Ol' Man Trouble

"Ol' Man Trouble"--A Safety Study in Black and White

Produced by Universal Safety Players, Direction Raymond Knight, NBC Production 
Department, NY 

A Radio Playlet by Tom A. Burke, Director Publicity Division, National Safety 

Cast of Characters 
Lycurgus Brown ... A Workman 
Juniper Johnson ... A Workman 
Mr. Weatherby ... The Foreman 

Scene: A Modern Factory.

Time: The Present.

(As play opens Lycurgus is slowly singing the following:)

"Ol' Man Trouble—
He stay right on mah doorstep —
He follow me roun' da whole day long—
Oh Lawd, please sen' him away!

"Ol' Man Trouble—
He sit right down at mah table—
He eats mah food—an' he wear mah clothes—
Oh Lawd, please sen' him away!"

(Lycurgus then continues meditatively): Ain't it de troof, Juniper? 

Juniper: What de troof, Lycurgus? 

Lycurgus: 'Bout Ol' Man Trouble.

Juniper: Say boy, why you always singing 'bout Ol' Man Trouble, anyway? Ah 
don't like them wailing tunes an' them mis'ry words. Boy, you gives me the 

Lycurgus: Ah ain't singing, Juniper. Ah's just prayin' to music. Ah's been 
prayin' this way fo' long time now — but ah guess da good Lawd too busy 
listenin' them angel voices to heah me.

Juniper: What you pray fo'?

Lycurgus: Jis' what da song say. To get rid dis Ol' Man Trouble.

Juniper: You talks foolishment, Lycurgus. They ain't no Ol' Man Trouble.

Lycurgus: Close yo' mouff, right now, Juniper. He hear you talk that way an' 
he ome right up and sit down on you.

Juniper: Who was he?

Lycurgus: Who was he? Boy, yo' means who IS he?

Juniper: All right then. Who he was an' who he is?

Lycurgus: Juniper, he's a 'hant.' A bad spirit that sneaks aroun' all day—all 
night. He jus' pick you out and point his finger an — blooey — down you goes! 
Yo' can't see him — an' yo' can't heah him — but Lawsy — how you feels him! 

Juniper: He after you? 

Lycurgus: Sho — he after me — an' he after you — an' when he can't find us, he 
jus' take somebody alse. Mebbe yo' ol' woman — maybe yo' chillun. All da time 
a pointin' dat finger at somebody. Boy, you see dat man get hurt yesterday?

Juniper: Quit yo' talkin' 'bout that man gettin' hurt, Lycurgus. Of co'se I 
seen him. You mean when dat fly-wheel go bust an' smash him up bad? Sho, ah 
seen him — jus' long enough to close mah eyes an' look the other way.

Lycurgus: Well, dat was Ol' Man Trouble. He buzzin' 'roun' heah all day 
yesterday—jus' lookin' fo' a place to light. Ah thinks he was lookin' fo' me. 
He jus' point his finger at that fly-wheel an' it bust all to pieces.

Juniper: But he didn't get you, Lycurgus.

Lycurgus: Not yet—he didn't get me. He didn't get you neither, Juniper—not 

Juniper: What do you mean—NOT YET?

Lycurgus: Well, when he come — he come to stay a while. Ol' Man Trouble — he 
never hurry — jus' take his time — lookin' roun' over da plant. Boy, he jus' 
got too much time altogether. Yo' look out Juniper — when he do git started.

Juniper: Foolishment, Lycurgus. Dat wasn't Ol' Man Trouble yestaday — Dat was 
jus' accident.

Lycurgus: How long you had dat automobile, Juniper?

Juniper: Two weeks.

Lycurgus: How much you pay? 

Juniper: Seventy-three dollahs — twelve-fifty down. 

Lycurgus: Too much — too much. Dat machine jus' goin' fall to pieces some 
day—like da fly-wheel.

Juniper: She didn't fall to pieces last Sunday, did she?

Lycurgus: Boy, it wasn't yo' fault. Yo' jus' drive plumb wild to that picnic — 
an' wid yo' wife an' fo' babies — an' my ol' woman an' kids. You skid da 
corners; yo' jus miss da lam' post; yo' run through da red lights like yo' 
goin' to a fire; an' yo' miss dat truck by a hair on a possum's tail —

Juniper: But ah miss 'em didn't I?

Lycurgus: Juniper, ah can fergive evything 'cept that matter of the freight 
train. We all saw it comin'. Them babies begin to cry — an' the woman shriek 
at you — an' I yellin' my head off fo' you to stop — an' yo' trying to beat 
dat train — 

Juniper: Well, we made it, didn't we?

Lycurgus: Sho — we made it — but to my dyin' day, ah'll always believe de good 
Lawd gave us a big shove. Boy, ahm tellin' yo', Ol Man Trouble got his eye 
fixed on that ol' autermobile. Look out dere, man. LOOK OUT!

Juniper: Quit yo' bein' scareful, Lycurgus. Look out where? 

Lycurgus: Heah come da foreman. 

Juniper: Lawsy, big boy — ah thought it was Ol' Man Trouble!

Weatherby: Say, you guys. What's the matter anyhow? Get on the job. We've got 
a lot of work to finish up around here this afternoon. 

Lycurgus: Yes, sah — Mistah Weathaby. We's a workin' fas' — ain't we Juniper?

Juniper: Yes, sah, Boss — we been jus' a rushin' — 

Weatherby: Lycurgus — I want to talk to you a minute. Did you see that 
accident yesterday — when that fly-wheel broke and hurt young Wilson?

Juniper: Yo' see, Lycurgus, ah done tol' you it was jus' an accident.

Lycurgus: Ah see the fly-wheel brake — but ah never seed no accident.

Weatherby: Didn't you see young Wilson get hurt? 

Lycurgus: Yes, sah — but I didn't see no accident.

Weatherby: What do you mean?

Juniper: Lycurgus been seein' things this mawnin', Mistah Weathaby.

Lycurgus: Twant no accident Mistah Weathaby —jus' Ol' Man Trouble. 

Weatherby: Say, what in the world are you talking about anyway?

Lycurgus: Ah's talkin' about Ol' Man Trouble. He hangin' aroun' heah lately. 
Somebody bound to git hurt. Ah's been heah 20 years; Boss — long time afore 
yo' come — an' every so often he jus' drop in with a new batch o' misery.

Juniper: You see, Boss, Lycurgus say we hoodooed by this spook. He got 
Lycurgus' number — an' ah think mebbe he's kinda checkin' up on me, too.

Weatherby: Oh, come on now, Juniper, where did you get all this stuff?

Juniper: Lycurgus done tell me all about him.

Weatherby: Lycurgus, I'm surprised at you. What in the world is the matter 
with you anyhow? I've always given you credit for having some brains.

Lycurgus: Ain't nothin' happened yet, Boss — it's what goin 'to happen. Yo' 
know, Boss, after young Wilson get hurt yesterday, ah picks up dat piece of 
fly-wheel — an' what do you think ah finds?

Juniper: Lawsy, what you all fin', Lycurgus?

Lycurgus: Ah finds yo' name writ right on it — Juniper — an' my name writ 
right below. Ah'm tellin' yo' — somethin' went wrong. That fly-wheel jus' 
natchally didn't follow orders — 

Juniper: Cross yo' heart, Lycurgus? 

Lycurgus: Boy, yo' don't believe me? Yo' wants to see that piece of fly-wheel?

Juniper: Who say I don't believe you, Lycurgus? Co'se ah believe yo'. 

Weatherby: Lycurgus, I'm surprised at you. You never had an accident yet. 

Lycurgus: Thass right, Boss. NOT YET! But every day — ah feels them symptoms.

Weatherby: (Laughs) You make me laugh. You've always been a safe worker and 
you've got a mighty good record—

Lycurgus: Yeah—Boss—but good records git spoiled awful fast some times. Sho — 
ah got all my fingers, both mah feet an' mah hands — an' mah eyes. In fack ah 
got jus' about everything da good Lawd pervided — except mah peace of mind.

Weatherby: Why, Lycurgus. I believe you're afraid.

Lycurgus: Afraid of jus' one thing, Boss — an that's Ol' Man Trouble. Ah jus' 
has to keep dodgin' him all da time. 

Weatherby: Well you seem to have dodged him pretty well for 20 years now. 
You've been a good dodger — I'll have to admit that.

Lycurgus: Yes, sah, Boss — ah read de safety rules an' ah follows 'em day in, 
day out. An' ah sings my praise to the good Lawd an' ask him to sen' Ol' Man 
Trouble on his way.

Weatherby: Let's hear that song, Lycurgus. 

Lycurgus: Well Boss, it's a long one — but heah's jus' one verse:

"Ol' Man Trouble —
He sprinkle folks with Sorrow —
He laugh at pain — an' he chuckle at Grief —
Oh Lawd, please sen' him away.

Weatherby: Where did you ever learn that, Lycurgus?

Lycurgus: Never learned it, Boss. Ah just knowed it all mah life. 

Weatherby: Well now, Lycurgus — that song isn't so bad. Only there isn't any 
Ol' Man Trouble.

Lycurgus: Boss, you better quit talkin' like dat. He point his finger at you 
this minute. Don't make him mad. Mistah Weatherby — else he sneak up from 
behind an' jus' flips you over! 

Weatherby: (Laughs) That's rich, Lycurgus. All I can say is that you are 
seeing things. 

Lycurgus: Hones' ah'm not, Boss. He's real— ah tells you.

Weatherby: Juniper— you go out there in the yard and help that loading gang. I 
want to have a little talk with Lycurgus. Go on now — hurry up.

Juniper: Yes, sah, Boss. I'se already stahted.

Weatherby: Lycurgus — I'm surprised and I might as well tell you that we won't 
stand for this sort of thing. You've made good — and you've been a good 
influence on our plant safety work—

Lycurgus:  Yes, sah, Boss.

Weatherby: You can't be spreading this stuff about ghosts. You can't stop 
accidents through fear. That isn't the way to do it. You've been here a long 
time and you certainly ought to know that. 

Lycurgus: Ah sure knows it, Boss — gen'rally speakin'.

Weatherby: What do you mean? 

Lycurgus: Ah means jus' this. There's some guys yo' can't argufy with— an' 
Juniper's one o' them.

Weatherby: Juniper? What's he got to do with all this? 

Lycurgus: Well Boss, Juniper jus' beginnin' to let hisself get reckless. Fust 
he buy a car on stallment plan an' begin to drive like a wil' man. He git too 
cocky when he don't have no smashup. Ah talks to him and ah pleads with him 
but it jus' don't seem to do no good. Then he begin to git a little careless 
in his work, Mistah Weathaby. Ah's jus' tryin' to teach a fool — 

Weatherby: Oh—ho! I'm beginning to see through this. 

Lycurgus: Ah knowed you would, Mistah Weathaby. Ah knowed you see right clean 
through it. Juniper been lucky a long time — an' he allus talkin' 'bout them 
there rabbit's foot and them horseshoes.

Weatherby: I see — superstitious, eh?

Lycurgus: Yes, Boss — turrible superstitious. So ah says to maself, Lycurgus 
ol' boy — dere's only one chance left. You all got to give Juniper a big stiff 
dose of his own medicine.

Weatherby: (Laughs) I see, Lycurgus. So that's the game, eh?

Lycurgus: Yes, Mistah Weathaby —  an' the game was jus' goin' fine up 'till 
you walk in on us. 

Weatherby: Well, that's rather nice of you — to want to keep him from getting 

Lycurgus: Keep him from getting hurt? Say, Boss, ah'm jus' tryin" to work out 
a scheme dat will keep ME from gettin' hurt! Lot of times, Boss, an accident 
victim turns out to be twins!

Weatherby: Well, go ahead, Lycurgus. I'll have a serious talk with him myself. 
I'd better go now — I see him coming.

Lycurgus: Good-day, Mistah Weathaby. (Starts humming.)
"Ol' Man Trouble —
He stay right on mah doorstep —
He foller me roun' da whole day long —
Oh Lawd, please sen' him away!"

Originally broadcast: 16 May 1930