Now, about one of the Bezous…
Bezou was my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. A fine family, the Bezous – cultured, educated, Creole. Already I have mentioned her father, a medical doctor. I think I recall correctly that there was some connection with Louis Pasteur. Perhaps Dr. Bezou had studied under a student of Pasteur. Another Bezou, the brother of the doctor, was a judge, with offices in the Presbytere, next to the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. My grandmother’s nephew was the distinguished Msgr. Henry Charles Bezou, mentioned in the Olivier article. He of course was my father’s first cousin.
With that background, one person in particular from that family is remembered by me. I think I smile whenever I recall Uncle Albert. It should be noted that his name always was given the proper French pronunciation: al-BEAR, accenting the second syllable.
He was brother to my grandmother as well as her next door neighbor in their later years. Their relationship was not always cordial, however. She was totally deaf and though they would communicate in French, which she could lip-read better than English, there were misunderstandings. One such involved a small amount of money, which she probably had misplaced. It is mentioned here only to indicate that money was something Uncle Albert did not seem to care about greatly.
Uncle Albert was never seen outside his home without wearing his suit and tie. Although he always looked like a gentleman, he never had a job that I can remember. There was some talk about his once having had a travelling carousel, called flying horses in those days. Maybe he had something to do with slot machines too, better called one-arm bandits. But I don’t want to give the impression that he was an entrepreneur, because he almost never worked.
Whatever his source of income, he lived frugally, and everybody in my immediate family liked him. That was true even when he showed up at our door unexpectedly, usually about 11:45 AM or 5:45 PM, having arrived by the Desire streetcar. If my father happened to see him coming to the door, invariably he would say to my mother, “Time to put some water in the soup!” Then they would both greet him cordially, with smiles and authentic good humor.
Uncle Albert was a good conversationalist and story teller. In short, he entertained, always smiling. Like the other Bezous, he was cultured and loved the great operas. I don’t think he had a great voice, but he would sing a few measures of a familiar aria sometimes. I can still picture him with his hand shaking his chest as he sang in order to add a little vibrato.
My family was not the only one to be beneficiary of his impromptu visits. In fact, my father’s siblings were treated equally, as far as we could determine. However, Uncle Albert’s preference seemed to be the Guerin side, with perhaps only an occasional visit to one of the Bezou family.
World War I was kind to Uncle Albert. He was called to serve, and because of his fluency in French, was fortunate to be sent to Paris. As a member of the WW I equivalent of the OSS, he wore plain clothes, but still was recognizable as an American.
He was fond of telling of one incident which occurred on the Place de la Concorde one day when he was admiring the tall Egyptian obelisk. It was then that he overheard a French woman saying to her friend, “Look at that stupid American. He has no idea what he is looking at.” He then turned to her, and addressing her in her language, said that he was standing there surprised that the French would have placed an enormous phallus so close to the beautiful Church of the Madeleine.
Unquestionably, Uncle Albert enjoyed his government-paid stay in Paris. There was, however, one occasion in which he was slightly wounded in one leg. I do not know whether he actually saw combat, but somehow he sustained a shrapnel wound which stayed with him for the rest of his life. He sometimes found that his knee would bother him, but that was not altogether bad news. At such times, which seemed to happen in the summer months, Uncle Albert would arrange for treatment at the beautiful VA hospital, on the beach in Gulfport Mississippi.
It wasn’t Paris, but it was free.
I wish I could remember more stories.
Though Uncle Albert never married, he did offer once in mixed company, to the consternation of my mother and her friends, that he had had a mistress for 17 years. Maybe it was so; we never knew for sure.
What we do know is that his will was clear when he died. I do not recall what happened to the little house next door to my grandmother, but he did leave a little cash. It was dispensed equally to my father and his brothers and sisters. Without getting into the numbers, it was certainly enough to have paid for many meals.