Originally created 12/04/01

Courier has watched the city evolve



Anyone who has spent any time on Broad Street has likely seen him - the dapper old gent in slacks, suit coat and short-billed cap, ambling in his bow-legged way with his hands clasped behind his back.

Jerry H. Cannon has walked Broad Street for 75 years. About 8:45 each weekday morning, he takes a cab from his North Augusta home to the First Union building on Broad Street.

At a little before 9 a.m., the 94-year-old reports for work. Mr. Cannon has been a mail courier for Blanchard & Calhoun Real Estate Co. for the past 35 years.

"It gives me pleasure to be doing this," he said Monday between mail runs. "It's better to work than to stay at home and look at the wall."

Every job he's ever had - including a 30-year stint as a janitor in the Marion Building - has been on Broad Street. He remembers the street before the parking islands were installed, before its largest buildings were built and before the fire of 1916 destroyed half of it.

He remembers sitting on a hill across the Fifth Street bridge, watching the famous blaze spread to East Boundary.

"I wanted to go check it out, but my momma said no," Mr. Cannon said. "I was a small boy back then, so I had to listen to her."

For perspective: Mr. Cannon turned 68 the year U.S. troops pulled out of Vietnam; he was 34 when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor; he was 10 when U.S. soldiers departed to fight in World War I.

But he doesn't like to talk about wars and conflicts. His favorite topic of discussion is his faith. He's been a member of First Providence Baptist Church in North Augusta for more than 81 years. On Monday, he sent Christmas cards to the church leaders.

"I figure I take care of them, and then when the time comes they take care of me," he said.

For now, assistance comes from Blanchard & Calhoun. The company helps Mr. Cannon pay his bills on time and manage his finances.

"He's a special case," said Catherine Clark, Blanchard & Calhoun's office manager. "He's just been around a long time, and this job keeps him going. He's been widowed for 20 years, and we've been his family ever since. He likes coming here and we like having him."

A Blanchard & Calhoun employee drives Mr. Cannon to the post office to pick up the company's mail twice a day. He retrieves the mail from the postal clerks and delivers it to the real estate company's fourth-floor office in the First Union building. He works about four hours a day.

His duties aren't exactly essential - Blanchard & Calhoun doesn't employ any other couriers and has no urgent business need for even one - but Mr. Cannon is retained for reasons deeper than his job description.

"Everyone here loves him," Ms. Clark said. "He's so upbeat, and he takes pride in being able to do these things at his age. I think it's all that walking that allows him to keep it up."

And what about retirement?

"I never even thought about it," Mr. Cannon said. "I like to keep busy."

Reach John Bankston at (706) 823-3352 or john.banks@augustachronicle.com.