It was a privilege to speak to the 12th Armored Division Association.
12th Armored Division Association
I enjoyed speaking at the Ladies Luncheon for the 12th Armored Division Association today. The Association gathered here in New Orleans for their 75th reunion this weekend. The planners contacted me some time ago. They asked if I’d be interested in the engagement. That worked for me on two levels: First, I’m a sucker for anything loosely associated with the National World War II Museum. While the museum didn’t sponsor the event, the group chose the Higgins Hotel to host the event. The Higgins Hotel is across the street from the museum. So, the other reason is simple: I won’t turn down an opportunity to speak to a veterans group.
Talking Mardi Gras
The ladies decorated the room in traditional Carnival colors: Purple for Justice, Green for Faith, and Gold for Power. Each guest received a decorated mask, so they’re ready to put on their fancy dresses and attend a bal masque I spoke about Carnival, past and present. I found a great image in the Louisiana State Museum’s Carnival collection, from the 1931 parade of the Krewe of Proteus. It’s the concept sketch for float 17. The float presents a medieval knighting ceremony. While the float wasn’t specific to Carnival, Mardi Gras celebrations and feasts were popular occasions for knighting. The squires ready to receive the accolade presented themselves to the lord of the castle/manor, who elevated them to the rank of knight. The new knights then celebrated as part of the Fat Tuesday feast. They returned to training the next day, Ash Wednesday. For some, this would be their last big bash, as they did not survive the spring campaigns.
My Carnival talk continues from there, fast forwarding to Comus, then Twelfth Night Revelers, Rex, and other “old-line” organizations. From there, we present modern parades and balls, featuring the usual suspects, Muses, Endymion, and Bacchus.The ladies enjoyed the stories!
The 12th Armored Division
The 12th Armored was activated on 15-September-1942. After training, the division traveled to England. They entered the European Theater at Le Harve, on 11-November-1944. As part of the Seventh Army, the 12th Armored supported the relief of the Third Army units at Bastogne. The division joined Third Army in March of 1945. They remained under Patton’s command until the end of the war. The Army de-activated the division in December, 1945. The 12th Armored Division Association maintains a museum and memorial in Abeline Texas. Additionally, they sponsor the reunion, to bring together veterans and family from the various units.
The 1929 transit strike in New Orleans snarled downtown traffic for over four months.
1929 Transit Strike
Photo of Canal Street, looking towards the river, July, 1929. The photographer stands at Canal and Rampart Streets, at the lake end of the 1000 block. The Audubon Building and Maison Blanche Department Store loom over the 901 block, on the left. A jitney bus, the light-colored vehicle in traffic on the right, offers what little service New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) could offer, with all the streetcars locked up in their barns. The antenna tower above MB is the transmitter for WSMB Radio.
Empty neutral ground
Streetcars remained off the streets from July 1 to July 4th, 1929. NOPSI tried to run streetcars using strikebreakers on Saturday, July 5th, but picketers and their supporters wouldn’t allow the cars to exit the barns, after the first streetcar departed Canal Station. That streetcar rolled this route, down Canal Street, followed by a massive crowd. The strikers burned that streetcar when it reached the ferry terminal.
Maison Blanche 1929
The MB building was twenty-one years old at the time of the 1929 transit strike. This photographer captured two signs on the building. The store’s name runs vertically on the lake side of the building. The roof displays the store’s name and its tagline, “Greatest Store South” on the roof.
The MB building is about ten years old in this photo. Doctors, dentists, and other professionals occupied the office building. The transit strike created problems for those tenants. Without public transit, it was difficult to get to the doctor. While grandma would hop on the Desire line or the St. Charles-Tulane belt, no streetcars meant someone had to drive her to Maison Blanche. Look at that traffic on either side of the “Canal Street Zone.”
On the retail side, the lack of public transit put the hurt on the Canal Street stores. Marks Isaacs, D. H. Holmes, Maison Blanche, all the way up to Krauss Department Store. Again, look at that traffic. In that first week of July, 1929, the retailers were furious. That the strike continued for four months did permanent damage to NOPSI and public transit in New Orleans.
Lafitte Cemetery, down Bayou Barataria in Jefferson Parish.
Photo from 1930 of a section of Lafitte Cemetery. The Historic New Orleans Collection captioned the photo, “View of part of Lafitte cemetery, Bayou Barataria, and the bridge over the bayou.” The photo is part of the Eugene A. Delcroix Photograph Collection.Delcroix (yes, that’s the correct spelling of his name) photographed many parts of Jefferson Parish. He produced images for publications sponsored by parish government.The bridge in the background runs parallel to the bayou. It crosses a connector waterway, allowing LA Highway 45 to continue south.
The area known as Lafitte is an unincorporated part of Jefferson Parish. It’s what the demographers refer to as a “census-designated place,” meaning, it’s been there for a long time, but doesn’t have a municipal government. In 1974, citizens of a portion of Lafitte incorporated into the Town of Jean Lafitte. The area follows Bayou Barataria into Barataria Bay. The French initially established a harbor and port in the bay. As they moved up the Mississippi River to New Orleans, commercial shipping moved to the city as well.
The area, and the municipality take their name from Jean Lafitte, the pirate/privateer (depending on whose account works for you). Lafitte, regarded as a hero of the Battle of New Orleans, operated from Barataria Bay, after most French merchants left in favor of New Orleans. The bay offered Lafitte a great location for smuggling. It allowed him to bring in illegal and/or pirated goods into Louisiana. They moved those goods in smaller quantities up to the city.
Lafitte Cemetery stands on what was originally a Native American shell mound. So, it’s been holy ground for longer than the arrival of Europeans. The Perrin family originally claimed the land. Manuel Perrin served as one of Jean Lafitte’s officers. Perrin may have been a relative of Lafitte as well. The cemetery grew in size as the Perrins expanded their holdings along the bayou.
Tulane Trackless Trolley, a trolley bus operating on the Tulane line in 1963.
Tulane Trackless Trolley
A trolley bus (also known as a trolley coach or trackless trolley) from the St. Louis Car Company. Photo is of New Orleans Public Service, Incorporated (NOPSI) 1190, operating on the Tulane line. The bus rolls inbound on Canal Street, approaching S. Saratoga Street. Hotel New Orleans stands just behind the bus. An ad for American General Insurance (now AIG) occupies the space on the front of the bus. American General’s office was at 222 Carondelet.
NOPSI trolley buses
NOPSI purchased trolley buses from both the St. Louis Car Company and Marmon-Herrington of Indianapolis, Indiana. They operated the electric buses on transit routes formerly running streetcars. So, when the company discontinued streetcar “belt” service on the St. Charles and Tulane lines, St. Charles continued operating streetcars. Tulane trackless trolleys operated until 1965. At that time, all trolley bus lines converted to standard buses.
The Hotel New Orleans
This photo caught my eye because of the sign behind the trolley bus. The Hotel New Orleans stood at 1300 Canal Street. The building dates to the 1930s. The hotel sported a huge neon sign proclaiming “HOTEL NEW ORLEANS.” That neon sign is visible in the background of so many photos of Canal Street. While the rooftop sign is ubiquitous, the street-level sign is a neat catch.
My friend Aaron posted this photo on Facebook. He catches stuff from everywhere. Looking for more info on NOPSI 1190, I turned to Streetcar Mike. This is his copy of the photo, with the credits. Here’s his entry for 1190:
St. Louis 1190 on the Tulane line at Canal and S. Saratoga Sts. on an unknown date. I presume it’s after 1957, when the Canal neutral ground was rebuilt to eliminate the unused outer streetcar tracks. Hotels and bars dominate this section of Canal just out from the Joy Theatre (out of picture to the left). Photo comes from the collection of Gerald Squier courtesy of Scott Richards and was added 03/22/14.
Thanks to Mike and the photo sources!
The Walmsley administration held a banquet at the Municipal Auditorium in 1932.
Morris FX Jeff Municipal Auditorium
Franck Studios photo of the New Orleans Municipal Auditorium in 1932. The city opened the facility on May 30, 1930. Since it opened, the Municipal Auditorium hosted a wide range of events, including Carnival balls, boxing matches, high school graduations, professional wrestling, as well as trade shows and conventions. The building sits in Faubourg Treme, next to Congo Square.
The Municipal Auditorium seats over 7800 people in its arena configuration. The city used the facility as a starting point for several professional sports franchises. The auditorium served as home court for the American Basketball Association’s New Orleans Buccaneers, during the team’s 1969-1970 season. When the National Basketball Association granted New Orleans a franchise, the New Orleans Jazz played their first season in the facility. The New Orleans Brass, an East Coast Hockey League (AA) team, used the auditorium as home ice from 1997 to 1999.
What attracted these teams to the facility was the ease with which it could be adapted. The Bucs originally played at the old Loyola Field House, but outgrew it. The Jazz planned to use the Louisiana Superdome, but decided to wait a season. That enabled the team’s management to prepare for Dome life. While the Brass were a professional team, they knew the Dome would be impractical. They used the auditorium until the opening of the Smoothie King Center.
Harrah’s New Orleans Casino planned to use the Municipal Auditorium as a temporary site, while they demolished the Rivergate convention center and built their current casino on that site. The temporary casino only operated for a couple of months in 1995.
Thomas Semmes Walmsley held the office of Mayor of New Orleans from 1929 to 1936. Walmsley was a controversial figure, being a staunch racist. Interestingly, Walmsley was a member of the Boston Club, the luncheon club located on Canal Street that is closely identified with the Mystick Krewe of Comus. Hosting a political event in the city’s new auditorium was quite logical.
Red streetcars uptown aren’t as common a sight as they used to be.
Red streetcars uptown
David Mora (@davidmora on Twitter, @davidnola on Instagram) shares some absolutely wonderful photos of New Orleans. He always posts stuff that lifts my spirits, like this photo of NORTA 2022, inbound on Carondelet Street. He’s right when he says, “You don’t see a red streetcar on Carondelet Street every day!”
New Orleans Regional Transit Authority (NORTA*) built the 2000-series Von Dullen streetcars in 2003-2004. The transit system planned to run them on the new Canal Street line. The basic design of the 2000s is quite similar to Perley H. Thomas’ 1910ish arch roof design. Elmer Von Dullen, Manager of the NORTA Rail Department, added the faux monitor deck to the top of the 2000s, to obscure the air-conditioning unit and electronics package on the roof. Those units blocked the smooth lines of the arch roof.
Prior to the return of the Canal line, NORTA’s rail operations originated at Carrollton Station. The station stands between Willow and Jeanette Streets, one block up from S. Carrollton Avenue.
In 1997, NORTA expanded the original plan for Riverfront. They needed a fleet of streetcars that were all wheelchair accessible. The Rail Department renovated the shop portion of Carrollton Station. They built the 400-series streetcars there. The shops stayed in business, building the 24 Von Dullens for Canal.
The 1997 expansion of the Riverfront line included the new streetcars and two-track operation. Additionally, Riverfront tracks were connected to the St. Charles tracks. From 1964 to 1997, Canal Street track consisted of the one-block turn, between Carondelet Street and St. Charles Avenue. To connect the two lines, the old two-track line on Canal was restored to the river. A crossover just up from Carondelet Street linked this new track to the outside turn track. So, the red streetcars built at Carrollton Station could come and go through Uptown.
In 2004, NORTA brought streetcar service back to the Canal line. Those connector tracks from Carondelet to the river expanded all the way to City Park Avenue. The Rail Department built a streetcar barn on Canal, behind the A. Phillip Randolph bus terminal.
In 2018, the department changed daily operations. They now park all the streetcars, green and red, at Canal Station. The red 400- and 2000-series streetcars only travel uptown now for major maintenance. So, David’s right, we don’t see the red streetcars on Carondelet like we used to.