St. Tammany Parish Government has declared 2018 as “The Year of the Senior,” and the St. Tammany Farmer is joining the celebration by profiling each month a local senior citizen who continues to positively impact our parish. This month, we feature Allen Little.
Allen Little has walked the boards of the Slidell Little Theatre stage hundreds of times, and he’s directed several dozen plays there to boot.
His first acting experience, however, came on a streetcar in the 9th Ward of New Orleans sometime in the late 1940s.
Little’s father was in the military and his mother worked, so he spent many of his early days with his maternal grandmother. They’d often ride streetcars for hours to pass the time, catching a line that started at Jackson Barracks, continuing on to St. Claude Avenue and then transferring to many other points in the city.
Until the streetcar transfers would run out, that is, and grandma would send little Allen to the front of the car where he pretended to have lost his transfer ticket.
“Tell him you lost the transfers and that your grandmother is angry with you,” Little said, puckering his face and conjuring his best impression of his grandmother.
“The driver, he’d give me the transfers, and we’d just ride all day long,” Little said. “I’m sure a lot of my creativity came from (my grandmother.) She taught me a bunch of stuff, plus she allowed me to do a lot of things that (my) parents wouldn’t have allowed me to do.”
Little, now 75, has spent a lifetime having fun, even when he’s working at Chateau Bleu — the catering business he and his wife, Kathy, have operated for decades from their century-old home located only steps from the historic railway that knifes through Slidell.
Little’s résumé reads more like a list of dream jobs for the buttoned-down set. In his younger days, he served as president of the Slidell Jaycees, which put him in charge of the civic group and its many worthwhile programs.
It also gave him a chance to stage one heck of a Carnival ball each year for the club. It’s that experience that led the board of directors of the Slidell-based Krewe of Perseus to ask him to be their captain in 1981.
“I wasn’t even a member of Perseus, but Violet Moore and Andre Saraille knocked on the door one day after (the former captain had quit). They said, ‘You have talent, and you do (Slidell) Little Theatre and you’re young,’ which I was at the time,” Little said.
As long as almost anyone in local theater can remember, Allen Little and SLT have been synonymous. His first role there came in 1978 when he played Captain Georg Van Trapp in “The Sound of Music,” and he’s been a presence there since.
Little’s name is even more inexorably tied to SLT these days, as a second stage there was named for him last year to honor his four decades of dedication to community theater in the Camellia City.
Not bad, he said, for a guy who changed majors enough times that it took him six years to graduate from Southwestern Louisiana University. He eventually earned a degree in music, and has used it well in his many artistic pursuits.
“I’m really a ham,” he said. “When Kathy and I got married, I wanted to go to New York or California (to try to get into show business.) But there was no way we were doing that, so I’ve been involved with (SLT) ever since.”
Little’s hectic schedule will slow somewhat when he steps down as Perseus’ captain following the 2019 ball and parade. He will have served as krewe captain for 38 Carnival seasons by then, and he said it’s time to step aside.
Little spends three days a week in dialysis, and his body needs time to rebound from the treatments. That cuts into the time he can devote to his many passions.
“My mother had Bright’s disease which gave her constant kidney infections,” he said. “I knew one day I’d be on dialysis … In the spring of 2005, the doctor told me I’d be on dialysis in six months … I went on a diet and took the minerals and things I needed to get well. I weighed 355 pounds and I lost 155 pounds in three years.
“I went on dialysis one month after my 65th birthday, but it hasn’t taken my spirit away.”
Nor will he let it diminish the things he loves. There’s Chateau Bleu and Kathy, of course, and there’s the theater with a stage that bears his name. He’ll continue as a member of Perseus, too, though the burdens of captaincy no longer will be his.
Any spare time, he said, will be devoted to another artistic endeavor.
“I’m writing a book,” Little said. “I’m already up to the age of 9 and I have 25 chapters.”
And how does the story end?
“I don’t know,” Little said. “It’s not over yet. There’s plenty more to come.”