Tag Archives: Florida

I Found My Lance — Chivalry Part 3


Waverly Plantation, Mississippi (Southern Hosp...

Waverly Plantation, Mississippi (Southern Hospitality) (Photo credit: Jody McNary Photography)

Southern Chivalry? Yes, Southern chivalry, or as Vic Dye defines it Southern hospitality (read my interview with Vic Dye here, use the password “vic”. This interview is available only through this article). Chivalry truly is about respect, something that is instilled in Southerners from the time they are learning how to crawl, and swipe all the breakables off the coffee table.

English: The southern United States, as define...

English: The southern United States, as defined by the United States Census Bureau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A map of the modern definition of the Southern...

A map of the modern definition of the Southern United States, Oklahoma red. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I grew up in the South respect was a universal thing, more so than to previous generations of Southerners. You showed respect to everyone, and people who did not, were frowned upon. What you did in your home was one thing, but in public (particularly in front of children), that was another. I can remember my father being upset with something someone said in public, even though I had heard him say the same thing at home. I grew up poor, and school busing in Florida did not start until I was entering third grade, before that you went to the nearest school. Until third grade, I went to Browning Pearce Elementary School Campus Two, where as a white boy I was in the minority. When northerners talk about racism in the South I reply, “I never saw a lot of that when I was growing up, all the other kids treated me just like everyone else, and they didn’t seem to mind that I was white.” Northerners think I am trying to make a not-so-funny joke, but I am not and this was how I grew up. Every adult (black or white) knew that if I was not behaving myself they were to paddle me, and then tell my dad, where upon he would paddle me again.

So, what are some of the ways that Southerners are chivalrous? Here are just some of the things I remember from my childhood:

  • “Please” and “Thank You”, every single time no matter what, no matter who. If you do not get what you want you say, “Well, thank you anyway.” If someone does something for you, “Thank you very much, I really appreciate that.” Also, “May I?”, “Your welcome.”, “Excuse me.” or “Pardon me.” If you don’t say these things, Southerners will silently question your upbringing (upbringing: Southern speak for how you were raised and what you family is like), thinking you do not know better and were not raised properly.
  • You always act with humility, putting others first. In the South the “golden rule” is still gold. Many shortcomings in a person’s personality will be overlooked if they know how to behave in public around other people.
  • If you are going to make a mistake, err on the side of being too nice.
  • Be friendly! Southerners wave to strangers with a heartfelt smile, and they mean it. Greet the people you come into contact with. If they respond with a few comments, then you answer them. Example: “Hi.” “Hi, beautiful day isn’t it?” “It sure is. You have a nice day.” “Thank you. You too.” “Thank you.”
  • Men always take their hats off when entering a building, during prayers, the national anthem, and when the flag passes in a procession (like a parade).
  • When walking on the sidewalk with women, men ALWAYS walk to the street side with women on the inside. This is a safety issue, though walking on the sidewalk today is safer than in years past, though from time to time we still hear of someone losing control of a car and hitting people on a sidewalk. This is also done in Europe, though for a different reason, in years past people threw their trash into the street through open windows and a pedestrian being hit near the street was not uncommon.
  • All females are referred to as “ladies”, whether you think that particular one is or not.
  • You always hold the door open for others.
  • Always conduct “small talk” with others, whether you know them or not.
  • Do not interrupt.
  • Always offer guests to you home food and drink.
  • Always respect elders.
  • Always look people in the eye when they say something to you, or you say something to them.
  • Always shake hands with a firm grip, not an overbearing painful one (men and women both).
  • When a major event happens to a family (death in the family, new baby, home from the hospital), you visit them and bring food, even if you stay just long enough to give them the food and convey your feelings on what has happened.
  • Stand by your family and friends.
  • Always welcome new neighbors. Yup, they are not being nosey, in the South this is polite and shows “good upbringing.”
  • When in doubt treat others the way you would want yourself and your loved ones to be treated.

A friend posted this on my wall at facebook. If you know who originally did this, please contact me.

In the South men always treat women with respect, carry heavy packages for them, pull out chairs for them, open doors for them. When a lady is in need of assistance you always offer her your hand. If the chairs or seats are all taken and a lady is standing, you stand. Even if the lady refuses your generosity you stand. In the South, a gentlemen never sits while a lady is standing. Also, when a lady enters or leaves a room, a gentleman stands. The things I said in my earlier article about women’s high-heeled shoes apply. Never speak bad about a lady to others, particularly in public. Yes, there are gossips in the South, but you will be held in high regard for refraining from talking bad about others or repeating disparaging rumors. When women are talking you give them your attention, maintain eye contact, do not interrupt, and listen attentively. All of the many gestures of chivalry most certainly apply these and more.

A chivalrous Southern woman does not yell in public and keeps her composure. Women who can say more, with fewer words are viewed as very intelligent and held in high regard (concise is good). Men and women who appear to use more words than are necessary are treated politely, but never enthusiastically (wordy is never good). There is wordy, about right, and concise, men get no points for concise or about right, and like women are avoided (when possible) if known to be wordy in their conversations with others.

Something “outsiders” always seem to miss is the understanding of  the phrase, “Well bless your/his/her heart …”. When a Southern woman starts a sentence with “Well, bless your heart …”, despite what it sounds like you are not about to empathized with, you are about to be, politely, told you are stupid. It may sound like a compliment, but make no doubt about it, that Southern lady just told you, you are “too stupid to pour pee out of a boot with the directions written on the bottom.” (This is not to be confused with the two expressions “Well bless you …” or “Well, bless my heart …”)

A Southern lady is a wonder to behold, they are far more capable, intelligent, cunning, loyal, and above all subtle, than most people realize, and certainly more so than Southern men. Poise, graciousness, subty, good manners, calm, these are the hallmarks of a Southern chivalrous lady. Chivalry for women in the South is not a matter of “do the same stuff men do for women, only you do it for men,” no. A chivalrous lady in the South truly does have the upper hand to all other people in any forum.

It is not possible to do this subject justice in under 1500 words, but you have an introduction. My best advice is to travel to a small or medium sized city in the South, find a good location and observe locals. You will learn more about Southerners in thirty minutes on a street corner than you ever could in a book.

One last thing. As a visitor to the South, you will not be held to the same standard Southerners hold each other too, “it just wouldn’t be polite.” Southerners know you are not a Southerner, but as long as you try to behave in a “Southern manner”, you will highly thought of and respected.

Part four will be on chivalry and feminism, and I hope you are surprised as I am.

Have a great day, and be chivalrous.

Joe

To learn more about the South and Southerners read the interview with Vic Dye and my Cup-O-Joe articles, particularly the article, “The Lesson.”

“Has Anyone Seen My Lance — Chivalry Part 1”

“Who Made This Lance Anyway? — Chivalry Part 2”

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Sunday’s Article … “I Found My Lance Chivalry Part 3”


English: A Palmetto Glade Near Palatka, Florida.

English: A Palmetto Glade Near Palatka, Florida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Sunday’s article will be from a Southern perspective. Mine. I am a Southerner who has spent 20 years in self-imposed exile. The first thing I learned about living in the north, is that there are plenty of people who treat you like you are stupid as soon as they find out you are a Southerner (not all northerners, just some). It does not matter how smart you are (my IQ is over 160) they still treat you like you are stupid. The first thing I did was work hard on losing the Southern accent (I didn’t know I had one until I moved north). Then I started to pull back on everything my family, neighbors, teachers, and other adults in Palatka, Florida taught me as a child growing up in the South, just so I would “fit in” with northerners.

There is a bible verse that says something to the effect “raise your child right and they will return to it when they are older.”

Official seal of Palatka, Florida

Official seal of Palatka, Florida (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That is just what Palatka did, and I am returning too it. Of course, “you can take the Southerner out of the South, but you can never take ALL of the South out of the Southerner.” So, I didn’t hide from everything, and it will be easier for me to get back to who I am.

This Sunday’s article will be what that little Southern town taught me about being a man, and what my responsibilities are as man. In other words this Sunday’s article will be about Southern Chivalry.

Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning (Photo credit: jspaw)

So, until we meet Sunday, have a chivalrous day.

Joe

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The Fountain of Youth


Children are the most amazing people on earth. No matter how dire their circumstances, no matter how bleak their daily life, hope rises up in them like an indomitable wellspring. Even in the early 20th century, before child labor laws, this was true. We have seen the poor little rag-a-muffins in movies, dirty, poor, and running through the streets. Yet, they still found things to smile about, still full of hope. Real hope. Not the hope of an adult; a big house, a high-paying job, or nice clothes. The hope of a child is just the simple hope that this year the Brooklyn Dodgers will go all the way.

You remember the image, a group of boys facing a fence, looking through a knothole to watch their heroes “play ball.” Sometimes, they would make a human-pyramid to reach the knothole; with the boy on top yelling out a play-by-play, (I often wonder how many of those boys grew up to be radio sports announcers).

Ponce De Leon searched Florida for the fountain of youth, when all he really had to do was wait a few hundred years and see a baseball game. Baseball has that effect on men (and many women) young and old, rich and poor. Baseball takes us back to our youth, stick-ball in a big city street, sandlot ball in a small town, and sidestepping cow-patties on your way to first base in a cow pasture in the country.

When I was a kid, Palatka had one of those old ball stadiums; the big wooden ones with the over-hanging roof like the ones in Eight Men Out, A League of Their Own, and The Babe. Speaking of the Babe, Babe Ruth once played a game in our stadium, and I can remember standing at home plate with a bat looking up at those bleachers and thinking to myself, “The Babe once stood at this plate and looked at those bleachers.” Years later they tore down those bleachers of course, but in my memory I am still that little boy looking over my shoulder and I can still see the bleachers just as the Babe did.

My idea of a perfect Sunday afternoon was a freshly mowed yard, a lounge chair under a shade tree, and a ball game on the radio. When it was raining, I would watch the game on TV, turning off the sound, and listening to the game on the radio. Next to a baseball radio announcer, all other sports announcers are just amateurs. Life went on for me like that until about twenty years ago.

I turned my back on major league baseball, no games, TV, radio, hats, pennants … nothing for over twenty years. I still like minor league games. It gave me great pleasure to take my father-in-law to his first baseball game (the Columbus Clippers) when he came to the United States to visit us.

Why twenty years ago? That was the year the multi-millionaire players and the multi-millionaire owners robbed us of a world series because of their own greed. The millionaire players went on strike because they wanted more money, and the millionaire owners said no because they wanted to keep more money, it seemed obvious to me their own greed was more important to them than their fans. I guess they forgot that the reason they were so rich was because of those fans. Anyway, if they did not care about us, I did not care about them.

Life has been going on like that ever since. I have not thought one bit about those greedy so-and so’s, not until this week. This week I saw a newspaper on a break table. Below the fold was a heading that I just had to read. I read an article by Paul Elias and it re-sparked something in me, it is just a tiny spark; but, Paul has shined a light on a path for me. Maybe that path won’t lead anywhere, but maybe, just maybe, that path is my path to my fountain of youth.

What is the great revelation this associated press sports writer gave to me? The San Francisco Giants. When the Giants built their new stadium, the section of wall by the right-fielder is no wall at all. When the Giants are at home, about 75 fans can try to distract the opponents right-fielder while watching a game through a modern knothole … a chain-length fence. During the season, you can usually watch the whole game free of charge. When there is a crowd (like during the World Series) the security guards rotate the fans every three innings so a new group of fans get a chance at the “knothole.” These fans don’t go home though. When their time at the fence is over they stand back behind on the promenade while the fans at the fence shout out the play-by-play to them, just like when they were kids. Before you rush down to your nearest major league ballpark, the Giants are the only team in baseball to intentionally create a “knothole” in their stadium wall.

This is not a free-for-all though; the knothole fans have rules; no chairs, dogs (I think the mean the four-legged kind not the ones on a bun) or drinking, and definitely no saving places for people … only the people who stand in the line get a chance at the fence. Some fans show up twelve hours early to stand in line, the knothole fans police themselves. When you look at the cost of a ticket, and “a dog, and a beer” at a ball game (not to mention all the other things) some people would say that the Giants are losing tens of thousands of dollars every game by letting free-loaders watch the game for free. Even without a hot dog and a beer the cost is high, and besides how can you watch a baseball game at the park without a hotdog and a beer (or pop if you prefer), I think it is actually a law written down somewhere. As a matter of fact, I think with the high cost of a ticket, the first dog and beer should be included with the price of admission … but back to our discussion.

I do not think the Giants are losing any money. Paul interviewed Tony who drove up from Sacramento with his two sons and their three friends. Tony said he could afford one ticket, but no way could he afford three or six tickets. The knothole fans are knothole fans because they cannot afford the price of a ticket. I think this is something that actually will PAY the Giants. Some of these kids will grow up to become men who can afford the price of a ticket. Those men will pay to go to a Giants’ game and remember with nostalgia the days when they were little kids watching the Giants with dad as one of the “knothole” fans.

More important, the Giants have brought back some of the magic of baseball; once again baseball fans young and old, rich and poor, can watch their heroes if just for a few innings (well … at the Giants; stadium anyway). Who knows it may even bring back some of the fans who left baseball over the strike.

Oh, by the way, I am writing this while listening to the radio and it sounds like the Giants are one inning from going up 2 games to 0 in the World Series.

Have a great week and “Go Giants.”

Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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The Lesson


The Lesson.

What was it like growing up in a small town in the deep South in the 60’s & 70’s? Well, this is what it was like for me.

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The Lesson


I led a sheltered life in my early childhood. From the outside, and to those who know me best, this would seem an odd statement. However, it is true, and you will soon see what I mean.

I grew up in the South in the 1960’s and 70’s, in a small town in North Florida (that is east of the panhandle, south of Georgia and north of Ocala for all non-Floridians). Just as most communities in the United States were at that time, we were more segregated than the country is today. There was considerable mistrust at that time. This was a period of assassinations, riots, protests and counter-protests, murder, an unpopular war (the first war televised, live, as it happened, into our homes), and forced school busing; the young did not trust the government because of the war, the bundled Warren Commission investigation, long lists of injustices, and the apparent unwillingness of the government to respond. The older people did not trust the government because of the unrest sweeping the nation. Young did not trust old, old did not trust young, black did not trust white, white did not trust black, Americans did not trust immigrants, and immigrants did not trust Americans. At a time when there was so much mistrust and danger, there was some comfort in living in a neighborhood with people who were like you. There were little Italy’s and China towns all across the nation. There were also black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods. The segregation was not mandatory, as you will see, that had ended a few years before. In my town as an elementary school boy I was oblivious to all of the danger, stress, and tension of the times I lived in.

The year Florida started mandatory busing of schoolchildren was the year my family moved to a new school district. My parents were happy about this, my new school had a newer building, smaller classes of children, newer books (which we did not have to share with our classmates), and the roof did not leak.

Before forced school busing, you went to school in your neighborhood. We were very poor, and so was our neighborhood and school. We moved to a new middle class neighborhood with a new middle class school, and I was not happy. I did not know any of the students or teachers at my new school and my new surroundings were strange to me. At my old school, I had friends, I knew my teachers, and I knew my surroundings. There were bullies at my old school, but all schools have bullies. Some of the bullies would call me names because of my skin color, but bullies always find some difference to pick at; ask anyone with freckles, red hair, or a weight problem. I just ignored what the bullies said. As the only white kid in my class, all my friends were black and they didn’t mind that I was white, they treated me like everyone else. We traded food from our lunch bags at lunchtime, played cowboy and Indians at recess, and got into mischief during class. I was comfortable where I was, and I did not like going to a different school.

My first day at Silver Lake Elementary School I came home happy and excited, many of my friends from my old school were at my new school too. I was in third grade, I didn’t know what mandatory school busing was, and I did not know about the court battles and fighting that had gone on, or the protests. What I knew was that I went to school thinking I was going to be alone in a strange school, and I wasn’t. I had many of my friends in class with me. I could not wait to tell my parents. My mother was happy for me. All I remember of my dad was that he said, “We moved him out of that school.” I did not understand what he meant and did not know why he was upset, but I was happy.

That is how things were when I grew up in that little north Florida town. In public people were respectful of each other and kids were taught to say sir and ma’am. Yes, we had white people that did not like people because they were black. We also had black people who did not like people because they were white. But, it was considered to be rude and uncivilized to display your prejudices in public in front of children, and those who did were looked down on by the community, both black and white.

We owe this, in part, to the man who was our sheriff for more than four decades. On the surface, he seemed like the stereotypical southern sheriff Yankees like to make fun of. Walt had the slow southern drawl and didn’t seem to get excited about very many things, but he made it his business to know what was going on in his county. Walt also did not tolerate disturbances of the peace in his county. If you thought you were going to go to the north side of the town and light up the sky with burning crosses, you had better think again. Walt would come down like a ton of bricks on anyone trying to cause trouble in his county.

I remember the one time we had a big protest march at our courthouse. I was a sophomore in high school. At a school pep rally, we had a disturbance between a black boy and a white girl and the boy was suspended from school. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) said the boy accidentally brushed up against the girl in a hallway. The school rednecks said the boy took inappropriate liberties with the girl using his hands. The kids I knew near the incident (both black and white) said the boy shoved the girl while they were standing in the bleachers.

The SCLC was in town all week picketing the high school and had scheduled a protest march downtown, to start from the courthouse, on Saturday. The white racists in town were already talking about starting a riot with the protesters at the courthouse. All week we had news agencies from all around interviewing our sheriff, including television stations from Jacksonville.

The reporters would ask, “Sheriff what are you going to do?”

Walt would answer, in a slow southern drawl, “Well, if they have their permit I am going to let them march.”

“But sheriff what are you going to do about the anti-protest people?”

Walt would answer, “Well, if they have a permit, I am going to let them march too.”

The whole town was talking all week long about how this was going to be bad. Most people were planning staying at home or avoiding the downtown area. It seemed like the sheriff was going to treat Saturday like any other Saturday, and this could get real bad, real fast. Our town had never seen this kind of trouble before. While cities all over the country burned in race riots, Walt had kept the peace between the blacks and whites in our county. This just didn’t seem like Walt. The general opinion was that Walt was greatly under estimating the potential for disaster at this protest march.

Saturday came and the SCLC and their followers gathered at the courthouse, the white racists gather at the courthouse, and Walt and his deputies gathered at the courthouse. Also, at Walt’s request, police, deputies, and swat teams from every surrounding county and from as far away as Duval county (Jacksonville, Florida) gathered at the courthouse.

A friend of mine, much braver than me, went down to see what was going to happen. He said, Walt checked the permit of the SCLC, then after he was satisfied their permit was in order, he told them to go ahead with their march. Mike said Walt then turned to the crowd of troublemakers and asked them for their permit. When they didn’t present a permit, he told them they were violating the law and if they didn’t break up and go home he was going to run them all in. The SCLC had their march, and the troublemakers went home. Mike said the only trouble was when someone’s dog bit someone. A few words passed and then nothing.

Walt kept our county safe and quiet, the whole county not just part of the county. Walt was rewarded for that by both the blacks and the whites in our county. Every four years Walt ran for re-election. Every four years the county voted for Walt again, except for the family of a republican from Crescent City that ran against Walt, every four years. If Walt had served out different forms of justice for different sides of town we would have had the same problems they had in places like Birmingham, Detroit, Memphis, Chicago, and Los Angeles By having one law for all and enforcing one law for all, Walt kept the peace in our small town. There was a tolerance and a mutual respect that America has lost in the last forty years.

Now, I told you that story to tell you this story.

Several years before Palatka’s brush with state wide celebrity status. My family moved again. This time we moved into town and my new school was Moseley Elementary School. That first summer I would ride my bicycle down to the St. Johns River, fishing pole tied to my handlebars.

I had found a nice quiet place to fish under the shade of an old live oak tree. Just south of the boat marina was a long row of nice houses from Palatka’s heyday as a steamboat town in the late 19th and early 20th century. At that earlier time Palatka had more hotels than Jacksonville and paddlewheelers on the river were still the easiest form of travel in the area. The row of houses reflected that earlier time. The stretch of land between the road and the river, across from the houses, had no structures on it. Grass and a few live oak trees with the river for a background was the only view from the porches of those big houses. If you minded your own business, were well behaved, and cleaned up after yourself you could sit on the breakwater, in the shade of a live oak tree, dangle your feet in the mighty St. Johns River, and fish to your heart’s content.

That was where I met my fishing buddy. He was old enough to be my grandfather. He taught me about fishing the St. Johns River, and how to cook mullet without it tasting muddy (but that is another story).

I never knew his name, I always called him sir, and he never called me by my name he always called me sir. That bothered me. I was taught that children always call grownups sir or ma’am, and here was a man old enough to be my grandfather calling me sir. I talked with my mother about it. She explained to me that a long time ago, black men always said sir to white people. He did not mean anything by it, it was how his parents raised him. I did not understand any of this; I was just an elementary school boy spending my summer fishing. My mother suggested I let it go and I did. Now, I wish I knew his name, but I guess in a way there is some kind of poetry in not knowing. He taught me more about fishing than anyone has, before or since, and I have had some good teachers (but that is another story). More important he taught me about life. He taught me to accept people as I find them and to accept them as they are. He taught me that no matter what life throws your way, there is good in people, trust them. He taught me that there are always people coming up behind you, teach them. And, he taught me that life’s greatest pleasures come in the smallest things, like dangling your bare feet in the St. Johns River.

There were things that he did not teach me too. He did not teach me about the bad side of life. A side of life that he saw with his own eyes. He did not teach me about a society that expected a grown man to call a boy “sir.” Instead of passing on hate to yet another generation, he took me under his arm. He treated me as the grandson I could have been. When I looked into his eyes, I saw a wise and loving grandfatherly figure. I never knew, from him, the pain those same eyes had also witnessed.

You say African-American, I say Black, the generation before me said Negro, and the generation before them said Colored. You see we are not perfect, and we carry the wounds of life with us, but you do the best you can and you keep moving forward. Palatka was not perfect, it had its problems. Sheriff Walt was not perfect and had many problems to deal with, both as sheriff and as a man. But, that was a community in a time and place that protected its children as best as it could, all its children; while the rest of the world seemed to be burning itself down in rage. It was a community that in some cases presented a much more tolerant image to its children than really existed. But is that a bad thing? Our children are our future, and we want them to be better than we were, so why wouldn’t we put our best in front of them. Why wouldn’t we show our children what we want them to be, what we wished we were, and not what we are?

To all those people in that little river town who put their best image in front of me … thank you. To Mr. O’Rourke, Hosea, John the mailman, John the art teacher, to the crab lady, and to big Pete, Gadabout Gaddis, “uncle” John, Mr. P, Mr. V, and Bill Turnbull, and to so many others I cannot name, thank you. Lastly, thank you to my fishing buddy, wherever you are.

Than You!

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