Legendary Locals of Metairie

Chapter 3 - Boomers & Risk Takers

This website contains excerpts along with some of the 172 photographs in Legendary Locals of Metairie (Arcadia Publishing, 2013) by Catherine Campanella.
Use the links here to explore a sample of the book -- or purchase it for an in-depth view.


The Jefferson Parish population doubled in the 1960s, then tripled, then tripled again by the 1970s. Shopping malls, restaurants, and new businesses sprang up along the highways and major arteries of Metairie's 150 square mile footprint. Baby boomers were born in new Metairie hospitals. New schools, churches, and playgrounds were built.

Of the eight Metairie playgrounds only half are named in honor of Metairie citizens. They are Bright Playground on Cleary Avenue, Girard Playground on Irving Street, Miley Playground & Stadium on West Metairie Avenue, and Pontiff Playground on Palm Street. Girard Playground (officially Louis Girard Memorial Field) was named for Louis C. “Noot” Girard, Jefferson Parish superintendent of recreation and commissioner of the Dixie Youth Baseball program who passed suddenly at age 39 in 1963. Johnny Bright Playground was named in honor of the supervisor af Metairie Playground. When the playground on Cleary opened in 1965, he was honored for his dedication to the youth of Jefferson Parish. Mike Miley and Wally Pontiff Jr. are noted in this chapter.

During the 1960s Lakeside Shopping Center opened as an open-air double strip mall. The Do Drive-In replaced the old greyhound track on the DeLimon Metairie Road property. The Joy Bowling Center on Airline was converted into the Joy Theatre. In 1963 Joseph Dorignac, Jr. moved his city grocery to 710 Veterans Highway and Airline Bowling Center opened at 7401 Airline. In 1965 the Interstate-10 was butting through central Metairie and Jefferson Downs closed become Lafreniere Park whose ground was broken in 1977 – it opened in 1982. WestGate Drive-In which its first films in 1966. Our New Orleans Saints began practicing in Metairie on David Drive in 1967 and moved to their current facility on Airline Drive in 1995. Woolco Department Store opened its doors on Veterans in 1968 and the beautiful Metairie High School building was demolished. In 1969 the second span of the Causeway opened.

The Metairie Road Italian-American St. Patrick's Parade made its debut in 1971 after being organized by the clientele of Fulco's bar on North Turnbull. The 1970s brought a building boom along Causeway Boulevard and the new “town” Fat City developed by Ray Anselma, Joseph Peters, Joseph Marcello and David Levy in 1972.

The boom was slowing by the 1980s – most Metairie land was now occupied. Restaurant Sclafani closed in 1985. The East Bank parish office building on Metairie Road was demolished during the 1990s. Schwegmann Brothers sold its 24 store chain in 1996. The Zephyrs debuted at UNO’s Privateer Park in 1993 before moving to the $21,000,000 “Shrine on Airline" in 1997. At Clearview Mall the historic Maison Blanch department store was replaced by a Target store in 2002. The Jefferson Parish Public Library on West Napoleon Avenue replaced the Lobby library in 2003.

In 1995, at age 21, Metairie's own 2nd Lt. Rebecca Elizabeth Marier became the first woman to graduate first in class at West Point with a 3.95 GPA. She had also been captain of the women's tennis at West Point. At Metairie Park Country Day School Rebecca was senior class president and had lettered in volleyball, soccer, and tennis. From West Point she went to Harvard Medical School. Dr. Marier is now a surgeon.

Included in the chapter are Seafood City's Al Scramuzza who coaches at Johnny Bright playground, St. Angela Merici Church pastor John Clement Favalora who became the 3rd Archbishop of Miami, scientist Verne Tripp who pioneered use of the electron microscope and worked to unravel the mystery of cotton's properties to formulate Wasn 'n Wear clothing, and WWII Coast Guard coxswain Marvin Perrett who piloted Higgins-built LCVPs to the shores of Iwo Jima, Okinawa., and Nomandy on D-Day..

Metairie educators featured here are Paul Hubell (Metairie High School principal and Superintendent of Schools), Jefferson Parish School Board president and realtor Emile Gennaro, Lobby Library organizer Maurice Walsh, Jay Harney (principal of John Q. Adams and J. D. Meisler middle schools), and teacher Hazel Romano who also taught and choreographed Saturday Hop's Romano Dancers.

Pantera's lead singer Phil Anselmo, dancer Peter Gennaro (who choreographed the Broadway production of West Side Story and was awarded a Tony for his work in “Annie”), members of Louisiana Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees The Nobles, members of The Glory Rhodes (“I'm so Happy”), and Saturday Hop's John Pela all live/d in Metairie.

Business owners Charles Gennaro (restaurant owner, grocer, oyster dealer, and owner/manager of Gennaro Park baseball field), home-builder John Speir Treen, casket company owner Newton E. Shirer, Smoothie King and Queen Stephen Kuhnau and Cindy Zimmer, Zack's Famous Frozen Yogurt creators Mike Williams and Sam Holt, cobbler and WWII veteran Chuck Azzarello, and fried chicken magnate Al Copeland all contributed to Metairie's quality of life and economic growth

Public servants William J. Dwyer Jr. (first city marshal) and state legislator William J. Dwyer III,

parish president John J. Holtgreve, parish assessors Vernon J. Wilty Sr. and Jr., Louisiana Public Service Commission members George J. Ackel and Jeanette Lentini Ackel, Jefferson Parish Clerk of Court Jon A. Gegenheimer, Sheriff Alwynn Cronvich, Governor Dave Treen, state House of Representatives member David Duke, and parish council members Donald T. Gillen, Vial J. Blanke, and Cullen C. Shouest served Metairie and Jefferson Parish through much of its history.

Dave Dixon, and Bernard “Buddy” Saverio Diliberto, Tom Dempsey, Jim Mora, Dick Nolan, Wayne J. Francinques, and Otis Smith are sports figures who reside or lived in Metairie. As are writers Leon Soniat (“La Bouche Creole”) and Sister Helen Prejean (Dead Man Walking). Crime figure Carlos Marcello had two homes and at least one legitimate business in Metairie. David Ferrie, Gordon Novel, Perry Raymond Russo, and Dean Andrews were involved in the Warren Commission's investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy as well as Jim Garrison's trial of Clay Shaw – they all lived in Metairie.

Other books by Catherine Campanella:

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book is dedicated to the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation's efforts to rebuild and maintain the historic New Canal Lighthouse.

Excerpts from New Orleans City Park  (Images of America).

Contact Catherine Campanella