by Jerry Kasperek
Since writing about “Annabell” in my last three columns, I have been reminded of other individuals — “characters” you might say —who once lived in Fulton and now thrive only in our hometown folklore.
Let’s begin with Crazy King. I believe he lived way out on South First Street and was a junk dealer. I seem to remember that his big, old farm truck had a long wooden rack with no sides and that the cab was open-aired as well.
From his vantage point high up on his seat, he’d cackle like a maniac and shout, “I’m Crazy King” and say obscene things to the ladies walking along the street
“Don’t ever let him get near you,” I was told. Don’t worry! I thought. I won’t!
He was a big man in dirty overalls with an unshaven, scary and foul look and smell about him. Ugh! But I don’t recall ever hearing of him ever hurting anyone and I don’t know what became of him.
The very opposite of Crazy King was Chick Tallman. He wasn’t dirty or loud and was known as a gentle soul.
In the summer, you could spot him walking with a broom in hand on his way to Recreation Park to clean off home plate at the baseball diamond or softball field. He was dedicated to his self-appointed job and the umpires would let him do his sweeping to the approval of the players and crowd! It made everyone feel good, no less than Chick himself!
A story goes how Chick would visit Foster’s coffee shop with a wad of change and approach the counter and show his money to see what it would buy. Usually it was enough to get him a soda pop of some kind.
One particular counter girl, however, decided to treat him to a sandwich, a sundae, and a drink. Are you sure? Chick motioned. “Yes, it’s enough,” he was told and he ate with gusto and happily went on his way.
I’ve been asked me if I remember the little man with no legs who sat downtown and sold pencils when we still had the Dizzy Block? Yes, I do remember him.
He would position himself near a busy store to collect a few pennies for his wares, which I imagine was his only source of income.
But somebody must have been looking out for him, bringing him back and forth to work as well as providing him with a low-to-the-ground wooden platform to keep him off the cold sidewalk. It had castors on it to allow him to use his arms to roll from store to store.
I don’t recall if he could talk or not, but I do remember his big grin looking up at passersby, and even a wider smile when someone stopped to buy a pencil, or put money in his cup, or just to stop to say hello!
Then there was the “Rag Man” who slowly sang out, “rags, rags, rags,” in his distinctive voice as he canvassed the city in his attempt to collect rags to sell for profit.
And I also remember Nana, Billy, Donnie, and the young guy with the camera with no film in it.
A remarkable-looking fellow, tall and thin, the “kid” with the film-less camera wore big glasses and a hat with ear flaps, and could often be seen around downtown “taking pictures.”
Nana also was very industrious and pulled a little red wagon on his daily rounds in the west side neighborhoods to collect scrap metals to sell while Billy, who I was told was “as strong as an ox,” showed up to work with the city water department each day but wasn’t actually employed there.
Donnie is remembered for his red hair and freckles and cowboy hat and boots. But most of all for riding his bicycle, even out on a busy highway if he had someplace he wanted to get to!
Okay, I admit it, we laugh, maybe even embarrassed to do so, when we call to mind these special people I have written about. But I also know that they were looked out for and cared for with kindness, not only by their families but the entire community. That’s just the kind of people we are!
Changing the subject now, I hope you will observe and admire the picture I sent in with this column. It’s a photo of our old city hall and the Fulton’s Savings Bank. And if you look to the right of the bank you can get a partial glimpse of the Quirk Building, which was replaced in the 1970s by Towpath Towers.
This old picture postcard is part of an album collection of Fulton’s past loaned to me by my stepson, Eddie Kasperek. Many of the artifacts have postage marks on them and were called “penny postcards” for they actually only cost one cent to mail!
This particular picture predates me; however, as you can see by looking closely at it that the street in front of it was still a dirt road and the train tracks running by it were still there.
There was a paved road and no tracks when I was in high school back in the late 1940s and early 1950s. That’s when we had a community-funded hangout called “Teen Town” housed in a couple of rooms in the back part of that old city hall.
I’ve written about it before, a fun place to go for us teenagers, and the very place where I met my first husband, the late Mike Hogan. Ah, memories…
I can’t thank Eddie enough for sharing his album with me so I can share the pictures with you via my columns. I think he’s as pleased with the whole idea as I am! When you see him please be sure to thank him as well!