Vita Sua in a Bygone Mobile
Part 7 in a series: "Biddies, bawdies, one man who couldn't pull the trigger and one who could."
Previous installments: 1, 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 and 6.
Mobile Bay Times
Mother's death brought on some new duties for me.
Her will appointed me executor of her estate and also trustee for a trust she had established for her eleven grand children, whose ranks were later to be swelled to fourteen.
Despite the fact that
Mother's top salary was
$325 a month and that
she worked for as little
as $35 a month, she
had reared three
children all by herself
and had accumulated
assets worth in excess
It was now my sad duty
to manage and disburse
those assets as Mother
Her law firm handled the probate of mother's will expeditiously and without charge.
Over the next few years, I distributed all the assets in the estate, other than the trust fund, mother's home and a couple of small lots that, to this date, I have not been able to even locate, much less sell.
The house at 57 South Lawrence Street was the big stumbling block to the liquidation of the major part of the estate.
The move to the suburbs was already well under way in the late '50's and early '60's and ancient apartment houses a half mile from the town's business center weren't exactly choice bits of property.
However, mother's house, with mother there, did have considerable value. She picked her tenants carefully, made friends of them all and kept most of them for long periods of time. She also did a good job of keeping up the old house.
Whereas mother was an outstanding landlady, I was hardly fitted for the role of landlord, particularly since I did not live on the premises.
I count among my more interesting business experiences, the nearly four years which I spent as a landlord and which came to a merciful end Sept. 1, 1964 when we were able to sell the house for what I considered an excellent price.
Oh, but what an array of tenants I had!
Through the year 1959 I held on to only two of mother's five tenants, Mrs. Flossie S and Mrs. Mary B, two old widows who were living out their lives in genteel poverty.
When I lost Minnie Magee in the lower northeast apartment, I took on a Lucille C, a redhead whose voluptuous appearance should have forewarned me that her nest was to be the temporary home for more than one partner.
We finally came to a parting of the ways when one of Miss C's visitors fired a gun in the apartment, whether at her or at another paramour who may have gotten his appointment time mixed up, I never did find out.
I can remember collecting the rent from Lucille. I would go to the door and rap. Miss C would come to the door in her negligee and invite me in. I would take one step and stop. I never did have to explain to her that we operated on a cash basis only and she did not offer her services in lieu of cash, although I am sure she was prepared to do so.
I guess I was about as glad to see her leave as I was to
lose any of our tenants, including the ones who set fire to the mattress in an upstairs apartment.
All told, that first year as a landlord, I had a total of 16
tenants in the five apartments. It goes without saying that I didn't demand long leases.
Now all of this was just a holding operation. I knew that I couldn't continue to operate the house indefinitely. But I had a prospective buyer, one Albert Schock. Schock owned the corner property on Government, bordering mother's house. He had converted an old stone home into a large business office and he needed additional parking space.
Mother's house covered virtually her entire lot and offered parking space for only about a dozen cars. It did not have much value to anyone but Albert. However, he did not have enough space on his existing property and did want the extra space rather badly.
He was a most exasperating person with whom to deal. He would come by my office or call me at home, stating that he was about ready to make an offer and mentioning an attractive price. His stays, either at the office or on the phone, were always lengthy. He would wander off the subject to tell me what a great person he was, how he trusted in the Lord and the Lord in him and so forth, ad nauseam. Had I other prospects, I would have cut him off. But, since he was virtually our only hope, I had to play along with him.
(Chapter VIII: (Business and sentiment share quarters uneasily and when a resolution finally comes, it's a Schock.)