New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Monday, May 20, 2024
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Pontchartrain Beach


Circa 1974 coloring book page.


Remember the Morgus movie (Wacky World of Dr. Morgus, 1962-which can be had from for 29.99)?

One scene had him hanging from the draw bridge over the Industrial Canal. Whenever we pass it now (not often) we call it 'The Morgus Bridge'.

See for some more nostagias.
Pontchartrain Beach was something we looked forward to all through the school year as kids--especially since we had one wild fling out there every summer, and that was it. Once in a while, we'd go out to see the free acts, but if we had already made our 'rides' visit, it was understood that watching acts was all we were going to do. Can still remember the look on the face of a girl from MA who had been a penpal for 10 years or so, and came to visit when we were both about 20. Apparently, she had never seen the likes of it (prob'ly didn't believe in that kind of frivolity up theah), and had a ball. Also remember going out there with a bunch of German seamen when I was at UNO--the Lutheran church had a seamen's mission on St. Charles, run by a minister and his family, and they mounted an expedition one evening. The guys who were looking for a big time were in the Quarter, so the ones who showed up at the seamen's house were the very young ones and the settled men. Usually they just wanted to get off the ship for a while, and brought some beer from the ship and visited at the seamen's house, but they were really good sports, and we had a terrific time showing them around the Beach!
You talked about your penpal from MA who was blown away by the sites and sounds of Pontchartrain Beach, which reminds me of a memory I have of a similar situation.

I was also in my early 20's when a cousin of my cousin spent a week with our families at a camp in Little Woods. At that age a camp is a lot of fun but we'd always get the itch (after a few days spent with old aunts and uncles and other 'adults') to go out on the town. So Terry and I decided we were going to spend a day in the quarter and I would show her the sights.

First stop--Pat O'Brien's. Terry, who was from Oklahoma, could not believe her eyes. She kept talking later about the 'Black guys who were so nice and brought cushions for us to sit on' (it had rained that morning so the waiters had earlier picked up the cusions on the seats in the patio). I never did figure out what was so exceptional about that--was it that Terry seldom was in contact with Black people in Oklahoma, or did she think Black people normally weren't nice, or was it the royal treatment of having someone bring you a cushion, or all of the above? Whatever it was, it made quite an impression.

Then we walked out of Pat O's with what was left of our Hurricanes in one of those boxes they used to put them in (do they still do that?). Awe inspiring--Terry was actually drinking on the steet, something you would not dream of doing in OK.

Turned the corner and we were on Bourbon Street. Among the many shocking sights was the antiquated fake legs swinging through the window at that old strip joint. Not to mention the homeless, the hapless, and the eccentric people we're so used to seeing in the quarter.

I haven't seen Terry in about 15 years, but I know that if we meet up again she'll talk about that day. Ain't New Orleans wonderful?

For some reason, my mother would never let us ride the Wild Maus. I can't exactly remember whether she thought it rickety, or the cars would come off the tracks because it jerked so badly, or if she feared spinal injuries! I felt very wicked when I took the bus to da Beach in high school with friends and rode the Wild Maus for the first time.

The Wild Maus & the Bug were my very favorite rides. I ALWAYS wanted to go on the Zephyr but I was a runt, and even though my friends got to go I wasn't tall enough until I was in high school.

Gawd, I hated that sign that said 'You must be this tall
to enter this ride!

Remember watching the Wild Maus from the ground? The center of gravity for the car was in a weird place, and when it cornered, it looked as if more than half the car was hanging in thin air. That's probably why so many mothers 'loved' it. Ah, The Bug--a real classic, and about my ultimate favorite. Liked the ferris wheel too, unless there was a storm blowing up and the wind started coming in across the lake. Yuck.

My favorite was the Bug. My second favorite was the big zephyr. I never cared too much for the wild maus. It scared me. I thought the little car was going to go right off the end. LOL

I loved the Penny Arcade--you could make ya'self a 'doubloon' with ya' name an' whatevah, you could get ya' pickcha' taken with ya' frens', an' best of all you could getcha' fawchin told by tha' creepy old stuffed lady in tha' fawchin tellin' 'booth'.

I remember it fondly. Plunk ya' quawtah in (was it a quawtah awe a dime?) an'na light went on an' she came to life--breathen' and heaven' and movin' ha' eyes an' ha' han ovah tha' cawds. Before ya' knew it, out came ya' fawchin on a little cawd. An'nen tha' light went off and she was like dead again.

I still have a fawchin cawd I carry around with me in my wallet. I don't know why. I just never had the hawt to pitch it.
Did ya'll grow up with the story about 'da lady who stood on the Zephyr, and her head blew off'?

The big clown head is my most vivid memory of Pontchartrain Beach. When I was very young, I had to look away when we walked past it. It was so huge to me, and somehow very scary - I guess it was only when I got a bit older that I could bring myself to actually look at it up close! I was a bit of a chicken - wouldn't go on the scarier rides - NEVER would go on the Zephyr. I loved the Penny Arcade, especially those machines where you'd get cards with photos of movie stars on them. Anybody else remember those?

I got a good laugh out of that legend. No, we never heard that one but we had one about the guy who stood up and got his head chopped off by the structure at the top that held the 'Zephyr' sign. We wouldn't even raise our hands above our heads--didn't want them to get chopped off too.