03709_0170: I Don't Know What's the Matter

Edward J. Bacon, no date given, Athens, Black, brick mason, Athens, 31 May and 14 June 1939




"Yes, mam, I've worked for some mighty fine people. The Athens construction concern that built the silk mill in Elberton paid me a dollar an hour in addition to my room and board while we were working on that building, and when that job was finished that same contractor put me to work here in Athens on a building he was putting up on Clayton Street. That building caved in, killing two workmen. I was bruised a little, but not serious. Understand me now, that cave-in was not the fault of the contractor. His work never gave way till the ground way down under the building caved in, and that was what caused the destruction. The contractor couldn't help it.

"Those days and times, I averaged about four hundred dollars a year. The last bit of work that I was on that was enough to be called a job paid me $4 for an 8-hour day. The bricklayers on those PWA jobs are getting $10 a day now, I finished up my last job last Monday, and, as I told you when you first got here, I've got an appointment at 4 o'clock to see a man about work. I sure hope to get it.

"I never made a regular practice of taking my family with me when I was going from place to place to work for the reason they were better off at home than moving about so much. And then too, you know a man can live where he wouldn't have his wife and daughter go sometimes. I made it a rule to send at least $40 a week home to my wife every week I was away, and she saved what she didn't have to spend on herself and the children. Before I got hurt, we had quite a nice little sum of money saved up, but it ain't that way any more.


Last edit 2 months ago by AngelikaNorin


I can't hardly buy bread for us any more.

" 'Scuse me, Miss, I've got to get me a match," Fred said as he limped from the room. He is a restless person and seems to be a little deaf. Every so often he puts his hand to his ear as he listens. Fred's hair and mustache are black. His straight hair grows high on his forehead and he is getting bald in a wide streak over the top of his head. He wore brown trousers, a blue shirt, and gray cotton socks. A strap of his suspender, removed from one shoulder, dangled at his hip. He returned to the room, lit another cigarette, and rocked to and fro. The newspaper fluttering on his lap as he rocked attracted a white kitten. Fred stopped rocking. "Go 'way, little kitten," he said. "Don't you tear my paper." The kitten moved on to another piece of the same issue of the paper that was on the floor. "Now, little kitten, you just let all of my paper alone," Fred urged in an indulgent tone. "It's about all I can do to buy a paper, and here you come tearing it up." As he stooped down to assemble his paper, a large police dog came bounding through the gaping hole in the screen door and the cat suddenly had business elsewhere. In the street the voice of the iceman sounded and the huge dog catapulted himself through the hole in the screen with a series of vicious barks, as though the call of "I-C-E-M-A-N, I-C-EM-A-N, here's your I-C-E-M-A-N," indicated danger.

Fred went to the door and addressed the vendor of ice. "Say, fellow, I can hear you without all that noise. Bring me a nickel's worth of ice, and don't wait too long about it. This is a pretty time of the day to be delivering ice.


Last edit 2 months ago by AngelikaNorin


The iceman ignored the last remark. "Look here, Mr. Ham," he said, "you knows you wants more'n a nickel's worth of ice. It melts mighty fast on a hot day like this."

"A nickel's the last cent I've got, and you ought to be glad to get that much," Fred grumbled.

"All right, I'll bring you a nickel's worth, but you oughta buy more," nagged the iceman.

"Stop that shouting and arguing. This is a respectable neighborhood," Fred snapped. "Bring the ice, if you're going to, but be quick and quiet about it." The iceman obeyed promptly, but seemed to take savage delight in lugging the dripping ice through the front door and he apparently overlooked no opportunity to create untidiness and disorder.

"Miss, you see it's like this; when a fellow once got all the good paying work he could do, really made big money, and then had to come down like this it sure hurts. Why, I've owned three automobiles at different times, but I ain't got one now. When it come to a show down I decided I'd rather own my home than a car.

"I've been married twice, and there's one daughter and three sons in our family. I don't believe in bringing more children in the world than you can have a resonable prospect of being able to raise and educate right. Both my wives and me were reared up here and went through the Athens' schools at the same time, and those two girls were the best of friends. My first wife's child - my daughter - was about three years old when I married the second time. If I was as good a man as the two women I married I wouldn't be in the fix I'm


Last edit 2 months ago by AngelikaNorin


in today. Both of my wives were the finest of women.

''During my first wife's lifetime she never worked out for no other family, for she didn't have to do it. I was making plenty to support her, and the only work she did was her own housework. Susie here - my second wife - has been taking in washing for the same white family for the last nine years, and that dollar a week she gets for it comes in mighty handy when I'm out of work. A dollar's worth of flour or meal will keep you from going hungry a long time when you're out hunting for a job.

"Our oldest son is at home with us now, and he's right dependent on me in a way. When I work, he works; and when I'm at home out of work, he's in the same fix. That's because of his affliction. He's deaf because of an injury he received when a car ran over him as he was on his way home from Sunday School when he was just a small child. His eyes were crossed for a long time after that accident, but when we got the proper fit of glasses for him they got all right again. That boy has sure cost me a sight of money for medical care since that accident. There was one operation after another for several years.

"Like my daughter, our second boy stopped school in his senior year in high school. That was because both of 'em married so young. That boy makes eight-fifty a week as a messenger for the Georgia Power Company. He has a baby boy about six months old." While Fred was telling me about his grandson, a young mulatto woman entered the room. She wore a soiled cotton-lace dress that had once been white, and a net was carefully fastened over her straight black


Last edit 2 months ago by AngelikaNorin


hair. Fred said, "This is my son's wife." When I acknowledged the introduction, she did not look toward me or in any way indicate that she was aware of my presence. She grunted something to her father-in-law and disappeared through a door at the rear of the room. Soon she returned, took her seat on the divan, and addressing Fred said: "The baby's still asleep. I do hope he doesn't wake up before I can get my clothes on the line. Fred smiled, but otherwise ignored her as he continued: "My daughter has four little boys but none of 'em are big enough to help her much. She washes for the students at the chapter house where her husband works. I don't have any idea what either one of 'em earns, but they seem to be getting on very well. They live up the street just a little way from here.

"My youngest boy finished high school here and is now attending the State School at Savannah. Just like his daddy, he's taking up the brickmason trade. While he was in high school here he made two-fifty a week working in the tailoring department of a men's clothing store, and what's more like his daddy was at his age, he didn't turn over a cent of his money to his parents. He spent it all on himself, Just like I did with the first money I earned when I was assistant to the janitor at Old College. Now, I have to pay twelvefifty a month to keep him in school. At first he was given enough work for him to earn his schooling, but now all that's done away with, and I have to pay his tuition and other expenses.

"I tell you, Miss, it sure keeps me jumping. My children don't help me; I have to help them, but I've proved how I believe in education because I've sacrificed and tried hard to see that my children had, at least, high school education. I want 'em to have all


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