My father's 100th birthday is August 9th. He passed away in January 2000. I always find myself with a flood of memories of the time we spent together. I went just about everywhere with him as a child right up to his final days. Something sparked this memory from back in the late 1950's when I was still holding his hand to cross the streets.
My father was able to barter for most anything that was needed for the family. It was during the weekend that dad would make his rounds if he wasn't working over time.
Dad had his car repair work done at a garage on Westmoreland St in the Port Richmond section of the city. (Philadelphia) The owner of the garage and the other mechanic were grumbling so loud that you could hear them a few doors away from the shop. They were working on something. It might have been the breaks on one of the wheels. Something either wouldn't come off or wouldn't fit back on the wheel. The owner didn't want to be bothered with anything or anyone but he had to stop. Dad had something he needed. The owner thanked him and I remember him saying, "How the hel..heck did you find this?" He caught his words because I was there. He asked dad to hang around for a few minutes and went back to his task.
An older black man worked in the shop to sweep and clean up what ever was needed. Dad rummaged through the work bench and an assortment of tool. Dad also started a conversation with the black man. It was about baseball and they saw eye to eye about them late 1950's Phillies.
The owner and other mechanic were now having a conniption because they weren't any closer to fixing the problem. The owner slammed his tool to the floor in frenzy moment and told dad he can't stop now and wanted dad to come back this evening. I clearly remember what he said next. "I'm paying that nigger." There was a long silence. Dad just looked at him. The owner lowered his head, shrugged his shoulders with a short arm gesture, and softly said to come back a little later. They understood each other and shook hands as we were leaving.
Dad and I started walking back to the car. Dad was steamed in his thoughts and slowly shaking his head no, back and forth. Dad took my hand as we crossed the street but stopped in the middle and looked me in the eye and said in a firm voice, "You can't argue with a bigot."
It wasn't a curse word but maybe it is.
memories of roman sr and roman jr_all rights reserved