In 1929 my Uncle Paul Callais, Jr. was 27 and took a job as a streetcar conductor in New Orleans. He got the wandering spirit.
BAD DECISION! That same year the bloody streetcar strike of 1929 began.
Next he sold insurance for National Life, owners of Radio Station WSM (We Shield Millions) and the Grand Ole Opry. That opened many doors and he even sold my mother a policy for me before I was christened.
After moving to Metairie in 1940 he married Gertrude Toups. They were evidently late bloomers, as he was 38 and she was 35. They had no children.
After she died he married a widow, Nelka, and his stepdaughter, also Nelka, married Paul’s nephew, Dudley Callais. Family connections.
His sister, Elizabeth (Lizzy) often visited and she met an Irish Italian named George Styron. They married, moved to New Orleans and their only offsprings were identical twins, Ronald and Donald.
We became lifelong friends and they loved to visit their country relatives. With our cousin Lorris Callais, Jr. (Jun) we formed a cowboy and Indian quartet that would have rivaled any “B” movie cowboys.
Jun was a great villain, but he always had to die in the end, a part he disliked but he was always out voted.
Jun had three sisters, Rose Mary, Beatrice and Camillia. He was born in1930, married Patty Gisclair in 1952 and they had three children, Rhonda, Errol and Ederett. He died of pancreatic cancer in 2004 at age 73. He had worked for Exxon for 40 years.
My Dad worked for the Texaco distributor, and Uncle Lorris, Sr. was the Pan Am distributor. One day, Jun stopped in a Pan Am Tank truck and said “hop in”. We drove to Lockport and filled the big tank with Texaco.
“We do this all the time,” he said. “When Texaco runs out, they come to us.”
We had a good laugh and a new secret.
Once I was asked to produce a charity talent show with local and regional celebrities and I asked Jun to be in it.
“I have no talent,” he said.
“I’ll make you some,” I said.
I blacked his face and showed him how to pantomime Al Jolson singing “Mama”. “The Jolson Story” was a popular movie and he was a big hit, however he chose not to follow that career.
The Styrons would visit often in George’s 1932 Lafayette, which was bigger than a modern minivan.
Since I was eight I looked forward to my vacation with the twins in New Orleans. The ritual was a visit to Pontchartrain beach, (our Disneyland at the time), a picnic in City Park, a visit to Audubon Park Zoo, a ride on the miniature train, and hot dogs and popcorn. Their address was 8636 Plum Street, uptown. I never forgot it.
Aunt Lizzy died of cancer at age 42, the only one of Paul and Irma Callais’ nine children who did not live past eighty.
Donald and wife Anna had four children: Elizabeth, Donald, Jr., David and Robert. He retired from his 30-year army career as a Lt. Col.
He died in 2013 at the age of 82 of Parkinson’s disease.
Ronald followed his Uncle Paul with National Life and retired a district manager. Ronald and his wife Joan had three children: Leslie, Ronald, Jr., and Richard.
He died from a lawn mower accident in 2013 also at age 82.
When people referred to them as the “two twins” I would ask, “How many does it take?”
On our trips to Audubon Park, we always visited Meteor Rock. Everybody knew it was not a meteor, just a rock left over from the last ice age.
If New Orleanians had inhabited the earth then, there would have been no ice age. They would have shaved and crushed the ice, sprinkled it with flavored water, put it in a cup and consumed the whole thing.
That concoction has a name, but I forget.
Posted on Tue, November 11, 2014
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer