Times Past Challenge – 6/16/18
Reflect on a big change in my lifetime.
560 or so words ( originally over 1200 )
Links posted at
The State Theater was located on the north side of College Avenue between Monroe and Adams Streets in Tallahassee, Florida. It was just four blocks down from the Travelodge motel my father (G1) had just taken over after retiring from the US Air Force in the summer of 1963. I (Boomer) remember it well.
Being from a military family who moved at the drop of a hat, exploration was first on my agenda. Knowing the layout of the land was an imperative first step in acclimating to new surroundings. Having a movie theater just down the street seemed a good place to begin. I would start there.
The family's military lifestyle did not prepare any of us for the nastier aspects of the world we would now exist in. My parents had become used to the protective bubble a military life offered. I was born on base and knew nothing else. There was no such thing as segregation in my world up to that time.
I stepped up to the ticket window and bought a ticket. I remember the black woman inside the ticket booth asking me not once, but twice if I was sure I wanted to go into the theater. I was adamant. I was 12. It was Saturday and I was burning daylight while the matinee was well into its first serial. She handed me a ticket. I went in, bought some popcorn and a coke and went into the theater. Not long after I had settled into my seat, I sensed someone big sit down in the seat behind me. They leaned over the back of the seat next to me and said, "Boy, are you sure you are in the right theater?"
I turned and there was a very unfriendly looking black man staring at me hard. I told him yes, I was in the right theater. I lived just down the street at the Travelodge and my name was Mike. I ended with "we just moved here."
"Son," his voice became friendlier, "you really are in the wrong theater. .... You need to leave. We don't want any trouble here."
I stood up and looked around. It finally dawned on me there was not one white face there other than mine. And it seemed to me all eyes were focused on me and not the screen.
I left and walked the four blocks back to the Travelodge. When I got home, I told my dad I had been kicked out of the theater by a very scary black guy. He looked at me. He did not ask what I might have done to deserve getting the boot. He just sighed and told me to blow it off, we would talk later. I think he knew but had forgotten how the real world worked.
Thus began my exposure to the very real and ugly world of segregation in the US South in the early 1960's. That summer I witnessed white people beating on black people while white police leaned on their cruisers and sucked on toothpicks. I was shamed by a public librarian for drinking out of the wrong fountain. I was told in no uncertain terms that my kind was not allowed to sit in the back of the bus. And at a nearby rib joint, I was refused service again because I was white. It was an eye opening coming of age summer. One I have never forgotten.
The years 1962 and 1963 were absolutely crammed with more seminal moments than the rest of my life combined. The above is the one I revisit most often I think.
To attempt some structure to my memoir here, I decided to try just focusing on one event while offering just enough background to give the reader perspective. I am not sold on my effort, but it is different than some of my other stream of consciousness posts or my based on facts fictional narratives.
Any criticism, comment or hey der's welcome.
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