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.
The lingering nostalgia for summer days spent riding Pontchartrain Beach’s signature roller coaster — the Zephyr — and playing carnival games 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,” said Batt, whose family owned and operated Pontchartrain Beach, which opened at the north end of Elysian Fields Avenue in 1939 and closed in 1983. “We were the ones who originally donated the property.”
Batt’s uncle was the president of the company that ran the park; 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 above the entrance to the Bali Ha’i at the Beach 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 kept 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 and 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 unload 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,” said Batt, a local businessman who sits on various civic committees. “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.”