He was surely one of the few students at his high school to ever flunk the last English paper of the senior year, but he just could not get it together to write the paper. He thus flunked the paper, the course, and the year. It was a fitting end to a sometimes dismal high school experience.
He left home without telling anyone anything and took a bus to Grand Saline, Texas with a “plan” of working in the salt mines (he was kind of a dramatic kid). The salt mines had been closed for some time when he got to Grand Saline, so he got a cheap hotel room. The room was up a long, straight flight of stairs and there was a loop of wire in lieu of a doorknob or lock. It was a very cheap room.
The next day he hitched a ride on out of Texas to Shreveport and a lonely bus station. From there, a man picked him up and drove him to Baton Rouge. In Baton Rouge he ended up downtown in a bar, where a man told him he could stay in his room. Clearly, the man had plans other than sleeping and the kid said he would just sleep on the floor. At some point in the night he was awakened by the man leaning off the edge of the bed fondling him. He remembers shouting very loudly and grabbing his already packed stuff and running out of the room. He doesn’t remember where he spent the rest of the night.
In the morning the kid was walking along a downtown sidewalk when a police car pulled over. The cops put him up against the wall and searched him and dumped his suitcase out on the sidewalk. Oops, there was a pistol in there, so he got a ride to the parish jail and a few nights room and board.
Jail wasn’t bad for him. He had some cigarettes, which he shared with an armed robber, who was a badass, so the kid was pretty safe. The food was typical jail fare – peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast with astonishingly bad chicory coffee, bologna sandwiches and Kool-aide for lunch, and he doesn’t remember what was for dinner. There’s nothing to do. Talk, scheme, worry, pace, space out.
The charge was vagrancy. He went to see the judge, who asked him what he was doing in Baton Rouge. He told the judge he was looking for a job at a golf course. The judge asked him if he was a golfer and when he said, yes, the judge asked what a “round robin” is and the kid gave the right answer. “Not guilty.” The suitcase and its contents were not registered in, so apparently the po-po got a pistol.
Not far from the parish jail there was a Toddle House – a 14 stool café serving breakfasts, hamburgers, waffles, and so on. The kid was sitting there trying to decide whether to have his hamburger with or without lettuce and tomatoes (five cents more with and he was pretty much busted flat, enough that a nickel made a difference) and when the waitress took his order he blurted out “with!” It was a really, really good hamburger and decent cup of coffee. While he was sitting at the counter the waitress and cook were talking about needing someone to work nights. The kid joined in and volunteered that he could do the job. The cook/manager, Chuck let him work that day to get a sense of what he could do. He did okay and the waitress, a sweet Cajun woman named Jenny liked him, and so he got the job.
Chuck took him to the Florida Street rooming house where Chuck and his partner, Vince lived. He got a room for something like $12 a week and just like that he was set up with a job and a place to live. He worked as cook and counter man and everything else 7 pm – 7 am usually seven nights/week for $0.85/hour to start and eventually to $1.35/hour. He was in a weird place in his mind and working like that was no problem. On days when Chuck and Vince were both off, the three of them would go out drinking at one of those bars that open at 6 or 7 am.
Photo from https://restaurant-ingthroughhistory.com/2014/03/02/toddle-house/. Thank you!
Mona Lisa musta had the highway blues
You can tell by the way she smiles