Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Fate of Covington Founder Researched

The history books credit Jacques Dreux as the founder of the Covington area, and while much is known about where he came from and what he did while he was in western St. Tammany, the facts grow dim as to where he went after he left Covington and what he did as an encore. His fate was researched by several interested parties in the 1980's, and the article below is the result of some of that research. Click on the image below to see a larger version of the article.

Johnny Bankston, County Agent

One of the most remarkable people I met when I first got into St. Tammany newspaper reporting was Johnny Bankston, county agent for the LSU Cooperative Extension Service. He was the guy who helped synchronize the farmers and ranchers and growers with the latest LSU research and recommendations. For the youth, there were the 4-H Club, Future Farmers of America (FFA) and a wide variety of farm animals and livestock organizations, all benefiting from the advice and guidance of the LSU Cooperative Extension. 

The article below tells about Bankston's talk to the St.Tammany 4-H Horse Club, sharing with its members the benefits of owning and caring for horses and encouraging them towards rural lifestyles and self-sufficiency. Click on the image below to see the article in a larger version. 

To view an article about the LSU Cooperative Extension and its staff in Covington in 1973, click on the image below. 

Johnny Bankston died in 2004 and his obituary is at this link. 

The St. Tammany Parish Police Jury and the Cooperative Extension Staff in 1977.
Johnny Bankston, standing in rear at right

When Competing Fire Companies Used To Race To Fires

Before there were organized city fire departments, paid for by taxpayers,  there were volunteer fire companies, groups of men who would band together and fight fires in the community whenever needed. In fact, they would sometimes compete on which company could get to a fire first. Since there were three separate volunteer fire companies in Covington in the early days, sometimes it would get pretty interesting. Here's an article I wrote that explained the process in detail. Click on the image below to read the article. 

I was impressed by the concept of volunteers competing with each other to put out fires, so I wrote a song about it, and it was included among the songs selected for the St. Tammany Rivers music CD released in the early 1990's.

Here are three pictures of the fire companies getting ready for a parade. Click on the images to see a larger version. 

Local Authors Night At The Library

In 1977, a group of new authors who lived in west St. Tammany were invited to the public library for an "Authors Night." It was a good cross section of the people and publications that were going out at that time, and the Slidell Times covered the event. Click on the image below to see the article and photo. I was a part of that group because I had just self-published my collection of science fiction short stories.

One of the area's most prolific writers and poets is Maurice LeGardeur of Covington. An attorney by day, he has written and published several books. Shown above is "A Country Lawyer Looks Again." A native of New Orleans, he began writing poetry in 1982 and became known as "The Bard of Boston Street." His most recent project involves books entitled "Mona's Law," a series of cartoons about the law and lawyers, as seen from a legal secretary's viewpoint.

St. Tammany's Part In The Revolutionary War

What part did St. Tammany play in the events that unfolded between British West Florida and the American Revolution in 1779?

Here is a photo of the historical marker at Mandeville harbor commemorating the event.

In August of 1971 Judge S. F. Ellis of Covington gave a speech entitled "Seven Flags Over St. Tammany Parish" for the Historical Preservation Society. It dealt with the events that took place around St. Tammany during the period of time of the American Revolutionary War (1775 to 1783). Here are some of the more interesting historical facts:

"After the Revolutionary War began, James Willing of Philadelphia, representing the colonies, came down the Mississippi River in an attempt to have the English settlers there join in the Revolution. Although he was cordially received, he met with little success. He later returned, with a small force of men, and attacked and burned the plantations, and otherwise terrrorized the settlers along the river.

"Among his other feats, he captured a British sloop, the Rebecca, and brought it to New Orleans, where he was cordially  received by Bernardo de Galvez, the young Spanish governor.

"In 1779, Spain declared war on England, and Galvez captured the British forts at Manchac and Baton Rouge, the latter on September 21, 1779. In the meanwhile, the sloop Rebecca, re-named the Morris, was placed under the command of William Pickles, flying the colors of the United States.

"He entered Lake Pontchartrain and challenged the British sloop "West Florida," which, by virtue of being the only armed vessel in the lake, had dominated commerce thereon. Although outgunned and outnumbered, Pickles fired upon, boarded and captured the "West Florida." He then proceeded to the north shore of the lake, where he forced the British settlers to swear allegiance to the United States, and claimed the territory.

"This happened on the same day that Galvez captured Baton Rouge."

Judge Ellis had delivered this material because of its relevance to the upcoming Bicentennial Celebration in 1976. In fact, one of the events held during the Bicentennial Celebrations in St. Tammany was a re-enactment of that 1779 event where Captain Pickles came ashore at Mandeville lakefront and read the proclamation to the British settlers that they were now Americans. 

A photo showing the boat landing at Mandeville during that re-enactment is below. 

In another detailed account, the story of the "Battle of Lake Pontchartrain in 1779 was told like this.  At that time the north shore was part of British West Florida and Lake Pontchartrain was controlled by the British because of this heavily-armed gunboat.  American Captain William Pickles encountered the British gunboat West Florida in Lake Pontchartrain and, although outmanned and outgunned, engaged in battle. This "Battle of Lake Pontchartrain" took place at the height of the American War of Independence.

The 1779 encounter which took place near the mouth of Bayou St. John on the south shore, and Captain Pickles won the battle and took control of the lake. A few weeks later, he landed at Bayou Castine in Mandeville, gathered up the local residents and persuaded them to sign a “peace treaty” in favor of the American War of Independence.

Below is a picture of the "reading of the proclamation" during the 1976 re-enactment of the when the residents of the northshore surrendered to Captain Pickles.

Re-enactors reading the 1779 peace treaty in 1976, John Healy in suit on the left, and Miss Ella Paine at the right.

The treaty was signed by 19 people. A copy of it was sent to Philadelphia where, according to historian Don Sharp, it was read before the Continental Congress and was a source of encouragement to that group and helped build their resolve to keep up the good fight for Independence. Here is a newspaper article written about the incident.

Captain Pickles then did something that greatly affected the future of Mandeville. He patrolled Lake Pontchartrain, protecting the northshore as best he could from the ravages of war. He put the word out to all the pirates, criminals and opportunists in New Orleans to leave St. Tammany alone. It was a time of war, so there were groups of bad people going across the countryside, taking advantage of the situation, burning houses, stealing cattle and anything else of value they could get their hands on, even murdering families.  They would use the cover of war to get away with doing things like that.

Capt. Pickles knew that many of those who lived on the northshore were American sympathizers, so he protected them. He let it be known that he vowed to catch and sink anyone trying to cross the lake to cause chaos on the north shore. 

It was the kind of place that people just wanted to protect and preserve, people all the way from the earliest Native Americans to the most recent new residents.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Phillips Family Cross-Country Trip

     In 1975 well known local travel agent Don Phillips and his wife, real estate broker Jenny Phillips, bought a travel trailer and set off to discover backroads America. They had traveled all over the world in his work as a travel agent, but it was time to get close up and personal with the United States. Plans were made, maps were marked and they set off for the grand adventure. 
     Unfortunately, living in a travel trailer, stopping at a different campground each night, soon lost its luster and then, two months after they set out, they were involved in a serious accident on the highway. That sort of brought things to a standstill, literally and emotionally. They wound up in Austin, Texas, where they bought a house, started a vitamin shop in the college town, and did rather well in the health food business. They got healthier, wealthier, and happier in their new abode, putting their travel plans on hold indefinitely. 
     I went to visit them a few times, and was amazed to see the vitamin shop flourish with its version of the "smoothie," a relatively new idea at the time. I think they opened up a couple additional shops.  It was a great adventure for Don and Jenny both, even though it wasn't the one they had planned on. 
     I went to college with their son Donald K. Phillips Jr., and he became a good friend, active in drama and radio production. In fact, in addition to being a helicopter-flying radio traffic reporter back when it was sort of a new thing, he eventually became involved in producing murder mystery theater productions for corporate and convention crowds. Always on the forefront of the latest innovations, just like his dad. I probably take more vitamins now than I would have otherwise because of what Mr. Phillips shared with me.
     To read the newspaper story about their travel plans, click on the image below.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

100 Years Ago This Week (May 27, 2016)

What was going on 100 years ago this week? Here's a link to the St. Tammany Farmer newspaper edition at that time. The link is provided by the Library of Congress and its Chronicling America service. Some of the headlines: Covington High Graduates 10 in Class of 1916, Dance Recital Raises Funds For Woman's Building at the Fairgrounds, and a Public Meeting To Be Held To Discuss the Merits of a Hog Law To Keep Hogs From Running At Large In the Streets. 

Longtime Pilot Recalls Aviation Milestones

Elmer F. Bennett was a St.Tammany Parish resident in 1974, one of many airline pilots who lived in the area. In fact, St. Tammany was home to a large number of pilots in the late 1960's and early 1970's, many of them notable for their accomplishments. Here is an article about Bennett's contributions to the airline industry and his career recognitions. 

Click on the article above to see a larger, more readable size.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

St. Joseph Abbey Houses Art Treasures

The West Saint Tammany Chamber of Commerce put out an article a few years ago about the art treasures housed at St. Joseph's Abbey a few miles north of Covington. You will find the text of the article below, which was a tourist promotion project conducted by the chamber.

St. Joseph Abbey Houses Art Treasures

     One wouldn't expect to find the world's largest mural of The Last Supper at a monastery in a tiny southeast Louisiana town. But, expect it or not, that's just what the small community of Benedictine monks believe they have.
     Painted by Benedictine artist Gregory deWit in 1946, the mural covers the entire west wall of the Refectory (dining room) of the Abbey St. Joseph located about 35 miles north of New Orleans. 
     Measuring 98 by 21 feet, the mural is full of bright, pure, and rich colors and is the focal point of all the other wall and ceiling paintings. Figures in all the paintings face toward The Last Supper, symbolically indicating Christ as the center of Creation and all that Creation shares in the preparation of the material elements essential to the sacrifices of the Eucharist.

     Above it, the Latin inscription proclaims that "Christ, though slain, yet lives and reigns."
     Father Gregory's talent continues in evidence in the wall panels depicting Adams and Eve, Abraham, Joseph, Elias, Moses, Manna from Heaven, the Paschal Supper, and the Good Shepherd. On the ceiling of the Refectory are 56 panels on which the artist depicts fire, air, water, and Earth with the signs of the Zodiac, Chinese pheasants, various fishes and animals.
     As one leaves the Refectory, a large painting of Saint Benedict dominates one's view. In one hand, he holds a staff indicating the office of Abbot and in the other hand the Rule, the code of life for Benedictine monks.
     Father Gregory worked on the murals between 1946 and 1950. The monastery was founded in 1889 at Gessen, La., about 20 miles southwest of its present location. It moved to its current 1200 acre site north of Covington, La., in 1901. By 1906, the monastery has five buildings, a prospering school and thriving crops.
     The following year, a fire destroyed all of the wooden structures, along with the books and personal effects of the monks. Determined to stay, work began on new buildings, this time in brick. One of the first buildings constructed was the Refectory. It and the Abbey church, constructed in 1932, are parts of the Abbey best known to the public because of their magnificent religious art.
     Father Gregory was a native of Holland with extensive art training in Europe who came to the United States to paint the St. Heart Church in Baton Rouge. Meanwhile, World War II began and when he finished his work, he went to Abbey St. Joseph to stay. Working with Father Gregory this time was a young Swiss artist Milo Puiz. The practiced eye can discern the differences in the style of the two artists. 
     Father Gregory's work shows great character in the personages he painted and there is enormous detail in his work, especially in the elaborate folding of cloth in the robes. Milo's work is more simple and direct.
     In the high point of the half dome is the figure of Christ, symbolically bringing life to the world. He is rising on the wings of Cherubim. Beneath this, the artist has land and water with angels underneath holding up Creation.
     The angels are separated by niches; their wings folded over each niche in the lower dome so as to encapsulate evil. Depicted within each niche is one of the capital sins. Satan is in the center niche directly below Christ. The satanic depictions are in very dark colors almost undetected at first sight.
     At the base of the half dome are stained glass windows showing the figures of Melchizedek, King David, Isaiah and Daniel from the Old Testament to John The Baptist, who was a precursor to the New Testament.
     A smaller full dome resting on four massive arches precedes the half dome and is directly above the altar. It is adorned with floating angels. Shown on the walls are the Virgin Mary's marriage to Joseph, the Annunciation, the Nativity, and the Feast at Cana. The Christological series follows, though somewhat overlapping, with His coming being announced, His birth, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.
     Then begins the cycle of the Holy Spirit who comes at Pentecost, and the Virgin Mary ascending into Heaven. St. Benedict, the founder of the Order, and his sister, Saint Scholastica, and other saints are depicted.
     The remaining walls contain paintings, all with Latin inscriptions, explaining the person or event. A large mural over the entrance to the church depicts the Final Judgment with the faithful from all walks of life.
     Father Gregory, an outstanding and creative artist, had a sense of humor that came out in his works. For example, he put two altar boys dressed in the 1950 style altar robes in the portrayal of the marriage of Mary and Joseph. Showing an event taking place in Palestine, he placed a bunch of magnolias, a flower popular in the area and the rest of the South. In the Final Judgment mural, the artist portrayed himself.
    The 60 monks of St. Joseph generously share their art with the outside world and lend their talents to the community. They have three apostolates: St. Joseph Seminary College, a four year liberal arts college for men preparing for the priesthood; the Christian Life Center, a retreat house; and the Abbey Youth Camp, a summer program operated with the Knights of Columbus.
     Visitors may tour the grounds and view the art in the church during daylight hours. The Abbey is located in St. Benedict, La., off La. Hwy. 25 about four and a half miles north of Covington.

Brief Chronology of St. Tammany Parish History

Some years ago The St. Tammany Historical Society put out a brief chronology of St. Tammany History. To view the year-by-year list, click on the image below.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Fair Association Leaders

The St. Tammany Parish Fair Association has been going on for over 100 years now. Back in 1920, the following people were leaders in the St. Tammany Parish Fair Association. 

When I first became involved in the group, it was 1972. Here is a list of the names of those individuals who were leading the association at that time.

The Springing Of Spring

It is always a surprise, for me at least, to experience the tremendous burst of color and natural beauty that arrives with each Spring. Each year I tend to forget what the blossoming flowers look like, the hundred shades of green that the trees display, and the general feeling of clear air and sunshine that Spring brings. Here's a column I wrote in 1972 about that annual phenomenon. Click on image below.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Click of the Camera Changes The Scene

In the year 1978, I took a picture of some public officials arguing about the distribution of tax monies, and it pretty much showed the height of the action. But as soon as the camera clicked and the flash went off, the participants realized that their picture was being taken, and things changed. Smiles came out, people leaned back in their chairs, and all wished they were somewhere else. 

It was such a noted contrast that I sent the original picture as well as the next picture taken a few seconds later to a national newspaper publication, and they thought it was worth putting in their newsletter. It seems a lot of newspaper photographers around the country had experienced the same phenomenon "when the camera clicked." Click on the image below to see a larger version. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Lake Theater Building - Mandeville Lakefront

Back in the 1970's there was a movie theater building on the lakefront in Mandeville.  It was called the Lake Theater, and it was on the corner of Girod St., across from Don's Bar. It was actually there when Girod was still called Gerard. So here are a couple of pictures of it. I think it had long since stopped being used as a movie show and was a dance place and night club of sorts. Click on the images below to see larger versions. 

Lake Theater Building, center, with rusty roof in 1975.

Building in later years as the Camelot Dinner Theater

America concert hall

Madisonville Dock - 1970's

Here's a picture of the Tchefuncta River dock in Madisonville around the mid-1970's. This was before it was fixed up and modernized shortly thereafter. Click on the image below to see a larger version. 

The Legendary Jim Metcalf

Jim Metcalf was one of those television personalities from the old school. Soft-spoken, thoughtful, and a little too reflective on some issues, he would probably not do too well in today's fast moving media market. But he was a thinker, and a poet. In fact, he wrote four poetry books (that I know of) and his television shows "A Sunday Journal" and "Shades of New Orleans" were well received both by New Orleans residents and persons from afar. 

Metcalf once visited Carol Jahncke's "Carol's Corner Bookstore" in Covington to sign his latest poetry book, and below is a photograph of him autographing a copy for some of his fans, young and old. For more information about Metcalf, visit this link or, perhaps, this link. 

For a sample of some of his poetry, CLICK HERE.

To see his books on Amazon.com, CLICK HERE


The Restoration of Lake Pontchartrain's Environment

In 1995 an update was published on the progress being made in the restoration of Lake Pontchartrain's environmental health. Here is a link to a PDF file that details the projects and the successes that had been accomplished at that time.For more up-to-date water quality reports, check out the website of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation (Save Our Lake).

My Sailboat Trip Across Lake Pontchartrain

This is the story of my first and last sailboat trips across Lake Pontchartrain. Being a resident of New Orleans at that time (1964), those trips were my first real encounters with St. Tammany Parish. Five years later, I would be moving to Covington, graduate from Covington High and become involved with being a newspaper editor, photographer and cartoonist for the next 50 years. 

Here is the newspaper article I wrote in 1973 about the adventure, in two pages. To begin reading, click on the first image below.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Covington Street Photos - 1970's

Here's a collection of photos of streets in downtown Covington in the 1970's, as well as a couple of Claiborne Hill photos.

Click on the images below to see a larger sized version.

Boston Street Southern Hotel

Above, Fair Parade October 5, 1979

Boston Street in Front of Old Courthouse

Boston Street across from Old Courthouse

Columbia Street, looking north from Rutland. Heritage Bank is where White's Store was.

Columbia Street, looking northward towards Boston Street

Hebert Drugs, where del Porto Restaurant is today.

New Hampshire St., looking northward from Boston St.

New Hampshire St., looking northward from Gibson Street, showing Burns Furniture Company and Ben Franklin Variety Store. The Youth Service Bureau is where the Ben Franklin store was located. 

New Hampshire St., looking northward from Rutland St.

Corner Boston and New Hampshire Streets

Southern Hotel building

Claiborne Hill, looking east from the overpass

Southern Hotel Building

Boston Looking Eastward From New Hampshire

Badeaux's Drive In, 21st Avenue at Tyler Street

Columbia St., looking north from Rutland St.

Covington Motors Staff, across from train depot on N. New Hampshire

Boston St., Looking East from Columbia Street

Boston Street, looking towards bridge from overpass. Holden's Gulf Service Station is at left

Holden's Texaco

A & P Supermarket

Lee Lane at Boston, Chamber building

Two photos of Southern Hotel under renovation

The Werhli House on New Hampshire Street, located in area now a parking lot for Citizens Bank