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IT'S HOWDY DOODY TIME



"It's Howdy Doody time. It’s Howdy Doody time…” went the little black and white television set at the orphanage.

"Get your big-eared damn ass out of here and get it back up stairs," yelled the large matron lady trying to slap me with her big fat hand.

I ran past her and out of the television room door like a flash of lighting. As a 6-year-old orphan boy, I wished there was just one Saturday morning in my young life that I could watch "The Howdy Doody Show." I mean really watch it, without being afraid of getting into trouble or having to rake leaves and pine straw, clean toilets or wax checkerboard floors all morning long.

I loved Buffalo Bob, Howdy Doody, Mr. Buster and that princess lady; she was so pretty and seemed so nice to me. I decided that no matter what was happening on Saturday, I was going to see that show all the way through for the first time in my life.

I flew up the front staircase and down the long upstairs hallway, then down the back staircase. I went as fast as I could. I moved very slowly when I got back downstairs, from dark area to dark area. Then I made my way around to the telephone room and slowly opened the large, heavy door leading out into the orphanage yard.

I ran around the building as fast as I could, until I could see the open windows of the television room. I sneaked up to one of the windows and slowly raised my head, until I could see the television set. There he was with his big head and smiling face! It was Howdy Doody with all his freckles. He was moving his head back and forth as if he was always happy and glad. That was the part of Howdy Doody I liked the best - seeing his head bounce around when he talked, just like everything in life was always happy and good.

The fat matron was laughing at Howdy Doody, but she stood up when the commercial came on. I ducked my head down and waited until everything got quiet again. Then I very slowly raised my head back up to see where she was.

BAM, my head went as it slammed into the white brick wall. BAM, BAM, BAM, it slammed three more times.

"Get your damn ass upstairs and clean those damn bathrooms like you were told!"

She had hold of my hair and when she let go, it caused me to fall to the ground.

"I will, I will, I will!"

I jumped up off the ground and started to cry. Then I ran back around the large two-story, white, brick building holding onto my forehead.

"Work is for orphans and niggers!" she hollered as I disappeared around the corner.

I made my way up the back staircase, hurried into one of the two large bathrooms and started to clean the toilets as fast as I could. When one of the older boys came in to wash his hands, I told him what the matron said and asked him what a "nigger" was. He thought for a moment, looked at me and said, "I don't know. Never heard of that before."

Many a year has passed since that day and in those passing 47 years, I have heard the word "nigger" used many times, both by white and black people. All I knew for sure was that I was a white orphan boy nobody wanted or cared about and the word "nigger" had something to do with me. I, myself, chose never to use that word. I never knew what it meant as a young boy and I am proud to say that I raised my kids accordingly.



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