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"Jingle": article draft by Roosevelt Fitzgerald




1980 (year approximate) to 1995 (year approximate)


From the Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers (MS-01082) -- Drafts for the Las Vegas Sentinel Voice file. Christmas memories of author's childhood in Natchez, Mississippi.

Digital ID



man001048. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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OCR transcription





Then it was Christmas week. Anticipation always reach fever pitch at that time. As the time grew shorter there always seemed to be more to do and less time to do it in. I could never determine whether I wanted to re receive a lot of gifts or be able to give a lot of them. Maybe it was both. A part of my mind told me that I didn't need a lot of stuff to be happy and another part told me that others did. I was rarely what you would call sad or depressed even though there were many things to be sad and depressed about. I never liked the idea of being tossed one way or the other by things over which I had no control. Life is rough enough and to compound that by being adversely affected by something which someone else does or does not do is just asking for trouble.
It takes a lot of doing to be disaffected. It is almost a full-time job but the results are more often than not worth the effort. Still, it is something which must be learned early in life just to have half a chance of working half the time. Realizing that many others were not so equipped wassthe incentive which caused me to want to give many gifts but, as we all know, gifts cost money and money was in short supply back in those days. I sometimes think that they forgot to let us know that the depression ended with our entry into World War II. By the time thesevents .of which I speak were happening we were half way to Korea. Even today, many of my relatives back home in Mississippi, do not know that the depression of the 1930s is over.
From the time that I was a child I always managed to get some little gift for everyone in my family. None of them cost much but I didn't have much. We're only talking about five, six, seven be spent on Christmas stuff but when you're only six, seven, eight years old or so, in Mississippi and back in the late 1940s and early 1950s, coming up with that
kind of money was harder than going to a white church and coming out alive.
I started early doing whatever little jobs or running errands that I could find, earning as much as ten or fifteen cents at a time, and putting it away until I would have saved enough and even at that, when it came right down to Christmas week, there there usually would not be enough and those on off to the bottom of my list might have to be just left out. That happened once and I've felt guilty about it all these many years. Even though I was just a kid I knew that those I had left off had expected me to give them something because I was a hard worker and and I always had before. I knew they expected something from me even though they hadn't planned to give me anything. While I had little money from my jobs, they had no money. Many were unwilling to do the kinds of jobs that I did. They didn't realize, as I had, that all jobs are the same; from spitoon polisher in a brass rail saloon to the presidency, everybody takes crap for pay. The only difference is, the higher up the ladder the fancier'the antilocutibn; '
Anyway, many years later, while reading something about Oriental philosophical thought, I ran across a piece which said, in effect, that it is far better to give a gift than to receive one. He who receives a gift is merely made happy while he who gives the gift creates that happiness. Maybe that's what we're talking about when we say that it is better to give than to receive.
The Christmas which came halfway between my eight and ninth birthdays came close to being a disaster. It was three days before Christmas and I had run out of money and was short of two gifts. I told my grandfather and he suggested that there were still leaves on the ground and that maybe we could find somebody who had some in their yard and was too lazy to rake them up and would pay us to do it. I had never raked leaves before. Didn't really know how it was done. I had seen something about it in the funny papers and I figured I could do it if the Katzenjammer Kids could do it and if Diggs could do it and if Sluggo could do it and especially if Dagwood could do it.
We must've gone to half-dozen or more houses with leaves all over the place but nobody wanted them raked. Can you picture an 88 year old man and an almost eight year old boy going house to house looking to rake a lot of leaves for a few bucks? We must really have been a sight. After so many rejections my grandfather concluded that we were in the wrong neighborhood. "Look like these peoples just goin' let them leaves rot where they at." "Yessir." "Let's go over where them swells live. They like to show off. They probably hire us to rake leaves whether they got any or not." "Yessir." And off we went. :At the first house there was nobody home but at the next one we got a job. It was a big house--one of those antebellum mansions—the kind where they used to have ten or fifteen slaves to rake the leaves--and the yard was huge in the bront, on the back and both sides. Every live oak tree that was still breathing must've been in that yard. There were leaves on top of leaves. They offered to pay us four dollars for the front and four for the back. "That way, both of y'all can have four whole dollars for your Christmas." "We shure do 'predate your kindness m'am and we goin' remember you in our Christmas prayers." My grandfather never went to church and I don't think he knew any prayers.
"Well, let's get it done boy." And so it began. My first experience raking leaves. At first it was fun but after about five minutes, as 8.8. would say; the thrill was gone. I began to have second thoughts on whether those two deserved presents or not and I started to slack off. My grandfather noticed and, well, just like he didn't mix his drinks he didn't mix his words. "You bit this chaw off boy and now you gonna chew it" and, you would've thought Arsenio was hiding out around there somewhere because he went on to say; "Now let's get busy."
I did. I started raking leaves faster than the police puts a young black man in the position. I went so fast there were some leaves floating in the air like they were trying to get back up in the trees. We got a pile here and a pile there and pretty soon we had piles everywhere. I raked even faster when
he told me the four dollars from the front yard was his. This meant I wouldn't be raking in any money for me until we got after that back yard. I started raking those leaves faster than a TV evangelist rakes in the cash.
Right at 1:30 we finished the front yard. It was going to be 4:30 by the time we would finish the back yard at the rate we were going. I didn't want to be in that neighborhood after dark. I had heard that those people go crazy at night.
Fortunately the back yard was a bit smaller and we finished it quicker. There were many piles of leaves. I don't know why I did it. Maybe it was something I had seen in the funny papers. All of a sudden, without any forethought, I ran and jumped into the last pile of leaves. My grandfather exploded. "Boy. You watch what you doing. Them leaves don't grow on trees!'. I"
Happy Holidays.