Submitted by: Kathy Clark
I was twelve years old in 1965 when my mother moved my brother Jimmy and me to Augusta, Georgia from our long time home in Alaska. Over the years a man I met there has become a bit of a hero to me. When facing trying circumstances his memory makes me to think I don't have it all that bad.
My mother Louise Glenn got a job driving an Oakey Dokey Snack Wagon for Hugh Eugene Tudor the owner of Tudor Food Products. This man had the distinction of being a guest on the show "I've Got A Secret" after running for mayor twenty four times before winning and even then didn't get to be mayor because of technicalities.
Every morning she drove a route to areas around Augusta and along the construction site for the new I-20 Highway. She sold hot coffee and breakfast sandwiches to those who waited eagerly in line for their turn. I was privileged to accompany her at times so she had someone to talk to. It was always an adventure for me meeting new people and seeing interesting places.
One of the stops on her route was a brick yard where I met a man named Albert. I never knew his last name, but he slept in an old abandoned rusty blue car and chipped mortar off of used brick all day long to make a living. He said by his mother's recollection he was one hundred and eleven years old, but nothing was in writing to prove it. You sure couldn't tell it by his salt and pepper hair. He looked less then seventy, his back straight and strong and very muscled from hard work.
My mother always had a tender spot in her heart for anyone in difficult circumstances and took an instant liking to this peaceful kindly man with a face as black as ebony from working out under the blistering Georgia sun. She told him if he would save his cup she would bring him a free refill on her trip back to the shop. Her boss counted every cup and would have fired her if he had known. Albert would come out to the truck each day and smile from ear to ear displaying the fact that he still had all of his own teeth. He was so thankful towards my mother for such a small favor. One cold morning I found myself gazing at his feet which sported shoes at least two sizes too big. He was wiggling his toes to get them warm as the temperature had dropped to freezing that December. Every time he moved his feet the ends of his shoes would open up like alligators revealing just a bit of his sockless toes. As I looked back at his face he gave me a huge smile that warmed my soul.
One day Albert came up to my mother and said "Mam would you like to see my dearest possession?" Of course she said yes. Stretching out his calloused dusty hands he revealed an old biscuit tin and carefully unwrapped papers that told of his emancipation from slavery and how he had fought in and been discharged from the civil war. You could tell that these were real treasures to him, his hands even trembled slightly as he held them. My mother let him know that she thought they were very special too. Then he very carefully re-wrapped them, cradled the tin close to his heart and placed them back in his hiding place in that old car where he slept.
About a year later we moved back to Alaska, but my mother and I never forgot about Albert. She told the story about him over and over until she passed away a few years ago. She would hold him up as an example of someone who remained joyful in the face of terrible circumstances. I never forgot his gentle spirit in the face terrible prejudice and hardship. There was no bitterness or anger, just a winsome smile and kind answer, which is what has stuck with me over the years. This is the reason I am writing this story. I don't think someone with such a wonderful heart should be forgotten. He was a very special person that left a lifelong impression on a twelve year old girl. I am fifty four now and will remember him till my dying day. I hope I will get to see him one day where there is no hard labor or unkind words. I always wondered how he remained so happy while living in such harsh surroundings, but I've come to believe that each day of freedom was a gift from God to him and thankfulness filled his soul because of it.