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After that I kept fighting in more battle royals around Augusta, and I won every single one of them. Sometimes they'd put the battle royals on wrestling cards and they would steal the show because people liked them so much.
One time my brother John Henry was in a battle royal with me and we were the last two left in the ring. So I knocked him out too. He wasn't mad. Later he said to me, "You are just a lucky guy. You hit me with a lucky punch." I said, "Lucky? Why didn't you get up if it was just lucky?" And he couldn't answer me any better than he could fight me.
There was a big battle royal held during the Masters Tournament. All those rich people and others who'd come to Augusta to see the tournament have to be entertained at night. So the club put on for them this big battle royal in the dining room of the Bon-Air Hotel, and I was in it.
When those people from out of town saw me getting in the ring that night with all those big fellers, they didn't like it. They said, "What is that little one getting in there for? He is nothing but a little kid. You can't put that little bit of a kid in with those other big ones." But the men who'd seen me fight said, "Don't worry, sirs. Just watch that little kid."
ONE FELLER LEFT
And in this battle royal I did the same thing as always, waiting in the corner to knock out the big fighters, whichever ones got pushed against me. At the end there was only me and one last big feller left. And I came bouncing off the ropes, throwing one of those long, looping lefts, and this knocked him out.
Well, you should have heard those club members and their guests talk about me then. They wanted to give me all the money, but I again said let the other boys have some of it. Spread it around, sirs. But those men kept giving me money in person, all 10s and 20s and 50s. And one man liked the way I fought so much he gave me $300 all in one little roll of bills. There wasn't a one-dollar-bill man, it seems, in that main dining room of the Bon-Air Hotel. I brought a whole thousand dollars home to my grandma. All of it.
And that night after the fight, Bowman Milligan, who is steward of the Augusta National Golf Club, he said, "Kid, you come up to the club and work there." After that I worked at the club, shining shoes and taking care of the members' shoes. The members would come in first in their street clothes and I'd shine those shoes first. Later they'd come in all dusty with dust from the golf course, and I'd shine those shoes. I also took care of their clothes sometimes.
I think I made about $50 a week as a shoeshine boy. It is hard to say exactly because some of the members would wait until the end of the season to pay me. Some of them would give me as much as $500 then.
Taking care of those members' shoes and clothes is not as easy as some people think. You gotta remember whose shoes each pair is or you'll get them mixed up. First you gotta mark the soles of each shoe with chalk, then remember just what you marked on them, where you set them down and who's the man to give them back to. That's a lot to keep in your head if you never went to school.