We are the sum of life's experiences.
My father passed this past June 2018. Hugh Tipton Johnson, 82 years of age, had taken a fall in a park in Roanoke. Dad never recovered from this fall. I look back and wonder if God had not planned this all along. You see, Dad was an avid dancer. Shag dancing at the age of 82, his favorite of all social events. Dad had been a part of Shag clubs for the last 50-60 years is my guess. Every summer for the past 20-years, Roanoke had sponsored music in the park. A beautiful park, built in the representation of an ancient Greek amphitheater. It was early May 2018, the first concert, Dad was excited, and had been waiting for this day all winter. Dad would arrive early like he always would. He wanted to get a good parking spot and his favorite place to sit. Front and center on the first level of seating, two feet up and easy to get to the dance floor.
Witnesses say Dad had gotten up from his chair, turned to the crowd to wave to a friend. Music, dancing, his friends were all there. Everyone knew Dad as he had been coming to this event for 20-years. I can see the smile on his face, the satisfaction of making it through another winter. It's springtime, leaves are sprouting on trees, flowers fill the gardens, music is in the air. As Dad turned to wave to friends he lost his balance fell to the dance floor two feet below him. I think God gave this gift to my Dad. This gift of seeing friends one more time, to feel springs warmth after a cold Virginia winter, the music, the dancing. Dad was where he wanted to be and God knew that.
We are the sum of life's experiences. Growing up in the 1960's - 1970's certainly did make for some interesting self-preservation instincts. Thomasville NC in the late 60's early 70's was still a divided town as I remember it. The train tracks ran right down through the middle of town. Blacks lived on one side of the tracks and us whites lived on the other side. The elementary school was of course in the white neighborhood. Everyday gangs of black kids would stroll through our neighborhood on the way to school. We, of course, all knew we needed to get to school before they did or leave after they passed. If you got caught by the gang on the way to school, you were chased and if you got caught, fights broke out. Fights were never fair. Always 5-10 on one. Black boys would not fight a white boy one-on-one. They waited in gangs for you. The black girls would cheer them on, calling us hateful names, it was here I learned to fight, to run and to seek revenge.
This is a part of the civil rights movement liberals don't want to talk about. This is the part of the '60s the media will not report on and that is this truth we lived. These poor young impressionable kids being taught to hate whitey. Parents, Grandparents, older siblings, I think all contributed to this type of behavior. Of course, the media, and we were in the midst of a civil rights movement, did not help create relationships between 10-year-olds, in fact, it separated us as it did our parents. Looking back, I can understand why black youth were in riot mode most of my young life. The peaceful protest turns violent, police harassment, assassinations of good men trying to create a better life for those who follow.
In 1974 and at the age of 13 years, was my last year living in Thomasville. My last year of playing baseball with my friends I had grown up with. I did not know this at the time but, my team sports career was over as soon as we moved yet again. The summer of 1974 was a magical year for Manns baseball. Our team, all white kids, of course, had the gracious fate of the first girl to join our team. I don't remember much of her but I do remember some of the boys on the team giving her a really hard time. I had enough of that one day and stepped in to have her back. I told my friends to leave her alone this was not right. I stood up for her and as far as I remember it was this day they backed off, at least in front of me.
Back in my day, your team was named after the group that supported the team. In our case, it was Mann's Drugstore. Our rival was The Lion Club. The only black team of the 8 or so teams in our town was called Civitan. In my day you had to make the team. You had to try out and you had to be good enough. A midsummer night I remember so well. The day before I was told I was pitching. Our two good pitchers were gone on vacation and it fell to me. Our opponent was Civitan. I pitched 6 innings of decent ball from what I remember. We won the game and afterward, I made the mistake of hanging out after the game at Doak Park. I was attacked just like before as this was a daily occurrence. Attacked before and after school, fighting blacks and no clue as to why. What we do learn is, blacks are not willing to fight one on one they are only willing to fight if they have numbers. Basically, I had to fight the entire Civitan team. Why you ask? I don't know, I got caught where I should have not been. I remember being on top of one kid beating the crap out of him, and the other nine or ten on top of me. I got lucky really, some adults saw what was happening and broke up the fight. What happened next was forever etched in my mind. The adults made me fight one kid. What seemed like forever, this fight, once I had gotten him on the ground and started to pummel him, the adults pulled me off. My white friends were just arriving with baseball bats ready to fight, things were getting out of control. The black kids were told to get out of the park, go home to your side of the tracks.
A few weeks later after being chased home again by blacks, I had managed to get home early and quickly beating these kids to my home. Every day they would walk past our home on the way to their side of the tracks. This day, revenge was to be mine. I had set up a sniper position on top of our garage. My trusty Daisy BB gun locked and loaded. As the gang came by I took my aim and shot. Pop! right in the ass. I cocked and shot again and again before they took off running. As they ran out of sight yelling bee's are stinging us, I was laughing, satisfaction complete knowing tomorrow, I would have to find my way to school and not get caught.
Over the years I did find a way to school and back in order to avoid these kids. You see, black kids did not like the woods. If I could get to the woods they would not enter, I was safe. Something about the woods, the forest, the brush, I don't know but they would not follow. The woods became my haven and my playground.
Boy Scouts: I have fond memories of Boy Scouts. I don't care what you want to call it today, it will always be Boy Scouts to me and that is what I am going to call it. We had meetings every Monday night, played games, worked on badges and ranks. Camping was the best part of the 1960-70 scouting era. No, I did not have to take a swim test to go swimming. No, we did not have to camp next to or insight of the Scout Masters and yes we were given way more freedom to make mistakes and learn on our own than to today's Boy Scouts. We hunted snipes by night with the newbies, we wandered around scout camp with no supervision, we swam alone, we were free. Camporee was an especially good time. This was when we got together with other Scout troops and competed in things that Scouts do. In my day at least in my Troop, we boxed. Scoutmasters would tie off a rope within trees to form a ring, we were gloved, no headgear, no mouth guard and fight! 3-rounds and if you won you had to fight the next kid. I have to say, I remember beating the crap out of a lot of kids in my day. The time I spent fighting in grade school and middle school with the gangs of blacks who would attack me proved to be useful. I could take a punch and deliver deafening blows. I bloodied up this one kid so bad they pulled me off of him in the ring. An older scout grabbed me and carried me into the woods. I was maybe 11 or 12 and he was 15 plus. He hit me as hard as he could right in the face, a sucker punch. I looked at him and said, "why did you do that for?" Surprised, he told me to go back to camp. I never did find out why he did that. I must have hurt someone he loved or a brother or something but boy was he pissed.
Around 2002 my son joined scouting. My gosh had things changed. I had more than once made the remark to Scoutmasters how we were raising a bunch of pussies. Liberals were taking over Scouting, the rules and regulations were unbelievably many and in most cases absolutely unnecessary. Two deep was one of the good things they had done along with background checks. One of the worst things they did was take God out of Scouting, allow Gays in, and of course girls. Now we got Scoutmasters and leaders who are women, liberals everywhere, boys being turned into pussies and the right to just be a boy was gone. Since when is a woman allowed in scout camp? This is and should be a time for men and boys to be men and boys in a common bond of masculinity. But no, masculinity is now outlawed in Scouting. I am glad my son got out when he did. Jake made the rank of Eagle in 2016. Two years later, Boy Scouts became "Scouting" the damn liberals have taken over completely, girls are allowed in a boys club. Damn you to hell you liberals, Damn you to hell.....
I got introduced to motorcycles around the age of ten. My first bike was a Honda CT70. Our home on Spring Street had a small patch of land out next to the garage. I would ride around in a circle for hours at a time. Over the next couple of years, my friend Bill and I built trails on a piece of land out near a railroad track spur for one of the Thomasville furniture plants. We would walk our bikes to a gravel road and ride to the trails. Many summer days were spent riding trails and building trails. We even built a lean-to for our clubhouse. Every summer we would pack up our bikes and head to Baden Lake. Here we found 100's of the miles of trails and would ride 8-hours a day while our families enjoyed the lake. A friend of my Dads had a farm. His children rode as well. One of the many nice things my Dad did for us was, we would pack up the bikes and head out on a Saturday or Sunday to the farm to ride. We rode all day. Sometimes we would visit a Par-3 golf course and play golf just down the road from the farm. Other times we would ride to the local country store to get drinks and candy. It was here I learned to love Zots. Zots was a hard candy with a powdery sugar hidden inside. I think I paid a nickel apiece.
I got paid to mow the grass, Dad paid 2.00. The entrepreneur in me started a lawn mowing business. I got 2.00 a yard no matter the size. When I was 10-years of age I was recruited to run the neighborhood paper route. I got up every morning at 4am, rolled papers and delivered. The first year or two was on my bicycle, eventually, I migrated to my motorcycle. The local police seem not to care at all. Good times flying through the neighborhood delivering papers on a motorcycle. When I talk about my Dad, I don't want people to think it was all bad as it was not. There were good times too but when you start to look back, you realize as a ten-thirteen-year-old you were oblivious to the obvious bad decisions.
Many a summer day we spent at the Moose club pool. I learned to swim, dive and play a game called sharks and minnows in the deep in. The Moms would sit and smoke cigarettes, gossip I am sure, and play cards. I learned to swim and dive from the older kids. Backflips, Gainers, Forward flips, 1 1/2's, inward diving on 3- meter boards. When I was 40-years of age we joined a pool locally to take our kids. My son and daughter tried to learn to do flips and the such, but the passion was not there. Sharks and minnows are still on the menu I am happy to see. Life had changed, parents more involved in their kids. No longer did kids come home when the lights came on. No, everything had to be structured with these young parents. God forbid you to take your eye of a child for a second, oh Lord what could happen? I am an older father compared to other parents with the same age children. I am 40 with 8-year olds hanging out with 30-somethings with 8-year olds. So protective they were, there was no keeping score in the little league. The child had become the most important thing in life and they were sure to remove every obstacle so their little snowflakes would not fail. While I did learn how not to raise children from my father still I had only one rule. I will let them fail but, I will not let them hang themselves or jump off the cliff. Knowing when to let it go and when to step in was the hardest part of my parenting philosophy.
The end of summer is drawing to a close. Knowing my family is about to move to Appomattox VA. Another job another opportunity to start over. In 1974 Manns Drug won the city championship. In the top of the 6th down 1-0, Jeff Stone pitching for Lions throws a fastball to a part of the plate I could handle, boom two-run home run over left field fence. A monster of a shot for a 13-year-old as this ball ended up in the parking lot. One kid later told me, "you hit a windshield and it was the Lions coaches car." I still have the newspaper clipping today. I look at the clipping from time to time and remember that moment in time, that pitch I remember well, I remember the ball as it sailed out of site and through the lights. A fitting end to my time living in Thomasville, North Carolina. Appomattox VA here we come.
Experiences learned from this era. Black people will only fight in gangs and never one on one. When you walk past a black guy, look over your shoulder and make sure he does not hit you from behind. Avoid black people when you can, walk on the other side of the street if you have to. Black girls were usually nice unless they were in gang mode. Inside, fastballs are my favorite pitch to drive. Motorcycles were my passion. This is what was running through the mind of a 13-year old.