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Culture Shock In South Carolina
It Was A Different World
Life in rural South Carolina during the early 1960’s was a different world. It was for me anyway. My life up to that point had been spent as a “military “brat” traveling the world with my family following dad from one Air Force Base to another.
Then it happened. Dad went to Vietnam. He was born in a small town in South Carolina and decided that’s where our family would live until his tour of duty was over. This arrangement suited us fine since we had never lived there before. Was I in for a culture shock! Racism ran rampant during those years and was something I had never experienced.
Military families, during my lifetime, have always been integrated. Nationalities of all kinds go to the same schools and theaters, shop the same stores, join the same clubs and on and on.
I became keenly aware of prejudice the first day in our new town. I had made a new friend and he was showing me around. It was a hot summer day and we became thirsty and decided to buy a couple of soft drinks. There was a small general store a short distance down the street so we headed there. When I got to the store, I saw a sign proclaiming “whites only." This had to be a joke I thought. My friend caught up to me and stopped. I went in but he didn’t. My new friend happened to be black and assured me the sign was not a joke.
Suddenly I became a lawyer and informed my friend this was illegal and eventually convinced him to enter with me. He timidly followed close behind.
Once inside I told the store keeper we would like to buy a couple of sodas and was promptly notified I could buy a drink but my friend couldn’t. Then, I ordered two drinks, and as the proprietor scowled, gave one to my pal. We left in short order and I never shopped at his store again.
However, this was not the only type of prejudice I experienced. My white peers made life difficult for me as well. It seemed I wasn’t like them. I spoke, acted and dressed a little differently. And of course I associated with everybody no matter what race they were. They couldn’t or wouldn’t accept these things. I was goaded into fights almost daily, as if it made them better than me. Fortunately, I was a pretty tuff little kid and didn’t lose many fights. Unfortunately, if they couldn’t win one on one there would be two to fight the next day.
The years have passed now and I’m middle aged living in South Carolina and have been for a while. Have things changed? Yes. There have been major improvements in attitudes and tolerance for others. But from time to time I still see vestiges of the old south. Maybe someday we’ll all grow up.