Canada Jones is the kind of man who keeps candy in his pockets for sharing and refers to the rain as “liquid sunshine.” His positive attitude is contagious, and he makes a point of bringing joy to those around him. “I have a way with people with just the smile I have,” Canada explained (smiling, of course).
“I try to keep a positive personality at all times, so if I’m not feeling good, I still do what I can to help someone else feel better about themselves.”
He grew up in St. Louis, in a family of nine. His mom lovingly called him the “little man with the big, big muscles.” Alternatively, his siblings called him “pork chop, because I was fat.”
Canada eventually left St. Louis for Seattle to work, but also to be with family. “I left St. Louis because my brother was working in Seattle at the Millionair Club. He told me to come out and get a job — a better job. And I did.”
After some time with the Millionair Club, Canada went on to work at all sorts of places: a cannery in Alaska, the Seattle Center, the King Dome, Cherry Street apartments and the Pioneer Square Hotel. Throughout working these jobs, he stayed at Smith Tower with his 4-month-old son.
“His mother wasn’t doing good,” Canada recalled, “drugs or what not, but she’s a lovely woman. She was my grade-school sweetheart. Twenty-five years later, after three kids together, we got married on my daughter’s birthday.”
Unfortunately, life took an unexpected turn and Canada found himself alone in San Francisco, far from his family. “I like life. Life is real good, God is good, but my life. … There was a lot of trouble that I got over.”
Canada’s been working through that trouble ever since. About a year ago, he returned to Seattle hoping to find his adult children.
Starting a new life here wasn’t easy.
“When you’re out there all alone, it’s just you you you you you, and it’s hard to point at yourself when you don’t have a mirror and say: ‘I can do better. I wanna be better. I want to feel better.’ You almost have to have someone walking with you, holding that mirror for you.”
Canada found himself living outside for a while. “You mostly get hurt before you get well, on the street.”
He eventually moved into a shelter, which wasn’t much better. “In the shelter it seems like, in my life, it was like being in jail. Because you get told what to do and how to do it. Once you go there, you lose all your personal lifestyle. There’s nothing for you to … have.”
With luck, hard work and a little help, Canada has since found himself an affordable apartment. This means he can finally relax a little. “Now I have a place to lay my head, and I feel better about myself, you know?”
When asked what lessons he’d like to share, Canada reflects, “I’ve learned patience is a very valuable thing to have. Because sometimes you want immediate action, and sometimes things just don’t work like that. ... I think having a desire to do better is gonna be the key to success. Or happiness! Happiness is really good, too.”
You can catch Canada selling papers at the southwest corner of First Avenue and Marion Street.
Read more of the Aug. 5-11, 2020 issue.