Ten years ago, a poverty-stricken West Virginia man - his hands scarred from years of work in the coal mines - pawned his wife's fur coat and bought a bus ticket to Washington to work as a mail carrier.
It was an unexpected new start for the 50-year-old father of nine mostly teen-aged children.In the District of Columbia he would seek a better life for his family. He would work two jobs to keep them off food stamps and welfare. Someday he would buy a house.
Unlike many bright dreams that grow tarnished with time, he kept his dreams alive. A decade later, he has progressed from inner-city renter to home owner; from a poverty case to a man who boasts of having all the major credit cards, and to the status of a father who notes proudly that most of his children are now adults, employed and doing well.
The happy thread of the story of the man from West Virginia has snapped. Last Friday night, he received word that his 18-year-old son had been shot to death. His 16-year-old son was charged as an adult with killing his brother and another man and with wounding three other people during the attempted robbery of a dice game.
The two brothers involved are the youngest boys in a family of five boys and five girls.
Yesterday, Glen R. Perkins and his wife, Anola, who live near the notorious corner of 14th and T Streets NW, told a reporter how they had bought a five-bedroom house there five years ago without realizing the neighborhood's reputation.
The parents soon found they were helpless in protecting their teen-age sons from the ruinous effects of the community and they made plans to sell their cherished house and move away.
One week ago yesterday, they finally sold the house and were planning to move Jan. 15 to another community, possibly in Virginia.
Friday night, Wayne, 16, apparently was playing in a dice game in an apartment house hallway at 1430 Chapin St. NW. He lost money and accused other players of cheating.
Witnesses later told police that Wayne Perkins left the game briefly and returned with a revolver and his older brother, Brian, 18. The two asked dice players to place their money on the floor, witnesses said.
When one of about 10 other players broke toward the front door, Brian bounded after him, witnesses said. They told police that Wayne fired one shot toward the two, Brian was struck. Then Wayne fired additional shots. Another man was killed, and two persons were wounded, police said.
Wayne Perkins now is being held in a juvenile section at D. C. jail on $10,000 bond.
"We were just too late," his mother said yesterday, sometimes fighting back tears. "I could see the things that were happening to my boys. I knew we had to get them away from here before something happened. But we were just too late.
"I used to tell (my boys), Stay off the corner. Stay off the corner. There had been only two or three boys on this street who hadn't been in trouble because of the corner (14th & T)," she said.
"There are people all up and down the streets around here selling dope. Some parents even have their small children selling it. My boys weren't dealing in dope, but I know they were affected by the people around them. That's why we wanted to get out," she said.
Five years ago, the family paid $15,000 for its home. Last week, the family sold the house for $24,000 in a neighborhood were major renovations are occurring and similar houses are selling for $35,000 or more.
"We had reached the point where we were just that desperate to get out of here," the father said. "We no longer cared that much about how much money we could make on the house. We simply wanted to get our kids out of this area to some place where they would be safe."
"We had been going to church every Sunday praying and asking the Lord to provide some way for us to hurry and sell the house," he added. "Then one day about 2 1/2 months ago, I was sitting out front, and a white man walked up and asked if I wanted to sell. I said, 'Yes. Definitely.'"
The decision to sell, in a way, was painful for the couple. The house to them represented the pinnacle of their modest success. With the house, they finally were assured of leaving a tangible legancy for their children. WIthout it, they would leave only a memory.
He worked two full-time jobs at a mail carrier and as a janitor at a Northern Virginia courthouse to earn $27,000 a year. The mother also held two jobs and earned $15,000 a year.
"We worked all the time to make sure our boys didn't have to go into the street to sell sope or do anything wrong to get what they wanted," the father said. "They would tell us what they wanted or needed. It may have taken a little time, but we worked and got it for them."
He said that once or twice, his youngest sons brought home revolvers they bought on the street. The parents said they scolded their sons, took the guns and threw them away.
He said his youngest sons also occasionally smoked marijuana cigirettes. But they did not do so often because they knew their parents did not approve.
"Brian dropped out of school at the eight grade, but he was smart," his mother said. "He knew he could get what ever he wanted from me. All he had to do is charm me with his smile.
"He thought he could give me the world" she said. "He used to say, 'Mama, one of these days you won't have to work. We''re going to have plenty of money.'"
"I think Brian felt his death. He told us about a week ago, jokingly, that he didn't think he would live much longer. He said he wanted pink carnations for his funeral," the mother said yesterday.
"He said he had many things on his mind. When I left for work Friday evening, he said, 'mama, I want you to hurry home.' "I told him even if I hurried home he wouldn't be here - because he rarely stays at home. But when I returned, he was here," she said.
Then he left, telling the family he was going to a party. A short time later, the telephone rang. A caller said Brian had been shot to death.