Thursday, November 30, 2017

100 Years Ago This Week

What was going on 100 years ago this week? 

CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer edition of December 1, 1917. The link is provided by the Library of Congress and its Chronicling America service.

News items included a big ship launched in Slidell, Christmas sales begin at local stores, and a monkey escapes his cage at the Southern Hotel.

Click on the images below to see larger versions of the pictures.

The Original Lacombe School

This is an old photograph that was labeled as the original school in Lacombe. Click on the image to make it larger.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mandeville High School Photos - 1972

These photos were taken in Mandeville High School in 1972. Click on the images to make them larger. 

See also:

Old Photos of Mandeville High

Mandeville Skippers Win District

Mr. and Mrs. W. Kent McWilliams Jr.

This photo was taken in 1983, shortly after the acquisition and renovation of the Southern Hotel building in Covington by the St. Tammany Parish Government for use as an  Administrative Complex. It features Mr. and Mrs. W. Kent McWilliams Jr., who were instrumental in making that purchase and rehabilitation a reality. Click on the image to view a larger version. 

The plaque reads:

In appreciation to Mr. and Mrs. W. Kent McWilliams, Jr., whose generosity and cooperation made the St. Tammany Parish Administrative Complex possible. We pray that those in our government who will occupy the complex now and in the years to come will do so with the same integrity, high purpose, vision, and unselfish interest in this parish as has been so constantly displayed by these honorees. The conference room of the complex has thus been dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. W. Kent McWilliams Jr. as a lasting symbol of our sincere esteem and appreciation from the citizens of St. Tammany Parish, February 25, 1983. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Hasslock Re-creates New Orleans Street Name Tiles

A Covington resident for many years, Nicholas Hasslock fine-tuned his artistic skills and knowledge of ceramics to create authentic street corner letter tiles for the City of New Orleans. Hasslock, son of Tika and Steve Hasslock of Hasslock Studios, grew up surrounded by artists from throughout the Covington area. That kind of upbringing helped provide him the skills to carry on an important New Orleans tradition into the future.

While working the booth of Hasslock Studios at Jazz Fest 2006, Nicholas was approached by a city architect who was at a loss to find replacement tiles for the sidewalks. The architect inquired whether Nicholas knew of anyone who could make the ceramic lettered tiles that spell out the names of the streets on nearly every corner in New Orleans. After not being able to refer him to anyone, Nicholas suggested himself and that he would be honored to give it a shot. Close to a year later,  local contractors, Boh Bros., contacted and commissioned Nicholas for the job.

Over the next two years at his studio in the Marigny, Nicholas worked on perfecting the recipe for vitrification, the process by which clay becomes non-porous and glass-like. It was one tough and necessary challenge to give these tiles the integrity to withstand the wear and weather of the heavily used sidewalks. The new tiles are the only traditionally accurate replacement tiles that equally match the durability and color.

Matching the exact colors of the original tiles was a key factor, something that took an artist’s eye. “You just can’t pull any color off the shelf and use it,” he says. The original tiles were made in Alhambra, Spain and installed around the 1920's.

While working with the historic letter tiles has a low-tech aspect, at the same time he used modern computers in the design process, and actual production required an understanding of the properties of ceramics and engineering as well as chemistry. The process for making the tiles is described as “magnetic soup that looks like gray pancake batter.”

The production procedure is quite complicated. “There’s a lot of stuff going on that you can’t see when you’re making the tiles, but everything has to be right, or it gets brittle,” he explained. “I sort of feel like an engineer during the process.” It also calls upon a lot of artistic diligence and the ability to follow an exacting recipe.

 His efforts to re-create the “genuine” letter tiles paid off, and once he fine-tuned the process, he branched out to produce tiles in other colors, fonts, styles or with custom images.His tiles filled a specific community need, so he was not only a poet and an artist, but he also became a ceramics engineer with his own company, the New Orleans Tile Company.

He grew up attending Covington Elementary, Pine View Middle School, and Pitcher Junior High and graduated from Mandeville High, remembering many of the teachers and principals who helped him along the way. Associating with the St. Tammany art scene also helped focus his career ambitions.

Shown are some of the tiles plaques he made for the Covington Heritage Foundation home recognition program.

Those in the School System who had the most positive impact on him were his third grade teacher Ms. Julie Fontan, Principal William Brady at Covington Elementary, Principal Cynthia Russell at Pine View, Mr. Chris Blackwell, the science and biology teacher at Pitcher Junior High. “And I’m pretty sure none of my teachers have forgotten me,” he says. It was the science classes he liked most of all during his public school education.

He also takes time for community service projects, such as the Hurricane Katrina Memorial and Mural in New Orleans, another example of his artistry and community volunteerism. As an artist, he liked making a statement the Katrina memorial wall, which is located on the front of the Saratoga Building at the corner of Loyola Avenue and Common Street in downtown New Orleans. It features 18 columns of names remembering those from New Orleans who died in Hurricane Katrina.

He worked on the project with deep respect for what it represented. As a result, lining the names up and making sure the letters were properly etched was important to him.  “This is literally done in stone, so it has to be right,” he said. “It took me six weeks to get the first three columns of names done.” He worked on the project many times through the night, when it was cooler, with less sun glare, and fewer distractions.

His motto has pretty much been, “I don’t have to save the world. I just do the best I can, and try to be an example,” he said.

While he learned the basics of art from his parents, it was junior high science classes that gave him the edge to making that art come to life in tangible, and commercially-viable ways. His art and business studio located in the Marigny section of New Orleans gave him a window to the world. 

“The nearby coffee shop has been a great place to learn,” he said. 

“You find people there you want to be like, and people you don’t want to be like.” In his neighborhood in New Orleans, there are tons of contrasting viewpoints as well. “It’s huge, beautifully chaotic, and everyone’s allowed to be themselves,” he said. Such a parade of personalities has made him come to better appreciate the quieter lifestyles found back in St. Tammany. 

His advice to up and coming young artists is to follow their feelings and be on the lookout for inspiration from wherever it might come. “I’m happy to be able to do what I’ve done,” Hasslock said, proving his own real-life example of how art and business can be successfully blended.

See also:

Nick Hasslock on Instagram

Monday, November 27, 2017

Bryan Gowland and the Opry

Bryan Gowland of Abita Springs taught history and social studies in St. Tammany Parish public schools for 33 years, working to instill in his students an appreciation for local cultural heritage. He retired in 2002, but he has continued and even expanded upon those efforts through the development of local musical programs that promote a sense of community pride.

  • Bryan built his first guitar and proudly plays it in the above photograph. He is a self-taught musician that enjoys playing guitar informally with his friends. Photo and information supplied by Rhonda Chambers with the St. Tammany Retired School Employees Association. 
In 2010 he was chosen to receive the President’s Special Award from Parish President Kevin Davis during the St. Tammany Commission on Cultural Affairs Arts Awards program  at Louisiana Medical Center and Heart Hospital in Lacombe. Davis recognized Gowland for his “tireless promotion of the musical excellence which exists throughout St. Tammany.”

While he also served as the mayor of the Town of Abita Springs from 1990 to 2002, Gowland is known nationally as host of the Abita Springs Opry, a musical program at Abita Springs Town Hall that six times a year features area musicians performing traditional Louisiana songs. It is the successor to the Piney Woods Opry which began in the early 1990’s to showcase area musical traditions.

 Bryan has served as the Music Producer and MC of the Abita Springs Opry. He lines up the music presented at the Opry and outside events in Abita. He sponsors a music series at the French Market in the month of August named “Opry at the Market.” 
“I’m grateful for the recognition,” Gowland said of the award, “but it’s really not just for me. It is for all the musicians from throughout the area who take part , and the Opry board of directors who have worked so hard.” But the star of the show is the music itself. “Louisiana culture is magic, and Louisiana music is magic,” he explains. “People come from all over the world to Louisiana to experience it first-hand.”

“The response has been phenomenal. It’s all about keeping it real, presenting the music for the sake of the music,” he stated. While the original effort was to perpetuate the musical culture of the state, its success as an entertainment program has made it even more fun, Gowland said.

The Opry work is an outgrowth of what he was doing in the classroom, he said, teaching students an awareness of Louisiana culture and what could be done to preserve it. After retirement, he took part in a special effort to bring the Smithsonian Museum’s “New Harmonies- American Roots Music” exhibit into local schools.

The Opry continues to reach out to involve young musicians and put them on stage to perform, all the while video-taping the programs and sending them out to public access channels across the nation.

“We send the tapes out on request to Virginia, North Carolina, Minnesota, California, Colorado, and even Las Vegas,” Gowland stated. “They watch them over and over again. We have a very loyal audience in Las Vegas. They’ve even come here to Abita Springs to see the show in person.”

Gowland is recognized wherever he goes as the emcee of the popular program. It has encouraged him to learn to play the guitar himself, and he has even built a guitar from a kit.

In addition to the Opry performance, the organization also provides free concerts at the Abita Springs Trailhead. People now contact him to ask for help in finding musicians for their own festivals. “So it’s getting our musicians some work at other events,” he said.

     The first twenty seven years of this educational career were at Abita Springs Junior High where he taught Social Studies and coached football and basketball. He was honored as Middle School Humanities State Teacher of the Year by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities in 2002, the year he retired. 

  Among his accomplishments is a very important music event named the Abita Springs “Busker” Festival. That event, held during the month of April features “buskers,” a name for street musicians from New Orleans. That festival is co-sponsored by the Abita Springs Opry and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Foundation. It is also videoed and streamed live by WWOZ Radio. 

  He is a member of the Museum Committee for the town of Abita and was instrumental in the placement and resurrection of the building that houses it. In addition to his local activities, Jazz Fest is an annual gig for Bryan where he demonstrates how to cook a traditional chicken & andouille sausage gumbo. 

See also:

Abita Springs Opry 

Piney Woods Opry


Sunday, November 26, 2017

Slidell High School Holds Centennial Celebration

In 2009 Slidell High School celebrated its Centennial Year with a special gathering honoring the history and heritage of the school. Centennial Day festivities included a parade around the campus, special musical presentations, and a tribute to former Principal L. V. McGinty, Sr. A large number of alumni of the school attended, including several School Board members. 

  • Shown above Alumnus Tracy Krieger presents a bouquet of flowers to guest of honor Mrs. L. V. McGinty, wife of the late L.V. McGinty Sr., one of Slidell High's most revered principals. 
Crowd gives Mrs. McGinty a standing ovation.

Slidell High School was the only high school in the area until the late 1960’s, and many present-day members of the community graduated from the school.

Among the special guests at the Centennial event was Mrs. Elinor B. McGinty of the Class of 1931 and wife of the late Principal McGinty. A video program produced by Channel 13 was shown in the auditorium, detailing Mr. McGinty’s many contributions to the school during the 40 years he served as teacher, coach, and principal between 1931 and 1976.

Also on hand at the gala was former Principal Joseph C. Buccaran (1976-2003).

Trey Folse and Joseph Buccaran

A specially-designed Centennial Garden was dedicated. The  garden is located at the front entrance of the school and contains plants, trees, a performance area, and wood decks. Bricks honoring many graduates were engraved and placed in a memorial circle in the garden area, which also serves as a meeting place for concerts by the band, performances by the choir, and special event day programs.

The special day’s event featured a Centennial cheer and dance by the cheerleading squad.

Special guest Matt Forte, a player with the Chicago Bears football team and member of the Slidell High Class of 2004, met with guests in the gymnasium, and the popular area band Vince Vance and the Valiants performed on the main stage at the gala. Current and past members of the Slidell High Jazz Ensemble also entertained those attending. A variety of school memorabilia from across the years were brought in by alumni and put on display in the library.

Matt Forte and Ray Alfred

The Centennial Year’s events started with a Heritage Festival on July 4, 2008, continued with a homecoming pep rally, football game and dance in mid-October, and an Olde Towne Alive “Birthday Party” in November, which was accompanied by a parade and musical performances.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Senior Class Trip to Mexico - 1959

In 1959 this group from Covington High made a senior class trip to Monterrey, Mexico. The names that were written on the back of the photo are provided below, though some of the names are not spelled correctly. Click on the images to make them larger. 

Covington Country Club

Covington Country Club was one of the first modern subdivisions to attract New Orleans residents to the Northshore. Over the years, its clubhouse has been used by many area organizations for special events. Here is its history, reprinted from the Covington Country Club website:

Lounging around the pool at Covington Country Club

Covington Country Club was organized and incorporated in June 1954, by a group of local business men. It’s first president was Mr. A. R. Blossman, Sr. Mr. Blossman donated 85 acres of land on the east bank of the Tchefuncte river for the first nine hole golf course, tennis courts and club house. He also used his company’s equipment to build a 10,000 sq. ft. club house, pool, patio, and golf course. 

The club was the first country club on the north shore – also it was the first 9 hole golf course. 

How It Came To Be

In a recent interview, Frederick S. Ellis, one of the persons involved early on in the country club, shared his recollections about how it all got started. In the beginning, he said, the country club project was being formulated by a group of young folks, among them Billy Burns, Dolly Stroble, and Peggy Maginnis. 

"They got together and thought it would be a good idea to have a country club," Ellis recalled. "They started going around to various people and collecting $200 checks, trying to raise $30,000. When they had enough checks, that would prove there was enough interest in the project, and they would go back and try to get more people interested in writing even bigger checks for the proposed project."

"They agreed to hold the first batch of checks while more checks started coming in. So one day I am sitting in my law office and Billy Burns came in and said he needed my help. Others in the project had "run out of steam" and had stopped doing anything, even though they had $20,000 in checks."

"There were no actual plans at this point, they were just trying to collect a certain amount of money and then figure out what to do with it," Ellis said. "Between the two of us, we went out and raised the last $10,000. We put all those checks totaling $30,000 in the bank, and then I wrote up the charter and bylaws, and we had a meeting at Jim's On The Hill."

"Everybody came to the meeting, it was a great big meeting. I presided and we went through the charter and bylaws and approved them, with some minor additions. We elected officers, and Billy and I decided that we needed somebody to be president who had some standing in the community. So we decided on Fred Blossman, and even though he wasn't actually at the meeting, we elected him President. At first, he said no, but the following day he called back and said he had decided to go ahead and serve as President.

He had reviewed the idea and decided it had some potential. "So we went out and started looking in the north end the parish for $30 an acre land. The original plan was to find some cheap land somewhere, build a little club house, a pool,a golf course and a few tennis courts.Then a few days later Fred called and told us about a piece of land fronting on the Tchefuncte River near the Shushan property." Ellis was not familiar with the property, but it did seem like a good place to build a country club.

So the money had been collected without specific plans where the club would be built, and Blossman had come up with a good location for the club, but also with an eye towards building a residential subdivision between it and the highway. Blossman went ahead and bought it himself, and the rest of the group agreed with his plan. 

His subdivision idea took hold, and Blossman built Covington County Club Estates subdivision on the land he owned, and he gave the property to the country club organizers for the purposes of building the club and its amenities, according to Ellis.

"So that's what happened," he said.  "And it worked. All of this was before the causeway. People came in and started buying up lots, and then when the causeway was built, it really took off."

Ellis tells of a golf course designer from Scotland who showed up and convinced the group to let him design their golf course.  "He shows us a scrapbook of all the golf courses he had designed across the country. We had a meeting at Citizens Bank and heard this guy's pitch, and we hired him on the spot."

Then Bill Pitcher came in with an idea to get his friend Gus Perez to design the country club building for free.

The country club became a really great community resource in those days, Ellis said, and everybody was invited to take part. The country club building has served scores of community service clubs as their meeting place, with a long list of weddings, receptions, reunions, business groups, and other special events on its calendar through the years.

Ellis stayed active with the country club for "a long time," serving as secretary, treasurer, but never as president. 

The drawing above was on the dinner menu of Covington Country Club in the late 60s.

  The club was an instant success and over the next 15 years the club house was doubled in size, a cabana, tennis club house, four new tennis courts, 60 acres of land and an additional 9 holes of golf, were added. 

According to a 2015 Facebook post by Joanie Johnston, the daytime "specials" for December 30, 1969 included:

Broiled T-Bone Steak with Chive Sauce - - - - - $2.00
Baked filet of Redfish with Creole Sauce- - - - - $1.90

And the "Golfer's Special" of One Half Dozen Fried Oysters with French Fries was $1.50.

Items available from the menu included a baked potato and sour cream or butter, tossed green salad, and tea or coffee. The choices and prices went like this:

Pontchartrain Soft Shell Crabs - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- $3.95
Filet of Trout, Sauteed Meuniere or Amandine - - - - $3.75
Jumbo Frog Legs with Hush Puppies - - - - - - - - - - - $4.25
Breaded Veal Cutlet with Green Peas - - - - - - - - - -- $3.50
Finest USDA Choice Ribeye, broiled to perfection - - $4.95

A dessert of Ice Cream or Sherbert went for 35¢, and a Creme de Menthe Parfait went for 75¢

The club house has been the setting for over 3,000 wedding, birthday parties, class reunions, and other social events. It has been the social center for west St. Tammany Parish, for the past 50 years. 

Photos from 2023


From the Covington Country Club archives: "The River Call" cutline for the photo reads, "Trophy Night" provided these smiling winners with their prizes for having won various golfing events throughout the year. They are: Standing left to right: Gary McCreary, George Constan, Bob Johnston, Bill Rase, Malcolm White and Andy Holcomb. Seated are: Messrs. Meredith Berry, Lloyd Richards, Meredith (Buster) Lyon, Tommy Loup, Carl Johnson and Brian Johnson. (Photo by Hazel Ogden) 

On November 21, 2003, the club was purchased by Dick Blossman, (son of the founder) and his wife Lynn. Under their ownership the clubhouse and golf course has been under major renovations, including a total face lift, new furniture, new equipment, new golf carts, new irrigation system and a fresh team of workers, who love to be part of the reborn resort/country club. The business plan is to be the best on the north shore. 

The view of the river from the swimming pool deck

Drone aerial video footage by Brad Ferrand