…For all of that horrendous boredom and its corollary of nightmares, I made many friends. One in particular I will never forget: a black guy of about the same age as me. Jonas Jackson I seem to recall was his name. Black he may have been and from a very different background than I for he grew up in the inner city while I was a product of the burbs. In those days, Blacks were Blacks and Whites were Whites and never the twain shall meet but in those Orange protestant fuelled racist days of that particular city, Catholics like me were considered shit. Except on that social ladder of shit in that city of shit, Black shit was considered slightly more shittier than Catholic White shit – about one or two rungs down I would guess. And if you were Black and a Catholic to boot, you were considered to be social diarrhea on that shit scale on the social shit ladder of that shit city.
Circumstances were bred as a manner of chance, of timing, of birth and not choice for our family was as dirt poor as his. He wasn’t even Catholic. Baptists I think. No matter for during those heady, hot, and humid late August summer days we were a tag team in gathering those pods. He was Stan Laurel to my Oliver Hardy, Lou Costello to my Bud Abbott. His was an intelligent wit hidden by clownish antics and a machine gun delivery once you got him going. He had us all in stitches and while I do not consider myself to be an individual of high wit or higher humour for some unknown reason we clicked as friends and were able to play off one another and have a bundle of laughs, all the while continuing to service those pods with the great unwashed. It was great fun and he was, or is, if he is still alive, a great guy.
Racism? It was evident in those days. It was really a product of upbringing and the environment of the day where ignorance bred contempt. I can remember, years later, when my twin boys were attending a private day school in Hampshire England. I was on exchange with the Royal Navy at the time living in a small English town in the South Downs area of that home county. My boys were about 5 years old. One spring day all of the parents were invited to watch the students partake in an afternoon athletic fete, as they called their fairs over there. We attended and when one of my sons saw his mom and dad he ran over to us all excited for he had made a new friend, as he told us. We were so pleased.
“Where is he?” we asked him eagerly? He pointed to an area at the side of the playing field.
“Over there” he said to us. “He is wearing the red hat.”
We looked, astonished and somewhat surprised of our son for the boy in question was Black: the only Black boy in the whole playground, wearing a red hat. That to me said it all. Innocence is color blind.
Alas, summer and the fair ended on Labour day. We said our goodbyes, promised, but lied, to keep in touch and off we went, back to school and the rules of fools. In my case I gave it a good try but quit two weeks after school started. I had my junior matriculation or high school in pedagogical parlance. Why do they complicate things so with words like that? Pedagogical! What does pedagogical mean anyway? Who thought that one up? I looked it up! Pedagogical: of or relating to a pedagogue or pedagogy.” That helps! Jonas would know. Thinking about it now only makes me goggy. Perhaps it was a term that arose out of that Catholic priestly liturgy to describe one’s actions in front of alter boys – but I digress.