Tomatoes and roses

Living next to a railroad track is something I have done many times. When I was a young lad, huge coal-fired steam engines ran up and down the triple rail tracks, huffing and puffing black smoke and exhaust in the air. I used to walk across the bridge with my mom to the West Side Market. At that time the market was outdoors. Vegetable venders sold their produce on Lorain Avenue and on both sides of West 25th Street. Chicken, duck and turkey coops would be piled high across West 25th Street from the front door of the market house.

Getting a job at a vegetable stand was my goal. I wanted to help with family finances during the Great Depression. I got a job rearranging tomatoes in small baskets so the big green stem side faced down, making the tomatoes look more appetizing. One day the boss told me to hand stamp each and every tomato. While I was doing that the boss came by and told me I was using too much ink from the pad.

Later that day the city inspector came to check out the bags of tomatoes. The boss yelled at me for not stamping them all, even though he told me to stop using the the stamping pad because it took too much ink. I thought that meant i should just quit stamping to save ink. I guess I was wrong.

That evening at closing time I helped pull the huge cart down the alley behind the bank building. The smell in that old garage was overpowering. I decided then and there this was going to be my last day working at that vegetable stand. When I arrived home my sister and I talked over what happened that day and why I quit.

My shrewd sister mentioned selling flowers but we didn't know where we were going to get the flowers. There was a funeral parlor down the street. They discarded the flowers that did not fit into the flower delivery truck. We went and collected all the leftover flowers. In the end we decided not to sell the flowers because they weren't really ours but we did walk up and down the street, giving the flowers to people coming home from the market. People said thank you and some even gave us a few pennies.

My sister and I decided we would take in a movie with the money people gave us for the flowers. The cost of a movie then was 10 cents and popcorn cost five cents. All in all it cost us 30 cents for both of us to see a movie. A little thought, kindness and hard work paid off. Thanks, sis!

Bruce Leigh

Bay Village

Read More on Readers' Opinions
Volume 5, Issue 18, Posted 10:30 AM, 09.04.2013