The Gentle Strong Man

John Norman Johnson was the Sampson of my youth.

I don’t remember seeing him around when I was a boy — he was so much older, a friend of my brother, John, who was 16 years older than me.  But I remember the stories. They said he was a man of prodigious strength.

John Norman Johnson
John Norman Johnson

After WWII Mr. Johnson hauled coal for my Dad, from his mine at Altoona, AL.   One day when Mr. Johnson was coming down the mountain the dump truck he was driving got to going too fast and he braked, hard, and pulled back on the steering wheel. It came off in his hands — he pulled steering wheel off the steering column — or so they said.

When I got grown I finally got to meet Mr. Johnson.

Brother Pop was in the hospital in Birmingham and Brothers John, Dave, and I went to visit him.  John Norman Johnson lived in Birmingham and while we were there we went to see him, too. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I found wasn’t it.

Looks like part of John Norman Johnson's collection to but, but dolls are at a B&B in England.
Looks like part of John Norman Johnson’s collection to me but, no, these dolls are guests of a B&B at Bourton-on-the-Water, England.

In Mr. Johnson’s home there were dolls everywhere. Dozens. Scores. Some were in display cases. Some were on shelves mounted to the walls. Every flat surface in that house on which a doll could stand or sit had a doll standing or sitting.

The strong man of my youth had become a collector of dolls.

Postscript: Later on, I’m told, Mr. Johnson tried to invent a candle that would burn for a year. While he was at church the candle he had concocted flared up and started a fire that destroyed his house — and his dolls.

Coming Monday: Have Some Carrot Cake

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