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.
The St. Aloysius Color Guard was a military-style unit in the mid-1960s.
Aloysius Color Guard
From the book: “Color Guard. Prior to the activation of the school’s NJROTC unit, the St. Aloysius Band also included a Color Guard for presenting the American flag at football games, Carnival parades, and other events.” The unit consisted of a commander (left), two rifle escorts, and color bearers carrying the United States flag and the flag of the City of New Orleans. The 1966 Crusader yearbook staff shot this photo on the Esplanade Avenue neutral ground. Students in the unit are unidentified; if you know who these young men are, please let me know!
Band auxiliary to NJROTC
In 1967, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart announced an arrangement with the United States Navy to establish a Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corp (NJROTC) unit at St. Aloysius High School. Participation in the unit was mandatory for Crusaders in grades 10, 11, and 12. The school adopted the Navy’s khaki undress uniform for all grades.
When St. Aloysius and Cor Jesu merged to form Brother Martin High, the NJROTC unit moved to Elysian Fields. The band and the color guard adopted the NJROTC uniforms for public events. The band wore the NJROTC service dress blue uniform. This consisted of navy blue wool trousers and a double-breasted wool jacket, with six buttons. Band members wore a white, long-sleeved shirt and a black necktie with the suit. Their covers were a naval officers style “combination cap” with a white cover. Ranks were indicated by insignia on the jacket sleeves. Officers wore thin stripes near the jacket cuff. Chief Petty Officers wore a CPO-style insignia on the upper sleeve. The band’s Drum Major held the rank of Cadet Lieutenant, and the commander of the color guard was a Cadet Lieutenant (Junior Grade).
BMHS kept the NJROTC uniforms for the band through the 1975-76 school year.
Graduation 1970 took place in the Rivergate Convention Center on Canal Street.
Brother Jean Sobert, SC, Director of Student Activities, gives last-minute instructions at Graduation 1970. The Charter Class of Brother Martin High School graduated in May, 1970. The commencement exercises took place at the Rivergate. Brother Jean speaks to a member of the NJROTC Color Guard, who participated in the ceremony. Brother Mark Thornton, SC, presided over the commencement as the school’s first principal.
The Class of 1970 set the tone for the opening and initial growth of the school. There was a lot of disappointment and sadness at the end of the 1968-69 school year. The students at Cor Jesu and St. Aloysius closed their schools. The classes of 1969 moved on. The rising seniors, along with the underclassmen, gathered on Elysian Fields in August of 1969 to open the new school. Brother Mark worked hard to bring the student bodies together, moving back and forth between Cor Jesu and St. Aloysius, talking to those rising seniors. He brought students into the planning over that interim summer.
One of the biggest things that unified Brother Martin in those first years was success in athletics. The basketball team, led by Coach Andy Russo, brought state championships home that first year, and in the 1970-71 season as well. Those teams combined the athletes from both schools. The 1969-70 team not only won state, but was ranked at the top of several national polls at the end of the season. The gym, now named for Coach Bob Conlin, offered a great (if not a tad warm) facility for basketball games. The facility held the entire student body and faculty for Mass and other assemblies.
Athletic success blended the disparate faculties and student bodies almost completely by the Fall of 1971. That’s when the football team won the 4-A state championship. The final game pit the Crusaders against neighborhood rival, St. Augustine High School, at Tad Gormley.
With the combination of Cor Jesu and St. Aloysius, class size exceeded 300 in grades 9-12. (Eighth Grade was about 100 students.) The school required a larger facility for commencement. While St. Frances Cabrini Church, on Paris Avenue, was a lovely place for Cor Jesu commencements, even that facility would be crowded. The Rivergate Convention Center opened in 1968. It provided a location large enough to accommodate faculty, student body, parents and guests.
The Cor Jesu prom favor for 1969 was a miniature senior ring.
Cor Jesu prom favor
Photo of the last prom favor for Cor Jesu High School in Gentilly. The school formally closed after the graduation of the Class of 1969. I don’t know the full story on this favor, perhaps someone from that year does. Schools usually offered these miniature rings as favors for the seniors’ ring dances. I suspect this was special because senior prom in 1969 was one of the last events.
Brother Martin High continued the tradition of these miniature rings as dance favors. I bought one for my date to the ring dance in the fall of 1975. I’m not sure how long after that the tradition continued. Another for the younger guys! I know this went out of fashion by the time my boys attended BMHS (classes of 2006 and 2012).
Speaking of dance favors, who had the big beer schooners as prom favors? While those lasted through the 1970s, they didn’t make it to my sons’ time. The class of 1970’s favors said, “Charter Class.” The favors in 1973 said, “First All-Martin Class.” At the time, they gave the title to 1973, since they attended BMHS from Freshmen to Senior. In 1974, Mark Romig wrote a short article for the student newspaper, arguing that 1974 was the first true All-Martin class. A number of graduates that year attended the school for five years, starting in eighth grade. The number of eighth graders was small at that time, less than a third of the graduating class. The trend of starting high school in eighth grade didn’t pick up until later. So, 1973 was All-Martin.
My class, 1976, was the next prom favor to have a special designation. We were the “Bicentennial Class.” At the time, most of us were experiencing Bicentennial burn-out. By prom, we figured, so long as they didn’t make the favor itself red-white-and-blue, it would be OK.
If you’ve got photos of prom and ring dance favors, please share them!