Thursday, August 13, 2015

Special Guest Post! Pontchartrain Beach, New Orleans

I am proud to present another "special guest post" today, courtesy of Ken Martinez, and his collection of vintage amusement park postcards. As usual, Ken has provided the commentary! Let's get to it:

Pontchartrain Beach - New Orleans, Louisiana

In this set of postcards today are images featuring Pontchartrain Beach amusement park in New Orleans. The park was located on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain at Elysian Fields and Lakeshore Drive. What I like about the cards are the classic flat rides and color mix of architecture on the midway. These are most likely from the 1960's or 70's as several of the flat rides shown here weren't introduced on U.S. midways until the mid-1960's and the standard chrome era for postcards seemed prevalent from the 1950's to the 1970's.

It looks like a busy summer day as fun seekers frolic on the midway. At center is a "Porky the Paper Eater" novelty trash bin which employed a vacuum suction device and a tape recorded vocal appeal to be "fed". Beyond the concessions to the left are two of the hills of the "Zephyr" wooden roller coaster designed by Edward A. Vettel.

The midway flat rides on view in this postcard from closest to furthest are: the entrance to "The Bug", a Harry Traver "Tumble Bug" ride, a Frank Hrubetz "Round-Up" ride called "Space Whirl" and a Chance "Trabant". The letter "G" on the "B-U-G" marquee recalls to mind a certain video game character from the 1980's.

The eerie two-level dark ride "The Haunted House" with its weathered fa├žade consisting of shingle roof, worn clapboard siding, ghoulish characters in windows and huge skull peering down at guests was one of several "fun houses" that existed during the park's history. Not the colorful kiosk to the left.

Here we have the "Around the World in 18 Holes" miniature golf course. Inscribed on the back of the card: "One of the most novel and picturesque miniature golf courses in the country is this popular attraction at Pontchartrain Beach. Each hole is designed to represent a glamorous foreign land."

I'm not sure what the "Skooter" was, perhaps a bumper car ride, but the facades and signage in this image are another great example of the fanciful architecture found throughout the park. Note another great looking kiosk next to the pal. The beach is to the left.

Featured here are two more classic flat rides: A Frank Hrubetz "Paratrooper" (Hydraulic Arm model) and a Chance "Skydiver" wheel. The "Skydiver" with its rotating "barrel-roll" cage cars was one of those gargantuan flat rides that could be seen from faraway and added dramatically to any park's skyline whether at a county fair midway, or amusement parks like Pontchartrain Beach and Arizona's Legend City.

Pontchartrain Beach closed for good after its 1983 season. Well that's it! I hope you enjoyed your postcard visit to Pontchartrain Beach.

Information source material:
Funland U.S.A. copyright 1978 by Tim Onosko
Roller Coaster Database
The Flat Joint

A great big THANK YOU to Ken Martinez, for sharing more from his collection, and for taking the time and effort to research and write about Pontchartrain Beach!


Nanook said...


In all my amusement/theme park travels, I somehow never made it down to Lake Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park. Seeing these images was certainly great fun.

Thanks, Ken, for sharing.

TokyoMagic! said...

I want to go to Pontchartrain Beach and go on all the midway rides....especially the Haunted House. Ken, any idea what happened to the land after the park closed? Condominiums? Thanks for sharing these!

Chuck said...

Love seeing these postcard pictures. There's a certain, special something about postcards of this era that really attracts me.

My grandmother kept a stack of postcards sent her by family on her kitchen windowsill, held together by a rubber band. There were pictures from all over the world, including a lot of the Pacific that my dad sent her while he was flying out that way from the mid-60's to the mid-70's. Every morning, she would change out the top postcard. She told me it was her way of taking a trip every day without ever leaving home.

Thanks for sharing, Ken!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, now I expect that you have been to every park in the USA, so it is surprising to me that you didn’t make it to LPBAP!

TokyoMagic!, I know, seeing these images makes me want to go there too. The Haunted House looks especially intriguing! It’s sad that so many of the amusement parks of the past have closed, often after many decades of providing happiness for so many people.

Chuck, I had an aunt who used to send me stacks of postcards that she had accumulated over the years; it’s all her fault that I have a postcard collection! But it was fun to get them and see what was in the new batch. There also used to be a small store near Pasadena - it mostly sold baseball cards and such, but there was a wall of boxes of postcards. I could pick out a big stack of “keepers”, and the proprietor would look at it and say, “Twenty bucks!”. Which was probably about 20 cents per card. One day I went in, and all the postcards were gone - the owner said that a dealer had bought the whole batch.

K. Martinez said...

Nanook, I went to Pontchartrain Beach for only a few hours, mainly to ride the Zephyr roller coaster. At the time I was more interested in spending time in the French Quarter than the amusement park. Ironically the French Quarter is still there and the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park is gone. Most of my amusement park experiences have been from the mid to lower half of the U.S. with a few up north. This was dictated by my treks across the country with WDW being the primary destination.

TokyoMagic!, the Beach is open to the public, but the land the amusement park sat on is now home to the University of New Orleans Research and Technology Park.

Chuck, I'm glad you enjoyed these. There's something magical about postcards. They are the armchair traveler's window to the world. Most of my collection dates from the 1950's to the 1970's (standard chrome era) as it's my favorite era of postcards. Not only do I collection Disneyland and amusement parks, I also collect from certain American cities.

Major, I used to love going to the postcard conventions and antique stores, but after discovering eBay, I must've gone totally nuts. One of the things that always gave me a rush at the conventions is when I would find a rare Disneyland postcard from a seller who was unaware of the value and had it marked at an extremely low price. I snatched those up fast. Now that was a rush.

Major Pepperidge said...

K. Martinez, I loved going to local postcards shows! Early on, I needed lots of cards, and would come home with a bunch each time. Now I only need the rare ones, and they are expensive, so when I do go to shows, I often come home with only one or two items. Still, it is fun to go through my binders and look at them all over again.

Nancy said...

These are wonderful!! I love the second and third the most, and the haunted house is so cool. at the park we went to growing up, West View Park, our haunted house was 2 levels as well. This looks like such a fun place, with all the good rides. The Round-Up was my favorite! :)

Thanks so much for sharing them. As a postcard collector myself, I am properly envious.

K. Martinez said...

Nancy, I'm so glad you're enjoying the postcards. I've heard about West View Park as Pennsylvania is legendary for its great old time amusement parks. Stay tuned! One of your home parks may show up here. It's also great to hear from another postcard collector. Thanks for the kind comments.

Major, I do love the conventions, however the one I go to it seems the inventory is always the same with no turnover. It's very frustrating, so it's eBay that's now my main source for postcard collecting. Thanks again for allowing me the opportunity to share these with your readers.

Unknown said...

If you'd love to know more about this charming, entertaining amusement park in New Orleans (1928-1983), you can visit the Pontchartrain Beach Memories site on Facebook. Lots of details and photos from beginning to end!!|