When I was a very young child, I am guessing 4 or 5, we had an old black man who lived in a small little shack situated on the edge of the drainage canal by the truck yard. I remember he seemed quite small compared to other adults I knew, and in Baltimore, in the late 60’s, the fact that he was a black man in a predominately white neighborhood, stood out more than anything.
Mr Jiggles was a kind old man and would sit on his porch swing in the heat and humidity of a summer evening and play his harmonica. The sound of the harmonica would drift over the sound of the traffic from the main street. Beside his house he had an old truck tire full of dirt that he grew tomatoes in. I remember he would wonder up and down the alleyway selling them for 5 cents a piece. Maybe that is how he made a living since I can’t ever remember a time when he wasn’t sitting on his porch swing.
The memories of a child. The tainted memories from an era of hatred and bigotry, instilled on me by the adults I looked up to.
Mr Jiggles… now that I look back… had a very hard life. My memories of him are nothing more that those mentioned above. If I was to meet this kind sole today, I wonder if I would have the same impressions of this gentle little man? Would I pity him? His life was simple… yet incredibly hard… but he always seemed happy.
The last memory I have of Mr Jiggles was a city crew tearing down his little shack and chucking all the items from inside into a garbage truck. Mr Jiggles was gone… his music could still be heard late in the evening, on a humid summer night… if you sat still enough and listened.
Stock photo from The West Virginia Gazette