When I was in, probably, the seventh grade, I can remember Johnny walking home from High School, along the north side of East Michigan Avenue (Third Avenue, at that time). Most every one else walked on the south side of the street because that was the side that the school was on.
Johnny wasn’t considered to be “all there”, so a certain few of the kids would pick on him and make fun of him. They would get away with it alright, in the summertime, but in the winter, Johnny would, immediately after leaving the school building, mould a great big snowball, and polish it in his bare hands until it was glazed, with a coating of ice. He would then watch the other side of the street for one of the birds that had, sometime or other, picked on him. When he spotted one, he would let fly with that, ice coated snowball. Johnny might not have been real bright, but he had a sharp memory and possessed an amazing control over the path of that snowball.
As far as I know, Johnny has never been gainfully employed. For a long time he lived in the County Home, but it was later determined that he was not physically impaired, so he was no longer allowed to live there. I have no idea where he went to live, after his eviction, but it was still in the Centreville area. I am sure that Johnny contributed enough, in common labor, to more than pay his way at the institution, but rules are rules, and must be adhered to, regardless of the effect that they might have on innocent people.
Centreville is a good, big, six miles from the down town section of Three Rivers, but Johnny walked there, and back, every day, summer and winter, for as long as anyone can remember. People have surely given him rides, because everyone knew that he is harmless, even though he was some what of a pest. He called every one “Squire”.
Several years ago, Johnny got the idea that he was a Radio Newscaster. He took a large (about 4″ dia.) mailing tube, about three feet long, and taped an old radio tube to the end of it. He would then speak into the other end. He would pick some strategic spot, in town, where he was quite sure that he would have an audience, and then he would give the news, the weather, and the sports. Really, I thought that he did a pretty good job as far as the tone, the volume, and the diction were concerned. The only problem was, Johnny couldn’t read so he made up everything as he went along.
When I think of people like Johnny, I am forced to ask myself, “who is right”? Were we put here to tear around like mad men, trying to see how much money we can make, or what kind of a crazy new weapon we can devise, that will kill more people faster, or were we put here to sit on the steps of the Bowling Alley and shout into the open end of an empty mailing tube?
Johnny never cheated anyone, in a shady deal, he never ran for public office so he had no reason to lie to anyone. He never owned an automobile, so the few beers that he drank never got him into any trouble.
People didn’t expect much from him, but I suppose, if he had tried, real hard when he was young, he might have been able to learn enough to be conscious of the fact that the system expected certain things from him. He would have then spent his entire life trying to do things that were beyond his capability. So, instead of being a carefree newscaster, he would have probably been a self conscious recluse who died young.
- This segment is being edited in the late fall of 1985 and I saw Johnny on Main Street last summer.
- It is again being edited in the spring of 1990 and I saw Johnny in church this morning.
- It is again being edited in the summer of 1993. I saw Johnny on his way to church this morning.
- Good Lord! I saw Johnny again during the summer of 1995.
- Final Edit: During the late Winter of 1998 I received word that Johnny had passed away.