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    Robert Baldwin's Memories of Joseph Wakeley Wallace

    My grandfather, Joseph, died at Charity Hospital when I was about 11 or 12. He was hit by a white Cadillac on North Robertson, right off of Broad.


    The smell of tobacco all over the man, and the drool of it on the corner of his mouth.

    The hard black eyes, cold.

    The bitter laugh that followed cruel humor.

    The stories he carried of me, of everyone, were always the worst.

    It's strange the details that my mind wraps around and grips.

    Joseph Wallace, my mother's father, had moved south from Philadelphia long before I was born and transformed himself from a Wakeley to a Wallace.

    There were stories that his first wife [Clara Millie Speece] died in an isolated farm house in New Jersey. I shiver when I think about the descriptions of her trying to give birth on a kitchen table... a breached birth. And Joseph trying to help her. I shiver at the thought of him hacking with a kitchen knife, trying to do some good. And then watching as she bled out.

    The Joseph I knew was a hard man... a man with hard memories.

    He called me "Bloodhound" as long as I knew him, my mother was "Mutt". It would be many years before I got the full story behind these names, and why he insisted that I not call him "grandpa".

    "I'm not your grandfather! Call me Uncle Joe!"

    You name it, Joseph was bitter and angry and disappointed about it.

    He trusted no one, always looking for a motive.

    That may be why he would push me away when I would try to crawl into his lap.

    It also may be why, as a pre-schooler, I hit him in the head with my toy fire truck while he was napping.

    So much of his life was broken, even down to the bottle of vitamins he carried in his pocket when the car hit him. If he had not gone to the drugstore to buy some Carter's Liver Pills, a plug of Brown Mule, and the vitamins, he may have lived long past his 81 years.

    Joseph's wake at the House of Boultman on St. Charles Avenue was magnificent. He had been paying on that burial policy with this funeral home for years. The old man went out big. I can remember riding in one of those huge black limos to the Garden of Memories on Airline.

    There are also memories of my grandmother, Emma, making everyone promise, even swear, that they would never bury her body near him. The plot next to him is still empty. I had never seem my grandmother like this. I was in awe. This was a lady with a head of steam that I didn't recognize. Emma had many of the Spirit's gifts. Whatever prompted her do this on the day of Joseph's funeral? Maybe more of the same that caused her to live apart from him for so many years.

    Linked toEmma Blanche Hedding; Clara Amelia Speece; Robert Barton [Wakeley] Baldwin; Joseph [Wakeley] Wallace

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