Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Losses

What was going on in the country in 1965? The birthing of chaos began on January1 with an event in San Francisco, which didn’t seem so earth shaking at the time, but some feel it was the real beginning of the Homosexual Movement coming first before the Stonewall Riots in New York. New York,City  home of the New York Slimes…I mean, New York Times and 30 Rock, tends to be the news Mecca and some fuss in California wasn’t given so much coverage. What happened in San Fran, though, was interesting because the catalyst wasn’t centered on a Gay Bar, but occurred at a Mardi Gras-like party in a private building, something called the California Hall. It was also an affair arranged and sponsored by a religious organization called “The Council on Religions”, formed a year earlier by a group of Methodist, Lutheran (there were Lois and my churches). United Church of Christ and Episcopal ministers and 13 leaders of the Homosexual community. The purpose was proposedly to build communications and understanding between Christians and Gays; instead it brought harassment, fights, arrests and unrest. The civil rights of the attendees at the costume parry were clearly and blatantly violated.  Other Homosexual demonstrations began popping up about the country. The photo is of a protest at Independence Hall in Philadelphia led by a lady named Barbara Gittings

All kinds of things were beginning to simmer. The Racial Civil Rights movement continued  its own crusade. This was the year Martin Luther King, Jr. would lead the marches from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama, the second going down in history as “Bloody Sunday”. Violence was escalating. Protests began in January and by February 3,000 people had been arrested. Before long blood was spilt. A Deacon, Jimmie Lee Jackson was shot and killed by a state trooper. Amelia Boynton, one of the organizers, was beat unconscious by the police. Unitarian minister James Reeb was beat and murdered by a white mob.

In a different place, Audubon Ballroom in New York, there was more violence. Malcolm X was about to speak on Afro-American Unity when three members of The Nation of Islam charged forward and shot him with a shotgun and pistals. Malcoln X died with 21 gunshot wounds to his body. Many believe that Louis Farrakhan, current leader of that group, was heavily involved in Malcolm X’s death, including Malcolm’s wife, Betty Shabazz.
President Lyndon Johnson announced the Great Society during the State of the Union Address on January 3. Well, we’ve seen how successful that balderdash was. You can never trust a man who picks his dogs up by their ears. There is a line in the movie, “Man of the Year”, starring the late Robin Williams that has proven very true. “A politician is like a diaper. They need to be changed often and for the same reason.”

The hanging of Smith and Hickok on April 14 worked much more  effectually. Not only were those brutal murderers sent to swinging, but we got a pretty good book out of it by Truman Capote called, “Cold Blood”.
The New York Jets signed a quarterback out of Alabama by the name of Joe Namath and The Byrds released “Mr. Tamborine Man” a song written by Bob Dylan. The record would go to Number 1 by late June.

With all the change and hubbub going on in society, planting the seeds of issues still haunting our society today, my own life was getting somewhat chaotic itself. With Lois no longer holding down a job, we were struggling to make ends meet. I had begun the year by registering at Temple for two classes, Introduction to Theater and Elements of Spanish. I withdrew from both before the semester ended because I couldn’t afford the tuition. Was my illustrious university career going to die on the abyss of lacking funds? I didn't sign up for the Summer Session for the same lack of green growing in my wallet. There was very little in it anymore, except lint and poverty dust.
In March Lois informed me she was expecting again for the third time.  She was two months pregnant. The baby was due sometime around Christmas. Meanwhile, her paranoia was growing along with her waist line. She had spells of suspicion since we met, as well as her bouts of the blues. The first of these depressions had predated any baby losses and she sometimes spoke of it running in her family, that her mother suffered from depression and her father from paranoia. “See what you married into,” she would say.   Since she had left her job and stayed home her distrust of others was increasing.
She was complaining again about her isolation, she couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t talk with anyone, she was locked away atop a mountain in the wilderness.  Now my grandmother had paid for her to take driving lessons and she got her license, remember? Why didn’t she go out or visit her old friends? No, she couldn’t because I had the car. I suggested she take me to the train station and she would have the car all day, but she didn’t want to get up that early.
One day she told me Mrs. Lutz, from next door had been over knocking on the back door about midmorning. The lady suggested they take a break from housework, sit a while and have some coffee.
“That sounds nice. You can get together with someone, become friends, have somebody to talk with.” It sounded like an opportunity to me. The Lutz lived a few yards from us, there backdoor right there next to ours. (Photo right)
“No, I don’t want her coming over here. I sent her away; told her I was too busy to stop and have coffee.”
“Why?
Lois reared back; it looked like she was getting angry, “She’s just trying to find out our business. She wants to come in and gossip about everybody. She’s just being a busybody.”
So, okay, she brushed off any friendship with Mrs. Lutz. I thought her reason was questionable, but it was her choice. What could I say? I hadn’t really made any overtures toward the Lutz’s either. Bill Lutz and I chatted occasionally when we were both outside, but there was no real connection. He liked to talk about the yard and planting and such things, none of which interested me. Frankly, I had no feeling of isolation or anything. Of course, I had a number of interests in my life, work, school and my writing. Lois had no stated pursuits or hobbies.
She was also becoming very frustrated with our shortness of money, but she had no desire to look for another job. She was especially unset that her father was giving us $20 each month. I wasn’t overly happy about that situation myself, nor that we were continually borrowing from my parents. (I use the word "borrowing" in a very loose sense, we never paid anything back.)  It had not helped our situation that I went through that little nervous breakdown at Atlantic either.
Now that breakdown was proof of why one should be diligent in their job. I don’t know why, but I practiced an extremely good work ethic. Maybe I inherited it from my father. I always showed up and on time. I worked hard. I didn’t take a lot of breaks. I was organized and innovating. I believe the way I did my jobs those first four or five years at Atlantic saved me when I fell apart as the Traffic Control Clerk. The powers-that-be apparently felt I was worth keeping around when they made me a Parcel Post Clerk back in the headquarters’ mailroom. More assuring was they let me remain at a Level 6 grade and salary. I had come to believe if we could hold out with the house a bit longer we would be okay.
But Lois was getting more depressed each day. She was also running and peeking outside a lot. What was she looking at?
She said she was watching out for the Andrews’ kids, explaining those kids were plotting to destroy our car. They were going to put sugar in the gas tank or something. The Andrews had two children, a boy and a girl. Both were preschool age. I never saw either of them come near our car or property. At times they played on the driveway, but it was a double lane drive we and the Andrews shared. I told her I didn't see any reason why those little kids would be out to get us, but she couldn’t be convinced otherwise. She wanted to get out of there because she was afraid of what those kids were going to do.
We put the house on the market in early spring without much expectation of a quick sale. Houses just weren't selling at the time. Even so, we began bringing stuff up to store in my parents’ attic and as long as we were there, asking for money, of course. We continued with both these "favors". We were up at my parents around noon on May 16 when Lois announced to everyone that she was pregnant for the third time. She had known for some time, but held off telling people until it was on the brink of being obvious, not wishing to get anyone else’s hopes up. I had kept it quiet as well, and at that time the problem on my mind was  I had no idea where I and my pregnant wife would go if and when we sold the house.

Friends of ours, mostly of Lois, a woman she grew up with and her boyfriend, came to visit us. They were a mixed couple, she was White and he was Black. We thought nothing of this, we had known them both for a long time, but a day or so later the threats started. We received a message through the Realtor, people had noticed we had a mixed couple in to see the house. Actually, of course, we didn’t. They hadn’t come to see the house; they came to see us because we were friends, but somebody saw them in our place and word was spread. We were warned if we tried to sell our place to anyone Black that these “concerned citizens” would come and smash out all our windows. I guess it wasn't a note from the Welcome Wagon.
My comment to the Realtor was I’ll sell the house to anyone who wants to buy it and has the money. I don’t think the Realtor was comfortable with my decision, but don’t tell me who I can associate with and don’t dare threaten me. Of course, this threat made Lois quite nervous.

On June 19 we went to my parents. Lois had an appointment to get her hair done, but she suddenly felt very ill. She was sick enough I took her to the Chester County Hospital in West Chester. There she lost her third baby. It was another boy. Since he was over that 5-month threshold the hospital insisted we give him a name. We named him Michael. They also said they could not dispose of the body; we would have to arrange for him to be picked up by a funeral director.
My mother picked Lois up from the hospital on the 21. They stopped in West Chester at a funeral home to make arrangements for Michael’s burial. His small coffin was buried atop my  Grandfather’s grave in the Grove Cemetery. I picked Lois up from my parents that evening and brought her and my grandmom home.

The next day my grandmom cleaned the house. Lois stayed in bed. Her father came up in the late afternoon with supper, TV Dinners and a cherry pie. That day the Real Estate Agency also called. She had some papers for us to sign for the house had been sold to a couple from Drexel Hill named Taylor.
Personally, I think the threats we had received and more likely, the fear that some Black family just might buy the house, spurred the Realtor on to sell it quickly. There was a real estate slump that year, yet it took a relatively short period to unload our place.
My grandmom stayed with us through the 25th, when my mom picked her up. Lois was gaining strength each day. The good news out of all this, such as it was, that the Doctors claimed to established what Lois’ problem was. They said she needed to have an operation.

Operations lay ahead.

1 comment:

angie said...

Hi- I found your blog this summer by accident this summer. I want you to know I find your writing interesting and it tells of a time that my "millennial" daughters don't know about. Reading your stories makes me think of my parents and how no one wrote down their family stories.My mother just recently passed away at the age of 75 this spring. I think you might be about the same age. This has inspired me to get our family story from my aunts and to write down mine and my husband's life stories so our daughters will have a greater understanding of where they came from.
I may not always comment but I truly enjoy reading your posts. Thank you.