Maison Blanche Halloween wasn’t a big deal. Christmas was the big deal.
Atrium at Maison Blanche, Lake Forest, mid-1970s. T-P photo.
Maison Blanche Halloween
Interior shot of the Maison Blanche store in The Plaza at Lake Forest. The store opened in 1974. The store incorporated many of the design features of the one in Clearview Shopping Center in Metairie. This photo features the open-air center atrium. The escalators stood on either side, with the Fine Jewelry department on the ground floor. The mall-side entrance to the store stood to the photographer’s left. First floor departments included cosmetics, jewelry, candy, juniors and menswear. Retailers always believed menswear should be easily accessible, on the ground floor.
“You’ll be a sleeping beauty in dreamy sleepwear by Gilead…short waltz length nylon tricot gowns with matching coats…” – women’s sleepwear, items a husband or boyfriend find difficult to buy as gifts. So, appeal to the ladies directly, before the Christmas ad onslaught.
This ad, from the Times-Picayune, on 31-October-1978, is a great example of how seriously Halloween was a part of the chain’s Fall marketing. Yes, there’s nothing in the ad for spooky season. That’s because Halloween is merely a blip on the radar. The focus for department stores like MB was always the post-Thanksgiving shopping season. While stores like Spirit Halloween, Party City, discounters like K-Mart, and the old five-and-dimes offered what you needed for Halloween, MB and its competitors didn’t bother. Setting up for Halloween required taking space from multiple departments. The managers of those departments and the buyers they worked for balked at disrupting the holiday mojo. September heralded the “Pre-Christmas” promotions. Those sales carried on through November. The day after Thanksgiving marked the formal start of the Christmas season. To set up displays for special merchandise at the end of October, only to break them down days later made no sense.
Halloween in Men’s Suits
So, Maison Blanche Halloween wasn’t a thing. In fact, I took the day off when this ad ran in 1978. The “Haunted House” we held at the Lambda Chi Alpha (University of New Orleans) house in Gentilly needed more help than the Men’s department at MB Clearview. Since we worked on commission, my colleagues certainly didn’t miss me on a slow night.
Hope your Halloween was a good one! This post goes up a day late, but that’s OK, because we’re still in the middle of All Hallows Eve, All Saints, and All Souls.
Maison Blanche Clearview was a huge department store.
Architectural rendering of Maison Blanche’s store at Clearview Shopping Center, 1968
Maison Blanche Clearview
Architectural rendering of Maison Blanche Clearview, 1968. This is essentially what the store looked like when it opened a year later. This perspective is what you saw as you exited I-10 at Clearview Parkway (North), and drove towards Veterans Blvd. So, this is the western edge of Clearview Shopping Center. Sears, the mall’s other anchor, was on the opposite end. The three-story location had north and south entrances to the parking lots. The entrance on the east opened up into the mall. Clearview was Maison Blanche’s second store in Metairie, the first being at Airline Village.
In 1947, MB expanded beyond 901 Canal Street. The store opened a location in Gentilly, at Frenchmen and Gentilly Boulevard. They also opened a store in a new strip mall located at S. Carrollton and Tulane Avenues. This point was the Southern terminus of US Highway 61, known as Airline Highway here. That highway originated in Wyoming, Mississippi. Before the construction of I-10, East Jefferson residents used Airline Highway to get into town. As Metairie developed after WWII, MB moved west. The store opened a location at Airline Village. By 1969, with I-10 nearing completion in Metairie, MB moved further west, to the corner of Clearview Parkway and Veterans Blvd.
While Clearview Shopping Center fronted Veterans, the mall, extended back to the interstate’s service road. MB recognized the incredible growth in the “Above Causeway” real estate market. The Clearview store would be three-stories, larger than any of the existing suburban stores.
Into the Mall
Shot of the mall entrance to Maison Blanche Clearview, 1971. via the Times-Picayune.
This photo shows the mall-side entrance of Maison Blanche Clearview. As the shopper walked west from Sears, they crossed a central atrium, then walked up to the MB entrance. They encountered the cosmetics counters, as was typical of many suburban department stores. After cosmetics was a central rotunda, with the escalators climbing to the second and third floors on either side. Fine Jewelery operated in the rotunda. Continue the walk west, and the Candy Department tempted you. Then came Men’s Sportswear on the right and Junior dresses on the left.
The store’s angle put the exit from the Men’s department in the back, leading to the parking lot behind the mall. There was a four-story office building separating the mall from the interstate’s service road by the early 1970s. That building housed WRNO-FM radio. Remind me to tell you some stories about that another time.
Early architectural rendering of Maison Blanche Clearview
This rendering was an earlier concept for Clearview. The dark panels on the exterior were similar to the Gentilly Woods store. MB dropped that idea, giving us the look at the top.
My Veterans Bus memories go back over fifty years.
Veterans Bus Memories
Old and new photos of buses operating on the Veterans Blvd. line. The line, originally operated by Louisiana Transit Company, now Jefferson Transit (JeT), originally ran from Canal Blvd. and City Park Avenue, out to Veterans Blvd. and Loyola Avenue in Kenner. The photos from the 1970s (courtesy of Mike Strauch, the man behind streetcarmike.com) are of General Motors “New Looks” buses operated by Louisiana Transit in the 70s. The newer buses are from 16-August-2022, shot at the Cemeteries Transit Terminal. The Veterans line (now known as the “E1” line services the “new” terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY).
MC 320 on the Veterans Memorial line eastbound east of Oaklawn Dr. in the late 1970s. (Courtesy streetcarmike.com)
When I attended Brother Martin High School in the mid-1970s, I had two basic options for getting home in the afternoon. One was to take either the then-NOPSI Broad or Carrollton bus lines to Canal Street, transfer to one of the outbound Canal lines, then catch the Veterans line at City Park Avenue. The other option was the “Lakeview” run. We’d take the then-NOPSI Cartier Line, which ran on Mirabeau to Spanish Fort, then transfer to the Canal (Lake Vista via Canal Blvd) line heading inbound. When that bus got to Canal Blvd, we’d transfer to the Canal (Lakeshore via Pontchartrain Blvd) line, and ride that to Pontchartrain and Veterans Boulevards. Then out to Metairie on the Veterans. The buses were GM “New Looks,” and occasionally, the air conditioning actually worked.
The Modern Veterans Line
Map of the Veterans E1 line, via JeT.
Da Airport’s “new” terminal opened in 2019. That changed access to the airport dramatically. Instead of approaching the original terminal from Airline Drive (US 61), flyers exit I-10 at Loyola Avenue, cross Veterans Blvd, and enter the terminal from there. So, instead of the old “Airport Express” and “Kenner Local” bus lines, access to the airport via public transit is by the E1 – Veterans (Airport) line. The E1 now goes all the way into the CBD, on Canal Street. It picks up passengers at limited stops along Canal. When the line reaches the end of Canal, at City Park Avenue, it returns to its traditional route. The line enters I-10 at City Park Avenue, then immediately exits at West End Blvd. It runs onto Veterans Blvd, where it heads west to Loyola Ave. The E1 then turns into the airport. It terminates at the airport and returns for the inbound trip. While there is no “express” service to the airport, the price ($2 one way from the CBD) is right.
Rear view of JeT E1 bus. at the Cemeteries Terminal.
Jefferson Transit (JeT) was created in 1982. Prior to that, Louisiana Transit operated buses on the East Bank, and Westside Transit on the West Bank. When the state created the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority in 1984 to assume operations of transit lines in Orleans Parish, Jefferson Parish chose to operate buses in the suburbs independently. (The City of Kenner did join NORTA at that time). JeT purchased buses from the two legacy companies and contracted with them to operate the lines. In 2006, JeT consolidated operations under a single contract, awarded to Veolia Transportation, Inc. They assumed control of operations in 2008.
New Orleans offered great options for Dining, Dancing, Entertainment in 1978.
Dining, Dancing, Entertainment.
Summertime in New Orleans in the 1970s offered a wide variety of going-out options, from dining to live music, to a night at Da Beach. Begue’s at the Royal Sonesta Hotel offered a different spread on the lunch buffet daily. We would go on Thursdays, when it was the big seafood buffet (above).
Vincenzo’s, 3000 Severn, in #themetrys tempted folks into their world “of Good Food, of Good Drinks, of Great Entertainment.” Creole-Italian food, a solid bar and a good wine list, and a piano man for live music, five days a week. The location is the strip mall next to Breaux Mart on Severn. It’s now boutiques and a Hallmark store.
The Monteleone Hotel on Royal Street presented “Steaks Unlimited” as one of their restaurants. The Sunday Brunch at the hotel featured breakfast food and Creole classics. While some brunch spreads provided the bare minimum for guests who didn’t want to venture out, The Monteleone competed for locals coming into town for a day of sightseeing.
Dancing and Live Music
Disco Dancing at Da Beach (top)! A night out riding the Zephyr and the “Ragin Cajun” roller coasters required fashion choices other than nice clubbing clothes. Still, 1978 was peak disco. So, the amusement park turned the main stage (more-or-less in the center of the midway) into an outdoor disco, Monday thru Friday nights. On Saturdays and Sundays, Da Beach held a “Gong Show.” Local radio DJs emceed these crazy talent shows.
For a show/club experience, The Front Page featured a classic two-shows-a-night band/review. Tommy Cook and the Platters entertained at the Fat City club the week of 13-18 June, 1978. No cover, weeknights and Sundays.
Not interested in sweating out at Da Beach? Tulane’s Summer Lyric Theater presented three musicals in the Summer of 1978. Theater enthusiasts turned out at Dixon Hall on the Uptown campus for “Girl Crazy,” “Die Fledermaus,” and “Camelot.” Tulane’s Summer Lyric Theater is still going strong in 2022.
New Orleans entertained itself nicely during the Oil Boom of the late 1970s. As Boom turned into Bust, we began to re-invent ourselves, offering tourist-oriented attractions on a larger scale.
In 1966, newspapers offered Maison Blanche Advertising a solid platform.
Maison Blanche Advertising
The Sunday edition of the Times-Picayune for February 13, 1966 offered a target-rich environment for the department stores. The store placed numerous full-page ads, like this one for “GEORGIA GRIFFIN’S ‘TOWN and TRAVEL’ COLLECTION OF DACRON/COTTONS” – “leaves pressing business behind.” Additionally, they ran an ad for Maison Blanche auto centers,
The dresses featured three neck styles, Italian collar, Double-collar, and Cardigan neck. So, this collection sold at Misses’ and Women’s Dresses, Second Floor of MB Canal. Additionally, they went out to the “suburban” stores. Gentilly Woods, which later migrated to The Plaza at Lake Forest. Airline, which moved to Clearview Shopping Center, and Westside Shopping Center.
MB never sleeps…
With a full final shopping day on Monday, February 14, MB presented Rudy Grenreich’s “Exquisite Form “L’Intrigue” Sleepwear Collection. “(Surprise surprise! … no gossamer peakboo here. All is demure, or is it?)”
Styles from “THE LOCKE SHOE TRUNK SHOWING” by Mr. George D. Williams, stood next to the sleepwear. The “Carol,” “Cameo,” and “Pinafore” enticed women out for the showing. Shoppers ventured only to the downtown Shoe Salon for the Locke shoe. While the outlying stores attracted regular shoppers, the “get dressed and go downtown” view held.
“High-stepping, uninhibited as the season … four great fashion looks from Carmelettes take lower heels, joyous colorings, or the sparkling polish of black.” While the Shoe Department offered several styles and colors only at Canal Street, others appeared at the other stores.
“Carnival arrives at first blush of spring as Samuel Winston, not a moment too soon, proposes you wear his pink frosting spectator’s costume as a foil to the first azaleas and a compliment to a king.” The Designers’ Shop on the Second Floor offered lovely suits perfect for grandstand viewing of parades.
Pfaff’s “DIAL-A-STITCH AUTOMATIC SEWING MACHINE,” priced in the ballpark of the designer suits, contained numerous automatic features. Families with a skilled seamstress at home created their own women’s suits with sewing machines. MB sold them on the Fourth Floor. The 1966 Dial-A-Stitch sold at Canal Street only.
More MB 1966 to come! Be sure to pick up the book, Maison Blanche Department Stores.
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.