Friday, October 31, 2014

Memphis, TN - GOTCHA


We have wanted to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and stay overnight at Phantom Ranch down there for several years now. But so dies everyone else and there are only a limited amount of spaces down there. Thus, Xanterra, the company which manages Phantom Ranch has a scheme: you have to call in to make a reservation a year or more in advance. For example: if you want to stay any day in October of 2014, you must be on the phone calling on 10/1/2013. And, I was, I dialed and redialed for 52 minutes but I got 2 nights in Phantom Ranch for Gary and me and meals also and RV reservations for the park on the South Rim. Cool. We’re excited and we looked forward to it all year long. In September of 2014, we plan our trip to the Grand Canyon so that we arrive on 10/9, stay in the RV park there, hike down on 9/12 and hike out on 9/14 and leave the park 10/16. All planned. Until - someone in our government decided to shut down our government. Didn’t hurt them at all. but - there went our trip into the Grand Canyon. Our trip coincided with the government shutdown. (At least we weren’t tourists from abroad who had flown over here for their vacation during that time. Or a bride and groom who had planned their wedding for the Grand Canyon during that time.)

We got all our money refunded but we had lost our chance.

So this year on 10/1, I got on the phone and dialed and redialed for 1 hour and 32 minutes only to be told that there were no female reservations in the female cabin but that there was one male reservation left. Well, we kinda wanted to go together so we passed.

On 11/1, I got on the phone, dialed and redialed for 1 hour 48 minutes only to get a message that November was booked solid.

We’re thinking that maybe hiking to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon is not in our karma. But, I’ll be on the phone in the spring trying again.


We have a love hate relationship with Verizon, as probably do most people. Love their coverage, love their service but hate their complicated bills and their little ‘gotcha’s’. After I spent 1 hour and 52 minutes on the phone dialing and redialing to Xanterra, I decided that my butt had worn a comfortable groove in the chair and I might as well stay on the phone so I called Verizon about a $15 data overage charge on our last bill. We pay for 10G of data each month in our plan. This means that we can use .333 G’s per day: 10G/30 days in a month. We track our usage carefully and even have a chart in one of our cupboards stating how much we can use each day as a cumulative figure so we know where we stand on each day of the month.We use campground wi-fi when we can, we use Panera wi-fi, we go to the library and we have never gone over our allowance.

Until last month. GOTCHA.

Here’s the story. We changed our plan on September 19th from my name to Gary’s name to get his military discount. Our new plan started on the 20th of the month. So, I got a bill for 9/10 (our old plan end date) - 9/18 which we paid. And we got a bill for 9/20 - 10/19, Gary’s new monthly dates and noticed a $15.00 charge for ‘unbilled data from previous months.’ Huh? I arrayed our bills in front of me, looked at the data usage and never, in the previous 4 months, had we gone over 10 G’s. Oh, boy, another call to Verizon. I reached Ceceria from South Carolina where it was 30 degrees and snow was on the ground, and started with an easy question about when our new phone was going to be sent.

Then I asked about the data overage. She spent some time checking and had an answer. In short: note above that we paid my bill from 9/10 - 9/18 and Gary’s bill from 9/20 - 10/19. Note that there is a day missing: 9/19. And here’s where it gets interesting. Verizon prorated our bills and figured we had used .623 G’s of data on 9/19 - which is over our daily use allowance of .333. For the month we used 7.26 G’s, way under our plan allowance of 10 G’s but on that one day we used over our daily allowance of .333. GOTCHA.

But, the Verizon reps are good, she looked at a mass of info, determined what the problem was, explained it to us, noted that we had never gone over our allotment and - she also deducted the $15.00 See what I mean - the service is great. It’s just those little GOTCHA’S that drive us up the wall.

Two lessons here:

        1.) check your bills each month and call if you have a question.

        2.) call Verizon to see what discounts you might be eligible for. Because we get 10G’s of data we are eligible for:

                smart phones which are not under contract are eligible for a $15 discount

                dumb phones which are not under contract are eligible for a 30% discount

                Jet packs not under contract are eligible for a 50% discount.

                we also found out that Verizon has changed their plans: We used to get 10G’s per month for $100 but now that same 10 G’s costs $80. Sweet. Or we can pay our usual $100 and get 15 G’s. A friend of ours used to pay $80 for 6 G’s of data and now can get 10G’s for the same amount.

        there might be others that do not apply to us so you need to check your own plan.

In the last two months with Verizon we have:

                bought a new phone for my brother

                changed our plan from my name to Gary’s

                bought a new phone for Gary

                changed our data plan from $100 to $80

Lots of changes - no wonder there are lots of chances for GOTCHA’S. No wonder I’ve been on our phone with Verizon for several hours this month. My butt’s wearing a really nice groove.


Speaking of name changes - we were reading about Memphis and learned of an interesting name change for a park in the center of the city, Forrest Park named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate cavalry leader in the Civil War and where both he and his wife are buried. Here’s a picture of Forrest, larger than life, astride his horse in the center of a city park, ringed with trees and grass.
In February of 2014, the Memphis City Council changed the name of Forrest Park to Health Sciences Park and also changed the name of Confederate Park to Memphis Park and Jefferson Davis Park to Mississippi River Park. Ordinary changes that cities and towns make all the time. That’s the story but the intrigue and back story are ever so much more interesting. Firstly, these name changes came just before pending legislation in the TN Legislature that would prevent the renaming of parks honoring wars or historical military figures throughout TN, in any city or in any town. Imagine that! Tennessee was going to pass a law preventing town and cities from naming and renaming parks within their boundaries. Interesting.

Actually, all of this comes at a time when the nation is readying for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with a population that is much more diverse than it was in 1865. America has changed considerably in the intervening 150 years and though many are working to change the images of the past, others are fighting to preserve their local heritage.

Forrest himself was recognized on both sides as a great self-educated, intuitive cavalry leader, feared even by General Grant. His cavalry practiced ‘mobile warfare’ his troops moved fast, fought hard and was a scourge to the Union army. However, a massacre of white and African American Union troops at Fort Pillow, north of Memphis occurred in 1864 by troops under his charge. Whether the troops had surrendered as the Union claimed or had not and were still fighting as the Confederacy claimed, the fact remains that it was a slaughter under his command.

He was a slave owner but it was reported that whenever possible, he kept slave families together, clothed and fed them well and gave them better than expected medical treatment. He was a ‘Grand Wizard’ until Klan violence and intimidation escalated and became widespread in 1867 - 1868 and he ordered the dissolution of the organization in 1869.
In 1875, he was invited to speak to the Independent Order of Pole-Bearers Association, an organization of black Southerners. His speech was what the New York Times called a ‘friendly’ speech and when he was offered a bouquet by an African American woman, accepted it humbly with these words:

‘Ladies and Gentlemen I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God's earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself. ... that I am your friend, for my interests are your interests, and your interests are my interests. We were born on the same soil, breathe the same air, and live in the same land. Why, then, can we not live as brothers? I will say that when the war broke out I felt it my duty to stand by my people. When the time came I did the best I could, and I don't believe I flickered. I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe that I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to bring about peace.’

At his funeral it is said that hundreds upon hundreds of African Americans attended his funeral to pay their respects.

A controversial figure to say the least and, even in death, remains controversial. Of course, it often depends upon who is writing the story. As we all struggle with the legacy of the Civil War, the renaming of Forrest Park to Health Sciences Park is merely one part of this larger struggle.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Memphis, TV - Elvis at Sun Studio

Here’s the question for the day. Now, don’t look down because the answer is right in plain sight. What was Elvis Presley’s first big hit?

"That's All Right, Mama"

(Arthur Crudup)

Well, that's all right, mama
That's all right for you
That's all right mama, just anyway you do
Well, that's all right, that's all right.
That's all right now mama, anyway you do

Mama she done told me,
Papa done told me too
'Son, that gal your foolin' with,
She ain't no good for you'
But, that's all right, that's all right.
That's all right now mama, anyway you do

I'm leaving town, baby
I'm leaving town for sure
Well, then you won't be bothered with
Me hanging 'round your door
Well, that's all right, that's all right.
That's all right now mama, anyway you do

Now, who recognized that as Elvis Presley’s first hit? Everyone I’m sure. Everyone but Gary and I. We were more into the Beatles and know their hits more than those of Elvis. He was born in 1935 and we were born in 1946, he was a bit before our time. But, here in Memphis we’ve been exposed more to the Presley legend and to his influence on Rock and Roll music. In fact, many might say that he began it with the song above. Other rock and roll songs might have come before like ‘Rocket 88’ by the Ike Turner band but these songs were all done by African Americans and appealed to that group but they did not have cross-over appeal to whites.
But wait a moment, let me say something about the earlier years. What was the heritage of Rock and Roll? Look at the Southern Delta for the roots: the whites had their music: country music which came out of the celtic folk music of their heritage and hillbilly. African Americans had spirituals and gospel music both church centered. From these came blues and boogie. And they all centered on Beale Street in Memphis. And, it all began to be heard on radios: the Grand Ole Opry was on the radio playing country and hillbilly and station WDIA in Memphis was playing the blues. Some listened to both but in most cases there was little crossover between music styles and who listened to them.
In walked Sam Phillips, who loved the blues and wanted to spread it. He started the Memphis Recording Service and said he’d record anyone and anything. Yeah, lots of bad singers, lots of weddings, lots of singing dogs and who knows what else. Not what he really wanted to record. Then in one day in walked Elvis Presley who paid the going rate $3.98 to record what he said was a belated birthday present for his mother. Hmmm - his parents didn’t even have a record player. Most think that he just wanted Phillips to hear him but Phillips wasn’t even in the studio when Elvis recorded. It was only his assistant Marion Kiesker. ‘Who do you sound like?’ she asked. ‘I don’t sound like nobody’, he answered.
But she remembered him and his voice. Elvis kept hanging around but it took a year for Phillips to finally want to hear him again and it was Marion who recommended him for a record. Phillips called in Bill Black and Scotty Moore, two other musicians. They played with Elvis but found nothing that was very exciting. Phillips walked out of the studio, the other two put down their instruments. Elvis, realizing that this golden opportunity was going away picked up his guitar and nervously began to sing an old Arthur Crudup song ‘That’s all Right Mama’ but on a much faster beat that the original The others joined in and Phillips, excited by the sound, began recording. (Here’s Elvis with Bill Black and Scotty Moore and Sam Phillips.) They then recorded several other songs in a faster rhythm like ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’.
Phillips took the recording to Dewey Phillips (no relation) who broadcast the Red Hot and Blue radio show in Memphis and thousands heard it. People began calling in requesting a replay of that song. And there you have it. Elvis’ first record was a combination of country and blues - all ‘rocked’ up. Phillips had his crossover artist, a white guy who could sing the bluesy gospel of African Americans and the country of the white people in the area. Someone who could appeal to all.

After Elvis came Carl Perkins with ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, Johnny Cash with ‘I Walk the Line’ and Jerry Lee Lewis with ‘Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On’ and Roy Orbison followed by Charlie Rich Conway Twitty and others.

Our tour leaders led us through all the stories and the memorabilia contained in this small building. They talked about the musical heritage that began here and their enthusiasm was evident. We had seen how many gold records Elvis recorded but it was here that we learned why he was so important to the history of Rock and Roll and what his place in American musical history is. No wonder Bob Dylan knelt down and kissed the crossed masking tape strips that marked where Elvis stood for his recording.
And, the studio is still recording: U-2 came here to record, using this drum set.
Maybe I should join them. What do you think?
Oh, no, you haven’t heard my voice.

By the way, this is the same microphone that Elvis used to record ‘That’s All Right Mama.’ Phillips wanted it to stay here so that everyone could see it and use. it.

Small unimposing building with a huge influence.

Memphis, TN - Graceland

Neither Gary nor I was a great fan of Elvis Presley, we were more fans of the Beatles. He came a bit before our time and, though we listened to his tunes, we didn’t buy any of his 45’s. Thus we were not really sure that we wanted to shell out $33 each for a visit to Graceland his home in Memphis. However, we realized that we probably should since we were here. Thus, Friday found us, tickets in hand, waiting in line for the shuttle to take us over to his home. One of my first questions is: since Elvis is a figure from an earlier age and his music is dated, certainly not what modern kids are listening to, what is going to happen to Graceland when my generation dies off? Well, we had the members from a high school history club in front of us and who better to ask? Maybe I’ll ask that young man in front of us who has just bought a life sized cardboard statue of Elvis. I guess I’ve got my answer. Yep, there are even modern kids who like Elvis.
Now, before I tell about our tour, here’s my hint: if you visited Graceland before August of 2014, you might want to come back. They have added the iPads and the Archives tour, both wonderful additions.

But, before we even get on the shuttle we had to get our iPads. I’ll have to admit, we have never gotten iPads to visit a museum or anything else and, now we see the future of touring. They have just redone the Civil Rights Museum and added headsets, movies, video, music, interactive kiosks and many other techniques to make the museum experience more personal. And, at Graceland on August 9, they introduced iPads to enhance tourists’ experience there. If you haven’t been there with an iPad, I suggest you might want to return. You’ll see and hear so much more. As we were heading over in the shuttle, I was putting on my headset, adjusting the sound and fiddling with the iPad to see what it could do. The answer is to make the tour so much more personal and informative.
Tour guides are great, they have wonderful stories and lots of information. But they are limited in scope. Self-guided tours with small plaques are also informative but they only have so much space on that tiny plaque. But this iPad had it all. We entered a room and it was pictured on the iPad but we could then get a 360 degree view by swiping our fingers across the iPad. Then there were little icons on the screen: a camera meant that there were other pictures that we could see by clicking on the camera. There were also little video camera icons and we could click on them and get some old home movies of Elvis and his family. There were music icons to get songs and we could listen to people talking about the home. What a wonderful tool for tourists. Both Gary and I were suitably impressed.
Now, I’m not going to go through each room nor am I going to say much about Elvis. That would be a waste of time since many of you have visited before we have. But here are some pictures for those who haven’t seen the home. As one of my friends said it is underwhelming. She has seen nicer homes right where she lives. And, I’ll have to admit, so have I. For all his wealth and fame, this home is really not ostentatious, it is large but not too large, it is opulent but not too opulent and I was surprised.

It was the trophy room where I first began to appreciate Elvis as more than just a cultural icon. I have never seen so many gold records - did he really have that many gold hits? I guess he did. Then there were the movies that he was in. Was he really in that many? Sure enough. And, finally they spotlighted all the charities that he supported and the donations that he made. And, both Gary and I developed a much greater appreciation for him as an artist. (Though when we visited Sun Studios we really learned what his place was in the history of Rock and Roll. But that’s another story.)

Nice home and nice tour and we enjoyed it much more than we ever thought we would. Then we boarded the shuttle for a 2 minute drive to the Archive area where we were ushered through a hallway lined with Elvis memorabilia
into an auditorium and a young woman in white gloves got out some archival material for us to look at. This is a new addition to the tour. There are thousands and thousands of artifacts in the Elvis collection: over 50,000 photographs, 3,000 textiles, thousands of documents and a large collection of furniture, musical instruments, awards, automobiles, and other artifacts associated with the personal life and career of Elvis Presley. WOW.

Gary and I were intrigued by the portable phone. Here it is - all of this is the phone the whole briefcase and the phone itself. Not a cell phone since there were no cell phone towers but he could make calls using it.
We left the Archives and were shuttled back to our starting point where there were several other Elvis displays: his jump suits from his Las Vegas concerts, his cars and other things. But what I liked the most was the Exit sign.
Now you might think that this sign means that this is the EXIT from a particular area but at ‘Elvis-land’ it means that it is an ENTRANCE to yet another gift shop. So funny. How many gift shops were there? I didn’t count. But there were a lot. Did we buy any? No, actually we did not. We might have bought an outfit for Gary but he just couldn’t make up his mind. What do you think? I kind of favor the red. But, he’s gonna have to ditch that t-shirt.
Hey, we saw this flag in a line of flags for foreign countries. Not one I’ve ever seen before. I asked one of the people who worked in the area and she said: ‘yeah, lots of people ask about that. I don’t know.’
It’s the Isle of Man.

In the parking lot next to our car was this neat little gadget with stickers from every country in South America, Europe and Australia on the back. WOW.
Next we’re heading over to Sun Studio where we’ll learn Elvis’ place in Rock and Roll history.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Memphis, TN - Civil Rights Museum

        Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

        And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

        I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

        I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

        I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

        I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their  skin but by the content of their character.

        I have a dream today!

                                                                                                Rev. Martin Luther King

We began the day with breakfast out, something we haven’t done for a while. We chose the Bon Ton which sounds a bit twee but I read good Yelp reviews and understand it was a historic restaurant was closed for 5 years but recently reopened as a breakfast and lunch restaurant. We parked, read the instructions on the meter, put our quarter in and - no time. We put another quarter in and - no time. Oops, looks like we’ve got a bad meter. I went over to the restaurant and looked in - no one inside except the staff. And there was a neon ‘PIZZA’ sign on the side of the building. Hmmm - not looking good. Oh, well, I went inside and asked if there was a trick to the meters and one of the waitresses rushed across the street to check it out and talk with Gary who was talking with another woman having trouble with her meter. Meanwhile I put a quarter into the meter on the restaurant side and - voila - I got 1 hour. Gary got in the car, pulled a U-turn and parked there. OK, let’s try the food. And, very good, I’d recommend it to anyone. The Yelp reviews were right.

As we were leaving the restaurant we saw someone else park in our original spot, put money in and - it worked. I hope he enjoyed our money. Oh well.

We asked about parking in the area and were told that most lots were $5.00 for the day. Well, why were we at an expensive meter? Ya live and learn. We’ll know better next time we’re in Memphis. We then drove to the National Civil Rights Museum, parked in a lot near there for the aforementioned $5.00 and planned to stay for the day while we visited other things in the area. The museum itself is in what used to be called the Lorraine Motel. It began life as a 16-room motel in 1925 named the Marquette. But when Walter Bailey bought it in 1945, he named it after his wife Loree and the song Sweet Lorraine. It catered to African Americans (one of the few hotels that did) and saw the likes of Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton and many other greats in Memphis for recording and performing.

Martin Luther King and his associates stayed in rooms 306 and 307 while they were in Memphis for the sanitation strike. And, it was here that Dr. King was assassinated. Loree Bailey suffered a stroke hours after the assassination and died 5 days later. Eventually the motel went into bankruptcy but was bought by the Martin Luther King Foundation for $144,000 to be made into the Lorraine Civil Rights Museum. Unfortunately, there were many who actually lived in the hotel such as Jacqueline Smith, a maid in the hotel. She was finally forcefully evicted in 1988 and the $8.8 million Museum was built inside the motel itself.

Saying that the money ‘should be put to better uses, such as housing, job training, free college, clinic, or other services for the poor’, she thought that Martin Luther King would also approve of this rather than as a museum. She has maintained a constant vigil outside the motel, across the street for the last 22 years and 291 days. We saw her at her place as we entered the museum.
The museum begins with slavery in American history but also mentions that slavery has existed in many other cultures throughout history: slaves built the pyramids, slaves were mentioned in ancient China, slaves were used in Africa itself. But the museum concentrates on slavery in the US. I don’t want to go through all the various events in the Civil Rights struggles in the US, because they are covered very extensively in the museum. It covers the Jim Crow laws from 1896 - 1954, the Brown vs The Board of Education ruling, the Montgomery bus boycott, the Freedom rides, Birmingham and the church bombing, the Voting Rights Act etc. The museum was a wonderful mix of pictures, grainy black and white movies, interactive kiosks, first person accounts of experiences with Jim Crow Laws, quotations from participants in the sit-ins and other events and various other multi media.. There were speeches, short films, listening stations where we could hear more about the event spotlighted in that alcove,TV news reports and interviews with participants in the various events. You can step aboard a vintage bus, sit down and hear the altercation between a public transit system worker in Montgomery and Rosa Parks.
Beside the bus are three women figures showing how people in Montgomery walked to work rather than take the buses during the one-year strike. In one case they had a reproduction of the bus that Rosa Parks was riding in when she was asked to move. In another, they had a reproduction of a Memphis sanitation truck.

I was especially intrigued by the strategy worked out by Thurgood Marshall and others who decided that they would start with a small piece, like discrimination in law schools and then chip away at other parts of discrimination in the US. Start small and keep chipping away.

The interior of the Lorraine motel has been extensively renovated into the museum as we wound around the first floor through all the early events. Then I realized that we were winding up a ramp to the Sanitation strike in Memphis in 19 //. I knew where we were going to end up: in Rooms 306 & 307 where King and his entourage were staying.
And, yes, at the top of the stairs was a full description of the sanitation strike with the replica garbage truck, lots of pictures and quotes and beyond that were the two rooms. Through the windows of the rooms we could see the building across the street from which the shots came which killed Dr. King.

I’m sure you’ve seen these two photos before: the first of Dr. King and his entourage, the second is after King has been shot and the others are pointing across the street at the window where the shot came from.

The museum is divided into two parts: the events leading up to the assassination of Dr. King in the old Lorraine motel and, in the second building across the street are the events after: the rooms rented by James Earl Ray, the gun, his car and a complete description of the forensics and finding of Ray with sections devoted to a possible conspiracy. You can see the room from which the shot came - it is the small partially-opened window right above the tree.
However, the second part of this building is devoted to other rights struggles in America and throughout the world: Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, the struggle against Apartheid, Tiananmen Square in China, sexual slavery throughout the world and all other struggles for civil rights.

I like a museum that not only presents the facts about whatever the subject is but also presents the context and the reasons why this is important. This museum went into each of these in great detail. I thought it an excellent museum.

Well, now, it’s 2:30, how about lunch? We walked back to the car and ate our lunch with the doors open to let in the warmth of the sun and the breezes. What a beautiful day. Our next stop was the Gibson Guitar factory where we took the tour through the manufacturing of the guitars. We learned that it takes 3 1/2 weeks to make a typical guitar with most of this time spent in the paint and lacquering departments. They make between 40 - 60 per day and sunburst is their most popular design followed by red and black. The cost of a guitar is mostly in the aesthetics: the paint, the amount of Australian pearl used in the frets and the shape. I was especially intrigued by the one guy there tuning the guitar to see if its sound was true. He was on the noisy floor of a manufacturing plant with lathes, saws and huge exhaust fans running. Yet there he was tuning and playing the guitar as if he were in the finest concert hall.

It was an OK tour but we thought the Taylor Guitar factory tour in San Diego was longer, more complete and much more intimate. We were much closer to the actual manufacture and could see it much more closely. Another couple on the tour liked the Martin Guitar factory tour in Pennsylvania much better.
GibsonGuitarFactory%252526Showroom-4-2014-10-29-13-40.jpg GibsonGuitarFactory%252526Showroom-2-2014-10-29-13-40.jpg
The guitar on the right is the most common design, while the one on the right is custom.

Next we walked through Beale Street, which even at 3:00 was hopping. I can’t imagine what it will be like after dark. We heard some blues bands tuning up and some giving early shows. How can you not enjoy walking down a street with blues music coming out of every building? Slow blues on the right, delta blues on the left and big band blues in front.

They’ve recently redone the waterfront area and we headed on down for our walk of the day. Beautiful park with a walk wending through it next to the water.

We climbed the stairs in the middle of the walk and wound through a nearby neighborhood.
Then back to the water, along the waterfront and back down Beale Street for and evening view. Now, the Grizzlies, the NBA team, was in their home opened this night and Beale was packed, especially the restaurants. $2.00 beer for Happy Hour but Gary and I wouldn’t know what to do with this so we just got a greasy hamburg and greasy fries. I’ve had enough grease to last a year now.
Back to the parking lot which now was charging $10 since the Grizzlies were playing. We quickly got into our car and pulled out of the parking spot since there were others circling.

Marvelous day in Memphis.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

LIttle Rock, AR - '2 4 6 8 We Don't Want to Integrate'

How many of us remember that famous line? That line chanted in hatred by those who did not want Little Rock Central High School integrated in the late 1950’s. I remember the line but, at the age of 13 in Fort Dodge, IA, I was probably more worried about what I was going to wear to school the next day and if I could get that cute guy next to me in Latin class to say hi to me than in some city in Arkansas. My only contact with overt prejudice came when I took a trip to Willamsburg with my aunt and uncle who lived in Washington, DC. There I saw bathrooms labeled: Women, Men, Colored (and not Colored Men and Colored Women - just Colored). What really struck my 13 year old mind was the older African American sitting outside the Women’s door - obviously there to clean. She couldn’t use the bathroom but she could clean it. Later when I taught American HS History, I learned lots more about it but it wasn’t until today that I got to see it when we visited the Little Rock Central High School NHS and walk across the street to the high school itself and see the steps and the entryway, where we could shut our eyes and envision the bravery of the Little Rock 9.
Obviously, segregation, Jim Crow laws and racism had been a blot on America for a long time. But it came to a head in 1954 when the Supreme Court ruled in Brown vs the Board of Education in Topeka, KS that ‘separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.’ To comply with this ruling, the Little Rock school board came up with a plan to integrate the schools gradually beginning with Central High.
This integration came with some caveats:

‘you’re not going to be able to go to the football games or basketball games. You’re not going to be able to participate in the choir or drams club or be on the track team. You can’t go to the prom. There were many more cannots...’

                                                                                        Carlotta Walls LaNier, one of the  LR 9

‘when my tenth-grade teacher in our Negro school said there was a possibility of integration, I signed up We all felt good. We knew that Cental High School had so many more courses, and dramatics and speech and tennis courts and a big beautiful stadium.’

                                                            Minnijean Brown, LR 9, to Look Magazine 6/24/1958

The school board called for volunteers and many volunteered. These volunteers were then vetted by the local NAACP and finally 9 were chosen for their courage, their ability to remain calm in a storm among other characteristics. They were Minnijean Brown, Terrance Roberts, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Melba Patillo, Gloria Ray, Jefferson Thomas, and Carlotta Walls. However, they were given counseling for several weeks prior to entering school so that they would know what might come their way and how to deal with it.

Knowing what was coming, the AR Governor, Orval Faubus called out the National Guard on September 2, not to help these 9 students get to class safely but to ‘maintain and restore order’ and to keep them ‘safe.’ Actually, they were to keep them from entering the school.
‘I thought he was there to protect me. How wrong I was.

                                                                                    Thelma Mothershed Wair, one of the LR9

‘We didn’t know that his idea of keeping the peace was keeping the blacks out.’

                                                                                                Jefferson Thomas, one of the LR9

On September 3, a mob gathered and the LR 9 did not appear. The next day, 8 of them met at a single location so they could enter together. One, Elizabeth Eckford, whose family did not have a phone, did not get the message and tried to enter all alone but faced a large crowd. She tried to make her way through the crowds but the National Guard held her back. The enduring image was a picture taken by Will Counts, a young photographer for the Arkansas Democrat. He caught her as she was walking with the mob in back of her. But, look at the picture - whose face stands out? Who do you really see here? Elizabeth calmly walking along or the young woman in back of her caught in mid-epithet? I have always remembered the young woman in back, Hazel Bryan, a 15-yr old student. And, it was this picture that hit the news, this picture that seared the memory and this picture that was the iconic picture of the LR9. (Ironically, Bryan also got some hate mail and her parents withdrew her from the school even before the LR9 ever attended any classes.) (You can read the story of these two in a book called Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.)
Elizabeth retreated, seeing that none of the others were coming. In response to Faubus’ action, a team of NAACP lawyers, including Thurgood Marshall, won a federal district court injunction to prevent the governor from blocking the students’ entry. With the help of police escorts, the students successfully entered the school through a side entrance on September 23, 1957. Fearing escalating mob violence, however, the students were rushed home soon afterward. Then, President Eisenhower entered, he federalized the National Guard and called in 1200 soldiers from the 101st Airborne, the Screamin’ Eagles, to protect the students and guard them as they enter the school. Faubus then said that Arkansas was ‘an occupied territory.’

When the 101st was withdrawn in November, the federalized National Guard took over protecting the students as the arrived at school and then inside the school they escorted the students to their classes. through the halls. However, they could not go everywhere and inside classes and inside bathrooms, the 9 experienced violence and harassment everywhere. Urine and feces were smeared on their lockers. One of them was kicked, beaten and had acid thrown in her face, African American effigies were burned out side the school. another was pushed down a flight of stairs. And these are just a small example of the gauntlets that the 9 had to run. Even though student leaders had pledged to obey the law and asked their fellow students to do the same, many did not follow suit and made it difficult for those who did.
Imagine being one of them - you never knew when a foot would slide out to trip you, you never knew when a hand would shove you from behind, you never knew when something would be thrown at you, you never knew when hateful words would be tossed your way. Friendly looks were few and far between since those who showed friendship towards the 9 were called ‘Nigger Lovers.’ One young woman got so tired of trying to maneuver through the cafeteria when chairs were pushed into her way that she dropped her lunch tray and the bowl of chili on it splattered on two white boys. Can you guess who got expelled? Of course you can, she was. After she was expelled, cards the size of business cards circulated: ‘ONE DOWN, EIGHT TO GO’. Little action was taken against white students who harassed the 9.

And it was not only the students who faced harassment: one mother was fired from her job with the State of Arkansas when she refused to remove her daughter from the school. Hate calls and hate mail came regularly to their homes. Caravans of cars passed their homes at night yelling obscenities. In one instance, several men appeared at the front door of one of the families wanting to take the daughter down to be fingerprinted so that people would know who she was when she was dead. Imagine being a parent having someone say that to you.

LIttle Rock, AR - 2 4 6 8 We Don't Want to Integrate #2

But what about the role of the media in this fight? There were swarms of reporters around the school from all across America and from abroad. TV was in its infancy, the broadcasts were in black and white, there were no fancy graphics but it was riveting TV and the pictures it broadcast into the living rooms across America made the Civil Rights struggles not just an abstraction but reality for many. Everyone could see hatred and prejudice first hand. The pictures helped spur Eisenhower, who believed strongly in the rule of law and the Constitution, to act.

As we drove up to the school and VC across the street we noticed this extremely well-cared for old gas station on the corner. There were also pictures and magnets of it inside the VC. I asked the Ranger why this gas station was important and he said that the gas station had the only phone in the area that reporters could use. They could not use any of the phones in the neighboring homes. This gas station became the press base from which the reporters could call in their stories.
At the end of the school year Ernest Green, the only senior among the 9, graduated, the first African American to graduate from Central High School.

‘It’s been an interesting year. I’ve had a course in human relations first hand.’

                                                                                                Ernest Green

The next year Governor Faubus set a date for the people of Little Rock to vote on whether they wanted integrated schools or no schools.

By a vote of almost 3 to 1, they voted for no high schools and during the 1958 - 1959 school year the high schools were shut in Little Rock. Fifteen and sixteen year old children had no access to local public education for an entire year. Many were forced to leave the state. Some studied to enter college early. Others boarded buses daily to travel miles for classes in other cities. Parents and siblings coped with separations from their teenage students who moved in with relatives or with friends around the state. Students, themselves, coped with life-changing disruptions from friends, family, and classes. Interestingly, even though classes were not held, football continued at all campuses by suggestion of the Governor. The School District briefly experimented with live television teaching on local stations.

Finally behind the leadership of the Women’s Emergency Committee to Open Our Schools, WEC, the people of Little Rock slowly but surely realized that integrated schools were better than no schools at all and they reopened the schools the following August with limited segregation. 2 of the Little Rock 9 and a third African American attended. Although integration involving substantial numbers of students did not occur until the 1970’s, the reopening of the schools brought to a close an important chapter in the fight for equality in America.

What a study in courage these 9 young people were. Ordinary teenagers they were called but I think they were extraordinary. They walked out of their homes and onto the front line in the Civil Rights struggles in America, struggles which are still going on. In 1997, at a ceremony in front of Central High School President Clinton awarded each of the 9 the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal. They earned it.

Let me also mention the 10th person involved: Daisy L. Gatson Bates, the Arkansas NAACP President. It was she who recruited these 9 special students, counseled them, advocated for them while they were in school and it was at her home they all met before they went to school the first time. Without her guidance, this might not have happened. During this time, her house was under attack and she and her husband had to close their newspaper because of advertising boycotts led by segregationists. She couldn’t even drive down 14th street from her home to the school without fearing for her life. Today, that street is named in her honor, the Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive. The Bates’ home has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
Amazingly well-done NHS and we learned a lot and enjoyed our time there. As you enter, you are faced with this poster on the wall. Only one group in this picture was: white males. Others such as white women, American Indians, enslaved people, free African Americans, and other racial and ethnic groups were not. Good question.
We then headed on over to the Little Rock National Cemetery where soldiers from all the wars fought by Americans from the Civil War to the Vietnam War are buried. It was much larger than I had thought it would be and much larger than others we have seen. But we spent some time there wandering among the graves and paying out respects to those who have given their lives so that I can enjoy my life in America.
The State Capital came next but it was a Sunday and the only others in the Capitol were a dance class and their mothers posing for their official annual pictures. The capital had a wealth of information about Arkansas, their governors (I was happy to see that the bust of Governor Faubus was in a small dark niche on the third floor), the wars fought by Arkansans (pronounced Ar kan’ sans) their state instrument,
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their state cooking implement and others. Beautiful dome and it was all marble.

Finally, you knew a walk would be coming, didn’t you? And, we chose the longest bridge built in America built specifically for walkers and bikers. It’s 4226’ across the Arkansas River and over a lock and dam. It was designed to connect North Little Rock and Little Rock and to ‘improve the health and fitness of residents and guests.’ If anyone had any doubts about spending money for a bridge just for walkers and bikers, they should come out today to see all those who are using it. It was crowded with bikers, walkers, families and individuals all enjoying the day and the bridge.
Unfortunately, Gary found a special friend who followed his a bit as Gary tried to swat him away but finally he found a nice tender spot on Gary’s ear and took his due. Gary swatted again, he flew away and Gary was left alone. Luckily, his ear did not even swell up though it was tender for a while
Long day, but educational and fun. Time to head home and its pizza for dinner tonight.

Later in the evening about 9:30 we strolled along the river to see the lights dancing on the two pedestrian bridges over the Arkansas River. The lights were color coordinated and alternated with a light show. Blue lights danced on one bridge and then an orange yellow light show decorated the other bridge. How fun. If you ever are in Little Rock at night, be sure to check out the bridges.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Little Rock, AR - Taking the Baths

What an interesting day we had today. We covered everything needed for a great adventure: a road trip fueled by old fashioned donuts, a delightful learning experience, a very nice hike, an kiddie ice cream as we walked a city street and a soda on the way home. Now, what could be better? The goal was Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, AR. We started our drive about 8:30 by stopping at a local donut shop where, wonder of wonders, they actually had old fashioned donuts. Now, these are not common in Iowa but both Gary and I discovered them in our travels out west and decided that we prefer them. We haven’t found them in Iowa (although corn fresh from the field more than makes up for the lack of these donuts) and didn’t know if we would find them in our travels in the Southeast this winter. But, we entered the door and quickly scanned the donut trays in back of the counter. Aha, there they were, old fashioneds: plain, glazed and chocolate. I took a chocolate and Gary took two glazed. What a great start to the day!!
Great day for a road trip with the sun shining brightly, the temps hitting the 80’s and the air crisp with fall. Our first stop was at the VC which was one of the more spectacular bathhouses in Hot Springs in 1915. I suppose I really didn’t know anything about Hot Springs NP and so was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was a great learning experience. During the Golden Age of Bathing, over 1,000,00 visited the park to take the baths, drink the water and stroll the Grand Promenade. Today, many more come, some for the baths, some for the water, some for the restaurants, some to hike (guess who?) but all for the Hot Springs experience. OK, if you don’t want to read the history of Hot Springs, skip this blog and head right for the next one about our tour of the bathhouse.


Obviously, the Native American tribes, the Cotto and the Quapaw tribes, knew all about the hot springs and bathed in the springs in the 1700’s and 1800’s. But, it wasn’t until the Louisiana Purchase that America got interested in them and President Jefferson sent two explorers out (nope, not Lewis and Clark) to explore and report back on the Arkansas and Red Rivers. The expedition was led by William Dunbar of Natchez, MS and Dr George Hunter from Philadelphia. They set out in 1804 traveling down the Mississippi. They made observations about plant life, wild life, natural resources available and make astrological observations to map the area. The most important discovery that they made was Arkansas novaculite, a type of rock which the Native Americans had used for making tools and weapons. This became the primary source for whetstones from the mid-1800’s all the way up to 1970 when artificial whetstone was manufactured.

But they also discovered the Hot Springs and their report to Jefferson about these was widely reported and people started flocking to the area. Soon a bustling town grew up around the hot springs to provide services for health seekers. The resultant bathing industry led to Hot Springs becoming known as the "American Spa." As more and more people came, the idea that this should be a protected area became popular and finally in 1832, President Jackson set aside 4 sections of land. This makes Hot Springs National Park the oldest unit in the national park system, 40 years older than Yellowstone National Park. But, oops, no money was set aside to protect this land and no defined boundaries. were established And, sure enough, individuals began to build on the springs and file claims to the land. It wasn’t until 1877 that the boundaries were set, money was set aside, a superintendent was named and finally the government had firm control. Blueprints were approved for private bathhouses and the growth of Hot Springs soared. ‘Uncle Sam Bathes the World.’ was a popular slogan.

The NPS describes early Hot Springs this way: ‘The first bathhouses were crude structures of canvas and lumber, little more than tents perched over individual springs or reservoirs carved out of the rock. Later businessmen built wooden structures, but they frequently burned, collapsed because of shoddy construction, or rotted due to continued exposure to water and steam. Hot Springs Creek, which ran right through the middle of all this activity, drained its own watershed and collected the runoff of the springs. Generally it was an eyesore-dangerous at times of high water, and mere collections of stagnant pools at dry times. In 1884 the federal government put the creek into a channel, roofed over it over, and laid a road down above it. Much of it runs under Central Avenue and Bathhouse Row today. This allowed room for sidewalks and landscaping in front of the bathhouses, creating the Bathhouse Row you see today.’
But these rudimentary structures were all replaced - many times and by the early 1900’s, Bathhouse Row was a series of elegant bathhouses catering to vacationers and those seeking health remedies for their ailments. Here’s a picture of Bathhouse Row with its row of bathhouses. Note all the steam rising out of the hot springs in the mountain. Today, the 47 springs are covered, chained and locked to protect the water. The NPS does not guarantee the therapeutic value of the water but they do guarantee that it is clean and pure.

Today there are only a few left and only 1, the Buckstaff,
which still offers baths in the traditional way while another, the Quapaw offers co-ed bathing.
One of the most elaborate, the Fordyce,
built by Samuel Fordyce in 1915, has been renovated (asbestos removed, lead paint scraped off etc) and is now the headquarters for the National Park Service. It is open for touring and we took the tour led by Sharon.

But, first a bit about Samuel Fordyce. Born in Ohio, he joined the First Ohio Volunteer Cavalry to fight for the Union in the Civil War. He quickly became an officer. He’s pretty dashing, isn’t he?
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During the war he was shot several times and also contracted malaria. Growing weaker and weaker by the day he finally left the army and went to Hot Springs where he heard he might be cured. A while later he was and he returned to Huntsville AL where he had originally been stationed, married the sweet young thing he had met while in the army and started several businesses. Later, in 1873, he again grew sicker and sicker and, after being given only several months to live, he returned to Hot Springs to ‘take the cure’ again. And, again, he felt better. He returned with his family in 1877 and, as a born entrepreneur, he began to invest in hotels, the opera house, the railroad and other businesses. Finally he built the Fordyce, the finest, most exclusive bathhouse on the Row. It cost $212,000+ and was extremely elegant with stained glass windows, tiled floors and statuary. Here he is in front of the Fordyce.