In 1930s small town Alabama, Horace Johnson’s parents lit their back yard with electric lights – something new back then -- so all the African-American kids had somewhere to play. I told you about Johnson’s background last week, and today I’ll share where that foundation led – to the mayor’s office in Hillsborough.
The life of Horace Johnson has come as full circle as any life could. In 1850, his grandmother was born into slavery. In 1969, Johnson picketed and boycotted and was a major player in the civil rights movement in Hillsborough. Twenty years after that, he became mayor.
Sitting in on a rehearsal of the Durham Symphony Orchestra recently, I wondered how many of them were reliving a scene from their teen years. Rooms where musicians rehearse are functional, not fancy. The rehearsal room at the Durham Arts Council wasn’t too different than a high school band room. Nor should it have been. Chairs that stack. Lockers for instruments. Instrument cases – suitcases of the arts – resting by chairs. Musicians leaning over to each other during breaks, exchanging words and occasional laughter.
There were 10 of them. Ten men who broke the color barrier in the Durham Fire Department. Three are still living, and of those, two have been ill. George Washington King, who turns 78 next month, is spry and easily takes the stairs. Thirty-five years of being a firefighter kept him in shape. King called me last week after my column urging those who are veterans of the civil rights movement to share their stories. He came to the newsroom and we talked for a few hours about his career at the DFD, one he said that had its rocky times but was very rewarding.
For more than decade, we have heard that World War II veterans were dying at a rate of 1,000 a day. During that time, I have taken every opportunity, for this newspaper and others, to record their stories and share them with you. I’ll continue to do so.
There is patriotic mud left on my shoes. Mud reminiscent of the squishy swamp mud that was once underfoot (or under water) in Washington, D.C., long before it became the power center of today. I acquired the mud one night a few days before Christmas, on a night as cold as Durham was on Friday, but about 250 miles north. It’s from the U.S. Capitol lawn, still soggy after days of rain but not so messy to deter a handful of visitors, including my family, who came to take in the Christmas lights on the Capitol tree.
Romania and Quincey Myers are a couple I got to know a few years ago when Triangle Transit contacted me about a unique love story.
Romania and Quincey met on a Durham Area Transit Authority bus the summer of 2010. The No. 4 DATA bus, to be exact, from downtown to Northern Durham. It was one leg of Romania’s three-route journey home from the salon at the Brier Creek Walmart, where she worked. But this commute changed her life, when a young man with dreadlocks caught her eye and they exchanged pleasantries. Then she seized the day, cautiously reaching out again on the same route. Quincey was on his way home, too. They ended up getting off the bus together and hung out for a little while, a moment that changed their lives forever.
Have a seat. The flurry is winding down, and it’s time for you to chill out, too. Here’s a column with some rhymes, some anecdotes, some factoids and some encouragement to drop the fuss and relax with the rest of us. (Or observe Festivus.)
The dearth of girl heroines in television shows and children’s movies has been attributed to a lack of women in the leadership roles that get shows on TV and movies in theaters. This is true. But it doesn’t have to take a woman to give a girl her due.
Christmas in Durham. Tell me about it. How many Christmases have you spent in Durham? At home? At work? Do you buy your Christmas tree from a Durham lot every year? Or you did, until you bought a pink aluminum tree that one year, then back to the green-grown? Remember that white Christmas in Durham? Which one? Did you march in the parade? Did you get the best Christmas present ever in Durham?
Should we look to Germany for a better way to organize our government?
Our parents and grandparents from the “Greatest Generation” would be shocked at the idea that the country they fought so hard to defeat would have the kind of representative and effective government that any American would want to copy.
I got out the china for Thanksgiving dinner. The special occasion, been passed down in the family china. The china that takes up kitchen cabinet space, staking its hereditary territory. Be careful, I warned others right before I almost broke a dish myself.
I’m sure you’ve heard about big box stores opening on Thanksgiving Day rather than waiting for the dark early morning hours of Black Friday to open their doors to shoppers. Maybe you plan to take advantage of the door busting deals after dinner, or maybe you’d rather sit on your couch. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re among those who are encouraging other shoppers to stay home so store workers could stay home, too. But they didn’t make the call, their employers did. And the market.
On the way to work this past week, I flipped through the radio stations and heard a Christmas song. It turns out one station has already gone all-Christmas, all-day. Fine with me! I’ll wait until I’m eating Thanksgiving leftovers before decorating, but bring on the music. Holiday parades are getting ready to roll, too.
Clora Smith’s brother Sgt. Willie Edward Alston was killed in action in the Vietnam War on May 15, 1968. He was 25 years old and with the 4th Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment of the 9th Infantry Division. They grew up in Durham and he is buried in Beechwood Cemetery.