagner Library, by Bissonet Plaza Elementary was our branch. Now, the East Bank Regional Library is home, to family, and to our small writers’ group.
NOPSI 888, a wrecked streetcar, outside Carrollton Station.
The running joke is, when there’s a streetcar-versus-automobile confrontation, the streetcar wins. While this is true, it doesn’t mean the streetcar comes out unscathed. Such was the case on 13-May-1947. NOPSI 888 became a wrecked streetcar, after striking a vehicle while operating on the Desire line. NOPSI 888 received a lot more damage than those involved in wrecks with automobiles because it hit a truck. The streetcar left the scene with heavy damage on the opposite end. We documented the wreck some time ago. Franck Studios photographed 888 from all sides. From this angle, the streetcar appears fine, unless you look through the window! While the Desire line operated out of Canal Station, the Rail Department brought 888 back to Carrollton Station. NOPSI 888 stands here on Jeanette Street. Once the photographer finished, they rolled the streetcar into the barn.
The “Streetcar Named Desire” operated until May 30, 1948. NOPSI replaced the 800- and 900-series arch roof streetcars with White Company buses. These buses bore the classic maroon-and-cream livery of the “old style” buses. The streetcars operating on Desire shifted to the two remaining lines, St. Charles. NOPSI chose not to repair 888. So, it was the first 800-series car scrapped. The remaining 800s, with only a couple of exceptions, joined 888 on the junk pile in the summer of 1964.
While the Desire line gained immortality thanks to Tennessee Williams, it didn’t happen because of traveling on Desire Street. The Desire line rolled inbound on Royal Street, and outbound on Bourbon Street, for the length of the French Quarter. Since Williams lived in a third-story walk-up on Royal Street, he heard those streetcars running past, night and day. Even had Williams not gotten around town much, those streetcars would still stick out in his memory.
On this day, NOPSI 888 sported ad signs on the ends for Regal Beer. The American Brewing Company owned the Regal (“lager” spelled backwards) brand. They brewed and bottled Regal from their plant on Bourbon Street, from 1890 to 1960.
Desire Buses begin on 30-May-1948.
New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) converted their Desire line from streetcars to buses over Memorial Day Weekend in 1948. This flyer, distributed on transit lines across the city, explained the change. Streetcars ran until Saturday evening on 29-May. On Sunday morning, 30-May, White Company buses rolled out of Canal Station, taking over on Desire.
NOPSI moved quickly to remove streetcar tracks on the Desire line. So, they wanted the ride along the line to be smooth. Removing the tracks and re-blacktopping the street helped. From the brochure:
Street car tracks below Almonaster will be removed and the streets over which the buses are to travel will be resurfaced. During the progress of the track removal and re-paving, short temporary detours from the permanent route will be necessary. Signs at regular stops will direct passengers to the nearest temporary stop.
NOPSI implemented this plan for several reasons. First, streetcar tracks made for a bumpy ride for automobiles. To generate buy-in for buses, the company, along with the city, gave folks a smoother car trip. Sentimental feelings for the “Streetcar Named Desire” vanished quickly. Once the tracks were gone, the streetcars were quickly forgotten.
NOPSI and City Hall tore up streetcar tracks quickly on other converted lines. When the company converted the Magazine line to trackless trolleys, they left the overhead wire. Since the electric buses didn’t require tracks, up they came. Now, the blocks on Camp street the line traveled got that smooth-ride treatment. It also didn’t hurt that nobody really missed streetcars on Magazine.
NOPSI planned to convert a number of lines in the late 1930s. The outbreak of World War II delayed those plans. The War Department, along with other agencies supporting the war effort, denied the companies requests. Streetcars operated using electricity. They ran on existing steel rails. Buses required rubber tires and gasoline. The War Department needed those two resources more than public transit. So, streetcars remained throughout the war. As part of the peacetime economy transitions, the government approved the bus conversions.
West End Streetcar line ran until 1950.
West End Streetcar
NOPSI 933, running on the West End Streetcar line. Undated photo, between 1948 and 1950. This is the end of the line, out by Lake Pontchartrain. The streetcar ran from the the river, up Canal Street, turning left (West) on City Park Avenue, then turning right (North), following the New Canal to the lakefront.
The New Orleans City Railroad Company opened the West End line in April, 1876. It originally ran from the Halfway House, on City Park Avenue, out to the lake. So, if you wanted to get out to West End, you took the Canal Street line to the end, then the West End line. Two months later, in June, 1876, service was extended to Carondelet and Canal Street.
Service for the first twenty-two years of operation was via steam locomotive. A steam engine was made to look like a tram, a streetcar. The line was electrified in 1898, three years after the Canal Line.
Out to the lake
The West End line’s peak was in the 1920s. NOPSI operated the American Car Company’s “Palace” cars on the Canal/Esplanade Belt, along with West End. During the Spring/Summer seasons, The Palace cars pulled unpowered Coleman trailers. So, small trains of two to four cars went out to the lake.
Streetcars and canals
The West End line ran next to the New Canal, for all but the last year of its operation. While the main street connecting Mid-City to West End was Pontchartrain Boulevard, on the West side of the canal, the streetcar ran along West End Boulevard, on the East side of the canal. Confusing? Welcome to New Orleans. The streetcar tracks didn’t cross the canal. The line ran up to the lake, just past Robert E. Lee (now Allen Toussaint) Bouelevard. The West End line connected with the Spanish Fort Shuttle line, after the direct-from-downtown Spanish Fort line was closed in 1911.
The lakefront changed dramatically after 1940. The Orleans Parish Levee District reclaimed a massive amount of land and built the seawall in the 1920s and 1930s. By 1940, the US Army and Navy built hospitals in what are now the East and West Lakeshore subdivisions. The West End streetcar shifted from excursion service to commuter operation after 1940. NOPSI converted the line to buses in 1950.
This photo is courtesy H. George Friedman’s collection.