Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Biddy Basketball

 Here are some articles from the St. Tammany Farmer newspaper about the Biddy Basketball Program started at the Covington Recreation Center in the 1970's. Click on the images to make them larger. 

Monday, November 28, 2022

The World's First Hovercraft

 Designing, developing and testing the world's first hovercraft was an exciting adventure for the engineers who first came up with the unique watercraft as well as for those who were first to pilot it.

 A resident of Covington in 1976 was one of those who witnessed the first official test back in 1959. In fact, he was the navigator onboard, one of three members of the initial crew. In 1976 he was visited by the man who actually piloted the hovercraft and the two reminisced about that historic occasion. 

Above photo taken in 1976

Here's the article from a 1976 issue of the St. Tammany Farmer that tells their story. 

Text from the article found below: 

Local Man Recalls First 'Hovercraft'

In 1959, the SR-N1 hovercraft whizzed over the waters of the English Channel on a cushion of air, giving the world its first look at a revolutionary new means of transportation—the air cushion vehicle (ACV) or Hovercraft.

Sixteen years later in New Orleans, two of the three members of the little
hovercraft's crew reminisced about the pioneering adventure, which has led the way to air cushion vehicles and ships being developed for the U.S. Navy at the New Orleans Operations of Textron's Bell Aerospace Division.

Peter (Sheepy ) Lamb, a retired Royal Navy commander and now a senior consultant for British Hovercraft Corporation, was the SR-N1's skipper. Bell's Director of Engineering, John B. Chaplin, served as the hovercraft's navigator. Chaplin lives in Riverwood near Covington.

A video documenting the first public hovercraft flight
Click on the "play triangle" to view the video

Commander Lamb and Chaplin recalled that the third crew member, Sir Christopher Cockerell, known as "the father of the hovercraft," was demoted from "VIP" status to able-bodied seaman when the SR-N1 ran low on fuel during the voyage and the nobleman was ordered by Lamb to pump fuel by hand to keep the engines running.

"Sir Christopher was certainly perturbed at first," Chaplin said, "but he was too busy to remain miffed very long."

"None of us will ever forget that day," commented Lamb, as Chaplin smiled reflectively and nodded his agreement. Historians in the Air Cushion Vehicle (ACV) field have compared their voyage to the Kitty Hawk success of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

The SR-N1 assignment was to be one of many for Lamb, who served as chief test driver for British Hovercraft in the early years of ACV development. "I was an aircraft test pilot and then was assigned to investigation the Hovercraft idea."

Lamb and Chaplin have established themselves internationally as leaders in the ACV-SES field, and work together frequently. Bell Aerospace is the U.S. licensee of British Hovercraft, so the two old "shipmates" lend their years of experience to the development programs underway at Bell for the U.S. Navy.

The SR-N1 in action in 1959

One such joint project is the development of a large, multi-thousand-ton Surface Effect Ship (SES). During his New Orleans visit, Lamb toured Bell's test laboratory area, where scale models of the large SES are tested and evaluated.

"I was totally impressed with what I've seen here," Lamb remarked. "There is a SES tow tank model being shipped to a Navy laboratory in Virginia. The model is nearly as big as the SR-N1!

The amphibious assault landing craft LC JEFF (B), a 160-ton ACV being built at Bell's New Orleans Operations for the U.S. Navy, was given the once-over by Lamb, who had only seen pictures of the craft in England. 

"It is a very impressive craft, and it looks right," Commander Lamb commented.
Bell is planning to begin tests of the 50-knot LC-JEFF (B) in the New Orleans area during mid-1976.

"There has been a 16-year research and development period since that first voyage with an ACV across the Channel," Lamb reflected. "It's been a slow process, but it is most satisfying as you look back. Progress never as quick as you would like it to be at the time. Bell has done a magnificent job with the whole concept of the ACV and SES. I knew the potential of these craft long ago, and I'm happy that others now agree with me."

Seated across the table from Commander Lamb, Chaplin nodded his own agreement.

Farmer, January 1, 1976

See also:


Another documentary video

Fourteen years after the first official test of the hovercraft, in 1973, the latest version of the developing surface-effect ship was tested in the waters of Lake Pontchartrain. 

Click on the images to make them larger. 

Friday, November 18, 2022

Dairy Diaries by Jerry Bruhl

 Jerry Bruhl ran a dairy business just north of Covington for 20 years between 1965 and 1985. His father Sidney began in the dairy business in 1947, shortly after the end of World War II, and other Bruhl family members followed, all settling in the area off La. Hwy. 25 halfway to Folsom, between the Bogue Falaya River and the highway. 

In a recent two-hour conversation, Jerry gave an extensive overview of the daily operation of a dairy, high points of his early life, and the progress in his neighborhood over the years. He started off by explaining that things were just getting back to normal after the WWII and people were getting into all kinds of businesses.  At that time, several dairy operations started "popping up" on both sides of La. 25 between Willie Road to the north and Bennett Bridge Road to the south. 

Jerry Bruhl

Besides Sidney's own operation, the other Bruhl dairies in the area included those of George Bruhl and Frank Bruhl.  Jerry explained that at the time, some enterprising people who had 15 or 20 acres of land decided that they would give the dairy business a try.  It helped that there were no stock laws at the time, and many of the surrounding acreages were "free-range," meaning dairymen could let their cows roam the open countryside during the day, and the animals would find their way back home at night to be fed and milked. 

The first thing someone going into the dairy business needed was a barn, he said, a structure with a milk room, a feed room and stanchions to hold the cows in place while they were being milked. Tools of the trade included milk cans, a strainer and a stool, Bruhl explained. 

Milking by hand, a person could milk about 15 cows in an hour and a half, he said. 

A video of Jerry Bruhl's recollections about the dairy industry
Click on the "play triangle" to view the video.

When his father Sid started his dairy, his kids were still in school, and they would all get up at 4:30 in the morning, help with the morning milking duties, and then go off to school. Then after school, they would help with the dairy chores again during the afternoon milking. 

Twice a day a truck came to pick up the milk but it  had to contend with roads that were mostly mud, with very little gravel on them. Sometimes the trucks would get stuck in the mud, and the whole process was in jeopardy because of the lack of refrigeration to keep the milk cool.

Situation Improves

That situation improved as the roads got better and the dairies put in "coolers" to keep  the milk chilled until the truck came to pick it up. In fact, the coolers allowed the milk to be picked up just once a day, instead of the earlier schedule of twice a day. 

But the milking had to be done, good weather, bad weather, hot or cold. "The only thing that would hold us up from milking is if the electricity went off. Then we would be four or five hours late," he said.

The hurricanes coming through would present a real challenge to dairy farmers who had to get the milking done no matter what. 

Jerry was 35 years of age when he started his own dairy in 1965 with 60 cows just down the road from his father's place. That number of cows allowed him to be milking at least 40 cows at any one time to keep up his production goals.

By the time he went into business, they had surge milkers, automatic devices that did the milking. There also came the time when there was no need for buckets or milk cans, since the automatic milkers could now put the milk directly into a stainless steel pipe that led to the bulk storage tank. Progress continued, and "it had gotten pretty modern by the time the individual dairy farms started winding down," he said. 

For some time the milk collected by truck was taken to Franklinton, where it was placed in big tanker trucks and shipped to New Orleans. Borden had a processing facility in Franklinton also, where they manufactured cream cheese, cheese and butter, according to Bruhl.

He talks authoritatively of the different breeds of milk cows, explaining things like butter fat percentages and the best kinds of cow milk for the different dairy products. 

Over the years, more and more small dairy farmers sold their milk to the cooperative Dairymen, Inc., he said. In time, another cooperative named Gulf Dairies was established and opened up another market for local dairymen. 

In 1980, the Bruhls moved some of their dairy operations to Tylertown, Mississippi, and David Bruhl, Jerry's son, managed that facility. That dairy remained in operation  until two years after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Milk from that facility was being shipped to Alabama and Florida. 

Jerry worked with his son in the early 1980's to help get the Tylertown operation off to a good start. 

The Decline of Small Dairy Farms

As the years went by, market prices became unstable as milk competition increased from other states and new technology enabled milk to be shipped greater distances.

As a result, many small dairies found that the price being received for their milk couldn't keep up with the cost of producing the milk. And the decline of small dairies accelerated. "All of these local dairy people gradually went out of business," Bruhl explained.

"It was a good life," Jerry commented. "A lot of fun, but it's an industry that should never have left. It was good for the parish."

Contributing to the end of the dairy industry in St. Tammany was also the increase in the value of land for residential subdivisions. Dairying required a large amount of land, and so did building neighborhoods of homes for people moving from New Orleans to St. Tammany. As soon as a large dairy farm was sold, a new subdivision would often pop up in its place.

In Jerry Bruhl's neighborhood, Mike Thompson, son of Delos Thompson, had one of  the last dairy operations. "The last one in St. Tammany, however, was Henry Mauthe," Jerry said. "He was a good dairyman, and he also bottled milk and made cream cheese."  His farm was in northwest Folsom, near Hay Hollow Road, pretty much where the train used to turn around and head back south towards Covington. 

Lee Road also had several dairies through the years, and about six to eight dairies were located around Folsom. 

Jerry talks about the "good old days" in his community
Click on the "play triangle" to view the video.

Close-Knit  Group

The area St. Tammany dairymen were a close-knit group, meeting periodically for bar-be-ques and other fun events. "We'd trade bulls when needed," he said. They would get together to help each other get the hay in from a field and grind feed together. It was a community.

"When I started here I used to get my bulls from St. Joseph's Abbey. They had a large registered dairy operation and even sold some of their milk." St. Joseph's dairy worked with local dairymen to help when needed. In fact, at the 1957 St. Tammany Parish Fair in Covington, it was St. Joseph's Abbey that won the grand champion honors in the dairy cattle exhibit, as well as the Champion Holstein honors.Jerry's dairy was located right on Bogue Falaya River, and the Abbey was located just a few miles downstream. 

School Bus Driving

He was usually finished with morning milking duties by 7 a.m., at which time he started his daily school bus driving job. That job outlasted his dairy business, and he drove the school bus for 25 years. "I was a lot younger then," he said. But it  wasn't too bad because his bus load of children were all the kids from all the farms up and down the roads in his community, so he knew all the moms and dads, he said. He retired from the school bus route in 1990.

The First Dairy Farms In The Area

"Donice and Delos Thompson were probably the first ones in the dairy business in this area," Jerry said in a recent conversation. "Overall throughout the Bennett Bridge Road and Willie Road area, there were  about 15 to 20 dairies," he recalled. 

Some of the dairy farms that were located in the Bennett Bridge and Willie Road area. Click on the image to make it larger. 

Crucial to dairy success was finding customers to buy the milk, and several local businesses bought milk from small dairy farms in the area, and then distributed it to local buyers. "Prats Dairy in Abita Springs was one of those outfits that would buy milk from us and resell it," Bruhl stated. 

Other milk customers were Sealtest and Browns Velvet in New Orleans.

In the mid-1980's, after his son took the dairy business to Tylertown, Jerry got into doing construction work. 

Grandfather Was In Logging

Jerry's grandfather, Emile Bruhl, had been in timber logging and used six-team oxen wagons to move the timber. He also helped train young oxen to work together with an experienced ox team. Once trained to work as a team, he  then sold the oxen to loggers and farmers. 

Emile also had his own beef cattle. Speaking of his grandfather, Jerry said that "our old grandpa was an enterprising person, he wasn't like us. He got things done."

Looking Back

Looking through some old newspaper clippings, Jerry found himself in a group picture taken in 1973 at Delos Thompson's camp on the Tchefuncte River during a dairymen's meeting 49 years ago. 

A 1973 article about a dairymen's bar-be-que for June is Dairy Month
Jerry Bruhl is third from the left.

Click on article above to make it larger and more readable

Milk Cans 

Who knew that old milk cans would be a sought-after antique collectible. He doesn't know what happened to all his old milk cans, but he wishes now he had kept track of them. After he got out of the dairy business, people started coming to him looking to buy his old milk cans, but he didn't have any. "They kind of got away from me," he chuckled. 

The Old Dairy Barn

In back of Jerry's house is his old dairy barn, an old weathered structure that has seen many years of service. After the dairy operation  moved to Tylertown, he used the barn for everything from raising quail, calves and hogs. It's fallen into disrepair now with hurricane after hurricane taking their toll, but many of the heart pine posts are still standing firm. 

Throughout the area and especially in Washington Parish, one can come across abandoned dairy barns, silent remnants to the thriving dairy industry of years ago. 

Sidney Bruhl's dairy barn built in 1947

Other Points of Conversation

In his interview, Jerry went on to talk about many other topics. The area in which he lives was "still in the horse and buggy" days before World War II . "We saw only two or three cars a day on the Folsom highway back then, but after the war, more people came", he said. 

The rural co-op brought them electricity in 1947, with a bare light bulb hanging down from the ceiling in each room. The phones came shortly afterwards, but with eight-party lines. So it took patience sometimes to make a call, and you never knew who was listening to your conversations. 

He was drafted into the Army in 1953 for two years, just two days before the end of the Korean War, so he wound up listed as a Korean War veteran even though he was stationed at an anti-aircraft unit in New Jersey. "Our job was to protect the Empire State Building," he said. 

The unit had five 90 mm artillery guns on ready at all times, just in case some plane tried to hit the Empire State building, so it was serious business. He said being in the Army helped him a lot, made him more responsible and "he had fun" at times. 

He had one or two other jobs before he went into his own dairy business. After coming back home from military service, he got a job with Blossman Gas Company. When they sold the company  years later, he decided to go into  the dairy business. 

His community service involvements included working with the Farm Service agency for a while, and he was also involved with the local Soil Conservation Service, of which he was president for 25 years. The agency tried to help the farmers of the area, he said,  because it was certain that they always needed help of some kind or another. 

He recently celebrated his 90th birthday, and his family gave him a birthday party. The Masonic Lodge in Folsom also celebrated his birthday with special recognition. 

A chalkboard unveiled at his home birthday celebration helps him keep track of his expanding family group. 

See also:

Dairymen Come To Covington

The story of Prats Dairy in Abita Springs

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Art Under the Oaks

 A monthly display and sale of art from artists across St. Tammany Parish is held in front of the old parish courthouse building on Boston Street in Covington. The event is called "Art Under the Oaks" and takes advantage of the shady moss-draped oaks in front of the landmark building. 

Here are some pictures of this weekend's artists and pieces of art. Click on the images to make them larger. The event is held in conjunction with the St. Tammany Art Association. Check their website for more information. 

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Three Rivers Art Fest - 2022

 The 26th annual Three Rivers Art Festival straddled Columbia Street in Covington the weekend of Nov. 12 & 13, bringing outstanding artists in a wide variety of media to the area for one of the South's finest juried art shows and sales. 

Chilly breezes had festival attendees digging out the sweaters and jackets to enjoy the outdoor event. 

Here are some photographs of this year's event and its offerings. Click on the images to make them larger. 

Traditional balloon archway


Food concessions

The Children's Area

See also:

Three Rivers Art Festival - 2016

Three Rivers Art Festival Flows Into Covington

Festival Facebook Page

Three Rivers Art Festival This Weekend