Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963, Chapter 9

When Kenny and his dad talk about why they are going to Alabama, Dad talks about lessons that need to be learned, especially for Byron as he becomes a young man in America in the early 1960's. Byron seems to want to find trouble and laugh at it, but Dad says "he's got to realize the world doesn't have a lot of jokes waiting for him." Kenny mentions seeing "the pictures of a bunch of really mad white people with twisted-up faces screaming and giving dirty finger signs to some little Negro kids who were trying to go to a school."

These pictures are from 1957 when nine black students first attended Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Since this was six years before our book, Kenny is probably referring to other situations and events. The images he saw, however, are probably similar.

Dad is worried about listening to hillbilly music while driving. He says that he and Momma had an agreement when they got married about either of them watching the Lawrence Welk Show or listening to country music. Here's a 1963 clip from the Lawrence Welk Show and the #1 country song of the year in 1962. What do you think? Should Dad be worried?

On pages 130-132, Mama outlines her plan for traveling from Flint to Birmingham. Kenny says that they would take Interstate Highway 75, a road that goes all the way from Flint to Florida. I-75 actually goes through Atlanta, Georgia, so the Watsons would have had to take I-59 once they reached Chattanooga, Tennessee. Here's a map of the Watson family's route:

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Byron mentions Ozzie and Harriet. It's a TV show that ran from 1952 to 1966. Isn't this a nice, happy looking family?

As they drive through Detroit, Momma points out Tiger Stadium on their left. The Detroit Tigers played baseball there from 1912 to 1999. The Detroit Lions NFL team used it as their home field from 1938 to 1974. In this image it appears that Interstate-75 is just being built. You can see what looks to be construction on the right side of the image. (But I may be mistaken.)

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