Regular Americans Speak Out Part 13 Civil Rights Organizer and Brooklynite

A series of essays from various regular Americans on love, work, and life in these United States including a civil rights organizer and a person from Brooklyn.

America Speaks


civil rights organizer,

Fayette County, Tenn.

"When I was growin' up I was always around a good number of whites. All my neighbors around in the country houses was white. Whites was never a strange person to me. Mosta my playmates was white. One old playmate is in business in Fayette County now. When we was growin' up every birthday cake he got my grandmother cooked it. And when she cooked his cake she brought me a slice of his cake. And when she cooked mine she carried him a slice of mine. This particular fellow, he don't speak to me today. And I haven't done no more to him than I have to you--only registered and stood up like a man. We used to trade birthday cakes. Now he won't even speak. I go in his store maybe, to buy a part--the dealership he's in, I use that brand on my car. And I go in his place to buy a part now. He'll say, 'Yes, what can I do for you?' And I tell him what I want. He never acts like he ever saw me before or that he know me at all. And my grandmother cooked these cakes until he went off to college. We live in the same neighborhood, we vote in the same precinct, but we haven't spoke since I registered to vote." (From: Our Portion of Hell by Robert Hamburger. New York, Links Books, 1973.)

RICHARD LEVY, Brooklyn native

"It was against the law to park at Plum Beach after midnight. Before midnight you can do whatever you want. ...

"Most guys seldom even got their girl to Plum Beach in the 1st place. After all, a girl didn't want to get a bad reputation. One of my favorite lines was, 'I think my rear left tire is flat, before we get a blow-out we'd better pull over and check it out.' This said just as we passed the Ocean Parkway, the one before Plum Beach. A few other favorites were, 'I'm getting sleepy (yawn), let's pull over for a few moments,' or 'I have to make an important phone call. . . it'll just take a second ... I'll pull over in this place ... there's a telephone booth here.' (It had been out of order since my older brother used to park here in the late '40s.) Boy, just once I would have loved to have said, 'We're going to park, and I'm going to rip your panties off.' Very often, though, when the moment of truth came I chickened out and sped past the damn place, rationalizing that I wouldn't have gotten anything anyway. And even if we did park, there were still hassles.

"All the girls wore these hard, pointy brassieres. They had hooks in the back that seemed welded together (by the girls' fathers, no doubt). And the metal-ribbed girdles they wore were always camouflaged by at least 2 crinolines. How anyone ever got laid, I'll never know." (From: Voices of Brooklyn edited by Sol Yurick. Chicago, American Library Assn., 1973.)

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