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"Ready" Freddy Johnson, 95

What I Do

I shine shoes four days a week. I did it when I was a kid — I used to shine. And I kept it up, so when I retired, I went back to it.

This is my home here. I'm from Richmond. I used to live in Buffalo. Richmond and Buffalo are my two homes. My mother's sister, my aunt, she took me up there and raised me when mother died. When I got older, I came back down here, in 1955.

I used to work in a plant — a steel plant. We made molds. That was in the foundry. I worked in a foundry and made molds, cast-iron. You made the molds with sand. Listen, I'm 95 years old. I've done a lot of different jobs.

I retired from the Jewish synagogue. I was the caretaker. I worked with Jonathan, the man who takes care of the building. I did that for about 20 years. Jewish temple, that's called a synagogue. That's where they have the service at. Jewish people don't call it a church because it's a temple. I took care of that. I cleaned the benches, set up pews, dust, take care of all the building.

After I retired, I wanted a little something to do. This was open here, so I took it. I used to come here [to Car Pool on Boulevard] to get my car washed. Then one day I heard they needed some help. I said I know how to shine shoes. He said, Yeah? So we came together and I came on in and helped him. That was 1977.

This job is only part-time. I talk to the people — you got to keep doing something. I talk with my friends. See, I know a lot of people. They come in and I talk to them. I love it. Oh, yeah. It's great. People come in, I shine their shoes, then I talk to the people. It's my life.

I drive. I drive seven days a week. You see that white car over there? That's mine, yeah. I was on television two weeks ago. On Channel 12. They came in and interviewed me on my birthday. I was 95. They gave me a nice birthday party.

They don't pay me nothing. It's a hobby. You meet a lot of people, somebody different every day. You got to move around and do something. Keeps your mind working. You have to keep your mind occupied. Keeps your mind busy, talking and thinking. I got a daughter, I got grandchildren, I got great-grandchildren. I'm just trying to make 100. Five more years. If I make 100, then it'll be time to quit.

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