Maison Blanche Thanksgiving weekend was always hectic.
Maison Blanche Thanksgiving
Ad from Thanksgiving Weekend, 1978. MB ran this ad on Sunday, 26-November-1978, after the madness of Friday and Saturday were over. Holiday season 1978 was my first at MB Clearview. I spent that weekend glued to one of those old electro-mechanical cash registers the store used at the time.
The Post-Thanksgiving sales in the Maison Blanche Men’s Department included mostly grab-and-go items. Casual shirts, slacks, some jackets and coats. Mom would hit the stores while dad slept in or went fishing. So, Mom picked up stuff for dad that didn’t require his presence. That gave her time to explore the various ladies departments. From the employee perspective, it was easy. The lines stached up a bit, so shoppers didn’t come up for conversation.
Selling in 1978
While individual/personal calculators grew in popularity, retail transactions in 1978 had not changed for forty years. Stores shifted from mechanical to electro-mechanical cash register. Credit card transactions remained the same. At MB, store charges (using one’s New Orleans Shoppers’ credit card) rung up on the regular sales ticket. Slide the ticket under the printer in the register. Push the old-style keys for department and item number. Cash, credit, or bank card. The sale rung up, then you’d make an imprint of the card, in the body of the sales ticket. Both store and bank cards required a phone call to verify the credit line, if the purchase was over a set amount. The approval process hadn’t changed much since the 1950s. Credit staff at the Canal Street store answered phones from downstairs and the suburban stores. Those phones had super-long cords (yes, folks, we’re talking about phones with cords). The salesperson at the register gave the card information. The credit staffers looked up the account numbers, calculated the customer’s limit, then approved or declined the purchase.
Suit separates for men
The big ad for Sunday, 26-Nov-1978 for MB presented men’s suit separates from Haggar. “Choose them by the piece: a sport coat, a vest, the slack,, or choose them all for a 3 piece vested look for under 100.00.” These pieces sold well with men whose measurements crossed over suit sizes. The price was right for younger men, as well. These items appear in the Sunday paper. While most people bought the Haggar stuff and brought it home to dad, some folks came in for alterations. We didn’t do alterations over the weekend, but Monday evening after was just fine.
LMEA Marching Festival brings local bands together to perform.
LMEA Marching Festival
Each year, District 6 of the Louisiana Music Educators Association (LMEA) holds a “Marching Assessment” in the Fall. Crusader Band (along with other local bands) call it “Marching Festival.” At the end, when the scores are announced, the officers of the participating bands gather on the field to accept their awards. For the 2007 Festival, Crusader Band’s Drum Major and two Band Captains, along with the co-Captains of the Dominican Debs wait for wait for their scores. I don’t have names for these young men and women at this time. If you know them, let me know. (I sent the photo to my class of 2012 kiddo, who was Brass Captain in his senior year, but he’s in Palo Alto and not awake yet).
Football Season for Crusader Band
In the Fall, Crusader Band is a football band.Going back to the beginning, the band turned out to perform in the stands at games. While some band programs place football as a second priority, behind band competitions, the Crusader Band’s mission was to support the team. The school and the Athletic Department recognized this, and funded a good bit of the program’s expenses. So, as a five-year band dad, I remained silent when parents whose kids attended other schools fussed about money. They were going out of pocket for trips to competitions. I paid a $50 uniform cleaning fee.
The late Mr. Marty Hurley, long-time Band Director, had a solid strategy for preparing for Festival. The festival program called for performance of three tunes and a percussion performance. Hurley chose a theme, picked three tunes, then worked up the drum routine. One of the tunes always featured the auxiliary unit. Crusader Band partners with the “Debs” of Dominican High School.
The band wore the NJROTC service dress blues in those early years. When NJROTC became an elective course track, Crusader Band switched to a classic-style uniform. The style changed over the years. They wore this set of uniforms through my son’s senior year (2011-2012).
The Cartier Bus line ran in Gentilly.
Photo from Aaron Handy, III, of two streetcars and a “old looks” bus at Carrollton Station in the mid-1970s. Here’s his caption from the “Vintage New Orleans Transit” group on the Book of Face: “Charley cars 951 and 961 rest at Carrollton Station And Shops, with NOPSI GM old look bus 1930, curiously assigned to Cartier!”
NOPSI 951 and 961 were two of the thirty-five arch roof streetcars that survived the slaughter of 1964. At this time, mid-1970s, the extent of the Rail Department’s operations was the St. Charles line, from S. Claiborne terminal, looping around at Carondelet and Canal Streetsl, back to St. Charles Avenue, for the outbound run.
Buses at Carrollton Station
The bay next to the streetcars has no rails. The station housed trackless trolleys until 1964. After NOPSI converted trolley bus service back to regular buses, they housed those buses at Canal Station, Carrollton, and Arabella. Aaron is right, a bus working on the Cartier line parked Uptown is curious!
Gentilly transit service
Cartier! That line was one of my ways home from Brother Martin High School. The line primarily served as school buses. Fed FW Gregory Jr High to JFK. Here’s the route:
- Outbound from Franklin Ave. at Mirabeau Avenue.
- Up Mirabeau to St. Bernard
- Stop at Mirabeau and Press along the way. This was a huge stop, since it connected F. W. Gregory Jr. High, down the street on Press.
- Up St. Bernard to Toussaint
- Turn left on Toussaint to cross the bayou
- Stop at Spanish Fort
- U-turn on Toussaint, then right on Wisner (cross the bayou)
- Down Wisner to JFK. End of route.
- Return: reverse the direction, back to Franklin Avenue
While Cartier wasn’t the only option to get back to Metairie, it allowed me to hang out with friends who lived in Lakeview a bit longer. We’d ride Cartier to Spanish Fort, then transfer to the Canal (Lake Vista via Canal Blvd) line, or its “Express” line, 80. The express drivers didn’t charge us the extra nickel, since they knew we exited in Lakeview. The Lake Vista bus turned at Toussaint and Canal Blvd, heading inbound. We would either ride to City Park Avenue, or exit at Toussaint. The Canal (Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Blvd) bus began its inbound run at Canal Blvd and the lake. We caught it at Toussaint, and rode up to Veterans. Then it was JeT out to Metairie.
Those GM “Old Looks” buses were long gone from most routes by the mid-1970s. NOPSI promoted/sold discontinuing streetcars on Canal by offering air-conditioned service from Lakeview, all the way into town. Since the Cartier and Lake lines were essentially school buses for JFK Senior High, the company didn’t mind retaining the old buses. At least the seats were comfortable.
Gym Mass is a key part of the holistic education offered at Brother Martin High School.
Brother Louis Couvillon, SC, leads the students, faculty and staff of Brother Martin High School in the celebration of the Eucharist, Fall of 2009. Brother celebrates a “gym mass” – where the entire school gathers in the Conlin Gym. While my only date for the photo is the fall semester of 2009, it’s clear this liturgy happened later in the semester. Too many students and teachers wear sweatshirts for this to be in August or September. I see BC and Mr. Rando (who was principal at the time) sitting to the right.
Evolution of school liturgies
The school’s approach to religious education over the last fifty years reflects, in many ways, the evolution of the Church. I stepped into what is now the “Cor Jesu Building” in the fall of 1971 and went to Room 101. After Louisiana History and English 8A, Brother Warren Laudumiey, SC, stepped in for Religion 8. The curriculum was post-Vatican II material. In retrospect, it was pretty solid. The Religion Department’s approach to the Eucharist was for each religion class to gather for a Mass in the chapel of the brother’s residence next door, each semester. The school didn’t gather as a whole for Mass. The BOSH made their “Nine First Fridays” devotion by celebrating Mass in the Resource Center each first Friday. These liturgies were optional. Students who chose not to attend would come to school later (the day ran on a “morning assembly schedule”) or sit in the Mall. While there were no liturgies for the underclass grades, Seniors gathered for their Ring Mass and Graduation Mass at local churches that could accommodate them.
Transition to whole-school liturgy
As the Church swung back from the changes of the Second Vatican Council, the Brother Martin faith community did so as well. By the time my boys (classes of 2006 and 2012) arrived at the school, the Religion Department coordinated a regular schedule of full-school events. Unlike those class Masses from the 70s, and the First Friday Masses, gym mass involves the concert band, student council, and others. The school has a Student Minister group, as well as a cadre of Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist. While the Archbishop harbors concerns about Catholics moving away from supporting the neighborhood parish, I wish he would cut the schools a break. A faith community at a high school can help teens form solid, positive impressions about the Church.
A note on Brother Louis: Brother was the last in the line of “priest-brothers” at BMHS. The late Brother Farrell Lorio, SC, was an ordained priest, as was Brother Ray Hebert, SC. When Brother Farrell passed, Brother Louis came to BMHS. He’s since been assigned up to New Jersey. Now, Fr. Paul Hart, BMHS Class of 1970, augments his parochial duties by serving as the school’s chaplain.
Summer football practice meant hot days and hard work.
Summer football practice
Practice in the backyard! Here’s Brother Neal’s caption of this photo, from the Brother Martin High School alumni publication.
Coach Bob Conlin puzzles over a problem during a hot practice. In the foreground is Assistant Coach Emile Fair. The Crusaders finished 8-2 that year, but missed the playoffs because the second-place tiebreaker went to Rummel, which beat BM 21-14 in week six after capitalizing on a fumble at the 11.
This was one of those days when the team didn’t dress out in full pads. While I can’t speak to the football practice conditions, I remember days like this when I was on the NJROTC Drill Team.
Multi-purpose activity area
Prior to the acquisition of the E. A. Farley Florist property, next to the school, all the outdoor activities, from football practice to NJROTC regimental reviews took place in the grassy area. This created scheduling challenges, as you can imagine. Football and band required space for practice in the Fall. The Drill Team usually took to the streets for marching practice, and we would go out to the parking lot at Pontchartrain Beach to work on routines. The backyard was initially large enough to fit a full-size football field.
Things improved a bit as football gave way to wrestling and basketball. While the two squads separated in the Conlin gym, basketball needed space for both varsity and JV teams. Band retreated to their space in the back of the school after football season.
More green space
After the closure of E.A. Farley florist, the school negotiated with the family to buy the land. The florist shop was a storefront facing Gentilly Blvd. The nursery area bounded Gentilly Blvd, Marigny St., Stephen Girard St., and Mandeville St. It’s now part of the campus. The school converted the northeast corner of the property into a full baseball diamond, with bleachers. It’s named E. A. Farley Field. When my younger son (Class of 2012) was in Crusader Band, they continued to practice behind the school, leaving the new space to athletic teams.
Do you have stories about summer football practice in the backyard? Please share them!
1982 athletic fashions
Brother Neal mentions the length of the shorts worn by the students and coaches. He calls them “pre-Michael Jordan” length. I prefer to think of them as “Magic-versus-Bird” length. At least they helped everyone stay cool for summer football practice.
Wide shot of the strip mall that contained Maison Blanche Gentilly.
Maison Blanche Gentilly
Franck Studios photograph of a strip mall on Gentilly Boulevard at Foy Street. The address is 3043 Gentilly Blvd. Shot in 1950, the tenants in the still-standing strip changed a great deal in over seventy years. Walgreens anchors the strip on the left, and Maison Blanche’s Gentilly store on the right. In-between stand a Morgan and Lindsay dime store and Capitol Stores Supermarket. A billboard advertising JAX Beer (from the Jackson Brewing Company on Decatur Street). The brewery proclaimed JAX, the “best beer in town.”
The Maison Blanche Gentilly store opened in 1948. The company expanded from the single store on Canal Street that year. They opened two new stores almost simultaneously. The first stood in a strip mall at the corner of Tulane and S. Carrollton Avenues. This store catered to the Mid-City neighborhood. Gentilly witnessed an incredible boom after WWII. Men left their family homes as seventeen and eighteen year olds. They returned four or five years later, ready to get on with their lives. Rather than move back in with mom and dad, they chose Gentilly. While the area around Elysian Fields Avenue and Gentilly Boulevard (just two blocks from this strip mall) was developed, the neighborhoods heading out towards the lake stood relatively empty. Returning veterans bought lots and built homes there. The area around Elysian Fields and Gentilly transitioned into a retail nexus for the neighborhood. One short bus ride appealed to Gentilly residents, compared to riding all the way downtown.
Out to Gentilly Woods
As Gentilly continued to grow, Maison Blanche grew with the neighborhood. Developers opened the Gentilly Woods Mall, down the street, next to the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, in 1957. MB moved the Gentilly store to that mall. The original Gentilly store became a budget annex. In 1974, the Gentilly store moved a second time, from Gentilly Woods to The Plaza in Lake Forest, in New Orleans East.