by Martin (Buster) Bradley, Tech 1938


          It was a godsend at Christmas time for the needy of the Memphis area, and especially during those Depression years of the 1930’s.  “It” was the Goodfellows, a charitable organization sponsored by the two local newspapers, the Commercial Appeal and the Press-Scimitar.  Donations were received during the entire year, and publicized by the papers, with special requests received from the needy.

            Names and addresses of those in need were furnished by other civic organizations … churches, schools, and yes, anyone who might be aware of a  neighbor’s plight.  Each day the papers printed some of the requests received from the needy.

            The Depression created many vacant buildings, so there was plenty of space to store the items, purchased and donated.  Abundant labor was available to help sort, gather, and fill the wooden bushel baskets provided.  Many of the unemployed were eager for a chance to earn, even the low rate of twenty-five cents an hour.  That was much better than standing on a Memphis street corner in all kinds of weather, selling Washington State Delicious apples for a nickel each.

            Deliveries started a few days before Christmas.  These were made by the publishers’ fleets of trucks, and many loaned by the local automobile dealers.  Boy Scouts would ride the trucks and make the actual home deliveries.  My Troop 13 was included, and I was one of them. 

            We reported to Ellis Auditorium early in the morning to help load the trucks and leave with “Christmas” for many families.  There was a social worker with route sheets in front with the driver, and four Scouts in the back.  From the paved and graveled streets, we followed muddy roads, wagon tracks and footpaths to shacks with tin roofs, wood burning stoves, kerosene lamps, no running water and outdoor toilets.  The families were waiting, if there was a smile left in those destitute people, they must have saved it for us.  All of them were anxious to help and we welcomed it.  Those baskets were heavy with a ham, potatoes, flour, sugar, coffee, and canned goods.

            The last delivery was made, and we crawled back into the truck for the return trip.  We were tired, dirty, and a bit muddy, but with a feeling of satisfaction from helping so many.

            The Goodfellows, with the Scouts’ assistance, continued their charitable work until 1983 … the year that the Press-Scimitar ceased operations.


- Martin J. "Buster" Bradley, Jr., December 2009

Martin J. Bradley, Jr
Tech 1938