Pukerty Jo; The Life of Joseph Susolik By Jen Jackson
The real name of the man called "Puckerty Joe" is Joseph Susolik. Most of what is known about Puckerty Joe is from the memory of the older people. He was a familiar face to about everyone in this area from about 1926 until he was killed in 1951.
Mr. Susolik was born in Austria. He came to America in 1901 and settled down along the Red Bank Creek (or Sandy Creek) in 1926. If he became a citizen it must have been before he came to Jefferson County, as there is no record of his citizenship papers at the Court House in Brookville.
Puckerty Joe was a character. He was not a "Hobo." He did not walk the railroad tracks with his clothes tied in a bundle on a stick and he did not go from home to home and ask for his meals.
Mr. Susolik was a man about five feet, nine or ten inches in height. He was thin. There were times when he had a short beard, but he did not have much hair on his face; he is described as being mostly clean shaven and his hair was usually normal length. He was not dirty, but was not all that clean either. His clothing was given to him so that it was whatever he had for the time of the year.
In talking with several of the older people in my neighborhood that said they know him, well, I have learned that he was quite a man, but pleasant. He was about 28 years old when he arrived in the United States. He never said whether he came into the United States alone and did not say what area he came to, but they feel if was New York City. These local people do not know what he did from 1901 until 1926. They do not know of him working in this area.
Puckerty Joe would come to Brookville each Monday morning through the Pennsylvania Railroad tunnel to the Brookville Depot in the Longview area. He would make a stop at the James Haupt grocery store in Longview and the Guy Whetsell Market on Second Street and Euclid Avenue. These two markets would give him the over ripe produce- bananas, tomatoes, and the spotted cantaloupes and Friday's bread during the summer months and in the winter when he showed up with his feet wrapped in rags and newspapers stuffed into boots they would have him come in and get warm and give him whatever was left from the week before. Puckerty Joe would make his next stops at the Frank Miller and Homer Reitz Store at the end of Pickering Street. He would then return home by walking the tunnel.
Mr. Susolik's home was a shanty made of whatever he found. He kept it warm in the winter by picking up the coal that fell off the railroad cars.
The local newspaper carried an article on Mr. Susolik on his death in May 1951. The article says he was killed by a railroad engine on the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks near Brookville on May 5, 1951, which was a Saturday. The fireman on that train said that Puckerty Joe was walking with his head down and apparently did not hear the train engine or whistle. The engineer attempted to stop the train before it struck Puckerty Joe. The engineer was Leslie King and the fireman was C. E. Conner. The newspaper said a funeral service was at the Reitz Funeral Home and the minister was Reverend Newton H. Swanson. The pallbearers were employees of the Jeffersonian Democrat. The newspaper article did not say as to where Mr. Susolik was buried. Several people said it was the Catholic Cemetery in Potter's Field. Mr. Susolik was thought to be 78 years old at the time of his death.
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