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August 3, 2020

Worthy to Print Column: Growing up

By George Worthy, Gonzales Columnist

I was afraid I was going to have to write about my broken heart today. I had been watching all the hooligans run wild and could not figure out how even the most frightened politician could be seen back in their district with all the desecrations of our historic past and heroes that have served the United States while they did nothing. 

Our country is coming apart. I’m not a follower of who did what in most cases, as I wasn’t there at the time, but some are well-recorded stories of all our past conflicts, and until the Korean conflict, it seems that we were well served by these heroes. Of course, although there have been true heroes since then, we haven’t won a war since that time. 

As far as pulling down statues, I must tell you a story. When I was transferred from Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to Fort Bragg, N.C., it was like a step back in time. I noticed the strange things as soon as I arrived at the bus station in Fayetteville. There were separate waiting areas for “whites” and, as they had painted, “colored.” I wasn’t completely naïve. I knew there were folks that considered the color of the skin to determine the worthiness of a man or woman. I had just never seen signs like that. There were also drinking fountains that said “white” and “colored.” 

Here is a little sub-plot; I was a Private First Class when I landed at Fort Bragg and another word for that rank is “broke.” Seventy-two dollars a month doesn’t go very far as far as entertainment was concerned. Beers, off post, were $2.50 a bottle, so drinking in the local bars, although not forbidden, it was just too expensive. Sometimes we would pool our money and ask someone to buy us a bottle of vodka. We would go into the movies and drink the bottle, in the dark, during the movie. Then we would just walk around a three-block square of bars called “Combat Alley” and enjoy the sights and sounds of guys with some money flirting with the barmaids. 

So one day a new friend and I went to go to the movies. We asked a guy outside the ABC store to buy us a bottle of booze and started to go into the movie. My buddy was from Puerto Rico and was very dark skinned, although he was of Spanish decent. As we bought our tickets and started to walk into the movies, the usher told us he couldn’t sit in the lower section of the theater. He had to go upstairs to the balcony because that’s where all the “colored” went. I was freaked out, but my buddy said he understood. I started to raise a fuss and he grabbed me and said forget it. 

We went down by a creek that flowed through Fayetteville at the time and drank our “medicine.” I was flabbergasted. I could not believe that stuff still went on. Remember, I was a “California” kid, grew up on a farm where everyone worked together, ate together and sometimes went frog gigging together. 

Even today I can tell you that I personally would be very upset seeing all the statues of confederate heroes. Admittedly, I didn’t notice them at the time, but I doubt that many white guys would. I’m not too happy about how they went about it, but after practically growing up at Fort Bragg I think I could understand why all the African Americans were so upset about those statues. Many years ago the South sort of deified those upon their horses. 

To me, it all goes back to the South and how I reacted to the racism I witnessed while there. I will never know what it is like to be any of what we call the minorities because I am not a minority. I see their travails and suffer embarrassment that some treat them different, but neither my father, mother nor my brothers ever looked at anyone as not being as good as we were, and we were poor. Of course, there are extremists in any camp, and the ones that are spewing the vitriol will also never know what it is to be another color. As Mr. T used to say on “The A-Team,” “I pity the fools.”

The holiday we have coming up has me yelling at folks and questioning their common sense as they continually shoot off fireworks for the week leading up to the Fourth of July, during the week of Fourth of July, and usually a while after the Fourth of July. It frightens not only my pets, but any pets close enough to hear them. Animals have a lot more acute hearing than humans and none of the knowledge. They are so disturbed I have to get medicine from the veterinarian to settle them down. It might not be so bad if anything is accomplished by these noise makers, but it seems they just want to bother people. 

Please have a great Fourth; it is the Birthday of Our Country. Just try to pay attention to the harm you are doing. As for me, I will probably go buy a beer or two, now that I’m old enough to sit around and call my buddies and talk war stories of the past. I hope you have the best holiday possible and remember we are only what we are and nothing else.

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