I don’t think he was too proud to take government help. I just think he was independent and tried to make his own way. For whatever his reason, it impacted my life significantly.
I’m the middle child of three who helped dad in his work. I cannot remember when it started. I just know I grew up in it.
Because dad was blind and the avenues of job employment were limited, he took to the textile mills, shopping centers and even the local fairground to beg for help.
I remember being a small child and standing in front of dad as he played his guitar. People would go in at the textile mills at shift change. I remember the sound of coins dropping in my cup or occasionally seeing a dollar bill put in my cup. We always had to take the dollar bill out and give it to dad. My brother got a $5 bill one time. The lady said it was his but dad had other plans.
Dad had a cup on the neck of his guitar. It was bigger than mine but that was okay because mine would get fuller than his. There was one mill in Ware Shoals where I worked the gate by myself while dad and my brother and sister worked another gate. It was there that I got to use the big cup. Those folks were generous.
We worked mill gates and shopping centers. Do you remember Sky City, Roses, and K Mart? We also traveled to small cities and would “set up” on main street. Places like Forest City, Lancaster, and Kings Mountain.
On the weekends we would travel further away from home and work a mill at changing time in the morning, rest during the day and hit another mill that evening before heading home.
As a child I remembered having the ambition of getting old enough to drive for dad. The driver got .25 cents off every dollar!
This life, like all others, had the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good was seeing kind folks from so many places. The bad was being “run off” or more politely asked to leave. The ugly was the cruel comments made. One lady told dad if he believed in the God he sang about then he wouldn’t be blind. She did it while we were out working and with people standing around. I guess she thought dad chose to be blind. Dad was visibly upset. He really didn’t want to do this. In fact, he did get off the road and got a job managing a concession stand.
I remember growing up and really taking notice how people looked at us. That includes my classmates from school. I had one to give me a quarter one weekend only to ask for it back when he saw me on Monday. I gave him a quarter back and some change!
I still have a cup. I remember the good, the bad, and the ugly. But what I remember most is a man who was not too proud to humble himself for the sake of his family, not ashamed to sing Christian song out in public, and who taught that people can be decent or indecent.
When given the opportunity, dad left the beggar’s life and began working under the South Carolina Commission for the Blind to manage canteens and concession stands. It required him to move away from his family. However, he was grateful that programs were put in place to allow him and others like him to be an asset and contributor to society.
I am the Son of a Beggar man. Proud and Humbled.
Until next time,