I have had a very busy summer, home improvement projects, entertaining guests, traveling around my current home and traveling “back home” — all your usual summer busy-ness. However, this summer Logan visit did afford me some opportunities to polish and glean some new tales from Logan. A few more stories to tell, a few more details to add to ones I had squirreled away.
I heard this story from grandma around 2000. Grandpa had died two years earlier and grandma and I were just visiting, laughing and talking about grandpa’s stories and tall tales, his Big Fish life and his infectious love for the world and people in general. He just really loved being with folks.
So, in one of those pauses from laughter, out of the blue, grandma says to me, “and like that time he had dinner with Louis Armstrong–”
What?! Wait, whoa– back up, grandma- I have not heard this one!
Grandpa had started working at Trucker’s Paradise, a truck stop just on the west edge of Logansport on US 24, as a mechanic in the late 1950s, just out of the trunk of his car as a sort of freelance mechanic, servicing semi-trucks as they passed through Logansport on their way somewhere else. My mom told me that when she was a young gal, she began keeping his books, billing companies for service he had performed on trucks as they needed it. One company refused to pay grandpa so he had to stop working on their trucks when they needed help. However, mom told me that one day a refrigerated meat truck was passing through and broke down just outside of Logan. The trucker called grandpa but grandpa politely declined, telling him that his company refused to pay him for his work. The driver, worried about losing a semi-truck full of beef, offered to pay grandpa with steaks. That was an offer grandpa could not refuse. By the mid 60s, recognizing his invaluable skills as a big rig mechanic, Trucker’s had grandpa on their payroll.
So, grandma begins telling me that back in the days before cheap mass transit, just after the wave of televisions in most homes but before the Civil Rights Movement, when grandpa was working at Trucker’s Paradise, he walked into the restaurant and noticed several black men were seated in a booth, awaiting service. Again, this was in the days before desegregation but it was also in the North. There were no designated “colored only” seating assignments as there would have been in the Jim Crow South.
Grandma told me that in grandpa’s usual manner, he approached the men in the booth and conversation ensued. Grandpa was always one for a good visit, a good story and making friends wherever and whenever the opportunity presented itself. The guys in the booth invited grandpa to join them and they all enjoyed a meal together.
Later, and I don’t know how much later– days, weeks, months, maybe years– grandpa came home from work one day and grandma had the television on. Louis Armstrong was on the program and grandpa stopped in his tracks, looked at the television and said, “Hey, I know that guy! I had lunch with him out at Trucker’s–”
Grandma was exasperated and exclaimed, “You had lunch with Louis Armstrong?!!”
And grandpa replied, somewhat deflated, “Oh– Louis Armstrong?! No, no, nevermind– The guy I met was named ‘Satchmo’.”
Now, I don’t know if this is a true story or not but it’s how I heard it from grandma, anyways, and I think to myself, “What a wonderful world!”
- Louis Armstrong on How He Became Satchmo (esquire.com)
- Lost Louis Armstrong Interview Gets Animated For PBS Series (947thewave.cbslocal.com)
- ∞ 1964 interview with Louis Armstrong (loopinsight.com)