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JULIA STREET WITH POYDRAS THE PARROT

THE PURSUIT TO ANSWER ETERNAL QUESTIONS

artwork Courtesy of Marion J. Porter

Dear Julia,
Looking through a box of clippings given to me sometime in the past, I found the two pictured items regarding the Morning Star and the Como Club. If the Morning Star was a newspaper, I wonder what “school with votes” means.

Perhaps you can provide information on one or both.

Marion J. Porter
Metairie

While I was unable to find a definitive explanation of “school with votes,” the pairing of those two mementos is intriguing. Not only are the two items unrelated to each other but they are associated with opposite ends of the moral spectrum. The Morning Star subscription slip most likely dates from about 1915, while the card for the Como Club is most likely from the ’30s or ’40s.

The Morning Star was a local Roman Catholic newspaper that once served as the official journal of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. As The Morning Star and Catholic Messenger, it began publication in 1868. In 1882, Rev. Peter M. L. Massardier, then pastor of St. Theresa of Avila Church, purchased and shortened the paper’s name. From 1882 until it ceased publication in 1930, the publication was known as The Morning Star. In the mid-1910s, Morning Star offices were located at suite 205 in the Metropolitan Building. I am not sure what the paper meant by including on its subscription form a blank for “school with votes” but I suspect it may have referred to a fundraising campaign benefitting local Roman Catholic schools.

Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, the Como Club was best known as a notorious illegal gambling establishment. In other words, it was a bookie joint. The Como Club was located at 413 St. Charles St., in the section of St. Charles north of Lee Circle. From the early ’30s through the early ’40s, local law enforcement made numerous attempts to shut it down.


Dear Julia,
I would like to know the history on Thunderbird Beach in Greenwell Springs, Louisiana. Back in 1964 and ’65, our CYO school group took summer day trips to the area. There was a man-made beach and lake with Artesian well water, a long water slide and paddle boats. I remember a large pavilion with vending machines, and a jukebox and listening to “My Girl” by the Temptations. I found no information on the Internet. Please help.

Thanks,
Nick Compagno
Kenner

Thunderbird Beach first opened for business May 30, 1959. Located on Louisiana Highway 1019, off Greenwell Springs Road, the park was in its heyday through the ’60s and ’70s.

Lake Thunderbird, a 25-acre horseshoe-shaped man-made lake stocked with bass, sac-a-lait and blue channel catfish, was the main attraction. Water for the lake and an adjacent swimming pool came from the park’s own artesian well.

Amenities at the surrounding 60-acre park included a pavilion, swimming pool with a 70-foot-high water slide, bath house, campsites and barbecue pits. There was also an amusement area featuring a merry-go-round, Tilt-a-Whirl™ and a Ferris wheel.

A miniature train, the “Thunderbird Special,” a replica of a Missouri Pacific diesel locomotive, provided a scenic ride around Lake Thunderbird. For those who preferred to travel on, rather than around the lake, peddle boats were available.


Dear Julia,
Usually you answer questions in regard to New Orleans and not the neighboring suburbs, but if you don’t want to travel, maybe Poydras wouldn’t mind going into Metairie to help us with this question?

In the 1970s, GEX was located on Veterans Highway near David Drive. The building itself is still there and has been subdivided. I remember as a teenager going there with my mom, and you had to be a member of GEX to enter. What did the initials stand for, how did someone become a member, were there other locations around the United States and why did it close?

It it’s too hot for Poydras to fly, I understand.

Thanks,
Barrie Boutall
Metairie

Barrie, we answer questions as we get them. We get more questions about New Orleans, probably because the city is older and has more history to ask about. Poydras does fly to Metairie sometimes, looking for where Maison Blanche and Katz & Besthoff have relocated, but he avoids Kenner ever since the time he was brushed by a landing 737. Homeland Security investigated and added insult by taking away his pint of rum.

GEX was an acronym for Government Employees Exchange. The GEX store was a members-only department store open to members of the military and some labor unions. Located at 7000 Veterans Highway at David Drive, the local GEX was one of many such chain stores that operated throughout the country during the 1960s and ’70s. The chain was an arm of National Bellas Hess, a major mail order retailer based in Kansas City, Missouri. GEX stores faded into obscurity when their corporate parent failed in the mid-’70s. In ’76, the Metairie GEX location became a Robert Hall Village store.
 

 

Win a Court of Two Sisters Jazz Brunch

Here is a chance to eat, drink and listen to music, and have your curiosity satiated all at once. Send Julia a question. If we use it, you’ll be eligible for a monthly drawing for one of two Jazz Brunch gift certificates for two at The Court of Two Sisters in the Vieux Carré. To take part, send your question to: Julia Street, c/o New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA 70005 or email: Errol@MyNewOrleans.com. This month’s winners are: Marion J. Porter, Metairie; and Nick Compagno, Kenner.

 

 

 

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