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Money in the Tenderloin
. . . You see, my young friends had brought me into the tenderloin district at a very young age, even before we were in long pants. In fact, we used to steal long pants from our fathers and brothers and uncles and slip on in. When the policemens caught us, they would slip us on in jail. One of them, I remember, was named Fast Mail Burwell. He was known to be Fast Mail because he had two legs and feet that couldn't be beat, and he would take the straps on the ends of his club and cut our legs to ribbons. We kids were very much frightened of him and, at times, would climb those high-board fences to escape. In those days we had curfew in New Orleans and, when the curfew bell rang at nine, all the kids was supposed to be at home. Of course, it was our ambition to show that we were tough and could stay out after curfew.
When I was about fourteen, my mother died and left my favorite uncle as guardian. He was in the barber business and he gave me a job at the fabulous salary of twenty-five cents a week and promised a suit for New Years. My assignments were chambermaid, apprentice and note messenger to his different girls, plus excuses to his wife. He was punctual with my salary, and with the few pennies I made on shines I was able to help my sisters for whom I had a fatherly feeling, since I was the oldest.
When New Years came I waited for my new suit. Uncle's wife was very good at sewing and I believe it was agreed between both uncle and wife to cut down one of uncle's suits. This was done and the suit was presented to me, very much to my disapproval. Uncle was a very fat man, weighing about 22