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People Issue 2012:
Roger Sosner, the hawker

"Any person with a strong back and a weak mind can do it."



Roger Sosner, 67, doesn't drink beer, but he's been selling it in the stands at at Sox and Cubs games for more than 40 years, making friends with the regulars whether they buy from him or not. A longtime collector and dealer in vinyl and admitted pack rat, he's easy to spot: he's the one with the old rocker hair under his baseball cap. Deanna Isaacs

A friend of mine started working at Wrigley and Sox Park and got me into it, in 1966. He and his two brothers. I usually drove and they gave me a quarter for gas, probably enough for a gallon. At that time, beer was 40 cents at Wrigley. Now it's $7.50.

I stopped vending in '76. Figured I was done with it. I had a clothing business with one of the guys who got me into vending. After it didn't work out, I came back. That was 1983. I lost seniority by not keeping up my union dues over those years.

Back in 1969, we didn't have the [7th inning] cut-off, we could sell to the end of the game. I could sell 20 cases. Now ten cases in a game is a good day.

Any person with a strong back and a weak mind can do it. But there's a lot of psychology to it. When I was younger, I could move fast, sell quick. But I remember this one guy I really had a disliking for. I saw how he worked with his regular people. He had a certain rapport with his customers and that's how he built his base. Now some people e-mail me that they're coming. And I'll let them know when I won't be there. Because people do look for me and I look for them.

How much weight am I carrying? Maybe 40 pounds. We can take double loads, which I don't take very frequently. I do stretches and exercises the morning of the games to get myself loose. I've had back surgery twice. My first back surgery, I told the doctor I wanted to get back to work as soon as possible. At that time I worked at the United Center for the Bulls and the Blackhawks, where you have the backpack. I worked up in the 300 level, the equivalent of the balcony, and I'd walk up those steep stairs with the backpack. He said to me, you can go back to work about two weeks after the surgery.

I started collecting records in 1966, buying them slowly, just what I like. Then I found that I could buy them very cheaply, and started buying in larger quantities. In 1982 or '83, I started doing record shows as a dealer.

I used to do up to 30 shows in a year. That's not a lot by the standards of the guys who travel. The prime local show is the Chicagoland Record Collectors Show, in Hillside, six times a year. The next one's January 13. We have the old original pressings of records that came out 20, 30, 40 years ago. I like Jimi Hendrix, Cream. I have all the Beatles albums. I like the Clash and I like a lot of the new bands.

In my personal collection I have more than 15,000 45s, and almost as many LPs. Inventory? I can't even estimate, to tell you the truth. It could be 75,000. I have rooms that are filled with shelves and I still have records on the floor in boxes.

The only record that I'm looking for that I never found on a 45 was Darlene Payne & the O.D. Girls, "This Melody" and "Copy Cat." Darlene Payne used to be on the Big Bill Hill show. She was the sister of Odie Payne Jr. It's not a rare record, it's just a memory of that time, in the early 70s. Maybe somebody will find a hundred copies of it, never been played, and contact me.

I only sell at shows. I should sell on eBay. But I like the personal contact, and this way people know what they're getting. It's the same thing with records and beer sales: I have personal contact with my customers, and that's what I enjoy.

Tony Bacon, the custodian

Index: 2012 People Issue

Dee Alexander, the jazz singer

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