“And during those years I was up to 10 or 11 years old. I was a rowdy little fella. Tough, mean in some kind of ways. But Papa had me and my brother Raymond pushing ice cream carts we sold ice cream on the streets, pushing the thing up and down the road, selling that ice cream. I loved to eat my ice cream so I eat my share of it. I was robbed a time or two. Old boys pull ice picks on me and take my ice cream and my money.
Papa whooped me a time or two for coming home when I’d eat up most of the profit. One time I ate up all my profit and got rid of all of the money. I developed an attitude or desire to play the slot machines, shoot the pin ball machines, so this day I decided I wasn’t going home to take my punishment.
I decided I would take what change I had and I’d leave home. They had moved the church at that time down on Singleton Blvd. The road wasn’t even paved yet, there in Dallas. So I took a bus and went to town and I stayed there for 3 days. I didn’t know they had every policeman in town looking for me. I’d sleep in automobiles in parking lots at night. Scrounge for money. Back then the war was going on and you could take a piece of rubber of some kind and get into the movie theater for free. So I found some rubber somewhere and I’d go into the movie theater and stay for hours.
Finally I run out of ways to get money and I was missing my mama a little bit. In fact, I was missing her a whole lot so I decided I would go home. I had to walk all the way. It was probably 5-6 miles. And on the way I was singing “If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again”. And just a crying. Well with the tears I might have been getting ready for what was fixing to happen when I got home. But I got home, see, the reason I had run away to start with was to avoid the punishment. I knew what I was gonna get for getting rid of my ice cream and getting rid of the money.
So I got to the house and I walked in. The church was at the front of this building. And we lived in the back. So I walked in and looked and they was eating supper. They had a man standing in there talking to them, his name was Arnold. He owned Arnold’s grocery store about two doors up. They seen me walk in and when papa seen me he stood up from him chair, and came around there removing his belt. He said: “Well son, To told them when/if I found you or when you came home, I was gonna give you the whooping of your life, and I’m not gonna make no liar out of myself.” And brother I’m here to tell you you did not make a liar out of yourself! He started whooping me, and he told me later, I noticed Mr. Arnold kind of looked over there and made a move one time, like he was gonna stop me and papa said “I said to myself that was one time that man was gonna make the biggest mistake of his life”.
Pappa done what was right folks, and don’t let nobody try to tell you different. Some people might think that was wrong. I mean the whippings, but I want to tell you something if people got what they deserved today we wouldn’t be in the shape we’re in and I’m thankful. That may be what makes me love my dear old daddy so much and my mamma. I guess what made me love my mamma and my daddy so much is simply the fact that they were my mamma and my daddy.
You know I used to be kinda scared of the dark sometime, and I would be sleeping in an old room we would have closed off with curtains so we could separate rooms from each other. I’d lay there and get to thinking about dying. I’d get so scared I’d holler “mamma, papa!” And they’d answer “what you want son?” When I heard their voice, everything was alright! It just assured me that everything was gonna be alright. And you know, when I heard God’s voice today, it does the same thing. He’s reminding me that everything is gonna be alright. Especially if I get down or I get weak He touches me – “everything’s gonna be alright son.” – Country Johnny Mathis
Note about Johnny’s Memoirs: Prior to Johnny’s stroke in 1999, he had sat down at his typewriter and began to share stories about his life and music. We are sharing these excerpts in Johnny’s own words… just as he told them.