During the years that my Mom, Uncle Jim, Aunt Joyce, Aunt Dot, and Uncle Leroy grew up—as the young folks say these days— “The struggle was real!” Not that the struggle wasn’t real before the 1940’s and 50’s; oh no! I don’t think anyone would disagree with me if I said that, the 30’s, 20’s and all decades prior, were as hard as hard can get. However, I am privileged to first-hand accounts of the afore-mentioned decades from Mom and her siblings.
One aspect of those times that I love hearing about, is the tales of the traveling salesmen. I can remember a man coming to our home selling Hoover vacuum cleaners. He put on one heck of a demonstration. I was amazed by the wondrous machine that this man introduced to us that day. I guess Gramp was as amazed as I was because, if my memory serves me, she purchased that silver torpedo with the elephantine trunk that day.
That vacuum served a twofold purpose, in those days. The first being the obvious one of sucking up the dirt that I and my siblings had tracked into Gramp’s house. Its secondary purpose was as various space tools and weapons, during my imaginary journeys through the galaxy, and yes, beyond!
Also, I can remember the insurance salesman coming by Gramp’s house, or as he was commonly known, the “Insurance Man”. He came bearing a large black leather book with handles.It reminded me of a Bible in shape, color and texture, but there was nothing else Biblical about it.It was very messy and disorganized. Bits and pieces of what I assumed, were the lives of his clients, peeked out like little shy elves, trying to get a glimpse of me, while I did the same to him.Then he’d sit, carry on idle conversation, with the big book opened on his lap. He’d shuffle the papers until he found the one with the lives of my Grandparents on it, then some more pleasantries and a small transfer of money from Gramps hands to his and he was gone.
THAT WAS THE 60’S AND 70’S
During Mom and them’s formative years, things were different, but the same.
My cousin Gwin’s and my parents, lived and survived on practically little or nothing. As I stated before, times were hard!
The things they did have were bought from traveling salesmen. There weren’t any Wal-Marts, with row after row and shelf after shelf of Wranglers and what-not. There were no Footlocker’s for young feet full of fire. There was just that old traveling salesman.
According to the accounts of my Mom and others, there were several different types of door-to-door salesmen. For instance, there was the Watkins Products salesmen. His inventory of wondrous wares included, but was not limited to; liniments, hair products, and the pièce de résistance,Watkins Petro-Carbo Salve; used to heal cuts and draw out splinters.
Granddaddy Leroy and Mother bought, among other things, school clothes for their children from these salesmen. This clothing salesman hawked his habiliment from the trunk of his old DeSoto automobile. Granddaddy Leroy and Mother paid Mr. Macon (the salesman’s name) $2 per week. The salesman kept a “running tab” of what was owed him.
In relating these events, my mother expressed how excited she and her siblings would be to see and choose from crisp school dresses, and long-sleeved, striped, shirts & jeans. Mom’s favorite dress of all, from the trunk of Mr. Macon’s DeSoto, was a red, plaid one, with white lace pockets and white lace on the sleeves.
With a nostalgic tone and a wistful look flirting across her countenance, Mom told me how she was so excited and felt so pretty on the first day of school. At that time, she was in the third or fourth grade and I can tell you with a surety, founded in pictures that I’ve seen from thoseyears, that she was an especially beautiful child. It is easy for me to imagine how beautiful she must have been in that dress, smiling a smile, a mile wide!
Besides the salesmen like Mr. Macon who ventured in vestments, there were others who sold, sundry stock like: books; Bibles, almanacs, and encyclopedias. As a matter of fact, my own father—who taught school most of the year—sold encyclopedias during the summer. He even sold himself a set of Childcraft encyclopedias, when I was about 4 or 5 years old. In my opinion, that particular purchase was the best purchase he ever made. Before I could read, I spent hours just looking at the pictures. When my father would read the captions under the pictures to me, I would remember them, and quote them back, word-for-word.
When I learned to read, nothing could come between me and the knowledge those books contained. -Ron Brown
Ok, let me hang on to my integrity by admitting that I never learned the dog’s real name.
That said, he will forever be known to me as “Blackie.”
Anyway, many long years ago, when I was about six or seven, Mama would take me to my bus-stop every morning to catch the bus for school. Honestly, the stop was very close to where I lived—but it was at the top of a rather steep hill. Mama thought it would be better if she drove me to the stop in the mornings; that way I could start my school day looking nice, fresh and clean.
She said, “I’ll take you in the mornings so you won’t have to go to school all sweaty– looking like a field hand.”
And with that, a deal was made, Mama would drive me to the bus-stop in the mornings but I would walk back home each afternoon.
Well, the first couple of days, my walk from the bus-stop was rather enjoyable; I liked the independence of it all. Besides, I didn’t have far to go and it was completely downhill. This was going to be a breeze! No problems!
The deal between me and Mama worked out fine!
Until it didn’t.
One day, as I was making my usual trek home, I came upon a little black dog who started barking at me from a yard across the street. Naturally, this startled me since I had never seen him before. At any rate, although I was startled, I was not afraid because I had been raised in a home with all kinds of dogs. In fact, my Dad rescued and trained hunting dogs. That said, a barking dog was a non-issue to me.
By the way, you can read more about me, daddy and our dogs here.
Anyway, as I was saying, I wasn’t scared, but I was on guard so I did my best to quietly walk past the dog’s ‘dominion.’
When I got home, I didn’t mention this to Mama, because, after all, apart from all the loud barking, the dog had kept his distance.
Until he didn’t.
The next day, after I got off the bus and commenced to walk home, I noticed that same little black dog in his yard barking like he was one of my Doberman Pinschers. Again, I was startled but not too concerned so I just looked straight ahead–kept my stride and walked past.
Friends, the next thing I knew, that little joker had crossed over to my side of the street and had begun biting at my heels!
And we were off!
Me and the dog–both ‘flying’ down that hill like two bats out of hell!
Y’all I was in a race for my life! In fact, I was sprinting so fast that I could barely stop myself!
You may recall that I was coming down a steep hill. A steep hill that, by the way, ran perpendicular to a busy thoroughfare.
Had I kept running, I might have crossed directly into the path of several cars.
Good thing I was able to stop and catch myself!
Needless to say, by the time I stopped, I was totally breathless and scared out of my wits!
When I looked down, I noticed that the little black dog (whom I later named “Blackie”) had already turned around and was making his way back home.
After somewhat gaining my composure, I walked the last few yards home. Mama was standing there as I entered the house through the kitchen.
Having noticed how disheveled and discombobulated I was, she asked, “What’s wrong with you?”
I said, between wheezes, “A dog chased me home!”
Mama asked, “What dog? Where?”
I said, “Up Wycliffe Street.”
Mama said, “Come on let’s go!”
And with that, me, Tack and Mama jumped in the car!
Mama drove up Wycliffe and said, “Show me the house!”
I pointed to “Blackie’s” house.
Mama pulled up into Blackie’s yard, parked and said, “Y’all wait right here!”
Folks, Mama got out of the car, strutted up to the front door and started knocking like she was the Chief of POLICE!
Within a minute or so, a man came to the door and said, “Can I help you ma’am?”
Mama spotted Blackie standing behind the man and said, “Your dog chased my daughter home. She almost ran into traffic! Now look, she gon’ have to walk down this hill everyday after school so you gon’ have to keep that dog in the house!”
The man said, “Ma’am I’m so sorry about that. I’ll make sure he stays inside when your little daughter comes by.”
Mama thanked the man, bid him a fond farewell, got back in the car and drove us home.
The next day when I passed “Blackie’s” house I noticed that he was not in the yard barking but he was peering at me through his front window.
I imagined him saying, “You so lucky I ain’t outside!”
All jokes aside, Mama was bold! You have to remember, this all took place in Georgia in the early 1970’s and “Blackie’s” owner was an older White man. At that time, most places in the South were newly integrated so Mama, who was only about 29, was gambling with her life when she decided to approach that man about his dog.
But, as they say, don’t mess with a Mama bear’s cubs!
Friends, even though the “My Jams” series is based on soul music, I couldn’t leave 1969 without acknowledging my favorite Beatle, the quiet one, George.
Welcome to 1970 my dear hearts! What say you? Are you ready to embark on a new thing? I mean, have you had enough war, anger and violence? I know I have! In fact, I’m packing all that mess up and putting it away so that I can get ready for love!
Now some might say that I probably should have healed “that mess” before I put it away but NOT TODAY!
Anyway, moving on, if love is your thing too, then the 1970’s will not disappoint. Baby, in 1970, folks talked about love lost, love gained and anything else that you can imagine on the topic. Wherever your relationship fell on the aforementioned ‘love spectrum,’ 1970 had a song just for you!
To prove my point, I submit:
My Jams: 1970
“Band of Gold” by Freda Payne
Ms. Freda is giving you the ‘real’ on this one. Here she ‘channels’ a woman who poured her heart into a marriage but, alas, her dear hubby simply could NOT return the favor.
How many people (women and men) can relate to this feeling? Darlings, these hurts happen- but farther up the road happiness awaits.
“Signed Sealed Delivered” by Stevie Wonder
“Like a fool I went and stayed too long…”
Here we go again! Another one of those love games! Friends, we discussed this in “My Jams 1968.” It appears that Stevie didn’t listen to Tyrone Davis (“Can I Change My Mind”).
Ok, let me explain this one more time. If you leave, stay gone! Personally, I simply cannot do that back and forth thing.
“Love or Let Me Be Lonely” by The Friends of Distinction”
I really love this song! Whenever I listen to it, I can’t help trying to sing it’s tongue twister lyrics “I can live without love if I wanted to” …. And so on and so forth! But more than that, I live for the part at the end where they groove in harmony “Love or let me be lonely…looooove or let me be lonely…” I used to repeat that part and rock out!
“It’s A Shame” by The Spinners
Now this is one of my top 10 favorites in life! Do you feel me? Can you hear that freaking rhythm guitar with that bass just weaving all up and through? Geez, I just can’t!
Ok, I can! 😉
This one doesn’t really sound like the Spinners. Well that’s because G. C. Cameron is leading. To say that this dude was blessed with a serious vocal range is an understatement.
Unfortunately, Mr. Cameron and the Spinners ended up parting ways. After that, it usually took two Spinners to match one G. C. Cameron when singing this song. Basically, one of them stayed in the low to middle range and the other did the tweeting—that means singing falsetto y’all!
Anyway, Mr. Stevie Wonder co-wrote this jam.
“Owwww…got to, got to be a shame!”
“Precious, Precious” by Jackie Moore
This is a gorgeous song. It reminds me of “Trapped By This Thing Called Love” by Denise LaSalle- no worries; we’ll get to that diva in the next year or so.
“Precious, Precious” tells the tale of a woman who fell too hard for the wrong joker. Regardless, the groove here makes you forget all about that part!
“More Than I Can Stand” by Bobby Womack
Here’s another one of my all-time favorites. You might say that Bobby Womack very heavily contributed to the soundtrack of my life. I am sure that a lot of Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers can attest to that.
If you ever get a chance, ask my brother Tack about a natural tail whipping that he got about a Bobby Womack eight track. Yeah, that little bubble headed terror sat in the middle of the floor and pulled every inch of tape out of mama’s cassette. By the time she caught him, he was sitting in a heaping pile of brown plastic.
There was no recovering from that!
***Bonus: “Big Leg Woman With A Short Short Mini Skirt” by Israel Tolbert
I don’t even know this song but I like it because I am known for my big legs! LOL! Morris Day and the Time wrote the song “Fishnet” about me! Ok , no, they really didn’t but I like to imagine that they did 😉
Well that’s enough of my foolishness!
And so, the time has come for me to say farewell to 1970. As always, this list is not all inclusive.