David Purnell has sold Real Change for more than a decade. He’s constantly saying hello, shaking hands and even hugging customers at his spot in front of Trader Joe’s on Madison Street. He said he has everything he needs, except “an apartment, a set of wheels, and a good woman.”
David has had his ups and downs, the latter part of which he chalks up to some poor choices.
“I just chased after the wrong thing,” he said. “Two of the best parents that ever could be in the world taught me principles and values; it was just up to me to go ahead and see them through.”
A machinist at Boeing for nine years, he regrets not sticking with it. His younger brother is close to retiring there after 40 years.
He says his mother was also one of the first women machinists at Boeing.
“She was paying union dues and she wasn’t even in the union. Because of a thing called racism.”
David’s mother passed away in the fall. He misses her, but his family and Real Change customers have helped him deal with the loss, he said.
David said his father was the first black barber in Seattle. His older brother founded a credit union and then became president of Liberty Bank.
“That’s where I come from,” David said.
When asked if he’s experienced racism in Seattle, he said, “Oh, absolutely, but I let it go in one ear and out the other, depending on what side of the sidewalk I got up on. Racism in Seattle is undercover. It’s not like down in the South where if a person doesn’t like you, they let you know.”
David speaks warmly of his children. His two oldest sons are competitive boxers, his daughter has a good job, and his youngest wants to become a preacher.
“The one in between still thinks the street is the answer and it’s not, but he’s doing OK.” He has five grandchildren, all boys. “My dream is to take them all fishing,” David said.
David separated from his wife a long time ago. “She gave me too many chances, and we went our separate ways.”
“But we still communicate,” David said. “Communication is an art and we’re losing that because we’re too technologically involved. People turn their eye away, as Marvin Gaye says, from what’s really going on.”