Monday, January 24, 2022

Odder's Ranch House Restaurant

 In the 1960's, parents would load their children into the station wagon and head for the unique Lacombe area restaurant called Odder's Ranch House. Many residents today have fond memories of the family outings that came with taking a drive to the country to see the special attractions it had to offer.

 
Click on the images to make them larger. 

The kids loved the place because of the unusual decor (they had lava lamps!), and the parents loved the place because, after lunch the kids could roam the fenced in grounds and interact with the interesting array of animals that were on hand, the most interesting being the peacocks. The kids loved the adventure of being in the country and seeing the many kinds of animals, including, of course, cats.

It was quite a trip, especially over the newly-built causeway from New Orleans, but Sunday dinners and special occasions were made all the more special by the extra effort.  It was apparently a house that had been made into a restaurant, with a long winding driveway.

Owned by Taft E. Odder, the place was on the south side of U.S. 190 between Mandeville and Lacombe, about six miles from the north causeway plaza. In a 1956 article in the Times Picayune it was described as "really a showplace with its beautiful gardens and grounds. The restaurant itself is the ultimate in design and its equipment is the finest."

"A well-equipped bar away from the main dining room offers the finest mixed drinks," the article went on to say.  Its motto was “The South’s Most Charming Restaurant.”

One repeat diner remembers that the owners would often come to a table and welcome the guests, and they knew many of their regular customers by name.

Its advertising mentioned that it was located in the "beautiful Ozone Belt, surrounded by an atmosphere of peace and contentment, where the finest food is prepared with taste and served with care.”  It also noted that “the short trip to Odder’s will reward you with one of your greatest eating experiences.”

It was listed among the hundred or so restaurants in the Louisiana Restaurant Guide of 1958, as published by the Louisiana Restaurant Association.

The restaurant sat on over seven acres and was big enough to accommodate over 200 customers. There were also two cottages and a storage house in the complex.  The interior decor of the restaurant was fascinating, featuring fabrics and fancy lamps not often seen in restaurants.

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner was offered, complete with French Onion Soup, turkey with oyster dressing, cranberry sauce and peas paisan, candied yams, a green salad, along with hot rolls, butter, coffee and dessert. All of that was priced at $3.50.  And frogs legs were also on the menu, as well as a variety of  Louisiana seafood.

In late 1968 owners had to sell the place because of ill health.

 

Early in 1969, new management took over. The new owners names were Tony Kent, Charles Parker and Harvey Bingman.

It was not a large establishment, but it was appreciated by the many families looking for a good place to eat, at reasonable prices, in a quiet, serene location among the St. Tammany pine trees. Later in 1969, the name was changed to just The Ranch House.



See also:

Restaurants Over the Years







Sunday, January 23, 2022

Lighthouse Keepers In The Family

 Andrella Scorza Morris has been researching her family history for going on 34 years now, and after moving from New Orleans to Slidell 25 years ago, she was surprised to find out that one of her ancestors was connected to manning lighthouses in St. Tammany Parish.

Her great great grandfather, Vincenzo Scorza, was a lighthouse keeper at the mouth of the Tchefuncte River south of Madisonville, and, much to her surprise, she found out that before that he had manned the lighthouse at Bayou Bonfouca, not far from where she lives today. He was at that lighthouse from 1849 to 1862, and he also owned property near the Bayou Library marina close to St. Genevieve Church. 

 
Early photographs of the BonFouca and Tchefuncte River lighthouses
Click on the images to make them larger.

Vincenzo also went on to work for the U.S. Customs House in New Orleans as an inspector for a few years. He died on a schooner on his way to his workplace to make a report.
Andrella and her second cousin
went to the courthouse in Covington a few years ago where they found a considerable wealth of information about her great great grandfather. 

She and other members of the family have worked together for years trying to track down, gather up, and organize the book excerpts, newspaper clippings, and old photos to show the history of the Scorza family through multiple generations. The lighthouse connections have intrigued them.

"So I've become interested in lighthouses, they are my thing now," Andrella said recently. She has been active in genealogy since 1988, and she and other family members have been finding numerous documents involving their ancestors, always on the look out for family photos. She is putting everything in a forthcoming book about the Scorza family.

Before the internet became available, she used to go to the library a lot and look up family records wherever she could find them. She would be visiting graveyards looking up tombstones while her husband would be home watching football on tv, she said.

As time went on, she found out that another great great grandfather of hers was the lighthouse keeper for the Bayou St. John lighthouse.

The Lighthouse Keeper Lifestyle

All the family connections with lighthouses have convinced her to write a book about those individuals who have kept lighthouse lights burning over the decades. The book will show exactly what the lighthouse keepers did on a daily basis, their lifestyles and the importance of what they did. Without lighthouses, many ships would have gone off course, hit the sandbars, and would not have been even able to find the entrances to the bayous they were looking for.

She is searching for a photo of Vincenzo, hoping to add it to the book and family album. She already has a photo of a man standing next to the Tchefuncte River lighthouse, but she doesn't know if it is her great great grandfather or not. If anyone has a photo of one of the Tchefuncte River or Bayou BonFouca lighthouse folks that they know is Vincenzo Scorza, she would appreciate hearing from them. 


Her family's past history includes a great uncle from the Marquez side of the family who worked at the Rigolets Angler's Club in September of 1915. Manuel Marquez and his family did not leave the club in the New Orleans east marshlands in time when a major hurricane threatened, and they all were killed by the storm, she said.
Twenty three persons died overall there. It was a horrible tragedy that more advanced warnings could have averted.

For a more detailed account of that event, CLICK HERE.

The Slidell Magazine Article

In December of 2019, Slidell Magazine ran an article about Andrella's quest for family connections.   Written by Charlotte Collins, the article told about the journey that second cousins Andrella and Shelia Lawrence Bercy had already made in researching their family history, an experience that "turned out to be a huge, extended family bonding experience." Here is some information found in that article.

In 1996 Andrella and her husband moved from New Orleans to Slidell following his retirement. As she grew more accustomed to her new home on Cypress Bayou near Coin du Lestin, more and more people would come up to her and tell her that they were related. It prompted her to begin looking into her family heritage as it related to the northshore.

The Lighthouse Keeper

"Andrella had yet to research the Scorza side of her family, her dad's side," the article recounted. "Andrella knew that she also had family in Madisonville, and had heard that her great-great-grandfather on her fathers side, Vincenzo Scorza, was the lighthouse keeper on the Tchefuncte River in Madisonville. He was born in 1797, and died in 1872." In her photo album, Andrella had a photo of that lighthouse, Collins wrote.

According to the Slidell Magazine article, Shelia and Andrella started a Scorza family tree, and they would talk often to share their findings. "We wanted to know more about the Tchefuncte lighthouse and go further into that part of our genealogy studies," Sheila said. To find out more about Vincenzo Scorza, they went to the St. Tammany Parish Courthouse in Covington where they met with Archivist Robin Perkins.

Hitting the Family History Jackpot
 
Perkins was very helpful in providing the information they were seeking. "She explained to us that she loves lighthouses, and studies the families of the keepers. She had census records. with surnames of Narcisse, Baham, Badon, Doucette, Galatas, Cyprian, LeFrere. Barze, Hessier, and those of family names we didn't know we had!" Shelia is quoted as saying. "We got marriage records and boatloads of information to further our research. But we still were not aware of the Bonfouca lighthouse connection at this time."

Andrella explained that writer Ben Taylor provided much written information about their lighthouse keeper ancestor, and more details were found in the book Keepers of the Light published by the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum. That book confirmed that Vincenzo Scorza was the keeper for both lighthouses. As it turns out Vincenzo was actually the keeper for the lighthouse at Bonfouca first, and he was there the longest.

"We found out he was at Bonfouca from 1848 to 1862," Andrella recounted. "In 1862, the Confederate Army burned it down, stole all of Vincenzo's property, captured him, and imprisoned him at Camp Moore in Covington, even though he was on the Confederate side himself. He escaped and reported to the Customs House (in New Orleans), where he always brought his reports by schooner. After that, he became the Inspector General at the Customs House, until they sent him to be the keeper at the Tchefuncte Lighthouse."

The Slidell Magazine article goes on to tell how Shelia then made a trip to Washington, DC to the National Archives. In the Department of Treasury, Office of Lighthouse Keepers, she found documents appointing Vincenzo lighthouse keeper at the Tchefuncte River.

Then Andrella obtained more information from the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum that confirmed Vincenzo's appointment in 1871 at the lighthouse in Madisonville, taking the place of a Bernard Segersteen.

Andrella was also able to track down where Vincenzo lived, and discovered his house (which he bought in 1850) was just a few blocks from where she now lived in Coin du Lestin.

A Family of Lighthouse Keepers

Shelia then went to Genoa, Italy, in a quest for more early family connections. She visited the famous Genoa lighthouse and sought a list of lighthouse keepers there which might have indicated that family members may have been lighthouse keepers even back then.

The family research has brought much excitement and satisfaction to Andrella, who summed it all up in these words. "Who would have thought in a million years that I would be living in the same neighborhood that my great-great-grandfather lived in, and tended this lighthouse."

 
Harold Morris Jr. and Andrella Scorza Morris of Slidell

The Bonfouca Lighthouse Timeline

The Slidell magazine article concluded with information about the Bayou Boufouca lighthouse that had been found in Coast Guard notes published by the website www.lighthousefriends.com

"The bill to approve $3000 for a minor harbor light to mark the entrance to Bayou Bonfouca, which was the route to the town of Slidell. finally passed Congress in 1847.

"It had been delayed, partly because they could not find the location on a map. The construction contract for $2975 was awarded to Joseph M. Howell & Moses Coats of New Orleans.

"Completed in March 1848, the lighthouse had two rooms setting on a five-foot foundation wall. There was a nine-foot chamber between the two rooms that was the base of the tower. The tower went 12 feet above the building. giving a light height of 39 feet above sea level. 

Historical Briefs

1854 - The exterior of the dwelling and the small tower on it were painted white also railing of gallery and balusters; shutters painted green, two cisterns lead-color: two hearths re-laid; backs of Chimneys, &c., repaired; all glass re-set; sashes painted, and also iron work of lantern outside. 

1862- Confederate forces burned the lighthouse and took Keeper Vincenzo Scorza prisoner. Scorsa later escaped from Camp Moore.

Diorama at Lake Pontchartrain Basin Maritime Museum

1868 - Bon Fouca.—Destroyed in 1862 and not re-established. The important point in this vicinity seems to be Pointe aux Herbes, directly opposite, on the south shore of the lake, forming the principal landmark for all steamers and sailing vessels trading in the lakes. The abandonment of the present site and the erection of a light-house on Pointe aux Herbes is recommended, and an estimate of appropriation necessary will be submitted. Keepers: John Wadsworth (1848 - 1849), Vincenzo Scorza (1849-1862).

Point aux Herbes
refers to the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, where the 1-10 twin spans and the Hwy 11 bridge are now. The Point aux Herbes light exhibited for the first lime August 1, 1875.

In 1928 much of the station's acreage was sold to New Orleans Pontchartrain Bridge Company. Point aux Herbes lighthouse was discontinued just alter World War II, and vandals burned the superstructure In the 1950s.

Thanks goes to Slidell Magazine and editor Kendra Maness for sharing their information on this article. 

Here is the original article that appeared in Slidell Magazine:


See also:

Lighthouses of Eastern Lake Pontchartrain 

Tchefuncte River Lighthouse 

Tchefuncte River Lighthouse on Historic Registry 

Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage Restored

The Madisonville Lighthouses

 
Slidell Magazine, December 2019

 




Saturday, January 22, 2022

South Abita Springs Promoted

 In 1917 real estate sales in the new southern section of Abita Springs began picking up. Here is a map that showed New Orleans residents where south Abita Springs was located, in relation to Mandeville, Slidell, and Covington. There were two train tracks that served the community. One track was the main railroad from Slidell, and the other was the motor car trolley from Covington to a boat dock on the Mandeville lakefront. 

Click on the image to make it larger and more readable. 

 
A 1917 showing the location of south Abita Springs


There were no bridges across the Rigolets at this time, and Slidell was a small but growing city with several large industries, having been chartered in 1888. 

See also:

Brief History of Abita Springs 

Abita Springs Music History 

Abita Springs Development Proposal 1887  

The Doodlebug Trolley Motor Car 

 


Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Trolley Motor Car Route

 In 1909 the trolley car that ran between the Mandeville lakefront and downtown Covington opened up for business. The trolley would roll out onto a pier that jutted out into Lake Pontchartrain, steamboats carrying passengers from New Orleans would dock, and passengers would board the trolley right at the end of the pier, then be carried back onto land and onwards to Abita Springs and Covington.

The name of the company operating the trolley was originally the St. Tammany Railway. It was later lengthened to the St. Tammany and New Orleans Railway and Ferry Co., as boats were added. 

It was a great system, and hundreds of visitors would utilize the trolley car to finish their trip to the Abita Springs and Covington hotels of their choice. 

Here is the original printed map of the trolley motor car route. There were actually two rail lines going from Mandeville to Covington. The trolley car route was different than the railroad track route, and they crossed over each other just west of Abita Springs. The train tracks went straight down to Mandeville from Abita Springs, swung by the Mandeville depot, then headed for Slidell.

 
The printed version of the trolley motor car route. 
Click on the images to make them larger.



Since the trolley line track bridge over the Bogue Falaya river was further upstream than the railroad track, the two tracks had to cross over each other just west of Abita Springs. Old aerial photographs, the above being from 1965, still showed the path of the trolley car line as it intersected with the railroad line just south of where the Abita Brewing Co. is today.
 
 
 
The trolley car route was still visible as a path through the trees as late as 1978.

On its way down to Mandeville, the trolley route passed through Abita Springs and headed southward, but veered to the west between North and Soell Streets on a diagonal route to head for Helenberg subdivision and Ozone Park. Once it left there, it headed south but as it pulled into Mandeville it zigzagged back and forth from block to block until it got to the lakefront and pulled out onto the pier. 

 
The Farmer welcomes the railway and trolley

The Original Source Map

In a stack of old documents recently found in Covington, researchers discovered the original hand-drawn map from which the above printed map was made. Here is a copy of the original trolley "motor car" route map. Some areas are shaded red, yellow or brown to indicate large property holdings along the way.


 Here are four sections of the above map enlarged for detail.

 
Covington, Abita Springs and Alexiusville

 
Helenberg and Ozone Park
The trolley route is a marked by  triple parallel lines from the top right


 
Chinchuba and Glendale Heights

 
Mandeville and Bayou Castin
 
The trolley line ends on the pier into the lake, while the train track heads southeast into Lacombe and Slidell.  
 
Depots
 
 
On the trolley car line, there were depots at Helenberg & Ozone Park.
Helenberg was a subdivision developed by the owner of the trolley line
 
Spellings Differ  
 
The owner's name was "Joseph Birg," and on some maps the name of the subdivision is spelled "Helenbirg" while on other documents it is spelled "Helenberg" with an "e."
 

 Ozone Park was developed as a new town next to the trolley line.
 
 
In Covington, the trolley depot appeared to be near the intersection of Kirkland and North New Hampshire St.  It entered into Covington along what is now called "Covington Centre Drive" ( in 1909 it was called Dewey Avenue). Then the trolley track would jump down to Kirkland Street, pass by the city cemetery and head for North New Hampshire Street.

The trolley car at the Abita Springs depot
 


The trolley ended up bankrupt in 1918. Efforts to save it, and even extend a separate line of Madisonville, failed to materialize.

See also:

The Doodlebug Trolley Motor Car 

Helenbirg Subdivision  


 
Steamer Margaret To Connect With Trolley
 
 
Motor Car Trolley Changes Schedule

 

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Mandeville Map 1928

 This map shows lots in Mandeville in 1928 as they were being sold by real estate brokers at the time. Click on the images to make them larger.


 
A close up of the lakefront

See also:

Subdivision Sales Ads  

The Mandeville Miracle


Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Garic "Nikki" Barranger

 Garic Kenneth “Nikki” Barranger was a well-known and respected Covington attorney, active in a variety of theatrical and literary pursuits. He was the son of Miriam Barranger, one of the founders of and first president of the St. Tammany Art Association

 

Garic "Nikki" Barranger

His community involvements included Playmakers amateur theater group, the Head Start childrens' agency, and literary legends Walker Percy and John Kennedy Toole.

Barranger died at St. Tammany Parish Hospital in Covington on April 15, 2015, at the age of 80 years. Born in December of 1934, he was the son of  Dalton Joseph and Miriam Garic Barranger. His obituary notes that he was a native of Covington, he attended Covington Elementary School, St. Paul's College, Yale University and Tulane University Law School.

His interest in the theater prompted him to become a  member of Dramat, Yale University's  student dramatic organization.  According to his obituary, after receiving his law degree, he practiced in Covington and became a senior partner in the law firm of Barranger, Barranger, Jones, and Fussell.

Ox Lot Lawsuit

In one of his more famous legal efforts, he represented the City of Covington in the 1972 case of Ross v. City of Covington, the lawsuit which asserted that the city’s ox lots were public domain and private buildings were encroachments. That lawsuit helped secure
National Register of Historic Places status for the city’s Division of St. John. His obituary stated that he later established a solo law practice, where he helped underdogs and always sought that which was "right and just."

Novelist Dr. Walker Percy and Barranger were good friends, working together on several projects, one being the posthumous publication of "The Confederacy of Dunces" by New Orleans author J.K. Toole, as well as helping Headstart services get going in the Covington area. 

A Confederacy of Dunces

Barranger was involved in helping the mother of John Kennedy Toole, Thelma Toole, get her son's novel "A Confederacy of Dunces" published. J. K. Toole died in 1969, and his mother strived continuously to have his novel read, edited and published. It captured the attention of Walker Percy of Covington, who in turn, gave a copy of it to Barranger to read, and shortly afterwards the issues arose about the publishing rights.

Barranger worked for a time with Mrs. Toole, navigating the legal ramifications of trying to get the legal rights to the novel settled and the publishing contract squared away. It was a difficult endeavor, and prompted several pages in Toole's biography "Ignatius Rising: The Life of John Kennedy Toole" where Barranger's name was repeatedly mentioned. 

The portions of J.K. Toole's biography where Barranger was mentioned.

In 1979, Barranger wrote several letters to Thelma Toole, in one of which he said he thought John Kennedy Toole had been a victim of bad editing and that, consequently, some parts of the book might be lost.  The book was preserved, published, and went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981. One of Barranger's letters is now part of the J.K.Toole Archives in the Howard Tilton Memorial Library and the Tulane University Digital Library.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival


Barranger was also involved in the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, where his legal skills "proved invaluable during his tenure on the board of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation."  He served as president from 1993 to 1995 (see plaque below)  and was President Emeritus at the time of his death.  "He was a Jazz Fest regular and was usually found in the Economy Hall tent," it was noted.


 
Plaques for his service to the Jazz Festival 

He was also a founding board member and legal advisor to Hospice of St. Tammany, the first hospice established in the parish.

Playmakers

"Over the years, Nikki employed his dramatic talent in stage productions at Tulane's Summer, and Summer Lyric, Theatres; the Gallery Circle Theatre; and Playmakers Theatre in Covington, which he helped organize. His stage appearances were a delight to his audiences," his obituary information went on to say.

"When the Playmakers theatre burned, he worked diligently to preserve the organization and raise the funds necessary to rebuild. In recognition of his many years of involvement and support, he was named an honorary life patron," according to his obituary.  He was also active, for a number of years, in editing an abridged version of a Shakespeare play read at the New Orleans Shakespeare Society’s annual gathering.

 
A block frame for Playmakers ads on a letterpress, found in Barranger's office

"He loved opera,  possessed in-depth knowledge of all things musical – instruments, composers, and singers – from many eras. He collaborated with folk singer Rose Anne Bivens in many performances and on two CDs."

 
Garic Barranger seated, listening to Roseanne Bivens on guitar

Art Collection

His obituary continued: "He had an extensive contemporary art collection and was a prolific author. He wrote poems, plays, short stories, and two books, one, “Continuities”, about his father, and another, “Southern Karma”, about his mother. That huge volume, hard-bound and ornately decorated, contained many photographs. 

Head Start and Regina Coeli

He helped further minority rights by helping  Head Start, and in the establishment of a credit union for African-Americans.

In a history of the Regina Coeli Child Development Center, Barranger is credited with many contributions.  In 1968,  he helped write a grant application for  $45,000 to enable Head Start to operate an eight-week program in the summer of 1969.

CLICK HERE for a complete history of Regina Coeli.

In the organization's official history, Helen Frick noted that the Covington law firm of Barranger, Barranger, and Jones drafted the original corporate charter as an in-kind service for the group. On August 14, 1969, the Secretary of State affirmed that Regina Coeli Child Development Center was officially incorporated as a private, non-profit corporation. The first board members of the corporation included Dr. Walker Percy, Garic K. Barranger, Dr. Suzanne Hill,  and Helen Frick.

 The Regina Coeli history concluded that "Few Head Start programs in the country can boast of having a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist (Dr. Walker Percy), a Yale educated attorney (Garic Barranger), a university developmental psychology professor (Dr. Suzanne Hill), a Tulane Delta Primate Research psychologist (Dr. Charles Hill), a Baptist minister (Rev. Lawrence Tyson), and an Episcopal minister (Rev. Nolan Pipes) on their original board of directors."


Garic "Nikki" Barranger

See also:

Garic Barrangner Obituary

Mrs. Miriam Barranger, Artist  

Rose Anne Bivens - Folk Singer  

Writing St. Tammany Parish History - C.H. Nichols


Monday, January 17, 2022

Business Boom in Slidell -1927

 In 1927 the bridge over the eastern end of Lake Pontchartrain from Chef Menteur to Slidell was nearing completion. So the push was on to sell land in Slidell. 

Numerous newspaper ads appeared in the New Orleans Time Picayune commending the new city for its business potential, as well as its beauty and promise of tourism. Ninty-five years ago, this advertisement on June 30, 1927,  talked about Main Street extension for business location properties:

Click on the images to make them larger and more readable. 

 

 

From the June 30, 1927, advertisement





Sunday, January 16, 2022

Likeness Guaranteed

 In 1893 artist A. L. Williams moved from New York to Covington to set up his portrait studio, mainly taking small portrait photos and enlarging them into hand-drawn paintings, Here's an advertisement advertising his services.

 

 
He became active in the community, providing artistic and even musical performances.  He was identified as "Professor A.L. Williams." Click on the images to make them larger and more readable.



 
In 1919, he and his family moved to Bogalusa.