Over these next few posts, please keep in mind that much of this occurred while growing up in Montana. Some things seemed very far away, but it didn’t mean I wasn’t deeply aware of what was happening – especially as a university student. Of course, Montana didn’t have a large population of ANY Ethnic group….as Dick Gregory once said at the University of Montana – Missoula: “If someone wanted to hold a race-riot in Montana, they could use the high school Gymnasium…”
We, in Montana, were not the only ones with a quaint view of life. Even my Mother knew that “Leave it to Beaver”, “Ozzie and Harriet”, “Father Knows Best” were not exactly the reality of all time. That didn’t mean, however, that this didn’t color how we wanted our world to be/look. Also be aware, that I grew up in a “peace at any cost” household, so a son who was sticking a toe in the waters of activism – let alone some of the OTHER choices I was making in my life – probably caused no end of consternation.
Probably nothing hit our lives more than the one photo that I posted … the fire hoses being turned on school kids.
Now, this part of the story is a little muddled in memory, so bear with me. I even contacted my sister – she’s “slightly” older than I am to try and clear up some confusion. I think we really confused each other even more …
In the late 50’s, my Father’s Rotary Club wanted to sponsor a foreign exchange student – from Africa. At that time, in our town of Kalispell – there were one family of blacks and one single guy who’d been a shoeshine guy for as long as I can remember ….
There was concern about what – if any – problems there might be. (Remember our quaint view here folks). At that time, one of the more popular cafe places in town STILL had a sign in the window that said: “No Coloreds Allowed”. My Dad took it upon himself to visit every business in town and find out if he would be able to shop there, eat there, go there, etc. According to my Mom, the results somewhat shocked him….and he went on a campaign to change that. Sadly, the sign in the cafe stayed – but everything else seemed to work out.
Problem solved, you say … and I’m sure in many minds it was. But you know the drill – as long as everyone knows their place.
Birmingham not only challenged that, but showed that there was a lot more going on then people were willing to admit or even face. At that time, there were more blacks in town. I have no idea what they thought, but I do know that what out neighbors and friends thought pretty much mirrored what was being said/thought elsewhere.
More on that next post … which WILL be sooner, I promise!!!!