Today in New Orleans History

September 5

Shushan Airport Milneburg Joys

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Pontchartrain Beach Closed
11 p.m. on Labor Day, Monday, September 5, 1983

The first Pontchartrain Beach opened in 1928, across Bayou St. John from the old Spanish Fort on filled land newly reclaimed from the lake by the Orleans Levee Board. The "Old Beach" featured a boardwalk, a bath house and rides. But the hard times of the Depression hit the new amusement park hard, in spite of improvements (including a seawall to replace the boardwalk and a vehicular bridge over Bayou St. John) made by the Batt family, which took over its operation in 1933. In 1938, when development (with the help of the WPA) of Lake Vista began just next door, the Batts took advantage of the opportunity to move the park farther east along the lakefront to Milneburg, and the "Old Beach" was demolished. This photograph of the entrance to the park was taken on March 7, 1939, shortly before demolition began.  (From the New Orleans Public Libary)
Before becoming involved in the amusement business, Harry Batt, Sr., born in New Orleans on June 20, 1903, worked at Home Ice Company, founded in 1893 by his grandfather.  His father, John William Batt, had built the first ice manufacturing plant in New Orleans, according to Marquerite Batt, his wife. Educated at Danneel Elementary and Warren Easton High School, he dropped out of high school after the first year to help in the family business during WWI. He married Marguerite Spraul on September 2, 1924. When home refrigerators were becoming popular appliances in the upper-class homes in the areas serviced by Harry (University Section near Tulane and Newcomb Colleges), he foresaw a decline in his business and began to entertain the thought of entertainment as a career.  In 1927 he met and befriended the merry-go-round operator at Audubon Park whose business was already suffering.  Harry and his father invested an interest in this small endeavor. Harry's interest was peaked.  A neighbor owned arcade equipment -- he and Harry leased the newly created lakefront land in front of what would become Lake Vista and opened an arcade there under the corporate name of Playland Amusements, of which his father was also an investor.  The seawall had yet to be built but a wooden boardwalk was in place as well as a bathhouse and other facilities owned by Lakeshore Amusement Company.  Playland owned and installed rides there on pilings.  The park opened in 1928.  In 1930 Harry became Playland's general manager and his father was no longer active in the business. In 1931, Dorothy Lamour was crowned Miss New Orleans there before becoming a top movie star.  Lakeshore Amusements fell on hard times and in 1934 Playland successfully bid to become the sole operator of the park. "We never intended to [take it over], but when the Depression hit and the company which ran the park folded we took over", said Harry.  The business was named Pontchartrain Beach.
In 1938 a vehicular bridge was built over Bayou St. John, residential development of Lake Vista began, and Playland, Incorporated a well as Pontchartrain Beach moved to a 50 acres site in front of what was the town of Milneburg.  The "Bug" was transported to the new location and used until the last day the beach was open to the public, Labor Day on September 5, 1983 (the park did open for reserved functions after that date).  Harry's father, who died shortly after the move,  told him, "You'll never make it.  You put too much money into this" but it lasted 45 years until "the beach" closed in 1983.  During the early days of the park at the end of Elysian Fields Avenue, Marguerite worked hard filling in at any positions which needed help.  The family with two young sons, Harry Jr. and John, lived in town until Harry converted an old bathhouse into an apartment in which they lived for 22 years (until moving to Lake Terrace shortly before Harry retired in 1970) -- Marguerite said, "It was like living in a big, posh estate".  Harry Jr. and John worked in the family business as boys, doing everything from manning the snowball shack to  counting money.

Harry's hands-on management style led him to personally hire many of the famous animal acts, magicians, tight-rope walkers, high-diver, daredevils, and entertainers. He introduced fire-works shows and dolphin acts. He hired celebrity guests including Lex Barker (the screen's Tarzan), Rudy Valee, Roy Rogers, Walter Pidgeon, Mike Douglas, and a very young Elvis Presley whose advertising and entertainment bill was topped by an animal act. Harry sponsored many charity events at his venue but his favorite thing to do at the beach was to host beauty pageants.  "If there was anything I loved, it was a beauty contest", he said. Sharon Brown and Euyne Howell went on to become Miss USAs.  The beach also hosted the Miss Louisiana pageant.
TodayInNewOrleansHistory/1937Zephyr.gif On April 23, 1939, the Zephyr first whisked New Orleanians into the sky along its winding path around the park.  Harry Jr. remembered, when he was a twelve year-old, "It was fantastic to get on top of the Zephyr and see nothing but cow pasture as far as you could see in Gentilly".
Kiddieland opened in 1947, surrounding the historic Milneburg/Port Pontchartrain light house.  Bali Hai began serving Polynesian food in 1958, closing in 1975 with the exception of private catering functions.
1964 brought the introduction of POP (pay-one-price) Days but the attendance fell to an all-time low from 1964 through 1969.  Harry Jr. and John added a new sky ride and the Calypso.  In 1978 the $1.3 million Rajun Cajun was the last ride installed at the beach. 
Harry Batt, Sr., retired in 1970 as president and managing director of Pontchartrain Beach, and Harry Batt, Jr., and his brother, John Batt, served as President, and Vice President, respectively, until the lakefront park closed.
Well known and respected in the amusement industry he was a co-director of the 1962 Seattle World's Fair  and directed the installation of a model railroad at St. Louis Zoo in 1963.  He was a member of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.
At home he helped organize the New Orleans Recreation Department, was instrumental in establishing a burn center at Charity Hospital, and was active in raising funds for victims of multiple sclerosis, the Crippled Children's Hospital, and the New Orleans Council of Jewish Women. He was a member of International House, New Orleans Chamber of Commerce education committee, Housing Authority of New Orleans, Salvation Army, and Variety Clubs International.
Mr. Batt was chairman of the board of managers of Delgado Museum (now New Orleans Museum of Art), director of the National American Bank, was honored in 1976 by the Young Men's Business Club for the annual outing he sponsored for poor children at his amusement park, received the Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award from the art museum in 1976, and reigned as king of the Louisiana Society of the Washington Mardi Gras ball in 1972. Harry Batt Sr. died of a heart attack during a trip to Hong Kong with his beloved Marguerite on November 5, 1977 at the age of 74. 

 Related reading: Lake Pontchartrain (Images of America) by Catherine Campanella

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On Monday, September 5, 2005, the post-Katrina 17th Street Canal levee breach was closed with truckloads of rock and sandbags. The process of pumping water out of the city via the canal was then begun. Electrical power began to be restored to buildings in the central business district of New Orleans on a priority basis. 33,608 Army National Guard and 6,613 Air National Guard were deployed (40,221 total)

The first soccer match to be held in the Superdome pitted The New York Cosmos and the Dallas Tornado. The Brazilian star Pelé and Kyle Rote, Jr. led their respective teams on September 5, 1976.

The Michoud Assembly Facility's 832-acre site in New Orleans East was originally constructed in 1940 at the village of Michoud and its plantation by Higgins-Tucker division of Higgins Industries under the direction of Andrew Jackson Higgins on behalf of the United States government for the war production during World War II to make plywood C-46 cargo planes and landing craft. During the Korean War it made engines for Sherman and Patton tanks, and boasted a 5,500 foot paved runway. It came under the management of NASA in 1961 and was used for the construction of the S-IC first stage of the Saturn V rocket and the S-IB first stage of the Saturn IB rocket. It is home to the first stage of the last constructed Saturn V, SA-515.  The Michoud Assembly Facility has been most closely associated with the construction and production of NASA's External Tank (ET) program. Throughout the Space Shuttle program, the facility produced 136 tanks. From September 5, 1973 to September 20, 2010 it was used for the construction of the space shuttle's external fuel tanks by its lead contractor, Lockheed Martin. Rollout for ET-1 used for STS-1 was on June 29, 1979. The last flight ready tank, ET-122, rolled out on September 20, 2010. Only one tank produced at the facility, ET-94, was not used in spaceflight and remained at Michoud as a test article. (Wiki)

Act 170 of the 1968 Louisiana Legislature authorized the creation of a Community Improvement Agency in and for the City of New Orleans. Local approval of the Agency came through a City Council resolution on September 5, 1968. Two months later, on November 12, 1968, the CIA held its organizational meeting. It was directed by a seven-member Board, appointed by the Mayor with City Council approval and administered by an Executive Director who supervises a staff of State Civil Service employees.  The Community Improvement Agency was established as the City's urban renewal department. From its inception the CIA sought the rehabilitation of blighted areas rather than massive slum-clearance projects. In pursuit of this goal the Agency encouraged property owners to improve their holdings and assisted them in financing those improvements. Unrepairable structures were demolished and the properties cleared for reuse. The CIA also implemented improvements to streets, lighting, drainage, and open space within the blighted areas. The Lower Ninth Ward became the first project area in 1969. In the following years the Desire/Florida, Gravier, and Central City areas were added along with the special Health Education Authority of Louisiana (HEAL) medical complex. Project Area Committees were formed in each of the four major sections. These bodies served as the means of local citizen participation in project planning and implementation.  In 1973 the CIA became the City's action arm for the Public Improvement Programs in the Irish Channel and Broadmoor neighborhoods. The Core Area Development District, responsible for revitalizing the New Orleans Central Business District, chose the Agency as its planning consultant in 1975. Toward the end of the 1970s the CIA was completing its urban renewal phase and began to act more as a citywide housing improvement body. This role was encouraged by the federal Community Development block grant program, which provided funds for general areas of service rather than for specific projects or sections.  In the mid-1990s, the activities of the Community Improvement Agency were assumed by the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority. (From the New Orleans Public Library.)

Earl K. Long, former Governor of Louisiana, died on September 5, 1960 at the age of 65 -- nine days after being elected to Congress . Long had gone to the hospital after polls closed on August 27, 1960.

The amazing Big Mama Thornton performed a 9 P.M. show at the Dew Drop Inn at 2840 LaSalle Street on September 5, 1954 -- performing her hits Hound Dog, They Call Me Big Mama, and I Smell a Rat.

Six white boys ages 14 and 15, described as being from "prominent families", were stopped by police at Hampson and Broadway at 9:30 P.M. on Saturday, September 5, 1954 for allegedly throwing water on Mrs. Clair Vacant of 933 Pine Street. Police had received complaints during the prior days of bike-riding boys throwing rocks and turning on outside home water faucets. One resident reported a broken store window shot out by a BB rifle.  These private-school youths asked the officers if they may apologize for their actions, their request was granted, and they were released by police to their parents.

The official list of the debutantes for the 1954-55 Season were announced on September 5, 1954.  Those young ladies who would be formally presented to New Orleans society included:
Miss Arthe Marie Walmsley, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hughes Philip Walmsley
Miss Harriet Mary Smither, daugher of Mr. And Mrs. James William Smither Jr.
Miss Virginia Dowmann Kock,daugher of Mre. And Mrs.Edouard James Kock
Miss Katherine Blair Moore, daugher of Mrs. Lloyd W. Morris of Baton Rougeand the late Mr. John Thomas Moore of New Orleans
Miss Gretchen Catherine Jahncke, daugher of Mr. And Mrs.Paul Frederic Jahncke Jr.
Miss Lucinda Ann Beatte, daugher of Mr. And Mrs. Robert Hezekiah Beatte
Miss Margorie R. Manger, daugher of Mr. And Mrs. Daniel Thomas Manger Jr.
Miss Marietta Sinclair Moyer, daugher of Mr. And Mrs. Robert Kirk Moyer
Miss Harriett May Smither, daugher of Mr. And Mrs. James William Smither Jr.
Miss Peggy Jane White, daugher of Mr. And Mrs. Dudley Hearn White of Jackson, Mississippi, formerly of New Orleans.

September 5, 1954 -- Times-Picayune/New Orleans States

September 5, 1954 -- Times-Picayune/New Orleans States.

September 5, 1954 -- Times-Picayune/New Orleans States

September 5, 1954 -- Times-Picayune/New Orleans States

September 5, 1954 -- Times-Picayune/New Orleans States

BASSO, Hamilton, journalist, novelist. Born, New Orleans, September 5, 1904; son of Dominick and Louise Calamari Basso. Education: New Orleans public schools; Tulane University, graduated 1926. Newspaper reporter, New Orleans Tribune, 1927; later with the Item, Times-Picayune; copywriter Fitzgerald Advertising Agency, New Orleans; associate editor, The New Republic, 1935-1937; contributing editor Time magazine, 1942-1943; associate editor, The New Yorker, 1944; recipient of Southern Authors Award, 1939. Member, Weston, Conn., School Board, resided Weston after leaving New York in 1944. Member, National Institute of Arts and Letters Club. Member, Players. Author: The World from Jackson Square (with Etolia Simmons Basso, 1948); The Green Room (1948); The View from Pompey's Head (1954); The Light Infantry Ball (1959); A Quota of Seaweed (1961); also, Angels and Relics and Beauregard: The Great Creole. Editor: Exploration of the Valley of the Amazon, 1952. Married Etolia Simmons of New Orleans, June 2, 1930. One son, Keith Basso. Died, New Haven, Conn., May 13, 1964. C.C.K. Sources: Who's Who, 1962-63; obituary, New Orleans Times-Picayune, May 14, 1964.From

New Orleans born Don Costello (September 5, 1901 - October 24, 1945) entered films in 1935 and in 1939 was put under contract with MGM. Known for his wicked sense of humor, Costello oftentimes played the role of a menace or a tough guy. He is probably best known for his role as Lefty in the movie Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941). He appeared in 37 movies (31 times credited), including Another Thin Man (1939), Johnny Eager (1941) and The Blue Dahlia (1946). (Wiki)

Born in New Orleans on September 5, 1895, Theodore Charles Jourdan  made his Major League Baseball debut for the Chicago White Sox on September 18, 1916.  He was a first baseman over parts of four seasons (1916–1918, 1920) with Chicago. He complied a career batting average of .214 in 196 at-bats, with 11 RBIs.  He ended his career in the majors on October 3, 1920 with the White Sox with whom he played with for World Series championship in 1917 He died in New Orleans, Louisiana at the age of 66 on  September 23, 1961. (Wiki)

BUCK, William Henry, artist, painter, restorer.  Born, Bergen or Tromsoe, Norway, 1840.  Married, April 29, 1865, Marie Louise Fortin.  Children:  Lawrence H., Amelie, and Mina.  Immigrated to Boston but removed to New Orleans ca. 1860, working in the cotton business, until 1880.  During this period  studied painting with Ernest Ciceri (q.v.), Richard Clague (q.v.), Andrés Molinary, and Achille Perelli (q.v.).  In 1869 won silver medals for best landscape in oil and best painting in watercolor as well as the award for best pastel painting at the Third Grand State Fair of the Mechanics' and Agricultural Fair Association of Louisiana.  At the Fourth Grand State Fair in 1870 received a diploma for best drawing in pastel.  Exhibited frequently in New Orleans galleries, 1877-1885.  Shared a studio with Andrés Molinary and Achille Perelli for a number of years, before opening his own in 1880.  From then until his death, devoted himself solely to his art and also restored paintings and made pictures in cut paper.  In 1880 was commissioned by the Association of the Army of Tennessee to make a painting of Jefferson Davis' residence, Beauvoir.  During 1884-1885 he exhibited in the Art Collection at the World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition and 1885-1886 in the Creole Exhibit Art Gallery of the North, Central, and South American Exposition.  He also exhibited at the First and Second Annual Exhibitions of the Artists' Association of New Orleans in 1886 and 1887 respectively.  Died, New Orleans, September 5, 1888.  C.S.B.  Sources:  The Historic New Orleans Collection, Encyclopaedia of New Orleans Artists, 1718-1918 (1987); New Orleans Daily Picayune, May 4, 1865; W. P. A./Delgado Art Museum Project, Lives of New Orleans Artists.  From

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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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