Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cut Toe and a Minstrel Show.

I mentioned in a previous post that I sang country music as a child.

It was 1960 and my parents had abandoned The First Assembly of God church and they were having fun, they had gone back to the group of friends they had before joining the church. They would buy a six-pack of Schlitz and it would last them all week. They hid it when my sister or myself walked in, but we saw it and didn't understand why they hid it.

These friends liked to sing and have fun. They brought guitars, tambourines and mandolins. I was in heaven. I loved it. Mom had a hauntingly beautiful voice. Men were drawn to her beauty and her voice, but she was always loyal to Dad. His name was Billy Joe. My Mom is Yvonne and she sang songs both popular and old-time, mostly country. Listening to Ray Charles, Dinah Washington, Bobby Darin, Jerry Lee, and BB King, she sang the songs of Patsy Cline, Dottie West and one of my favorites at the time, Jeannie Seely. I loved it when Mom sang this one:

Jeannie Seely -- Don't Touch Me

Mom and I started singing at the Odd Fellows Lodge shows. Lodges were a big thing back then. Everyone belonged to some group or another. My Grandpa was an Odd Fellow and he recruited us to sing in the Annual Jamboree. It was a variety show along vaudeville lines. We did several shows at the high school auditorium.

I am ashamed in retrospect at one show we did. I was only six and didn't know it was wrong and this type of show was very popular in the 40's/50's & early 60's. We were in a
minstrel show. A Minstrel Show is when white people blacken their faces and hands with charcoal or paint, dress up funny and mock black people. I cringe now, but I thought it was funny to dress up when I was a kid. I have trouble understanding what the grown ups were thinking. Mom wasn't prejudiced at all, she taught us not to judge others, that everyone is created equal, and that everyone has the right to pursue happiness. Somehow we all thought this show was a perfectly respectable thing to do.

I practiced my song for weeks. I had a surprise for Daddy. My song was "
Little Liza Jane" and one of the lines was "Brussels carpet on my floor" and I changed the words to "Grabeel Carpet on my floor" Daddy had recently opened his own company selling carpets & drapery's and I thought it might please him.

The day of the show, Mama took us to the public pool for a swim. I walked in the shallow end and immediately cut my big toe almost off on a piece of glass. It turned out there had been a teen party the night before at the Youth Center. A whiskey bottle had been tossed in the pool and I found it.

It was my first trauma. I remember pulling my foot up and seeing my toe hanging, but the water held back the blood for a few seconds and all I saw was white muscle & bone then blood started spurting out. I soaked a towel before we made it to the car. No such thing as 911 then. Mom just screamed for sister, Vicki and we were off to the clinic. The same clinic that sewed Grandpa's finger back on.
I will never forget. I was laid on the white paper covered table on my stomach and when that Doctor put a needle in one of my nerves...well I can't even describe the pain.

It is a pain I have felt since and I declare it worse than labor pains. I broke my thumb a few years ago, it was mangled and crushed by a red Firebird's door. I actually screamed when the nurse put the needle in my raw nerve and I begged him not to do it the next two times. He apologised for it being unnecessary when the Doctor finally looked at the X-rays and saw it was cut to the bone. I learned that if you have a cut to the bone, you're not to expose it to any water at all, it will get badly infected and surgery can not be done. I think I would rather lose the thumb than ever have shots in the nerve again.

Anyways, I was bandaged and medicated and went home to dress for the show. I had to put plastic over the foot to bathe, but I made it on time. I hated walking across the stage to the mic on crutches, but the show must go on, so up I went, my big white wrapped toe drawing all the attention. I love attention, so I am lying when I said I hated the crutches. I was looking right in Daddy's face when I sang the revised line and I saw him beam with pride. The audience gave me a standing ovation. I loved every minute of it.

Mother wore lighter face paint and sang:

"Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey" This is Patsy Cline's version. I couldn't find a good one of Pearl Bailey)

Grandpa sang the old standards with his Barbershop Quartet. I remember one was "
Old Man River", but they did several.

I planned on writing about Panther Hall in Ft Worth.
I am truly surprised that Daddy let Mom & I go there every weekend. I was noticing a change in Daddy. Though it wasn't severe. Daddy just acted a little different when he drank.One day he called Jerry Lee Lewis's agent and invited Jerry Lee to our house for red beans and cornbread. His agent said he was on tour, but he was sure Jerry Lee would have enjoyed them.

He was still the best Dad in the world to me. He took me hunting, fishing, and would lie in the backyard grass with me to teach me the constellations. We loved Hank Williams and we sang "Hey, Good Looking" as a duo. Damn, I miss him.

The Hank Williams video set off some emotions I wasn't expecting. I reckon that does it for me for today. I will tell you about Panther Hall next time if you're interested.

Mom said maybe I shouldn't talk about "The Minstrel Show", but I told her it was part of our personal history and it was a part of Americas shame and it shouldn't be hidden. She agreed.


Kay McKenzie Cooke said...

What great memories and written so graphically - ouch! I could almost feel the pain of the toe and resulting injections ... yikes!
As for the music - part of my background's definitely hearing c&w music and also my dad singing like Hank Williams.
When my mother had her 80th b'day last Sept. we made up a dvd with photos, and one of the background music numbers was the song 'Hey Good Lookin' ' as sung by Hank - Dad would sing it to Mum.
I love the story re your dad ringing up Hank!

Dona Bogart said...

Thank you for the comment. I bet your Mom was thrilled to pieces. I would love to see that dvd, You could upload it on YouTube.

Thank you again. You are so good to take the time. People tell me they read my stuff, but I get very few comments. *sigh* I would like to hear the negatives as well as positives, anything would do...haha

Then I realize I am guilty of the same thing, I read & forget to comment or page freezes or something.

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