Growing Up in the South - Bad People

Note: Here is another little snippet of true story to show what it was like to grow up in the South. This is the bad side. Tomorrow, the good.

Dad and I had gone to the shopping center to drop Sis off for her accordion lessons. She went inside, crammed into a tiny practice room with a cranky old geezer named Mr. Sylvestro. I remember from my own music lessons that he made coffee from tepid tap water and instant coffee. He usually stirred a small pinch of Bromo Seltzer in with each cup. The stuff bubbled and fizzed and formed a horrible frothy, brown scum on top.

We walked around to kill time while we waited for Sis. We strolled past the windows at Rice's department store, into the Woolworth's, and back out into the sweaty midday sun. I raced ahead from store to store, hiding in building recesses and jumping out each time Dad reached me, screaming BOO! at the top of my lungs. As I rounded the corner at the Fanny Farmer candy store (always a favorite stop), I saw something I'd never seem before. Hundreds of people were walking through the parking lot carrying signs and wearing white sheets. Each person wore a tall pointed hat with a hood over the face.

I stood in front of the candy store in awe. Was it a parade? Why were those people wearing costumes? Why were they surrounded by a police escort? If it was a parade, why did people run in front of them in a hushed and hurried effort to get out of the way?

I stared up at Dad in slack-jawed fascination. I felt his grip tighten on my tiny shoulder and felt him gently pushing me toward Farmer's. Under his breath I heard him whisper, "the Klan," more to himself than to me. I asked him who those people were and he suggested we go into Farmer's to get some chocolate, something he never was of a mind to do before.

Inside the cool, white-tiled store I drank in the heady aroma of chocolate and peered into the tidy cases. He encouraged me to take my time shopping, again quite out of character. I finally chose my prize and watched through the glass of the counter as the white-sheeted procession went into the Woolworth's we'd just left.

"Time to go get Sis," he said. We hurried to retrieve her from Mr. Sylvestro, trundled her big black accordion case into the car, and drove off. I sucked at my candy prize and watched through the back window of the car as the procession came out of Woolworth's and went back to their cars under the watchful eyes of the police.

When I asked Dad again who they were, he said simply, "Bad people."

Truth Told by Omnipotent Poobah, Wednesday, December 28, 2005

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