SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Funeral Home Porch Sittin', "Clyde, Get His Pocketbook"

By Bob Weaver 2016

When I was in the funeral business in the 1960s in Spencer, the funeral home provided ambulance service, lots of ambulance service, frequently running over 1,200 calls annually, many of them long hauls.

A few days ago I sat on the porch of the now John H. Taylor Funeral Home on Market Street, recalling events and the busy social life that happened within a block or two of the establishment, back in that day.

A lot of time porch sittin', waiting for a call and people watching.

In that time, the town embraced dozens of folks who got passes from Spencer State Hospital.

One of the best known street people was Teddy Goldstein, who was the proud "paper boy," selling the daily and county papers year after year. He fought to be first on the street on Wednesday night with the hot-off-the-press county paper, sufficiently defending his territory.

Another well-known street person was "Jocko" Fields, who more often than not carried a bull whip with him, cracking it as he went down the street, or cracking it at neighborhood kids who teased him with nicknames.

"Jocko" had an amazing nimble talent, being able to jump and turn his body 180 degrees, whip in hand.

It's highly unlikely that such behavior would be allowed today.

We waited for months, or years, to observe the ultimate car crash at the intersection of Market and Beauty Streets, involving the three worst drivers in Spencer.

All were aging men, whose driving skills could be called into question.

Phil D. Phillips was a local druggist, whose heavy frame allowed him a street view through his steering wheel.

Dr. A. T. Gordon had skills that appeared to not have reached 20th Century technology.

Then there was businessman Haze Reed, who was often imbibing and yelling invective's at unseen people along the street.

Surely the day would come when they all met at the intersection, but they never did.

Their saving grace was likely slow motion travel.

One day Anna Hope Lawson's infant son fell from a third story window of the Willie West apartment building, straight down onto the concrete pavement. While driving the ambulance up the street I was thinking this is not going to be good.

On arrival, the infant was crying loudly on the pavement, little blood. We placed him on a stretcher and took him to Gordon Hospital, to later learn he had some minor fractures and would be fine.

Allen Nicholas, a funeral home employee, was sitting with me on the front porch on a sultry summer night when a car came down Market Street at a high rate of speed, veering toward the sidewalk it struck and clipped off an electric pole, which came crashing down on the car and street. The McKown boys of Calhoun had been out partying, and were injured inside the car.

Allen turned to me as said, "Well, we ain't got far to go."

On another fall day, we were summoned by a family member that our well-known handyman Carl Tawney, who was repairing a second story roof of the funeral home, was prostrate.

We went out on the roof with a cot to discover the man had been deceased for a while - a short distance to the embalming room.

It was during those years that I learned the best and worst about human behavior, the stuff of life, and most certainly about poverty.

An elderly woman who lived with her husband on Bell Street called for an ambulance, saying he had collapsed on the floor.

Within two minutes my father-in-law Clyde Sinnett and myself arrived to discover the man had coded, in the days before CPR. The wife was screaming and crying loudly, "How can I live without your Albert?" The neighbor ladies were giving her comfort as considerable time past.

Later she fell to the floor, wailing and to embracing her husband, while Sinnett and I knelt beside her to give her solace.

After more time, Sinnett advised her that we should go ahead and remove the body.

After more crying and exclaiming again, "How can I live without Albert," all the neighbor ladies looking on, she quietly turned to Sinnett and said in his ear, "Clyde, get his pocketbook."