At another time Growing up in Butte written by Paul B. Lowney
A couple of short stories here. Odd ones in Butte
Like most small towns, Butte had its share of odd and eccentric characters known to most of the population. All of these people were lacking, either physically or mentally or both, and unfortunately, a lot of us kids, devoid of empathy, reacted to them with hurtful taunts just because they were different-or maybe, because of the way they were, we figured they expected it.
Shoestring Annie wore bizarre clothing, was middle-aged, loud, large, and muscular, and as you might have guessed, sold shoestrings. Her usual beat was in front of churches and on the corner of Park and main streets in the business district. When angered, she sometimes used her crutch as a weapon or a threat. We teased her now and then and recite a mean jingle about her.
A funny story that circulated about her-and I never knew whether it was fact or fiction-concerned Andy Davis, president of the First National Bank. Every day on his way to lunch, he'd give her 25 cents for shoe strings, but he'd never take them. One week, he was away for four days, and when he returned, Shoestring Annie approached him and said, " You owe me a dollar."
And then there was Fat Annie, who lived a block from our house. She had some type of malady, perhaps a type of palsy or St. Vitus's Dance-because she shook all the time and her speech came in slow hesitations and her eyes blinked continuously. Actually, we didn't say much to her other than to call her Fat Annie.
A well-known character in Butte was another Annie-Nickel Annie. She went about town repeatedly saying "Five cents please," and sometimes, "If you don't have five cents, a penny will do." Nickel Annie never asked for mere than five cents, and was always quiet and reserved as she walked the streets of Butte, a slightly built, forlorn figure, usually wearing a faded black dress. She stood on corners and knocked on doors, uttering her plaintive entreaty for five cents. On copper miners' payday, she was certain to be seen at the pay office on Granite Street. After 45 years of begging, she died in a county home. The record showed her name was Margaret English, a well-educated-woman from a prominent St. Louis family, and unlike some rumors, she was not wealthy. Her entire estate was a little more than 300 dollars in quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies. vintage tea length wedding dresses
Probably our most glamorous character was Flaming Maimie, or as some called her, The Painted Pony. She was a woman of means who plastered her face with heavy, red makeup and wore gaudy clothes. She seemed sad and appeared to be searching for something as she walked up and down Park Street. She always carried large shopping bags, and rumor had it that she was a compulsive shoplifter and had been caught several times. We kids didn't say anything to Maimie. We just stared at her and smiled and wondered if the story we heard about her was true. People said that she lost her husband to a younger woman who plastered her face with heavy red makeup and wore gaudy clothes.
I still feel a bit of remorse about our unkind behavior toward these people. I suppose children are blunt in expressing their feelings and lack the maturity to realize how painful their remarks can be. I view of what I said and what I thought, let these words say I'm sorry to Shoestring Annie, Fat Annie, Nickel Annie, Crazy Joe, Joe No legs, and Flaming Maimie.