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.
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.
Brother Leo Godin in the “Bursar’s Office,” in the late 1970s.
Brother Leo, SC
Working the Brother Martin High School bookstore was Brother Leo Godin, SC’s job in the late 1970s. Note the all-khaki uniform of the time. I can’t identify the student in this photo. If you can, please drop me a line or mention it in comments!
The “Bursar’s Office”
At a college or university, the Bursar was the school’s financial manager. While the financial and accounting operations at BMHS were in the “Business Office,” at the beginning of the Administration hallway, the bookstore stood in the Mall, next to the (original) Library and behind the Auditorium. The Bursar’s Office serviced students. The Business Office didn’t want to deal with students, beyond accepting tuition payments from home.
Since a college bursar’s office interfaced directly with students, I suspect this is why the Brothers labelled the bookstore this way. In reality, it wasn’t a financial office. It was where you grabbed a candy bar or a new t-shirt for P.E. class.
The selection of crimson-and-gold merchandise increased dramatically after my time (1971-1976) at school. We were just getting team- and club-specific shirts and sweatshirts by my junior and senior year. By the late 70s and into the 80s, parents were more willing to open up their wallets to buy their sons that spirit tee, or that Crusader cap.
Managing the bookstore
Responsibility for the bookstore fell upon a more-or-less “retired” Brother. There were more of those men around, back in the day. The older brothers lived in the residence next to the original Cor Jesu building. Even though these brothers weren’t in the classroom, they still helped out. Brother Marion in the downstairs resource center, Brother Eugene in the upstairs resource center, and Brother Leo in the bookstore.
Brother Leo taught me Algebra I in 8th grade. The whole four-courses-in-three-years for Math was in place since the start of the school, but all three 8th grade sections, A, B, and C in 1971-72 got “regular” Algebra I. Brother Leo was an old-school teacher. While I moved on to “regular” Geometry, rather than Brother Neal’s Geometry A, the foundation Brother Leo gave us was solid.
It doesn’t surprise me that Brother Leo was one of the teachers who didn’t want to let go of the school experience. Teaching can be a grind. Spending some time talking to the boys, even over the counter and that glass barrier was a great way to keep going.
Brother Martin High School has a rich history of basketball championships.
Crusader forward Leroy Oliver (1975) goes up over Felton Young of Holy Cross in second-round district play, 1974. Center Rick Robey (1974) looks on, hoping he doesn’t have to go for a rebound. (photo courtesy Brother Martin High School)
I was reminded of the 1973-74 season yesterday because of the current story of St. Augustine defeating Scotlandville High School yesterday (13-March-2021) to win the state championship.
This year’s story is of a team that wouldn’t be denied three years in a row. St. Augustine lost to Scotlandville in the championship game in 2019 and 2020. The story in 1974 was of two teams that played each other five times in the same season.
Brother Martin vs. Holy Cross
Two top-flight teams in the Catholic League make for a grueling season. Brother Martin, state champions in 1970 and 1971, returned as a contender in 1973-74. Coach Tom Kolb returned to coach the Crusaders after running the Jesuit program. Four letterman, Leroy Oliver, Rodney Montgomery, Jimmy McCulla and Rick Robey, along with Donald “Duck” Newman, started.
The Crusaders defeated the Holy Cross Tigers in their first district game, at Holy Cross. Both teams ended the first round with 6-1 records. They played for the first round championship at Tulane. Holy Cross won. They met in their very next game, at Brother Martin. The Crusaders defeated the Tigers. They went on to win the round undefeated.
So, the teams met a fourth time, again at Tulane, to decide the district champion. The Tigers lost, 57-58. The teams advanced to the playoffs. Each team won four games on the road to the championship showdown in Alexandria, LA. The Crusaders won that fifth meeting of the season, 67-56.
As Brother Neal Golden, SC, wrote about that year:
Robey completed an outstanding senior year.
- He made All-District, All-City, and All-State and was selected the best player in the Top Twenty tournament.
- Rated as one of the top four seniors in America, he signed with Kentucky where he played four years before going to the NBA.
That was three state championships in the first four years since Brother Martin opened. Crusader basketball continued to bring hope district and state titles.
Brother Martin vs St. Augustine
So, the big basketball rivalry wasn’t always with St. Augustine. Like many successful runs (like the Scotlandville run that just came to an end), a school gets that one (or maybe two) players who stand out. The Crusaders experienced this in 2002-2003, when DJ Augustin came to Elysian Fields. The Crusaders were state runner-up that season. They won the championship in 2004 and 2005. Augustin and his teammates were odds-on favorites to win a third championship, but Hurricane Katrina had other ideas.
My band kiddo’s sophomore year was an exciting, albeit grueling one for Crusader basketball. The team played St. Augustine four times that season, losing to the Purple Knights three times. Fourth time was lucky, as they defeated their Catholic League rivals in the state semi-finals, going on to win the championship.
Andy Bourgeois becomes the first football coach at Cor Jesu.
Mr. Andy Bourgeois was the first head football coach at Cor Jesu High School. The school announced it would compete in Catholic League athletics in the fall of 1964. So, Cor Jesu’s administration named its first athletic staff in January, 1965.
From its opening in 1954 until 1965, Cor Jesu High School’s defined its mission as a college prep school. While the other BOSH school in New Orleans, St. Aloysius, had athletics, Cor Jesu focused on academics. St. Aloysius High School operated as a holistic school. Cor Jesu, on Elysian Fields in Gentilly, went for the “smart boys.”
By the mid-1960s, the BOSH changed Cor Jesu’s mission. The BOSH looked ahead at the viability of the St. Aloysius campus at Esplanade and N. Rampart. Since the Aloysius building opened in 1925, it aged poorly. The Institute decided their future was on Elysian Fields, with the newer facilities.
Athletics at Cor Jesu
If the BOSH were to consolidate their efforts on Elysian Fields, the campus needed an athletic department. They had the land for this. They needed the staff. On January 30, 1965, Brother Roland, SC, Cor Jesu’s principal, introduced Andy Bourgeois at a meet-and-greet dinner. The school cafeteria provided the setting for the event.
Bourgeois was known to New Orleans, and specifically to the BOSH faith community. He graduated from St. Aloysius in 1956. As an undergraduate at LSU, Bourgeois was one of the “Chinese Bandits” that won the football national championship in 1958.
About 400 boys from the school attended the dinner event with their parents. Brother Roland introduced Coach Bourgeois. Brother presented Coach with the first “letterman” sweater for Cor Jesu. Bourgeois drove around to elementary schools in Gentilly. He introduced himself and kicked off the school’s recruiting.
Brother Roland introduced two coaches at that 30-January-1965 dinner. While Bourgeois and football received top billing, Brother also introduced Cor Jesu’s first basketball coach. Robert Conlin, a graduate of De La Salle and Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, led the Kingsman’s basketball program. He also assisted Bourgeois with football. When the two schools combined in 1969, Bourgeous left. Conlin became Brother Martin’s first head football coach. So, that’s how Conlin’s legend began. Andy Russo, moved from head basketball coach at St. Aloysius to Brother Martin.
The decision to add athletics sparked new development on Elysian Fields. Cor Jesu built the massive gymnasium building. Brother Martin later named the gym for Coach Conlin.
St. Aloysius Robinson Atlas shows the original location of the school.
St. Aloysius Robinson Atlas
The 1883 Robinson Atlas of New Orleans is an invaluable resource. Here’s the caption from the book:
Robinson Atlas. This 1883 atlas shows the location of St. Aloysius Academy in Block 18. Just to the left, in Block 19, is the Archbishop’s residence and St. Mary’s Church. The residence is now known as the Old Ursuline Convent. The church, which has had several names, is currently called “St. Mary’s Italian Church.”
The archbishops of New Orleans moved into the Old Ursuline Convent when that order moved to the Ninth Ward. (They later left the area altogether, moving Uptown.) The current archbishop’s residence is on S. Carrollton and Walmsley, next to Notre Dame Seminary.
Block 19 is inaccurately described. The buildings labeled “St Marys R.C.Ch.” are actually the convent/archbishopric. St. Mary’s (also known as St. Mary’s Italian and Our Lady of Victory) is the building next to the label.
Block 18 consisted of a number of residential properties in 1883. The house on the corner of Barracks and Chartres housed officers of the Spanish Army, during the Spanish Colonial period. So, the house faced Barracks Street. The house’s gardens occupied the actual corner.
The property passed from Spain back to France, just before the Louisiana Purchase. The Spanish passed ownership of much of the government-owned property to the church. That avoided turning it over to the Americans. The Archdiocese of New Orleans still owned the property after the Southern Rebellion. During the rebellion and Union occupation, the Brothers of the Sacred Heart operated an extension of St. Stanislaus College in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in New Orleans. The BOSH taught boys from the city who couldn’t get back to Stanislaus at Annunciation Parish in the Marigny. By the end of the rebellion, the BOSH decided to open a school in the city. They asked the archbishop for assistance, and received the officer’s quarters.
I cut down this snippet, St. Aloysius Robinson Atlas, for the book. So, the snippet shows the streetcar tracks on Esplanade Avenue. New Orleans City Railroad opened their mule-drawn Esplanade line in 1861.