June 2, 1918
Tillie, New York
The black ash filled the air as Ollie Blackerby pumped the chimney. What a job...chimney sweep. Eighteen years old and already set for life, already labeled: a poor white boy who sweeps chimneys for 25 cents. So what though? Ollie was never one to put himself down for the pleasure of others. His momma raised him right, in a good home, with a good family, and to be a hardworking man.
Oliver Lee Blackerby: born on June 17, 1900 in Falls Church, Virginia. His daddy worked at a lumberyard, everyday but Sunday, from dawn 'til dusk; his momma was a grade-school teacher. He was born as the middle child of five kids, three brother and one sister: Owen, Orville, Orson, and Catherine. He attended school with his mother as teacher until the age of eleven; then came the move, when his father got a new job at a factory up in New York. And now, here Ollie was: eighteen years old, working as a chimney sweep in Tillie, New York. Just like that, his life was assigned to him: a poor white boy who cleaned the chimneys of the rich in New York.
Before he knew it, the ash was too thick in the air and filled his lungs. Ollie threw down his broom, his eyes watering as he strained his throat with a chain of coughs. Earl, who was known as the patriarch for their broom sweeping business, howled.
"Breathe boy, breathe!" he cackled, slapping his knees as he continued his laughter. "Go on outside!" With watery eyes, Ollie stumbled out the door, still trying to catch a breath.
It was still early in the morning, but the sun was beginning to shine fully; eight a.m. and cars were already bouncing down the roads. He leaned up against the house, seeing his reflection in a window.
Though he did "dirty work", Ollie was known as quite a lady killer: around six feet, one hundred fifty-six pounds, black hair, green eyes, well-toned, and the two things that always attracted women, dimples. He had never had been "steady" with a girl before; sure, he had taken them out before, wooed them, had them wrapped around his finger; but, there was never enough interest to keep any of them, so he would just focus on work, which for some reason, drove them even more to him. Ollie didn't mind though: after all, who would?
"Earl, I'm headin' out to the next house. I think you can finish this one" Ollie called out.
"You're just tryin' to make an excuse to take a break!" he replied, laughingly. Ollie smirked, and headed on.
Down the steps he went, on to the street, not having any particular place in mind. It was a nice morning, one of those mornings Ollie wish he didn't have to work. The temperature was rising, but there was a cool enough breeze that made it comfortable to just sit outside. But here he was, out on the streets, in torn, filthy overalls, a stained white shirt with the sleeves pushed up, a soiled hat, grimy hands, and a face splotched with black.
"It's gon'a be another good day, though," Ollie said to himself with a smile.
The sunshine beamed through Catherine Calhoun's room, as she lay sleeping.
This was her first time in Tillie, New York; her family was vacationing here for the summer from Charleston, South Carolina. They had arrived last week and finally were settled in at their summer house, and so far, Catherine was loving it here; especially the sleeping in!
"Mornin' Mrs. Tuffington!" Ollie called out, passing the woman in the garden bed.
"Good morning Ollie; care to give me a hand?" she replied warmly.
"Sorry ma'am, I'm working today."
"Oh, I'm sorry," she said sympathetically, "I'm so used to seein' you covered in black, I look past it now," she giggled out. Ollie laughed and continued his walking.
Next house, next house...Six Four Zero Suntrust Road, Ollie thought to himself. Six Four Zero, that's the summer houses... Hurriedly, he quickened his pace: the rich pay deep.
Catherine stretched, lazily shifting in her bed. Eight-thirty, and another wonderful day of summer in Tillie, New York! She laid her head back, closing her eyes softly; five more minutes won't hurt.
Suddenly, her eyes opened.
What on earth is that sound! She raised out of bed, frustrated because someone was ruining her vacation.
Though no one dare tell her, Catherine was slightly self-centered; she was an only child, raised with money, generous parents, the best of schooling, and beauty, passed from her mother.
Beautiful was a disgrace to what Catherine really was. She was heavenly blessed with looks: long, dark hair, silky, fair skin, gorgeous, green eyes, just everything. So why wouldn't she be self-centered?
Ten minutes, at least, and the noise continued! Catherine huffed, throwing the covers off. She slipped on her bedroom shoes, and stomped down the stairs. There was nothing worse than an angry Catherine: she was never one to be called shy or not speak her mind.
Downstairs, Ollie worked quickly, pumping the broom in and out of the chimney of the renters: The Calhouns. They must have been new, because Ollie hadn't heard a word about the family. However, when he arrived at the house, a maid welcomed him and led him to the den. There, he began work.
To the right of the room, a wooden door swung open, but Ollie paid no attention.
Catherine stood in the door way, bewildered to the stranger in her family's house.
"Excuse me, but who are you?" she said, with a southern drawl on her words; her Charleston accent was even more so when she was angry.
"Chimney sweep," Ollie replied, not removing his attention from the chimney. This irritated Catherine; who doesn't look at a person when they're talking to them?
"Do you have any idea what time it is?" she demanded.
Ollie paused, wiping the sweat off his brow, his face still buried, "Eight-thirty." Catherine looked with disgust at this filthy, arrogant man.
"Well, don't you think it's a little early to be doing this? People are trying to sleep in this house-"
"You mean, you're tryin' to sleep, right?" Ollie replied, standing up to face this fiesty girl. As he turned, he saw Catherine: tussled hair, bright eyes, a long, white cotton gown that fitted in all the right places. Not bad...he thought.
"How dare you!" Catherine spouted.
"Look, I'm being paid to come in at eight-thirty to clean this chimney. I'm not leavin' because I'm bein' paid. I like bein' paid. Bein' paid is very nice. Need I keep on?"
Catherine steamed, growling at Ollie in an almost-chirpy way because of her girlish voice and began to storm out. Ollie smirked, amused.
"I'm Oliver, by the way," he called out. Catherine stopped, turning around irritated.
"And what makes you think I care what your name is?"
Ollie shrugged. "Just thought I'd tell you," Catherine stood bewildered.
"I don't care."
"It's not courteous to not introduce yourself, too," he smirked.
"I'm going back to sleep," she said, making the shun as obvious as she could.
Ollie smiled, watching the little fireball pout and as she stomped upstairs. He wouldn't mind cleaning this house more often.