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Bum's on Greasy Corner-Hot Dogs at the Brunswick and a Lesson in Compassion
They Weren't Bad People
When I was a young boy my dad would let me ride into our "big city" and most all the time he parked his truck in the gravel lot just above Walker's Hardware. The Western Auto was just a hop skip and jump up the street. Dad would sometimes take me into the Brunswick Cafe for a special treat. Hot Dogs that were out of this wold and a fountain Coke to wash it down. I have saved those wrappers the hot dogs were served in for days just to smell the aroma of the chili and onions. They sure tasted good and the Coca-cola always made burp. I learned right quick to open my mouth when I felt one coming on because the gases in the soda made my nose burn so bad and my eyes watered as if I had just had a switching.
The corner of that street was called by the locals "Greasy Corner" and one prominent old timer and historian, Frank L. Fitzsimmons, who wrote many stories and tales about Henderson County in three volumes "From the Banks of the Oklawaha" told that men would sit on the street benches before the streets were paved on Main Street to watch the ladies cross over to the County Court House. According to Mr. Fizsimmons, the ladies wore longer dresses during those times and the men though maybe somewhat perverted,with wistful eyes and Mona Lisa smiles, relished the thoughts of catching the glimpse of pretty ankles of the ladies as their dresses and skirts were lifted ever so slightly to avoid the mud puddles that often filled the street and ruining a clean garment.
On those trips into town we often were greeted by some whom respectable pious,self righteous pillars of the community thought were of a lower class of humanity. These were men who had an alcohol addiction and they hung out on "Greasy Corner" begging money from the foot traffic along Main Street. Dad knew most of the men by their first names and they would come up to him and ask,"Wilkie, can you spare me a dime." Dad most always reached into his overall pockets and pulled out a dime and gave it to the person who ask.
Once one of the men came up to daddy and ask,"Wilkie you got a match?" Dad always carried those big kitchen matches in his shirt pocket along with the Lucky Strikes he smoked. He gave the man a match and then the man ask,"Wilkie, you got a cigarette." I suppose he reasoned if daddy had a match , he must have some cigarettes too. On another occasion daddy didn't have a match or a cigarette and the man ask,"You got the price of one?"
I saw those men who were basically good men slowly disappear from Greasy Corner and our town. Old age and disease took had taken its toll on their lives. What always amazed me was the compassion my dad had for those who may have had some social vices that weren't considered acceptable. He always treated them kindly and as a friend in need.
We are all humans and we all need each other regardless of our social status.I have little patience with those who have "better than thou" attitude. Recently, I visited our local DSS and as I looked at the mass of people standing in lines seeking help in one form or another, I was reminded of a saying I heard once, 'We are all just beggars, showing another beggar where to find bread." The dimes daddy gave may have been just another dime to help buy a bottle of wine but then it may have been used for something needed like a loaf of bread or if enough dimes were accrued, a hot dog at the Brunswick.