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Mr. Oklin, Food Peddler and All Around Good Guy

I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.

To Every Thing

there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up . . ..Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

David and Harry Silverman with their fruit peddling cart in St. Paul, MN.

David and Harry Silverman with their fruit peddling cart in St. Paul, MN.

And Then There

came Mr. Oklin, the very first Peddler that I had ever met, and although I was pretty cool and "on the ball" at age eight, I was very much in awe of this man. His professional name was Oklin Avery, a cousin of mine who everyone knew as a "Jack of All Trades," and at this time of his life, he was a Grocery Peddler as well as driving a school bus for the Marion County School System--located in Hamilton, AL.

I have to be honest, Oklin was not a high school graduate. He was not even a grade school grad. His "institute of higher learning" was Life that he lived to the fullest each day that came. And Mr. Oklin had another thing going for him besides having an abundance of street smarts. He had "that" human touch and able to identify with strangers who ended up as friends when they had finished purchasing the foods that he was peddling. Plus, Mr. Oklin had a razor-sharp memory and when in two more weeks had rolled by to call on his customers and these "new" customers showed up, Mr. Oklin called them by their first names. Not everyone can lay claim to doing that.

In order for me to write a full-description of someone that made an impression on my life, in this case, Mr. Oklin, I would have to talk for a bit about his love for Snuff, the finely-ground tobacco that is still sold today and Oklin came with a "dip" in his bottom cheek--and I found out years later that he even slept with a "dip" of his Rooster snuff as well as you and I would sleep without something in our mouths. But that was Mr. Oklin's way.

Wherever Mr. Oklin was at the Time

he always found a way to know people there and how he could help them and visa versa. I can attest to this fact about Mr. Oklin and how he helped people: he would call on several people who loved a certain produce, watermelons, cantaloupes, apples, and so on and as it turns out, at the Birmingham (Ala.) Farmers Market, Oklin could get these items below cost by telling the farmers at this spacious place that he was a Food Distributor and he didn't lie. Well, he did just a little. Mr. Oklin didn't know what "distribute" meant. There again going back to his lack of formal education. But I can tell you that the produce he hauled from The Farmers Market back to his customers in Hamilton, Mr. Oklin did not make a huge profit for his trouble. If he did, he would have retired then and there, but in order for him to retire meant not working and that meant NO money. God forbid.

When produce season was over, Birmingham, Ala., served Mr. Oklin in another way: he would collect all sorts of metals in and around our hometown, Hamilton, Ala., and when he thought that he had a good load of metals, he would make the trip to a metals business that would buy the goods from Mr. Oklin, so everyone around Hamilton started calling him a Scrap Iron Dealer. Chalk another job up for Mr. Oklin. As long as it was legal and made money, he was there.

I cannot close unless I tell you about a certain time in 1990 when my family and I were running short of some money for bills and although I had to swallow my pride, I borrowed some money from Mr. Oklin and he never made me sign any paper or give me any secret handshake to seal our agreement. But I did pay him back on the next Friday when I told him that I would. Mr. Oklin and I were friends and friends do things for each other.

It hurt me and many others when Mr. Oklin passed from this walk of life and it was similar to having a bad dream--for men like Mr. Oklin never taste death. It's not in their chromosomes. They just keep on giving and doing and living.

I could say that this was Mr. Oklin's secret formula for a long life.

The Produce Peddler in Fez, Morocco.

The Produce Peddler in Fez, Morocco.

© 2018 Kenneth Avery