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Friday, 03 October 2008


[EDITORIAL NOTE: Voting for the September 2008 Excellence in Storytelling Award is now open. The ballot is in the right sidebar and titles of the nominees link to the stories. Voting will remain open until Tuesday, 7 October.]

By Tom Speaks

Back in the 50s when I was growing up, I would spend a few weeks of summer recess from school with my grandparents (on my dad's side of the family). They lived in a small town and by that I mean a village of maybe 500 people.

Thurston, Ohio was something like Andy Griffith's Mayberry. It consisted of a barber shop, small mechanic shed, the churches and beer joints seemed to be in competition for their patrons, and a little grocery or general store which was owned by my grandparents.

Like most small towns then, Thurston had a few people that you might call "different,” like
Deafee George who was deaf and dumb. And a fellow by the name of "Popeye.”

As my grandpa said, "Popeye just wasn't put together right.” His left hand was deformed and his elbow stuck out resting his hand on his chest. His voice was gravelly and he walked kind of dragging one foot, and his squinted eyes made him look and sound just like Popeye.

Bless his heart, Popeye was a trooper. He had a newspaper route. He couldn't ride a bike so he delivered his papers by walking. As hard as it was he was always faithful. Every morning between 9:15 to 9:30 he would come into the store and get a Royal Crown Cola and a moon pie. Every once in a while he would get a grape Nehi. This was always after his deliveries.

I grew up, married , had a family and moved far away from that little village many years ago. Last week I was online to the home town newspaper checking the obits. Listed was one Daniel "Popeye" Lawyer, age 80.

After all those years I finally new his name – Daniel. He taught me to be faithful in what I do.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


I love this story. First of all, the small town sounds like a wonderful place for a boy to spend summer vacation and learn life lessons that would never be learned in a classroom. Daniel was a perfect teacher - you were a lucky boy.

We had a similar character in my home town; an idiot savant called "Lightning". I never was able to find out much about him, but his constant habit of selling papers to make a living caught my eye, even at a very young age.

I just realized that it is probably not at all PC to say that the way I did. Apologies to all. Lightning was a savant would could look at the side of a building and tell you how many bricks were in it. He was always correct.

I also grew up in a small town like that, outside of Philadelphia.

We had our character,too. He was called Razor because we all thought he was so sharp.

As Judy said, he had talents that no one else had. Razor could tell you what day your birthday would fall on 5 or even 15 years later.

Just like you,Tom, we never knew his real name was Elmer until he died. That's probably a good thing because he would have taken more teasing about being named Elmer than he got for being a bit "Strange" as my Mother put it.

Paraphrasing what I think I learned in High School about Emily Dickinson's poems: SMALL IN SIZE BUT PROFOUND IN DEPTH AND MEANING.

Enjoyed your story.
You brought to mind someone I had not thought about in probably 50 years referred to as Smokey the Bear (probably because of his size). We never found out his real name or where he lived. He never spoke. He just wandered the city streets in all types of weather.

Thanks for all of the comments.
We all have had those people in our lives whose name we didn't know, but
made some kind of an impression on our lives back "then". The front porch swing was the place where we
first found the true meaning of

Tom, I think every town had it's own 'character' then. While my town was much larger we had a man we called "Willie". I don't know if that was his name or just a name someone tagged him with. He lived someplace in the mountains and it was rumored he lived in a cave. He came to town for supplies once a week and we children always vied for a spot to walk beside him. I have often wondered what happened to Willie.

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