BACK SIDE OF TOWN

This is my Aunt Doris again.  She's 87 years old and just as spry as when she was 13 years old in this photo standing on Welch Street (now Piedmont Rd) with Young Street behind her.  She is part of the family that adopted me as a newborn.  My adopted family had it rough,  growing up in what most at the time would consider the worst part of town.  Below is another photo of her.  Young Street is still there,  but not one single house is left in the entire area.


Below is the same scene today. 

 

Let's take a look at what they had to face each morning:

The white arrow points to the house that my mom and Aunt lived. This was Welch St.  The front door of their house faced the B&O rail yard,  while the back door faced the NYC railroad.  They were surrounded on 3 sides by soot, ash, and noise of steam trains all day and all night.  I don't know what may have been worse... the shear look of the area covered in soot... or the asbestos flying through the air day and night from the train brakes.  This of course is where Joe Fazio and his family lived, (his restaurant today is in the center right of this photo)  and so the Fazios and my family were friends back then.   I would grow up only blocks from here,  on Smith Street,  right across the street from the largest rail yard in Charleston.  The trains ran day and night and crashed their boxcars together right near my window,  but I had it a hundred times better on Smith St than my family did just blocks away "back in the day".

A little more family history: My mom and Aunts grandmother on their fathers side lived right around the corner from them on Young Street near the railroad tracks.  "Old Lady Lewis" was a locally famous bootlegger,  and some say also ran prostitutes. She wasn't a woman to fool with and would kill you as look at you.  All the cops liked her (she paid em) and protected her back here in the bad part of town.  

Old Lady Lewis

Old lady Lewis was a powerful woman, so much so that we believe she managed to get pardons for her two sons due to her connections with police, judges, and who knows who else.  You simply didnt mess with her.


Old Lady Lewis

Two of her three sons, Lawrence and Wilbur Bonham


THESE ARE PHOTOS TAKEN WHEN MY AUNT LIVED HERE AS A CHILD

Every time I look at these photos,  I get mad.  Why?  Because it just reminds me that it wasn't only Blacks struggling.  Whites also lived in poverty.   I've often said that poverty is the greatest incentive in the world to motivate a person.  This holds true as long as you're not being spoon fed by the government and kept down. The people from this area,  both Black and White hard a hard row to hoe.  Most did fine.  Others (like Joe Fazio) did better.


n


Back to index