When Kenner decided recently to auction off some of the Pontchartrain Beach amusement park memorabilia the city has in storage, it drew the interest of more than a dozen potential buyers — and made one person unhappy.
The lingering nostalgia for summer days spent riding the park’s signature roller coaster, the Zephyr, and playing carnival games on the midway is apparently still powerful enough to drive a healthy market for items from the park’s haunted house and some other odds and ends.
But for Jay Batt, these things were something like family heirlooms, and the former New Orleans city councilman was not pleased to hear they might be snapped up by strangers.
“It would’ve been nice — proper — for us to be involved, instead of just anybody from the public,” Batt said. “We were the ones who originally donated the property.”
Batt’s family owned and operated Pontchartrain Beach, which opened in 1939 at the lake end of Elysian Fields Avenue and closed in 1983. His uncle was the company’s president; his father was vice president.
In the 1980s, Batt’s family donated items from the park to the administration of former Kenner Mayor Aaron Broussard. And the city has had some of the keepsakes on display for years. A piece of the Zephyr and the sign that hung above the entrance to the Bali Ha’i restaurant are in Veterans Park next to City Hall.
Batt said his family kept some mementos from its days running Pontchartrain Beach. But some that were in storage units in New Orleans and others that were inside his family home did not survive Hurricane Katrina, he said.
Nonetheless, Batt said he isn’t going to try to stop the auction, the details of which are still being worked out. But he said he would appreciate a heads-up next time Kenner is going to dispose of anything from its collection.
“I just expressed to Kenner that if, going forward, they want to liquidate more things, we’d like to be made aware of it,” Batt said. “And they said, ‘Not a problem.’ ”
He added, “Some items I may want to reacquire and give to my children who never knew the amusement park but can have a little bit of history for them to pass on.”
Appel, opponent gain nods from former foes
State Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, opened last week seeing one of his former challengers endorse his lone remaining opponent in the Oct. 24 election. He finished it by picking up the endorsement of another former challenger, who also happens to chair the influential Jefferson Parish Republican Executive Committee.
Polly Thomas endorsed Appel in the middle of the week after dropping out of the race last month. A couple of days earlier, Scott Songy — who also dropped out of the race for the Metairie-based seat — endorsed Appel opponent John LaBruzzo, a former state representative and a Republican.
Thomas said she sided with Appel, the chairman of the Senate’s Education Committee, because he is “a dedicated legislator who cares about the education of our children.” “He has immersed himself in forward-thinking policy that has improved accountability and student achievement in our schools,” Thomas said.
The parish Republican committee she chairs also has endorsed Appel.
Songy, who was paralyzed in an accident nearly 30 years ago and uses a wheelchair, said he opposes Appel because he could never get a meeting with the senator about state budget cuts that affected his home health care. He then met with LaBruzzo about the issue and decided to back him after filing papers to withdraw from the race.
“I feel that John LaBruzzo’s experience as a former member of the House, coupled with his compassion for helping others, makes him the best and most qualified candidate,” said Songy, who is not registered with a major political party. “He took the time to meet with me at my house, hear my concerns and offered ways to help me and others in my situation.”
Because of his late withdrawal, Songy’s name will remain on the ballot when voters go to the polls next week. A notice in polling locations will explain that he has withdrawn from the race and any votes cast for him will not count.
Jefferson Democrats short on candidates
There are so few Democratic candidates running in heavily conservative Jefferson Parish that the party’s executive committee in the parish recently had to ask its members to “please consider” supporting Republicans in some key races in the Oct. 24 primary.
The recommended candidates include Parish Councilman Elton Lagasse in the parish president’s race as well as Councilman Paul Johnston, who is running for re-election to his District 2 seat.
Other Republican candidates the committee wants Democrats to consider voting for are Lee Price Barrios in the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s 1st District, Lottie Beebe in BESE District 3 and Stephanie Hilferty for state House District 94.
The committee officially endorsed only Democrats, some of whom are the only Democratic candidates in their races. Endorsements went to John Bel Edwards for governor; Kip Holden for lieutenant governor; Chris Tyson for secretary of state; Geri Broussard Baloney for attorney general; Charlie Greer for commissioner of agriculture; Charlotte McGehee for commissioner of insurance; Kara Tamara Washington for BESE District 2; Troy Carter for state Senate District 7; Kyle Green Jr. for state House District 83; Ebony Woodruff for state House District 87; Jimmy Lawson for Parish Council At-Large Division A; and Patrick Pierson for Parish Council District 1.
Compiled by Ramon Antonio Vargas
CORRECTION, Oct. 12, 2015: This story inadvertently omitted state attorney general’s candidate Geri Broussard Baloney from the Democratic endorsements list. She has now been added.