IRH - The Garbage Boy

This section is to honor the works of Russ Lancaster who started the “I Remember Hamlet” web site years ago. Without his pioneering the web at that time we might not have gathered all these memories of our Hamlet, NC. We thank you Russ for what you started in 1996, may you Rest in Peace. Russ was kind enough to let me download his web site before he took it down. Thank you Russ.

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David
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IRH - The Garbage Boy

Postby David » Sat July 28, 2018, 2:36 pm

The Garbage Boy
a kid’s ambition
1949
by: Russ Lancaster
"If you don’t stop fighting, I’m gonna……", my mom yelled from the kitchen. I’m not sure exactly what she was going to do but I was sure that most of what she was going to do was going to be done to me.
I was the oldest of the kids. There were only three of us at the time: Fran, Bobby and me. We were in the living room of the Boney owned house at 411 Washington Street where we were spending a Saturday morning watching our new TV set. We weren’t arguing over what show to watch, we only had one station available; WBTV, Channel 3 out of Charlotte about 75 miles away. We were arguing about who was going to sit where and I was giving Fran and Bobby a dose of my usual bossy style.
I didn’t want any of what my mom was going to dish out to me that lazy summer Saturday back in 1949 so I slipped out to the garage area to find my true friend, Spot. He was a mixed breed Eskimo Spitz and totally loyal to me. I decided to spend the day with him; he understood me.
He was being confined to the garage area for something he hadn’t done. Mr. Meacham, who owned the Washeteria down at the bottom of Washington Avenue, had accused Spot of killing the chickens he kept out back of his house. Spot would soon be absolved of any wrong doing when Mr. Meacham shot one of my friend’s dogs who looked almost exactly like him.
I let Spot out of the garage and we sat down out on the hard dirt out front while I doodled in the sand and told him my troubles. He seemed to understand. It is a special bond between a boy and his dog when they are both young and have many lessons yet to be learned.
Then, I heard a commotion coming from the top of the hill. There was a new kind of truck coming down Washington Avenue and it was making a lot of noise. The city of Hamlet had begun using new garbage trucks and I was seeing one for the first time.
The truck had a driver and two men riding on a rail of some kind near the back. The truck would stop, both men would jump off and trash cans would be quickly dumped into a trough looking thing on the back. The driver would then use a lever of some sort to make that trough rise high above the truck and dump its contents into the belly of the truck. Some more levers would then cause the trash to be compacted from the back to the front making room for more stuff.
They were coming down the hill at a quick pace. They knew what they were doing. I hooked Spot up to the chain my dad had provided so he wouldn’t chase them when they got to our house. Spot may not have been guilty of killing Mr. Meacham’s chickens, but he would bite anyone that came near the house. He was very protective.
As the truck neared my house I got a close up view of all the happenings. The two men that rode the back end of the truck each had burlap bags for saving goodies that folks had put out with the trash. It was really neat stuff, I thought. They had things like old radios, broken lamps that could be repaired, a throw rug… those kinds of things. There was even a third burlap bag tied onto the side for the driver of the truck who demanded his fair share.
The truck was making quite a commotion and the men were constantly talking to one another as they dumped cans of trash while looking to see if there were any "goodies" around. I thought this was a great job. They could get dirty, watch a truck smash trash and even get free stuff.
I put Spot back in the garage and jumped aboard my 20" Western Flyer bicycle. I had made up my mind to follow these men and that truck for a while. I didn’t bother telling my mom I was leaving… It was summer and she would probably think I was hanging out with the Washington Avenue friends I so often write about. She wouldn’t be worried even if I didn’t come home for lunch. My mom, and my friends’ moms often fixed lunch for ever how many kids happened to be there at lunch time.
I followed those men all day. They covered nearly every street in Hamlet north of the railroad tracks. Up and down the streets they went. I kept a safe distance behind them but edged closer as the day wore on. They kept their eye on me probably wondering why I was following them.
The truck fascinated me with all its machinery. It didn’t smell too good and flies were following it even closer than I was. There was a constant watery trail up and down the streets of Hamlet as the truck dripped some unknown liquid mess from its belly. The compacting of the trash squeezed liquid out of things that one would not have though had any liquid parts.
I finally got a chance to speak to the men as they broke for lunch. They simply parked the truck beside the curb and broke out their brown bags of sandwiches. They didn’t wash their hands but the RC Colas they had bought at a nearby store were wet and washed some of the dirt away naturally. They wiped their wet hands on their clothes. One of them finally said, "Watcha doing, Boy?"
I answered back, "I wanna be a garbage man".
They looked at one another and began to laugh. They told me I better ask my parents about that. I asked if I could continue to follow them and that brought on another round of laughter but they didn’t discourage me.
I followed them all day until they took off for wherever the garbage was going to be dumped. I couldn’t keep up with them anymore so I headed for home.
It was late and I was in a little trouble. The first thing I noticed was that Spot wasn’t on his chain anymore. That was good, I had forgotten about him and it was too hot for him to have been left out in the sun all day. Fran had taken him back in the house.
Supper was already on the table and my mom wanted to know where I had been all day. She said she had called everyone: Madge Fisher, Mrs. Griffin, Mrs. Hicks… all the places I would have been hanging out and that no one had seen me all day.
I washed my hands and sat down at the table. She wanted me to go wash again saying I smelled "funny". I guess some of that stench from the garbage truck had somehow clung to my clothing.
I told her and my dad that I had been following the garbage truck all day and that I had decided to become a garbage man when I grew up. They didn’t laugh like the garbage men had, they thought I was nuts!
"No child of mine is going to be a garbage man," my mom yelled. (She turned out to be wrong about that years later when my youngest brother, Tim, actually worked as one while attending college for a short time in Wilmington).
My parents had bigger plans for me. I was to be a preacher or lawyer. They said I had talents for both. I could eat fried chicken every day like a preacher and I argued all the time like a lawyer. I could relate to both professions because I enjoyed eating chicken and loved arguing with my brothers and sister. I too had thought I would become a preacher or lawyer.
Things didn’t turn out the way they wished, nor did my wishes come true. I worked many jobs during my life, most with the railroad where I have been for the past 34 years. I will be retiring January 31 st, 2002 and might just follow a garbage truck around for fun. Who knows?
Being a garbage man is not a bad profession nor do I intend to mean it as such in this short story. After I became an adult, I did remember the garbage day and I always look after the garbage men who perform a necessary service.
At Christmas time, we put out a present for each man. When we lived in Hamlet it may have been a plastic wrapped bag of pecans from our trees on Spring Street. It may have been a pair of socks or handkerchiefs. But they always got something from us. We packed our trash in sealed plastic bags for them and they reciprocated by neatly stacking our trash cans after emptying them while the neighbors cans were flung back into their yards in a haphazard manner.
The best "gift" I ever saw a garbage man get was on Spring Street in Hamlet. It was in the middle of a March snow storm. I had an old pair of golf shoes with spikes on the soles that I needed to get rid of. I placed them on top of the garbage can. When the garbage truck got to my house, one of the men on the back jumped off and yelled, "Ice Shoes".
He sat down and changed his work shoes for my "ice shoes" and went merrily on his way. My discarded old golf shoes had become working shoes for him. I felt good, he felt good.
Now that we have lived in Jacksonville for the past 14 years, I have the same relationship with our garbage men down here. I occasionally put out treats for them, always neatly wrapped. They are not forgotten at Christmas time. My empty cans are still neatly stacked beside the driveway while my neighbors’ cans are simply thrown back into their yards. They don’t understand, but I do and the garbage men do.
I still remember my ambition that gave my parents a scare. I remember that hot day in the summer of 1949 when I followed that truck around all day long. I remember the bad smell and the flies yet how much fun the men seemed to have going about their business. I look back over my life and think… "yeah, I could have been a garbage man". And I think, "It wouldn’t have been that bad."
But most of all, the memories of that day give me one more chance to say, "I remember Hamlet"

freddie hassler
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Re: IRH - The Garbage Boy

Postby freddie hassler » Mon July 30, 2018, 6:41 am

When I lived in Longwood Park the city didn't pick up our Garbage, we burned it a 55gal drum and a Mr. Poston from the 5Point's area in Rockingham, would come by and dump the burnt garbage in his flatbed truck with rails high enough to keep it all in, can't remember the cost, but it was less than$5.00His son PeeWee worked at Tom and Sarah's as a Carhop


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