How 15 Cents Saved Me From

A Life of Crime

Circa 1942

Paul Marion Fleetwood

Copyright 2016 by  Paul Marion Fleetwood


Photo of steam locomotive wheels.

    A little while back I wrote a short story about getting an unexpected Christmas gift when as a 12 year old I lived in Gary Texas.  I also wrote a story about our old dog stealing a lady's false teeth and burying them in a corn patch where she was able to track him down and dig them up again.  This story took place in the same town.

    We had moved from the house where the dog buried the teeth to "old" Doc Daniels rental house across the blacktop road from the Postman's house which sat next to the big Methodist Church about a mile from Gary.  This was same house where the squirrels gave us fresh pecans for a Christmas gift the year before or-- was it the same year.  After 74 years my memory is beginning to have a telescoping effect.  I remember it just like yesterday but sometimes it is hard to remember just which came first and which came after.

    I was in the ninth grade in Gary High and my little brother Billy was three grades behind.  We walked to school everyday along with our best buddy Billy Ray McDaniel who was in the middle of us age wise.  We walked the road to town and then peeled off on the railroad track which took us right by the school.  Usually we came back the same way but sometimes we would go back to town a different way.

    Now here's the thing, as kids are wont to do;  we had our motto and modus operandi.  Our goal each day on the way home was to somehow beg, borrow, or steal 15 cents so that we could each have a nickel to buy a big ole RC Cola.  Our success depended on this to brighten up our otherwise boring lives in this hot and dusty little town.  Remember, this was before I-Phones, internet and even before TV.  We didn't even have a radio so we had to make our own entertainment. 

    I will never forget the day when we actually found a five dollar bill someone had lost.  Bonanza!  We would have been set for the whole semester but alas there were other goodies that cost more than 5 cents.  So as time went by we were back to scraping for nickels.  I'm leaving out a lot of details here kids or this story would take too long.  If you were here in person so I could tell it to you and it would't take so long.  I can talk faster than I type and my facial expressions take a lot of words to imitate.  So bear with me my Great great great grandchildren.

    Now as time passed we had many adventures but there is one in particular that I want to tell you about.  One saturday being bored and out of school we were snooping around town looking for an adventure of some kind.  So we started foraging around trash bins and old sheds and whatever else we could find behind the town stores where they throw out the trash.  We found various and sundry pieces of junk to play with along with some big old spike nails.  Later on the spike nails were put to good use or perhaps I should say put to bad use

    But first I have to describe just how the town was laid out.  It would have been a rectangle except that one long side of the rectangle was just railroad tracks.  That is where the tomato sheds were located for packing and loading the annual tomato crop.  The two ends of the rectangle and the other long side consisted of several store buildings, a bank, and a filling station.  The bank was closed and partially falling down.  The filling station was out of business as was some of the other old store buildings.  I remember well the "Tot Thomas" grocery though because that is where I had my first job.  As an aside that job lasted all of about 2 hours because I was very allergic to flour dust and my job was to clean out and stack up full sacks of flour in the storage room.  I didn't even make 15 cents that day.

    Anyway among the derelict buildings was a two story brick that was still ln good shape but no longer doing business.  That was the building we were playing behind when I got an idea.  Although the building was locked at ground level I wondered if the second story windows in the back might be unlocked.  Then I got the idea of driving the spike nails between the bricks and using them to climb to the second level.  The back side of the building faced an open field so there was no one there to watch what we were doing.  

    So we drove the nails into the mortar between the bricks and proceeded to climb up to a window.  The window was unlocked and we crawled in and proceeded to explore.  The old building had been closed for a long time and there wasn't much of interest to us kids except for an old cash register.  We opened it expectantly hoping to see tons of change but there was nothing in it but some worthless trinkets and three or four pennies.  Still it was a fun adventure on a lazy Saturday afternoon.   That would be the end of the story but it wasn't.

    Some time later I was at home with my mom when the Postman's wife, Mrs Heaton, came over to visit my mom.  In the course of their conversation she casually mentioned to me that Joe her husband wanted to talk to me.  So I ran across the road to their house and went in.  We chatted for awhile and then Joe, the Postman, confronted me about breaking in to the big brick building.  It turned out the building belonged to someone in his family and he was responsible for keeping an eye on it.  I still don't know how he fingered me but he did.

    Well I was afraid I guess and started crying expecting the worst but he just consoled me and gave me 15 cents to stop crying.  Instead of getting in big trouble I had enough to buy our three RC Colas for the day.

    Later as I thought about his kindness and the advice he gave me I was so grateful to him.  It had a lasting effect on my life which I never forgot.  Thank you Joe!!!

    That would be the end of the story but it's not.  About 35 years later I returned to Carthage Texas for my High School Class reunion.  While there I took time to drive the 10 miles or so to Gary to see if the old place was still there.  The Old house we lived in was gone and a mobile house was in it's place.  But across the road the Postman's little white house was still there.

    I went to the door and knocked.  After a  while a little old white haired lady opened the door.  I knew who she was but she didn't know me of course.  She didn't remember my name but when I reminded her of the time I brought her a bucket of fresh pecans at Christmas and about when Joe had a talk with me then she remembered.   I thank the Lord for folks like Mr. and Mrs. Joe Heaton.  Thanks again Joe for saving me from a life of crime.  

    Listen children to your old Pawpaw Petey Bob and Always remember to be merciful. 

Contact Paul

 (Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)

Paul's Storylist and Biography

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher