Monday, August 3, 2015

I LIVE AND LEARN...


I REMEMBER LOOKING at the pictures of apartheid-era South Africa, and how upset we Americans were over all that...but I also remember, very clearly, WITHIN MY LIFETIME, when conditions here in the United States were essentially the same as they were in that faraway part of the world...

I remember when BY LAW there were certain areas of this country in which people like me --- blacks --- couldn't live...or work...or go to school...

I remember when there was a job opening listed in the daily paper of my hometown, a position for which I was absolutely qualified, and in which I was interested; but when I went to apply for it, the interviewer turned and asked her associate if she had any job openings "for coloreds"...

I remember when, in my freshman year of college, a History professor couldn't recall the nation which the Turks fought in the early 20th Century, who was so surprised to learn that it was I who asked him if he meant Armenia; he looked SHOCKED, and asked incredulously, "How did YOU know that, Mr.Young?" Before I caught myself, I responded,  "probably the same way you did; I studied it." And I remember how horrible I felt that I'd been so brash and impertinent...

I remember just a few years ago, when a friend of mine, a few years older who had also grown up in the South, told me about the "Laughing Barrels" which lined the main street of a hamlet near where he had grown up. Never heard of a Laughing Barrel? Me, either...but they existed well into the middle of the 20th (TWENTIETH!) Century...

And just today...I'm comfortably over 70 years old (I'll be 74 in a few weeks. NOTE: I'm 74 now; turned 74 a week and a day ago!)...I just learned that there was even a NAME for towns which featured "those" signs...signs that maybe some of you have HEARD about or READ about...but which I remember SEEING. You know, THOSE signs. I remember being scared to death that my family was going to have a flat tire or some other car trouble in one of those towns (or in a very large part of the major city in which I grew up)...and we were going to be stranded and caught in one of those areas after dark, when the signs which I remember vividly had warned people like me that a certain black part of our anatomy had better not be caught there after dark unless we were just passing through...

NEVER HEARD OF LAUGHING BARRELS or SUNDOWN CITIES? Google both, and you'll see some of the things that some of us who are still alive have EXPERIENCED --- not just heard or read about, but LIVED (actually, check out this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundown_town; it'll make your head swim!). I will say this, though; I didn't personally experience Laughing Barrels, and had never heard of them until my friend told me about them relatively recently. But he's pretty much a contemporary of mine, and clearly remembers them...

I still wonder why the History books (and even the august Smithsonian) go on and on about the lunch counter sit-ins at the North Carolina Woolworths, when ours at the Katz Drugstore and John A. Brown Department Store lunch counters in Oklahoma City predated the ones in Greensboro by TWO YEARS. Don't believe it? Google "Greensboro Woolworths" and "Clara Luper," and check the dates.

Yep, I'm OLD, and lots has happened in my lifetime...but I Iearn something new just about every day...

Unfortunately, I'm also puzzled by something new every day...