Let me introduce you to Mr. Sturgis. The meanest get off my lawn guy in America.
Mr. Sturgis sat on his second story balcony shaking his wooden cane at us kids as we played catch on the side walk. I don’t know why we were so scared of him. In addition to the wooden cane Mr. Sturgis also had a wooden leg. So he could not chase us and catch us as we played on Vancouver Street on Detroit’s west side.
When our ball landed on his lawn Mr. Sturgis shook that cane and yelled for us to get off his pristine lawn. But that’s not all. He’d remind us that we all were going to be failures and losers in life.
“Get off my lawn you no good kids,” he’d scream. “Ain’t none of yawl gonna amount to nothing.”
One day Mr. Sturgis came down from his perch to lecture us. He told the girls they were going to all be on welfare with 10-12 babies. He told us boys that we were going to be no show daddy’s who had a bunch of kids out of wedlock and would refuse to take care of them.
One of our friends, Melvin, lived on the first floor of the two family flat and Mr. Sturgis called him a retard because he had a learning disability.
This man was a peach.
One of the kids named Louis became a computer programmer. He saw Mr. Sturgis on his porch and told him about his new job. Mr. Sturgis was unimpressed.
“It must have been an affirmative action hire,” he grumbled. “You won’t have that job in two years.”
Mr. Sturgis was right about one thing. Louis did not have that job for very long because another firm hired him away with a bonus and bigger paycheck.
When I was hired at The Detroit Free Press Louis encouraged me to tell Mr. Sturgis about my job. That I was another one of those no good kids who would not amount to nothing that had an exciting career.
I was reluctant to do it because Mr. Sturgis could ruin a trip to Hawaii. One day I returned to the old neighborhood and Mr. Sturgis was on his usual perch pissed off at the world.
Even as an adult I was scared of this man. I told him about being a sports writer at the Free Press. He gave me the Ziggy too.
“Yeah, I saw your name in the paper,” he grumbled. “I don’t know how you got that job. You can’t write.”
I said nothing. I let him have his moment. Grand mom taught me to respect my elders. And if a man is sitting in the same seat on the same porch for 20 years bitching at kids then he must live a miserable life.Find Terry Foster Podcast here: