Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More Q&A

Sam, a former airman during the 1950’s stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi writes:

Q: Mister Charlie—as we airmen once addressed your father (if my memory still serves me at age 70), you continually allude to your Southern heritage, and indeed, my 2-year posting to Keesler AFB was an eye-opener when it comes to race relations. Do you plan to write about it? Your dad’s car deals were always fair, credit was easy, and as the local “AA” honcho, he bailed out many of my fellow airmen in the dead of night. Please confirm.

A. Yes Sam, the original “Mister Charlie” was indeed my dad, the “AA” go-to guy, who squared all accounts prior to his premature death in 1960, at age 52, including re-marriage to my mother when I was a junior at M.I.T. In fact, I probably sold a few cars to your Keesler buddies during my summer vacations. By the way, he not only bailed out Keesler guys in the dead of night, but also his own car lot boys. His late life commitment encompassed Negroes, but as a child, I was never permitted to call them “black”, on pain of mouth-washing soap. They were tagged "colored"; "mulato"; "quadroon"; "octoon"; and "high yella," depending on visible white/African blood content. "Black" meant "bad" in my day, and these folks were anything but "bad" in my childhood experience. but that's just me.

His secret was simple—he bribed the highway patrolmen, local cops, and judges in Biloxi and Gulfport with free “loaners” for their family vacations and holiday weekends, fuel tanks topped off with 19-cent/gallon Hi-Test.

When I complete my fables trilogy with CIA Fables later this year, I will begin writing about my Freudian, Deep South/Yankee heritage, so stay tuned for my first short story - Driving Miss Jennie!