My father tells the following story of some of his adventures as a high school-aged boy in the late 1940s. He grew up in Kosciusko, Mississippi, a small town in the middle of the state built around a square.
I’m gonna tell you about something that happened just about one block off the square to the west.
There was a pool hall down there behind the building that was on the corner of the square. At this time, minors allowed in the pool hall was an on-and-off thing for several years. Some citizens thought that they were evil places. I never knew exactly why. I think it was because sometimes there were a few … how do I say … maybe a few less than upstanding citizens were there all day playing dominoes. Maybe, I don’t know, a little gambling. I’m not sure. Eventually, we began going back in until they abandoned it again.
Anyway, William Wyndam, a very best buddy of mine, and I were playing pool in this pool hall one night. The manager of this pool hall knew of our “fighting act.” We could fake a fight that would fool a person in a minute. As we threw a punch, we would slap our chest with the other hand and make the sound effect. We had crowds gathered that never knew the difference. So the manager asked us to start an argument to fool the rack boy. He was a young black man, and he got really bug-eyed over our argument. He knew we were getting real mad and just about to fight.
The manager said if we were gonna fight we had to go outside. So we did and started a battle that wouldn’t wait. On one of his fake blows, [William] sent me to the sidewalk. I acted like I was stunned for just a moment. And the next thing I knew I was picked up by the collar by the town marshal. So we were taken to city hall and booked and ordered to appear at mayor’s court. The next day, I think.
The pool hall manager bailed us out. And the next day (or whenever it was) a whole bunch of guys showed up at the mayor’s court. They couldn’t wait to see what was gonna happen to me and William.
The mayor suggested we show him just exactly what it was we were doing. So we put on a brawl all over that courtroom. And the mayor laughed so hard he fell back against the wall in his high chair. He told us to go. As we walked out by the marshal, I heard him say, “I still think you were fighting.” I’m pretty sure that marshal heard from Miss Etta too. [NOTE: “Miss Etta” was my father’s mother, well-known in town for her sharp tongue and bluntness. A guy once honked at her when the light turned green. She SLOWLY got out of her car … SLOWLY walked back to this guy’s car and made him roll his window down. Then she said, “You know, if you hadn’t honked at me, you’d already be where you was going.”]
Another time we started a fight … and there were many of them, I tell you … on the corner of the courthouse lawn in broad daylight. A black man who was a shine boy at the nearby barbershop … (and I might mention he was a huge guy. He had a four-door car, and when he was driving his head was in the back window) … as he saw us fighting, he slowed down real slow going by in his car. He was so engrossed that he forgot that he was creeping along and didn’t turn the corner and jumped up over the curb onto the sidewalk just barely short of a storefront.