Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Discover St. Tammany Tour 1972

Before there was the St.Tammany Parish Tourist and Convention Commission to promote the area and organize tourism efforts, there was the "Discover St. Tammany Tour" held back in 1972 through the efforts of the St. Tammany Fair Association.

The bus tour for area press covered the entire parish in one day, highlighting the tourist attractions, horse farms, and historic landmarks. Some of the major players in the tour were, pictured below from left to right, Police Juror Pete Fitzmorris, Linda Barringer, Donis Jenkins, Police Juror Ralph Privette, Mayor Ernest Cooper of Covington and WARB Radio Station's Rick Webb.

Among the Discover St. Tammany Tour participants
Photo by Ron Barthet

  That event was actually one of the major advances to recognizing the importance of tourism to the area economy, and many of the people involved in the day-long tour went on to help organize and operate the tourism commission.  

Here's a newspaper article from 1972 that details the adventure of that "Discover St. Tammany Tour," and the many people, places and organizations that supported the effort.

Click on the images below to see the two pages. 

Page One

Page Two

Here is the text from the above article:
It all began around 8 a.m. Thursday morning in the parking lot of the Covington Community Center. One by one people arrived in their cars, parked them and locked them up for the day. The state police were there, a trooper and his highway patrol car. The sheriff's patrol unit arrived about ten minutes later. The atmosphere was tense, the group of people now swelling to about 15 individuals, all wondering, anxious to see what was to follow.

A station wagon pulled up and out came Gloria Sellars. Everyone looked at her for some explanation, for some idea of the events that were to come. She didn't know. Then came a car with the coordinator of the whole affair. She stepped out and took one glance at the situation. She looked at her watch; it was time to begin.

Linda Barringer, the coordinator, checked the names of everyone there. It all checked out. Then the group separated, climbing into different cars, some into the police cars and a number into the station wagon with Mrs. Sellars.

On Its Way

And the Discover St. Tammany tour was on its way. The tour was to bring news media representatives, public officials, guests and members of the St. Tammany Fair Association together for a day long examination of the parish.

The cars were heading over to Eden Isles where we were to meet a Greyhound bus coming from New Orleans with several persons associated with radio, television and the government there. We lost one man on the way in Mandeville due to lack of description on where he would be, but that didn't prove to be the theme of the whole day.
State Representative Bill Strain, at right, joins the tour in Slidell

Over at Eden Isles about 9:15, the Covington group left the Gloria Sellars car and mingled with the group from Slidell for coffee and doughnuts to occupy the time until the bus arrived. It came about a quarter to ten and added about a dozen more people to the entourage. This made it about 38 people altogether.

Some of the Players

There was Larry Breland of the Slidell Chamber of Commerce, Dan Culpepper of Crown Publishing Co., Richard Tanner, Pete Fitzmorris and Talmadge Wood, all of the fair association, Richard Lawrence of WVOG in New Orleans, Bill Wilson of WWL, James Pfister of Mayor Landrieu's staff and many others too numerous to remember.

We were told that when the New Orleans segment had departed, Mayor Moon Landrieu himself had been there to send them off. Around 10 a.m. after more coffee and doughnuts and a look around the sales office of Eden Isles with its impressive maps and miniature model, the group moved to the parking lot to board the bus.

Here another ten minutes was eaten up while the bus driver, Lester Cooper, who later was to perform several miracles, tried to turn the bus around. Soon everyone was on board, including two bartenders to man the portable bar.

And the first annual Discover St. Tammany tour was officially underway. Dan Culpepper, who works with the fair association in its publications, took command of the bus's speaker system and narrated a tour through Slidell.

Slidell Top Attractions

That journey included the Guillot meat packing plant, the Delta Roofing Mills, the St. Bernard Lumber  Co. and its prefabrication plant, Slidell High School, the NASA Computer Complex complete with weather radar dome, several subdivisions, the Towers Building and a ride down Bayou Liberty road.

The sheriff's car and the unit from Troop L led the bus around, going in here, going out there and guiding it around. A quick side trip into Coin de Lestin proved to be dangerous when the bus couldn't make one of the sharp turns in the subdivision and almost destroyed a tree while backing up into someone's driveway.

Once off Bayou Liberty road, the bus and two police units went on to Lacombe. About halfway there, two paper signs reading "Discover St. Tammany" tore off the bus due to the wind and fluttered to the highway. We made a quick pass through Lacombe, obeying the 40 miles per hour speed limit, of course, and continued on to Mandeville.

Fontainebleau State Park

Another side trip took the bus through Fontainebleau State Park. All the while Dan kept pouring out historical information and statistics about the scenery we were passing.

In Mandeville, the bus turned down Jackson St. and went to the harbor, skirted the lakefront and turned back to Monroe St., proceeded west to the Causeway approach and then on to the four way stop. Turning west, the group went on to Fairview Riverside State Park in Madisonville where about a dozen ladies and a stack of lunches were waiting for them, not to mention several dozen local dignitaries and more news media representatives.

Turning into the roadside park proved to be devastating for the concrete abutment of a driveway and the Greyhound finally lunged across a ditch to make it in the sharp turn. All this was occurring to the tune of tree limbs scraping across the roof of the bus.

Who's Who of St. Tammany Politics

It would be easier to name who wasn't at Fairview than who was. Anyway, Sheriff George Broom was there, Capt. Wallace Laird, Troop L Commander William Jourdan, Representatives Bill Strain and Ed Scogin, Police Jurors Earl Broom, Pete Fitzmorris, Webb Hart, Malcolm Stein, Ralph Privette, Mayor Ernest Cooper, Clerk of Court Bob Fitzmorris and many others whose names are just as prominent.

The lunch was good. The ladies of the fair association who served it did a great job. Available were chicken, both light and dark meat, cookies, cake, coffee, tea, drinks and dinner rolls.

Pictures were taken, hands were shaken and political animosity was forsaken while everyone sat down and had an old-fashioned picnic lunch. James Pfister from Mayor Landrieu's office gave grace before the meal, speaking into a bullhorn.

After lunch everyone piled back into the bus, with about a dozen additional passengers coming aboard. Several who had been on the bus took the opportunity to leave, for they had appointments to keep or jobs to look after.

The Voyage

From Fairview the bus took the group to the Madisonville boat dock where three yachts from Ammarine were sitting, waiting to take the group up the Tchefuncta River to Covington Country Club. They were all asked to remove their shoes so they wouldn't scratch the teakwood decks on board the yachts, a request that added just a bit more hilarity to the goings on.

The Madisonville bridge swung open and the yachts set off for a half-hour voyage up the Tchefuncta. I didn't get to go on board the boats, for I had already run out of film and commandeered a state trooper to bring me to a drug store in Mandeville to purchase some. I'd like to thank him for doing this for without him page 16 would have been blank perhaps.

We met the group again at the docks at Covington Country Club where Gloria Sellars and Police Juror Al Link were on hand to greet the three boats. Link commented that the three vessels looked like the Nina, the Pinta and Santa Maria coming up the Tchefuncta River and this was remarkably appropriate, considering it was Columbus Day and this was the Discover St. Tammany tour.

On To Covington

Getting back on board the bus after the boat trip, the group rode up Mandeville highway to Covington where it passed down Boston St. in front of the courthouse and turned onto Jahncke Ave. It made a trip through the campus of St. Paul's High School and circled back to see the St. Tammany Parish Hospital as well as Tchefuncta Square.

Going up Jefferson Ave. the group saw the Middle School, the headquarters of the St. Tammany Parish library system, the volunteer fire department and Covington City Hall. They also made a pass by the Bogue Falaya Shopping Mall.

After the group stopped for a moment at the Community Center to let off a few folks who regretted to leave the tour, the bus struck off again for Lake Ramsay campgrounds where refreshments were in store.

Dropping In Via Parachute

Leon Riche, who had been on the tour since its beginning mysteriously disappeared somewhere in Covington, but rejoined the tour at Lake Ramsay... by parachute. While the others enjoyed refreshments under the trees there, Riche jumped out of an airplane 5,000 feet above them and demonstrated the maneuverability of a parachute. The crowd below really enjoyed his demonstration. Once on the ground, he stepped out of his jumpsuit and rejoined the tour.

After a tour of Lake Ramsay camping facilities, the group went northward to Folsom, passing through some good-looking pasture land complete with cattle. Making a right turn in Folsom, the group toured the nursery center of the area and focal point of the St. Tammany thoroughbred horse training farms.

While making the turn, Culpepper pointed out the town hall and mentioned Mrs. Vera Fay Forbes, the town's lady mayor. Winding down the Blond-Folsom road, the bus followed the two police units, still out in front, into the Bogue Falaya Horse farm where a special demonstration was given to show how the horses there are exercised. A special circular tank 12 feet deep is filled with water and the horses swim around it.

Swimming Pool For Horses

The owner of the farm said that this utilizes all the muscles used while a horse is running, but takes the weight off the legs. The horses enjoy the swim and afterwards they are tied to a merry go round type of structure to dry off. The touring group also got to see a race horse in action there as it galloped around the track.

Following this, the group went off to visit the Broken R Ranch of Andrew L. Erwin. Although unexpected, the group was warmly received and shown around the stables. A number of well-known race horses were pointed out during the walk.

Unbelievably, the group was still on schedule as it pulled out of the Broken R Ranch and proceeded toward Blond, passing the Merrywood Estates Subdivision. Going through Blond and Lee Road, the bus took a short cut to La. Hwy. 1082 and passed by the Dorignac Farm and several other bull raising concerns, not to mention some of the more scenic sections of the parish.

From La. Hwy. 1082, the bus and its police escort traveled east on the Bush-Folsom Road and turned south on La. Hwy. 1083, going on to Waldheim. Although the destination was Saddlewood Farms, the bus and its escort made a wrong turn in Waldheim and wound up going down Ben Williams road and thereby getting lost.

Everyone stopped, discussed the location for a few minutes, then got back into the cars and proceeded down the road running by Casadaban Nurseries and turned north again on La. Hwy. 59 to get back to La. Hwy. 21 on which Waldheim and Saddlewood Farms were located.It was getting to be a motorist nightmare.

Saddlewood Farms

Eventually the group did make it to Saddlewood Farms, almost destroying several trees in the process, but thanks to the skill and courage of the driver, both the bus and trees came out with only minor scratches.

At Saddlewood Farms, Mr. and Mrs. George Higgins put on a show for the touring party with the official state equestrian team. Two riders put their horses through several jumps and gave a demonstration of the several types of gait a horse can utilize. It was a fascinating place for the tour and the group thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition.

Lt. Gov. Jimmy Fitzmorris arrived to meet the group at Saddlewood Farms and was impressed himself with the show put on by the horses. One of the riders was the Higgins' daughter Laurie, a 19 year old expert horsewoman.

I could see that everyone was getting fairly tired by now, still happy, but tired. The bus started out from Saddlewood Farms in descending darkness and the lights came on. The group began to appreciate the cushioned seats of the bus even more as the Greyhound coach made its way back to Covington.

It wasn't over yet, however, for there was still a barbecue to contend with. I wasn't able to stay long for the barbecue, but was there long enough to notice the Lt. Governor enjoying the food and good company, members of the school board and police jury and many others.

I asked Linda Barringer, coordinator of the trip, to describe it in one word. "I'm glad it's over," she said, exhausted. I also asked Rick Webb to describe it in one word, "exposure, good exposure for the parish that's been needed for a long time." I also asked Mayor Ernest Cooper for his comment. "Great, enjoyed it very much."

One word? Just one word to describe a day full of sights and sounds and people and show? The only word I can think of is "fantastic," and that's what it was.

Covington Daily News October 12, 1972

See also:

The Second Annual Discover St. Tammany Tour