As I told Glenn, we will allow President Obama to share his day as he is inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States.
I listened to reporter Bob Schieffer, of CBS News and Face The Nation, explain how in his lifetime he never thought he would see an African-American President of the USA.
Bob recounted growing up in Ft. Worth, TX and how he had never shook hands with a black person until he was a 1st LT. in the military. Not because he did not want to, but because in Ft. Worth all white’s lived on one side of town and black’s lived on the other side. He never attended a school that had a black student.
Bob is one of the most respected reporters in the industry and one of my favorite reporters. I agree with his comment about living to witness this historic event.
When I was in the Navy, serving on nuclear submarines, as a member of the engineering department in 1964, I stood watches with a young sailor from Midland, TX. He was always in awe of this black person that could do the same things that he did, learn the same things that he learned and hold an intelligent conversation, just as he could. He had never had any contact with black people before joining the Navy.
I spent a lot of time with some of my grandchildren over the past few weeks, talking about my black experience. I grew up in Florida, in the segregated South, during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Each Summer my family traveled (above the Mason-Dixon Line) to Philadelphia, PA, and visited with my grandfather. We always continued our trip after a few days and went up to New York, NY. There we stayed with my aunt in her one bedroom apartment. This was because my mother attended Columbia University each Summer and earned her Masters Degree.
As a very young boy and as a teenager, it was a unique experience to go “Up North” and have the many freedoms that the people there enjoyed.
When we got to New York each Summer, my father would go to “The Polo Grounds” and purchase reserve seat tickets, in the best seats we could get, for the N. Y. Giants baseball team. Then we would go across the river to Queens and “Yankee Stadium” to purchase tickets for Yankees games. Then we would go over to “Ebets Field” in Brooklyn, the home of the Dodgers, and purchase tickets. Mom was a Dodger fan and would not attend any of the games at the other two stadiums (she was in school anyway). At home, in Daytona Beach, FL, we could go to the games to see the local “Class D” baseball team, the Daytona Beach Islanders, but we had to sit in segregated stands, way out in right field.
Daddy also loved movies and Broadway shows. He and I would sometimes go to a movie in the morning, a movie in the afternoon and a baseball game in the evening. At home, we had one black movie theater, where we only got to see movies that had been out for at least 6 months (sort of like waiting for a movie to come out at Blockbuster). In New York and Philadelphia, we had our choice of several first run movies every day. As a result, when I returned home, I had seen most of the movies that came to our “Ritz Theater” in Daytona Beach. The white theaters in Daytona, which there were at least three, did not allow blacks to attend and they always had first run movies.
I also got to go to the Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY. I got to see all the latest acts first hand. The Apollo is still there, around 125th St. and 7th Ave. My friends at home only got to listen to the records. Radio City Music Hall, with the Rocketts, was a real treat. We went the Radio City each time the movie and the show changed. I saw Count Basie, Lionel Hampton and many, many other fine entertainers.
Traveling by car in the South (below the Mason-Dixon Line) was always a challenge. Imagine, leaving home from Florida, going to New York, a 1200 mile trip, knowing that the only hotel or motel that you could stop to sleep was in Savanna, GA, Winston-Salem, NC, or Richmond, VA. We were also challenged to use the restroom. When we stopped for gas, the first question that my father would ask was, “Can we use the restroom?” If the answer was no, we moved on until we found a station that would allow us to use the restroom. During one of these trips was when I learned that women, at certain times of the month, had more urgent needs when it came to using the restroom. During these trips, we would leave the highway and make our way into town to find either a Greyhound or Trailways bus station, where we could always use the restroom.
Today, my family and I can travel anywhere, anyplace and stop wherever I can afford.
Travel has always been a major part of my life. That is the major reason that I spent 24 years in the Navy. I love to travel, and so does Barbara. During my travels around the world, I have come to appreciate coming back home more that leaving. The United States Of America is the best place that I could live on Earth.
The statement that Michelle Obama made, and she caught a lot of heat for, is a statement that I, and many other black people in this country, feel at this moment in history. I have never been more proud to be an American that I have been during the past few months.
You know what else, for all the flak that NASCAR takes, back in the 40’s and 50’s, I never had any problem attending any of the races on the old Beach-Road Course in Daytona Beach where they held Grand-National Racing (forerunner of NASCAR). I am still a big fan of NASCAR! I attended the race when Wendell Scott, first black driver in Grand-National Racing, drove one of three Chrysler 300’s in the big race on the beach. He was sponsored by Mercury Outboards. Wendell did not finish due to engine trouble, but the other two Chrysler’s finished one-two!