Sunday, October 24, 2021

Tree Branch Avalanche

There's a reason why I take so many pictures of trees. It’s obvious that trees make a significant contribution to any community, and since nearly all of them are older than I am, I treat them with respect and admiration.

For one thing, they have roots. They are fully rooted in the life of the community, providing shade for hard working people over the years, giving the youngsters a natural gym and climbing wall, maybe a place to build a tree house.

Some trees are historic. They have seen hundreds of years of history pass under them: Post Oak in Madisonville, the Seven Sisters Oak in Lewisburg, the Sunnybrook oaks. Many pine trees have provided the raw materials for the area lumber industry, by which hundreds of thousands of people built their homes and lived their lives therein, surrounded by walls made of 2 x 4 studs that were once part of the St. Tammany landscape. 

The Lumber Industry

St. Tammany’s pines and other trees have been harvested, processed and shipped worldwide. Many of those trees helped make paper, onto which your newspapers are printed and read by thousands daily to share local goings on as well as the world news.

Paper also goes into the endless parade of books being published. Some of that paper goes into cardboard boxes, which now shelter your treasured keepsakes in the attic, help people move their belongings from coast to coast, and protect and transport the products that are trucked to your local store where they are taken out of the box and put on shelves. Some of that lumber went into the making of millions of pallets, which are used by shipping concerns around the world. Trees are what are called a "renewable resource" as more trees are planted to replace the ones converted to lumber.

Trees Are Artists

Trees are also artists, lifting up a network of twisted limbs framing the blue of the sky in a mosaic of shapes and shades. They entertain us with the different textures of their barks, the ground-level network of knots and knees. In the spring, they inspire us with green leaves and buds; in the fall, they astound us with oranges and yellows and reds, leaves in a rainbow of colors, which then all fall to the ground and give us the endless pleasure of raking them all up (or blowing them from end of the yard to the other.)

The physics of a tree amazes me. The huge network of roots underneath the ground somehow supports, stabilizes and makes possible the huge network of limbs overhead. It's hard to imagine the weight of the heavy limbs, pulling mightily at the main trunk, the off balance leaning of the top canopy, the tensile strength of wood fibers, the conveying of water from deep in the ground to the tip tops of the branches, the swaying back and forth in the gentle breezes, the violent contortions of being buffeted by hurricane-force winds, 100 miles per hour winds.

Which brings me to why I wrote all this: I will miss the trees brought down by Hurricane Ida. The dense canopy of treetops has been thinned out considerably, the tall pines toppled, people’s homes and cars shattered.

The trees tried to hold on, but the twists and jerks of the wild bursts of winds overcame them. Many just keeled right over after hours and hours of rain-soaked ground gave way, their roots pried from the nurturing dirt, their limbs on the way down taking out powerlines and cable wires, rafters, ceiling joists, and walls.

The trees didn’t want to damage anything. Thousands upon thousands of light poles were smashed and snapped, and many more trees will have to be cut down to replace those light poles. The trees just wanted to live and grow and provide leaf mulch for years to come. But now those trees that fell have been sawed into sections, stacked on the side of the road, picked up by a mechanical claw and placed in big metal dumpsters on wheels. They are being taken somewhere else where we cannot see their undignified remains as they rot or get shoved into a chipper. 

I will miss those trees. There are still many trees, of course, some of which will be taken down as a precaution against future storms sending them crashing down into nearby homes and automobiles.

I’ve known people who live out west, in towns with few if any trees. When they come to Louisiana they are amazed by the trees, the moss, and the tree-cradled ferns, the lattice of limbs where birds nest and squirrels romp.

I send the visitors to the lakefront in Mandeville, where they can enjoy a variety of trees of all shapes and sizes. It's a place to marvel at the trees, sit under them and think about things in a quiet and thoughtful manner, as people have done for centuries, sitting under those very same trees that have stood there for centuries, and hopefully for many more years to come.


Abita Springs


Million Dollar Road


Friday, October 22, 2021

The History of the C.J. Schoen School Building

 In 1994 the Academic Gifted Classes at C. J. Schoen Middle School in Covington researched and prepared a history of the three story brick building housing their school. Here are excerpts from the text of that report.

C. J. Schoen Middle School History

At the corner of what is now 23rd and Jefferson Avenue, Covington, Louisiana, stands a landmark known to hundreds of people as the first real public school site in the history of St. Tammany Parish. Through research, oral history, and photograph we walk through 80 years of history. Come join us as we stroll down memory lane.

Pre-School Buildings

At the turn of the century, on a city block square piece of property sandwiched between Silver and Gold Streets (23rd and 24th), stood a large wooden pavilion. This primitive building was used for dances and social events of the era. It was nothing but a roof with four walls. Yet it became the stepping stone to what is our famous C. J. Schoen Middle School.

Originally there were many small private schools which dotted the vast expanse of western St. Tammany. Each housed only a few students and seemed to open and close on an amazingly flexible schedule. It was common for a school teacher to reside in various homes of the community, moving from home to home every two or three months throughout the school term. Each community would pay the school teacher's meager $30.00-a-month salary.

The good citizens of Covington were anxious for a community school to be built. After many long and heated meetings during the years of 1901-02, the city fathers were finally convinced the pavilion should be converted into at least four classrooms so the children would have a decent place to be educated.

Miss Schiler, the first principal, was also the third grade teacher as well. The pavilion school went well for four or five years and continued to grow until more classrooms were added.
The people weren't satisfied. They wanted a larger, brick school. At that time, the town supplied the revenue for building schools. Plans were made for a small brick school building to be constructed where the present day flag pole now stands.

In 1907, when the walls of the school were approximately about 3 feet high, the town ran out of money and the contractor went bankrupt. All supplies and materials had to be sold and plans had to be abandoned.

In our school's playground lies a plaque:

Erected A. D. 1907
Dr. C. Z. Williams, Mayor
Andrew W. J. Bryan Architect
I. C. Garber Builder

Stories are told about a water branch that ran down Silver Street. The stream flows by the present day Christ Episcopal Church. That branch still exists. It is now contained in culverts as it continues to run down to the Bogue Falaya River. School children used to play in the ditch and loved to watch it's swollen flow when the city flushed its water tower once a year into this ditch.

Even the "necessities" [privies] bridged the gap, girls on one side, boys on the other. There was no running water for the pavilion school. Drinking water was carried in buckets from a house across the street; everyone drank from the same bucket and dipper.

Times changed. The parish now assumed responsibility for building the schools. The school board was able to officially buy this piece of land for $1000, with the understanding the property would be returned to the city of Covington if it ever ceased being used for a public school.

Covington High School (1914-1926)

In 1914, on this site at the cost of $35,000, a three-story building named Covington High School was built, under the leadership of Mr. Elmer Lyon, the first parish school superintendent. Townspeople bragged about it being the biggest and best school throughout the surrounding parishes.

The main building was erected then, complete with an attached auditorium, stage and theater seats. It housed grades 1-11. (12th grade did not exist.) Grades 1 through 7 were housed in the basement (1st) and 2nds floor. The high school convened on the top floor. Plenty of light flooded the auditorium through huge windows situated at the back and side walls. Today (in 1994) the auditorium is the school gymnasium.

The population of the school that first year was 281 students. School was only in session three or four months out of the year. According to the St. Tammany Farmer, March 21, 1914, Professor W. A. Bynum was the first principal of the the high school.

Covington Grammar School (1926-1958)

The city grew. More space was needed to alleviate the school's overcrowded conditions. The high school building bulged in 1924 with 507 attending students. Individual class size approached 50 students per room.

Fortunately by 1926 a new Covington High School (old Lyon High) was completed just a few blocks away on Jefferson Street. That freed our site to become Covington Grammar School, grades 1¬7. [Unfortunately, Lyon High burned down Nov. 11, 1974. It was replaced with what is now William Pitcher Junior High.]

May Day festivals were at their height. Children would practice for weeks to prepare for the May Day festivities. Plays, games, dress up pageantry were in vogue. It was a great honor to be King and Queen of the May court.

The Grammar School is not without its sorrows. A story is told of one principal, a Mr. Beduski, who for some reason had climbed the wooden flag pole to retrieve the flag. While his teacher-wife looked on out her corner class room window, the wooden pole snapped off at the top, toppling the principal to the ground, killing him instantly.

The grips of the Depression produced soup kitchens, one of which was placed in one of our basement corners. Lunch was five cents for those who could afford it. While most of the children went home for lunch, there were a few children who came from outlying districts on wagons or walked long distances to school. Those students stayed for lunch. It was not uncommon to see them bring nothing but a piece of cornbread, or a lonely biscuit to eat for lunch.

By the early 1930's, Mr. S. E. Tally became principal of Covington Grammar School. He had a long and colorful principalship. His tenure lasted until 1959, nearly 30 years. Many things transpired during his leadership. By 1933, the school year had been extended to a full 9-month term. A tuition-paid Kindergarten began in that same year  Kindergarten attendance was sparse since few had money to pay for its services.

Numerous childish thrills were produced during the 30's, 40's, and early 50's by children sliding down the great tubular fire escapes that came out of the top floor corner class rooms at each end of the building. Alas, because of liability complications and extensive deterioration, the tubes had to be removed.


Wooden floors were soaked regularly with oil. Female teachers would go home at the end of the day with stains on the hems of their dresses. Class sizes were known to be large . It was nothing to have 40 students in a classroom at one time. Some classrooms were comprised of more than one grade level. This was especially true in the upper grades.

Of course, discipline was minimal. A child who may have been disciplined at school was surely to be disciplined twice as hard when he got home.

Prosperity came with the recovery from WW II. In the late 40's, a sizable addition was built onto the southwest side of the school. A two story wing abutted the existing auditorium. A cafeteria was added on the auditorium's opposite side. Unfortunately, the auditorium lost its theater seats and glass windows. The back wall was extended and bricked up. It was renovated into a gymnasium.

Lee Harvey Oswald

Documented word has it that Lee Harvey Oswald attended 1st grade at Covington Grammar School for a few months. Great speculation and mystery surrounded his attendance.

Covington Junior High (1958-1974)

As the city and school continued to grow, the parish decided, in 1957, to build what is now Covington Elementary School. Our school building was vacant for one year, 1957-58. The elementary school had incorporated some of the lower grades. The high school incorporated the upper grades. However, after that one year our school reopened under the name of Covington Junior High, grades 5-7. Mr. Alfred Dubisson, principal at the Folsom Consolidated School, became principal in 1958-59.

Unbelievable as it may seem, in 1959 the basement of Covington Junior High became the temporary location for St. Tammany Parish offices. The present parish court house had yet to be completed. Social Studies classes learned about the judicial system first hand. The presiding judge allowed classes to witness two murder cases that were tried in the gymnasium of our school. It was here, too, in July 1959, where the famous sanity trial of Governor E K. Long took place.

Mr. Ralph Menetre, a former student, followed Mr. Dubisson as principal, 1962-67. Ronnie Pogue, another former student, succeeded Mr. Menetre in 1967-68.

In the fall of 1968-69, the school board transferred eighty-five Black 8th grade students from Rosenwald School to Covington Grammar School as an attempt to racially integrate the school. The school expanded to grades K-8. This was Mr. Henri Ferrier's first year of principal. He remained as principal through 1973, a guiding influence through the adjusting times of change.
Covington Middle School (1974-1986)

During this time, Mr. Lawton McKee had become principal, 1972-1990. Grades 5 and 6 continued through 1976. Covington had grown large enough to have a second middle school across town, Pineview Middle School.

By 1978, Covington Elementary School had also outgrown its limitations. it was decided their 4th grades should be transferred to the middle schools. Covington Middle School has remained a grade 4-6 population.

The school building suffered from deterioration. The school board decided to completely renovate the building. In 1980, the entire student body transferred to the then empty Rosenwald School on Tyler Street for one year to allow for remodeling.

The school saw new classroom configuration, an enlarged and remodeled cafeteria, and additional administration offices at the cost 1.03 million dollars.

C. J. Schoen Middle School (1986-2001)

Our renovated school site was appropriately renamed C. J. Schoen Middle School in honor of a former student and teacher of our school, Mr. Cyprian J. Schoen. Mr. Schoen had been the Superintendent of St. Tammany Public Schools.

Changes continued as portable classrooms were added to the dwindling campus size. Classes had to be found for a growing number of special education and Gifted classes. In 1988 the first portable was erected. We now have five portables dotting our campus (in 1994).

Finally, in 1994, here we are! Our present principal is Mrs. Susan McManus, 1990-94. We are still overcrowded. We are still growing. With the changes that have been made throughout the years, we still have alumni who occasionally pass through the building. They lovingly remark that the school still has the same ole' charm and smells it always has had.

We at C. J. Schoen are proud of our school. We hope you have enjoyed our stroll through the halls and experiences of our rich heritage. 

End of 1994 History Presentation

See also:

Covington Grammar School Group  

New Covington High School -1913 

C.J. Schoen School Staff Reunion 

Schoen Middle School Photo Album 

Ronnie Pogue   Ralph Menetre 

The School That Never Was

Between 2001 and 2007, the three story brick building on Jefferson Avenue was extensively renovated and preserved, plus a new building was built facing Theard Street. The two were connected together and became the C. J. Schoen Administrative Building, the central school system office. 
Here are some photos of that renovation and construction. 
The building as it looked in 1987

The previous additions to the back had added a cafeteria and converted the auditorium into a gymnasium.

In 2002, demolition began on the cafeteria and gymnasium, preparing the site for a new central office building for the School System

The stage part of the gymnasium, left over from its days as an auditorium, was preserved.

It would become the connecting section between the old building on Jefferson Avenue and the new office building being constructed facing Theard Street

 Meanwhile, over on Jefferson Avenue, the original three story brick building was being given a complete makeover.

Old classrooms were being re-purposed as offices 

The first step was to remove the old heating radiators

Interior walls were removed to accommodate offices

The basement was refurbished and converted into a meeting area.

Many of the interior walls were stripped to the studs.

The new main entrance now faces Theard Street.

Aerial view from Google Earth





100 Years Ago This October 22, 2021

What was going on 100 years ago this week? CLICK HERE for a link to the St. Tammany Farmer Issue of  October 22, 1921. The link is provided by the Library of Congress and its Chronicling America service.

Click on the sample images below to see larger versions. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Abita Springs Pavilion On The Move

 The Abita Springs Pavilion is a two-story octagonal structure that was originally placed next to the Abita River. Over the years it got flooded repeatedly, and a levee was built around it. In 2007 it was decided to move it out of the flood plain. The project to move it was handed to Davie Shoring, a company out of New Orleans that specializes in elevating and moving large structures.

Here are some photographs, many of which were taken by Mary Davis.

In its old location, the pavilion was subject to flooding and trees falling on it. 

So the structure was jacked up, the base support posts removed...

 And a transport trailer was brought in and driven under it.
In its new location, concrete pillars were constructed under it.  


The move was handled by Davie Shoring, Inc. Here's a picture of the crew. 

 Historic Places Registry

The pavilion was registered with the National Register of Historic Places (US Dept. of the Interior) in 1975, and in that application the following was noted:

The Abita Springs Pavilion was constructed in 1888. The raised octagonal structure is entirely of wood and Victorian in style. It is 46 feet high and 52.6 feet in diameter.  There are eight 12 inch by 18 inch posts which support the upper level.

The Abita Springs Pavilion was constructed to encourage and allow the consumption of the spring waters for medicinal purposes. The community of Abita Springs takes its name from the spring and the area was long a very popular summer resort for the inhabitants of New Orleans.

The property around the spring was purchased from the United States in 1853. In 1867 in a sworn statement, Dr. T. M. D. Davidson, who had moved to Covington in 1857 and had been a "practicing physician continuously since," stated that "these springs are mineral water-highly medicinal. These springs are valuable on account of the medicinal qualities--I consider them very valuable for being a resort for boarders and invalids."

An ad placed in The St. Tammany Farmer in May of 1880 stated as follows:


MRS. F. A. BOSSIER Has opened her house at the famed Abita Springs, three miles from Covington for the reception of boarders, . . . a pretty cottage, with good well, outhouses etc. near the spring to rent for the season.

On June 26, 1887, the first railroad train arrived at Abita Springs. Some six months later a post office was established.

The Pavilion itself was constructed in 1888: "Messrs. Poitivent and Favre have just built a commodious pavilion over the Springs, so constructed as to be beyond the reach of high water . . . ."

Newspapers of the time stated the "Curative Properties of the waters of the Abita Springs became better known, and the general healthfulness of the locality attracted considerable attention." Simon's Hotel and Restaurant, with a French kitchen in the Parisian Style noted it was the "Closest place to Springs and Depot."

A passenger on the East Louisiana Railroad related his impressions thus:

"Florenville then Abita Springs. Can anyone tell anybody about Abita Springs? I have heard so much about them that I suppose everybody else has heard, that it leaves one at a loss to say anything that has not already been told. The medicinal qualities of the Springs have not been over-rated, so I am told."

An article entitled "Life at Abita Springs" described the pleasure seekers from among the wage-workers and counter hoppers of the great Southern Emporium. "All who can move around light out for a ramble to the springs and through the pinewoods or can recline upon the seats of the ample pavilion. There are four well kept and commodious hotels in a few hundred yards of the main Artesian Saline Calebian Springs . . . "

The community of Abita Springs was formally organized by 1903 and chartered in 1912.

The Pavilion and surrounding grounds were purchased by the State of Louisiana in 1948 and included in the state's park system. It was sold to the St. Tammany Parish School Board in 1965 and was not used for several years.

A New Orleans newspaper, upon learning of the revived interest in the springs wrote in 1972 that a group of concerned Abita residents who remember the charm and magnetism of the old St. Tammany spa of a decade of two ago, with its Abita Park, Pavilion, picnic grounds, bubbling springs and winding spring-fed river are attempting to restore the park to some of its original magnificence. There are scores of New Orleanians who nostalgically remember their childhoods when their parents took them to Abita Springs for the Summer."

The Long Branch Bachelor's Quarters Museum Building

Another component of the Trailhead was also moved to a new location, that being the "bachelor's quarters" of the Long Branch Hotel that was over on Rangeline Road. It was converted into the Abita Trailhead Museum.

On the move (Mary Davis photo)

See also:

Abita Springs Development Proposal 1887 

Abita Springs Park Pavilion - 1984 

Old Abita Springs Pavilion Postcards 

Abita Springs Photos