Ahhh Alabama - a little thought about going back in time

So many possible captions and add-ons
to the "keep out" sign
Sweet Home Alabama just passed a measure regarding voter registration.  The place you register is the place where you get your driver's license.  Makes sense. 

Once passed, the state then closed down 40-50 of these license bureaus in 40-50 predominantly black/African American - or as Alabama likes to call it "Negro" towns.  I would think this a step back in time.  Perhaps?

Back when I was a kid in Cincinnati, I was, like most, a Cincinnati Reds fan. I can remember perfectly how proud I was that I could read the sports section of the morning paper, find the box score from the night before and look at the standings with my mighty Reds always a bridesmaid and never ever the bride.

This morning scene was in a "lilly-white" suburb and the only "people of color" I knew of where on TV and radio.  I think of the Amos and Andy Show and although set in Harlem, the cast all spoke in "steppin' fetchit" accents which I thought odd but then again, The Life of Reilly was another hit TV show and set in Southern California and Reilly spoke like he was a Brooklyn native. I figured out then that TV wasn't real.

Occasionally WLW-TV would televise a Reds game on a week night or we would go to a game, often the later. By the time I was 8, I had Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and of course Jackie Robinson's autographs. Robinson came to town with the Dodgers (my mom's favorite team).  I have to say at this point that baseball had more than a few black players and most were superstars or so it seemed. It never occurred to me that anyone would have to be exceptionally talented to overcome his race.

My dad traveled around by car a lot for his job so we didn't go for many weekend trips as that was what he would call a "bus man's holiday" (think about it and it will come to you). We did have some neighbors
who had moved in from Carolina (not sure which) and they had some peculiar things to say about my black superstar players; particularly Jackie Robinson who seemed to have deflated their love of baseball.  Every spring break these folks would go down south for a few days and once asked me to come along as Steve, my chum, needed company to keep him out of his parent's hair.

We got as far as Eastern Kentucky (I think anyway) and his mom got sick and we had to return. While waiting in the hospital, there was a sign like the one here.  It still strikes me that  a couple hundred miles from the Cincinnati Reds there was a hospital where Ernie Banks or Hammerin' Hank would have to wait outside.
A few years later, in the late 50s, we had the occasion to drive down to Georgia to see my brother who was in a military academy finishing up high school (he had a slight discipline problem).  On the way we went through Lester Maddox country. Lester was running for mayor at the time soon to be in the race for governor of Georgia.  Talk had it that the Milwaukee Braves were looking to move the franchise there in the future; a future not distant enough for Lester as that would mean "Negros" would be moving in and going to white only baseball games. Lawd!
Lester ran a cafeteria called the "Pickrick" which he closed after the Civil Rights Act was passed; rather than serve a black man or any man other than a white. Lester had a pickle barrel outside his cafeteria and in it was a collection of "Pickrick drumsticks", I think at a buck a throw; most he gave away.  These were re-fashioned axe handles. The purpose of them, or the implied purpose, clear as a bell to those of the Maddox ilk, was you took these "Pickrick drumsticks" and you beat the nearest "Nigger" like a drum with them. As time passed, their use became more universal and applied to any commie, Jew, nigger hippie from north of his property line.

Lester closing the Pickrick

I write of this appalling set of vignettes only to remind us that in the years Jackie Robinson played very well as a man and a second baseman, he ran into this stuff and it was often focused on him.  That PeeWee Reese, the Dodger shortstop once said "You can hate a man for many things. His color isn't one of them", is something of a testament to the times.

Mostly I think that as a rule one has the ability, if one has the desire, to improve.  You can't read, you can learn to read. You can learn to do your job. You can be nice instead of a crumb. You can change things and then change (perhaps) your lot in life. You can't change the color of your skin. Nor should you want to.

I can't find Mr. Robinson's autograph, having lost it years ago in some move. Too bad. It is certainly worth something.