tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 16

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.

Jim Clyburn elected president of South Carolina’s Young Democrats, 1972

Though Clyburn is not a GenXer, his election in this case shows a marked difference between the Southern politics that the Boomers were familiar with – in South Carolina, that meant Strom Thurmond – and the politics that Generation X became familiar with. For older Southerners, the Democrats were the party of segregation, but it had become the party of Civil Rights by the 1970s. Clyburn rose through the ranks of the party, and as a congressman has been credited with garnering many Southern black votes for Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election.

Mississippi University for Women in the 1970s and ’80s

Showing perhaps some degree of change in Deep Southern culture, Mississippi State College for Women was renamed Mississippi University for Women in 1974. Then, MUW began admitting male students in 1982, and in 1989, the school got its first female president, Clyda Rent. Since its founding in 1884, there had been three female interim presidents who served brief terms before her. Since 1989, only one of the six presidents has been male.

The Todd Road Incident and Leadership Montgomery, 1983

Montgomery, Alabama is well-known as the site of Rosa Parks 1955 arrest and as the destination for the 1965 voting-rights marchers, but fewer people know about the city’s ongoing racial divisions, which continued. The Todd Road Incident involved the shooting of a black teenager by police officers who did not identify themselves as such. In the wake of the controversy, the organization Leadership Montgomery was formed, in hopes of addressing the issues that led to these situations.

“Flashback photos: 30 years ago, 1990 in Georgia” from ajc.com

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.

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 14: the mid-’90s 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.

Top-ranked Tennessee Vols lose to Memphis in a shocker, 1996

It was November. Tennessee was ranked in the top ten, had Peyton Manning as their quarterback, and were eyeing a national championship as the season was winding down. Then they lost to cross-state rival Memphis.

Mississippi ratifies the Thirteen Amendment, 1995

It only took Mississippi 130 years to take action on ratifying the constitutional amendment that abolished slavery in the United States. Of course, the amendment had taken effect in the years after the Civil War when a majority of states agreed about the issue at that time, but perhaps bitter about their defeat, the Magnolia State held out. In an additional aspect to the story, though, the legislature didn’t actually complete the paperwork for the ratification in 1995, but that was not discovered until 2012. Mississippi, thus, officially ratified the amendment, by completing the process, in 2013.

Window tinting in Alabama, 1996

Alabama’s statewide law on car window tinting took effect in August 1996. This may not seem like a big deal, but it was at the time. People – among them, many GenX teenagers and twentysomethings –  who had tinting already had to take their cars to have it checked to see whether they would be in violation, and those whose windows were too dark would have to have the tinting removed or redone, which wasn’t cheap. And there were so many people who needed a redo that auto shops had lines and wait lists.

from The Montgomery Advertiser, July 14, 1996

The Telegraph remembers the Flood of 1994

Macon, Georgia’s Telegraph newspaper compiled a video, which is posted online within this story, showing comparative images of flooded areas in 1994 to then-current shots of the same places in 2019, twenty-five years later. At the time, Hurricane Alberto stalled over Georgia and dumped massive amounts of water onto the state.

“Highway One: Lost Louisiana II” from Louisiana Public Broadcasting, 1994

The video below is a nine-minute section of the longer program. Clicking the link the header will take you to the full 42-minute program.

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.

Milius, McCarthy, and Me, or the Dawning Red in the West

by Russell Worth Parker

Born in the wake of the Great Daylight Fireball, the only child of a divorce finalized in 1972, well before he understood parents sometimes live together, the boy was small and lonely and precocious and living upon six hundred acres of farm and forest. There were no neighbor kids proximate; no pick-up football games. There was just the boy and the woods around Athens, Georgia and the Daisy BB gun he carried, bestocked in plastic and slick bored. A boy’s heart calls for the cold steel a man’s hands will someday find. It was then as it had ever been or ever would be.  

There would be war, and the boy would find himself within its province, of that he was certain. Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian was yet three years hence and the boy had barely attained a decade on earth, yet knew with the certainty of the Judge that “it makes no difference what men think of war . . . War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.”

The boy found his friends in books, yellow of page and soft of cover. Pulp novels written under unlikely pen names, military histories awash in tiny print, or “there I was” biographies— they were all soldiers in the service of a destiny written before the boy or any of the authors came mewling unto this plane. Every page a blood-besotted exaltation of the kind of man the boy wanted to be, already desperate to join the dance, to take on the hyper-masculine qualities of a fictional assassin or the grim resolve of a Marine on Guadalcanal. On television, Vietnamese tanks ground into Cambodia. Soviet commandos took the centers of government in Afghanistan. A Marine raised his hand before the Congress, resplendent in green and swathed in ribbons. A Japanese rifle the boy’s Marine grandfather brought home from an island awash in blood hung on the wall as his father’s Marine uniform hung neatly bagged in a closet across town, both silently calling him to their measure. 

The boy rode his bicycle to the local tobacconist, where he could stand quietly, back against a rack, reading Soldier of Fortune magazine, whence he learned he was better dead than red. He stepped aside, solemn as a judge, to let grown men pass on their way to the glossy paper harlots sold from the back, pitying them their weakness, for he knew honor and glory awaited him. He imagined himself amongst guerillas, fighting the Bear. Even before he had a man’s carriage, he knew men either govern, are governed, or rebel. He needed but one desperate fight won, face smoke blackened and hands blood rimed, or lost in some glorious immolation burning his shadow upon the wall for decades. But in the 1980s, playground predations notwithstanding, there was but one monolith of which to avail himself. Opportunities to dance with the Bear were few and far between for a bookish middle-class boy in the Athens, Georgia suburbs. 

Then came a day dawned red. Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Soviet paratroopers drifted down to light upon Colorado’s front range. The strategic value of Calumet, Colorado was of only passing question to the boy or John Milius or presumptively, McCarthy, for the answer to the blood question lay in whether a group of teenagers, Wolverines as they fashioned themselves, would see their occupiers swallowed by a leviathan of their own design. But honest men and Milius knew they must always answer to the Judge, must determine whether Wolverines might become but McCarthy’s “legion of horribles” in the pursuit of their own deliverance, “clad in costumes attic or biblical or wardrobed out of a fevered dream with the skins of animals and silk finery and pieces of uniform still tracked with the blood of prior owners.”

Omaha, Kansas City, even Washington, DC lay as rubble irradiated, though the boy only found out after Cuban MIG-21s struck down Lieutenant Colonel Andy Tanner’s F-15, an Eagle torn asunder by fire and fragment. He found his South occupied once again, this time by Godless Communists who were stopped only when they discovered themselves to be but false dancers on the banks of the Mississippi, broken upon the face of the Rockies. Thereon, half a million scarecrows prayed for succor other than rats and sawdust and of a moment, one another. Pyres lit the sky as offerings to a God made manifest in the hopes of a billion screaming Chinamen rendered six hundred million.

The two toughest kids on the block will fight. The boy had fashioned himself thus, all indications contrary, and saw himself as he wanted to be seen in Jed and Matt Eckert, set to puzzle danger from an early age and unafraid to. A Wolverine he felt he was and would be, able to withstand those things that beset a boy, smaller and slower afoot than his peers. Their time in the hills was but time to become stronger, as was his amongst the trees and barns of the farm. Their victories over the Bear, over Colonel Bella, over the collaborators, were his yet to come against those things that vexed him. As the Eckerts sought vengeance in the name of their father, him clinging unto a wire fence shouting, “Avenge me! Avenge me!” so would the boy find a mission, a way to set right those depredations that beset him, real and imagined, making him strong in his mind if he were still only corporeally picayune. 

Came a day after the Red Dawn. The boy himself dancing among burning rain drops in Iraq and Afghanistan, finding the truth to be neither all nor none of Milius or McCarthy. Again came the Judge, a terrible enormity hairless and pale, saying, “Only that man who has offered up himself entire to the blood of war, who has been to the floor of the pit and seen the horror in the round and learned at last that it speaks to his inmost heart, only that man can dance.” The boy danced. It could only be that way and not some other way.