Originally created 02/28/05

From Rags to Riches

Cardboard and wooden planks formed a dilapidated structure they called a house. When it rained, puddles of water from a leaky roof filled the house with smells of dampness. In cold weather, icy winds blew chilly breezes through the dwelling making the inside feel like a winter wonderland.

The only warmth came from a fireplace where Mrs. Owens cooked meals. There was no running water, no bathroom, and hardly any furniture. Food was very scarce and sparsely. A tiny vegetable garden behind the shack consisting of potatoes, beans and corn made up the family meals. Meat was seldom eaten and was only available during Christmas and Easter.

Yes, I am writing about the social, emotional and financial status of an athlete who is now known as a famous track and field star. He was a scrawny and sickly little boy. His job in the family was just to live. He was the youngest sibling of ten strong children whose parents worked as sharecroppers on a fifty-acre farm in Oakville, Alabama. This family lived in poverty for most of their lives and had to dance to the drum others beat.

He was affectingly called JC and suffered many bouts with pneumonia. His parents were certain he would lose the battle with this disease and die at an early age.

Many circumstances, including his aggravation with being a sharecropper persuaded Mr. Owens to seek better opportunities for his family. They moved to Cleveland, Ohio in 1921 and JC loved it. He started school and learned to read, write and do arithmetic.

Jesses' health improved and he became interested in athletics. Coach Riley took notice of his speed in schoolyard races and convinced him to join the track team. You could say that this was the beginning of Jesses' career. In 1933, he competed in the National Interscholastic Championship and was recognized as a star athlete. Later, he participated in world championships and became known as "the world's fastest human." He remained involved in Olympic activities until his death in March 1980.

From rags to riches is an essay of how an unhealthy little boy's determination, dignity and motivation led him to become a famous athlete and a great role model. I respectfully present to you, "Mr. Jesse Owens".

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