Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thanks, Blogger Friends

You didn't know this, but I was going through a difficult time in my life when I started this blog.  I was depressed and looking for something to do while wondering about my purpose in life and what had I contributed to this world after being in it for 72 years.  Yes, I know that's selfish, but what is life is we don't know our place? My life has always been full with family responsibilities, work, travel, clubs, friends, and other activities, yet I still felt there was something I wanted to do.

As you can see by the pictures, I am blessed with a beautiful family: one faithful husband of 54 years who has watched me do many wacky things in life and shook his head in amazement as I continued along my own, not always sterling path; three successful sons who grew up with me and brought me much joy; two wonderful daughters-in-law, who call me Mom; five exceptional, witty, intelligent grandchildren; and five surviving, supportive siblings, who never got the breaks I had.

We have fun as a family and they give me lots of love but I was still struggling with many issues, especially from my childhood and being young at a time when low expectations were held for women and Blacks. I was itching to do something...didn't know what, but something. My head felt like it was exploding with pleas for an outlet.

I tried painting, after retiring, as something to do, but most of my paintings ended up stacked in my garage or in the hands of friends and family who knew I needed a pick-me-up and wanted to let me know that I was OK.  Painting was an experiment in learning something new because I just like learning.  The journey is what is important to me and I plan to continue learning as much as I can about painting.

One day, with nothing to do, I was surfing the web, and accidentally ran across an article about blogging.  What the hell is that?  I read some more and thought, "why not?" Give it a try.  I stumbled, got up, and tried again. I tried blogspot and wordpress and thought that blogspot was easier.  I timidly put my foot in the water, and walked out into a beautiful, welcoming pond.  I knew about my life and hoped that if I poured those memories into the pond, perhaps a ripple in the water would bring me some comfort and knowledge.  It's also cheaper than a therapist.

I'll never forget the feeling when I saw the first comment.  What?  Someone actually read what I wrote!  What a thrill.  Then someone else read it (or looked at my artblog) and I felt rejuvenated.  I visited other blogs and began to connect with other bloggers, people, I called in my mind, blogger friends.  I even visit blogs in foreign languages that I don't understand and feel connected.

So, this is my tribute, to you, my blogger friends.  You and your blogs have helped me more than I can tell you.  I won't call names because I will forget someone, but offer a few examples of how you helped:  kudos from family members, encouragement from a teacher, a crucial perspective about my life from the Village Idiot, (that's not an insult, that's what he lists as his occupation) intellectual stimulation from someone in advertisement, and the joys of motherhood from a baker.

You have done more than you will ever know.  You have erased my depression.  It might be an online virtual life but if it helps me with my offline life, it has done its job.  I am more at peace and grateful for your presence in my life.

Thanks, hugs, and kisses.
I am old and need to remember.
You are young and need to learn.
If I forget the words
Will you remember the music?
from Swaziland

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Sixties - Part I

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. 
 ~Mahatma Ghandi

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
Bishop Desmond Tutu

The 60s were a whirlwind, a time of tumultuous social, cultural, and political change.  The decade opened with optimism and ended with radical changes in every aspect of American life.  It was a decade of freedom riders, sit-ins, voting rights drives, demonstrations, the rise of the Kennedys, the horrific bombing of the Church in Birmingham, the War on Poverty, boycotts, feminism, space exploration and the murders of John, Bobby, Martin, and Malcolm.

Our first new house - 9544 S. Union - Chicago
During the sixties we moved into our first new home, (mortgage payment, including taxes, $118.00) had two more children, worked every day, earned my master's degree from the University of Chicago and my husband began work on his Ph.D at Northwestern.  He started teaching and by 1968 was the first Black Superintendent of Schools in Harvey, Illinois.  I taught in the Chicago Public Schools and by the end of the 60s was a multicultural consultant in the Park Forest, Illinois School District. We thought we would spend the rest of our life in Chicago and didn't have a clue that our stay in the Second City was coming to an end.

Our life settled into a comfortable rhythm. We were active in our alumni club and spent a considerable amount of time raising money for the college and encouraging young people to stay in school. We also became politically active because Chicago was Mayor Daley's town and politics was the way to get things done. 

I loved teaching, much more than administration where I spent most of my working years.  I had 52 students one year in an eighth grade class.  Our school was so crowded that we had to go on double shift. (8:00 a.m. - Noon and Noon - 4:00 p.m.)  Many days I taught both shifts and made double salary.  The school was one of the poorest in the city but the children were hungry to learn.  There were many gang bangers in my class but I never had a problem.  When they were planning a gang fight they were polite enough to notify us so that the students who weren't in gangs could get home before the fight. 

We had school parties at my home and some of the students would come out on the weekends to help me work in my garden.  Once I asked a group why they used their weekend that way and they told me that they liked working in the yard because after working they could take a bath.  (They didn't have a tub at home.)  Each class was offered a reunion party at my home when they finished high school and at one party only one of my eighth grade students was not graduating.  She was so impressed that she vowed to go back and complete high school.

Reunion at my house of eighth graders that I taught when they finished high school
The girl on the right in the maroon sweater became an editor at Essence Magazine.
The girl on the far left is the one who went back to finish high school.

Another former student, who is now a judge.  
We ran into each other in the Bahamas at a conference. 

Our segregated neighbor was very friendly and safe. There were a few white neighbors who refused to move no matter what the "blockbusters" offered them. We knew each other's life stories including the warts and successes, socialized together, and looked out for each other's children. We walked to the neighborhood park to watch the boys' baseball games, shoveled snow together to keep our street clear, shared food when someone didn't have any, and spent evenings on our porches where we gossiped, discussed daily happenings in the world, and made plans for the future.

We supported King when he came to Chicago, and sat up the night he was killed watching parts of the city burn. Could not understand the burning of the businesses that supported our community.  It was a very terrifying, violent time. It was frightening because no one could predict what would happen next, like the time I was entangled in one of the marches with King and thought I would be killed by the angry protesters.

We were shot at twice during the 60s.  The scariest one was the time we were driving with the boys to see my husband's family in Louisiana.  There were no hotels we could stay at along the way. The interstate system wasn't completed so much of the trip was on two lane roads.  We would pull into the woods to eat the food we had packed, to take naps, or to relieve ourselves as it was a very long trip with few facilities available for Blacks.  A truck load of white guys saw us in Mississippi and they had a truck load of rifles which they started using on us.  Luckily I was napping under the steering wheel and took off immediately, driving over 100 mph.  We did manage to escape.  It happened again in Cairo, Illinois so it wasn't just the South.  We called the North, up South.

Sometimes, a neighbor would light up a grill and other neighbors would rush into their homes to gather meat for an impromptu, communal bar-b-que. On one of those occasions when we went to get our meat, I looked out our front window before we returned, and saw an army car parked in front of the neighbor's home and two soldiers walking up to their front door.

"No." I screamed.  I knew immediately what they would say.  Our neighbor's son, Richard, the favorite child of the neighborhood, was killed in Vietnam.  We had a funeral to plan. 

All of a sudden Richard's father ran wailing out of his house.  The men in the neighborhood chased and caught him. A loud shriek from the house sent the women rushing to comfort his mother.  Waiting with his parents for his body to be returned was difficult and agonizing. To honor Richard we put flags in our yards and became anti-war zealots.

One poignant memory of the 60s involved a visit  we made to see a neighbor who was confined at a mental institution.  While we were visiting, I was surprised to see a friend from my high school dance class pirouetting down the hallway.  We were startled and taken aback when we saw each other, asking each other why was she in this place. 

An older, wise woman, who was quietly rocking in a rocking chair and was also a patient, glanced at us and made a pronouncement I've never forgotten.

"Well," she declared.  "Like I've always said.  You never know who you'll meet in the crazy house."  

What is you most memorable moment of the '60s?

When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.  
~Mark Twain 

Madness need not be all breakdown.  It may also be break-through.  
~R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dusty Books Thoughts

A good book should leave you... slightly exhausted at the end.  
You live several lives while reading it. 
 ~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958

You know you've read a good book when you turn the last page 
and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.  ~Paul Sweeney

I love to read.  I read everything: cereal boxes, milk cartons, several newspapers a day, nutrition information on food packages, magazines, fine print on contracts, anything with words.

When we moved to Las Vegas, we gave away over two thousand books. It was pure torture. We had the luxury of a library in our Ann Arbor home and spent many hours at book stores, book signings, and book readings.  We now live in an open one-story house with few walls.   However, we still brought several hundred with us because I need my books. With my Kindle, I have replaced some of the books we left. I will loan books to you but a few books never leave my presence, such as Middle Passage, by Charles Johnson.  I probably won't even let you lift it and turn the pages.  Do you have a book you would not loan to anyone?
There are various reasons I read.  Sometimes I read for knowledge, sometimes I read for style.  At different times I've had favorite authors. For example, when I read One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez, he was my favorite.  Who is/are your favorite author(s)?

Sometimes I am a lazy reader, only reading for escape.  Then I choose a mystery, preferably one written by Michael Connelly or John Sanford.  I prefer Michael Connelly and hate it when I finish one of his books because I've read all of his books and know that it might be almost a year before he has a new book.  It was hard to accept new lead characters in any of his books because I thought Harry Bosch, his character who is a detective in Los Angeles, was my friend.  When he introduced a new character, Michael Haller, in the Lincoln Lawyer,  I was prepared to dislike him, but bought it anyway. "A trial is a contest of lies. And everybody in the courtroom knows this."  Well, I loved him and now I have a new best friend.

Love first editions.  I always bought my books on the first day they were published. In Ann Arbor I would browse used books stores hoping to find a gem and got lucky on many occasions.  However, one of the best used book store I've discovered is at the Milwaukee airport.

All of my books that are signed by the author are kept in a special place.  My children know this and I told them that when I die and they clean out the house, do not throw these away.

When I took a Children's Literature course in college we were required to read at least 100 books, including all Newberry and Caldecott Medal winners and the runner-ups.  (Since it was a long time ago, there were as many winners.) I was in heaven.  Piece of cake.

I must be obsessive compulsive because if I discover a new (to me) author that I like,  I have to read every book that person has ever written.  Sometimes I'm disappointed by some of the books but I continue my journey to complete my quest.

My friend, the late Dr. Ted, and I read Winds of War and War and Remembrance together.  Each night on the telephone we would discuss the story so far.  Our spouses didn't quite get it.  They thought we were loony and too involved in books.

Several years ago, my eyesight began to dim was told that I needed cataract surgery.  I was terrified that during the surgery the doctor would slip and I would never be able to read again.  He told me about crystalens, which would improve my vision so much that I wouldn't need glasses.  Even though medicare wouldn't pay for it, I thought my eyesight demanded the best, and coughed up the dough to pay.

What a relief.  It worked.

Everyone in Las Vegas complains about dust and I was very smug about the fact that I didn't have dust in my home.  It was clean.  After the surgery, I came home and went to bed.  When I awoke that evening I looked at my shiny black night table that held over thirty books on its shelves.  It was covered with dust!  The books were dusty, too. How could dust appear that quickly? Then I realized something, I had the dust all along, I just couldn't see it.  But now, with my crystalens, I saw my house was as dusty as everyone else's home, sort of like my life.

Our house is clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy.  ~Author Unknown

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Say Something Good About Margaret

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.  ~Edmund Hillary

Bob Greene wrote a thought-provoking commentary, America on a Collision Course, on  CNN.com.

In the article he wrote,
At the height of the Barack Obama-John McCain race last fall, I decided to conduct an experiment as I traveled around the nation.

As I met people, I would ask them which candidate they were for. Then I would request of them:

"Say something good about the other guy."

At first they would think it was a trick question. But that wasn't the intention.

After collecting the remarks, he stated:
People seemed to welcome this exercise -- the refreshing challenge of acknowledging admirable qualities in the politician they disagreed with.

Somehow, it feels that a similar experiment would be doomed to failure now. Even though many citizens tell pollsters that they favor moderation, the needle of public acrimony seems permanently stuck in the red zone. 

The article pushed me into thinking about saying something good about people other than politicians we might not agree with.

When I was in elementary school, there was a classic, school yard bully, Margaret, who was intent on making my life miserable.  We were both plain, skinny, and poor.  She often wore dirty clothes, was not a good student, and didn't have many friends.  She tormented me verbally and physically.  I didn't run from her, unless I hurled the first insult, and sometimes I won the fight.  

Everyday I had to check my back and get ready to fight or run.  Most days I could make it home before she had a chance to taunt me.  Once I arrived home, I was safe, until the next day. And then, it would start all over again. She died when we were in seventh grade and I went to the funeral home to make sure she was dead. 

She was the first person to pop into my mind after I read Greene's column.  I started thinking, "What could I say that was good about Margaret?"  What might have happened, if instead of fighting her, I had befriended her?  Why didn't I offer to help her with her school work?  Was she sick?  Is that why she died early?

Well, she was definitly tenacious.   She never let up.
She was a good fighter.  She beat me more than I beat her.
She was a good teacher.  She taught me how to fight.  I still don't run from a fight.
She was memorable.  I still remember and think about her more than any other classmate from elementary school.

What good can you say about somebody with whom you've had disagreements?

It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.  ~William Blake

Saturday, September 19, 2009

On Being an African American in The Fifties - Part IV

The test of courage comes when we are in the minority.  
The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority. 
 ~Ralph W. Sockman
(The Quotegarden)
Back in the real world, Chicago, after living in a fantasy land in Panama, it was time to get about the business of becoming an adult: finding a job, finishing school, raising a family, and finding a place to live.

Our first son, Charles David, was born May 21, 1956, in Chicago and Moody was transferred to Ft. Benning, Ga, where we lived on base.  White officers could live in the city, Columbus, but Blacks could not live in all areas.  This worked to our advantage because we had a big house on base.  For once, white officers were jealous of us because we didn't have to pay rent.  When we went to visit them they would leave their garage door open and we would drive directly into the garage so their neighbors couldn't see us visiting.

In Chicago, in October 1956, we had a difficult time finding affordable housing.  The practice of blockbusting by real estate agents encouraged white property owners to sell their houses at a loss, by fraudulently implying that racial, ethnic, or religious minorities — blacks, Hispanics, Jews et al. — were moving into their previously racially segregated neighborhood, and so would depress real estate property values.  Sometimes they would even hire Black people to walk around a neighborhood to scare white people into selling.  White people were terrified about Black people moving into "their" neighborhood.  (Sounds almost like the town hall people who want to take back "their" country.) A community could "turn" almost overnight from white to Black.

Somehow we finally found a very nice one bedroom apartment in a neighborhood that was "changing."  Our rent was $100 a month and my husband made $50 a week screening dog feces at the University of Chicago.  People in factories said he was too educated and places where he could use his degree didn't want to hire a Black person.  These experiences honed our determination to fight injustice.  There was a resentment of our circumstances but it did not diminish our expectations for a better life.

To help bring money into the house while I was completing college, I worked evenings as a coder at Time Magazine, as a secretary during the day at the college, and carried 20 credit hours my student teaching year. One of my fellow students and friend was Emmett Till's mother and we spent time talking about his death but she refused to let his murder stop her from living her life.  I always admired her strength and calmness.  African American student teachers were not allowed to practice in white schools and in 1958, I finally finished college, only a year late. 

Graduation Day with my Mother

Another way to bring in money was for Moody to go back to school.  He could receive $160 a month since he was a veteran and college only cost $1.50 a credit hour.  ($1.50 is not a typo. Can you believe these prices?) He dropped his plans for medical school and earned a master's degree.  Needing money worked out to our advantage because he eventually received a PhD from Northwestern University.

Chance and adaptability entered our lives.  Mystical occurrences and serendipity became commonplace and an invisible presence seemed to follow us.  We never found out who recommended us to the real estate agency when we got our first apartment.  Someone, we never found out who it was, found him a job in Oak Forest as a lab technician.  Life was looking better and once I started teaching we could buy a car, a new 1958 Ford that cost $2400.  He now made over $300 a month and I made $400 a month.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott (December 1955-December 1956) was a protest that was sparked by Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white person.  The boycott protested the practice of Black passengers  having to sit at the back of the bus, but if it was crowded they were expected to give up their seats to white passengers.  When Mrs. Parks was arrested, the Montgomery Improvement Association was established to lead the boycott.  The boycott catapulted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to national prominence and gave the Civil Rights Movement a big victory.  A national struggle was born.

Little Rock was a defining desegregation event of the decade.  The Little Rock Nine was a group of nine African American students who were selected to desegregate Little Rock Central High School in 1957.  The Governor, Orval Faubus, the National Guard, and rowdy crowds had protests and blocked their entrance to the school.  After many days of violent protests, President Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army to Little Rock and federalized the entire 10,000 member Arkansas National Guard.  President Eisenhower stated in his radio and TV address: 

Mob rule cannot be allowed to override the decisions of our courts....

Whenever normal agencies prove inadequate to the task and it becomes necessary for the Executive Branch of the Federal Government to use its powers and authority to uphold Federal Courts, the President’s responsibility is inescapable. In accordance with that responsibility, I have today issued an Executive Order directing the use of troops under Federal authority to aid in the execution of Federal law at Little Rock, Arkansas. This became necessary when my Proclamation of yesterday was not observed, and the obstruction of justice still continues.

It is important that the reasons for my action be understood by all our citizens. As you know, the Supreme Court of the United States has decided that separate public educational facilities for the races are inherently unequal and therefore compulsory school segregation laws are unconstitutional.... 

On September 25, the nine students finally successfully entered the school. However, they were subjected to vicious physical and verbal abuse by students, parents, and community people and all but one, Minnijean Brown, graduated.  She was suspended, not because of something she did, and transferred to a high school in New York.

Incidents starting taking place all over the country, in the North and South, as people resisted desegregation.  Change was coming to America because this time whites were working with Blacks to help achieve equality.  This time there would be no turning back.

I am an invisible man.... I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids - 
and I might even be said to possess a mind.  
I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.  
~Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man, 1952

A few selected events of the '50s
  • The Korean War (1950-1953)
  • The Red Scare and anti-Communist hysteria of the McCarthy era.
  • The U.S. reaction to the 1957 launch by the Soviet Union of the Sputnik satellite, a major milepost of the Cold War.
  • Francis Crick and James D. Watson discover the helical structure of DNA at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge.
  • Polio vaccine developed.
  • Suez Canal crisis.
  • Emmett Till is murdered in Money, MS for allegedly whistling at a white woman.
  • Althea Gibson becomes the first African American tennis player to win a major title by winning both the women's singles and doubles championships at Wimbledon.
  • Lorraine Hansberry's Raisin in the Sun is the first play by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. 
  • Chuck Berry travels from St. Louis to Chicago, recording Maybellene, an immediate sensation among teenagers. The hit helps shape the evolution of rock and roll.
  • Fullback Jim Brown begins his professional football career with the Cleveland Browns. He leads the National Football League in rushing for eight of his nine seasons.
  • Singer Ray Charles records What'd I Say, which becomes his first million-seller, and exemplifies the emergence of soul music, combining rhythm and blues with gospel.
  • Motown Records is founded in Detroit, MI by Berry Gordy, Jr.
  • Baseball player Ernie Banks is named the National League's Most Valuable Player for a second consecutive season.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thanks for the Award from Janie

Now to the rules for this Award:

This award is bestowed on to blogs that are exceedingly charming.
These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends.
They are not interested in self-aggrandizement.
Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers.
Deliver this award to other bloggers who must choose others to pass it on to and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.
I would like to pass this Award on to:

A Painting Today


Ennyman's Territory


At Twilight


365 Drawings of Food


Perilous Places


Moody Man

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

For Jonas, I Didn't Know My Own Strength

I Didn't Know My Own Strength

A comment that posted on this blog compelled me to examine how the memories of my life might be viewed by others.  Jonas made a rather astute observation, a mixture of joy and sadness.  I think most of our lives have this mixture but what contributes to some of the sadness are the things we have to endure that we should not have to endure.  The key, for me, is not letting the sadness overtake the joy.

My generation has lived through much--from a lack of voting rights to the presidency of the United States.  I think we have a story to tell because we are a living respository of history.  I hope that seeing how one family made the journey can put a face on historical facts because we've seen and lived through more than what the history books tell.  We can't sugarcoat it.  It was difficult but inspiring.  We want you to know the highs and lows, the peaks and the valleys, but I also think it is a story also of a redemption of our country.
Restraints and low expectations that are placed on us contribute to the sadness.  Friendship, family, and faith help joy to flourish.
My Strength
My Immediate Family - 2007
In the fifties, continued resistance to oppression helped to subdue some of the sadness.  Thank God for people like Martin Luther King, Jr.
This morning I heard Whitney sing her new song on Oprah and I think it helps me explain how I dealt with some of the pain.  Thanks to the writer of these lyrics, Diane Warren, and the producer, David Foster.
I didn’t know my own strength
And I crashed down, and I tumbled
But I did not crumble
I got through all the pain
I didn't know my own strength

I guess I really didn't know my own strength.  We survive because of that strength.
We have a saying in the Black community, Black don't crack and I heard it in the song.
My faith kept me alive
I picked myself back up
Hold my head up high
I was not built to break
Thanks, Whitney, you made my day with this song and I wish you well.  You've been to the abyss and you're finding your way out.  
Found hope in my heart,
I found the light to life
My way out the dark
Found all that I need
Here inside of me

Jonas, thank you.  I needed that comment to help me put everything in perspective.  I started this blog for that reason and you saw something I needed to see.
Found hope in my heart,
I found the light to life
My way out the dark
Found all that I need
Here inside of me

As we said in the sixties, peace and love. 

Monday, September 14, 2009

On Being an African American in the Fifties, Part III

 The Fifties, Part III

We're all accidental soldiers in the army of life.
Ymber Delecto

In June, not long after my 18th birthday, I went to Ft. Hamilton, New York to board my ship.  I arrived early for orientation.  There was only one other Black woman on base,  and we became friends.  She had been traveling with her husband for years, mentored me, and we ate together every day at the NCO Club.  The day before we left they posted the wives' names along with their husbands' names and rank.   She was shocked when she discovered that my husband was an officer and told me we couldn't be friends because her husband wasn't an officer.  I shrugged my shoulders and said, "We will be friends."  On the ship I would slip down to her room and we would visit.  When we got ready to dock she told me she was a beautician and she did my hair the whole time we were in Panama.  Suppose I had obeyed the rule about not being friendly with women whose husbands weren't officers?  Lesson learned.

My roommate on the ship was from South Dakota and she had never seen a Black person.  We became fast friends and on the fourth day she got up the courage to ask me how did I hide my tail?  I was puzzled.  What did she mean?  She had been told that Black people had tails and I was very successful at hiding mine.  We both had a good laugh when I told her that was a lie.  I thought I had heard every stereotype but this was a new one for me. It gave us an opportunity to discuss other myths about both races and we stayed friends the whole time we were in Panama.

I still remember the day in June 1955, when the ship full of soldiers' wives arrived in Colon, Panama.  We all dressed our best and my new friend did my hair. The warm, tropical air hit me like a warm sauna.  The female passengers on the ship waved to the many waiting soldiers, each looking for only one person, her husband.  A scream could be heard whenever one woman found her spouse.  It was easy for me.  There were only two Black officers waiting for the ship and I knew both of them.  What an overwhelming, romantic way to begin a marriage.  Who knew it would last over fifty years?
Our Home  - Ft. Davis, Canal Zone

We spent a magical year in Panama, young and in love, enjoying the perks that officers had and traveled around the area.  I played bridge, bowled, shopped, and went to luncheons and parties.  This was a very different lifestyle for a woman who grew up on welfare and lived in a one bedroom apartment with 10 other relatives. 

Black officers in an integrated army was still rather new.  Even though President Truman desegregated the armed forces in 1948 it wasn't done with deliberate speed.  Integration in the armed services was still in the early stages.  My husband was the only Black Officer in his company and a few others were scattered over the Canal Zone. 

He didn't like army food.  When he was officer of the day at the locks I would take him lunch and dinner.  We would sit by the locks and lazily watch the ships going through the canal.  One of the most exciting days was the day the Ile de France docked in Colon.  Everyone went down to see the majestic ocean liner.  Sometimes we would get with a group, rent a boat, and take a ride through Gatun Lake.

I guess we're blessed because we didn't have problems on or off base.  This was the first time in our lives that we had white friends and for most of them it was the first time they had Black friends.  It was a learning experience for all of us.  

We were all newlyweds since most of the younger officers got married when they received their orders.  After nine months we all had a "go to hell" party for the people who said we got married because we were pregnant. 

For some reason I could never learn to drive our 1947 Dodge.  I kept having accidents and running into palm trees.  The children who lived in the area would run when they saw me coming.  Sometimes when I returned to base, the guard would stop my car and insist on driving me home.

I was surprised to find that segregation existed in the Canal Zone, also, but it was more by color than race, the lighter the better.  The water fountains were labeled "silver" and "gold," instead of white and colored.

Our maid was from Jamaica. Yes, the young lady who used to clean white people's homes on Saturdays now had a maid, but having a maid was mandatory for officers and a culture shock for me.  Maids had to wash clothes by hand in outdoor tubs and iron them in their quarters behind our house.  Because of the humidity sometimes my husband had to change uniforms twice a day. We would surreptitiously buy her pasteurized milk (We didn't have homogenized  milk then.) at the PX because only raw milk was available in town.

Since I had finished only two years of college, I took classes at a branch of Louisiana State University (LSU).  My professors were surprised to see me because they had never taught a "Negro" student.  LSU was white.  They were even more surprised that I could do the work and asked me to come back to the states to see if they could force desegregation on the Baton Rouge campus.  I thought about it but refused because I wanted a degree in a hurry since my Mom wouldn't speak to my husband until I finished.  It was 1964 before African American students would be admitted to the Baton Rouge campus.

Finally, I did get pregnant and the doctors expected complications.  They advised me to return to the States because the men spent a lot of time away and the trip to the hospital was through the jungle to Coco Solo Naval Base.  It's a good thing I came back to the States in case my son wants to run for President.  The birthers won't get him.

A mother is a person who seeing there are only
 four pieces of pie for five people, 
promptly announces she never did care for pie.  
~Tenneva Jordan