The Story of Louis Armstrong
Written and Illustrated by Jerrard K. Polk
My name is Virgil Williams Jr. My family calls me VW, but everyone in the old neighborhood called me VJ. Including POPS my favorite neighbor.
That’s what we called him, but to the world he was known as Louis Armstong.
Whenever POPS wasn’t traveling the globe playin’ his trumpet and singin’ like no body’s business, he was hangin’ out with us kids in Corona.
All the kids wanted to live on the same block as POPS, I was fortunate enough to live across the street. He would always wave to me when he saw me sittin’ on my stoop and yell out in his deep gravelly voice, “Hey VJ, how you doin’ today?”
When we saw his car coming down the street, and he got out we’d run up and greet him with a big, “welcome home POPS. Kids would come from out of nowhere to help him with his bags and trumpet case.
Everyone wanted to help ‘cause they knew that Mrs. Lucille was going to have ice cream for one and all. That was just the start of the fun.
When POPS was home he would invite you inside to watch a western on TV, or to eat some of Mrs. Lucille’s legendary home cooking.
We loved it when he asked us to help him walk his dog named Trinket. While we walked, he told us all sorts of stories about the places he’d been and the people he’d met.
Quite often he would give us a master class in trumpet playin’ right on the front stoop.
A few times he lined us kids up behind him and we marched and danced around the block in a New Orleans style parade!
I’ll never forget though, when he came off the road and he stayed for a long time. We kids knew he was home, cause we could see his trumpet gleaming through the window as it sat on his bed side table. Still, we never saw him, my mother told me that he was quite ill.
After several months, he got his strength back enough to go on the road to play and sing like he loved.
Before too long though, he was back to being tired and the doctor told him that he should retire. POPS just couldn’t do it, there was too much music still left in him.
On the day that the neighborhood said its final farewell to its most famous resident, us kids made a big banner that read, “We’ll miss you POPS”.
We kids that grew up in Corona will never forget Louis Armstrong and his beloved Lucille. They took us in and always made us feel like family. Maybe they did that ‘cause they had no kids of their own, or maybe they remember fondly when adults took an interest in them.
Their house on 107th is still there. Today, it’s a museum and National Historic Landmark. It still looks the same, just as when I was a little boy.
When I play, I always think of my favorite neighbor.
Although known by the world as Satchmo, Satch, and Louie, we will always remember him as our beloved POPS.
Fun Fact: Louis Armstrong, one of history’s greatest jazz musicians, was born on August 4th, 1901 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
This article was originally published in the 2019 edition of the RG Kids Magazine.