Abraham Shushan’s monuments marked Lakefront milestones.
New Basin Canal Lock monument, 1930
Two 1930 photos of lakefront monuments. The late 1920s were a time of major improvements to the lakefront. Lake Pontchartrain seawall improved flood protection. So, the Levee Board* erected monuments to the “New Basin Canal Lock” and the “Lake Pontchartrain Sea-Wall.” Board president Abraham “Abe” Shushan supervised their placement.
Abe Shushan inspects the seawall monument, 1930
The “Lake Pontchartrain Sea-Wall” was the finishing touch of a years-long series of land reclamation projects along the Orleans Parish lakefront. In 1915, the south shore of the lake went right up to Adams Street (now Allen Toussaint Boulevard). The Levee Board planned to drain the swampy ground and create new subdivisions. By 1930, the reclamation projects were completed.
The Levee Board built the finishing touch in 1929. Along with the stepped, concrete wall, they created Lakeshore Drive for access to recreational areas along the lakefront. Previous generations traveled out to the lakefront resorts at West End, Spanish Fort, and Milneburg via train/streetcar. With the completion of Lakeshore Drive, driving along the lake became a pleasant experience.
Both of Shushan’s monuments contain the same text, with the name as the only change:
Constructed During the Administration of
HUEY P. LONG, Governor
Board of Levee Commissioners
Orleans Levee District
The stones then list the members of the board and the various people who worked the projects. While John Riess built the lock, Orleans Dredging Company built the seawall.
Shushan’s Monuments display Abe’s name, as president of the board. Shushan is seen in the seawall photo, inspecting the massive tablet. Abe got his start in his family’s business, Shushan Brothers. Shushan Brothers sold dry goods wholesale. Additionally, they operated retail toy stores. Abe left the business founded by his father and uncle, entering government as a strong supporter of Huey P. Long. He moved up in the Long organization. They arranged his appointment to the Levee Board.. Accordingly, the board named New Orleans Lakefront Airport (NOL) for Shushan. In 1935, the government indicted and tried him for tax fraud. Furthermore, they charged him with money laundering. While Shushan was acquitted, the Longs cut him loose. Although he was cleared, the trial exposed massive corruption. So, his name was removed from just about everything it was visible on, including these monuments.
Louis Gallaud played in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in the mid-1960s.
Photo of Louis Gallaud at the piano at Preservation Hall.The Hogan Jazz Archive caption reads, “Band members Louis Gallaud, p; Alcide “Slow Drag” Pavageau, b; Harrison Verrett, bj; during a performance at Preservation Hall in early July.” The year isn’t mentioned. Slow Drag joined the band in the mid-1960s and passed in 1969, so that narrows it down a bit more.
Gallaud was born on February 27, 1897. He played gigs in Storyville prior to the district’s closing. So, he was working with A. J. Piron, in his late teens. After the district closed, Gallaud continued playing jazz, in Punch Miller’s band. Gallaud played piano on a number of recordings of Miller’s band. He left Miller in the 1920s. Gallaud formed his own band, which regularly played out in Milneburg. These were the waning days of the “Smokey Mary,” the Pontchartrain Railroad. While the railroad no longer served as a cargo-mover, it still brought folks out to Lake Pontchartrain. A number of bands played out in Milneburg, at restaurants and clubs. Additionally, many musicians went out to the fishing neighborhood to busk during the day. They would then hop on the train back to town to play clubs and ballparks in the evening.
Gallaud continued to play Traditional Jazz into the 1940s. He played with a number of musicians and bands. One of his regular gigs was at Luthjen’s Dance Hall, on the corner of Franklin Avenue and Marais Street, just off St. Claude Avenue. Note that this is the original Luthjen’s, opened by Clementine Luthjen, which burned down in the 1960s. Clementine’s nephew, Jerome Luthjen, re-opened the club at Marigny and Chartres Streets. That incarnation of the club closed in 1981.
Louis Gallaud continued playing into the 1950s. Like many of the older Creole Jazz musicians, he joined the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in the 1960s. Louis also hosted musicians at his home in the Treme for impromptu sessions. Louis passed away on November 24, 1985.
Smokey Mary, the nickname for the Pontchartrain Railroad, at the end.
The Pontchartrain Railroad opened in 1831. It operated as mule-drawn service for about a year. The company acquired steam locomotives, and thus began almost a century of service from Faubourg Marigny to Port Pontchartrain in Milneburg. Louisville and Nashville Railroad equipment operated on the Pontchartrain Railroad after that railroad acquired it in 1881. By the last runs of 1932, Pontchartrain operated second-tier L&N locomotives, like 142.
The L&N didn’t take the Pontchartrain seriously. They viewed the Elysian Fields right-of-way as a connector out of town, rather than to the lakefront. As such, service on the Pontchartrain dropped. Shipping customers changed their landing strategies, avoiding Port Pontchartrain. While World War I generated an uptick in activity in Milneburg, the boost was temporary.
By the 1920s, the Industrial Canal offered a direct connection for vessels to travel from the Gulf of Mexico. Ships could enter Lake Borgne, then travel through the Rigolets or Chef Menteur Pass, into Lake Pontchartrain. Instead of mooring at Port Pontchartrain, they could now go all the way down to the river. Ships bypassed the unloading process to get goods into town. The Pontchartrain morphed into an excursion route, as New Orleanians headed out to Milneburg for the dining, jazz clubs, and weekend getaways.
The last locomotives
The Pontchartrain Railroad operated several L&N 4-4-0 locomotives in the 1920s. This photo, from the Louisiana Conservationist magazine, March, 1959. The issue featured stories on fishing, and the Pontchartrain RR pier at Milneburg was a wonderful fishing spot. The trains went out onto the pier, to facilitate loading/unloading. The locals simply went outside the shed area and fished. Trains come, trains, go, the fish stayed. L&N 141 and 142 were Baldwin 4-4-0s. They were built between 1888 and 1891. According to Louis Hennick, 142 wasn’t the last Pontchartrain engine, but it operated in those final weeks.
The Washington Hotel in Milneburg attracted guests and groups from across New Orleans.
The hotel opened in 1832. Pontchartrain Railroad operations began two years earlier. The railroad connected Faubourg Marigny with Port Pontchartrain (Milneburg). The straight-line route followed what is now Elysian Fields Avenue. This photo, from the 1890s, is captioned:
Milneburg had many famous hotels and restaurants. One of the most famous is pictured above, the “Washington Hotel”. Their French restaurants won international fame.
So, ownership of the hotel came to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. The L&N demolished the hotel in September, 1920.
Milneburg received its name from the area’s first owner, Alexander Milne. He built Port Pontchartrain, in Gentilly. MIlne’s facility enabled ships to come to New Orleans from the Gulf of Mexico. They traveled, via Lake Borgne and Lake Pontchartrain. The Pontchartrain RR made Milne’s facility a solid alternative to the river.
New Orleanians enjoy spending time on the lakefront. The area offers respite from the heat. Locals found this essential in the days prior to air conditioning. So, taking the train out to Milneburg became a weekend diversion. Over time, Port Pontchartrain diminished. The Pontchartrain Railroad carried more passengers than freight by the 1880s. The L&N, the last owners of the railroad, discontinued it in 1930.
While there were over a number of hotels out at Milneburg, the Washington Hotel stood at the top. For example,the Societa Italia di Mutua Benefienza, held an anniversary dinner at the hotel in June of 1890. According to the Daily Picayune,
About 100 members and their wives and families were seated at the dinner, and a feast of national dishes were disposed of. All passed off most pleasantly, and the anniversary proved to be most successfully observed.
Additionally, in June of 1894, the Third District Benevolent Association held a large picnic at the hotel and its acre of gardens. In the late 1890s, groups often hired jazz combos for entertainment.
Sharkey’s Trumpet was a gold-plated award from the NOJC.
Mrs. Myra Menville presents an award trumpet to Sharkey Bonano in 1955. Bonano, who was born in Milneburg, played with a number of legends of New Orleans Jazz, including Freedie Newman and Chink Martin. He auditioned for The Wolverines when Bix Beiderbecke left the band in the 1930s, but was turned down. He eventually did play with The Wolverines, in New York. Bonano also joined the Jean Goldkette Orchestra, playing alongide Beiderbecke.
After World War II, Bonano returned to New Orleans. He played clubs on Bourbon Street, particularly the Famous Door.
The award trumpet
The New Orleans music industry regularly recognized the first generation jazz players. The caption for this award photo:
A gold plated $400 Trumpet “from a group of admirers in New Orleans” was presented to Sharkey Bonano Friday night as Sharkey and His Kings of Dixieland appeared at the third and climaxing jazz program of the Summer “Pops” concert in Beauregard Square. Shown are Mrs. John G. Menville, secretary, New Orleans Jazz Club, who made the presentation, and the jazzman. The award was “for his contribution to the revival of New Orleans music in New Orleans.”
The 1950s revival of “Dixieland” Jazz marked an important shift in the local music scene. Jazz historians, afficianados, and younger players realized that the first-generation musicians weren’t getting any younger. They took steps to preserve the music. We now usually refer to “Dixieland” as “Traditional” Jazz.
This presentation took place at a “Pops” concert series in 1955, held at Beauregard Square. While this name was well-known in the early 1900s, Modern New Orleanians may be more familiar with this area from its original name, Congo Square. After the Southern Rebellion, white New Orleanians brought the Lost Cause of the Confederacy to the forefront. Many locations were re-named to recognize figures from the rebellion. P. G. T. Beauregard was one of those.
So, during the French-Spanish Colonial period, Catholics usually granted the enslaved half a day to a day off on Sundays, ostensibly for worship. The enslaved would gather for drumming and dancing in an open area just north of the city limits, in what is now Faubourg Treme. This is how Place Congo got its name. Later, as the original parade ground, the Place d’Armes, evolved into Jackson Square, Place Congo became the city’s parade ground. Additionally, the city returned the original name to the Square in the 1970s.
Richards and Gillette were a married couple and jazz act.
Richards and Gillette
Bob Gillette and his wife, Shirley Richards, posing on the railroad tracks in Milneburg in 1952. Gillette played the banjo. He played with the New Orleans Rhythm Kings, then Bix Beiderbecke & the Wolverines. He was the first banjoist for The Wolverines.
After playing for years with Bix, he toured with his wife, as a song-and-dance act.
New Orleans Rhythm Kings
The NORK began with white Chicago jazz musicians encouraging New Orleans musicians to come up and gig. By 1922, NORK attracted Jelly Roll Morton and the cornetist Bix Beiderbecke. The band recorded with Gennett Records. As the band grew in popularity, they picked up Gillette.
Beiderbecke left the NORK to form The Wolverines, and Gillette went with him. Bix left The Wolverines in the mid-1930s. Soon after, Gillette switched to the act with his wife.
Richards and Gillette toured extensively, playing hotels. They played The Monteleone Hotel in 1952. He contacted the New Orleans Jazz Club while in town. They invited him to a meeting, and he ended up sitting in with Johnny Wiggs and his band.
I can’t find the backstory on this particular photo. By 1951, the Milneburg that Gillette played with the Sicilians was long gone. The train tracks here are the New Orleans Terminal Company (later Southern Railway, now Norfolk-Southern Railroad) “Back Belt.” These tracks lead out to the “five mile bridge” across Lake Pontchartrain. It looks like this is out along the lake, near the fishing camps off Hayne Boulevard.
While researching Gillette, I came across a 1961 article in the Daytona Beach Morning Journal. Discussing replacing Bix in The Wolverines.
But he does recall the difficulty in replacing Beiderbecke. And with due embarrassment that they brushed off an eager young trumpeter in derby and yellow shoes after a brief audition and sent him home to New Orleans. His name was Sharkey Banano (sic).
Funny how things work out.