Christmas is nice because you get all those toys, enough to last all year. I remember thinking about that when we're at the A&P grocery store, Gramma and me and Shell, my sister. I see up above the display counters where the food is, they have toys up there so you can look at them as you walk through. There's a Jungle Jim safari set that has a toy rifle with a scope and a safari hat and a pistol and safari belt. That's what I want. That's all that I want. But you don't say anything. When you ain't got money, you don't go around saying "I want this" or "I want that." I mean, just be puttin people on the spot, just make everything awkward and the whole day all screwed up and no fun anymore. So you just hope. You just hope that someone sees you staring at the safari set and figures that's the only thing you want in the world. Then Christmas comes, and I don't get it, but that's okay. Got other stuff.
And all that's so relative anyway. I mean people wouldn't even know what I was talking about 'cause even though we don't have much, we got, you know, everything we need. I mean, sure I go down to the cousin's houses, they live like a hour south of us in a little town (takes two hours when Grandad drives). And at their houses, there're rooms filled with toys, everything, new bicycles lying on the ground out in the rain. The one big room at the end of the house, they call the "playroom." Itís kinda nice, but kinda sickening too.
But you know, little as we got, we still have enough to hire a Black girl to watch us kids for like five cent an hour, during the day. This is before Blacks were allowed to work in the South and like fifty years after Gramma was getting ten cent at the sweat shop.
Imagine, hiring people to do domestic work for five cent an hour. But like I say, Blacks weren't allowed to have jobs. The only Black person I ever remember working at a real job was the girl who ran the elevator in Davidson's Department Store. All dressed up in her maroon red uniform with gold trim and white gloves, just to push the lever that said which of the four floors you were going to. I thought that was a pretty neat job. Wanted to do that when I grew up.
Oh, and the cab drivers too. Older Black ladies take a lot of cabs, I guess, like to the grocery store, because they don't have cars I suppose, and they take the Black cab because whites and Blacks don't ride in the same cab so they have their own company.
You don't really think about this as being grotesquely insane when you're little, it's just the way it is and you don't even wonder about it. More concerned with the Jungle Jim toy, you know. On main street we walk past the Black movie theater that's on the west end of the street, I think. They always have all these neat posters of monster movies like "Creature From the Deep" and stuff like that. I'd like to go to that theater but can't, not allowed.
But on the west end of the street there, maybe that's where Colored town starts, I don't know. Don't know where Blacks live in my hometown. Aint that weird? I think there's a Colored grocery store a couple of blocks south of our house; that must be part of Colored town, but the one time I was there, I see it's run by white people, just Blacks shop there.
And you know, Dad gots this sad story he tells and you can see there's a lot of emotion in his throat when he tells it. He's walking there past the Colored theater on the sidewalk and this older Black man, grandfatherly-type guy's coming toward him. The old man steps off the sidewalk, lowers his head and tips his hat. And you Dad comes from this background where younger people 'spose to show respect to their elders, say "yes ma'am" and "yes sir" and kinda defer to people who are old 'cause y'just do. So when the old guy does that, it just mortifies him, a moment in time on your brain you never forget.
When I'm older, I go to Kress's five and dime, walk down those old worn wooden floors way back to the back of the store where the two water fountains are and drink out of the one marked "Colored" so as to say "fuck you," to the whole white supremacist system. Not much of a statement, but makes me feel better.
I mean Lester Maddox is the Governor and he used to be this eighth grade graduate who had a couple of fast food restaurants. One in Atlanta and one here in Athens. He makes a statement. Won't serve Blacks. What a guy. And people walking around outside the restaurant carrying signs and so forth, but nothing much comes of it 'cept gets Lester elected.
Martin's marching non-violently to Selma, but all hell breaks loose, I guess. Me and Shell walk the ten blocks to Catholic school, pass the KKK building on the way. That always scares me. The KKK doesn't like Catholics. There's a rumor that one of the clan guys from here in Athens was involved in killing someone over in Alabama, but I never heard anything more about it. But up there in Atlanta, young Stokely Carmichael is telling the crowd to fight violence with violence. They arrest him for "inciting to riot." I like Stokely. He's cool. But he gets arrested all the time, wherever he goes. Hear it on the news all the time. I don't think anybody ever got any civil rights in this county but for Stokely Carmichael inciting people to riot. Maybe they should put his image up there on Mt. Rushmore. Yeah.