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Our Laundry Man

Plum Thickets & Field DaisiesPart V

MY MEMORY OF BROOKLYN would be incomplete without some space being given to our laundry man. He was very fair, tall, lanky, raw-boned and angular. If dressed in buckskins, he would have looked quite the type that one would imagine a frontiersman to have been. Courage showed in his every action, and one could readily see that he feared no man. He moved in every street and alley in Brooklyn and carried a large amount of money in his leather bag, but I never heard of him being molested. Every week, he came for our laundry and brought it back on time.
Our laundry man was a careful observer and watched closely what went on in the streets. I remember looking across the hills at the back of our house and seeing him perform a thrilling feat.
An old colored man had a bull that he had raised from a yearling. It was supposed to have been a pet, and the old man had no fear of it. Often, I had seen him driving the bull through the streets or taking it out to grass on the hills.
On this particular day, I was standing on our back porch. I happened to look towards the hills and saw a man go up in the air. The bull was attacking its owner and attempting to kill him.
The laundry man was driving his laundry wagon on a nearby street. Perhaps he heard the old man scream. I was a young child and cannot remember. I do remember seeing him rush toward the bull with a buggy whip in his hand. He flailed the animal until he beat him from the old man and held him off until help came. The old man’s chest was hopelessly crushed, and he soon died. When I think of a man with unusual courage, I always remember this brave laundry man.
Our laundry man had originally come from Concord, North Carolina, where his mother, who was an excellent seamstress, lived. She had made my mother’s wedding dress when my mother was a teacher at Scotia Seminary in Concord.
It was quite a coincidence that he moved to Charlotte and renewed his acquaintance with my mother when he became our laundry man. As a result of the introduction of alleys in many formerly large lots in Brooklyn and the addition of inferior shot-gun rental houses by investors, social conditions in Brooklyn began to change. Our friend, I presume, had noted this, and one day he suggested to my mother that she move to another location.
My mother appreciated his interest, but she had no idea of leaving her home or her many friends. She had put down her roots in this section and fulfilled early her dream of homeownership. She was a symbol of moral strength and goodness to many, and she did not intend to forsake or leave those whom she felt that she could help. In all of the years that we lived in Brooklyn, no one ever attempted to harm us in any way.
When my mother was nearing ninety years of age, we moved from Brooklyn to another part of town because of health conditions in the family. I still believe that her heart always longed to go back to her home in Brooklyn.


Love, Rose Leary. Plum Thickets and Field Daisies: A Memoir. Charlotte, NC: Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, 1996