tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 11: the skateboarding edition

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.


“Rodney Mullen – Freestyle Contest Oceanside 1986” on YouTube

This nearly-five minute video shows skater Rodney Mullen in a contest in Mississippi. This was one of his many wins in freestyle contests like this in the 1980s. Mullen is a legendary skater who was originally from Gainesville, Florida.

“Old School History of Skateboarding in Lafayette, UNCUT EDITION,” from 2012

This 10,000-word full version of an article that appeared in The Independent Weekly in 2009 offers a lengthy narrative about skaters in Louisiana from 1970 through 1990. The blog Psyouthern, where the article is posted, has as its subtitle “Deep South Blasting.”

“Skateboarding in Birmingham, Alabama (1995 – 2000)” on YouTube

This three-minute video shot on an old camcorder shows a group of skaters doing tricks, falling down some, and also getting run off by a sheriff’s deputy at the courthouse.

“Early 90s Old School Skating (Atlanta, GA 1990 – 1993)” on YouTube

Similar to the one above: three minutes of skating, this time in Atlanta.

“Old School Skateboard Contest 1987 Greenville, SC” on YouTube

Rather than live video, this is a slide how of pictures from a skate competition that appears to have taken place on a rural two-lane road.


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.

Seeking submissions of… (movies)

level:deepsouth is open to contributions about the movies that were meaningful to GenXers in the Deep South, and there are two different ways to contribute.

First, if the movie is about life in the Deep South in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s and all you really want to do is send the title, you can submit it for the lists. This offer is open to anyone who knows of a movies that should be included.

Second, if the movie isn’t about life in the Deep South in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s but you want to write about it, you could write something about what the movie is and why it was meaningful to you growing up as a GenXer in the Deep South, then submit that for the watch & listen section. For that matter, the watch & listen section of level:deepsouth is also open to works about the favorite movie theaters, movie rental places, retail stores, or personal collections where we got our movies.