Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We've come a long way, but the journey isn't over

Two years ago I wrote the blog that follows. We've come a long way since the 1952 bus ride in Georgia. Today proves it.
Twenty years ago I was the speaker at a Martin Luther King Day ceremony at a church with a nearly all-black congregation. This was because I was a reporter who always remained objective and in the black community enjoyed the reputation of being fair. I mingled with the ministers and the church goers and the young men that followed a circular route that took them to and from prison and back again. I listened to them, wrote about them, sometimes sympathized with them and sometimes gave them hell. But I always worked at remaining objective, at being fair.My talk concerned a 1952 bus ride in Georgia.
It had been a rough week of infantry training at Fort Benning so I slipped away early on a Friday afternoon, hitched a ride into Columbus and boarded a Trailways bus headed for Atlanta. A couple of nights in a good hotel, a meal or two at a nice restaurant, that's what I had in mind.
I took a seat about halfway back on the right side of the bus and then sat back and relaxed, not paying much attention to anything other than the scenery outside the window. We made stops in the dusty little town of La Grange and a few other places. People got on the bus, others got off. None of the comings and goings aroused my interest.
Then out in the middle of nowhere we pulled to a stop beside the road. Looking ahead I could see a black woman and two kids, a boy and girl about eight and ten, that had flagged down the bus. They stood there for a minute or so rather than climbing aboard and then out of the corner of my eye I saw the driver standing beside me. He said, "You wanna move forward so those people can get on the bus?"
For the first time I looked around me. There were plenty of empty seats ahead but all those to the rear were filled, every one of them occupied by a black person. I looked back to the driver and said, "There's a lot of empty seats."
"Look," he replied, "either you move up front or they don't get on the bus."
So there it was. Stick to my principles and leave the woman and her children standing in the blazing Georgia sun or get up and move forward.
Back at Benning the man in the next bunk was a black sergeant who had a car. At the end of the day he often gave me a ride into town, but asked me to slump down in my seat when we reached the outskirts of Columbus so there wouldn't be any problem. I did so, although it seemed so hypocritical that we shouldn't be seen riding side by side when in a couple of months either or both of us might find ourselves being shot at in Korea.
And now there was this.I got up and moved as far forward as possible, seething inside at the stupidity of it all. Did I have any choice other than to change seats? Not really. Not unless I wanted to make a real ass of myself. But it was wrong, so very wrong.
All that began to change in a few more years. Not without turmoil and strife - grown men spitting on little girls trying to go to their newly-integrated school, displays of ignorance like that.Today I could board a bus in Columbus, ride north through LaGrange and Newnan and sit anywhere I damn well pleased. That's better. Not perfect, but better. Integration, unfortunately, has brought a whole new set of problems. Maybe sometime in the future people will be smart enough to solve them all. Or maybe not.


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