9.28.2011

The Prosperous but Anxious Cold-War Years: Delgado during the '50s, Including Its Teaching Venture in Uganda

By: Bob Monie
In 1953, America, under the leadership of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, finally ended the Korean War and entered a period of prosperity, despite the anxiety of a Cold War with the Soviet Union and serious unresolved problems in the area of civil rights. Delgado continued its tradition of teaching aircraft engine repair and aircraft mechanics, though it no longer built planes or flew them as it had in the 1930s in Byron Armstrong's program.  Auto mechanics, begun in 1945 just after World War II, became especially popular among military veterans of both wars who attended Delgado under the GI Bill, one of the largest government subsidies of  public education in history (see fig. 1).  During the era of cheap oil, the auto dominated the American landscape as it never had before, and car repair shops opened throughout the city and along highways.  In a move many would later regret, electric streetcars were deemed old-fashioned—except to residents on St. Charles Ave., who would never let their streetcar be replaced by a bus-- and New Orleans Public Service (NOPSI) began to shut down streetcar lines and pull up tracks in favor of the seemingly more modern and advanced gas-driven bus. The plans of Mayor Morrison to build an electric monorail in downtown New Orleans were derided as visionary and impractical.  One can only dream that if electric mass transit had been a popular expanding field, Delgado just might have trained generations of monorail and streetcar mechanics!

Fig. 1 Auto mechanics students, some attending on the G.I. Bill, in the 1950's
Fig. 2  Model of Suburban House Designed by Delgado Drafting Student T. Meagher in 1950
 Many programs from the 1930s and ‘40s were updated to meet the basic needs of industry and the market. Carpentry and woodworking students practiced their craft on lathes still sharp and smooth-turning after decades of service. Bakers and commercial cooks filled the air with the aroma of freshly baked, yeasty loaves, spicy stews, and intricate souffl├ęs, prepared in ovens and on stove tops which, for all their years, still fired up.  Architectural drafting, now called building trades drafting, produced technicians, like T. Meagher,  able to design and model a typical suburban house or win first prize in the annual Home Show, then held at the Municipal Auditorium (see fig. 2 and 3). Instructor John Cabibi updated the printing program to include modern advertising copy and graphics, and published two textbooks on print shop technology, Copy Preparation for Printing and Elementary Printing: An Introduction, in the decades that followed (see fig. 4).  Future welders, machinists, plumbers, pipe fitters, sign painters, mechanical drafters, and interior decorators continued to learn their trade at the institution that was now called Delgado Trades and Technical Institute.

Fig. 3  Delgado Building Trades Drafting Students Making Models for the Home Show Building
           Design Competition around 1955
Fig. 4  Printing Instructor John Cabibi (Second Row, Left) Posing in Front of Building One, with  
           Some of His Students and Staff, Late 1950s
Works Consulted

Annual Progress Report 1956: Delgado Trades School.  New Orleans: Delgado, 1957.

Evaluation Report on an Educational Contract Between the Protectorate of Uganda and Delgado Trades and Technical Institute. New Orleans: Delgado, 1958.

Goldfield, David, Carl Abbot, Virginia DeJohn Anderson, et al. The American Journey. New York:
           Prentice-Hall, 2009.

Stone, Robert C. and Joseph Elwell Gordon.  Problems and Progress at Delgado Trades School. New Orleans: Delgado, 1960.

Thames, Marvin E, Sr.   The History of the Isaac Delgado Central Trades School. Diss. LSU, 1957.

Weidner, Edward. W.  The World Role of Universities, 1962.

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