Shady conversations on the porch at Brown’s

Published 8:35 am Wednesday, June 5, 2024

By Harold Brummett
Denmark Star Route

We stopped by Billy Ray Brown’s milk station (store) the other day and visited with Mr. Paul Hipp. Paul helps at the store and was enjoying the shade on the porch, so I joined him.

We were classmates at Lafayette High in ’75. We spoke as old folks do about other classmates where they were, where they went and what they did or did not do. Paul has a better memory than I about such things, subsequently, he knew the subject much better than I did. I threw in where I could and was glad of the conversation.

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Our talk got me thinking about the time we were in school and the changes our class lived through. In my opinion, we were part of the integration generation. No one asked us about integration and no one followed up on the impact of forced integration as far as grades, subjects taught or social impact. It was just done – root hog or die. If the kids did not learn suspicion and distrust of others at home, school after forced integration was where suspicion and distrust was picked up.

I remember some bus routes still were segregated for several years, the craziness of a bus driving over a route picking up the white kids then another bus running a near identical route for black kids. The logic of not allowing kids to sit together on a bus so when they got to school they would sit together in class escapes me still. Perhaps it was just a way of the school administration at the time to thumb their nose at the federal government.

I recall Mr. Logan bringing the junior high students into the auditorium and admonishing us for apathy in our schoolwork. Mr. Logan in a part of his speech said we were like water, if put under enough pressure we would rise to whatever level it would take to get by. He was right. You could work us long but you could not work us hard.

Integration could force tolerance, but it could not force friendship. That would come later after high school on a more level playing field of community and a combined sense of purpose. Our class members became friends after graduation with the fences removed. As far as I know, there was no study on what forced integration did or did not do for the students involved. No balanced stories of what it was like from every perspective.

I felt our class never ‘jelled’. Perhaps it was school consolidation (I went my first two years of school at Yocona) combined with integration at about the same time that did not allow class camaraderie to develop. There were cliques sure, but no real class identity. No class trip, no prom, nothing but a walk across a stage set on the gym floor to mark the end of one milestone and the beginning of another. There was no goodbye.

Paul and I spoke for a while until I had to leave. Billy Ray Brown’s place reminded me of Sneed’s store on Highway 6, or perhaps Lottie and Curl Threlkeld’s store near Denmark, both gone now.

Before I left Lady the small brown-coated dog came around the corner stopped by then jumped up on the bench with me. I petted Lady as she moved across my lap taking in the scent of my dogs. Curiosity sated and approval granted, Lady jumped down and rejoined the other dogs. I enjoy the store at Brown’s dairy where the only pressure of time is what you place on yourself.