The sugar man

SugarThe sugar man was an inspiration. In his mid-80s he would walk on the steeply slanted roof of his huge house on Prytania Street to fix stuff.

He and his wife lived next door to me in Uptown New Orleans. They were both skinny and kind.

Since this was the late 1970s, they would have been born in the mid-1890s, the Victorian Age. I moved from Prytania to Canal Street in 1980, and I never saw them again, but I still had his car, a 1965 Cadillac Coup de Ville.

Though he would walk on a steep, high roof, he had reached the point where driving was unwise, or perhaps the police had told him so. He offered me his car for $500. It had some rust spots, but it was in fair shape, so I bought it.

The old couple had spent their working lives in the Caribbean. The man was a retired sugar engineer, the only sugar engineer I’ve ever known or even heard of. He oversaw sugar plantations, I imagine. I never got the details.

They were good people, and he climbed on roofs. I rode the Cadillac for less than two years because serious engine problems developed, more serious than I could afford. I sold it to a mechanic. He knew what he was getting. I did not lie.

The sugar engineer and his wife are long gone now, and so is the Cadillac, which I enjoyed while it lasted. I wonder if I will be walking high, slanted roofs in 20 years. I kind of doubt it. The Hacienda roof is pretty darn flat.

Caddy
Same color, but my Caddy didn’t look so good as this low rider.

14 thoughts on “The sugar man”

  1. Old people of our past: before I started school, there was an old guy next door who was in his late 80s. He got me started with looking for arrowheads in the local fields. He died cutting firewood down on the river behind our house. He would drop the trees onto the ice and drag the wood home with a sled and a horse. He went through the ice and had a heart attack trying to get out. Going out with our boots on is the way to go — just a little later please. And: walking around on a steep roof is just spitting in the wind if you ask me.

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  2. Nice ride! I had a ’69 Coupe de Ville. It was so big I could have easily lived in it should the need have arisen. I had several Caddies after that, but the quality was very shoddy in the ’80s. I had a Lexus just before I moved down here, great car, but I knew better than to bring it down with me … would not have lasted a week here in GDL, so we now have a very inconspicuous Nissan Sentra, more than adequate.

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    1. Charles: That was the only luxury car I ever owned, or likely ever will own. What I remember most about it was going 80-90 mph on the interstate, and it feeling like I was not even moving.

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  3. The quest for longevity continues, and you have yourself well-situated in the highlands of Mexico. My father was born in the mid-1890s, and I grew up with well-heeled retirees at my father’s beach motel in the 1950s and early 1960s. It was damn near paradise and so is Michoacan. It helps to remain physically active and maintain a healthy diet in good surroundings.

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    1. Andres: Your father had you rather late in life, relatively speaking. Since you and I are about the same age, and my father was born in 1915, I calculate that your father was about 45 when he had you.

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  4. I imagine the “Sugar Man” knew my great Uncle. He spent time in the Caribbean, Cuba, setting up Turbines to power the sugar mills, Many great stories from that era!

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    1. John: I went to Google, and it confirmed what I thought. Little sugar, perhaps none, comes from the Caribbean these days. Lots of other places in the world, but not the Caribbean. Dem days be gone.

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  5. This post brought back memories. When i was young, I had a neighbor who was a sugar man. He was a agricultural research scientist who worked with sugar cane. My mom drove a Buick in the late 60s and early 70s. It was big, white and had a bad engine. But it had style. My neighbor passed away long time ago, but I used to appreciate the stalks of sugar cane that he passed along to us.

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    1. Laurie: And my Cadillac was big, gold and had a bad engine. And it too had style. When I was a kid in Georgia, I used to gnaw on cane quite often. Not much came out, but the gnawing was fun.

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  6. Big Sugar in Florida got protectionistic The U.S. sugar program of 1981 uses price supports, domestic marketing allotments, and tariff-rate quotas to influence the amount of sugar available to the U.S. market. It killed the Caribbean sugar industry and paved the way for High Fructose Corn Syrup. My first car was a 1955 Olds and it chirped rubber in all four forward gears with an automatic transmission. Best car I ever had.

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    1. Andres: Interesting. Didn’t know that about the sugar industry. About the Oldsmobile, a lovely car, wish I had one. Might have been the prettiest car, the best attention-getter, the most fun, but I betcha it was not the best mechanically, or the easiest to drive, that you ever had. But you have to make sacrifices for fun and soul.

      Or maybe it was.

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