Monday, February 18, 2019

Abita Springs Music History

In the mid-1980's, Dr. Karl Koenig explored Abita Springs in his book detailing the history of jazz around the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. His research found many references to musicians and bands who had either frequented Abita or were from the town.

Dr. Koenig began his review of Abita Springs music history by giving a bit of general history of the community:

Abita Springs

The Choctaw Indians gave the name to this little village by natural springs. The Choctaw name 'Ibetab okla chit'o' means 'large settlement by the fountain.' Abita Springs was officially founded as a health resort around 1853. The town was incorporated in 1912.

"Unlike Mandeville, Madisonville, and Covington, Abita Springs didn't have access to the lake front, river front or the steamers on the lake. Those travelers that came to the Springs prior to 1887 came by horse and buggy. On July 2, 1887, the first train arrived in Abita Springs. A track had been laid from the pier in Mandeville to the Springs, bringing excursionists to Abita directly from New Orleans. 

"No longer would it take five and a half hours to make the trip. The decline of Abita as a health resort was hastened with a cure for yellow fever being found during the Spanish American War (the last outbreak of yellow fever was in 1905); the other reason being that the hydropathy itself was in decline in favor of more conventional medicine.

In the July 2, 1887 St. Tammany Farmer Newspaper, an article tells of the first train arrival in Abita:

"Arrival of first train to Abita Springs .... and the echo was lost in the lively strains of the brass band in the first car; 'Goodbye My Honey, I'm Gone,' which was probably intended as a significant greeting from the iron horse to the astonished ox teams standing around. The large pavilion, not completed, dancers disappointed - ready for 4th of July excursionists." (July 2, 1887)

"Dances were held at the pavilion and the editor of the newspaper made a trip to observe the activity. He wrote a very interesting account of what he saw and heard. Was the band he heard a style of music from which jazz evolved? Were the three musicians as bad as he reports? Were these musicians of the type that did not read music but learned on their own, without the benefit of a music teacher?"

The article went as follows: "Editor's trip to Abita Springs -- We paid a short visit to the pavilion where a number of young people were dancing - or trying to. We say trying to from observation; by their movements we could tell that some of them were good dancers - but the music? The band - imported from the city, consisted of a piccolo, guitar and bass viol. Shades of Paganini and Mozart. Was the music ever distracted with such a battery of discord and in harmonious sounds? Were the votaries of terpsichore ever exposed to such hardships as to time and intonation? We say no, not even by a discordant hand-organ." (July 26, 1887)

Active Town Full of Friendly People

Dr. Koenig continued his report by saying "the town of Abita Springs, from earliest accounts, was a very active town and its citizens, possessing great energy and pride, always tried to establish their town as one of the most hospitable and friendly towns. In 1887 the citizens of the town were aware of the potential Abita possessed and began working toward attracting excursionists and to "get in on the business boom." The town builds a new large dancing pavilion (June 18, 1887) and "dances are in abundance at the Long Branch (A hotel that was established in 1880 and burnt down in 1993), Frapperts, Conrads Hall, Crescent Colomos and Pelloat's House." (August 27, 1887)

Visitors flocked into Abita in the summer of 1892 according to the newspaper
s of that time, as the different hotels in Abita Springs "are rapidly filling up - Bossier House, Labats, Long Branch, Morans, Martins and Summers." The Summers House still exists, and is located on Live Oak Street. 

In 1893 there was not a town band and the Colomos Hotel hired the Covington Brass Band for a birthday party. The first mention of the Abita String Band was on July 14, 1894, in the following article from the Farmer: "Reception, July 6, at Mr. W. Gunther - serenade by Abita String Band."

Dr. Koenig then noted that in 1914, another article about the band explained that "the local band from Abita Springs playing dances, entertainments, etc. is first called the Abita String Band, then Martin's orchestra, and finally just the Abita Band.

A newly organized band will give serenades to outstanding citizens and newspaper editors so the band can receive publicity, and the Farmer editor reported on June 1, 1895, that the Abita String Band serenaded. "Abita Spring Band complimented us with a charming serenade Thursday night." The band also travelled to Covington on occasion and "discoursed sweet music in Covington last Monday

In late 1895, the Abita band played for a party and dance at Mrs. L. Clark's House. On January 2, 1897, the paper noted that the "Abita String Band treated their friends in Covington to a charming serenade Christmas Eve." On May 22, 1899, the band appeared again, this time at the Abita Dance Pavilion.

The next few years at the Springs find out-of-town bands playing at various functions including a July 20, 1901, grand entertainment and dance hosted by Fire Co. No. 2 "On July 27th is another dance with music by a New Orleans Band, music by Prof. H. Bruness of New Orleans." (July 6, 1901)

The Adams Band, a family band from New Orleans, plays a ball and entertainment in Abita, Dr. Koenig said, quoting the paper: "Abita Springs grand entertainment and ball. Mr. Fred W. Hover. The Adams Band furnished the latest music - opening the entertainment with an overture." (Sept. 28, 1901)

"The Ragans, a family living near Abita Springs with relatives in Ponchatoula, were a very musical family. The Ponchatoula branch of the family had an organized band and played for a party on Military Road on June 6, 1902. It was a surprise party at the home of Mrs. John Eberhardt. The band was accompanied by Mr. Amedee Guyol and others on the piano." 

 Eugene Morin, drummer of Abita Serenaders performing at Abita Springs, 1912-16,

Dr. Koenig said in his book that in 1892 was the first mention of Conrad's Hall when the Abita Springs Fireman have a grand entertainment and ball there (June 21, 1902). Another new hotel in town, called the Abita Springs Hotel, is opened that year, and a party travels from Covington for a dance there. Today there is only one cottage remaining, which is near Laurel and Groves Streets.

Another Farmer article states that The Ragan Brothers' Band (possibly from Ponchatoula) played a complementary ball on June 13, 1903, at the pavilion. Dr. Koenig also notes that in June of 1903 a Prof. Ricks brings a band to play for the yearly firemen's ball.

"What was life like in Abita around 1888? A visitor to Abita gave the following opinion: Breakfast at 9 ...then a ramble to the springs through the pine woods. Or if one was so inclined a quiet moment in the pavilion. At 3, Dinner, then rest and leisure or perhaps a game of croquet or music in the parlor. After supper, we have a regular pitch in for a jolly good time. . .with music and entertainments. The whole concluding with a merry country dance."

Excursion Entertainments

Dances continued in 1904 with the opening of Mutti's Hotel, according to Dr. Koenig. That hotel was located in the vicinity of Level and Warren Streets. There were frequent dances there. In another article, the paper states that Mandeville public schools have an excursion to Abita Springs and bring with them the Mandeville String Band. The band uses the bass viola player from Abita Springs.

A large excursion from the Parker/Blake Drug Co. of New Orleans chose Abita for an outing in June of 1905, and this is reported, including the name of the band that has accompanied them: "Parker/Blake Drug Co. outing at Abita Springs. After the ball game the waltzing contest was called at the pavilion. Excellent music being furnished by Sporor's City Park Band," Dr. Koenig explained.

The Abita Springs String band did play for a grand ball given at the UFBA Hall in Madisonville in December with music furnished by the Abita String Band. They next play for a ball at Pythian Hall, Dr. Koenig quotes the 1906 newspaper article by saying: "An enjoyable masquerade and fancy ball was given at Pythian Hall on Wednesday night, Feb. 21, by Mrs. Jenkins and Miss Rochenschub. There was a large attendance and all had a delightful time. The gay customers of the maskers presented an attractive scene and the dancing was continued until a late hour. The music was furnished by the Abita String Band." (March 5, 1906)

Original Dance Pavilion Collapses

"There was still a great deal of civic pride in the town of Abita and when the dancing pavilion (the original pavilion that was east of the present Sully pavilion) collapses, they unite to build another, Dr. Koenig's book stated. A new group is formed named the Abita Progressive Union to promote town pride and general welfare. An article of the time recounts: "The dancing pavilion at Abita Springs collapsed last Wednesday morning and is a total wreck. We understand that a handsome one will be erected to take its place." (July 17, 1906)

The Martin Orchestra

Dr. Koenig's book continues: "The name of Frank Martin begins to appear as the leader of an orchestra in Abita Springs. The orchestra first appears playing for the Abita Springs ladies' entertainment and dance on September 14th, 1908. Martin was the manager of one of the hotels in Abita and was a local resident. His name appears frequently in print and his groups play for many local functions. One such appearance was for the local 4th of July celebration."

Here is the news account of that event: "Abita Springs 4th of July. Martin's Abita Springs Orchestra - discoursed popular music." (July 11, 1908) The Martin Orchestra also plays for a dance for the Abita Social Club that met in the town hall that is today still being used. This was on July 18, 1908. Martin and Joseph Madden play for an informal dance at Bradley House on September 5th.

"After this entry we read the name of the Abita Springs Band but no longer find the Martin name mentioned," Dr. Koenig reported. "It is uncertain whether he moves away, or the band is no longer called by his name and becomes known as the Abita Springs Band.

Pavilion Updates

The dance pavilion at Abita is a key landmark of the history of music performances in the area, and Dr. Koenig tracks its use through a number of newspaper reports. "The center of activity and the landmark of Abita are the springs and park where the town pavilion is located. The earliest pavilion seems to have been in place in 1887, the one spoken about earliest as not being completed in time for the 4th of July celebration.

"There is a new pavilion built and is ready for use on September 26th, 1908. The town council votes to hire a concert band to play at the pavilion and hopes to secure local talent with a competent musician from New Orleans as the leader. Another news item: "Abita Springs - New pavilion near Springs. Funds to be raised to maintain a concert band on two evenings each week, where the best local talent will be gotten together under a competent musician from New Orleans." (Sept. 26, 1908)

"An outstanding band brought in to perform in Abita Springs in 1909 is the legendary Reliance Band of Jack 'Papa' Laine. Jack Laine's place in history is firmly set. His career is legendary in the annuals of New Orleans music history. Laine sponsored and ran a number of brass bands, each one called the Reliance Band. He led one of them and put competent musicians in charge of others. He booked them as Jack Laine's Reliance Band. The particular Reliance Band that played in Abita was under the direction of Tony Giardina.

The newspaper notes "Grand entertainment and ball to be given by Abita Pleasure Club on Sat. July 24, for the benefit of the school fund. Music furnished by the famous New Orleans Reliance Orchestra, E. Garina - leader." (July 17, 1909)

There is a follow-up story the next week on the ball: "The Reliance Band also was engaged to play a benefit for the Abita Fire Department. Usually the band received a guarantee payment, the sponsors figuring that a name orchestra would draw people in and they would make money. It was also usual that if a band made a good impression and drew a large crowd, the advertisement for an upcoming dance would mention how well the band was appreciated by a past dance crowd.

"Thus is the case with the next entry: Ball at Abita Springs, Pleasure Club benefit - Abita Fire Co. Music will be furnished by the celebrated Reliance Orchestra of New Orleans. This band is a great favorite with the people and made quite a hit at the ball given by the club in July last." (August 25, 1909)

"The Reliance Band is again hired for a dance on August 28th. The next resort/excursion season of 1910 sees the Pleasure club again hiring the Reliance Band for a grand ball on June 25th: Grand ball June 25th, in Abita Springs. The Abita Pleasure Club will give a grand ball at the pavilion Sunday, June 25th. Music by Reliance Orchestra of New Orleans. (June 18, 1910)

"Again, on July 30th, the Reliance Band plays for a grand ball in Abita. The last entry for the Reliance Band in Abita Springs in on September 16, 1911, when they play for a school benefit: Dance at Abita Pavilion Saturday night, 16th, for benefit of Abita Public School. The Reliance Band of New Orleans has been engaged." (Sept. 9, 1911)

Continuing with local musical activities and celebrations, Dr. Koenig told of plans being made for a Fourth of July celebration in Abita Springs. "We read that there is a parade in the Springs and the Covington Brass Band is one of the musical participants for this activity: Abita Springs - 4th of July - About 2:00 o'clock the members of Fire Co. No. 2 headed by grand marshal J. P. Rausch and the Covington Military Band marched from their headquarters in the town hall to the pavilion...Ball in evening ended at 12:00." (July 10, 1909)"

At a New Year's Eve Party at the DePriest's home the entry lists some names that were associated with music in Abita: "New Year's Eve at DePriests' - Among those who added greatly to the enjoyment of the evening by music and song were: Theo. Zinser, A. Bagriel, Paul Cazelot, Joe Koffler, E. D. Abadie, Charlie Spitzer, Mead Fontaine, Amadee Guyol, Bud Badon, Edward Marrero, Will Connaughton, and Arthur De Labreton." (Jan. 9, 1910)

While the Reliance Band played engagements in Abita during 1910 and 1911, it was the Brown Band that was the busiest. Beginning on May 21, 1910, the Brown Band/Orchestra began playing engagements in Abita:

"Grand Ball by Abita Fire Co. No. 2 at Abita Pavilion, Saturday, May 21. Music by the Brown Orchestra." (May 7, 1910)

Here is an extended excerpt from Dr. Koenig's book: Tom Brown was the leader of the above band which would become the first New Orleans Jazz Band to play in Chicago in 1915. In 1910, Brown entered negotiations with the Abita town council about playing at the pavilion: "Abita council meeting - communication from Brown's Band was read, relative to playing music twice a week at the pavilion. Committee appointed to confer with Mr. Brown and go into a contract." (March 18, 1910)

The council and Brown reached an agreement and the band begins a long stay at the town's pavilion. Weekly ads appear in the newspaper. Brown's Band played each Wednesday and Saturday night at the pavilion along with a vaudeville show and concert.

The Ragan Band played a number of engagements in Abita: June 25, August 6, July 28, 1910, January 28th and Feb. 1, 1911.

The Mystic Club held a masquerade ball in Abita Springs on March 19, 1910, with music by the "Abita Band" that "received an encore when they played one piece." (March 19, 1910)

For the Abita Firemen's Day parade, three bands march: the Covington Band, the Abita Field Band, and the Brookhaven Military Band (May 14, 1910). This Abita Band may have been a "pick-up band" but there were enough musicians to get together a marching band for the parade. This mention of the Abita Field Band appears only once, thereby justifying the theory of a pick-up band."

Summer Season 1911

Dr. Koenig then told of the opening of the summer season 1911 in Abita and of the music and entertainment that was presented: "The opening concert and vaudeville on May 13, is a fore-runner of music and entertainment that will be at the pavilion in Abita during the summer. The music will be of the latest selections, furnished by Prof. Bentin, of New Orleans. Refreshments will be on sale. Every evening during the summer there will be free music and dancing for those who wish it." (May 13, 1911)

The Brown Band also played for other functions such as parties, house warmings, and balls: "House warming at Lamousin's. The Brown Orchestra was there and discoursed sweet music while the dancers enjoyed themselves." (March 18, 1911)

In 1912, the Brown Band still was engaged for functions in Abita. On February 3rd the band plays for a smoker at the Town Hall (part of this building is still standing - it was a two-story building with the school on top. The top floor has since been destroyed and it is now just a single story building.)On March 13, 1912, the band plays for a "grand fancy dress and masquerade ball at the town hall."

The Ragan Band receives employment at the Springs for dances on February 17, and February 24, 1912.

Baseball Park Dancing

In almost every baseball park Dr. Koenigh found that there was a dancing pavilion where dancing was held after the baseball game. "Abita Springs - Open ball park Sunday, 24th of May. To be dancing at the pavilion. Good band will furnish music." (May 23, 1912)

The band that furnished the music for the above baseball game was the Tardo Band of New Orleans. The town continues to provide music for the excursionists and local citizens as it announces a "free dance at Abita Springs, Sunday. The famous Christian Band of New Orleans will play their popular music." (Sept. 12, 1912)

Electric Lights Arrive

Near the end of September of 1914, electric lights make their first appearance in Abita Springs, Dr. Koenig reported in his history of jazz music. The coming of electric light was announced in the paper and a band and motion pictures were scheduled for the occasion:
"Electric lights in Abita Springs. The band - an excellent band from New Orleans will be in attendance from 2 at the pavilion and from 7-8 a motion picture and there will be dancing at the pavilion until midnight." (Sept. 26, 1914)

The motion picture theater was approximately where the small pavilion is now at the main intersection of Abita Springs. Though there is mention of an Abita Spring's Band in two entries-December 5th and December 12th in 1914, there are none for 1915 and 1916. These years are part of the pre World War I years.

It is not until August of 1916 when there is an entry about a dance at the pavilion "with music by a good New Orleans Band." During the war years in almost every small town the activities slow down and little is said about social events.

Airdome Theater

Dr. Koenig goes on to related that on April 8, 1917, the opening of the Airdome Theater in Abita that was celebrated with a big dance. It is interesting to mention that one finds, in most movie theaters of this era, the appearance of a dance floor.

The Airdome advertises the addition of a dance floor: "Opening of Airdome Theater - Abita Springs, April 8th - Big Dance. Picture show has been remodeled and enlarged and a fine dancing floor added." (April 7, 1917)

Social activity in Abita Springs is seldom mentioned in 1919. On July 5th we read of a big dance with a New Orleans Orchestra in Abita Springs. This orchestra was the Stephens Orchestra, another branch of Laine's Reliance Band.

The first entry using the word "jazz" to describe a band appears in the paper on July 24, 1920.

"Big dance at Palace Theater, Abita Springs. Music by a jazz band, July 25th, Sunday." (July 24, 1920)

Segregation was in existence during this era in American history and can be seen in two separate entries, as they state whether it is a white or colored band playing: "At Abita Springs Sunday night, Sept. 26th at 8 pm - an eight piece colored jazz band will furnish music." (Sept. 29, 1921)

"Dance - ad - At Abita Springs Sunday, June 26, music furnished by a seven piece white jazz band from New Orleans." (June 5, 1921)
"Abita Springs - a six piece colored jazz band from New Orleans will furnish music." (July 9, 1921)

The pavilion at Abita and the pavilion at Sulphur Springs in Covington were in competition and we find advertisements of the Abita Pavilion in the paper weekly: "Abita Springs - same classy jazz band. Dances every Saturday." (May 21, 1921)

The year 1922 was a very active year on the North Shore. In Abita Springs there are weekly dances advertised in the paper, such as "Big Dance at Abita Springs - jazz music and a good time awaiting all." (April 8, 1922).

We find the name of the legendary Buddy Petit playing for a dance in Abita Springs on April 30th: "There will be a big dance at Abita Springs, Sunday, April 30th. A jazz band from New Orleans. Be sure and come for a good time. Music will be furnished by Buddy Petit Jazz Orchestra from New Orleans." (April 29, 1922)

Picture of Buddy Petit Band
Photo from John Preble Collection

According to Dr. Koenig, Buddy Petit begins a busy summer in Abita in 1922, but it is the band from Bogalusa that receives much of the work in 1922. There is an organized brass band in Bogalusa as well as some smaller musical groups. The paper does not state which Bogalusa band it is in these early entries but does state that the Elks Band of Bogalusa plays several engagements in 1923. Mention of the "famous Bogalusa Jazz Band" in the July 1st paper might indicate the Claude Blanchard Band, which was also playing at the pavilion in Mandeville on other night of the week.

The brass band was reorganized as the Elks Band in late summer of 1922, so it must have been Blanchard's Jazz Hounds that play in Abita for a dance on February 11, July 2nd, and Sept. 16, 1922. Buddy Petit does play one other job in Abita on July 30th. The entry is an interesting one: "Big dance at Abita Springs July 30th. O boy oh joy! There will be another big dance at Abita Springs on July 30th. Music will be furnished by Buddy Petit's Jazz Hounds." (July 22, 1922)

This ad appears in the July 29th paper. Petit seldom called his band by any name except his own but agents have called it the "Black and Tan' Band and the "Eagle" Band. This is the first I have heard it called the "Jazz Hounds." I think that the paper just wanted to name it and thought that the name "Jazz Hounds" seemed current and apropos.

"The larger Elks Brass Band of Bogalusa plays in Abita Springs on July 22, 1923, and for dancing at the pavilion on July 29th. This pavilion is the Cotton Centennial Pavilion and is still standing today. This band, formally the town band of Bogalusa, when funds were unavailable from the town, was taken over by the Elks club and played for local dances in Bogalusa and at the different fairs and occasionally dances such as the ones mentioned," Dr. Koenig explained.

"In 1924 Morgan's Spa is opened with a "fine dancing platform" and the Abita mayor, who also runs the famous Lyric Theater in New Orleans, brings his orchestra and his celebrated Minstrels to entertain at his inauguration celebration (July 19, 1924). When the rail cars were scrapped after World War I, the station in Abita that was the terminal of the rail route from Mandeville, was also destroyed. In its place was erected Morgan's Spa, with a large pool for swimming and a dance pavilion, both of which still exists and is on the property now owned by the descendants of the late Senator Allen Ellender. The property is on the southwest corner of Abita where Highway 59 turns sharp right into Level Street."

In Abita Springs, 1925 belongs to Buddy Petit. He is advertised in the paper each week and plays each Sunday and Wednesday at the Abita Pavilion. From February 15th to July 26th, Petit and his band play in Abita. There are jazz bands advertised after July 26th that could also be Petits' but no names are given. The band plays for other functions that do not occur on the nights the band is playing at the pavilion. This is probably the time that Petit lived in a one-room shack in the woods in Mandeville. (See Don Albert's interview in the Tulane Jazz Archives, New Orleans.)

Dances continued in Abita with other bands being engaged. "The Dixie Sunrise Orchestra" of New Orleans. (July 24, 1926), and "The Melody Jazz Orchestra" (April 16, 1927). The Melody Jazz Band is playing in Abita every Sunday night during the summer of 1927. While dance continue in 1928, the only band mentioned is the "Arabian Knights Band" of New Orleans. The band plays for the 14th of July (Bastille Day) in Abita.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and Abita Springs is now home to the Abita Springs Opry, a nationally-known music event with its own television program featuring roots and bluegrass music, as well as the annual "Busker" festival, which spotlights street performers who sing and play musical instruments. 

See also:

Abita Springs Busker Festival Facebook Page

Next Busker Festival is March 24, 2019 

Piney Woods Opry

WWL-TV Video On Abita Opry

Dr. Karl Koenig, Jazz Historian 


Sunday, February 17, 2019

Catholic Missions at Bonfouca and Lacombe

The history of the Catholic Church missions at Bayou Bonfouca near Slidell and Lacombe, as published in the February 15, 1919, edition of the St. Tammany Farmer. Click on the text images to make them larger and more readable.

Bayou Bonfouca

See also:

The Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine

History of St. Tammany Churches

The Life and Death of Father Rouquette




Saturday, February 16, 2019

Olympia Mardi Gras History

 This photo shows the Kaa of Cee Mardi Gras Ball as it was held in 1981 in Covington. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Here is some information published in 1982 about the Krewe of Olympia, a Covington-based Mardi Gras parade organizations.

See also:

Mardi Gras Preparations

Lions Club Parade 1982 

Lions Club Parade 1982 Addition

Mardi Gras Pageantry in 1911

Friday, February 15, 2019

100 years ago this week

What was going on 100 years ago this week? CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer of February 15, 1919. The link is provided by the Library of Congress and its Chronicling America service.

Click on the sample images below to see larger version.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Six More Covington Business People in 1919

Click on the images to read about another six important business people in Covington 100 years ago in 1919. 

Hebert Grocery, Elias Haik, and Fred Hartley

E. J. LeBlanc, W. R. Badon, and Judge Robert Badon

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

More Slidell Businesses in 1919

Also among the leading businesses in Slidell in the year 1919, one hundred years ago, were these three. Click on the image to make it larger.

See also:

Slidell Businesses in 1919

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Mandeville and Lacombe News from 1908

Some Mandeville and Lacombe news items from 1908, December 5, to be exact. Click on the image to make it larger.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Covington Mardi Gras History

A history of Mardi Gras celebrations in Covington was printed in the 1982 edition of the annual magazine published by the Greater Covington Area Chamber of Commerce. Click on the images below to make the photo larger. 

A 1948 Mardi Gras children's parade crowd


Here is the text from that 1982 article:

The History of Mardi Gras in Covington

"If you are old enough to remember Mardi Gras in Covington 40 years ago, then you will remember that there were a few little straggling costumed children with no place to go and nothing to do and not even very many people in town to admire their costumes. 

"Covington was almost a ghost town on Mardi Gras Day. But that is not the case today. Covington clamors with people on Mardi Gras Day, and it is getting bigger every year. But before we talk more about Mardi Gras in 1982, let us go back a number of years.

"It's March, 1884 and it is the day of Covington's first Carnival parade. A young men's organization called "The Knights of Carnival" put on this splendid affair. The King was Jules Pechon, and his Queen was Carrie Morti. There were decorated carriages and plumed horses, and the King and Queen were gracious to their subjects that turned out to see them. 1884 was the first Covington Carnival recorded. There were other Carnivals that
apparently followed this one.

"In 1893, the Parade and Royal Family were described in great detail in the edition of the St. Tammany Farmer. The King was Ernest Pechon, and he was dressed in crimson and gold. His Queen was Mae Moret. On Carnival morning a cannon blast greeted the sunrise, and later maskers and merrymakers assembled in the streets. The King was escorted by an honor guard wearing silver helmets followed by eight lavishly decorated floats. That evening after the parade, the King and Queen ruled at the Grand Ball.

"After this year, records were not available until 1911, when another organization put on a Carnival Parade with nine decorated floats - all depicted Indian scenes - Choctaw, Bogue Falaya, Pearl River, Abita Springs - all represented their Indian background. Each float was drawn by several horses, decorated and plumed. King St. Tammany was Anatole Beaucoudray, and his Queen was Mae Poole. There were costumed maskers in the streets. After the day's activities, there was a Ball.

"In 1948, one of Covington's citizens, Rosemerry Fuhrmann, started a small Carnival Parade for the children of Covington. It was composed mostly of small children, in costumes and masks, with their decorated bicycles and little red wagons. It was a walking parade only two blocks long, from the Courthouse to the Post Office.

"The next year the Amvets took over the Parade, and there were floats—it continued to grow. After the Amvets disbanded, the Lions Club sponsored the Parade, and they still do today. "

Early 1900's

See also:

Mardi Gras Preparations

Lions Club Parade 1982 

Lions Club Parade 1982 Addition

Mardi Gras Pageantry in 1911

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Jacob Salmen, A Slidell Obituary - 1908

Jacob Salmen of Slidell died following a train accident near New Orleans in November of 1908. Here is some information about the man and his funeral, which was attended by hundreds in the New Orleans and surrounding business community.

According to the Lumber Trade Journal of December, 1908, Jacob Salmen was a familiar presence at the office of the Salmen Brick And Lumber Company in the St. Charles hotel building on Common street in New Orleans. "He was habitually cheerful, always attentive and generally of a disposition to inspire the friendship and respect of all coming in contact with him. His last week's work included his presence at the conference held on November 6 to consider questions relating to Panama canal specifications, in which he served on a committee raised to formulate a standard for piling which was adopted by the conferees and Is now under consideration by the Isthmian Canal Commission.

"Jacob Salmen was widely known and very warmly esteemed by a large circle of business and social friends in this section and throughout the country. He was devoted to the large business in which he was engaged, a tireless worker and of a determined disposition, although under all circumstances serenely unruffled, considerate and gracious.

"He was unmarried and made his home in Slidell, the site of the company's producing operations, although spending practically all of his business hours in the New Orleans office. He was ac­cordingly generally known in the building circles of this city and whether among those to whom he sold or from whom he bought, his manner and bearing were alike placid and congenial,

"He is survived by his brothers, Fritz Salmen, president, and Albert Salmen, general manager of the company. Of Swiss ancestry. Jacob Salmen was born at Handsboro. Miss., July 15, 1857.  When nine years of age he was taken to Switzerland and educated. He graduated from the University of Grunau of Berne, after which, and when about 22 years of age, he returned to this country, and entered the business In which he was engaged to the last.

"The company named, of which he was secretary and treasurer, took over the buslness founded by his mother and was incorporated about 1870; his father, J. F. Salmen, having died at Handsboro, in 1867. The business of the company had been successfully established by Mrs. Salmen. a very remarkably gifted business woman, and under the later management of her three sons, to each of whom she had given a liberal education, it has been prosperous in the interim.

The Funeral

"The funeral was at Slidell on Monday morning, November 23, and was attended by a numerous assemblage of New Orleans friends conveyed thither by a special train provided by the New Orleans & Northeastern railroad for the purpose, The obsequies were at the home of his brother. Fritz Salmen, and the local attendance was also very large.

"The ceremonies, conducted by Rev. J. M. Williams, of Covington. La„ and Rev. Alonzo Finch, of Slidell, were singularly impressive. Every place of business In Slidell was meanwhile closed, and It seemed as though the entire population had come out to take part in the final tribute and that each had come as one especially bereaved. The floral tributes were most profuse, and there was in It all overwhelmingly touching marks of the tenderness and respect entertained by all of Slidell for their departed friend. The body now rests In Greenwood cemetery under and surrounded by a huge bank of crushed and lifeless flowers.

Besides a number of the general officers of the New Orleans & Northeastern railroad, there were several present from New Orleans' lumber and allied circles, notably Including the following: Charles J Patterson, T. H. McCarthy, Oscar Gartner, A. C Weston, J. S. Otis,  C. Brakenrldge. J. Carre, E. B. Williams, A. Baldwin, Sr., A. Baldwin. Jr.. R. E. DeBuys and others."

The following is the obituary for Jacob Salmen as published on November 28, 1908. Click on the image to make it larger. 

This is the complete account as published in the December, 1908, edition of The Lumber Trade Journal.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Life In Covington - The 1910's

Good times with family, the pioneer spirit and neighborliness during the early 1900's were the topics of discussion in a 1982 conversation with Mrs. Sidney (Pauline) Fuhrmann and Philip Burns. 

During the interview, they reminisced about what life was like in the community in the early 20th century, and Mrs. Fuhrmann and Mr. Burns, both natives of Covington, were each 90 years of age at the time of the interview.

Their recollections were published in the 1982 edition of the Greater Covington Chamber of Commerce annual magazine. Judy Bloom was the editor of the magazine and probably wrote the article, even though there is no byline.

In the article, Mrs. Fuhrmann recalled that her mother, Amy McManus, was from New Orleans. "She came to Covington to spend her summer vacations, and stayed in a boarding house which is now Ida Chapman's home" Mrs. Fuhrmann stated. During one of the visits Mrs. Fuhrmann's mother made to Covington, she met Emile Frederick and as Mrs. Fuhrmann said, "She and Papa became sweethearts. He built the home where the LeGardeurs now live, as a wedding present. It was a lovely, old-fashioned home and all nine of us children were born there."

The main way to get to Covington in those days was by schooner. Mrs. Fuhrmann's uncle, Capt. Henry Weaver, built a steamboat named "Josie" after his wife. It was launched from the shipyard in Madisonville, and was the first steamer here. 

The first paddle-wheeler was named the "Camelia" and was the passenger boat from New Orleans. Mrs. Fuhrmann said, "The wharf was at the foot of Columbia Street, and these boats would come at least once a week and tie up to it. Along with other things that were almost essential to the town, there was always something interesting, like the oyster-monger. You could buy a sack, but many people brought a tin cup and bought them by the dozen for 10 cents. I remember Papa would get huge bunches of bananas and hang them in the shed."

"My father's sister was married to Capt. Weaver, and he had the schooner since the only exit was from the Bogue Falaya or Tchefuncta and the steamer Camellia came up only as far as Old Landing."

All the cotton had previously been shipped on schooners, but when the Josie was built, it was for freight. It would occasionally take a few passengers. "I went on it once and have never been so seasick in my life!" she recalled.

Carnival Event

Sometime between 1907-1911 the King of Carnival rode the steamer Josie to Covington and "it was a big time, because we had all of the notables in here," she went to say.

Mrs. Fuhrmann met her husband, the late Sidney Fuhrmann, at a Carnival Ball. When asked how they started dating, Mr. Burns interjected, "By playing shy—I had to be around a gal for six months before I could even say 'hi'."

Mr. and Mrs. Fuhrmann had three children: the two daughters being Pat Clanton and the late Rosemerry Hanian.

Sidney Fuhrmann

Mr. Fuhrmann was a very talented gentleman - a showman and gifted artist. Sidney Fuhrmann organized a dramatic club early in the century - he was the director, usually took the male lead and painted all the backdrops. Most of the plays were held in the pavilion at the park. His painting ability was natural, never having taken a lesson. Nevertheless, he produced some beautiful works in oils, watercolors and pastels. His favorite subject was local woods scenes, especially oak trees.

Movie Shows

Fuhrmann was in the movie business - he opened his first theatre in 1914. "It was called the Parkview, and was located where Hebert's Drug Store is now," Mrs. Fuhrmann recalled. "A few years later he moved to the site of the First National Bank and opened the Majestic Theatre. There was another one a little further down the street which was called the Deluxe."

Then he expanded to Madisonville and Mandeville. "During World War II, my daughters and I drove to Madisonville to run the shows - I can vividly remember little Pat standing on a box to pop the popcorn." Mr. Fuhrmann was a natural actor, comedian and entertainer, and also played the violin and piano. He was affectionately known to everyone as "Sid."

Mr. Burns recalled that his family moved to this part of the country about 1840, from North Carolina, and stopped in New Orleans for a while before coming to Covington. "The place they first stopped was called the Old Courthouse Ground, which is now the Claiborne Hill Shopping Center. They built a residence behind this place, or very near where the present Buick place is. They lived there for a number of months before they moved to Chubby Hill, about ten miles from town on the Bogue Falaya River.''

His grandfather, John A. Burn (the "s" wasn't added to Burns until later) and grandmother, Harriet Reddick, established a home and farm. In 1905 Mr. Burns' father, J.C. Burn and his mother, Robna Edgar moved their family into town because his mother insisted the children should attend school here. 

Burns Company Business

In 1908 J.C. Burns, along with Owen Burch, opened a successful country store known as the J.C. Burns Company. "We bought cotton, cattle, and all those things. That was part of the way of country life in those days - you traded groceries for cattle, syrup, coal, turpentine, tar, sweet potatoes, etc. Eggs were a big cash item for people out in the woods. In the fall we got paid for what we'd sold out of their cotton and so on, during the year."

Mr. Burns completed school here, then moved to Lafayette for a while, but soon returned here to work. After a monetarily discouraging stint working for a bank, something happened which later turned out to be very fortuitous. An older friend stopped him on the street one day and said he was finished with his business and wanted sell it to him and his brother. Mr. Burns said, "Mr. Bourgeois, you must be talking out of your head - how on earth are we going to finance this business?" Mr. Bourgeois replied that he'd fix it, and surely enough, he did.

"He went in there and marked off so much furniture and he said 'You'll pay me so much a month, according to how much you sell' and the balance of the furniture he put up on a balcony and said 'You pay me for this as you sell it,' and so, that's how we got into the furniture business."

When asked how he met his wife, Mr. Burns smilingly answered, "I was from the wrong side of the tracks, but I got on the right side. Pauline's (Mrs. Fuhrmann) father and mine were close friends and one day they were talking about their children. They decided that Pauline and I should marry, but I couldn't talk Pauline into it. Instead, I married her sister, Ruth. I guess I would have been pretty well off with either sister, but in Ruth I found as good a one as ever put on shoes. We were married 55 years and had four children."

Sunday Excursions

When asked about how people spent their leisure time in the early part of the century, Mr. Burns and Mrs. Fuhrmann's noted that Sunday was the day to ride the excursion boat to New Orleans. The Post Office was located in the Southern Hotel, which had a beautiful veranda where the young people could sit and talk while waiting for the mail to be unloaded and the boat ready to depart. Inside the hotel was a ballroom and a parlor where one could dance until time to leave.

The First Fair

Almost every afternoon the same group of boys and girls walked to the park, where there was a pavilion. "The park was also very popular for swimming," Mrs. Fuhrmann said.

"The park was built around 1907-1908. The pavilion was built so there was space underneath, with a dance floor above. Mr. Burns added, "The first Fair was held there. They decorated the top floor all around the edges and danced in the center. Underneath, were displayed all kinds of farm products. Then sometime between 1910-1916 there was very high water on the river and it washed away the pavilion.

"The people of Covington were so proud of their pavilion that they banded together for a Park Day, which turned into two days. Nearly everyone in town went down and retrieved all the lumber that had floated away, shaped it up, and completely rebuilt the pavilion in two days' time. That shows what community effort can do."

The Fair was held there for about ten years, then moved to its present location. When the Fair moved it was a big social event - bands played, everyone got all dressed up, and there were lots of school bands. Mrs. Fuhrmann recalled, "All the organizations had booths, food was served, then at night we had dancing. 

 Nearly everyone participated in the Fair in those days. There were exhibits of horses, cattle (Piney Woods kind), plenty of chickens, etc. Every room in the schools at Madisonville, Slidell, Mandeville, etc. had displays in a building built especially for the schools. It was really an honor to show something at the Fair."

Bathing Suits

When asked about the bathing suits of that era, a merry twinkle appeared in both Mr. Burns and Mrs. Fuhrmann's eyes. "We wore long suits with fluted, frilly caps, stockings and some type of bathing slippers," she said. Mr. Burns laughed, "But the boys' suits were the ugliest. I hated them; then when they finally got small like the present day ones, I was so ugly I hated them, too!"

Mrs. Fuhrmann told of their camping experiences. "My aunt, Mrs. Weaver, wife of the captain of the steamer Josie, would take a group of boys and girls down on the steamer to go swimming in the lake at a spot beyond Madisonville by the lighthouse. We took tents - one for dining and one for the girls. The boys slept on the sand." Mr. Burns laughed and said, "I slept one whole night on the sand outside the girls' tent, trying to hold Ruth's hand underneath the tent."

Modern Conveniences

Surprisingly, at the turn of the century Covington (St. John Division) had running water and electricity on Columbia, Florida, Boston, Gibson, and Rutland Streets. Also, what was called Old Covington, from the river to the business section had lights and water. People were charged a flat $1.50 for water and Mr. Burns recalled, "One of the water men, a Mr. Parchy, passed our house all the time and one of our faucets would always be running. You could hear him for a mile yelling, 'You all are gonna run us broke.'

"We had one switch in the house while we were youngsters that controlled all the lights in the house. When the last person in the house was ready for bed, he pulled the switch, and that was it for everyone."

Regarding the medicines of the day, Mrs. Fuhrmann recalled, "Every Spring we had to take a tablespoon of sulphur and molasses, then Grandma made lemonade with cream of tartar and everyone drank that. My husband's mother treated the neighbor's cuts with pine gum. We slept with mosquito bars. I recall being only a little tyke when my ears were pierced with tiny diamond earrings. One night an earring got caught in the mosquito bar, and it was many years before I wore a pierced earring again!"

Babies and Coffins

Babies usually were born with the help of midwives. "They had more superstitions than you could write a book on, and so did the people," Mr. Burns recalled. "We sold material to line coffins and make shrouds at the store. Mother made more shrouds and lined more coffins that she could count. Usually, people made their own homemade pine coffins when one was needed."

Covington boasted a number of schools in that era. Mrs. Fuhrmann and Mr. Burns remembered, "There was a public school on the location of the present Middle School, and there was another behind were Elsie Galatis now lives. Also, there was a school ran by the nuns right in front of where the American Legion Hall now is. The Garden District School was located on what is now the Millings' place, and of course, there was St. Scholastica."

Covington suffered two devastating fires. The first, in 1907, was described by Mr. Burns: "The main part of this fire was at Lockwood and Columbia, and it burned down all the establishments up to what is now the alley by Dutsch and Peters' and everything up to where the present new brick buildings are. It cleaned that square off and stopped at our house, which is where Southern Reflections is now.

"We had a huge tree, and that saved our house. We used buckets of water to put out the fire. The next fire was in 1911 and it was on Columbia Street, also. It burned from Boston Street to the river, burning 36 business establishments. Pauline's father had a big brick building around the corner from Boston Street that is now Rykert Toledano's office. The fire began at an Italian fruit stand, and there was an immense dry goods store adjoining it.

"It's amazing that no one was killed, because we had only bucket brigades to put out the fire. The water pressure was so low we could hardly use it. The story is told that the reason for this was because the train had just come into town and filled its tanks, making the water pressure in the area too low to fight that kind of fire."

Trains and Trolleys

Sometime in the early 1900's a railroad line was built which went from Covington to Mandeville, going through Abita Springs. Called the "Doodlebug", the first one ran on gas, then a later one was electric. The depot was on the site of the present City Hall (police station). This car ran several trips a day to meet the boats that landed in Mandeville to go to New Orleans. It was a very pleasant outing for young people because big excursions came from New Orleans to Mandeville on weekends. 

Mr. Burns explained, "It was a good way to spend an hour and a half with your girl and enjoy the good music the people on the excursion had. We'd go to Mandeville, then ride the boat over to New Orleans and come right back. There was a big wooden walkway on the beach in Mandeville so people could walk right out on it into the boats. 

There was a bad accident one day when the dock collapsed and lots of people fell into the water. Captain Weaver's son, Dudley, and a couple of other men were real heroes that day because they pulled 100-150 people out of the water and got them to shore."

Streets Were Shelled

Covington in those days didn't look quite the same as it does today (1982). The streets were mud, and wagons and carts frequently got bogged down. "Then the Jahnckes started dredging the lake and brought in shells and put them on Louisiana Avenue," Mr. Burns reported. 

"Because the shells made the street so much nicer, it was re-named Jahncke Avenue. It was a main street because it went down to the landing. Eventually, shells were spread on other streets. All the streets had deep ditches and everyone who was able had curbing of cement, bricks, or whatever."

Covington's first car arrived around 1900-1905 and Dr. Pettit created quite a sensation driving around town."

"There was a mixture of homes and businesses in the downtown area. Where the First Bank (Gulf Coast Bank) now is was the Bradley's home, and where the Southern Hotel is, some of the Smiths had a home. In the backyard of A.J. Smith's and Sons is a nice-looking building which is their old house. These are pioneer people -Smiths, Bradleys, Burtons, Fredericks, Planches, Burns, etc., and a lot of their descendants are still around," Mr. Burns commented.

Covington's unique ox-lots in the Division of St. John must have been quite a sight. Both Mrs. Fuhrmann and Mr. Burns recalled seeing big teams of double-yoked oxen bringing in bales of cotton. They would get tired and just lie down in the ox lots. The men sometimes had no place else to go, so they would sleep there, too.

 Covington was a natural trade center for a large surrounding area because of being able to ship material on the boats. In the 1900-1910 era, the streets were pretty well loaded with oxen and mule teams bringing in produce to ship. The main crops raised were rice, cotton, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, corn. 

The main industry in the early days was from the pine trees. Resin and charcoal were obtained from the trees, and around 1900 several saw mills were built so that timber and lumber got to be a big industry. 

 Immense Change

In summing up their recollections, Mr. Burns said, "There has been an immense change in our time from when you didn't have very much, and you didn't worry about not having much - you were satisfied with a little. You were satisfied to make your existence and your pleasure. It was a time when everyone knew everyone else and there were close ties. It was so easy to be friendly; to assist people if they needed it. We created everything for our children and ourselves.

"Children seemed to have so much more to play with, and they made up all the games themselves, like balls, marbles, hopscotch. Children today have the knowledge of textbooks, but don't know how to do the basics, like painting, building, taking care of themselves."

Mrs. Fuhrmann commented that "The changes have been incredible over a 90-year period. I have lived this length of time here and loved every minute of it. I don't think it could have been any better. . .it's been very satisfying. Lots of people have said I'm too satisfied and could have gone someplace else, but I don't believe that. Advancements come wherever you are. Most people do think home base is dear, and want to call someplace home."

Mr. Burns spoke of his hopes for the future of Covington, saying, "I might wish it to go back to a little country town, but that can't be. We need to have some commercial activity and manufacturing, but I don't want to see us growing too big. Covington is too pretty, too unique, to destroy what nature has given us."

Mrs. Fuhrmann closed by commenting, "I miss the closeness we used to have, but wouldn't want anything to interfere with progress. There's always been an air of culture and refinement here - something 'different,' and I hope there always will be."