One of the genuine greatest: Jimmy Boarman

Jimmy Boarman. Photo by Frederic John

Jimmy is arguably one of the last outdoor newspaper sellers you’ll see in D.C.

Many moons ago, the city corners teemed with those who plied their “ware” — Apple Annie, “Little Match Girl,” Tin Men and Tinkers, oyster shuckers, fishmongers, and loudest and proudest of all, the “Newsies!”

Today, save for a couple of silent rows of pink, blue, and lime-green food and t-shirt trucks bunched around the National Mall, the roistering boisterous hawkers are no more.

In his own words

Except at the southwest corner of Dumbarton and Wisoncon for a few hours most every Sunday — that’s where you’ll find James “Jimmy” Boarman with his precious stacks of Washington Posts and New York Times. “Been at this spot more than a quarter century. And March 27, 1925, is my birthdate. Born in D.C., the nation’s capital, grew up on the streets of the city. And anybody’ll tell ya. They all want to buy from Jimmy! I’m the one.”

A son of D-Day

Jimmy is proud of his Second World War service. “U.S. Army, yes sir, Army all the way.” When Jimmy heard FDR on his little tube radio proclaiming Dec. 7, 1941, as “a day which shall live in infamy,” the young Irish American knew he had to serve his homeland. “June 6, 1944, yes sir. We landed on Normandy Beach, D-Day! I’ll never forget. Lost some shipboard buddies, too. But I made it back, and resumed selling the Washington Post. Picked up a good rhythm after the war!”

As I listen to this 99-year-old “wise elder” reminisce, I glance around the intersection, beneath the arched roofed wood and iron canopy of the old building.

Opposite its corner brick piers sits the immense black steel cassion stenciled with the Post’s classic gothic loco. Only Jimmy and his beloved niece hold the key to that secret padlock.

Though Jimmy’s niece has been sidelined with ailments, he still looks after her and makes sure she joins in with paper sales when she’s able.

“I was married, then divorced, and even in my 70s I had some lovely lady friends. They all knew me.”

And through Mr. Boarman, I made rich acquaintanceships with the ancient artistry of old-time newsies! George the Greek, Wild Jack of the Commerce Steps, and the excitable Jimmy Kennedy, who got me a spot selling outside the Mayflower Hotel 40 years ago, when Pat Buchanan tipped me a double sawbuck at Christmas!

“I worked 20 years as a U.S. Postal Clerk, but I’ll never give up selling the paper,” said Boarman. “Now my van is broke down outside my apartment in Rockville. Please. I need someone to acquire my winter accessories. Everyone knows me. Just contact Jimmy Boarman.”

We all wish Jimmy Godspeed!

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