RARA-AVIS: Re: Real Cool Killers

From: Richard Moore ( moorich@aol.com)
Date: 20 Jul 2007

--- In rara-avis-l@yahoogroups.com, DJ-Anonyme@... wrote:
> Richard wrote:
> "And the cover was a bondage illustration of a half-nude Velda
> by ropes from above."
> I've got that cover. It's still pretty trashy looking, must have
> been something then.
> "I bought this in the same little drug store and about the same
age of
> 14 in the segregated Georgia town where I bought the Chester
Himes' ALL
> SHOT UP mentioned in the last post."
> I'm just wondering how a book by Himes ended up on that book rack
in a
> little white drug store in a segregated Georgia town. Weren't
> black people on the cover?
> Mark

There most definitely were black people on the cover. It is what attracted me to the book. Teenagers are naturally subversive to the established order and one glance at the Himes novel told me that it was something most of the adults I knew would object to--if they observed it. As teenagers learn, most adults are rather oblivious. If the guy who owned the drug store had looked at the book, he would never have racked it but racking books was a routine chore and I am sure he never gave it a glance. The subversive aspect of the Himes novel made it competely irresistible to me at the time.

You see a kid tries to make sense of his world and growing up, the whole black-white thing as it existed around me didn't make much sense. But it was seemingly widely accepted--at least all the people who mattered around me accepted it. This is a world that is going to be lost to history. We celebrate Rosa Parks but will lose the context in which she made her brave stand.

One of my earliest memories--I was five or six--was outside that drug store when the KKK conducted a parade in cars through town. The Klan were in full regalia and every black--they knew it was coming in advance--disappeared from the street. What's this all about I asked my mother but she gathered me up and said it's time to go home. I didn't know what it was but I knew it was sinister. It is that atmosphere that is in danger of being lost.

There was a general store in my little town run by two brothers. There was a black kid aged nine or ten who hung around and earned tips helping carry groceries out to cars. He was a smart-aleck kid but that as much as anything else endeared him to my father, who treasured a quick wit. He said, or was reported to have said, something "smart" to a white woman. The local Klan called for a boycott of the store.

Now my father, who was himself a high school dropout, considered the Klan to be a collection of the most ignorant assholes in the area. He loathed them. Now another thing about the country is that everybody know's everybody's car or truck. So as a kid when I was riding with someone and we passed a beer joint named the Pig Trail Inn and my daddy's truck was parked out front, I was expected to blush. I didn't because I'd been there often with him and they had the best BBQ in the area and if I was good I got to play the pinball machine. What's to blush about? But everyone else expected me to be embarressed. In many ways, it was a very strange time and place.

So when the boycott was called by the Klan against the store, my father made it his business to drive in every day and park his truck in front of the store. We didn't have any business there but he wanted to "show the flag" and his well-known truck did just that. He wanted everyone to know where he stood on this boycott foolishness. The old man had his shortcomings but I knew even then what he was doing and was proud of him.

But that historic backdrop, which was common to all of the southern U.S., is in danger of being lost except for the heroic few who rebelled against it in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Now that I think about it Avon had to have factored in loss of sales by the Himes novels normally expected in the southern states. If you think that is an exaggeration, I would counter with an experience much later in my life in public relations. I had as a client a major consumer product company and we were going through some historical metrics on sales by region. There was a significant dip in the south for years and the answer was simple. The company had been a major sponsor of the Nat King Cole television program, the first network television program hosted by an African American, and for years that had cost them in store displays and slots for products. The explanation was without complaint or any sense of alibi. It was just a "this is what happened."

I have rattled on for too long about this, for which I apologize. It is an era that I fear will be lost and so when I see a soapbox I tend to climb on it.

Richard Moore

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