I've been giving water, pop, juice ( what ever happened to be the coldest at the time) to the garbage men during the hot summer months, I don't know how long I've been doing this (old age ya see) but I was thinking the other day, in all this time, no one has asked why and then I thought, "What am I going to tell them when and if one of them does ask why. (they don't really have time to stop and talk you see) so maybe they will read this and then they will understand why.
It wasn't because it was hot (hell nobody brought me a cold drink when I was hot). And I couldn't just say it was because of a nice man named Jimmy Wilkes.
I had to laugh when the picture of Jimmy popped into my head. You see Jimmy was a man that made you laugh and he was a man that loved kids and loved life! .
Jimmy was our garbage man, he came around once a week on the back of a garbage truck picking up peoples garbage, the garbage trucks back then looked pretty much the same as they do today, one guy driving and one picking up the garbage, Old Jimmy he was always on the back.
I call him old because to me at the time he was old, though you would never know it because when Jimmy would go by on the back of that truck there where always 4,5,6.... hell there where always a bunch of kids running behind the truck (note to kids today, don't do this at home :)
Jimmy loved kids, he was just a big kid him self really, he would tease them, joke with them and him self, he'd sing, dance, you name it, Jimmy would do it all just to make the kids laugh, all while picking up other peoples garbage and all so Jimmy could do what he loved most in life, play baseball.
You see Jimmy use to play for the Brantford Red Socks, this was back when you didn't get paid for playing baseball (or if you did it wasn't enough to get by on) he picked up garbage so he could raise a family and still do what he loved.
I didn't know Jimmy as a baseball player other than on one Saturday afternoon a friend of mine and I snuck into see one of the games between Listowel and Brantford. The way I remember it Jimmy was one of the best baseball players in the world, we cheered for him and yelled his name, "Go Jimmy Go!" It was a great day watching our hero as he played the game he loved so much.
I didn't know what happened to Jimmy or his baseball career until just a few years ago. But it wasn't because of baseball or sports that Jimmy inspired in my life.That's not what I remember him for. I remember him for the laughter he brought to all those kids and the difference he had made in my life.
You see , Jimmy was black and I'm sure if you asked any of those other kids today, they would tell you that at the time, we didn't see Jimmy as a black man the color of his skin didn't matter, Jimmy was just a very nice man on the back of a garbage truck that made us kids laugh! and we all loved it when garbage day rolled around each week and we would run behind the truck all of us wanting to grow up and become a garbage man just like Jimmy.
We didn't see a black man, hell I didn't even know what a black man was until I went out into the world, that's how we where raised back then (thanks Mom) and with me as I'm sure is true with the other kids Jimmy touched in his life, when ever I have run into prejudice in my life, I would think of Jimmy and remember that the color of a man's skin is not what is important, it's the man inside!
And this is why I give the garbage men a cold drink on a hot summer day, because Jimmy taught me some of the most important things I've learned in my life.
He taught me to laugh, at and with others, he taught me to laugh at my self, he taught me that there are good people in this world, no matter the color of their skin, and Jimmy taught me that it didn't matter what you did in life for a living, what was important is that you laugh, have fun and do what ever it takes to follow your dreams.
So to the garbage men out there that have had a cold drink brought out to you on a hot summer day. I do appreciate what you are doing! But as for the cold drink. It's just my way of saying:
Thanks Jimmy!!! You'll never know what a difference you made in my life!
Go here if you like, as it turns out, Jimmy Wilkes was quit a man! and not just in my eyes :)
James E. Jimmy Wilkes (Seabiscuit)
Born: October 1, 1925, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died: August 11, 2008, Brantford, ON