Georgia Magazine - March 2018 - 39
The color of character
BY KEN VICKERS
was in the grocery store several
years ago when I felt the presence
of a spirit from my
youth. I turned around
and caught Jerry Lee
Braswell sneaking up
on me. He started
laughing and grabbed
my hand, and we embraced like the friends
we are. Jerry Lee is
Jerry Lee Braswell
only one of the many
black people this
white man has come to know well in
You see, Jerry Lee and I were
raised together on a turpentine farm
in Coffee County in the 1950s. The
farm also grew tobacco and some
I remember going to the show one Saturday along with 20 other people riding
corn. Tobacco was the cash crop; the
the turpentine truck to town, as hardly anyone had a vehicle back then.
corn was just to feed the mules that
we plowed with or used to pull the
turpentine wagons and to feed the J.A. White of Filtered Rosin Products in Douglas presents K.D. Vickers, the author's uncle,
many hogs we would slaughter and with a check for the first load of raw turpentine gum in 1955.
cure each winter. You could call our
farm a plantation, but it was a work- was to be the second time I ever went but that's just the way it is, son."
ing plantation, and each of us was to the picture show. The first was with
It had been this way for a hunexpected to carry a row.
my grandfather, when we watched dred years, but change was coming.
One cannot work and live in "Samson and Delilah." It was a Bible
I will never forget hearing Martin
such close proximity with other peo- picture, and Bible pictures were all Luther King Jr. give his famous speech
ple without getting to know them right in his book.
on TV from the Washington Monuvery well. I learned early on that
Well, we boys were thrilled, be- ment in 1963, when he asked to be
there is good and bad in every race. cause we had a quarter apiece and judged not by his race but by his
Of course, back then, "Jim Crow" were going to see a double feature, character. By then I was 16 and able
lived just down the road. I didn't Tarzan and Lash LaRue.
to think for myself, and I thought it
know what to think about him and
Norman was in line first to buy only fair what Dr. King asked. After
the way things were because of him. the 10-cent ticket, then Bubba, then all, wasn't that what we were being
I didn't understand. I was just a boy. James, then Jerry Lee and then me. taught in Sunday school each week?
I remember going to the show When the lady saw me, she told me I
Things have come a long way
one Saturday along with 20 other had to go around and go in the front since then, but some things and some
people riding the turpentine truck to door and that I could not go with my people haven't changed at all. I mean
town, as hardly anyone had a vehicle black friends. Jerry Lee told me it was this in a good way, because Jerry Lee
back then. Daddy had given each of all right and to do what the lady said. and I both understand the things that
us boys a quarter, and he admon- I did what she said, because back then have gone before us, and we each
ished Jerry Lee to look after me be- you did not argue with your elders.
knew then and now that character is
cause this was to be my first trip off
When I got home, I told my dad- all that counts.
the farm without my parents. Nor- dy what happened and asked why the
Ken Vickers lives in Ambrose and
man, Bubba, Jerry Lee, James and I lady wouldn't let me sit with my bud- is a member of Alma-based Satilla
headed to the Martin Theater. This dies. Daddy answered, "It isn't right, Rural Electric Membership Corp.
More online at www.georgiamagazine.org