Federal Eye Witness

Federal Eye Witness

I was 14 years old, and jumped at the chance of a job as a car hop, at Richard City Dairy Bar, a small burger joint, located on the Tennessee/Alabama state line. My job was to sit in a chair, next to the order window, and when a car pulled into the parking lot, I would take my pad, write down the food order, then hand it through the window to the cook. One day, the parking lot was empty, and a car with two men pulled up, so I ran over, took their order for burgers, fries, and shakes, then turned it in to the cook. When the food was ready, I delivered it to the men, and they gave me a $20 bill. I took it to the window, the cook handed me their change, and I returned to the car and stood patiently waiting for a tip. Suddenly, three police cars pulled up with lights flashing, and officers jumping out with pistols drawn, ordering the men to put their hands up, and get out of the car. I was fascinated by all the action normally just seen on television, but I stood my ground right next to the car, expecting my tip. The officers yelled for me to get back, but my determination to get paid, was strong. The cops kept yelling for the men to raise their hands and get out of the car. The passenger door opened and one of the men, stepped out, and was ordered to lay down on the pavement, and he did what he was told to do. The driver was more hesitant, and the officers were losing patience, when finally the car door began to open, with me still standing too close. The policemen finally got through to me and I moved back towards the dairy bar. The driver was getting out of the car, but his hands were not in the air, so one of the cops ran over and whacked the guy on the head with his pistol, the man then complied and raised his hands. Both men were handcuffed, then placed in one of the police cruisers. I was approached by one of the officers that asked me if the men had given me money, and I confirmed they had given me a twenty dollar bill, and I had given them the change back. The policeman spoke to the owner of the dairy bar, informing him that the men were counterfeiters, then confiscated the $20 bill. A few days later, our local police chief Burrows, stopped by our house to talk with my mama, He said that some government men needed to speak with me, and mama started asking questions, as to why they want to talk to her son. He explained that the men arrested were with a big counterfeiting ring from Sand Mountain, Alabama, and I was the only eye-witness that could identify them. The men in suits showed up at our house, and asked me to tell them what I saw that day. I told them everything, including that I never got a tip. They finished by asking mama if I could testify in Federal Court, and that it would help our country convict the bad men. Mama agreed under one condition, that chief Burrows would personally escort me to and from the Federal Court house in Chattanooga. When the trial started, Chief Burrows picked me up in his police car one morning, and we headed to Chattanooga. I asked him if we were going to turn on the lights and sirens, but he mumbled that it was going to be a quiet ride. We were escorted into the courthouse, and taken to a room where the U.S. Treasury men greeted us. They asked me to tell what happened, and I repeated my story, making sure they knew I didn’t get a tip from those men. On the witness stand, the prosecutor asked me once again to tell what happened, and I did, also informing the court that I never got a tip. Then he asked me if I could identify the men that gave me the $20 bill, and I boldly said yes, pointing my finger at both men, saying that man, and that man over there! They dismissed me from the courtroom, and the chief took me to his car, and we started home. He asked if I was hungry, and I told him yes. He stopped at a burger place in Tiftonia, Tennessee, and bought me the biggest hamburger I’d ever seen, along with fries, and a chocolate shake. After we finished eating, we resumed our trip back home, and I asked if I was going to get the tip money. He told me no, but… I’d get mileage, and I asked what that was. He explained when someone helped the government, and had to travel, they would get money based on the number of miles traveled. When he told me that I’d get about $12, I immediately asked when I’d get it, and if I could get more work like this. Twelve dollars was a lot of money for a small town kid, in 1967. About 2 months after the trial, mama came to me with an envelope, and it had a check for 11.78, with my name on it, and we walked a mile to the bank in town, where I cashed my first check.

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