I could not find a picture of Mr. Bell but here is one of a downtown H and H cafeteria where he might have worked. When this photo is taken Mr. Bell would be toward the end of his employment life.
Mr. Bell (1896-1989) who lived in Lower North Philly
“Christ emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of humanity.” (Phil 2.7)
I visited Bell at his apartment in the first years that I served at Church of the Gesu. He was a simple, lovely man who seemed alone without any friends or family, his wife having died. He had grown up in the Carolinas and certainly his grandparents would have been born as slaves. He came to Philadelphia when he was a young man and worked at one of the Horn and Hardart Automats downtown. He would take the trolley car there and still when I met him at about age ninety he missed being able to work. During each visit he would relate short tales about his life and often used the phrase “everything is nice.”
On a Christmas Day, he said, in Smithfield
He threw a ball over the roof of his uncle’s house.
The dog ran all the way around behind that house
And brought that ball back.
In Philadelphia he cut apple pies
And set them in the glass cupboards in the automat,
The faces of the hungry seen only in pieces
Through the many windowed wall.
“Everything is nice,” he always said
Except that funny pain in the back
Felt when waiting for the car at the corner of 21st Street.
He and the pain were precise.
He used to get up at night and soak his feet;
His wife would call in the dark from the bedroom.
“Bell, what are you doin’ in the kitchen?”
She didn’t like him soakin’ his feet.
At last he put aside the cares of life
He heard the mystic chant that “all is well.”
But still I hear his dying aspirations
"Everything is nice!" for Mr. Bell