Worked for Joe Hammond for 30 years
Albertine Hammond was her name, but they called her Pete. When she died I was going to pay her, but she died before I got there. She died on my birthday December 7th. I owed her $300. His name was Joseph Betrand Hammond. Some people called him Joe Bertrum. But his middle name was Betrand. He was born in Louisville, but he didn’t have any brothers and sisters. He was the only child. And Pete was the only child. And she was pretty. And she looked like a white woman. And one day a white man said “you up there living with this nigga” and she said “he’s a nigga, and I’m a nigga too.” That’s what she told the white guy, because he thought she was white too. But she wasn’t. I think when she was younger she could ride in Yellow Cabs when black people couldn’t because she could pass for white and nobody knew she was black. She was lovely. But she cussed a lot. Hell yeah. The first time I heard her cuss I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked when I heard her.
I was born in Louisville Dec. 7th, 1943. I’ll be 75 years old in December. I went to Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Madison Junior High, and Central High School. I graduated in 1961. I used to go to school with Ali. He used to talk to this guy named Salvis Crawford. They had to make Ali shut up every day. They talked all day. My father worked in the car business. My mother worked at Lucky Strike. All she did was sweep all day. Sweep up the tobacco. LS / MFT, we knew that as children, Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco. When she died you would have thought a celebrity had died. They closed the side that my mother used to work on. That place was packed. She died when I was 13.
I have 2 brothers and 4 sisters. My youngest sister Pat died. We grew up on West Street. There used to be a bar across the street called the Joy Room. Everybody used to go to the Joy Room. My mother wouldn’t let us stand in front of the bar. But we used to live across the street so you could see everything that was going on. You ever heard of Top Hats? They used to have kiddy day and I was about 14, they let me come in. I was happy. But, a soft drink was 50 cents. I had never heard of a soft drink being 50 cents. That was expensive. I couldn’t really afford 50 cents, but I bought one anyway. That was a fun day at Top Hats.
I worked for Joe Hammond for 30 years. I started in 1961, I was 24. See, I worked for a man on Walnut Street named Ainsley Kinser, at Menu Luncheonette. He asked my cousin if she knew any girls that needed a job. He had all beautiful women working for him. And, I came in on the end because I was a little chubby. Then I went to Joe’s, and by me being heavy, he wouldn’t let me get behind the bar. Cause he was afraid that no one would tip me. So, I started in the dining room. I was the cook. Coach Graves mother, Mrs. Jones used to work with me in the dining room. Coach Graves taught me how to play card games. There was a black woman and a white guy that owned 118 Washington. And, they used to come to Joe’s every night and I would cook breakfast for them every morning before we closed. And we would eat until 6am sometimes. And there was this guy by the name of Lil Joe Burkenmeier. I don’t know what happened to him. He was a bookie. He was a white guy, but he had a black daughter. He used to come into the kitchen and say “I want some fuckin chickin.” He would be all in my face. I thought he was gonna kiss me he was so close.
Then they let me wait tables. Then they closed the dining area and I went to work in the bar. When I first went to work in the bar they (customers) didn’t know me so they wouldn’t tip me a penny that first night. So, the bartenders gave me some of their money.
Shirley Crawford, Francis Hayden, and Harvey Tolly were bartenders. Richard Griffith, he was the service bartender. Then I became the service bartender when I was relieving them. I had the keys to the dining room and used to lock the bar every night. Then I became a bartender on the backside. But the front side was the busiest cause all the pimps sat there. And, they wanted Shirley. She had a fine shape. But, I had the good people that sat on my end. People that had prestige,
Dr. King. Harold Howard, and Dr. Hughes.
There was this black team (basketball), where Artis Gilmore played. I forget the name of it. But, Artis Gilmore used to come to Joe’s. When he said “Majorie serve me a Bud,” I could have choked his neck. Just say “give me a bud,” don’t say “serve” me no Bud. “Serve” me a Bud!?! I couldn’t really say nothing back, but I just didn’t like the word “serve.” And he didn’t say Sterling beer. He’d put an S on it and say Sterlings. He was cheap as hell. One time he tipped me a dollar. I wanted to frame it. Let me tell you something. One day Artis Gilmore came to Joe’s and he bought all these girls, a whole row of them, he bought them drinks all night. And every time he bought them a drink, I’d serve myself one. I said I drank on Artis Gilmore tonight whether he knew it or not. I was drunk as a skunk (haha). But, I was a happy drunk. And, I got him back.
I waited on so many rich people. And I made lots of money because I was kind and nice. And people used to tell me Majorie, you are making me nervous. You are wiping out that ash tray too much. And Harold Howard, come there, and he’d say leave my ashtray alone. Cause I would clean them every few seconds. I didn’t like dirty ash trays. After one butt I would clean them.
Everybody came to Joe’s. My people came in the back door, until they started to lock the front because it would get so crowded. Sometimes you couldn’t get through there. A guy passed by me one night and he pushed me over. I dropped all them drinks, Grasshoppers and Pink Swirls, all over this guy. And he didn’t get mad or nothing. He just went home, changed clothes and came right back.
Everybody came to Joe’s. And, I knew all their personal business. But I would never repeat it.
Martha Gay came in, she used to sing at Sheeks. She was the funniest woman. When she was singing, and the band was playing, she would go in the restroom and sit, while the band was still playing. Then she’d come back out when she felt like it and finish the song. Billy Madison, played the organ. Joe Cooke was a singer that grew up with my mother. Boogie Martin was there. He used to also work at Joe’s. Thomas Queen worked at Joes. The guy from the insurance company, Ed Chestnut used to work there on the weekends. I think his son was some kin to me. Billy Higgins and Johnathan Higgins played there all the time. Bobby Ledford was really nice. His birthday was the same day as mine. Nelly was his mother and he she had these daughters and all of them were beautiful. They all had long hair and were really pretty. Harvey Sloan used to come to Joe’s. Julian Bond was dancing with a white lady one night at Joe’s. He was kin to Dallas Tinsley, who lived in Louisville. Joe and Lenny Lyles were good friends. I remember Joe said to him one day “Leonard, you’re dressing better!”
I was trying to think of some of the famous people that came. I was waiting on Richard Pryor one time, and my brother said Marj, she (another bartender) took him from you. I said, I’m not gonna argue with nobody over a customer. She didn’t make nothing but 15 bucks. I could make 15 dollars in 15 minutes. I called myself Joy back then. He said thank you Joy. I said it’s alright Rich (hahaha). He (Richard Pryor) was friendly as can be.
But oh hell yeah, I made boo koo money. I made $100 every day and it got better at Derby. The first time I made $500 I was amazed. But still, I used to borrow money from Joe on Monday but wouldn’t get paid until Saturday. But Joe would let me do it, because he knew I wasn’t going anywhere. Cause I wanted to pay him back. I wouldn’t borrow no money if I couldn’t pay it back. And on Saturday I was broke as the ten commandments (ha ha), cause I paid Joe back all his money. He would never refuse me. He lent me money all the time.
Joe was powerful, cause everybody liked Joe. He had gray eyes. He was beautiful. I liked him as a person. Joe paid you good! People would tip Joe all kind of money. He would leave it for Jackie Calherd to share with bartenders. Joe was also a gentleman until the end. I’d get off about 4am, and I lived in the 550s on Chestnut, and Joe would take me home. And Joe would get out open the door for me, then watch me go upstairs, cause I lived on the third floor. He was a gentleman, but he was a flirt too (haha). Joe would kiss you on New Year’s Eve. He would go around and give everyone a kiss. And he kissed so good, I went back and kissed him again. His breath was fresh as a daisy. That’s a true story. I wouldn’t shit you Sherlock.
Joe had a place down the street on Dixie Highway, he was the President. He used to have a Cleaners. He got it from a guy named Snyder. His real estate office next door used to be Emmit’s Barbershop. And then when Emmit closed it, Joe made it a real estate office together with Catherine Guest. Joe’s drink was JB and Soda. Catherine drank vodka on the rocks, double. They used to drink and discuss business in the office. Catherine was real nice. She helped me a lot. Catherine Guest’s daddy used to clean up the bar every night. His name was Mr. Anderson. He was a nice guy. They lived on Chestnut Street.
Joe was a millionaire, but he wouldn’t tell you he was. When he paid for Joe’s Palm Room to be built, he paid over $1M. And that was in the 60’s. I believe the wood or the stools were imported from Italy. They lived on Lindsey Avenue up off Story. It’s up on a hill where you can see his house. Some guys tried to rob Joe one time. But he didn’t have no money at the house. Joe had all his money in the safe at the bar. That’s where he kept the money. He had a big diamond on his finger. And, when he heard what was happening (robbers breaking into the house), he said he squeezed that ring off his finger and put the ring in his pocket. And Mrs. Hammond threw her big diamond behind the bed. And one of the guys wanted to kill Joe Hammond. And the other guy said, “I’m not gonna kill no Joe Hammond.” And later (years later) the guy apologized for trying to rob Joe. So, they didn’t get any money or the rings that time. I think Joe had been robbed a couple of times. They (different robbers) stole the diamond rings another time somewhere else. But Joe got them back. They sold Joe and his wife’s rings back.
Joe was a generous man. He used to always use the peace sign. I didn’t make it to his funeral, but the last time I saw him he used the peace sign. He left all his money to St. Augustine, from what I understand.