Thursday, June 15, 2006

Parking Lot Job

The picture of Lee above was taken inside the toll booth of the parking lot across the street from the Robert E. Lee Hotel. Lee worked between twenty to thirty years at two parking lots in Winston-Salem. His pay, most likely, never exceeded more than one hundred dollars per week. There were no benefits, 401-k, pension, stock purchase plans, or bonus opportunities.

The toll booth was positioned in the center of the driveway. It was only large enough for one person. He handed time-stamped tickets to incoming drivers through the sliding window on his left. The sliding window on his right was used to accept the ticket from departing cars. He again stamped the ticket with time, manually computed hours parked, figured the cost, and completed the money transaction with the departing customer. The booth was hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

Lee loved his job there and was very well liked by all people around town except derelicts, street people, bums, and winos. Lee was often approached by such people who asked him for money. His response was to curse them and say, "Get the hell out of here you son-of-bitch. Go get a damn job and don't come back here."

Sometimes these people would threaten Lee with bodily harm for his response to their want. Lee would then lay his artificial arm in the open window ledge and expose the intimidating metal gripper where his hand should be. This action usually conveyed a message that sent them on their way.

Lee only used this artificial arm and gripper to balance his body, to playfully incite shock and awe among young children he knew, and to intimidate street-people bums. There were cases in which this technique didn't send the bums on their way. When that happened, he came out of the toll booth brandishing his pistol and cursing them with threats to shoot. He was never required to demonstrate his seriousness.

In modern terminology, Lee could be described as having "zero-tolerance" for bums with two good legs, two good arms, a complete stomach, and an average brain.

You may wonder how I know the above well enough to quote Lee. As a teenager, I visited him at the parking lot a few Saturday evenings where I watched him work and talked with him between customers. There was standing room only for a second person in the toll booth. I witnessed first hand some above incidents and he told me about others.

It was very common to see people standing outside his toll booth window engaged in friendly talk with Lee. Someone from the Quality Oil Company office came to replace Lee for restroom breaks and lunch. There was no telephone in his workplace and cell phones were not yet invented.

Lee was a good gardener and grew produce each year. He brought corn, potatoes, beets, beans, and tomatoes with him to work and sold this home-grown produce to acquaintances in the city. He supplied some vegetables to the first K & W Cafeteria which was located around the corner from his lot. Lee was known by important people in downtown and they welcomed his produce in the summer. In the winter they purchased seasoned sausage. Lee slaughtered mature hogs raised by neighboring farms. He hired family and friends to help butcher and process the meat into sausage. Of course, Frances and Dorothy helped with this work.

The picture below of Lee was taken by Journal photographer Jim Keith in 1962 for an article in the Winston-Salem newspaper about the corn stalk he grew beside the sidewalk at the parking lot entrance.

Return here Saturday, June 17 for more about Lee Anderson.

Have a good day!



At 6/15/2006 8:24 AM, Blogger t browder said...

I like Lee even more as a parking attendant than in uniform. I don't think there would ever have been a chance for Lee to be a "Director of Diversity" at a big corporation! Also, since I am working downtown right now, I think I'll start looking for a spot for tomato plants. I think the managing partners of the law firm where I work would love to look out the 7th floor window and see me working in the garden!



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