One of Hazard’s greatest street characters of all time was a man known only as “Steve”. In the 1940’s and 50’s he would parade up and down
He had a fine moustache and it was always groomed to perfection. His face was hardened by the rigors of many long years in that he had numerous wrinkles and an over-abundance of aging lines. Obviously, he had been affected by too much work during his time. Or, perhaps, he just spent too many hours under the Sun. In any case, his countenance was badly weathered.
Steve was Slavic in nature and he spoke broken English with a very strong dialect. People who knew him better than I did have said that he came from some Country in Europe’s Middle East, either Romania or Hungary. His best friend on the street was Moses Lasslo, a shoe maker. If a rain storm passed over the mountains, he would take refuge in Lasso’s Shoe Shop and Lasso’s Jewelry Shop which was run by Mrs. Lasso, mother of Jay Lasso.
His daily route would begin at the
and it would end at the old Greyhound Bus Depot or the US Post Office,
depending upon which side of the street that he was on, either the Eastward or
the Westward. He liked to meet and greet every new bus that came into town.
And, it wasn’t too much longer before he was dubbed as Hazard’s
one-man-greeting spokesperson. Railroad
He would pace up and down
on both sides of the road, (riverside and hillside) saying to each of the
pedestrians this same identical expression; “God bless you honey. Gimmee a
nickel.” And, as a result of his comical appearance and his magnanimous smile,
most people would dig deep into their pockets and purses to give him his token
request, a 5-cent coin.
I learned how to judge people by watching old Steve work the streets. The richer ones who cherished a nickel most would cross the street in order to avoid him and his repartee. The poorer ones, like myself, would give freely exactly what he asked for, a five-cent piece. And, the children of Hazard, they would stand in line to make a proper donation.
We citizens of Hazard and all of the people from the outlying regions were completely awed by this man’s audacity. That was the way that it was when everybody came to Hazard town for shopping on
It was truly the best of Hazard’s Glory Years and I shall never forget them,
“God Bless you Honey. Gimmee a nickel” became his slogan and, as I said, people couldn’t wait to make a contribution. He had an old fedora which he would remove from his head and it would serve as his coin collection container. Maybe that is why he was so strongly sun-tanned, who knows?
He was much older than I when I knew him during the 1940’s and 1950’s. And, I believe that he died while I was at
in about 1956. But, the salient point is this particular statement. The Sheriff
was asked to search his little shack near the UK Bluegrass
part of town. His clapboard living quarters rested very near the L&N
railroad tracks where no one else in the whole wide World would want to live. I
think that he camped-out on Railroad property but I am not completely certain
about the separation lines.
In any case, the Sheriff discovered a cache of $10,000 and it was all in nickels. They used the money to pay for his funeral since he had no known descendants. But, he didn’t die as a pauper, did he? I was much impressed by the lesson that he taught each of us. “Save your money kid or you’ll end up like little old me.” He was Hazard’s only street beggar and I loved that old man. Does anyone know his proper surname?