Miss Marple said we are all alloted three score and ten years, and like Miss Marple I shall soon be overdrawn.
Now, having lived 70 years, I will use this blog to record my observations and try to answer the question, "Is the hokey-pokey really what it's all about?
Monday, August 19, 2013
REMINISCENCE – TRANSITION TO THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA
At age eight, just before
starting the second grade, my grandmother moved us from Kentucky to her ancestral home in the
Just so you know - an eight
year old is capable of experiencing cultural shock.
Kentucky was all I knew.
My grandfather’s people were rooted into the history of Crittenden
County Kentucky all the way back to the Civil War. Family ties extended across the county -
people knew me there and I was accepted.
My grandfather had worked for
the Illinois Central Railroad until retirement.
My grandmother and grandfather were divorced, but my grandmother has a
pass to ride the trains. We rode an old
steam engine passenger train from Paducah, Kentucky to Rolling Fork, Mississippi.
Rolling Fork is located in
the center of SharkeyCounty, which is located
in the heart of the Mississippi Delta.
The land is flat and hot – cotton country. The black people greatly outnumbered the
white people in the county, but this was segregation and black people didn't count.
It is funny when you think
about it: in the late 1940’s black
people in Rolling Fork were considered inferior – just above field
animals. Now, in the twenty-first
century, the only thing Rolling Fork is known for is as the home of McKinley
Morganfield: Muddy Waters.
The house we moved into was
one side of a duplex; then known as a shotgun house because you could shoot a
shotgun through the front door and it would exit through the backdoor – the
hall went down the center of the house from front door to back. The house was built off the ground on brick
pilings, as were most of the older houses because, before the Corps of
Engineers built levies, yearly flooding of the Mississippi
river was once common in the area. We had three rooms: two bedrooms and a
We shared the house with an
older couple – the owners. There was a
screened porch across the front of the house furnished with some wicker rocking
chairs and a swing. During the summer,
because of the heat, my grandmother and I and the old couple would sit on the
porch at night until bed time. I would
often fall asleep in the swing. There were screens on the windows and at night
we slept with the windows open and an oscillating fan blowing air across the
bed. I can remember many nights trying
to get to sleep, sweating – with the sheet pulled over my head, as mosquitoes
buzzed over the bed.
My entrance into school was
not pleasant. I was from Kentucky and so the
students decided I was a Yankee. The
Civil War was the proud culture of the area.‘The 4th of July’ was not celebrated because that was the
date that Vicksburg
fell to ‘Grants army of northern aggression.’
Mississippi State Flag
We had a telephone. This was before dial phones. Our telephone number was 26. My grandmother’s brother’s telephone number
was 3. Numbers really didn't matter,
because you could pick up the phone and tell the operator you wanted Claude
Kelly’s telephone and she would ring it.
The operators knew everybody in town, and it wasn't unusual for an
operator to tell you that the person you were calling had gone to Vicksburg and wouldn't be
home for a couple of days.
Note: I could not find a picture of a telephone on Google without the dial on it. Our phone was black with just a small white placard in the center of the receiver that had our telephone number printed on it.
School ran from 7:30 in the
morning until 4:00 in the afternoon.
There were no spring or fall breaks – straight through until Christmas
and then straight through until summer; I believe we did get Thanksgiving
Just before moving to Mississippi my
sister/mother gave me a J.C. Higgins, 26 inch, red and white bicycle.
I rode this bicycle to school and back until
I entered the eleventh grade. In the early days the bicycle was my get away
vehicle after school. My bicycle was
named Fury for the horse of Straight Arrow – my comic book and radio hero.
The high point of each day began after school at
5 p.m. when I would sit on the floor at home, in front of the large Philco
radio, with a mayonnaise sandwich and a glass of milk, and tune into one hour
of kids programming.
For those of you that can’t
imagine a time before television - radio was just as exciting – and perhaps
more so than TV. Kids today watch
television along with distractions; but radio took your full
concentration. Somehow you became more
a part of the program than you can with television.
The afternoon programming could
be Sergeant Preston of the Yukon
and his wonder dog King; The Lone Ranger and Tonto; Tarzan; Roy Rogers; Rex the
wonder dog; Lassie – or others.
Saturday mornings were also kid’s time: I listened to Sky King; Flash
Gordon and Space Cadets.
My favorite Saturday radio
show was Straight Arrow.
In a moment Steve Adams rancher is gone - and in his place Yes Fury it is I Straight Arrow.
rancher Steve Adams would be confronted by evil doers then ride his horse
across the badlands and jump it across a canyon into a secret cave– there he
would change into his Indian outfit and emerge as Straight Arrow riding his
golden horse Fury. With his bow and
arrow he would defeat the villains and then return to his persona as the mild
Nabisco shredded wheat
included Straight Arrow Indian craft cards with its cereal. These cards were magical: they showed you how
to build tepees identify animal tracks and make all sorts of Indian
paraphernalia. I hated shredded wheat but ate it to get the
I spent hours making war
shields, tomahawks, spears, bow and arrows, and building shelters. When away from school I spent much of my time
occupying some elaborate fantasy
My toys were simple by
today’s standards. Along with my Indian outfit
that I made, my other prize possessions (other than Fury) were two cap pistols
and a cigar box of toy plastic soldiers.
The soldiers entertained me for hours on rainy days in the house.
Now that I think about it, guns (toys or otherwise)
have been a part of my life almost as far back as I can remember.
Kids today can not fathom
life without electronics. If they aren't in front of a television or their computer then they are on their cell phones
or being entertained with some organized activity – otherwise they are
I also had electronics when I
was a kid: I owned a flashlight.
On Saturdays my grandmother
would give me a quarter and I would go to the movies. It cost a dime to get in – popcorn was a
dime and a coke was a nickel. There
was usually a western double feature showing on Saturdays. Black people could go to the movie but had
to sit in the balcony – they had no concession stand.
The town was a safe place to
live and since we lived three blocks from the movie theater my grandmother
would sometimes let me go to movies at night.
They always showed the horror movies at night. They scared the hell out of me but I loved
them. I remember hiding under the seats
during the scary parts; and after the movie I would run home through the dark
streets so fast I don’t think my feet touched the ground.
When I was ten years old I
got a Daisy air rifle for Christmas.
Like the boy in A Christmas Story,
I slept with the BB gun beside my bed.
It was the greatest gift I ever received.
BB’s were ten cents a
tube. I don’t remember how many BB’s
were in a tube but there must have been at least a hundred. You would twist the cap on the end of the
barrel and pour the BB down the loading chute.
I must have shot thousands of rounds over a four year period.
When I was fourteen I helped
an uncle pack a van with his household furniture when he moved his family to New Orleans. Just before he left he gave me a bolt action
22 cal. rifle (which I still have.) I
am not sure what happened to the BB gun; perhaps it got passed down to a