Want a brick house? He did it all himself

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 17, 2001


PHOTO: CLARENCE PERRILOUX and his cousin Joseph dreamed of having homes large enough to accomodate their growing families. The men designed and built a brick-making machine and built their homes themselves. Clarence shows off a newer version of the machine. (Staff Photo by Amy Szpara) RESERVE – Imagine not having the money to buy a house, even though it’s a dream you have and need to come true to accommodate a growing family. Most people would save up for years, trying to get enough for a down payment or just live in what they had. But two Reserve men, cousins, decided they’d find a way to get their families in new homes, and they did. They built them with their own hands, starting with designing and making a brick machine and creating bricks every night after work. Clarence Perriloux, who did autobody work, and his cousin Joseph Perriloux, a mechanic, came up with the idea to build a machine that would help them build their homes in 1956, when both men had new families and strong dreams of owning their own homes. “Everybody told it us It ain’t going to work,'” said Clarence, who is still living with his wife, Celeste, in the home he built himself. His cousin, Joseph, and his wife, Ella Mae, are also still living in their home that was built with the machine. According to Clarence, he and his cousin found a brick near Fifth Ward Elementary School, which was then being constructed, and designed the machine after the brick. The machine, which they perfected after a few misses, was designed to add cement and sand into a box-shaped, steel container that sits on top. Then the lid is closed down on the liquid, and a vibration hardens the materials. The lid can then be lifted and flaps come down to present the new block. Two blocks can be made in one minute. Coloring can also be added to give the bricks a pink tint. Back when the two cousins built their homes, gravel was $1 a yard and sand was $1.25 a yard, so they would wait until they had enough money to buy supplies and purchase their materials a little at a time. According to Clarence, he found a photo of a house in a magazine that he liked and took the floor plans of that house for his own home. He began by constructing the steel window frames, then built the house to fit those. “I didn’t have the money to have the house I wanted built, and I’m not lazy,” said Clarence. He said the materials weren’t expensive, but the labor was the hard part. They would buy two to three bags of cement a week, and work on his house one week, then Joseph’s the next. “We really worked it together,” said Clarence, adding that his cousin recently had a stroke and is no longer able to get around as he did before. The men threw the machine away years after they had finished their homes, but about two months ago Clarence decided to build another machine to show his children what their father had done all those years ago. Though both houses now have more modern bricks covering the original blocks, only because they got really good deals on the bricks, their homes are very sturdy with the thick blocks that originally housed their families. “We never started and stopped. We never had any doubt. When I get ready to do something, I do it,” said Clarence. The cousins applied for a patent many years ago but never followed through with it. Clarence said he is now leaving the machine design and the new machine to his children. Clarence said brick making was a hobby for him. “It was just like playing ball,” he said. He and Joseph would come home after work and make about 60 or 70 bricks when they could afford it. Clarence’s children are amazed at what their father accomplished all those years ago, though their father doesn’t think it’s that big of a deal. He sees it as something he wanted to do and wasn’t going to stop working on until he finished it. Both men were mechanical types, said the Rev. Steven Perriloux, Clarence’s son who is now minister at Riverlands Christian Center in Reserve. Still, when Steven saw the new version of what his father and second cousin had made in the 50s, he was astonished. “I thought it was amazing. Think about it. It’s pretty amazing. I’m going to learn how to use it. I can use it on my church property,” Steven said, and added that he is proud of what his father was able to accomplish.