What? You Don’t Have Five Barns Full of Parade Floats? Weird.

August 30, 2011
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My Great Uncle PJ Allen was a man who danced on Broadway in the 1930s and early 40s, but then moved back to Texas in the late 40s to be closer to his family and start a Parade Float business. Because of course he did.

We are now lucky enough to now be the caretakers of his body of work. Or some of it. And, as I’ve mentioned, I feel so honored to have known him and spent time with him. He was smart, interesting, and hilarious…and I knew this, even as a small kid. I just didn’t understand what the hell he was talking about. But I do remember him being the first adult who talked to me like I was an adult. And oh-what-I-would-give to hear his stories now. Especially those involving Cole Porter. I’m just saying.

Of course, when I was younger I didn’t get it.

I thought it was weird to have a great uncle who made parade floats. Perhaps even embarrassing to have a great uncle who wore a toga to Easter brunch. But now I understand how beyond wonderful it is.

So then you can understand how I’m a bit conflicted that my mom and dad decided to auction off most of his cool weird awesome creations next month. (Details. Photos. Etc.) Of course, I get it. Because seriously, why in the heck would we want all this stuff just silently taking up space. But, I feel surprisingly nostalgic about letting it go. It’s like it all belongs together or something…a little family of misfit toys who’ve been stored side-by-side for six decades.

Of course, the pragmatic side of me wins this one. Because, first, hello, Hoarders.  And secondly, this stuff is serving no one stacked high in barns. My great uncle created things to be enjoyed. And hundreds of people will now be able to enjoy bits of his creations.

For me, I love just knowing that this all exists. That people are so uniquely creative and bizarrely talented that they can conceptualize happiness from nothing. And, the fact that he made his living (and quite a good living, actually) doing what he loved…It’s really inspiring.

PJ passed five years ago on Memorial Day. And, when I say that something drew me back to Central Texas, if I’m being honest, I’ll tell you that I believe he had something to do with it. If I’m tipsy, I’ll say he called us here. I still don’t completely understand why, but I believe he had a good reason. And I’m so proud to be in his parents’ home.

I feel like I’m learning more from these strong, proud, past people every single day. And I’m thankful. Specifically, PJ Allen, thank you for being awesome. For doing what you loved. And for being who you were.

I’m so glad we’re made of the same float materials.

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  • Reply Lisa September 12, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Ah such a shame I discovered this 2 days too late. Did you sell it all? The large iron washing pot would be greatly loved and used here..

  • Reply A Voice From the Past | Blog con Queso September 21, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    […] With her superhuman internet search powers, she found an obscure interview that my great uncle PJ did in the 1970s about his parade float business. […]

  • Reply Ines January 14, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Dear Laura,

    I cannot find an email address to contact you on your blog (although that is most probably due to the fact that it’s almost 5 a.m. here in Germany and I should have gone to bed some hours ago), so I’ll try it here: I came to your blog via Jenny (Bloggess) and saw those unbelievably great items that were (or were not, at least perhaps not all?) sold at the auction. I scrolled through the pictures and felt the strong need to ask you if, possibly, the following picture might NOT have been sold (and therefore, be available for sale):


    I don’t dare to really hope for it, since it is such a great piece of art, but since it does almost never happen that I fall in love that instantly with something, I thought I should give it a try.

    I would really appreciate it a whole lot if you could let me know if YOU know if the piece was sold, or if you could tell me who I could/should ask!

    Thank you!


    P.S. Sorry for eventual typos/bad grammar: late late hours and foreign language is not a really good combo…

  • Reply Ines January 14, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Ahm, forgot to say that I saw the link to the auction house, but thought that, since the auction was in September, the auctioneer is probably not in charge for the rest… If I am wrong, I will gladly email him/her!


  • Reply The Last Auction. | Blog con Queso March 2, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    […] have our third and final auction of my great uncle PJ Allen’s estate. As you may remember (last fall I wrote about this and Jenny did too), PJ was a professional Parade Float and party decorator for festivals, parades, […]

  • Reply Have You Ever Been to a Barn Full of Vintage Parade Floats? | Jennifer Perkins March 15, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    […] all started when the lovely Giddy Girlie sent me the link to a blog post about an auction up the road from Austin in Kyle. Always up for oversized kitsch and a road trip my […]

  • Reply Susan Jose December 28, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    Hi Laura, I purchased a painting in Round Top Texas around 2012 that belonged to P J Allen. It is a large painting of a nude female with large roses on each side of the painting and she is holding a basket of smaller roses over her head. I am trying to find more information and history on the artist. Do you know anything about the artist. It is difficult to read the signature but it looks like Louis Clairmont. I loved reading and seeing P J Allen’s story and pictures of his float designs.
    I have the painting hanging in my dining room and everyone loves this painting. Thanks so much,
    Susan Jose, Fort Worth

    • Laura Harrison Mayes
      Reply Laura December 29, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      Susan, I remember that painting! It hung in the entry hall of PJ’s house. I will ask around and try to find out more information for you. I love that it found a new home!

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