Screwy Louie was a "regular" at the White Tower. His job was getting coffee or whatever for the local store owners, parking lot attendants, hair dressers or whoever needed any kind of refreshments during the day.
They would give him a list of what they wanted to eat or drink and he would hand it to my mother or whomever was working the counter that day.
He lived on the tips he made for these errands.
He lived in a boarding house down the street from the White Tower along with other eccentric personalities whose life wasn't exactly main stream.
He was called Screwy Louie for several reasons.
He wore striped shirts and checkered pants.
He spoke quickly and sometimes incoherently and he would walk along the streets and talk to himself.
As I look back now, I understand why I liked Screwy Louie and understood him when he spoke. He spoke like a child, and was kind and gentle and caring.
He was probably in his 30's or 40's. It was hard to tell.
His curly head of hair, mismatched fashion statement, and his simplicity were easy to be around. He had no illusions as to who he was. My alternative for the summer was being at home with an abusive brother and his friends.
He was accepted in the downtown world. I would walk with him to the local bowling alley, Ned's , to deliver food to King Kong, the Afro American midget.
King Kong's job was to set up the bowling pins that the bowlers would knock down. There were no automated bowling alleys in those days.
It was amazing to see him shove his little, but muscular body, down into the pin alley, and reset the pins or take away the pins that were hindering a possible spare. His swiftness seemed record setting.
One particular afternoon, after the noon hour rush, I was in the White Tower, spinning myself on the backless orange stools, on my stomach, as kids would do when Screwy Louie ran in the door.
He was crying and stammering and screaming, all at the same time.
The words were distanced from each other, "...blood...gun...bad man...policeman..." Screwy Louie had been watching a movie at the Paramount Theatre, a movie house a block away on Temple Street. A man had robbed a jewelry store, was being chased by a Detective. The pursuit ended up in the Paramount Theatre where the gunman shot and killed the Detective, all happening right in front of Screwy Louie.
That was the very last day Screwy Louie ever made any sense at all to anyone.
The trauma was so outrageous, that it left him just mumbling and unintelligible for the rest of his life from that day on. It was like he just left the planet once and for all.
As I got older, 14 or 15, I would see Screwey Louie on the streets and he would pass me by without even knowing me.
I realize that mental illness was not a priority in the early 1950's. Autism, ADD, ADHD, and mental retardation were swept under the rug and ignored.
But I still can't stop wishing that there was someone out there that should have helped Screwy Louie. It just wasn't fair.