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How many times have I thought how nice it might be to work some mindless job in an airport or on a cruise ship? I’ve thought about taking a break from this communications business and going to work at Starbucks, Target of Macy’s. And how many times have I thought as I caught a red eye to New York, Atlanta or DC, that I really should spend more time seeing the Russian River or the Gold country? On one hand, my father would love nothing more than to get on a ship, even if it meant working as a “general servant” and heading to Barbados, where he could kiss his mom’s “graying hair.” On the other, he’s encouraging readers to “see New York first.”
When I was growing up in Pittsburgh, my sisters and I were forbidden from buying anything from Mr. Laby’s corner store. Mr. Laby, who was Jewish, ran the store with his wife (who was much nicer than her husband). There was no issue of him not hiring black clerks, because the store was strictly a family run operation. Mr. Laby treated his neighborhood customers with disdain – there were no white people in the neighborhood, so we were the store’s customer base. My sister Ellen-Marie told me that Mr. Laby also was known for shortchanging children! One day, I ventured into the store with my friend and neighbor Freda Williams. (I was not buying anything myself, so technically was not disobeying my parents.) After buying her candy, Freda asked Mr. Laby for a bag for her purchases. He refused, she insisted. I had a feeling this was a not the first time this ritual had played out. Mr. Laby proved no match for Frieda and, finally, exasperated, he handed Frieda the bag, which she immediately crumbled into a ball and threw back at him! We ran from the store as he yelled at us in Yiddish.
Like all the other rules in our house, I thought the Laby’s store prohibition was instituted by my mother. But given my father’s strong feelings about Blumsteins — did he really call them “Hitlers?” — I think Ebenezer may have initiated our family boycott.
There are some interesting bits of historical information, such as Marcus Garvey’s wife’s divorce complaint and his eventual deportation and the acquisition of the Schomburg collection by the Carnegie Corporation. Schomburg has particular meaning to me, as it was at the 135th Street library that I found these columns. Didn’t know the Amsterdam News tried to go daily – for a day. I didn’t know anything about Florence Mills, a well-regarded singer, dancer and comedienne who died of tuberculosis.
Why my father chose June 30, 1934 to reprint a list of 1927 events from another publication is beyond me.