I’ve been making tapes here lately of some tapes I copied that were made back in 1972 and 1973. Tapes that Howard Smith and Sonny Smith made of Mack Harris talking.
Lord, Mack Harris was born January 18, 1897 and lived to 86 years old. Died in 1983. Here it is 91. Mack would be an old, old man now if he was living.
On some of those tapes and some tapes I’ve made along with them telling different stories about Mack, Uncle Arch Higgins’ name comes up every once and a while. I didn’t tell all the stories I wanted to tell about Uncle Arch Higgins. Uncle Arch lived to be way up in his 80s. Shoot if Uncle Arch was living I think he’d be 105 or 10 years old now.
So I’m going to tell a few about Uncle Arch to start with. Its something that the people that knew him, it would be something they’d like to remember. It’s just Island stories. Things that happened on the street here in the Village and around.
The thing about Uncle Arch...he was up pretty old when he worked there in the café in the early 1950s. Howard Smith had a little café. Uncle Arch worked there and his wife, Miss Rosetta worked in there with them.
Uncle Arch Higgins
Uncle Arch was always talking about the kids coming from school in the evening. Stopping in there to get a glass of water in the cafe. Didn’t buy anything, just wanted a drink of water.
He was always talking about that boy of Mr. Leonard Hamilton’s, ole Lamon Hamilton. Uncle Arch said, “He’s got the best water appetite anybody ever saw. That sucker wants water every evening.” Uncle Arch said it would be dull, wouldn’t be any customers in the café and he’d be sitting out there in the alley chewing his tobacco. Sometimes an hour or two before he’d have a customer. But he had customers when school let out. He (Lamon) would be in town walking by the café getting water.
So Jack McNair and I (Jack had a saloon next door) got to talking about Uncle Arch and his water customer so we fixed him up one day. Little kids got out of school and I went down the street and they passed by on the corner down where the bank was. I gave a good many of them a nickel apiece to go by Uncle Arch’s down at Howard’s café and ask for a glass of water. Then I went to the merchants there in town. Filling station and all up and down. Just everybody I could see. I’d tell them, “Y’all go on down after while and get you a glass of water.” I told them the joke we were pulling on Uncle Arch.
Sure enough, school let out and they started in. Those kids. It was always a few them but man, just all of them. Jack McNair and I were outside the café looking through the window. Uncle Arch, I mean, he was in a spin. He’d get 2 glasses of water and set them out & two more kids, “I want some water Mr. Arch, give me a drink of water.” He was just spinning. About the time the kids began to slow down those different merchants and the people on the street, grown people, started coming in. “Mr. Higgins give me a glass of water.” He was just constantly putting out water. He finally caught up. I reckon he put out about 55 glasses of water there in about 5 minutes.
Uncle Arch finally got caught up and about that time Freddie Krause (who had a little feed store there in town) came in late. He was told about the deal but something happened and he didn't get there early. Uncle Arch had stopped serving water.
Ole Freddie walked in and said, "Mr. Higgins, give me a glass of water." Uncle Arch blowed his top and said, "Damn, Howard Smith has got the best damn water business in town." Me and ole Jack had to hold on to each other; we were laughing so hard. I swear, that was funny.