Rugby Military Academy
My mother sent me to Rugby thinking it would make me into a fine gentleman soldier. Little did she know that the exclusive school was exclusive for just about every bad kid in the city who got kicked out of public schools for whatever mischief they could perceive. Of course, there were also the rich goodie two shoes and a few normal kids.
Rugby was an all male military academy in uptown New Orleans, “on the Avenue” with the St. Charles street cars passing by within moments of each other. I was one of two of the youngest in the class of 18 who graduated. Homework was not the rule and was rarely asked for.
All the boys were dating and because by age 14, I had become a good dancer and mature for my age, I was making the rounds to all the different dances that abounded in New Orleans and nearby towns. I had a car at that age and was able to make the highschool dances, the sorority and fraternity dances, the church dances, the dances on the New Orleans Paddle Wheel steamboat that cruised the Mississippi River, dances at weddings, Junior Proms, Senior Proms and even at that age I was allowed entry to the Roosevelt Hotel’s "Blue Room" and "Fountain Lounge." Another point of interest about Rugby was that in my making the rounds to all the city dances, even to American Legion Halls and other out-of-the-way places, I always found other older schoolmates were making the same rounds to the dances. It was a small school, my class only had 18 students and the class before me only 9 graduates.
We weren't mischiefous, but we were down right foolish and sometimes honery. The Atheletic Coach was Jimmy Dean who never seemed to get out of my life as will be revealed later. On one occasion, an egg was thrown and hit him squarely on his bald pate.
The principal taught Algebra and had a hearing aid due to his age. We soon learned to hum at various pitches which resulted in his turning off his sound so that we could than talk in class.
The Chemistry teacher was a crippled lady who we always played tricks on. One time we hid her walking cane out the window. On another occasion we blew up Condoms with helium gas an they were left to float on the ceiling for a few days before it was brought to her attention.
There was an English teacher who left the room and we stacked all the desks against the door. When he opened it the desks went crashing loudly.
There was O.O. Stucky, the Administrator, who had a way of keeping one hand in his pocket and pretending to rub his privates as if no one was aware.
I was drafted to play on the Football Team. I was younger than the rest and all though stocky, never excelled in sports. I was a good sport and got beat up by the opposing teams incessantly.
I was also drafted to play on the Basket Ball Team. I didn't play much because I always threw the ball in the wrong direction. They called me the Dummy. So I quit.
My mother sent me to Rugby because she wanted me to learn the manly arts of soldiering. Just three blocks down at St. Charles and Napoleon avenues were two caddy corner drugstores – Walgreens and Katz & Besthoff. There were also two girls’ high schools. The girls were fascinated by the little tin soldiers who were dressed in spotless well-groomed "blues and grays."
Then I met Gloria. From very early in our relationship, Gloria caused me to wallow in the adoration she showered upon me. Little did I know that almost four years of my life would be placed generously in her lap. She occupied my last two years of high school and my first two years of College. I say occupied, because just after my "pinning" her with my Junior Class pin, we thereafter dated every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, of every week of every month for nearly four years.
That's truly being occupied. I was actually and fully engrossed from ages 14 through 17 with Gloria. Those were my conversion years.
Graduating Class of 1947
Standing Left to Right: Dan Ellis, Bob Paslay, Henry Melius, Bobby Peyroux, Jim Bollinger, Benny Hux, Joe Huttner, Kong Wong, Jonas Simon.
Seated Left to Right: Bootsie Henning, Tony Pizzolato, Russell Block, Harold Crouch, Don Randolph, Tommy Clements, Lapeyre.
Rugby Academy -- 1894 - 1970
In the 1880s, Joseph Hernandez, when president of the New Orleans and Carrollton Rail Road Co., that operated the avenue streetcar lines, purchased the St. Charles property at the corner of Bordeaux in 1885. Formerly owned by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the property featured a grand house which was set back from the avenue having grounds that extended to Carondelet Street.
The house had been built about 1866-67 by Mr. and Mrs. Daniel C. Aldrich as a classic three-bay, double gallery side-hall townhouse with “Italianate” styling. Hernandez transformed it into a “Second Empire” jewel it is today, after adding a third floor behind a mansard roof, a square stair tower and a collection of expressive dormers and features.
In 1903, Walter Catesby Jones and William Edward Walls bought the property, where Walls relocated Rugby Academy, which had been founded in 1894. At its new site, the mansion was converted for school use and the rear stables established as an armory.
Early descriptions of Rugby Academy describe it as a private school for boys that "attracted some of the city's most prominent families as patrons." And later, as a preparatory school for Tulane University.
As Rugby Academy's enrollment grew; so too did its need for classroom and dormitory space. In 1912, a two-story brick building was constructed between the Hernandez house and the St. Charles Avenue sidewalk, in a space that had once been a garden. The new building blocked the view of the Second Empire house, effectively eliminating its contribution to the avenue's streetscape.
In 1926, Mr. Walls demolished the service wing of the mansion as well as the stables in order to build his family home at the corner of Carondelet and Bordeaux where it still stands today.
After Rugby Military Academy closed in 1970, (John) Walls (the son) subdivided the property, separating the mansion and brick building on St. Charles from the family home at Carondelet.
The St. Charles parcel was sold to the Educational Research Center, which was later acquired by architect Lee Connell who had his eye on the architectural masterpiece hidden behind the classroom brick building.
Connell devised a plan to demolish the brick building, move the Hernandez house forward toward the avenue, then re-subdivide and sell the vacated land to help defray expenses. He and three investors bought the property in 1977, enacted their plan, then sold the partially renovated house