Friday, March 31, 2017

100 Years Ago This Week

What was going on 100 years ago this week? The following link is provided by the Library of Congress and its Chronicling America service. CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer edition of March 31, 1917. 

The Madisonville Bank Statement from March, 1917

Dedication of New Covington City Hall - 1959

This picture shows the dedication of the newly-built Covington City Hall on Columbia Street in 1959. Click on the image for a larger version. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Covington Fire Department in 1966

This group photograph shows the men of the Covington Fire Department as they were in the year 1966, some 51 years ago. Click on the image for a larger version. 

John Akers - The Wildlife Environment Artist

In this installment of my weekly "Talent Bank" column from 1985, I spoke with artist John Akers of Abita Springs about his great diversity of art portraying St. Tammany Parish wildlife and outdoor environments. Here is the text from that article:

The Talent Bank: Artist John Akers, June 6, 1985

Artist Jack Akers of Covington has a habit of combing the woods and swamplands of the South, taking pic­tures and then transforming those pictures into portraits of landscapes, mystic scenes that have earned him a considerable reputation.

Akers has been painting now for 20 years, 14 of those as a full time pro­fessional, and his current efforts are aimed at picturing ducks and other wildlife in native habitats for various duck stamp competitions around the nation. He recently plac­ed third in the Indiana Duck Stamp competition, where there were over 400 contenders submitting artwork.

His early work concentrated on bayous and landscapes, something that is still close to his heart. He en­joys canoeing through the isolated areas, making sketches and taking pictures for frames of reference for future works of art. His wanderings take him from the Bogue Chitto River to the marshes of Lake Pontchartrain to the Stock Island refuge near Talisheek and even as far as Texas.


Jack Akers drawing in Belize

"Some of the photographs are good enough where they would make a nice painting with just a few changes," he said, "but generally I put a combination of photographs together with the wildlife." He also goes out and photographs his own egrets and raccoons and herons. "I do a lot of raccoon paintings," he commented, saying that the public really likes raccoon pictures. He is planning a series of prints featuring them and other wildlife subjects.

This and several other projects will keep Akers busy all summer as he hopes to have them ready by the fall. Anyone who thinks that free lance artists just sit around all day waiting to be inspired hasn't check­ed into Akers' schedule. He and other notable artists in St. Tam­many Parish keep their noses to the grindstone, putting out a lot of work. It helps the general public remember who they are and what they can do and keeps up demand for their work.

Akers said that his late night pain­ting sessions are frequent now that he has challenged himself into deadlines.

Time Crunch

He likes to finish his works in pro­gress and get started on something else as soon as possible. While he uses acrylics to a great extent, he started out in traditional watercolors. "I'd like to experiment with different media," he said, "but I don't have time. There are several techniques and papers I'd like to get into, but I just don't have the time."

He added that he will reach the point eventually where he will have the time to get into the media and techniques that he's been wanting to try.
In the future, he'll be entering other duck stamp contests, including the national Ducks Unlimited title this fall and the federal duck stamp competition. He also does cop­perplate etchings every other month, and between putting out the etchings and the prints and the duck stamps and the landscapes, he's pretty busy.

Akers is well known in Covington circles for his work, his classes and his art supply store of several years ago. His is a name that brings to mind picture-perfect paintings, a style that has stirred comment among local art observers for years but has paid off for Akers, whose work is now featured by one of Cov­ington's newest art galleries and frame shops.

St. Tammany Parish has a lot to offer in scenic swamp tableaus and backwoods wildlife environments, and Akers is just one of dozens of artists and photographers who have sought to capture its beauty on film and on canvas for the rest of the world to enjoy.

Akers found what his talents were and the best way to utilize them. After that came the production of scores of paintings and prints which were very well-received by the art-buying public. When he says he didn't have time to explore any other papers or techniques, it was because his work was very much in demand, a situation any artist can appreciate. 

Akers painted the cover image for the 1981 Chamber Magazine

He was especially successful in winning competitions for the artwork used on duck stamps and wildlife preservation posters. His 1990 print for the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans was very popular. He signed and numbered 5000 of them, and the art was also used on a stamp. 

To view additional artwork by John Akers,  CLICK HERE.

 Swallow-tailed kite, lithograph by John Akers

Prints of the painting above are being sold to help raise funds for the Northlake Nature Center. CLICK HERE for more information.

A signed and numbered John Akers print for the Louisiana Sportsmen's Show in 1985
A description of the artist and his art reprinted from

     "The Art Of John Akers -  John Akers, the renowned Abita Springs artist, is known for his unique style and palette. His prints and paintings are instantly recognizable regardless of where they are displayed. He once said that he got a great deal of satisfaction knowing that his style was so distinctive, achieved through many years of hard work and not influenced by any institution or individual, past or present. 
      For many years he concentrated on the study and painting of wildlife, waterfowl, fish, coral reefs and florals. He performed the tremendous research and also developed the skill and patience required to paint these subjects accurately and realistically. His duck paintings are among the very best, as evidenced by his being named Artist of the Year in 1985 and 1989 by Ducks Unlimited. He was selected, for several years, to design and paint the official annual Louisiana Sportsmens Show poster. 

      In addition to wildlife scenes, John produced his bayou country works. His very intricate paintings of oyster boats, shrimp trawlers, and peaceful bayous and water ways are in ever-increasing demand. Says John: 'I felt the need to record these scenes through my paintings before their innocent beauty is lost to encroaching civilization. Because
of my feelings for these subjects, I am able to paint with both emotion and realism.'

     Akers' works are on display in many fine galleries in Louisiana, Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. His works also hang in thousands of homes and offices throughout the Unites States. Johns paintings are in collections in England, Australia, South America, Mexico, Africa, Europe, Russia, Japan and in many other countries. He is listed in American Artists of Renown, the book of who's who in American art.

Akers died on Tuesday, November 14, 2006, at Lakeview Regional Medical Center in Mandeville at the age of 62. He was a native of St. Louis, MO. and a longtime resident of Abita Springs, LA.

John Akers (1944-2006)

According to Artworks of Louisiana website, Akers was known for his unique style and palette. His prints and paintings are instantly recognizable regardless of where they are displayed. Jack, as he was known by his friends, produced wildlife scenes, bayou country works, oyster boats, shrimp trawlers, and peaceful waterways in ever increasing demand. 

Jack Akers Covington High School Yearbook Picture

He was also one of the few artists that still created copper plate etchings. Jack always stated that "Because  of my feelings for these subjects I am able to paint with emotion and realism."

Stamps and Prints

His painting of a jaguar at a Mayan temple in Belize was selected for one of the country's conservation stamps. It was entitled "Spirit Guardian."

The print was issued in 1991. Fifteen hundreds prints were available in the signed and numbered edition, with 150 Artist Proofs. The original painting was 13 inches by 18 inches and prints were made by Harvey Press in New Orleans.

In their promotion of the print and stamp, the National Museum of Belize wrote that Akers had been a professional artist for 29 years (starting in 1963), that he was self-taught, and that he did a tremendous amount of research for each painting to make it realistic and unique. 

His list of honors included being selected by the National Wildlife Show in Kansas City, MO, to display and market his work. Additionally, he was invited to show and sell his work at the Wild Wings, Wildlife in Miniature Show in Lake City, MN.

Akers was the Louisiana Ducks Unlimited Artist of the Year in 1985 and 1989, was tapped for the Louisiana Wild Turkey Federation Stamp and Print in 1986, and in 1990 was chosen to produce the first ever Reef Conservation Stamp and Print for the Reef Keepers of America, in addition to his Aquarium of the Americas (New Orleans, LA) first official stamp and print. 

Some of Akers' wildlife paintings are shown below

A beginning sketch of a flamboyance of flamingos

For a Google search of the paintings of "John Akers - artist" CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Oak Tree Service Station

Many years ago, there was the Oak Tree Service Station on the southeast corner of the Boston St./Florida Street intersection in Covington. In later years it was renovated and became home to the Greyhound Bus Station, the Western Union Office, and now the Superior Tire Co. across from Subway sandwiches. 

Click on the image below to make it larger. 

Many Covington residents remember getting on the bus to go down to Lakeside Shopping Center in Metairie, riding it home on the weekends after being in school all week, and taking off on the bus to visit relatives in far-away places during the summer. 

The Greater Covington Chamber of Commerce

Before the St. Tammany West Chamber of Commerce, there was the Greater Covington Chamber of Commerce.  Col. Earl Wilson was hired as the first Director of the Chamber of Commerce. That office was on Boston Street just a few doors down from Hebert Drug Store. 

Along with a handful of other business people and professionals, Colonel Wilson helped form the Krewe of Olympia. He went on to become the first Principal of River Forest Academy. 

Later, the chamber moved its office into the side of the Kentzel Printing building on N. New Hampshire. In 1972 an article about the chamber, its civic leaders and community involvements was printed in Pathways magazine.

Click on the image below to enlarge the text for reading. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mrs. Miriam Barranger, Artist

The first president of the St. Tammany Art Association was Mrs. Miriam Barranger. It was an appropriate choice because of her drive, her community involvements, and, not the least of all, her reputation as an outstanding artist. 

Here is a detailed article written about her in a 1972 issue of Pathways Magazine. Click on the images below for a larger version. 

 Miriam Barranger


Monday, March 27, 2017

The History of St. Tammany Parish Hospital

The history of St. Tammany Parish Hospital goes back to the mid-1940's, with a ground breaking ceremony finally held in 1953. The doors were open for the first time in late 1954.

The Women's Progressive Union of Covington began talking about the need for a hospital in 1946, and after eight years of members promoting the idea by speaking to churches, missionary groups, farmers and sewing circles, plans were made to go ahead with the project. 

The police jury called for a bond issue vote, and together with federal funding, a ground breaking ceremony was held on May 4, 1953.

Groundbreaking ceremonies with, from left, Maurice Duplantis, Norma Core, Ike Champagne, L.L. Landon and Gus Fritchie.

The groundbreaking ceremony is pictured above. From left to right are Louis Voss, Archie Singletary, James Thompson (in the rear), Eugene Esquinance, Fred Mizell, Joseph Stein (in the rear), Eugene McIntyre (in the rear), Norma Core, Lucille Glisson, Walter Clairain, Oliver Hebert, Ike Champagne, Gus Fritchie, H. A. Davis, August Perez, Jack Tannehill (in the rear), Cecile Hebert, George Broom, Baxter Pond, Jessie Bankston, Father Tim Pugh, Maurice Duplantis, and L. L. Landon. 

The hospital opened its doors to patients 18 months later in December of 1954. It cost $365,000 to build, with an initial inventory of 15 beds. Almost immediately expansion projects were started, with another 15 beds added in 1958.

Expansions continued throughout the 1960's and 70's. Many of the additions were funded in part by donations and contributions by individuals and community organizations. Soon there were private rooms, the nursery, pediatrics, operating rooms and more parking lots. 

A 1977 expansion

The hospital now has 232 beds following the completion of a major renovation and expansion project three years ago. 

CLICK HERE to see an aerial photograph of the hospital in 1975.

Dr. M. J. Duplantis

Rosemerry Hanian On The Development of Talent

In this 1985 installment of the "Talent Bank" column, I spoke with well-known area dance instructor Rosemerry Fuhrmann Hanian of Covington. According to her research and experience, learning how to dance opens up new areas of creativity, as well as improving reading ability. 

Click on the image below to enlarge the text for easier reading.

Thursday, May 9, 1985

Why do some children "catch on" to developing a certain talent and others prefer to do something else? Anything else? What is it that fires the imagination of some children to dedicate themselves to learning some kind of artistic expression, like painting or singing or dancing, while other kids get along without any such longing?

Rosemerry Hanian, creator and instructor of the local Dance Players, thinks she may have stumbled upon the answer, and it has been embodied into a dance per­formance which her dancers will present on Friday, May 17, at her dance studio. The presentation is called "The Dreamkeeper," and it involves the process which touches every human being, that first ex­posure to artistic expression, and how that exposure is responded to. The key factor is making a "dream" come alive in their minds and hearts and keeping that "dream" alive dur­ing the years of study and practice necessary to learn a craft, whether it be painting, singing or dancing.

Mrs. Hanian came back to Cov­ington, her home town, in 1968, star­ting up her "Dance Players" a year later, and each year bringing to young children an awareness of the beauty of dance, giving them a chance to dream their own dream. Each year, she also strives to bring in visiting dance experts, helping her students appreciate the scope of diversity of different types of dance.

Quite a few of her students have gone on to more intensive training; Nora Eddy is one good example, now studying modern dance in New York. Mrs. Hanian's field of exper­tise is East Indian dancing and some of that will be demonstrated this May 18 at an 8:00 p.m. performance at her Creative Dance Center.

The remarkable thing about learn­ing to dance, and this is what really excites Rosemerry, is that the exer­cises necessary in learning to dance are also very valuable in developing a child's reading aptitude and learn­ing readiness. Recent studies shown that the exercising of certain motor skills, such as jumping rope (impor­tant in dancing basics), also sharpens a child's ability to read by developing better hand eye coor­dination.

"I taught them the basic motor skills for rhythm and timing in the dance, not knowing it was also helping the rhythm of the eye in reading skills development," she said. "The dance exercises also help in increasing perception and skill in making judgements." She is work­ing with a person at the Headstart center now putting together a pro­gram on how dancing relates to im­proved keeness of mind and com­municating skills.

A standardized examination call­ed the "Santa Clara Reading Test" measures the motor skills necessary to developing good reading aptitude, and these are the very motor skills Rosemerry has been teaching for years in her basic dancing instruc­tion. It was a very pleasant surprise for her to find out that what she had been doing was also helping to ready her students for reading excellence.

As a result, Mrs. Hainan is now developing materials and preparing  workshops to show how dancing and reading are interrelated. The age range involves three to five year olds, pre-schoolers, where hand-eye coordination becomes very impor­tant for learning throughout the rest of their lives.

At that age, kids are very recep­tive to learning, she said, and danc­ing helps them to tap their own creativity and stimulate their own imaginations, improve their balance, better their coordination, and learn to focus their attention for a longer period of time.

"All that is part of the learning readiness," she said. And that learn­ing readiness may be why some children are eager to develop their own talents creatively and other children lack that spark, that dream, to express themselves ar­tistically. The children then grow up to be adults, always longing for a dream, but never really ready to engineer one of their own. Perhaps dancing does provide a key to that mystery.

For more information on Rosemerry Hanian, CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE.

Some of her students

Photos from an August, 1989, dance class for young ladies...