Campau Square

Hilda Stob Prose
1974

Campau Square lies in the center of our city’s shopping area and is a most fascinating place where one can be a people watcher while waiting for a bus at the finish of a shopping trip.

One can see a cross-section of the city there, all kinds of people from many places. I remember the blind man who was always standing in the same place selling his pencils. He always stood near the entrance to Kresge’s .25 – $1.00 store. He was an American Indian, and I wondered how he could find his way to the same place each day until I saw his escort call for him, a small Indian boy. I’m sorry that I didn’t ask him questions about himself for he no longer comes there to stand patiently hour after hour hopefully holding his pencils. Where did he come from, and where has he gone? I will never know.

Then there are the two-some women, with their clean white sweaters, casually flung over their shoulders, their hair freshly coifed at the beauty shop, and now, “Just looking thank you.”, out for the day with a friend. Wealthy? No. For the wealthy women are not seen on Campau Square.

I also remember the “bum” who walked very briskly in the shoes which were too big for him, and the gray overcoat which also was too big for him, and which he did not need to wear that July morning, but which no doubt he used as a blanket at night, and the only safe place he could leave it was on his own body. I discovered why he walked so briskly from one trash container to the next, searching for something salvageable, cigarette or cigar butts, or perhaps some food that a passerby had thrown there. And why was he walking so briskly? About three minutes later another man made the rounds, and the first man who no doubt was more knowledgeable wanted first choice.

Then I remember so distinctly one morning in June. It was a clear, sunny day,  cool, and somehow calm and relaxing. I was standing in front of the window of Woolworths, watching the people, as usual, and waiting for my bus, when around the corner came the sweetest little couple. The little lady had on a spotlessly clean cotton dress, over which she had buttoned her collarless navy blue sweater, her tan cotton stockings were a bit awry, and her sensible black oxfords had a fine shine. Her black straw hat was set squarely on her little knob of gray hair, and she walked slowly, with dignity evidently out for the morning with her husband. He was equally spare of frame, and as frail looking, in his gray sweater-coat, and imitation straw hat turned up in back and down in front, you know the kind. His clean shirt and gray work pants, and thick soled work shoes, spoke of thrifty dignity. They walked slowly, hand in hand, in and out of the Ten-Cent stores which were on the Square. After they had passed, I turned to the elderly lady next to me and said, “Aren’t they sweet?” Expecting an affirmative answer at most, you can imagine my surprise, when a flood of tears came instead, and between sobs she said, “Oh! If I could only walk that way with my husband. He died three months ago, and I am so lonesome for him”. I had not known of the heart-ache next to me, until a word was spoken.

The sweetness and calmness and integrity and endurance and faith and acceptance and thankfulness of that frail little farm couple are a blessing to me to this day. They didn’t know that they had virtue, but they were the embodiment of virtue and goodness to all who had eyes to see. I didn’t have to ask them questions, because just by looking at them, all my questions were answered, and one did not want to intrude into their very private world.

People, good, bad, ugly, beautiful, kind, selfish, angry, patient, all kinds. Always interesting, All can be seen on Campau Square.

 

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