And, the movie of the year is … Green Book!!! Oh, yes, I cheered. We saw the movie and fell in love with it. Not only did it take me to the past but also to the present. The acting was superb. The film well written. A true story brought to light. A story of us.
Four brothers were born in Piqua. (So was I.) John Jr., Herbert, Harry and Donald were sons of a local barber who founded a barbershop quartet called the Four Kings of Harmony. His sons learned from their father just as we did from our parents. This vocal group grew into one of the longest-lasting oldie acts in American popular music, entertaining audiences for decades. Even before Pentatonix began making their own instrumental sounds, this oldie group made their own. In the late ’20s this group charmed radio audiences. This quartet went on to record with Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. In 1943 their Paper Doll became one of the biggest hits of the decade with 12 weeks at the top of the charts with 6 million records sold.
June and I got into a discussion about where Myrtle Mack had lived and about the house across from my Uncle Bob’s house on Yount Road where I was sure her son Don moved with his lovely wife Nancy. “Remember the field between that house and Uncle Bob’s? It was where a wagon was pulled into the field for the singers to stand on,” I said. Dad and his quartet sang warm-up for that group of boys from Piqua. June came back with, “You know Dad’s quartet (a group of young men lead by Mr. Paulsgrove) traveled with them. They sang mostly in churches. Dad got a serious ear infection and had to come back home for surgery.” Well, yes, I did know that, but it raised a question, especially after having seen Green Book. “Dad’s group stayed in one hotel and the Mills Brothers stayed in another or maybe a tent.” What?!?!? I thought that was only in the south!!! All these years I had never thought about it.
The bus pulled into the driveway. They came to do laundry at our house. We girls were thrilled to have them. When they found me in the basement singing along with my record player (which was a daily occurrence), Marva Jo Dixon lifted me onto her lap, and the girls joined me in song. Often June and I have questioned why Mom and Dad never had them stay in our house, which was always open to anyone we knew or didn’t know, when they needed a place to sleep and have a good meal. These beautiful young women from Piney Woods Boarding School in Mississippi were not allowed to sleep in our beds. Oh, they used our outhouse and used our old ringer washer, but did not stay in the house. When their bus was parked at the church, they had no access to the inside bathroom but used the outhouses. A school based on Christian principles with students who sang in church after church were not as welcomed into homes as a white group of students would have been. It was a day and age. And, it was wrong. And, it was not the south.
The old belief that we are of different races is quickly coming to an end. Genetically, we are all the same. The colors of our skin are determined by how melatonin is affected through our genes and affected by where we live. Research the information. It is fascinating. We all began in Africa. We are all related. There is no denying it. We found this more clearly when my son did his DNA. He is indeed 0.01 percent black. He is also 0.02 percent Jewish. Our genetic makeup over the thousands of years has been influenced by mutated genes and the blending of cultures. We all started in the same place and are one race. Wouldn’t it be so much better to look at the positive things we have in common rather than the differences?
Green Book brought it all home. I stepped away from that sign I saw on a bathroom door in Georgia back in the ’60s: Coloreds Only. I opened the back door of my life and saw that discrimination was not only the south but right outside my door on a bus and in a field on a wagon. We can always learn and grow. I thought that we in the ’60s would change race discrimination for all time. Yet, we didn’t, did we? Maybe my 0.01 percent is crying out to have a voice that began for all of us in Africa.
Pamela Loxley Drake is a former resident of Darke County and is the author of Neff Road and A Grandparent Voice blog. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.