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Blake Pontchartrain: Harry’s Dive Shop and the mysterious metal poles 

What are those metal poles doing outside the Airline Drive scuba center?

click to enlarge The four spear-shaped poles by Harry's Dive Shop are remnants of an electronic billboard.

Photo by Kandace Power Graves

The four spear-shaped poles by Harry's Dive Shop are remnants of an electronic billboard.

Hey Blake,

Every day I drive by Harry's Dive Shop on Airline Drive. There are four tall metal poles next to the building. Why are they there and what purpose do they serve?

Lee

Dear Lee,

  In 1970, Harry Caldwell dove into a business that has taught hundreds of locals how to scuba dive, and has sold them the gear they needed to do it safely. Caldwell originally opened Harry's Dive Shop at 1513 Metairie Road before moving to the 2500 block of that street and finally to its current location at 4709 Airline Drive in Metairie.

  A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Caldwell had worked for DuPont and the Atomic Energy Commission as a pneumatic instrument technician. He also worked for South Central Bell Telephone Company in Tennessee and Louisiana. His daughter Cindy Caldwell said an interest in scuba diving led him to teach courses at the Lee Circle YMCA as far back as the 1960s. At the time, people could buy diving equipment from an Army surplus store but there were no places to learn to use it safely. About 10 years after opening his own business, Caldwell moved it to Airline Drive, where he built a 16-foot-deep, Olympic-size indoor swimming pool for swimming and diving courses. Harry died in 1986, but his family continues to run the business. Cindy is a certified diving instructor and offers classes as well as selling scuba gear.

  As for the large metal poles outside the business, Cindy explains that they once supported an electronic billboard advertising Harry's Dive Shop and other businesses. The sign was erected about the same time Harry's opened on Airline Drive, but in recent years the sign rotted and was in danger of collapse. The sign came down, but the poles that supported it remain.

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