Today in New Orleans History

November 17

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Eleanor McMain School
November 17, 1941

This New Orleans Public Library photo shows McMain students on November 17, 1941 painting a mural in the corridor of their school. They are Christeen Young, Gayle Hughes, Mary McGowan, Lois Townley (on ladder), Sybil Jung (seated), and Jane Menz.
Located at 5712 South Claiborne Avenue,  Eleanor McMain High for Girls first welcomed students on February 1, 1932.  It was one of only two New Orleans public schools to have been named for a living person (Sophie B Wright High School had opened on May 18, 1912, just weeks before Miss Wright passed away on June 10 of that year), but an exception had been made to honor Miss McMain who had done so much for so many through her work at Kingsley House in the Irish Channel.  Under McMain's guidance and leadership, Kingsley House had grown from a modest parish outreach program at 929 Tchoupitoulas of the Trinity Episcopal Church parish to an internationally known settlement house.  Eleanor McMain must have been bowled over by what Times-Picayune writer Podine Schoenburger described as the "new high school which combines luxury with efficiency" in a "symphony of riotous, splashing color".

The following descriptions are from Podine Schoenburger's January 10, 1932 article.  The colors described by Shoenburgburger don't match the modern-day colors but give us a glimpse or what the building looked like so many years ago:  The exterior of the stucco school building was painted green. Schoenburger described the "strange colorful entrance" with vivid blue urns, one at each side of the main door, in which century plants were growing. The carved tops of the white pillars flanking the doorway were painted green and cold.  The doors were of leaded glass with a basket of brightly colored flowers topping them. Green grinning gargoyles topped them all, and above them the nameplate was blue with with gold letters spelling out the school's name amid a pair of gold lions. High above the entrance of the three-story building are two sculptures by Albert Ricker.  The first  depicted a young Acadian maiden in a blue dress, starched apron, and a spinning wheel at here feet to symbolize industry.  The second figure is of an older woman, with an owl as symbol of wisdom.  

As the girls stepped inside onto inlaid terrazzo floors, two cream-colored curved staircases with carved balustrades and mahogany rails could take them up the the principals office, the main office, or the teachers room. The principals office opened to a brightly tiled, yellow-walled court yard with a blue, green, and yellow fountain, providing a "tropical atmosphere". 

On the third floor was a study hall which could accommodate 300 students. It was finished in green and buff with full-length leaded glass doorways which led to an overhanging balcony.

The classrooms were finished in green, blue, and pink in a "modern style in perfect keeping with the personalities of the lithe creatures who will people it".  Each room had a telephone. Some large rooms could be divided by accordion doors which, when closed, provided a series of blackboards. The building was equipped with radio and loudspeakers. Oscillating heaters were employed on the ground floor; ventilation and heat throughout the facility were "modern to the nth degree" and there were "many and generous windows".

Natural lighting in the art room was provided by a central skylight.  There were hand dryers on each side of white wash basins. "Ducky little kitchens", each different, were designed so that "one can learn to cook for a $15 a week clerk husband, a husband of moderate means, or a wealthy banker spouse". The first  was small with a tiny stove and diminutive sink -- "Girls will learn to manage a small apartment, so that if they plan to live on love they will know how to feed hubby dear in cramped quarters, and on a slim income".  The second kitchen was larger, "to train for moderate housekeeping".  The third had an "electric stove and other luxuries that migh be found in a wealthy home".

The auditorium"resembles a large theater" with a saucer-shaped balcony, special switchboard for stage lighting, a projection booth "for showing both silent and talking pictures", and an asbestos curtain side-draped with gold and blue velvet. It could accommodate 3000 people. There were four science labs, 40 classrooms, a 5000 book library, and a modern cafeteria in the building which measured 180 x 390 feet and was built at a cost of $550,000. This "colorful structure embodying many new ideas in education was opened under the direction of Miss Alice A Leckert, principal".

McMain opened its doors to the public on Sunday, January 31, 1932 from 4 to 7 p.m. when a reception was hosted by the teachers.  The 917 students' first day was Monday, February 1, when the girls gathered in the auditorium for speeches by local dignitaries followed by a flag raising ceremony with music provided by the Warren Easton band.

Today Eleanor McMain Secondary School is open to boys and girls in the 7th through 12th grades.  Still under the direction of the Orleans Public Schools, it has 769 students whose graduation rate is 95%.

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The movie The Blind Side premiered on November 17, 2009 in New York City and New Orleans.

Christ Church Cathedral, founded in 1803, located today at 2919 St. Charles Avenue became the first Episcopal church to commission a jazz composition when it commissioned Irvin Mayfield to commemorate Hurricane Katrina through a composition, titled "All the Saints", which premiered on November 17, 2005, at the cathedral in conjunction with the bicentennial of Episcopal ministry in New Orleans. The cathedral was first non-Roman Catholic church founded in the entire Louisiana Purchase territory.

Born in New Orleans on September 23, 1883,  jazzman Wooden Joe Nicholas was an active member of the early New Orleans jazz scene. He knew Buddy Bolden and said Bolden was the main influence on his cornet style.  In 1915 he was playing clarinet with King Oliver.  In addition to forming the Camelia Brass Band in 1918,  he was famous for his volume and endurance. Nicholas did not record until 1945 when he was 62 years old and again in 1949.  He died in New Orleans on November 17, 1957. He was the uncle of clarinetist Albert Nicholas.

NOLAND, Iveson Batchelor, eighth Episcopal bishop of Louisiana. Born, Baton Rouge, La., September 10, 1916; son of Iveson B. Noland, Sr., and Camille Reynaud. Education: public schools, Baton Rouge; Louisiana State University, B. A., 1937; University of the South, B. D., 1940. Ordained deacon, St. James's Church, Baton Rouge, November 30, 1939; priest, 1940. Served as curate, St. James's Church, Baton Rouge, 1940-1941; rector, Trinity Church, Natchitoches (and temporarily priest-in-charge, St. Paul's, Winnfield), 1941-1946; army chaplain, 1942-1945; served South Pacific theatre; rector, Church of the Holy Comforter, Charlotte, N. C., 1946-1949; rector, Church of the Good Shepherd, Lake Charles, 1949-1952. Elected first suffragan bishop of Louisiana, St. James's Church, Alexandria, May 14, 1952; consecrated October 1, 1952; declined election as bishop coadjutor of Montana, December 1955; elected bishop coadjutor of Louisiana, May 10, 1961, installed September 8, 1961; installed as eighth bishop of Louisiana, Christ Church Cathedral, New Orleans, November 17, 1969; first native of Louisiana elected to the episcopate. Episcopal ministry distinguished by strong ecumenism; improvement of race relations within the Episcopal church; active extension of youth work, and careful pastoral oversight of the diocesan clergy. Married Nell Burden of Baton Rouge, February 3, 1936. Children: Iveson (b. 1938), John (b. 1946), and Daniel (b. 1951). Killed in airline crash, New York, June 24, 1975. P.C.L. Sources: Churchwork, November 1955; Journal of the … Diocese of Louisiana, 1952, 1961; John Noland to Patrick C. Lipscomb, III, Baton Rouge, March 13, 1985; Shreveport Times, June 26, 1975; Baton Rouge State-Times, November 29, 1939; May 15, 1952; November 18, 1969; New Orleans Times-Picayune, October 2, 1952; telephone conversations of Patrick C. Lipscomb, III, with Mr. and Mrs. Iveson B. Noland, III, May 1985; and vertical newspaper file, Louisiana Room, Hill Memorial Library, LSU, Baton Rouge. From

In 1805 the Rev. Philander Chase came to New Orleans and organized the Christ Church Episcopal community which began worship in the Cabildo on November 17 of that year.

At a meeting of the Cabildo on November 17, 1775, the Attorney General called attention to the great export of provisions from the Province. Stating he feared a shortage which might endanger the population, heasked that drastic measures be adopted to prevent a shortage. The Governor agreed to prohibit exportation until the public was cared for. The Commissioners presented a list of the Negroes in the city, showing 4,387. (This census was made in order to assess owners for payment of runaway slaves killed in resisting arrest). It was also agreed that each individual must contribute one half a real for the payment of two hundred Pesos to Don Francisco la Barre for one runaway Negro killed while resisting arrest.

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Abreviations used on this site: NOPL (New Orleans Public Library), LOC (Library of Congress), LDL (Lousiana Digital Library), HNOC (Historic New Orleans Collection), WIKI (Wikipedia).

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