Sharkey’s Trumpet

Sharkey’s Trumpet

Sharkey’s Trumpet was a gold-plated award from the NOJC.

sharkey's trumpet

Sharkey’s Trumpet

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.

Beauregard Square

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 in Milneburg #JazzTuesday

Richards and Gillette in Milneburg #JazzTuesday

Richards and Gillette were a married couple and jazz act.

richards and gillette

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.

Sharkey Bonano

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.

Marigny Mobile Connection 1854

Marigny Mobile Connection 1854

Marigny Mobile Connection 1854 – linking New Orleans to Mobile, AL

marigny mobile connection 1854

Marigny Mobile Connection 1854

It’s a technique that, for the most part, Google Maps rendered obsolete. You’ve got an idea. You pull out a map. You outline your idea on the map. This is essentially what the Marigny Mobile Connection 1854 presents. Someone suggested, “Hey, how about we connect the Pontchartrain Railroad with Lake Borgne? Then we can run a ferry from there to Mobile.” Huh? Pull out a map and start drawing. Print the map again, once you get it right.

Pontchartrain Railroad

Alexander Milne established Port Pontchartrain in the early 19th century. His port connected the south shore of the lake with the Gulf of Mexico, via Lake Borgne. As the Battle of New Orleans demonstrated, this route was an easy way into the city. While Milne’s port was situated well for ships, but it was five miles away from the city. Bayou St John and the New Canal offered easy connections into town. Port Pontchartrain needed a link. Investors created the Pontchartrain Railroad in 1830. It opened in 1831.

Transferring cargo from ship to rail wasn’t a problem. So, the business at the port grew. Cargo rolled the five miles down to the end of what is now Elysian Fields Avenue.

Linking Mobile

While the Pontchartrain Railroad focused on cargo/goods transfer, passenger operation grew over the years. By the 1850s, New Orleanians used the railroad to take day trips to the lake shore. Hotels, restaurants, and clubs popped up in what became “Milneburg,” the village around the pier and port facilities. The station in the Marigny expanded to accommodate these passengers. So, it was logical that entrepreneurs involved with the railroad took an interest in connecting the two large cities on the coast. The proposal included a rail extension out of town, to a ferry.


The rail expansion proposal connected the Marigny with Proctorsville. Ft. Proctor protected an approach to the city that was unguarded in 1814.Bayou Yscloskey’s mouth exposed the city to an attack similar to the British plan. So, the Americans built a fort to secure it. The village that grew up around the fort became Proctorsville. The proposal didn’t pan out, mainly because of the Southern Rebellion. Other railroad development appeared after 1865.

The map.

marigny mobile connection 1854

“Proposed extension of the Ponchartrain (sic) Railroad to Mobile” 1854, courtesy Tulane.

The Louisiana Research Collection at the Howard-Tilton Library, Tulane University, holds the original map. The top photo zooms in on the connection. Click the link here to get the full, tri-state map.



Milneburg 1927 – Pontchartrain Railroad

Milneburg 1927 – Pontchartrain Railroad

Milneburg 1927, and the Orleans Levee Board

milneburg 1927

Milneburg 1927

Photo of what is now the intersection of Elysian Fields Avenue and Robert E. Boulevard, 4-March-1927. Photo shot by an unidentified photographer for the Orleans Levee Board.

The Orleans Levee Board shot a lot of film in the late 1920s in Milneburg. They prepared for land reclamation projects in the area. This shot, shows how far the lake shoreline extended south. The levee at the time blocked the lake at what is now Robert E. Lee Boulevard. So, with the tracks running the length of what is now Elysian Fields Avenue, pinpointing this photo is not difficult.

Milneburg reclamation

Land reclamation in Milneburg began in the Fall of 1927. The process involved building barriers in the water, then pumping out the water behind the barrier. When the water was gone, move the barrier out further, drain that. Keep going until pumping the water wasn’t practical. By mid-1928, reclamation advanced to the lighthouse. So, in modern terms, reclamation started at Robert E. Lee, advanced to Leon C. Simon, and terminated at what is now Lakeshore Drive. So, the lighthouse ends up in the middle of the Pontchartrain Beach Amusement park. Now, it’s right next to the UNO Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism school.

The railroad

The Pontchartrain Railroad diminished dramatically in the mid-1920s. Milneburg’s usefulness as a commercial port facility declined after the Southern Rebeilion. By the 1880s, the railroad, along with restaurants and hotels in the area, re-branded. They sold the ride out to the lake as a day trip or overnight entertainment excursion. While the re-branding was successful for about twenty years, the area lost its attractiveness. Fishing camps dominated the Milneburg landscape in the 1920s. The railroad connected those camps with the city. The railroad’s profitability dropped.

The reference to “L&N tracks” on the photo goes to ownership. The Louisville & Nashville Railroad acquired the Pontchartrain Railroad in the mid-1880s.

cross-posted to Pontchartrain Railroad History



NOLA History Guy Podcast 27-April-2019 Southern Rebellion

NOLA History Guy Podcast 27-April-2019 Southern Rebellion

The best of “Today in New Orleans History” for this week, and unpacking a photo on this week’s NOLA History Guy Podcast 27-April-2019.

NOLA History Guy Podcast 27-April-2019

Two short segments today on NOLA History Guy Podcast 27-April-2019. Take a moment from your Festing and check them out.

Rebel Surrender, 25-April-1862.

NOLA History Guy Podcast 27-April-2019

“Panoramic View of New Orleans-Federal Fleet at Anchor in the River, ca. 1862.” – Illustration from Campfires and Battlefields by Rossiter, Johnson, et al. (New York, 1894)

Our pick from Today in New Orleans History’s entries this week is April 25th, the capture of New Orleans.

Flag-Officer David Farragut, United States Navy commanded the Union blockade squadron charged with invading New Orleans. In April, 1862, he took that squadron, into the Mississippi River, via Southwest Pass. A squadron of mortar vessels under the command of Captain Donald Porter followed Farragut. The invading force pounded Fort St. Jackson and Fort St. Phillip. These forts were the main defenses below the city. German and Irish soldiers in the rebel army mutinied on the night of April 24th. Farragut led his ships to that side of the river. Thirteen Union vessels passed the forts. The city woke up to Union guns aimed at the city. Farragut compelled the surrender of the city the following day. Major General Benjamin Butler arrived and occupied the city on May 1, 1862.

The loss of New Orleans demonstrated the abject incompetence of the rebel government. New Orleans was the largest port in the rebel states.

Unpacking a Photo – Pontchartrain Beach

NOLA History Guy Podcast 27-April-2019

Pontchartrain Beach by Jane Brewster

Another event in Campanella’s “Today in New Orleans History” this week was the inaugural run of the Zephyr coaster at Pontchartrain Beach. The Milneburg location of the amusement park opened in April, 1939. On 23-April-1939, the park’s premier attraction, the Zephyr, opened. The wooden roller coaster operated until the park closed in 1983.

Our image for this pod is a Jane Brewster print of the main entrance of Da Beach, in the 1950s. A GM “Old Looks” bus ends its run at the beach. The Beach is fifteen or twenty years old at this time. The Zephyr coaster is visible on the right. Riders entered the coaster via an Art Deco station. They boarded one of the two trains and rode up that first section. Jane shows  a train as it reaches the top. Riders would hold their hands over their heads, at least for that first downhill pass. The coaster took riders over several hills, then made a sweeping turn, returning to the station via a series of small bumps behind the large hills.

Independent Booksellers Day

New Orleans During the Civil War Facebook Group

Pontchartrain Beach Podcast from 2016

Last week’s podcast

Smokey Mary – The Pontchartrain Railroad in the 1860s #TrainThursday

Smokey Mary – The Pontchartrain Railroad in the 1860s #TrainThursday

Smokey Mary linked Faubourg Marigny to Milneburg for almost a century

Smokey Mary

The Smokey Mary at Milneburg, 1860s.

Smokey Mary

The Pontchartrain Railroad operated from 1831 to 1930. The trains ran out to the fishing village of Milneburg. A port facility developed along the lakefront at Milneburg. The railroad connected that port to the city. The Pontchartrain Railroad carried freight and passengers. After the Civil War, it ran mostly as a day-trip line. By the end of the 19th Century, it carried almost exclusively passengers.

The railroad purchased two steam engines in 1832. Those engines lasted for about twenty years. The railroad cannibalized one for parts to keep the other going. By the late 1850s, the railroad purchased the larger engine shown in the photo above. This engine operated to the end of the 1800s. The big smokestack inspired most of the stories and memories of the train.

The Smokey Mary ran simply from the Milneburg Pier to a station at Elysian Fields and the river. Eventually, the railroad added a stop at Gentilly Road, but it was only by request. The railroad terminated operations in 1930. The WPA paved Elysian Fields from river to lake in the late 1930s. Pontchartrain Beach opened in Milneburg in 1939.


The village of Milneburg was located at the end of what is now Elysian Fields Avenue. Shipping traffic came in from the Gulf of Mexico, through Lake Borgne, into Lake Pontchartrain. Ships docked at the Milneburg pier. Merchants offloaded their goods and put them on the Pontchartrain Railroad, to bring them down to the city.

Jazz on the Lakefront

By the 1910s, Milneburg’s residents lived mostly in fishing camps. Musicians rode the Smokey Mary out to Milneburg to play some of the small restaurants. They also walked the piers, playing for locals. They busked for tips. This kept them busy during the day. The musicians rode the train back to the city in the late afternoon. They then played gigs at dance halls and saloons in town.