While searching the Internet a few days ago, I came upon an advertisement for a new fragrance, Exotic Jasmine, introduced by actress Halle Berry. Exotic Scent was described as an irresistible scent that is perfectly feminine for today’s modern, sexy woman. Admittedly, it was an interesting message, but had no real appeal for me; I am neither a cologne nor a perfume man. Several weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend which turned to the subject of body fragrances. He pointed out that he has known me for many, many years and he has no recollection of my wearing any type of body fragrance. He asked very inquisitively whether or not I had ever used cologne. I admit I was a bit concerned by such a question, wondering if this was his way of letting me know I had a body odor.
In the past, some people tried to be discreet rather than offensive when trying to let someone know about an offensive body odor. I suspect that some reading this column have been in a situation where a deodorant or container of a fragrance was left in the desk drawer of a co-worker who needed to deal with personal hygiene issues. I was assured that this was not the reason for my friend’s inquiry; he was just curious, given his own preference for using a body fragrance and his love for his “significant other” to use perfume. I told hi, I have never used cologne or a body fragrance, as I just could not tolerate the smell. I further pointed out that the closest I have ever come to using cologne is Mennen Aftershave. As I thought more about Halle Berry’s perfume project and this discussion with my friend, my mind drifted slowly to a time when men and women wore inexpensive or cheap colognes and perfumes, back in the day.
How does one define an inexpensive or cheap cologne or perfume? I posed this question to a group of young ladies and their response was unanimous. According to these young ladies, during the ’50s and ’60s, any body fragrance was cheap if it was purchased from a drugstore or a “five and dime.” Now, I know that some of you are smiling as you recall your experiences with such body fragrances. You should take into consideration that although colognes and perfumes are clearly used for the purpose of providing a desirable body fragrance, they have different properties. Just the aroma from cologne as opposed to perfume will cause you to recognize they differ in their intensity, fragrance choices and composition. Cologne is typically made with a masculine focus and generally includes spicy or musky fragrances. Perfume, on the other hand, is generally made with a feminine appeal with fruity or floral essential oils. Can you recall being on an elevator when someone enters and because of the smell, other passengers turn their heads? Or, perhaps you have been in a room when someone enters and you discreetly open the windows or turn on a fan. Having a companion get into your automobile can also be disconcerting when the first thing you notice is the cologne or the perfume.High-end cologne such as L’Homme Sport, Le Beau Male or Gucci; or a perfume such as Issey Miyake or Coco by Chanel can also be a bit distasteful if used improperly. Part of the problem with a body fragrance causing some people discomfort relates to fragrances being applied too heavily. Nothing, however, and I mean absolutely nothing, can mask the heavy. overly sweet or spicy scents of the inexpensive colognes and perfumes from back in the day.
A close friend told me he does not wear cologne today because of an experience he had some 50 years ago as an elementary school teacher. This unforgettable event occurred when a student entered his classroom reeking of inexpensive perfume. The smell hit him immediately when the youngster entered the room. He was at a loss as to what to do. First, he moved the student to the last row of desks in the classroom; this did no good. Then he opened several windows to allow in some fresh air. This was to no avail. The fragrance was so sickening that he became ill. After reporting this matter to the principal, he was sent home for the day. He has no idea what eventually happened in his classroom, other classrooms, the cafeteria and other places throughout the school. My friend returned to school the next day and could not believe that this youngster was not sent home for the day.
So,what are some of these cheap or inexpensive perfumes, the type that this little girl probably got from her mother and poured all over her body? Evening in Paris is on my list; so is Charlie, as well as some Avon products. If inexpensive perfumes were purchased at drugstores, then you know that a perfume purchased at a “five and dime” definitely had to be inexpensive. Information shared by some of my contemporaries indicates Jean Nate reaches the bottom of the barrel when it comes to cheap perfumes. In spite of this, a whole lot of young ladies used it and thought they smelled great. Back in the day, sometimes these cheap and inexpensive perfumes were given to girls as gifts from their boyfriends. They were affordable at a time when one may not have had much money to spend on gifts.
As for inexpensive colognes from the past, there were a number of those also. I know some of you were fans of Canoe. For others, Aramis, Brut, High Karate and British Sterling may have been among your favorites. If not, then I bet that English Leather and most definitely Old Spice were found in your bathroom. Several friends have told some wild stories about the effect of these colognes, as cheap as they were, on their relationships with young ladies. As one friend told me, the young ladies went wild when he was in their presence wearing one of these inexpensive colognes. Perhaps this is understandable; today, as in the past, 30 percent of colognes are used by women instead of perfumes. Thus, many women loved cheap cologne just as they loved the cheap perfume they were accustomed to wearing. I know what some of you are thinking; Does not say much about the young lady.
As I talked with friends and acquaintances about their back-in-the-day experiences with perfumes, some interesting tidbits surfaced. While married men should not date single women, I heard a “male” rule I had not heard before: Never date a woman who wears perfume. It is not hard to understand how many marriages have been negatively impacted by perfumes as well as colognes. Once the scent gets into one’s clothing, there is little one can do except go home and face the music. Rolling down all of the automobile windows while driving home will not help at all, as one friend told me that he was “an A source.” Then there is the rule by another friend that relates to perfumes of all prices, in particular the higher-priced perfumes. While a female may fall in love with a particular perfume, it is time to stop wearing it when too many other people start wearing it. However, it is said that a particular scent smells different on each person who wears it, the explanation being one’s body chemistry affects the scent.
Perfumes and colognes are a very individual choice for the user. Those who use them have their favorites. However, those who use them sometimes fail to limit the amount they spray on their bodies or do not take into consideration the sensitivities of others who often have allergy issues. The next time you encounter someone wearing an offensive-smelling cologne or perfume, just remember that in some cases, these same colognes and perfumes used by some individuals today were used by their parents and their parents’ parents, back in the day.
Most of us changed our calendars today. If you did not, you need to check the date of today as we have moved from the month of August to the month of September.
You may be reacting in the same manner as I have by noting how fast this year is going. Recognizing that today is September 1 and tomorrow is the first Monday in September which is Labor Day, means changes in how we behave.
For many, tomorrow dictates that we will not wear many of the outfits and accessories that we have worn for the past several months. Perhaps I should say, Labor Day means that our wardrobes will change, especially for those of us that grew up, back in the day.
But for a casual conversation between two employees at The Philadelphia Tribune, I probably would have left today’s subject alone. But, I could not help myself. One of the employees was wearing an outfit that was quite summer-like.
At the same time, this employee talked about his plans with regard to items in his wardrobe that he planned to wear over the next several weeks. I offered my two cents by pointing out that he did not have much time left to wear his summer outfits.
The conversation became hilarious! Now, those of you from my era understand exactly what was occurring in this conversation. It is consistent with an event that I reported in a column several years ago involving a friend that arrived at a cookout wearing a straw hat on the day before Labor Day.
It was the type of straw hat that most of us would identify with bargain basement stores, in the neighborhoods of the past. Some of you from bygone years are familiar with this type of hat; the old fashioned straw hat with the rolled up brim and wide, colorful band.
He obviously thought that the hat complimented his outfit as he kept it on his head from the time he arrived and was still wearing it when I left. While he thought that he looked cool, I thought that his look was corny; so corny that I laughed every time my eyes focused on him. Even though fashion etiquette has changed in recent years, in the most gingerly way I could, I shared with my dear friend something that I heard, as a child and young adult, over and over from my father.
I reminded my friend that the next day, was Labor Day and that according to custom and teachings from back in the day, some things like straw hats, are not worn after Labor Day. I cannot tell you the origin of the straw hat rule. What I do know, however, is that men used to put their straw hats away after Labor Day.
Regardless of the origin of the straw hat rule, the wearing of a straw hat after Labor Day is taboo today. So, for those of you that are wearing straw hats today, plan on putting them away until next summer, just as we did, back in the day.
It should be understood that it is also unacceptable for women to wear straw hats after Labor Day. This is also true with regard to straw hand bags. I am certain that you would agree that it would be an unbelievable sight for someone to show up, in the dead of winter, carrying a straw hat or carrying a straw hand bag.
However, even if it is October and the temperature is 90 degrees, it would not matter as Labor Day would have already come and gone. I must say that I have occasionally seen someone wearing or carrying straw after Labor Day but for the most part this is still highly unusual. With few exceptions, this is one fashion statement that has stood the test of time.
Do you really think that it is appropriate for a man or woman to wear spectator shoes after Labor Day? If you are not from back in the day, then perhaps you are not familiar with spectator shoes.
Even if you are not familiar with the correct term, you have seen them. Spectator shoes are shoes with two or more distinct materials or colors, pinked edging and perforated details. The most common color combination is black and white. However, they do come in brown and white also.
In recent years, shoes with two colors and without the pinked edges have been identified as spectator shoes. Just think back in time to Fred Astaire, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway and others from the “Big Band” era and visualize the shoes they wore. They wore the classic spectator shoe.
Besides the spectator shoe, the “white buck” shoe must be added to the “do not wear” after Labor Day category. If by chance you are wearing a spectator or white buck shoe while you are reading this column, make certain that you place them in your closet at the end of the day tomorrow. If you fail to do so and wear them after Labor Day, keep in mind that you are out of season and out of step with a tradition from back in the day.
You must know that you have no business wearing white shoes after Labor Day unless you are doctor or nurse; sneakers and tennis shoes are exempt from this rule. I searched but have found no information that documents the origin of this rule. I did learn that this rule was initially applied to white pumps and dress shoes. Just like white shoes, eliminating the wearing of white clothing after Labor Day is also a mystery.
There have been a number of theories advanced with regard to not wearing white after Labor Day. I have read that people did things in the winter such as fueling stoves with coal and they did not want to get coal smudges on their white clothing. I have also read that not wearing white may have been a class issue.
As more people entered the middle class, the elite wanted rules for those who were just moving up the social ladder and were uninformed of the high standards of the upper class. Several websites have referred to folklore from the acronym, GRITS, “girls raised in the South,” as the reason for not wearing white before Easter and after Labor Day.
Because the south can be more formal and more informed than other parts of the country with regard to clothing etiquette, southern girls know that wearing white during this time frame is in bad taste. The most logical reason, however, for not wearing white appears to relate to white not reflecting light and heat. There is little debate that white deflects heat and helps to keep you cooler in the summer. Bottom line, white is cool and the temperatures change after Labor Day.
I often preach the importance of following the after Labor Day rule at The Tribune offices. I do this regularly because there is one employee that will wear anything, at any time and under any circumstances. However, I believe that I am making progress as he proudly showed up several days this week wearing linen, white shoes, white outfits, seersucker, you name it.
He pointed out that he was wearing as many of his summer clothes as he could before Labor Day so that he would not be confronted with my lectures. So, what would you think if someone showed up at an office, church or social event next month wearing a seersucker suit, skirt or pants? It would not be a big deal if you lived in California, Florida or some other location with a warm climate.
However, wearing such an item here in Philadelphia, in October, would cause you to be labeled a fashion dud. Most would undoubtedly conclude that you had a limited wardrobe. There would be a similar reaction to someone wearing thin white socks and a white belt. Sandals, linen items and other warm weather clothing might bring some reaction if worn after Labor Day; perhaps not immediately following Labor Day, but certainly by the end of September. From a psychological point of view, however, the after Labor Day rule applies.
We know that it is popular for females to go stockingless during the summer months. A dressy outfit without stockings is not unusual. After Labor Day is another matter. You usually do not see women walking around in shorts after Labor Day. Cotton khaki and cotton suits are out, after Labor Day. Short sleeve dress shirts with ties are also taboo after Labor Day.
Then there is the Kittrels rule: no denim for men and women; no sun glasses; and, no short sleeve tee shirts after Labor Day.
I noted earlier that there have been changes in social fashion etiquette. This is particularly true with regard to wearing white after Labor Day. Wearing white has become acceptable. Many argue that white should be worn all year long as long as the item is not linen or paper-thin cotton.
I suspect that most of us wear some type of white item after Labor Day. I doubt if any of us have a problem wearing a white sweater. White jeans are viewed as acceptable after Labor Day. While I own a pair, I just cannot bring myself to wear white jeans after Labor Day.
Layering white separates with darker clothing is viewed as acceptable; structured white jackets over something black can be classy and not in violation of the Labor Day rule; and one can get away with white wool pants, particularly females.
However, if you have some concern about what is or is not appropriate to wear after Labor Day, simply go back in time and review the after Labor Day rules that most of us strictly adhered to, back in the day.
It was a little more than a year after I completed my college undergraduate studies when the March on Washington occurred. Looking back on Aug. 27, 1963, I cannot tell you why I was not involved in the events of this day that marked one of the more significant events in the Civil Rights Movement. I don’t think I internalized the importance of this day, in fact, I don’t believe many did. Like a number of young and old Black folk, I thought the gathering of Blacks to effect political and social gains seemed unrealistic - I questioned if participating would be a waste of my time. I was torn between Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy of non-violence and Malcolm X’s philosophy of Black Nationalism. Malcolm’s philosophy with an emphasis on Blacks seeking economic independence from Whites was quite appealing to me. Perhaps, I had also become a victim of the beliefs of many - whites in particular - that there would be inevitably be violence before the government took action. I suspect that I also concluded that the absence of “poor little me” would not mean “a can of beans” in the movement for equality.
The March on Washington proved to be a significant turning point for race relations in America. No, its impact was not seen overnight, but a quarter of a million participants brought race into the conscience of America in a mighty way. We have seen progress so dramatic that know a Black man sits in the White House. However, too many of our young people have no understanding of the difficult paths our ancestors had to travel to get us to this point in history. Quite often, we are reminded of the need for our young people to never forget what life was like for our forefathers. Recent events have even brought this critical realization to our minds with the recent release of the movie, “The Butler.” Since viewing the movie, you have undoubtedly heard what I have heard; “Our young people need to see this movie as they do not understand what we went through to get to where we are.”
History teaches that if you do not know about your past then you will tend to relive it. You may also hear similar thoughts in words such as, “You cannot understand where you are going if you do not know where you have been.” For our young people who were not even born or know little to nothing about Aug. 28, 1963; for those who stayed home on this day; for those that were present but their memories are affected by time; for those who have lost the fire in their bellies to effect change, join with me as I reflect on an event that we should never forget: The March on Washington, back in the day.
Our ability to communicate so effectively with one another today caused me to think about the organization of this memorable event 50 years ago. I thought about how many people were organized to produce such significant numbers and to address all of the details that go along with managing a crowd of that size. The crowd was so large it extended over a mile from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. There were no mobile telephones, Twitter and Facebook were not even thought of and back then, the 24/7 news as we know it today, did not exist. If today’s technology existed in ‘63 there is the possibility that the numbers in attendance could have reached millions.
I made telephone calls and engaged in face-to-face discussions with people that were old enough to have traveled to Washington, D.C. 50 years ago. I spoke with more than fifteen people. Most, like me, did not attend. They did not have a clear understanding of why they remained home but they related to the reasons I stayed home. Over and over again I heard a familiar refrain - they were not cut out to support an effort that focused on turning the other cheek.
However, there were two who told me that they had to be present; that nothing could have kept them home. Eugene Campbell, with whom I worked closely in the Newark Public School System, and his friend, Joe Clark of the “Lean on Me” movie, as well as others got into an automobile and drove from Newark, N.J. to Washington, D.C. Eugene was intimately involved with Amiri Baraka (AKA LeRoy Jones), who was very much caught up in the movement for Black power. He was a third year Newark school teacher working in an ice cream factory during the summer to support his young family. Taking the day off meant losing wages for that day. But for him and his friends, the thought of Blacks taking actions to improve their own lives, rather than depend on others, was compelling enough to make the trip to Washington, D.C.
Bertha Godfrey was the other person I spoke with who attended the March. She recently retired as Vice President/Business Manger here at The Philadelphia Tribune after more than 60 years of employment. In spite of management being upset that she took the day off, she went to the march. Many people who attended this event had concerns about losing their jobs or losing pay for the time missed. Godfrey was not concerned with losing her job or wages but felt that with all she had seen during her lifetime she was obligated to go. In spite of some negative reactions to participation in this march, time tends to be a soothing factor. A glimpse back to Aug. 28, 1963 may be just what the doctor ordered to place in perspective where we are today, where we have been in the past and where we should head in the future.
Think about 250,000 people coming together on a summer day in Washington, D.C. As I previously pointed out, there were no mobile telephones, no Twitter, no Facebook and no other means of communication that are as convenient and efficient as there are today. This event was communicated through radio, television, newspapers, churches, colleges and universities, social organizations and word-of-mouth. Getting to D.C. was by any means available to those attending. Yes, there was some air travel but most attendees arrived by bus, train or automobile. Yet, we arrived and made an impact that changed the views that many had prior to the march.
You may not have known or perhaps had forgotten about the roles of people like Bayard Rustin and A. Phillip Randolph, key organizers of the march. Did you know that The March on Washington emphasized the passage of significant civil rights legislation? It addressed racial segregation in public schools, police brutality, jobs programs, laws prohibiting racial discrimination in housing, a $2- an-hour minimum wage and self government for the District of Washington. Were you aware this march represented a coalition of several civil rights organizations with different approaches and methods for dealing with civil rights issues? The organizations included the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the National Urban League.
If you saw “The Butler” then you are aware that President John Kennedy and his brother, Robert, originally opposed the march because they feared it would negatively impact the legislative vote for civil rights laws. Others hoped for violence to divert the civil rights movement. It may surprise you to know that while most unions supported the march, the AFL-CIO was neutral. You must have known that the Ku Klux Klan was in opposition to this event. Malcolm X called the march the “Farce on Washington.”
While you may not be familiar with these facts, you probably have some knowledge of Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. However, you may not know King was not the main speaker - he did not have the notoriety back then until he gave the speech. There were many speeches that day; “I Have a Dream” was one of two memorable speeches during the march. The second memorable speech was given by John Lewis of SNCC. I heard John Lewis say that when Dr. King started to give his prepared speech, it was not going well until Mahalia Jackson allegedly said to King several times, “Tell them about the dream, Martin.” The speech ultimately delivered by Dr. King, for many of us, is the most noteworthy speech of our time. Dr. King had no written speech for his “I Had a Dream” remarks and there was no teleprompter. His speech sends chills up and down my spine whenever I watch it delivered in old video footage. If you do nothing else in recognition of the 50 years since his speech, return to Dr. King’s words on Aug. 28, 1963 and embrace his words for renewed direction for the future and please insist that your children and grandchildren watch it as well.
Earlier in this column, I mentioned how time can change things. As we look back on the past 50 years, we must acknowledge that in spite of our initial misgivings, competing philosophies and fears of possible violence about the march, we continue to toil in the vineyards in order to nurture the seeds that were planted then. Because of those thousands of people - black, white, brown, short, tall, fat, skinny, straight, gay, young and old - we continue to dream the dreams that were identified by Dr. King and work to fulfill those dreams for future generations. Progress was made possible by those who participated in the March on Washington in 1963, back in the day.
I love writing about our neighborhoods of the past. This should be obvious by my frequent visits to those things, times and places that were unique to growing up in our neighborhoods, back in the day.
While close-knit family life tops the list, there is a myriad of other things that I yearn to experience again. My reflections, of my childhood neighborhood, bring to mind the games we played; the segregated schools that were so effective; the various small Black businesses; the absence of major crimes; the quality of home life; the goods and services that were delivered to our homes; and a host of other neighborhood memories that are long gone and will probably never return.
I own a van, that has been “around the block” or that may be viewed as being on its last leg; a van that is occasionally used to transport items related to my interests in collecting various types of memorabilia, in particular phonograph records.
Just the other day, I had a battery related problem, something that people often experience with their vehicles; nothing major, but still a problem that required mechanical attention. As I sat on my deck reflecting on getting my mechanic to take care of the problem, my mind went back to my old neighborhood, a neighborhood that could have easily been your neighborhood too.
I thought about how few residents had new automobiles. For the most part, people had automobiles that had been pre-owned and for the mainly were described as legitimate “junkers.” Think back to your old neighborhood and recall the old automobiles that lined the landscape.
This same vision can be seen today, but clearly on a more limited basis. What you envision is a Saturday morning, with young men, as well as old men, out in front of their homes, in their back yards, or on vacant lots working on their old automobiles, that are in need of repair. There was an old saying that you may recall, “brother under the hood, car is no good.” This saying was the thought when seeing men working on their automobiles, back in the day.
If you were around in the ’50s, ’60s and even the ’70s, then you have images of men with the fronts of their automobiles resting on top of cinder blocks. You may even recall some automobiles up on jacks with men under them doing some type of repair.
As you can imagine, working under an automobile, lifted up and only supported by a jack, presented a real danger but did not cause any fear on the part of the worker. The more experienced “street mechanics” could always be identified because there were no cinder blocks or jacks holding up their automobiles. How many of you can remember seeing those small ramps purchased to hold up an automobile?
I suspect that it has been some years since you have seen such a scene. But, this was the safe way to work under an automobile, back in the day. The repairs were not always minor. But, the “Shade Tree Mechanic” did not run away from repairs of any size. Why this term, “Shade Tree Mechanic?” Well most experienced automobile repairers usually found a tree under which to work because it shielded them from the sun. Thus, the Shade Tree Mechanic was a popular term, back in the day.
One of the more simple tasks to perform on an automobile in the past was changing the oil. You can bet that quite a number of neighborhood people did not go to a commercial garage to get their oil changed in the past.
Their oil changes took place on the streets. While I never tried this, I have memories of men sliding under their automobiles to change the oil. In some cases, they would park the front of their automobiles up on the curve to provide for a lift to make it easier to get under the automobile to change the oil; in other cases, they would jack up the front of their automobile.
I can still see the oil being drained into a container; sometimes a gallon jug. You may recall men performing this task, but you may have forgotten how the oil was discarded. If you think long and hard, you might recall that its contents were sometimes poured into the sewer or emptied on vacant lots.
It was not unusual to take the oil to a garage where the proprietor accepted it at no cost. Some old-school, homeowners used the oil to kill the weeds in their yards.
Even if you never changed your automobile’s oil, I suspect that you fixed a flat tire on your car. This too was one of the more simple automotive jobs that many men performed.
In order to make the repair, you first had to get all of the air out of the tire. Quite often this was done by walking or standing on the tire. Once the air was out, do you recall getting a crowbar and prying between the tire and the rim, to remove one side of the tire from the rim?
After removing the inner tube, you located the hole by pumping air into the inner tube with a manual air pump and placing it in a tub of water. There was a scrapper of the top of the container with the repair kit.
You may recall that it was used to rough up the area around the hole before applying the patch. How many of you placed the patch over the hole and then lit it with a match to seal the patch over the hole? Considering the time it took to place the inner tube back into the tire, put the tire back on the rim, and then place the rim back on the automobile, coupled with the work it took to take the tire off the automobile, you might wonder if it was worth the time. Looking back, this task seemed hardly worth the amount one saved by repairing their tires, back in the day.
Several weeks ago, long before I considered writing this column, out of the blue, a friend asked when had I last heard anyone say that they had given their automobile a “tune-up.” Admittedly, it has been sometime; but you must recall that their was a time when the spark plugs, wires, distributor cap, rotors, points and air filter on many automobiles were changed by the owners or someone they knew who was not a certified mechanic.
Some men replaced their brakes; some replaced their generators; others replaced the batteries in their automobiles. I can still see my father draining the anti freeze from his automobile’s radiator to replace it with water in the summer.
My father, like many other men, would save the anti freeze to put back into the radiator in the beginning of the winter. For those that were not around back in the day, you may be surprised to learn that some men took on major repair jobs such as replacing the automobile’s engine.
Some of you will recall seeing an automobile parked under a tree, hood open with a chain going over a large tree limb that was used to hoist the engine up into the air from under the hood. Some men were creative and built their own contraptions to remove an engine and replace it with a new one. Many of these replacement engines came from the “parts” junkyard.
Some of you had the experience of going to a junk yard, walking around hunting for an engine or another part needed to repair your automobile. Do you remember that you “pulled” the part? No one went around with you to provide assistance; they simply pointed you in the direction where you may have been able to find the part.
There were no computer systems to let you know if the part was even in the junkyard. You may also recall that there were no price lists; you were charged some arbitrary amount once you located the part you needed. The price paid was at the discretion of the junkyard owner.
If you did not shop at a junkyard, perhaps you visited an automotive station in a department store such as Sears, Roebuck and Company. Maybe you obtained the needed parts at a Goodrich or Goodyear Tire Store. Most of you, however, found your way to Manny, Moe and Jack’s Pep Boys or Penn Jersey. If you shopped at Penn Jersey for parts, you are clearly from back in the day.
A close friend told me that he had a neighbor that went out in his yard, every Saturday morning, removed the engine from his Volkswagen Beetle, and cleaned every part of the engine and every other part in his automobile. He viewed this as preventive maintenance. However, this seems to have been preventive maintenance carried to the extreme.
Today, most, if not all, of the repairs carried out in the past have virtually disappeared. The change of something as basic as a headlight or taillight bulb is almost impossible due to the complexities in the construction of today’s automobiles.
I had a taillight issue on my automobile last week and replacing a bulb became a major expenditure of time and patience. It was not simply changing a bulb but rather it required the dealership to change the entire taillight assembly.
Have you tried to give someone a battery jump on a newer automobile today? If you have, then you know that you will experience what a co-worker recently discovered; he could not locate the battery on the automobile being used to get the jump.
If you were inclined to fix your automobile in the past, perhaps you have come to the realization that technology is your enemy in personal automobile repairs today. Technology of automobiles today limits the repairs you can make on your automobile.
However, there is still one thing that you did in the past that you can still do today. Technology has relegated you to performing the task of simply washing and waxing your automobile today. This is one of the few tasks you still do today, that that you regularly did, back in the day.
Whenever I have a light, fun filled, laughing out loud moment with family members and friends, my mind goes back in time to jokes and stories of some of our renowned comedians of the past.
You know many of them; people like George “Kingfish” Stevens, Andy Brown, Jackie “Moms” Mabley, Rochester, Mantan Moreland, Stepin Fetchit, Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham, “Redd” Foxx and Richard Pryor, just to name a few. From my point of view, there is no humor like Black humor.
I am not referring to the vulgarity and politically incorrect things that come out of the mouths of Black comedians today, but the funny lines we heard in the past that were uttered by our professional Black comedians. Many of these lines caused us to roll on the floor laughing.
Some of these memorable funny lines of the past, however, did not come from professional comedians; many came from relatives, neighbors and friends. Now, I know that you have noticed the laughter of Black folk and white folk, now as well as in the past.
It is clear that Black folk really know how to let it all hang out. Our laughs are big hearty laughs. Some people describe it as “guffaw.” White folk, on the other hand, appear to struggle to laugh. Their laughs are seemingly muffed; their laughs tend to be no more than a smile or a chuckle. Could it be that our hearty laughs of the past were the result of a need to inject some humor into the struggles we experienced so often?
Did our laughter help to relieve stress and help us to be more civil toward one another? In the past, our jokes were not full of expletives and foul language; language I have characterized in past columns as only fit for a drunken sailor. The f-bomb is now dropped so often that some feel it has become a part of our everyday vocabulary.
Today, it seems that stories of violence and sex, augmented with the f-word, the b-word and s-word are considered necessary to make the story or joke funny. I must admit that I am not one who finds the so-called jokes, filled with profanity, very funny.
In fact, I find them to be disgusting. I have trouble relating to the jokes of today’s comedians and those of everyday people that find it necessary to use profanity to make people laugh. I suspect that there are many, like me, who have a thirst for those clean, funny lines that caused us to roll over the floor and do flips in the past. I have gone down this road before, but, a joke recently told by a colleague motivated me to take another trip to the past and resurrect some of those clean and funny jokes that were so frequently told, back in the day.
While you undoubtedly have some of your favorite lines that caused you to laugh, and I mean really laugh, try a few of mine on for size. Just consider the following which caused our laughter to bring us to tears: “The other day, my boyfriend came over to my house and hit me up side of my head. I asked what that was for. He replied, for general principle. Now, I know that he was lying because I had not seen General Principal in about nine months.”
Most of you from the past will recall Jackie “Moms” Mabley. You remember how she talked about her love for young men. She once declared, “I would rather pay the fare of a young man from New York to California than to tell an old man the distance.”
She also talked about her old boyfriend who could not do anything because he became out of breath just picking his teeth. One, of her stories, that stands out in my mind was a story about doing housework for a lady who would not pay her.
According to Moms, her employer would not pay her for the housework she did and so she went upstairs and got in the lady’s bed. She decided that she would stay in bed until her employer paid her. Her employer, thinking that she was ill, called the doctor. When the doctor arrived and entered the bedroom he asked, “Moms what’s bothering you; are you real sick?” Moms replied, “No I am not sick but I have been working for this lady for over four months and she will not pay me. So, I’m going to stay in this bed until I am paid.” The doctor replied, “Move over a bit farther.”
As Moms pointed out with no profanity, her employer would not pay anyone. These kinds of lines required no profanity to make people laugh, back in the day.
Consider the following Redd Foxx story from the past. A drunk gets on the bus, staggers down the aisle and sits beside a young lady. The lady says to the drunk, “Mister, you are drunk! You are extremely drunk.” The drunk looks at the young lady and says, “Miss, you are ugly! You are very ugly. And, tomorrow, I am going to be sober.”
Andy Brown remarked to George “Kingfish” Stevens, both of the Amos ‘n Andy Show, “Kingfish, if you is thinking what I’s think you is thinking, then I think you just thonk something.”
Then there was Mantan Moreland, alone in a haunted house who heard a voice that asked, “Who that?” Mantan Moreland responded by asking, “Who that?” The response from the unknown person was again, “Who that?’ Moreland’s response was, “Who that, that says who that, when I say who that?”
Some of you may recall the man that was afraid to fly on an airplane. In expressing his fear to a close friend, he was assured that there was nothing to worry about when flying on an airplane as nothing would happen to cause his death until his time was ready. The man responded by saying, “I understand, but suppose it is the pilot’s time?”
Or, you may recall when the brother passed and arrived in heaven and St. Peter asked, “Why are you here as I do not have your name on the roll; it just is not your time?” The man replied, “St. Peter, I had ‘seen us’ trouble.” St. Peter corrected him and said, “You must mean sinus trouble.” The man responded, “No, I mean I had ‘seen us’ trouble. You see, I was coming out of a hotel with another man’s wife and he seen us.”
Well, you may regard this as rather corny humor but this was indicative of the warm and clean humor associated with our hearty laughs, back in the day.
Did anyone ever ask you if you knew God’s name. Well, this was asked of several people by a seminary student conducting a survey. The first person had no idea of God’s name. The same question, “What is God’s name?’ was asked of several other individuals with no response with regard to God’s name. Finally, a young man that grew up in a very religious household was asked, “What is God’s name?” This young man said, “That is easy; in fact, very easy. God’s name is Andy.” The seminary student inquired how he determined that God’s name was Andy. The religious young man said, “Well, as a child, my mother always went around the house singing, “And de, walks with me and he talks with me … .”
A zebra escaped from the zoo and found himself on a farm. He went around asking the animals what kind of work they did on the farm. The chicken told the zebra that it laid eggs for people to have for breakfast in the morning. In posing the same question to a cow, the cow explained that she provides milk that can be found on breakfast, lunch and dinner tables. The zebra continued along and came upon a bull. The zebra asked the bull the same question, what do you do here on the farm? The bull told the zebra that if he took off his stripped pajamas, he would show him what kind of work he did.
Most of us have our favorite clean jokes; many of you have dirty jokes that are full of expletives. Then there are the racial jokes that are clearly politically unacceptable. When I was in college and we sat around in our dormitory rooms with nothing to do but consume some libations and invariably we turned to telling jokes; clean jokes.
We relieved a great deal of stress and often times, frustration, through the laughs generated from telling jokes. With all the deviant behavior that is going on in our homes and communities today, as well as the dysfunctional relationships we have with our fellow beings, perhaps it would bode well for our present and future, in particular, our mental and social well-being, if we gathered together, on a regular basis, and tried to “best” one another by sharing those stories and jokes that made us laugh the way we used to, back in the day.