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Publisher and Contributing Writer

Feature Photograph: Interior of Toby’s Little Lodge in Opelousas, one of the best known restaurants in the St. Landry Parish area for over four decades, shown in 1982.

One of the city’s historic landmarks was recently lost when a fire destroyed Toby’s, also known as Toby’s Little Lodge in Opelousas. Toby’s started operating on the Sunset Road to the south of Opelousas as a restaurant in the 1950s. For four decades it had a reputation as being one of the best restaurants in the Opelousas area, serving some of the most delicious foods. But there is so much more to Toby’s story.

Arthur Etienne “Toby” Veltin — the man who started it all.

How It All Began

Toby’s is named for Arthur Etienne “Toby” Veltin, the man who started it all. Before he had a restaurant, Toby Veltin was a well-known sports figure in the Opelousas area. He was a popular football and baseball player. As early as 1907[1] he pitched for the Opelousas town baseball team where he was known as Toby the Mighty, and Toby the Ox[2]. According to news reports Toby could strike out as many as eighteen ball players, as well as hit a home run, all in the same game.

Toby the “Mighty”, sometimes called Toby the “Ox”, as pitcher for the 1912 Opelousas baseball club.

As some old timers in Opelousas claimed over the years, Toby Veltin was a star pitcher during his years with the Opelousas team and was often called one of the greatest baseball pitchers in local baseball history. With Veltin as pitcher, the 1912 baseball team was known to be one of the best in Southwest Louisiana during that year.[3] Some reports state Toby turned down major league baseball scouts on many occasions because he did not want to make a career of the sport. He had other ideas for his career.

Toby not only excelled in baseball, but was a famous football player for St. Charles College in Grand Coteau and Springhill College in Mobile, Ala. His popularity in sports made him well known in the Southwest Louisiana area and helped him become a success in all his business ventures throughout his lifetime.

Opelousas’ Famed 1912 Baseball Club:  Left to right on the front row are: John Brown, Charles Dejean, Jeff Aycock, Leo Dejean. Second row: Charles Nix Thompson, Allen “Pete” Dezauche, unknown, Sidney “Soapy” Dejean. Rear row: A. E. “Toby” Veltin, unknown, Armand Dejean, George Bienvenu and George Dejean.  Toby Veltin was the star pitcher, and Charles Thompson and John Brown were infielders. Arman Dejean was first baseman, Leo and George Dejean were outfielders, Soapy Dejean and Charles Thompson were infielders. Charles Dejean was a catcher.

Who Was Toby Veltin

Born on February 1, 1891, Arthur Etienne “Toby” Veltin, Jr. was the son of Arthur E. Veltin (1866-1940) and Julia Mornhinveg (1868-1920), the daughter of Christian Mornhinveg. Toby’s father owned a store located in Bellevue at Calleham’s Bridge, about three miles from Opelousas.[4] He also raised horses that he entered in all area trotting races of that time.

After his school education, during the early years of his career Toby sold insurance. He is listed in the 1910 US Census as being in the insurance business. He had other jobs as well. In 1917 he worked in the oil fields in Port Arthur, TX. In 1918, he was the manager of Studebaker Motors in Opelousas, and was described as a good salesman and a popular young man.[5]

During World War I (WWI), in 1918 Toby was drafted into military service. In 1919 he was serving at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland and was demobilized later that year after the Great War ended.

Returning to Opelousas following his military service, on September 15, 1920, Toby married Julia Rosa Boagni (1901-1990), the daughter of Joseph Moses Boagni (1864-1932) and Julia W Lewis Boagni (1866-1960). The couple settled down in a home on the corner of East Grolee and Oak streets in Opelousas. They had three children: Marjorie Joy Veltin Gaustad (1923-2015), Arthur E. “Manny” Veltin (1926-2017), and Charles Kingsley Veltin (1927-2007).

During the early 1920s and for a few years, Toby went back to selling insurance. He was employed by New York Life,[6] winning many awards for his work.

Toby Begins a New Career – Cedar Crest, Cedar Lane and More

After selling insurance, Toby eventually started the Cedar Crest Country Club and Golf Course in Opelousas, chartered on May 11, 1928. It was the first golf course in town.

(See Cedar Crest story here:

The Cedar Crest Country Club became the place for special events and activities in the Opelousas area. Private parties, banquets plus other civic and organization events were held there. It also offered entertainment opportunities like tennis matches, gun shooting events, plus golf tournaments on the green.

In 1929, at the same time the country club was operating, Toby and his wife Julia Boagni Veltin organized the Cedar Lane Supper Club. This was a private group that held dinner dances throughout the year. Eventually the Cedar Crest Country Club and Golf Course became the Cedar Lane Country Club that developed into a nightclub. By the end of the 1930s, the Cedar Lane was known as one of the finest entertainment spots in Southwest Louisiana.

Toby ran the Cedar Lane for some time, but others were also involved in its operation during the 1940s and early 1950s. During that time Toby was involved in other club and restaurant businesses.

In June of 1940, Toby had another business interest in Opelousas he called Toby’s Outside Inn, located at the Cedar Lane Road.[7] Ads for this establishment indicated the Inn featured barbecued crabs, also chicken, steaks, sandwiches and mixed drinks.

While the Cedar Lane continued to operate, under different management from time to time, Toby also had other interest in Southwest Louisiana. He opened a club in Lake Charles in 1942. In 1944 he opened Toby’s Hill Top Club on the Broussard Highway in Lafayette[8], and a short time later opened Toby’s Oak Grove Tavern on four-corners in Lafayette[9]. The tavern grew to be the well-known Toby’s Oak Grove that operated in Lafayette for years until just a few months prior to Veltin’s death in 1966.  

Although the Cedar Lane Club continued to operate in the early part of the 1950s, in 1952 the club’s ad in the Daily World stated Toby’s Cedar Lane Club would be closed for July and August and would reopen in September. Not too long after that year, the club was closed.[10]

Toby’s Little Lodge

With all his business interests, Toby also had what he called his camp in Opelousas on the Veltin property. That building started out as a tenant house for a large farm on the old Sunset Road, just outside of Opelousas, sometime around the 1940s decade. After Toby moved from Opelousas to Lake Charles, and a little later to Lafayette, he made this house his camp, or sometime called lodge. This was the place he would gather with his friends, cook, play cards, and drink.

During the early part of the 1950s Toby had a residence in Lafayette, where he operated Toby’s Oak Grove in that city. The Little Lodge was his weekend “camp” where he would spend time away from Lafayette and continue to entertain his friends.

In the middle of 1957, the group from Toby’s camp formed a membership organization, called Toby’s Little Lodge, Inc. It was chartered in 1957 as a non-profit corporation to cater in operating a club house and for food and dances and entertainment. It was only opened to members of the organization.

 In November of that year, it became a restaurant opened to the public, called Toby’s Little Lodge.[11] The restaurant advertisements stated it served Toby’s famous foods and master mixed drinks. It offered special dinners every evening from $1.50 – $1.75, with a child’s plate selling for sixty cents. It was opened to the public every day except Mondays and was also available for private parties.

Over the years others ran the place called Toby’s Little Lodge. In March of 1958 it was operated as a restaurant and entertainment place by Millie and Arthur Delorio, serving the finest in food and mixed drinks.[12] Millie ran the restaurant, and Art was the entertainment — Art with just his Piano on weekdays, and Art and his Trio on weekends. By October of 1958, the place became Levi’s Restaurant and Bar, with Levi Daigle providing the finest food and drinks to the public, and catering to private parties.[13]

March 1958 ad that ran in the Daily World announcing Toby’s Little Lodge, managed by Millie and Art Delorio.

Those businesses did not operate for very long.  In early 1959 it was again known as Toby’s Little Lodge, run by Toby himself. Between that year and 1963, it remained a private lodge, open for members only.

In 1964 it was again opened to the public as Toby’s Little Lodge, and in 1965 it was remodeled and reopened. At that time, it was run by John Kent, later the host was Bob Merola. But Toby continued to be involved in the business from time to time.

In 1966 Toby was diagnosed with cancer, received treatment and was released from the hospital.[14] Tragedy struck the Veltin family soon after his release. On Friday, February 11, 1966, A. E. “Toby” Veltin was involved in an automobile crash about four miles from Lafayette on the highway going to Opelousas. He died in the hospital from injuries he sustained in that wreck.[15]

New Owners – A New Toby’s Little Lodge

Following Toby’s death, in 1967 until early January of 1968, Marcel Laudumiey, who came to Opelousas from New Orleans a few years earlier to manage the Inn Hotel, became part-owner and manager of Toby’s Little Lodge.  When Laudumiey died in January of 1968, his ownership of the lodge was sold.

Gene Paillet, Toby’s manager, and later owner, from late 1960s until 1980s.

In 1968 Marvin Poole leased the lodge property, and from that year until the end of the 1970s, the New Toby’s Little Lodge was managed by Gene Paillet.[16]  In 1980, Toby’s children Margie Veltin Gaustad, Kingsley Veltin and A. S. “Manny” Veltin, Jr. purchased Toby’s Little Lodge, with Gene Paillet continuing as manager. When the business went into bankruptcy in 1985, the lodge was purchased by Kingsley Veltin and Gene Paillet. It operated for a few years and eventually closed.

Other Owners

In 1989, Bobby Dupre purchased the Toby’s Little Lodge property.[17] He opened it as a bar and restaurant for a few years, and also rented it out for private parties and activities. It later closed and remained vacant for some time. By 2003 it was home to the Toby’ Restaurant, Lounge and Catering Service, operated by R & L Enterprises, with Jim and Joan L. Roy and Rod Latiolais as owners.[18] That business operated for a short time.

Bobby Dupre owned Toby’s Little Lodge for several years, pictured in the early 1990s. (Photograph by Sherri Landry.)

In 2010 Wayne Doucet purchased the Toby’s property. In 2012, an article in the Daily World newspaper listed the property as Toby’s Lounge and Reception Center on Highway 182 in Opelousas.[19]

Doucet ran Toby’s first as a reception center and a public bar with live music on some nights. Eventually it became a restaurant and bar that operated in the well-known lodge building until it was destroyed by fire on May 16, 2022.[20]

Although the building that hosted Toby’s Little Lodge for almost half a century is gone, the story of Toby Veltin, the place that bore his name, and the people who made that place special, will live on to be handed down for years to come.

[1] St. Landry Clarion, Opelousas, LA, Saturday, August 24, 1907, Page five.

[2] St. Landry Clarion, Opelousas, LA, Saturday, July 27, 1912 – Mighty Toby Veltin

[3] Daily World, Opelousas, LA, Tuesday, April 10, 1962. – Story on Opelousas’ famed 1912 Baseball Club.

[4] St. Landry Clarion, Opelousas, LA, Saturday, January 3, 1891.

[5] Information from Patricia G. Procopi, Toby Veltin’s granddaughter.

[6] Clarion-Progress, Opelousas, LA, November 1, 1924 – Veltin Leads State for New York Life.

[7] Daily World, Opelousas, LA, Friday, June 14, 1940 – Ad announcing Toby’s Outside Inn would open on Tuesday, June 18, 1940.

[8] The Daily Advertiser, Lafayette, LA, Friday, September 15, 1944.

[9] The Daily Advertiser, Lafayette, LA, Sunday, December 3, 1950. Short Bio on Toby Veltin.

[10] Daily World, Opelousas, LA, Sunday, June 29, 1952.

[11] Daily World, Opelousas, LA, Wednesday, November 6, 1957. 1957 – Ad announcing the opening of Toby’s Little Lodge to the public.

[12] Daily World, Opelousas, LA, Sunday, March 2, 1958. 1958 – Toby’s Little Lodge open to the public under the management of Millie and Art Delorio. 

[13] Daily World, Opelousas, LA, Wednesday, October 29, 1958. – Levi’s Restaurant and Bar, formerly Toby’s Little Lodge, ad.

[14] Information from Patricia G. Procopi, Toby Veltin’s granddaughter.

[15] The Daily Advertiser, Lafayette, LA, Sunday, February 13, 1966, Page one.

[16] Daily World, Opelousas, LA, Friday, February 24, 1978. 

[17] Daily World, Opelousas, LA, Sunday, November 19, 1989 – Party Line by Athalie Dupre.

[18] Daily World, Opelousas, LA, Thursday, May 29, 2003. – Party Line by Athalie Dupre with information about Grand opening of Toby’s Restaurant, Lounge and Catering Services on May 20, 2003.

[19] Daily World, Opelousas, LA, Friday, November 23, 2012. Page five article by Herman Fuselier titled Effort to Save the Southern Club Begins.

[20] St. Landry Now, Opelousas, LA, Monday, May 16, 2022, article titled Destructive Fire at Toby’s in Opelousas by Bobby Ardoin, with photographs by Freddie Herpin.