Copyright 2019 by Kathryn Lynch
large city has its share of street corner hustlers. This is the true
story of a man who stood one afternoon on a corner to sell his wares.
Many bought into the dreams he had for sale, and not one of us has
ever been the same again.
1960 I was a student at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
taking classes to earn a bachelor's degree. Although I had been
teaching for several years in the Catholic schools, I could not
obtain a teacher's credential to teach in the public schools until I
had that degree.
finances were extremely limited. I rented a room in an old apartment
house on the first floor in the rear. I suspected that the room had
formerly been used as a closet or storage room. A small window
opened into an alley which ran beside the structure. Surrounding
buildings cut off any sunlight attempting to seep inside. One bare
light bulb hung from the ceiling for the room was otherwise always
dark. In my room was a single bed and an old full size refrigerator.
The frig did double duty for I had moved it in front of the window
to prevent anyone entering from the alley. The frig also cooled a
carton of milk. A case of Ramen sat on top of the unit—completing
my personal paradise.
that time, the only phone service was through a land line. One
called the phone company and made an appointment for the telephone
man to install service. A day was given and on that day the person
ordering service waited sometimes for several hours for his arrival.
Installation included the placement of jacks and plugging in a
company owned telephone. When service was cancelled, the instrument
and all jacks were removed by the phone company. All of this service
was expensive enough that most students could not afford a personal
the early days, the University dominated a middle class neighborhood.
However, as the years passed, the student body grew but the
surrounding residential areas had declined to the point that
brochures for the institution avoided any references to the school's
placement in the City. In fact, the area featured a high crime rate,
a dope problem, prostitution, water escaping at hydrant locations,
unrepaired streets, and hustlers of every ilk peddling wares on the
Eddy—Every afternoon Eddy passed by as he walked from his
residence to the street corner where he sold his drugs. a vicious
Doberman on a very short leash walking beside him. As he made his way
down the street, every dog inside or out began to bark. No one and
no other dog ever challenged him.
Girls—Claire and Alice arrived on their favorite corner around
4p.m., as working men would be leaving their jobs at 5. Both wore
classy, colorful clothing which came to an end above the knee,
revealing extravagant fishnet stockings covering long legs. Above
the waist, blouses were a size too small, unbuttoned at the neck to
show off large breasts which appeared ready to escape their confines
with the slightest encouragement. Both Claire and Alice were over
six feet tall. The locals called them “the Girls”, but
they were men.
Hookers—Real girls who sold themselves to willing men occupied
almost every corner. There appeared to be a continuing competition
for the most extravagant “look”. Most wore fancy boots,
decorative stockings, and skirts no bigger than a towel tightly
wrapped. Blouses were often see through or so tight that buttons
were lost from the attempt to move anywhere. Many wore wigs and all
wore jewelry, especially large ear rings. A hooker might move on,
but her spot on the corner was quickly claimed by a new face.
Hustlers—In addition to the regulars, a number of hustlers
could be seen every day, selling everything which could be carried
into the neighborhood. Passersby were offered stolen watches, rings,
necklaces, handyman services, gardening services, card tricks, a
song, drums beating, fake furs, a sidewalk cello concerto, a
religious sermon, pills to stay awake, pills to go to sleep, pills to
enhance libido, pills to dull any you-name-it pain. Human ingenuity
operating under stress defined the roving street hustler. There was
always room for another idea.
called my parents once a week to assure them I was still alive.
Although phones were available at the smoke-filled Student Union,
there was also a pay phone inside the Walgreen's store about three
blocks from my room. So it was, that one late afternoon I made my
way to the drug store, past the neighborhood hustlers, to make a
stood on a corner with a busy street running horizontally in front of
the building. I had to cross this street to get to the store. The
corner was controlled by a traffic light which was red when I reached
the edge of the crosswalk. As I waited for the light to change, I
studied the corner hustlers. I could see four or five hookers, the
Girls, and somewhat back out of the way stood Doberman Eddy. A man
in a suit, shirt, and tie paced back and forth in front of the store,
approaching anyone who went inside or who came out, reaching out his
right hand to shake hands while he said what he had in mind. I
wondered what this extremely handsome man was selling and I knew no
way into the store without passing him by.
it was, that when I reached the store, the man in the suit approached
me, offering his hand for me to shake. He started talking
immediately. “Hi, I'd like to introduce myself. I'm John
Kennedy and I'm running for President of the United States. Please
consider voting for me. Your vote is very important.” Without
much thought, I entered the store and made the call. When I left the
store, he approached me once again, asking me to tell my friends to
vote for him. At that time, a person had to be 21 years old at
election time to vote. I explained that although I was old enough to
vote, most of the other students were too young to qualify. I left
the corner to return to my room completely oblivious to the fact that
I had just had a personal encounter with a person of gigantic
had watched the nightly news on the apartment house TV. I knew that
Kennedy had decided to run but at that time he had several major
strikes against him. He was younger than most Presidents. He was
relatively unknown across the United States, and he was a Roman
wrote home asking my parents to send me an absentee ballot. I was
going to vote for this man who went after votes one at a time on a
street corner. Of course, as the weeks passed, Kennedy became well
known to all. He no longer stood on street corners. The public came
to his rallies. And of course, he became the President of the United
months after the election, President Kennedy rolled past my apartment
building riding in a limousine. I could make out his handsome face
as he passed by, but of course no one could approach him unless on
The 26th Amendment to the Constitution which was
on July 1, 1971, gave the right to vote to those who had reached the
age of 18.
of young people bought what Kennedy had to sell. I was in the first
group of Peace Corps volunteers, serving for 13 months in the south
encounter at Walgreen's remains one of my most cherished memories.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
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