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#1 Jul 18, 2019 3:24 pm

New Historian
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To go!!!

For spring break 1974 I drove from Ann Arbor to Fayettesville: Klan Country


During my second year at the UWI in Jamaica I got a scholarship to study at the University of Michigan for a year as an exchange student. So for 1973/74 I lived in Ann Arbor Michigan, 7 years after I’d first lived in America, as an eighth grader in Chicago. On paper America of 1973 was vastly different from America of 1966. In 1966 America was still mired in segregation and post-war conservatism, with small signs of the social and cultural upheaval that would shortly follow. By 1973 America was about Vietnam, Black Power, rock & roll, R&B, hippies, women’s lib and Watergate – a heady mixture.

But underneath, America hadn’t changed, it just looked different. I was surprised how much race still dominated the landscape. Like everywhere else in America the University of Michigan campus was divided along racial lines and rarely would the twain meet. This schism was most obvious at college football games, where everyone loved their Wolverines, but in different ways.

On game days by some invisible jungle telegraph, all the black students contrived to get tickets in one quadrant of the stadium, which would be solidly black. Before the kick-off all the black students would raise clenched fists to the Star Spangled Banner in an impressive show of Black Power solidarity. The only things blacks and whites cheered together were Wolverine touchdowns.

For spring break a friend of mine called Mackial invited me to drive with him to his family home in Fayettesville North Carolina. He rather proudly explained that he was supposed to be called Michael but that his parents were poor sharecroppers and illiterate. I was looking forward to spending a few days in North Carolina – Dixie.

It was 700 miles from Ann Arbor to Fayattesville, a trip we intended to do in 12 hours non-stop, except for gas and toilets. And food. We’d sleep in turns on the back seat of his capacious Buick. Hours upon endless hours driving along unending, uninteresting highway: As we got further south I noticed subtle changes in Mackial: he was more careful, watchful. He slowed down, was forever checking his mirrors and insisting that I do likewise. As we crossed into North Carolina he gave me The Lecture:

“Listen, you in the South now. This ain’t no Ann Arbor, this is Dixie, old-ass racist Dixie, run by a bunch of old white people who still pissed off over the Civil War. And unlike them polite Northern white folks, these crackers down here don’t mind lettin’ you know exactly how they feel! Be cool, watch your back – and watch the po-lice!”

He said it was only two years ago they’d been forced to take down the sign on the State border saying: “Welcome to North Carolina – Klan Country”.

Oh – kay.

It was a long drive, where I learned how truly awful road food in America was. Of course it took a lot longer than planned, not helped by a lengthy wrong turn. After thirteen hours on the road we were seriously in need of a bed, still a tantalizing two hours away. At three in the morning on an endless stretch of country road I was at the wheel, fighting fatigue while Mackial fitfully dozed in the back. Up ahead I saw lights: a truck stop. I woke Mackial.

“Mackial wake up! It’s a truck stop, I’m desperate for coffee – and a crap!” He wasn’t keen.

“N*GGA you crazy? These truck stops are full of crackers!”

I didn’t care; I had to stop. We parked among dozens of gigantic 18-wheel rigs and headed to the diner. As we approached the door we heard the welcoming hubbub of conversation and country music. We stepped inside.

In a scene straight out of a Richard Pryor movie, the entire diner went absolutely … totally … silent. In a heartbeat the welcoming hubbub of ten seconds ago disappeared, even the juke box went quiet! We stood there, in our ghetto threads looking every inch like a pair of Superfly impersonators. A hundred redneck eyes under grubby John Deere caps turned our way: What’n tarnation do these boys want ‘n here? Mackial and I sidled up to the counter, trying not to make eye contact with any living soul. The grizzled owner wiped his hands on his filthy apron and said quietly:

“What’n tarnation d’you boys want ‘n here?”

“Er … two coffees please.”

Without skipping a beat Mackial pipes in:

“To go!”

All of a sudden I didn’t feel like having a crap anymore, we got our coffees and scooted, almost backing out the door. We half-ran to the car and got the hell out of there, hearts pumping. Mackial let me have it:

“What the F*CK’S wrong with you man? I told you we had no business goin’ in there but no, ‘I gotta shit’. Well look at the shit your shit nearly got us into! Anyone following us?”

Two hours later we arrived at Mackial’s house and woke up the entire family, pleased to have their college son home for the holiday. Out of nowhere his mother rustled up a huge meal of baked chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens, fried okra, sweet potatoes and grits. We wolfed it down.

The next day Mackial and I were standing in line at an ice cream parlour in downtown Fayetessville. The woman in front had just bought her child an ice cream cone, the little girl tugs her mother’s dress and shouts:

"Mommy! I want n*gga-toes!"

Everyone in the queue was stunned into silence, mommy flushed deep red and didn’t know where to put her face. She shushed the child and whispered to the server:

"Can you put some chocolate chips on that, please?”


UofM.png



Dixie.png

Last edited by New Historian (Jul 18, 2019 3:43 pm)

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#2 Jul 18, 2019 4:48 pm

New Historian
Active

Re: To go!!!

And before a certain Expat chimes in, I know I told the last part of this one before lol!!

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#3 Jul 18, 2019 6:07 pm

Dancer
Active

Re: To go!!!

New Historian , I see you like the South   ,   Klan country  ,   LBJ  .    smh.

But  since I can't tell a lie some of your ''short stories''  I  do  remember.

The Jeep story
Fighting the fish
Dead body in some  (bauxite/bananas) shipment.

EXpat might not remember those.  lol.

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#4 Jul 19, 2019 2:58 pm

New Historian
Active

Re: To go!!!

New Historian , I see you like the South   ,   Klan country  ,   LBJ  .    smh.

Actually I found Dixie to be a pleasant surprise on that and other occasions; folks be mighty friendly around these here parts! And LBJ was one of the most under-rated presidents, in my humble. He created the modern welfare system in the USA, such as it still exists, and he sure loved "my Negroes"! I had the pleasure of meeting him in the Rose garden....

I caused not one but two kerfuffles on my first day in Cossitt Avenue Elementary School, in La Grange Illinois. The first was when we all had to stand up and tell the class what we had done over the summer. I said that I had come by ship from England to New York; then went to Washington DC where I shook hands with President Johnson in the back yard of the White House, then took a bus here to La Grange, then … She stopped me right there. For the new kid in the class this was quite some opening gambit.

It was only after she quizzed me on every aspect of my story that she finally believed me; then proceeded to go completely doolally. She made me come to the front of the class and hold up my right hand.

“Class, this hand, this very hand, right here – hold it up higher – has actually shaken the hand of the President … of the United States … of America!”

The second kerfuffle was when I put my hand up later in the day and asked the teacher if I could please have a rubber - to howls of disbelief from the class.

“I think you mean an ERASER.” She said, blushing.


LBJ.jpg

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#5 Jul 19, 2019 5:00 pm

Expat
Active

Re: To go!!!

Dancer wrote:

New Historian , I see you like the South   ,   Klan country  ,   LBJ  .    smh.

But  since I can't tell a lie some of your ''short stories''  I  do  remember.

The Jeep story
Fighting the fish
Dead body in some  (bauxite/bananas) shipment.

EXpat might not remember those.  lol.


Mussed have missed the corpse one...It'll come round again, I am sure... smile

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#6 Jul 23, 2019 5:44 pm

houston
Active

Re: To go!!!

New Historian wrote:

For spring break 1974 I drove from Ann Arbor to Fayettesville: Klan Country


During my second year at the UWI in Jamaica I got a scholarship to study at the University of Michigan for a year as an exchange student. So for 1973/74 I lived in Ann Arbor Michigan, 7 years after I’d first lived in America, as an eighth grader in Chicago. On paper America of 1973 was vastly different from America of 1966. In 1966 America was still mired in segregation and post-war conservatism, with small signs of the social and cultural upheaval that would shortly follow. By 1973 America was about Vietnam, Black Power, rock & roll, R&B, hippies, women’s lib and Watergate – a heady mixture.

But underneath, America hadn’t changed, it just looked different. I was surprised how much race still dominated the landscape. Like everywhere else in America the University of Michigan campus was divided along racial lines and rarely would the twain meet. This schism was most obvious at college football games, where everyone loved their Wolverines, but in different ways.

On game days by some invisible jungle telegraph, all the black students contrived to get tickets in one quadrant of the stadium, which would be solidly black. Before the kick-off all the black students would raise clenched fists to the Star Spangled Banner in an impressive show of Black Power solidarity. The only things blacks and whites cheered together were Wolverine touchdowns.

For spring break a friend of mine called Mackial invited me to drive with him to his family home in Fayettesville North Carolina. He rather proudly explained that he was supposed to be called Michael but that his parents were poor sharecroppers and illiterate. I was looking forward to spending a few days in North Carolina – Dixie.

It was 700 miles from Ann Arbor to Fayattesville, a trip we intended to do in 12 hours non-stop, except for gas and toilets. And food. We’d sleep in turns on the back seat of his capacious Buick. Hours upon endless hours driving along unending, uninteresting highway: As we got further south I noticed subtle changes in Mackial: he was more careful, watchful. He slowed down, was forever checking his mirrors and insisting that I do likewise. As we crossed into North Carolina he gave me The Lecture:

“Listen, you in the South now. This ain’t no Ann Arbor, this is Dixie, old-ass racist Dixie, run by a bunch of old white people who still pissed off over the Civil War. And unlike them polite Northern white folks, these crackers down here don’t mind lettin’ you know exactly how they feel! Be cool, watch your back – and watch the po-lice!”

He said it was only two years ago they’d been forced to take down the sign on the State border saying: “Welcome to North Carolina – Klan Country”.

Oh – kay.

It was a long drive, where I learned how truly awful road food in America was. Of course it took a lot longer than planned, not helped by a lengthy wrong turn. After thirteen hours on the road we were seriously in need of a bed, still a tantalizing two hours away. At three in the morning on an endless stretch of country road I was at the wheel, fighting fatigue while Mackial fitfully dozed in the back. Up ahead I saw lights: a truck stop. I woke Mackial.

“Mackial wake up! It’s a truck stop, I’m desperate for coffee – and a crap!” He wasn’t keen.

“N*GGA you crazy? These truck stops are full of crackers!”

I didn’t care; I had to stop. We parked among dozens of gigantic 18-wheel rigs and headed to the diner. As we approached the door we heard the welcoming hubbub of conversation and country music. We stepped inside.

In a scene straight out of a Richard Pryor movie, the entire diner went absolutely … totally … silent. In a heartbeat the welcoming hubbub of ten seconds ago disappeared, even the juke box went quiet! We stood there, in our ghetto threads looking every inch like a pair of Superfly impersonators. A hundred redneck eyes under grubby John Deere caps turned our way: What’n tarnation do these boys want ‘n here? Mackial and I sidled up to the counter, trying not to make eye contact with any living soul. The grizzled owner wiped his hands on his filthy apron and said quietly:

“What’n tarnation d’you boys want ‘n here?”

“Er … two coffees please.”

Without skipping a beat Mackial pipes in:

“To go!”

All of a sudden I didn’t feel like having a crap anymore, we got our coffees and scooted, almost backing out the door. We half-ran to the car and got the hell out of there, hearts pumping. Mackial let me have it:

“What the F*CK’S wrong with you man? I told you we had no business goin’ in there but no, ‘I gotta shit’. Well look at the shit your shit nearly got us into! Anyone following us?”

Two hours later we arrived at Mackial’s house and woke up the entire family, pleased to have their college son home for the holiday. Out of nowhere his mother rustled up a huge meal of baked chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens, fried okra, sweet potatoes and grits. We wolfed it down.

The next day Mackial and I were standing in line at an ice cream parlour in downtown Fayetessville. The woman in front had just bought her child an ice cream cone, the little girl tugs her mother’s dress and shouts:

"Mommy! I want n*gga-toes!"

Everyone in the queue was stunned into silence, mommy flushed deep red and didn’t know where to put her face. She shushed the child and whispered to the server:

"Can you put some chocolate chips on that, please?”


https://i.postimg.cc/sv2PCcjf/UofM.png



https://i.postimg.cc/0MfSL6hJ/Dixie.png

Another excellent tale Historian, really enjoyed reading that.
You were taking your chances going to Klan country for spring break, man.

During the summer of 1974 I spent a week in Pontiac, Michigan with family friends that lived on a system of canals. The weedy canals were interesting. Lots of snapping turtles and sunfish, lots of docks and pontoon boats. The days were spent fishing for crappie with a bamboo pole. Very different world, like Tom Sawyer days. Really enjoyed that summer vacation but it was the same week that Nixon was impeached. I was glad to get home.

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