by nolahistoryguy | Jul 26, 2021 | 1950s, Gentilly, Maison Blanche
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.
by nolahistoryguy | Jul 19, 2021 | 1960s, Brother Martin High, Gentilly, St. Aloysius, Treme
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.
by nolahistoryguy | Jul 12, 2021 | 1960s, 1970s, Brother Martin High, Cor Jesu, Gentilly, St. Aloysius
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.
by nolahistoryguy | Jun 29, 2021 | 1960s, Brother Martin High, Cor Jesu, Gentilly
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!
by nolahistoryguy | May 23, 2021 | 1970s, BOSH, Brother Martin High, Cor Jesu, Gentilly
The main entrance at Brother Martin High School in 1971.
BMHS Main Entrance
From Yesterday 1972, this photo shows the main entrance to Brother Martin High School in its third year of existence. To the left is the oeriginal Cor Jesu building. To the right is the lobby and administration wing. The main entrance connected old and new. Over time, these doors were secured, and entrance and exit routed through other parts of the campus. The Cor Jesu building dates to the predecessor school’s opening in 1954. The building served as a Civil Devense “fallout shelter” in the late 1950s and 1960s. The iron-lettered “Brother Martin High School” sign said, “Cor Jesu High School” until May of 1969, when Cor Jesu was formally closed. The sign changed that Summer. Three years later, I walked through those doors, as an Eighth grader.
The Old Building
In 1971, the classrooms that fronted Elysian Fields Avenue didn’t have a specific name/designation. The first classroom to the left of the main entrance was Room 101. As Eighth graders, my class, 8A, had our first three classes in that room, Louisiana History, English 8A, and Religion. The 8B class was in room 102, and 8C in 103. That way the three teachers could move easily between the classes each morning. The hallway ended with the Physics Lab.
The interior side of the building contained the audio-visual storage room, faculty room, and a science lab, for 8/9th Physical Science. My 8A class ended the day in that lab, with Mr. Lloyd Brinker (SA65). Our lockers were right around the corner from that lab, in the stairwell. A simple covered walkway connected that side of the building with the Brother’s Residence next door.
Place Sacre Couer
In 1994, the BOSH changed the access layout of the school. While the main entrance was welcoming, it always had a significant design flaw. Visitors to the school could enter the campus unobserved. This also included the lake-side door of the old building. So, the school modified the traffic patterns. The main entrance remained unlocked, but students were discouraged from entering and exiting through it. The school transformed the front from a basic walkway to a formal plaza, “Place Sacre Couer.” All the BOSH school principals alive at the time gathered for a formal dedication.
by nolahistoryguy | May 9, 2021 | Brother Martin High, Gentilly
Spring Week mini-classes replaced third quarter exams in 1976.
Brother Gaspar Rodrigue, SC, conducting a “gourmet cooking” class for Spring Week at Brother Martin High School, 1976. Brother Gaspar lived across the street from the school, on Elysian Fields, at the corner of Sumpter Street. The BOSH owned the house. At the time, Brothers Gaspar and More Schaefer lived there.
Spring Week was an interesting experiment from the “liberal” days of the 1970s. Instead of having third quarter exams, seniors in 1974 through 1977 participated in a series of mini-classes on “practical” subjects, like cooking, photography, music, and outdoor activities like tennis.
The idea behind Spring Week developed from the notion that a college prep school like Brother Martin did a good job with the academics, but not so much with life skills. Brother Martin Hernandez, SC, the school’s namesake, was fond of saying, “”We [the BOSH] are not here to teach boys how to make a living but how to make a life.” Spring Week exemplifies this philosophy. The Brothers wanted Crusaders to leave Elysian Fields with more than good ACT/SAT scores.
The faculty offered a number of cooking classes to seniors during Spring Week. Looking back, I can’t help but wonder if the moms told the BOSH, teach my kid to cook!” For this particular class, Brother Gaspar taught how to make BBQ Shrimp. That’s what’s in that pan Brother’s looking over. If you’re unfamiliar with the dish, New Orleans BBQ Shrimp was made incredibly popular by Pascal’s Manale Restaurant, on Napoleon Avenue, Uptown. It’s easy to make, a one-pan dish, the kind of thing you want to do when working with teens who likely never turned on an oven.
At some point in the 80s, BMHS returned to a tighter, “three-Rs” style. The topical, single-semester English courses for juniors and seniors returned to English III and English IV. Spring Week faded and exams returned.
This particular photo was from Yesterday 1976, my senior year. The student on the left side, looking down at Brother Gaspar is your humble NOLA History Guy. I can’t quite tell, but I think the other student is Marcus Chevis.