Does Anyone Remember a Man Named Sam?

Does anyone else from the Sprigg Street neighborhood remember an African-Amercan man named Sam? He had mostly white hair from what I could see, although he always had on a hat with a droopy brim. He always had a pole with a gunny sack tied to the end thrown over his shoulder. I am guessing that the gunny sack had most or all of his belongings in it. He wore an old suit that had seen its better days. I usually saw him on Ranney Street walking in the 1200 block, minding his own business. I have no idea where he was going, if he lived in the area, or if he was one of the men who occasionally got off the train….my mom called them hobos. If he was a hobo, he must have come to Cape frequently because I remember seeing him on several occasions, always on Ranney Street. He walked as though he was on his way someplace, not just wandering aimlessly. He was never in a rush, just walking by at a measured steady pace.

We had hobos come to our house on Sprigg Street once in a while and knock on the door. My mother would always cook them something to eat and they would sit on the front step, eat their meal, then leave. I don’t think Sam ever came to our door though.

Some people called Sam by a racist name which I don’t wish to use. The reader can probably guess what word it was but I won’t publish it. I will instead call him Mr. Sam. There was a vicious story told about Mr. Sam back in those days which now I recognize as an outright lie but which I thought was true at the time because adults were the ones repeating it. It was this: Mr. Sam stole little children. That’s what he had in that sack on the end of his pole…….little children. Not just any little children though. Only little children who did not mind their parents. And Mr. Sam was going to take those little children home and eat them!

So, that was the threat……behave or your parents would call Mr. Sam to come get you. Like he was the boogy-man!

Now if that is not a purely evil made-up story then I have never heard one. Why on earth would anyone make up a horrible story to malign a man (most likely not an unkind man, by the expression I saw on his face) and to use that story to manipulate children to be good? If I could turn back time while at the same time knowing what I know now, I would say “Hi” to Mr. Sam next time he came walking by and smile at him and hope that he might smile back. Maybe I could have known him as a friend instead of running scared every time I saw him or every time someone said that they were going to call him to come get me. (Note: my mother never threatened to call him and she never called him by that name.)

I am quite certain that Mr. Sam is long gone from this world but I still wish I knew who he was and what his life was like…..did he live near? Did he have children? What kind of work did he do? Could he sing or play a musical instrument? What had his life been like? Would he have told stories? Would he have liked to have me as his friend?

I will never know the answer to most, if not all, of these questions. To me it is so sad that he was maligned without ever having deserved it, just minding his own business, probably doing the best he could to get by. This is yet another regret for me from those days…..a missed opportunity, a blessing missed possibly, both for him and for me. Maybe I would have learned important lessons from him. Maybe we would have laughed out loud together at stories he might have told.

If anyone reading this post has any idea who Mr. Sam was or anything about him, please leave me a comment or email me at

I would be so grateful to know more about him.

P.S. I found an image that looks a lot like Mr. Sam by doing a Google search. The image is from another blog called Grumpy Old Ken. Here is a link to an interesting and entertaining story on his blog: Spring Hath Sprung. Here is the image:


This entry was posted in 1960, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Neighbors, racism, Ranney Street, Sprigg Street and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Does Anyone Remember a Man Named Sam?

  1. gary wren says:

    Darla, I thinkI know who your talking about. This man was very good man. I was a police officer in Cape Girardeau for about ten years and had several conversations with the gentleman. We called him Slim. This man had a very rough life, but was always kind and respectable. I know he’s with our savior and walking those streets of gold

  2. darlajune says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know this. It is good to know that he loved the Lord. I had hoped so. There may yet be a chance for me to get to know him someday. God bless you for letting me know. By the way, I found both Charles and Charlotte Taylor. I spoke to Charles’ wife on the phone and he emailed me. I have spoken with Charlotte on the phone a couple of times and plan to stay in touch with her, possibly may get to see her some day.

  3. gary wren says:

    Darla, I have some more information on Mr. Slim. Mr. Slims real name was Jesse Harris. He died in sept. 1975 and is buried in St. Mary’s cementery in Cape. Mr. Harris was to believed to be around a hundred years old when he died. Another interesting note is that he left his church around 30 thousand when he died, a lot of cash in 1975. One thing i know, he was avery fine fellow.

  4. darlajune says:

    Thank you so much! I am so very happy to know his name. And isn’t it ironic that he left his church so much money and yet he didn’t appear to have a penny to his name? I have the hope of meeting Mr. Jesse Harris one day and giving him the respect I failed to show him years ago, God willing. Again, Gary, I thank you for taking your time to let me know this gentleman’s name and the good report of his character. God bless you!

  5. Tracie Clark says:

    I remember this man – I was really small though and I only knew him as the “Sack Man.” My dad used to talk to him a lot when he’d walk by our house over on Ranney. I later found out that he was a really kind person (after I was grown) but when I was little I was just told that if I didn’t behave the “Sack Man” would get me.

    • darlajune says:

      Tracy, thanks for your comment. This story about Mr Harris taking little children was so prevalent and it is such a shame that the adults in our neighborhood would smear a good man’s reputation in order to control their children’s behavior. I wrote another article about Mr Harris that you may have seen. But, in case you haven’t seen it, here is a link:

  6. Pingback: His Name Was Mr. Jesse Harris | Sprigg Street Memories, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, 1960's

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