Wednesday, April 21, 2021

A Remembrance of Covington

Elizabeth Malone, while a native of Alabama, moved to Covington at the age of three years and fell in love with the place.

She was active in a variety of community organizations, including Playmakers and the Humane Society, but most remember her working for photographer Hazel Ogden on New Hampshire Street.

Known for her poetry, she also wrote a memoir showcasing the way Covington "used to be" as she was growing up. That essay was a favorite with longtime residents and newcomers alike. Here is that essay which was written in 1992, some 29 years ago:

A REMEMBRANCE OF COVINGTON

By Elizabeth Malone
 
I took a ride through downtown Covington recently and remarked on the changes that have occurred in the last five years or so. So many stores have opened and closed. So many "For Rent” signs on and around Boston Street. How very sad. 

And then my memory went back in time to the days of my childhood...in my Covington.

The St. Tammany Parish Court House was the focal point of the business area. Across the street toward Claiborne Hill was Sam Haik's Bar (where The Boston Pub is now). Next to Sam's Bar was the shop of Mrs. Ida Nicole, who sold hats, purses, gloves, dresses, material, patterns, thread, buttons, undergarments, etc. Next door to her was The Louisiana Public Utilities and Aubert's Insurance Co., and a barber shop with the slogan "We need your head in our business."

I think it is still there - the slogan was, the last time I noticed. On the corner at one time was Hebert's Red and White Grocery, which later became Covington's first A & P, then Patecek's Shoe Store (moved down from the middle of the block) and is now Charlers Jewelers and Gifts.

Across the street from Sam's Bar was Jones Drug Store, owned by Walter and Bill Jones. Bill was a very good-looking young man who broke my nine year old heart when he married teacher Miss Udine and moved to Franklinton. But that was alright, because she was so sweet that I came to adore her. (Much later Walter would open the Central Pharmacy on New Hampshire, next to the office of dear old Dr. Henry Gautreaux, for years Covington's only doctor, although at one time we had Drs. Heintz and Bulloch as our doctors).

Dr. Gautreaux's office is now a part of the Court House Complex (the Southern Hotel building). Above Dr. Gautreaux's office was the St. Tammany Health Unit, Dr. Herbert Cannon in charge. The St. Tammany Health Unit is now located in the Bogue Falaya Plaza.

Jones' Drug Store had once been The Blue Bird Cafe, owned by Johnny Drinkard, and it later became Hebert's Grill, owned by Numa and Flo (Daquin) Hebert. Now almost that whole side of the street is empty. On the corner was Patacek and von Schneidau's Store, now part of Norman Haik's men's department.

 

Hebert's Grill

Mr. Drinkard moved his cafe to much larger quarters in the Court House Alley and called it the Court House Cafe. A lot of famous people ate at the Court House Cafe, most notable of them being Huey P. Long, who was a friend of Mr. Drinkard, and who persuaded him to give up managing the boarding house at the Great Southern Lumber Co. camp in Bush, La. and open up a restaurant in Covington.

There were also Siamese twins who were touring the country. They were joined at the spine and had to sit sideways in chairs at separate tables to eat. They always ate at the cafe when they were in the area. They married sisters and seemed to be very happy and well-adjusted.

Then there was Johnny, the Philip Morris page boy, then making his "Call for Phil-lip Mor-ris" on radio and in movies of that era. And there was the faded movie actress who captured my childish admiration with her beautiful voice, her vivid make-up and her dramatic wardrobe. She wore a heavy veil to avoid recognition and sat in a dark corner with her back to other diners. She always called me to her table to talk to her and her manager. She lived in a little cottage in what is 218 now the home of Ralph Menetre, Jr. at the corner of Madison St. and 13th Avenue.

Now there is another Court House Cafe, located on N. New Hampshire Street, owned by Roswell Pogue.

Majestic Theater

I was a very star-struck kid and spent all my time at the Majestic Theatre, Mr. Sid Furhmann's picture show, now the site of the New Hampshire Branch of the Hibernia Bank, which was formally First National Bank and before that The Commercial Bank.

The Commercial Bank was originally at the corner of Boston and New Hampshire, part of the old Southern Hotel building. Mr. Sid knew my parents did not have much money and that both of them worked for Johnny Drinkard, who was my mother's brother-in-law, so he let me in the show for ten cents long after I was supposed to pay adult fare, because I went to the show every time the feature changed and stayed from opening to closing, thus I became a minor authority on old "Classic" movies and am a movie buff. (The picture show was my "baby-sitter).

Many years later, after Warren Salles, Sr., bought the Majestic from Mr. Sid, I sold tickets in the balcony on the week-ends, thus increasing my knowledge of old movies. Mr. Sid had a little eating place next to the Majestic, where the parking lot of the Hibernia Bank is. Later on Mr. Sid managed the dining room in the Southern Hotel.

Mr. Sid later built another theatre, The Deluxe, across the street from the Star Theatre which had been built by Mr. Warren Salles and sons. The Salles family also purchased that property, which for many years was the Goodwill Store, until they moved into the old Claiborne Hill Supermarket. It now houses the offices of our district attorney.

One of my favorite places to go was Marsolan's Variety Store, which was located on Columbia St. Burns Dry Goods later had a business in the building. Mr. Frank Marsolan was the mayor of Covington, and I remember him as a kindly little man, rather short and pudgy, who let us kids browse in his store unaccompanied by adults, provided we behaved in a seemly manner. A kid could find just about anything at Marsolan Variety Store ...and so could adults.

The Goldfish Chronicles

One Christmas my dad bought me a little fish bowl and my mom bought me two little goldfish. One was a gorgeous red-gold-and- white fantail and the other was a silver-white fantail with yellow-gold spots. I had those fish for many years and they stayed little while they were in the bowl, but when I finally put them in the big outside fish-pond they quickly started growing.

I was not aware until then that fish stay a size suitable to their container. Within a year they measured about six inches from tip to tail. They would cuddle in the palm of my hand if I struck the water and put my hand under water. They must have been about eight years old when "Reddy" was stolen by some tenants at the Swiss Chateau, who moved away while I was on a week-end vacation. They had offered me five dollars - a lot of money to me in the late 1930's.

A bad little boy, who would cut through our back yard, threw rocks at my goldfish until I forbade him to use our yard as a short-cut. He sneaked back into my yard and killed my "Silver" with a big rock. I found "Silver" floating on top of the pond with a gaping hole in his side, and I found the big rock in the bottom of the fish pond. I really grieved for those goldfish. The fish and the fish bowl came from Marsolan's Variety Store.

More Business Memories


Now there is a Marsolan's Feed Store, owned and operated by Norman Marsolan. Stanton, who is now retired, also worked at the feed store. Next door to Marsolan's Variety Store was Burns Dry Goods and then Theriot's City Drug Store, owned by Mr. Percy and Stanley Theriot. They were two fine gentlemen, running a typical friendly small town pharmacy. There was also Abadie's Meat Market and on the corner was a saloon, which we had to avoid as children, because men went in there and came out drunk.

Turning left at the corner of Gibson and Columbia, mid-way down the block was the old Gibson Hotel. Across the street from the Gibson was Pfeffer's Printing Shop, owned by Edward and Elizabeth Pfeffer, who were special friends of my parents and me. The building is still being used by their son, Philip Pfeffer, a Covington attorney.




Nathan's

Next door to Gibson's was Charlie's Bar (now Nathan's Sandwich Shop) and turn left again and we are back at the Court House Cafe.

Across the street from the cafe was the graceful old Court House, with lovely columns in front. When they tore it down and put up the present modern day monstrosity, (certainly something that could be found anywhere in the United States, but was not in any way Southern in architecture), I could have wept for the stark tastelessness...and still can.



I can remember when the old Court House was surrounded by a waist-high wall of stone or cement which tapered at the top, with an iron fence set at the top and gates at each corner of the front fence, with steps at each corner. My, it was picturesque. In back of the Court House was the city jail and we used to get an atavistic thrill out of playing where the "jailbirds" could see us.

There were six of us, always....Everett, Blanding, me, Max, Bert and little George, the baby. And, almost always, there were our friends. We used the Court House yard as our playground, but we were always conscious of a deputy sheriff lurking in the background, keeping an eye on us.

I remember some of the deputies - Mr. Melvin Bennett, Mr. Julius Heintz and Mr. Ed Lacroix - they were alert to any infringement of their rules for our behavior, but we knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that they were our friends. The sheriff, Mr. Walter Galatas, was a rather austere gentleman, but always kind to everyone. He had a wonderful twinkle in his eyes and a very courtly manner. Other sheriffs were: Compton Moise, Andrew "Red" Erwin, George Broom and our present sheriff, Patrick J. Canulette.

 
Southern Hotel

Down west Boston Street was the Southern Hotel, with its long wide front porch with rocking chairs, where the guests could sit and rock in the afternoon. The Greyhound Bus came to the side of the hotel to unload passengers and freight. Inside the hotel lobby was a fountain with large goldfish in it. There was also a fish pond outside in the little back area, a place where guests could also sit and visit.

Located to the east of the lobby was Tugy's Bar, where guests could partake of liquid refreshment. Many years ago the Bar was re-located on the west end of the hotel building, where it is still operating today, owned first by Julius "Tugy" Tugenhaft, then by Al Poncet; present owner, John "Pizzie" Romano.

Across the street, in the next block, was the Covington Library, where I spent a lot of time. (It now houses Patacek's Shoe Repair Shop and Jerry's Barber Shop). The new library is on 21st Avenue on a lot which once held the Wherli residence. But the first library which I can remember was the M C B Library, (part of the Episcopal Church), where book reviews are still held. It is across the street from the lovely old Mackie home, with its Widow's Walk.


 

The Mackie House


The old Mackie home site is reputedly where John W. Collins once lived. I know that many people are familiar with the new Episcopal Church, but how many have ever been in the old church, which is on the grounds? It is hand-made from ground up, including pegged pews and is a member of The National Historical Building Society. It is well worth a visit.

On the corner of Boston and Columbia St., half-way down the block across from the present Smith Hardware Store, was the Covington City Hall, water and police departments. Walk on down the street and there was the Masonic Temple. Next to the temple was the home of Mayor and Mrs. Frank Marsolan and their sons.

Johannah Marsolan was one of my mother's best friends and was known to me as Mrs. Johannah. Their property extended to the Bogue Falaya River.

The pier was located at the end of Columbia Street and everybody would go down to see the oyster boats come in. My Dad would always buy a sack of oysters (for a dollar and fifty cents) and then we would eat oysters every way my Mom could think of to cook them (although I loved them best on the half-shell, raw). Umm, I can almost taste the salty goodness of a raw oyster sliding down my throat. There is now a move to reclaim the foot of Columbia and make a little park for people to enjoy. Nice!

Going away from the river in the second block of Columbia St., was Bascles's Shoe Store. Then there was Champagne's Grocery. In the next block was Menetre's Grocery, across from Schoen's Funeral Home, now Robert's Beauty College. On that street lived the Koepp, Schoen, and Burns families, where Covington's beloved teacher, Miss Hester Burns lived until her death. (She taught Lee Harvey Oswald when he was a first grader in Covington for several months).

And there was People's Bakery, operated by Mr. Buras Pellegrin, who had an old blackboard outside his store, and he used to write the most clever little items for public delectation. Across from the bakery was Champagne Furniture Store, just across the side street from Covington Cemetery No. 1, a lovely old cemetery with some delightfully interesting tombs. It houses most of the original settlers and old families of Covington. John Wharton Collins, who founded Covington in 1812, is buried there. Covington was originally named Wharton.

Ox Lots

John W. Collins willed to Covington a series of ox-lots for the use of the public for parking. (These are the only known ox-lots in the nation). Of course, at that time oxen and horses were the mode of transportation. Covington has a very interesting history.

Across from Cemetery #1 is the "new" City Hall, built during the tenure of Mayor Emile "Yub" Menetre. Before Mr. Menetre there was Mr. Frank Marsolan, Mr. Hebert Fredericks, a fine, soft spoken gentle man, and though I do not remember him, a Mr. Martee. Since then we have had Mayor Pro-tem Giles Pennington. (The only decent streets in Covington in the last thirty years, were built when Mr. Pennington was working under and in place of Mr. Menetre during Menetre's last illness.

Then there was the twenty-six year tenure of Mr. Ernest Cooper and we are into the second year of the tenure of our current mayor, Mr. Keith Villere.

On New Hampshire, going down by the side of the old Court House, in the second block was the old Acme Department Store. Across the street on the other side of the railroad track was Burns Store, owned by Bryan, Philip and Fritz Burns. Later they would add a large (for Covington) furniture department. They have been closed for several years now, and the building has been razed.

On the corner of Jefferson Avenue and 21st were some beautiful old homes. There was the lovely two-story home of the Lewis L. Morgans. Mr. Morgan was an attorney of some note, and I think was once our state representative. The Whitney Bank now stands on that spot.

Next to their house was the home of Mrs. Callahan and her sister. Down street to the south from them was the Presbyterian Church (isn't it a beautifully kept church?) and the old Lyon High School was two blocks down the street and across Jefferson Avenue. The old school burned down some years ago; within months, Playmakers also burned to the ground.

Playmakers was rebuilt on the same site, a modern brick building which incorporated the silo that was part of the original cow barn. Refreshments are sold at the silo between acts. The high school was rebuilt out on the Hammond Highway and had been renamed Covington High School many years earlier. (Tradition - gone!). 

Schools

There were also three Catholic schools: St. Peter's Parochial School, St Paul's High School for boys and St. Scholastica's School for girls. Back to the north of Jefferson and 21st was the old Methodist Church with its beautiful round columns (which has been torn down and re¬placed with a modern brick church) and the First Baptist Church, with a new church built on the side street across from it.

After St. Peter's Church was built across the side street from the Presbyterian Church, Jefferson Avenue was often referred to as the avenue of the churches. While I am on the subject of churches...the old Lutheran Church was on 23rd Avenue and is now the Rosemerry Hanian School of Dance. (Covington lost the beautiful and talented Rosemerry last year).

The new Lutheran Church is located on the Madisonville Highway at the entrance of Flower Estates.

Catacorner from the Baptist Church was Covington Grammar School, first through seventh grades. It is now called Schoen Middle School (8th and 9th grades) in memory of Cyprian Schoen, former Superintendent of Education. Before Cyp, William Pitcher was Superintendent and before Pitcher was Elmer E. Lyon, for whom Elmer E. Lyon Elementary School is named, as Lyon High School had been at one time.

There is also the very fine Civic Center For the Performing Arts, at the new high school, named for Mr. Lyons. The William Pitcher Gymnasium at Madison St. and 17th Avenue is named for William Pitcher, who was an avid fan of athletics (especially devoted to L.S.U. football). Covington Elementary School is located on S. Jackson and 17th Avenue.

Down from Covington Grammar School was Aoueille's Bakery - we all used to gather there when their wonderful french bread came out of the oven. Umm-umm, good. Mackie Pine Oil Co., was down street from the bakery. Harry Warner now has a metal salvage business there. It was also known, at one time, as Delta Pine Oil Co. (Now the location of the new parish courthouse.)

Street Re-naming

Somewhere along the line, somebody decided to rename the streets and renumber the houses. Thus, Louisiana Ave. became South New Hampshire. Hancock St. became l9th Ave. Many other streets were renamed. I lived in a duplex on Washington and Hancock, just two blocks off Jahncke Ave., and across the street from the lovely Smith home where Mr. J. Louis "Deed" Smith, Sr. and his wife Anna lived with their son, Louis "Red" Smith, Jr. and Miss Annie Smith.

Mrs. Anna was a very beautifully educated woman, warm and gracious. Miss Annie was shy, retiring and very sweet. Mr. Deed had a hardware store on Columbia Street (H. J. Smith and Sons, started by his father), which is still being operated by fourth generation Smiths... fifth generation on the way. 



There is a very interesting museum, part of the store, which contains old farm equipment, old clothes, pictures, furniture, and other items of a by-gone era. Louis (Red) had a horse (and while I was shy, my love of horses overcame) so when Louis would bring his horse out to saddle or groom, there I was right under his nose, asking "Why are you doing this or that?" I know I must have made his life miserable and driven him crazy but he was very patient with me. Thanks, Red, for all your kindness to a ten year old.

I'm so glad they never changed the name of Jahncke Ave., with its beautiful oak trees arching across the street; one almost felt as if one was passing under a vaulted cathedral. And maybe it is...the vaulted cathedral of God's handiwork of live oaks.

Jahncke Avenue

Jahncke Avenue. The street above all others that I love. I lived on Jahncke for almost ten years. It was so beautiful, so peaceful. There were so many lovely old homes on Jahncke...the home of my friend "Old Mrs. (Frank) Ellis." The home of the Jackson family, now owned by Weldon Poole.

The home of Dr. Roland Young, one of the four Young brothers who owned Young's Sanitarium on Louisiana Avenue (now S. New Hampshire and a series of apartments). Dr. and Mrs. Carl Young were our next door neighbors and wonderful friends. Other brothers were Drs. Fenwick and Laurie Young. St. Paul High School (for boys).

The great home of Dr. Heintz, built on the general lines of a steamboat - how I loved that house - and I remember my petite little friend, Mignon Heintz. The home of Miss Olga Kaufman, another great friend of mine. There are too many homes to list, but all giving that certain quality to Jahncke Avenue.

Just off Jahncke Avenue, between 16th and Washington Street, was the stately and gracious home of a former district attorney, the residence of Mr. and Mrs. James T. Burns. It is one of the assets of Covington.

On South America Street really lovely homes abounded. There was the home of the Meyer Israels, the Frank Chapman home, which was one of Covington's first jails - temporarily. My Dad told me many times of the time he was working on it and had to stay overnight in it to finish a job. Mrs. Frank Chapman was a lovely lady. (I can never remember seeing her anywhere, any time, without a very feminine hat and gloves).

Favrotville

The homes of the Favrot clan, are referred to as "Favrotville" and the old Porter home which has been incorporated into "Favrotville." There was the old Haller home. And how about the old Emile "Boss" Fredericks home on Vermont Street and 19th. I can remember walking the block from my house to his, to pull grass for his old horse...the last I remember, that horse was in his thirties.

Every time I ride past the old building on N. New Hampshire Street, just across from the Court House, where Jessie Hood Helms Brown had her insurance office, I think of an old Black friend of my earliest childhood. In my early adult years I could always find Cotton sitting in front of the office on a big box. Every one called him Cotton. He used to peddle vegetables all over town in his wagon which was pulled by his faithful brown horse, Bill. 

Cotton and Bill

He would bring vegetables to my Uncle John's cafe and I would sit at his feet and he would tell me about the old days. He always promised me that if anything happened to him, Bill would belong to me. When he would come to our house on Jahncke, to bring our vegetables, I used to sit up on the wagon seat, hold the reins and "drive" old Bill. (He really knew all the stops).

One of the last times I saw Cotton, he had had one leg amputated. When I stopped to talk to him... and asked about  it, tears came to his eyes. He told me that a car had crashed into them on their way home and a wagon shaft had pierced Bill through and through, and he had to be shot. My, how I did cry...for my old friend Cotton - and for Bill.

There have been changes in Covington, some good, some bad.

When we were kids, there were so many places we could go to swim; Jim's Beach, Charapin Beach, Sulphur Springs, the beach off Cahier Bridge and Bogue Falaya Park. All the other beaches were sold (by state or parish) and became private property - no swimming allowed.

The street which is the entrance to Bogue Falaya park is a beautiful tree lined street and when I was a child through young adulthood, there were brick walls and cement steps at each side of the entrance to the park, with a large sign to the right which bore the legend:
"Let it not be said and to your shame...
That all was beauty here before you came."



I miss that sign every time I go to the park to reminisce.

The only other place for youngsters to go were the city pools, until they were closed several years ago. While the public swimming pool around 28th was reopened,the pool on 15th Ave. was filled with sand and it is being made into a little park, dedicated to the late coach Hubie Gallagher . I'm glad something real nice is being done with it.

And there is that big Community Center on Columbia Street. I remember the enthusiasm of our city "fathers" when it was built. A place for the young people to go...to get them off the streets...where they could play shuffleboard, indoor basketball, supervised games and crafts.

Everywhere I go, everywhere I turn, there are memories...as the writer said: "Memories that bless and burn." But that is what a home town is... memories - and hopes for tomorrow. As I said some good changes, some bad.

As for me, I can stand across the street from the Court House and in my mind's eye I can see six skinny kids playing beneath the arching branches of that beautiful old oak tree...Everett, Blanding, Max, Bert, George and me... I'm Elizabeth Malone.

End of Ms. Malone's Remembrances

The above essay was loaned to me by Pat Clanton, and I thank her for saving it in her files. I have done some limited editing.


See also:

Elizabeth Malone

Covington in the 1940's and 1950's

Life In Covington - The 1910's