Chapter 10 Harold Brown Memoir – 1954

This would be my last year at this school building. The first through third grades used the same building but had a different playground area. That prevented the big boys from picking on the little ones. This was the year of the bullies. L.W. Ward, and Jerry Bozeman were the terror of the yard. Jerry was a leader and L.W. was a follower. I later learned that Jerry’s father was a brute and L.W. really was a decent sort of guy. Love not given is a life wasted.

Jerry left town before he finished fourth grade but not before some of the bigger boys at the high school taught him a lesson about picking fights. L.W. followed the rest of us to our senior year but dropped out of school with one semester left. I never heard from or about him again. Success is based on backbone not wishbone.

Mrs Pickens, my third grade teacher, was the prettiest teacher in the school but “pretty is as pretty does” so they say. She had her favorites and I was not one of them. Her husband taught at the high school but I do not remember what he taught. I studied hard and made good grades but I often got in trouble on the play ground.

The threat of my generation was developing as we entered 1954. Vietnam was preparing to divide into North and South. Segregation based on race in schools was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. I had seen the school that the negro children had in my home town and it was, outwardly, as well built as the white children’s school. I asked my mother where the negro children went when they finished grade school and she told me a bus took them to another town. Their band marched in the fair parade, there was none more exciting.

Dr. Jonas Salk’s vaccine of polio kept us all in line. We had to have the vaccine to go to school. I would have gladly dropped out right then. We went to the county court house three different times, standing in long lines each time. Roy Sanders was not one of the luck children. He developed polio and was confined to a red wagon throughout our grade school years.

I was given permission to take in the local Saturday night movie. It became a ritual as long as the theater survived. Fifteen cents would get you in and ten cents would purchase a coke and candy bar from the local grocery store. There was a balcony for the negro movie buffs. I never thought it was fair for the owners to refuse me admittance to the upstairs. We view things not as they are, but as we are.

The man that was the shine boy at the barber shop taught me how to polish shoes. I did not know then that we were not equal. I am sure that some of the things that I thought were generous on his part was fear of the white man. What is said and what is heard isn’t always the same thing.

I think about how many times I called Mrs.Young’s house cleaner Nigger Mattie. I thought Nigger was her first name. She was a wonderful woman. I would often ride with Mrs. Young when she took Mattie home and that was only if it was raining or storming. She lived on a dirt street in a part of town that was just full of shacks. The ditches were wide and deep and I think she had a wooden board, we called them planks, for a bridge. A brown paper bag was the only umbrella that any of us knew about. A reputation is what others think of you, but character is what you really are.

A kidney had been successfully transplanted. People were introduced to Billy Graham. Under God was added to the Pledge of Allegiance. Comic books were selling at a rate of twenty million copies a month. Mr. Spencer would run us out of his grocery store if he found us reading his comic books. He knew that we had no intention of purchasing one. On the rare occasions when I did purchase one of his nickel comics I had to hide it so that mother wouldn’t found out how I had waisted my lunch money. Sports Illustrated made its appearance but none of us were interested. William Golding wrote Lord of the Flies. It became one of my favorites.

Aunt Myrtle would appear out of the blue during the summer. Her school in Wilmont was just like my school. Even teachers got some of the summer off. She would come by mother’s beauty shop and ask if I wanted to go swimming with her grand daughters. I wanted to go swimming but I wasn’t crazy about being seen with two girls. Dutchie was the oldest and Kathie was the youngest. They turned out to be lots of fun. Your beliefs may change, but the truth does not. Sometimes Aunt Myrtle would pick up Sandy and the four of us would have a great time in the Crossett swimming pool. The best present you can give yourself is a friend.

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