Muriel MacHauer planted a kiss on a stately Lakeview oak.
“My tree! My tree!” she said. Then she recalled the day in 1929 when her mother carried the tree to the corner of General Haig and Mouton streets.
“It was just a twig and she brought it home in a bucket,” said MacHauer, 90. The well-rooted oak in front of 6901 Gen. Haig St. is one of few tangible memories of her old neighborhood.
“I was so happy it was still here after Katrina,” she said. The 2005 hurricane and flooding that followed ravaged Lakeview.
“When we returned to examine the damage, we all cried and faced the great decision whether to rebuild,” MacHauer said. Her family and neighbors “began to reminisce about the good old days,” she said. “And I decided to save these old memories by writing them down like a journal.”
The stories that MacHauer gathered since 2007 make up her recently published book, “Lakeview Memories — Growing Up in Lakeview in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s.”
The book includes memories from more than two dozen former and current Lakeview residents, including Albert J. Derbes, Robert Roesler, Robert E. Smith, Richard Villarubia and the Connick family. Along with stories about Milneburg, Spanish Fort and the train called Smokey Mary, the book contains photographs and maps from the early days of Lakeview.
MacHauer will talk about and sign copies of her book at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the East Bank Regional Library, 4747 West Napoleon Ave., Metairie.
“Life is full of surprises,” MacHauer said. “Who would have thought a math teacher could write a book? But then again, I always loved to read and tell stories.”
MacHauer’s tales paint images of life in the early days of Lakeview, which she describes as “a unique community, wrestled from swampland on the southern shores of Lake Pontchartrain in the early 20th century.”
Her father, Walter S. Bonie, and mother, Evelyn Howell Bonie, bought their corner lot for $600 in 1924. MacHauer was 6 months old when they moved into the cypress house on piers. It was big and white and had a screened back porch where the family caught mosquito-free lake breezes. The dirt street out front was topped with oyster shells, and there were no sidewalks. But there were amenities, including a private cesspool and a cistern covered with a screen.
The Bonie home was among the few in Lakeview in the 1920s. The neighborhood was mostly “weeds and trees,” MacHauer said. Their nearest neighbors, the Fury family, lived around the corner on Turtleback Road, now Orleans Avenue.
Most children attended Lakeview public school or St. Dominic Catholic school, and summers were spent making mud pies under the house and picking blackberries while carrying big sticks to ward off snakes. After the seawall was built along the lake in the 1930s, summer days included wading in shallow water on sand pumped from the lake bottom.
Families suffered during the Great Depression, said MacHauer, the oldest of four children born at home with help from a midwife. Times were hard and “we all thought that children who went to St. Dominic were rich because their parents could afford $3 tuition each month,” she said.
MacHauer has fond memories of Lakeview school and its surroundings, including Singletary’s and Mr. Harry’s groceries, Mr. Dulio’s shoe repair shop and Mr. Evertte’s pharmacy.
“I remember the Touche girls crossing an old wooden bridge to catch the school bus at Bayou St. John and the lake,” she said. “Then the bus would pick me up and drive us to Harrison Avenue, where the bus filled up with Italian children.”
Two unmarried uncles lived with her family during the Depression, MacHauer said. Uncle Alfred planted a vegetable garden on the empty lot next door to help feed the family. The neighborhood was mostly open land where crops grew and goats grazed.
“Everybody helped everybody,” MacHauer said. “Kids would pick up cooking smells from the open windows and just walk in to eat.”
By the early 1940s, many of the neighborhood children were grown and gone. “All of a sudden, we had no boys,” MacHauer said. “They all went to World War II to save America.”
Among these young men was MacHauer’s future husband, David Henry MacHauer, who returned to earn a law degree and serve as a state senator and later as a traffic court judge in Orleans Parish. He died in 1972.
Muriel MacHauer studied at Newcomb College and became a math teacher. The MacHauers raised their family in a house on Canal Boulevard, near Filmore Avenue, which was renovated after Katrina.
Part of the homestead on General Haig Street was salvaged and used to build a new house on the old lot. MacHauer said she is watching her beloved neighborhood come back to life, thanks to pioneers of the 21st century.
Lakeview continues to grow and change with each generation, MacHauer said. But “our memories remain forever … and I have endeavored to describe the way it was.”