Paintin’ Alcatraz

by kfrego

Mom’s brother Lerald and his wife Lee lived in Malone. During the summer of my sophomore year Uncle Lerald had a dry cleaning route for American Cleaners in Malone. He also had a carpet cleaning business. He gave me a part time job during the summer to help him with his work. Aunt Lee had at home work doing laundry and ironing for one of the large adirondack summer youth camps. Aunt Lee maintained their home, tended three young children, and ironed for hours every day. Lerald cleaned a lot of carpets in the evenings and on the weekends.

Uncle Lerald had a great personality. He could approach and converse with anyone. He loved to joke with people and had quite a knack for telling some notorious false stories about everything and anything. He also loved to drink beer, play his fiddle, and party. I was sixteen. He was fun to run around with. We would walk into a bar and he would order beer for both of us. He chattered non stop while the bartender served us, usually some big story about who I was and where I came from. His favorite story was when we worked on the paint crew at Alcatraz. Said we just couldn’t stand gray paint anymore, but it was a nice boat ride every day.

Working and running around with Uncle Lerald was non stop hilarious from dawn til dark. The American Cleaners route took us from Malone to Fort Covington, Bombay, Moira, Dickinson, Dickinson Center, West Bangor, Bangor, and back into Malone on Franklin Street. We hit most of the streets in every town and populated areas along the route. We would return cleaned items and pick up dirty items. Customers wanting items picked up would put a large card with a red “A” in their window.

We had a delivery in Fort Covington. Uncle Lerald told me not to laugh when meeting the lady. He said she would be wearing a dress and black tennis shoes with knee high stockings. This sounded like a typical Lerald exaggeration so I shrugged my shoulders and laughed it off. We hit the ladies driveway going much too fast. She was bent over cleaning some flower beds when Uncle Lerald entered the driveway, locked up the brakes, and slid to a stop five feet behind her. The dust was flying everywhere. I just knew she was going to kill him and wished I had a place to hide. She jumped forward, stood up, and asked Uncle Lerald if she scared him. She was dressed just like he said.

Lerald always claimed a family had a chimpanzee on a dirt road out of Dickinson Center. I’d always shake my head and laugh at him. Sure enough we were going by one day and he slammed on the brakes almost putting me into the windshield. The big chimpanzee was on top of their car hopping up and down. No exaggeration to this story.

Aunt Lee passed last year. Uncle Lerald still lives in Malone…………….it’s amazing Aunt Lee let him live this long.