Southern Dallas' Uncounted Workers

The feds say these people aren't in the labor force. That doesn't mean they're not working hard.

Dreadlock's passage from the Bronx to Dallas included a long stay in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lived with two aunts. When the one closest to him died of colon cancer, he was grief-stricken and sought solace in a road trip with a girlfriend, even though he seems to have been married at the time.

"This girl I left Nashville, Tennessee, with, pretty as hell, looked like a Puerto Rican, yes sir, I mean real pretty, built like a hourglass, yes sir, that's the way it was.

"She seen I was frustrated and mad. She said, 'Let's ride,' so we got to riding. So when we got to riding, guess what. We gets all the way to Memphis. I said, 'Where we going now?'

Cedric Dotie
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Cedric Dotie
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Mark Graham
Tomekia Jones

"She said, 'Across this river.' She said, 'You ever seen Dallas on TV?' I said yeah. She said, 'That's where we're going.'

"Oh man, I lived good for several months in North Dallas on Mockingbird Lane. Real good. Seriously good. Then I said, 'Where all the fun at? Ain't no fun in North Dallas.' I got to walking."

He says he wound up at the car wash on MLK and has been there for 20 years.

He charges on a sliding scale. "If you're a friend of mine, I might give you a good price. If you're not a good friend, I might charge you, maybe anywhere from $25 to $30 dollars.

"I don't get aches and pains. The only thing I got is this hernia, you feel what I'm saying?" He holds his lower belly. "But I still apply myself with this. It's not easy, but all the time like I told you it's something I enjoy doing."

A Man of Respect

"Carwash," the only name he will give, is 62 years old. Sometimes he trundles a wheelbarrow of car washing supplies, which he calls "my dually," and sometimes he carries only a bucket and rag.

Carwash washes cars in the Dixon Circle neighborhood off Scyene Road four miles southeast of downtown, in an area described by police as one of the city's most dangerous. Today before he will grant an interview, he wants me to seek permission from the owner of the liquor store on whose parking lot he is working.

"Go in the store," he says, "and ask her and tell her what you're talking about and is it all right? That's respect."

Once respect has been shown and permission granted, Carwash will talk: "I'm independent. Before my parents passed away on me, my dad taught me independence. That goes back to family. It goes back in the Bible. If a man don't work, he don't eat.

"I am the last seed of the family. ... My family told me I was the one to go anywhere in the world and work. You know why? Because I know how to talk to folks and not lose respect. Respect comes first. It's all about living. You got to be smart about living."

Carwash says he collects about $3 for washing a car, which can take him two hours. He rents a small place nearby. "I got in trouble way back in the day, and I lost my house. It was a two-family affair, two sections of different families. I lost my house, because I was in jail. I wasn't there to stand up for me."

He says he receives no assistance. "I don't get food stamps. I don't get a check. I live however my parents taught me. I get out here, I wash me some cars. If this man right here gives me three dollars, and I wait until the end of the month, I got enough to pay my bills. A little bit goes a long way with me.

"Different folks they want to go get food stamps and different things like that. I have nothing to do with that, because I done it. I got sick. I had the worry ulcers, worried was I going the right way. I finally went and got me some food stamps. After that I cut it off. I don't need it. I'm a working man."

Carwash scoffs at the notion that young people sell drugs and get into trouble because they can't find honest work. "Listen to me, listen to me. That's just what they want to do. It's what they want to do anyway."

He says he has never been married. "And not got no child support on me from nothing, but I took care of my family like I'm doing now. I got a couple kids, but they're well taken care of and know how Daddy's living. Daddy is independent. I'm out here working. I'm not begging."

Working Outside the Box

Mike Gilliland is 55. His wife, Paula Jean, is 52.

"We're out here hustling cardboard," he says.

"We're professional Dumpster divers," she says.

They salvage cardboard boxes from back lots of restaurants and stores, flatten them and jam them into their small red sedan. A carload takes one to two hours of hard work to gather and deliver. Each load brings about $10 from the recycling centers.

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I used to work with a "Wanda Joyce James" about 10-12 years ago parking cars. She would be the right age for this person you interviewed to be her and I know she lived in South Dallas. Curious. 


sounds like most of them are doing what they choose to do.  good for them.  


I am trying to figure out what JS has done here.  Supposedly a journalist is someone who reads the news releases of various gov't and private organizations and then paraphrases them in the articles they write.  Sort of glorified sock puppetry.  

In this case, JS has gone out, pounded the pavement and talked to people, asking questions along the way.  Very curious and interesting enough for me to come back for more of this.  Whatever it might be, I would like to see more.

Jim Schutze is a liar.  Ok, maybe in his old age he's just confused.  Either way, he's dead wrong.  The dole is more lucrative than ever.  Welfare spending has increased year over year for as long as I care to remember regardless of the condition of the economy.  Check out this pack of "takers" brawling over a place in line.  Notice the new high end basketball shoes, clothes and expensive cell phones.


I have empathy for these people, having struggled financially all my life, but I've always had a work ethic, instilled in me by my mom and I've worked off and on since I was 12. I've bee fired, laid off, quit; etc. but I've never given up and panhandled. However, there are those with such mental conditions and those who are not willing to give up their addictions in order to work. Then there are the scammers who are so good at conning people that you don't know you've been conned till it's too late. I used to fall for these people. The problem these days is you don't know who's scamming you and who really needs help.


Perhaps these folks should be speaking to students, unless the students want to get into the car detailing/box folding/drinking beers while your girlfriend works business, in that case they should speak to them seems all but one started on this road from is the lesson...Go to prison - Go to car wash??

TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Interesting peek into that lifestyle. I know a few hustlers that "work" under the radar.

My wife and I often chuckle about how much energy one such friend expends avoiding "real" work and what he could accomplish if he directed that energy in a positive direction. But, hey, he's sticking it to the man, I guess.

JimSX topcommenter


I did. They were not forthcoming on this topic. But you raise a fair point. By the way, if you were washing cars with a rag and bucket, would you report your income? Just asking. 


@JimSX @cantkeepthetruthdown I wouldn't be washing cars with a rag and a bucket. I've done various low paying jobs when I was younger though. I reported. And collected.

So in a sense it's better that they don't file. It's a few bucks less of other people's money being taken.