tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 7

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a usually weekly but not always, sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.

Does anyone actually like Foreigner?

I’ve never heard anyone say they do, so this is something that I’m genuinely curious about. If I ever ask someone, “Who’s your favorite band?” or “What kind of music do you like?”, no one ever answers, “Foreigner.” Despite their hits in the 1970s and ’80s, and despite their omnipresence on rock radio since then, I have serious doubts that anyone actually likes this band.

the documentary Waking in Mississippi, 1998

from the description: “Waking in Mississippi explores the power of the national media to, surprisingly, mitigate long held animosities resulting from a legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. The irony of Hollywood fabricating a race riot for the sake of A Time to Kill provides a framework for presenting the complexity of race relations in a historically troubled region.”

The Alabama cheerleader Barbie, 1996

If you’re a Bammer with a penchant for collectibles and have $55 laying around, Mattel apparently made Barbies of UA cheerleaders in 1996. However, if you’re into brunettes, not blondes, the price doubles to $100.

“The coldest day ever” in South Carolina, 1985

January 21, 1985 has been declared the Palmetto State’s “coldest day ever.” According to this 2020 news report, 165 people died in the cold, and “nearly every city and town set records for the all-time coldest temperatures ever reported. Locally, the thermometer dropped to 6° in Myrtle Beach and Charleston and 0° in Florence. Many areas across the Carolinas dropped below zero. Locally, the subzero temperatures included -5° in Bennettsville, -4° in Darlington and -1° in Dillon.”

“Voting Rights in Louisiana, 1982 – 2006” in Review of Law and Social Justice, 2008

In 1982, the oldest among Generation X turned 17, almost old enough to vote. In 2006, GenXers were between 41 and 26, well into voting age. This academic study of voting rights in Louisiana, specifically for African-Americans, covers the years when GenXers were gaining the right to cast a ballot. Early in the report, it states, “The experience in Louisiana since 1982 shows that voting discrimination in the state persists, attempts to dilute African-American votes are commonplace and many white officials remain intransigent—refusing to provide basic information required under Section 5 to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).”

level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews) and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.

Arkansas, 1993: A Brief Primer on the West Memphis Three

In a time when social-justice issues, especially those involving policing and the judicial system, have been brought to the forefront of our culture, it seems like we shouldn’t forget the West Memphis Three. It was twenty-eight years ago this month, in 1993, when three white teenage boys were arrested for allegedly mutilating and murdering three children in eastern Arkansas. The events that followed, at that time and later, made for one hell of a mess.

What brought national attention to the situation were the particularly heinous details of the crime. The victims were eight years old, and their beaten bodies were found naked and hog-tied. One of them had been castrated. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas:

The state of the boys’ bodies quickly inspired rumors that a satanic cult was responsible. The crime scene’s location in the woods, the nudity, the positioning of the boys’ bodies, and especially the castration caused concern about Satanism amongst the locals, and amongst the police as well.

In the 1980s and ’90s, evangelical Christian groups led a nationwide charge pushing the idea that America’s teenagers were being influenced by the Devil. In the South, where evangelical Christianity had a particularly firm foothold, this trend was prevalent. The primary targets of the complaints were heavy metal music, Dungeons & Dragons, horror movies, and other forms of entertainment that employed dark imagery or elements of magic and the occult. By contrast, many among Generation X viewed these things as slightly risky aspects of pop culture, not to be taken too seriously. The Misfits sang about “Horror Business” and Ozzy sang about suicide, the neighborhood dungeon master inspired a bit of awe, guys used horror movies to get girls to jump into their arms, and – I don’t know if they still do, but – Toys ‘R Us carried ouija boards.

However, it was taken very seriously when it came to Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley Jr., who became suspects in the brutal crime, even though the details were sketchy. Echols, who was the oldest, was on probation and already known to law enforcement. Baldwin was a friend of his. The two were considered suspects, but nothing was solid until Misskelley, the youngest, came to police’s attention through comments he made to a woman who had volunteered to search for the victims. Again, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas:

As a result, Misskelley was taken to the police station for several hours of questioning, of which just over thirty minutes were recorded. At the end of the questioning, Misskelley confessed, implicating himself, Echols, and Baldwin. Misskelley’s confession, however, was inconsistent with details of the crime of which the police were already aware. While confessing, Misskelley at times contradicted his own story as well.

The boys were arrested in June 1993, and during their trials in 1994, prosecutors had “a cult expert who indicated that the defendants’ music collections and clothing were key indicators of satanic cult activity.” Echols had admitted to dabbling with magic but denied being involved in satanism. However, the boys’ clothes, lifestyles, and choices were brought into question. Additionally, there was this:

Further, a former Ohio police officer named Dale Griffis, who held what the defense characterized as a mail-order Ph.D. degree from an unaccredited university, was permitted to testify as a prosecution expert that the crime bore the “trappings of occultism,” including that it had occurred under a full moon near a pagan holiday and that the number of victims and their ages – 3 and 8 – were significant in occultism and witchcraft.

Despite problems with the investigation, the evidence, its collection, and its presentation, they were all convicted. Damien Echols was sentenced to die.

Eighteen years later, in August 2011, the West Memphis Three were freed. In exchange for agreeing not to argue over their guilty verdicts, the three now-grown men were let out of prison. When questioned about the decision to be freed without a formal acknowledgment of an unjust conviction, Echols was quoted as saying, “I am innocent, as are Jason and Jessie, […] but I made this decision because I did not want to spend another day of my life behind those bars. I want to live and to continue to fight for our innocence.”

Among the sources that give greater details and insights about the West Memphis Three are the 1996 documentary Paradise Lost: the Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, the 2000 book Blood of Innocents by Guy Reel, the 2003 book The Devil’s Knot by Mara Leveritt, the 2013 film of the same name, and the podcast The Forgotten West Memphis Three.

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 6

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a usually weekly but not always, sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.

The Pope visited the University of South Carolina?, 1987

Apparently Pope John Paul made a stop in Columbia and gave a short speech there. In his opening remarks, he is quoted as saying, “For many months I have looked forward to my visit to South Carolina. It is a great joy for me finally to be here.” Linked above is the Vatican’s transcript of the speech, and here is the New York Times coverage of the event.

A look back at Atlanta in 1978 from ajc.com

This digital photo spread on the Atlanta Journal Constitution‘s website was posted in 2018, on the fortieth anniversary of these photos being taken. Of the twenty-four images, quite a few involve the Braves baseball team, music and bands, or construction.

George Wallace is shot, 1972

There were really two George Wallaces: the guy who the Boomers remember as leading pro-segregation forces in the South in the 1960s and who carried disgruntled whites with him into the ’70s, and the wheelchair-bound politician that Generation X remembers from the 1970s and ’80s. During a presidential campaign rally in Maryland in 1972, Wallace was shot, leaving him paralyzed. Later, the two-term segregationist would morph his image and approach, and gain another two more terms by courting votes from the same black people he opposed earlier in his career.

Judas Priest at Memphis’s Mid-South Coliseum, 1982

When folks think about the South and music, the idea is: country. However, mainstream pop, rock, R&B, and even punk bands played shows all over the South. This is a set list from a Judas Priest show in December 1982. That same year, Memphis hosted Fleetwood Mac, Morris Day and The Time, Rush, and AC/DC.

level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews) and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.