Saturday, October 18, 2008

History Lesson

My friend over at Opprobious recently made a post about "The Race Card". And after having some discussion in his comments section, it got me to thinking about various things historical.

That's one nice thing about growing older, is that you start to actually HAVE some history. And you can start to bore the younger folks with telling them how things "useta be". Oh, how I wish I still had my parents and grandparents around to listen to their stories once again. Since they're no longer living, the best I can do is to type out my own memories.

When I was coming up in the wilds of southern Georgia (aka as North Florida), we had a maid that came to work for us a few days a week. I think this was during the time that my grandmother moved in with us and Momma went to work to get out of the house because her MIL was driving her nuts. (good lord I can sympathize.. I never had my MIL move in, but I would've gone stark raving mad if she had.)

Anyhoo, the maid whose name was Cora, lived too far away to walk to our house and there was no public transportation where we lived and she didn't have access to a car. So Momma or Daddy would have to go pick her up. I'm not sure if I remember Mom picking her up, I think I do, but not 100% sure of that memory. I think she must've at one time or another. What does stand out in my memory was the times that Daddy would pick her up. And Daddy would never take the car to go get her. He'd always drive the Willys pickup truck. (Looked a LOT like this truck, only ours was Green. This truck was why my nephew called my dad Greendaddy instead of Granddaddy.. lol).

I loved that truck. Daddy used to let me steer (at about age 7 or 8) when driving down the old dirt roads (remember this was very rural areas with NO traffic, and he was controlling the gas and brake) and later when I was 14 or 15, it was what I had my first real driving lesson on.. again out in the country with no traffic. Worst I could run into was a pine tree. Wish it was still in the family, but when it got to the point where parts were no longer easily available, my sister and bil let it go (sold it?) to a man who could machine the parts. It was time, but I wish I had been in a position to keep it. Oh well. Back to my story.

The reason Daddy drove the truck to pick up Cora was that if he drove the car, she'd feel obligated to sit in the back seat. For various reasons he wasn't comfortable with her sitting in the back, yet in the customs of the times, it wasn't a good thing to be seen with her riding in the front seat either. So he solved the problem by taking the truck where there was only one seat. Pretty smart huh? And often he'd take us kids with him too, whether to just give us a treat or he enjoyed our company or to get us out of Mom's/Nanny's hair for a while, or as another buffer in the race/seating game.. I have no idea.

I remember Cora had a husband by the name of Rooster. He was sometimes not at home.. he'd be off in some northern city. Chicago maybe? I don't know much about that, but his name stuck in my mind. Kinda unusual.

I wonder whatever happened to Cora. She was a nice person, but I was a child and caught up in myself and never thought to follow up on her.

Now, my Dad didn't have to act that way, and considering he was raised with having a "nursemaid", I think it's remarkable that he was that conscious of others feelings.

The other story I have to tell isn't family history, but a reflection on how things have changed and in so short a time.

When I was growing up, it was common in polite society to call black folks "colored". It was only the uncultured and uncouth who used the N word. I'm not condoning the use of either word.. it's just the way it was. (and it's always bemused me the use of the word "colored" anyway.. if blacks are colored.. what are whites.. colorless??? transparent?? invisible??)

A few years ago, I was talking to one of our local orthopedic surgeons and he was telling me about having this older black lady in his office to get a cast for a broken bone (let's call it her arm for simplicities sake.. I have really no idea what bone was needing treatment). And he was talking to her about her choices.

She could have plain plaster cast or she could have a fiberglass cast. If she chose fiberglass, he went on to tell her, she could have a colored cast (fiberglass is available in many colors, red, blue, purple, etc.). She straightened up, indignant, and asked him, "What do you MEAN, I can have a COLORED cast?" She was mad thinking he was being discriminatory and offering her something just for her race. It took a moment for both of them to realize the miscommunication.. and they both laughed when it was straightened out.

I know that the doctor was careful to phrase things differently from then on.

Just goes to show how history invades every facet of our lives. As I told my dd the other day, she'll enjoy studying history a little more when she gains some of her own. As she's only 21, she has a ways to go.

Hope this walk down memory lane was enjoyable and perhaps thought provoking. It was not meant to offend anyone. Please feel free to comment if you like.


Cris said...

Nice story and very well told. I almost expected you to run into Scout and Boo Radley. heh heh heh

Lisa said...

LOL I love that novel. And you don't know how close you come to writing the truth.

Remember old lady DuBose (now you'll have to go back and read or at least look it up on the web)? That's one of my family names.

Biz said...

Loved your story. I love history through the eyes of others. I still have my grandmother living. She was a prisoner in a work-camp in Nazi Germany. I love listening to her stories. Thanks for sharing your memories.