I just read Bryan Batt's memoir in which he talks about his family and Pontchartrain Beach. How did the Batts acquire the land? Do you have any information as to how the Batt family came to run such a large operation?
For folks out there who don't know, Bryan Batt is a New Orleans-born actor best known nationally for his role as Sal Romano in the hit television show Mad Men. His memoir, published in May 2010 and titled She Ain't Heavy, She's My Mother, is a tribute to his mom, Gayle Batt, who died in December 2010. Bryan's father John Batt was a member of the family that founded and ran Pontchartrain Beach.
In 1928, the first Pontchartrain Beach opened across the bayou from the Old Spanish Fort levee near the mouth of Bayou St. John. There were fun rides, concession stands, lunchrooms, a bathhouse, a boardwalk and a lifeguard at Pontchartrain Beach.
When the Great Depression came we thought the fun was over, but in 1933, the Batt family saved the day.
Harry Batt Sr. had started as a concessionaire at the old Pontchartrain Beach. In 1933, the company he worked for went broke, and he took over. Five years later, the Batts moved the site of Pontchartrain Beach to Milneburg at the end of Elysian Fields Avenue. It was on land recently reclaimed from Lake Pontchartrain, and Pontchartrain Beach Amusement Park obtained a lease from the Orleans Parish Levee Board to operate there. In 1939, the old amusement park near Spanish Fort was demolished.,
Before "the Beach" closed in 1983, patrons were treated to nightly shows, mostly of the circus-act variety such as balancing acts and human cannonballs. For a while they could watch trained dolphins or see magic shows. And every year the Miss New Orleans beauty pageant was staged there. I recall the biggest star that graced the stage at Pontchartrain Beach was an up-and-coming young singer from Mississippi named Elvis Presley.
Harry Batt Jr., who began working for his father in 1948, was operating the park when it closed in 1983. The lease was expiring and times were changing. At the time, he said, "Progress made the Beach obsolete."