OT: Change almost beyond belief!

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Jan 22 14:33:45 UTC 2009

When I first read the material in Victor's post, my mind couldn't
assimilate it, blocked by the shock of recognition. Tin-roofed shack
without running water or electricity? That describes the two houses
that stood across the street - in actuality, a dirt road that became
an impassable quagmire whenever it rained beyond a few drops, with
nothing that could be called a sidewalk - from the
mansion-by-comparison owned by my wealthy-by-comparison grandparents
in Marshall, Texas! The President has Obama relatives who lived in the
American South?! Who knew?!

Then I realized that the article was actually about a relative in
modern-day Kenya.

In Marshall, the "po' folk" who lived across the street drew their
water from a well in the backyard and used hurricane lamps fueled with
"coal oil," , i.e. kerosene, for light. No indoor plumbing of any
kind, needless to say. Indeed, when my mother was a little girl, not
even my grandparents had an indoor toilet, even though they owned a
two-story, four-bedroom house with gas heat, electricity, situated in
the the central of three lots, and fully-plumbed, otherwise. This
custom of allowing only a small number of favored blacks - my mother's
family, Garretts, were "connected" to the white Garretts who founded
the First National Bank of Marshall, after the War of Northern
Aggression - to be able to take a dump indoors or get water without
having to go to a faucet in the backyard or to a well was just the way
that it was, back in the bad old days.

Money alone wasn't the solution. As someone once concisely stated it:

"You couldn't do *nothin'*, 'less The Man said you could."

This situation held at least through the 'Sixties. Not only were there
po' folk, but there were also middle-class blacks who had
fully-plumbed houses, yet still had to go outside to get or pass
water, being unable to get permission to attach that plunbing to the
local water main. At the time, I thought that it would *never* change.
Then Johnson got the Voting-Rights Act passed.

And now we've seen that seed bear its fullest fruit.

OTOH, there are still many po' folk, both black and white, in this
country who live no better than my grandparents' across-the-street
neighbors did.


All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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