91-year-old retires from private club

November 12, 2009 10:56:51 AM PST
Most people retire around the age of 65, but not Belton 'Cal' Calmese.The 91-year-old is turning his notice on Thursday to The Cliffdwellers Club, 200 South Michigan Avenue, a private club for people who promote the arts in Chicago.

Born in Mississippi, Cal is the grandson of slaves. He farmed until he was drafted into the Army for World War II. In 1946, he joined the Pullman Porters and worked on the Santa Fe Railroad as a chef until the mid 1980's, meeting everyone from movie stars to presidents while traveling back and forth from Chicago to Los Angeles.

"Oh, yes President Truman ... I met him. I also got a chance to a chance to see President Kennedy," said Calmese.

Calmese spent 40 years as a Pullman Porter chef on dining cars. In those days, all of the Pullman Porters were called "George" after George Pullman. It was demeaning term, but Cal didn't let it bother him.

"They'd call you George or they'd call you boy ... something like that," said Calmese, who didn't let it get to him. "Oh, no, no, no chance of that."

Calmese said he just did his job.

"Yeah, that's right. That's why you see me here today."

For a century, The Cliffdwellers Club has hired retired railroad waiters. Cal is the last survivor.

By the way his retirement should be long. His mother is 108.


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