Water

fountain-arlofountain-frazz

Not really synchronicity, given the date — though I’m not sure I’d previously seen a comic focusing on segregated water fountains, and two of them appearing back-to-back in my feed was kind of weird.

Weirder was remembering last night (as presumably it did to Jimmy Johnson a few weeks ago) that separate water fountains still existed in my lifetime.

29 Comments

  1. Jimmy Johnson is about seven years older than me: he graduated from high school in 1970, I in 1977. But it’s stunning how much things changed in those seven years.

    I have never seen segregated water fountains, except in pictures. The local high school was integrated only about four years before I started first grade, as the result of a lawsuit, but this fact was unknown to me until long after I graduated. With speed that is striking in hindsight, racial equality had become the received standard (although racism persisted in more subtle ways that was often overlooked by whites like me). Only a few years after court-ordered integration, most whites would express the view that they did not believe in racial discrimination (or, they would typically add, reverse discrimination, by which they meant affirmative action).

    It was unimaginable to me that, only a few years earlier, racial inequality was universally applied locally and largely accepted. Not only had black students been relegated to small and inferior schools, but law enforcement had had a triple standard: black-on-white crime met with strict enforcement, white-on-black crime could be engaged in with impunity, and black-on-black crime was left to black leaders to address. Somehow we had moved from that to at least official equality, and we did so with not just official but real societal changes.

  2. I certainly understand the idea of the strip – but I have never seen a water fountain in a Woolworths for anyone to use.

    While I knew about segregation, I was never any place where this part of segregation was occurring and I graduated HS in 1971. I do remember on the first trip my family took we stayed in the Lancaster, PA area (of all places) and my dad commented to mom after we all suppose to be sleeping that he did not think that the desk clerk was happy that we were Jewish. (I say of all places as it was one of the two places that Jews in this area went of vacation – the other being hotels in the Catskill mountains and there was a sizeable Jewish population in the Lancaster area back at least as far as the 1600s. It was last place before the frontier and from reading I did for a talk on Jews in the 18th century it was where those on the frontier would come to for major Jewish holidays.

  3. Would this be a geezer reference? I’ve heard of such things, but I’m a geezer. Do we have any actual youngsters reading this site? Anyone 20 or younger?

  4. How is this NOT a synchronicity — given the date? Did I misunderstand what synchronicity means?

  5. I had a junior high teacher who told us about visiting a segregated state when he was young, and trying to use the “colored” fountain because he wanted to see what color the water was.

  6. I grew up in Kentucky, and entered first grade (no kindergarten where I lived) the year they desegregated the schools. I only saw a “colored” drinking fountain once, in Mississippi, so I suspect they were not universal, even in the deep south. I wonder if the reason was not because of the water fountain itself, so much as to make sure the “colored” weren’t in the same section of the restaurant / bus station, etc. as the whites. For example, the BBQ place that became famous for trying to overturn the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would serve “colored” at a window in the back, but not in the whites-only dining room.

  7. Singapore Bill, hopefully non-Geezers are learning about segregation, the Holocaust, and other highlights of world history.

  8. Hmmm. I would suspect quite a few have come to find out at some point in their lives. That’s what I was saying regarding my own experience. I had only heard the “tiger” version as a child, but found out about the other later.

    Just as with the poem that was “Ten Little Indians” when I was a kid. Of course that’s not considered appropriate by many these days either.

  9. Racial attitudes aren’t the only things that have changed. When I was a kid, spanking, slapping or beating a child were perfectly normal and approved things to do, aside from the opinions of a few wacky psychologists.

  10. In the library where I work, the water fountains were phased out and replaced with fountains that also act as water bottle filling stations. Some shifts aren’t very dramatic.

  11. Sorry, I was reacting to DJD’s comment: “Some shifts aren’t very dramatic.”
    We never had racial segregation in France; “les pissotières” still exist (although their architecture has changed: they’re less open than in the past) and have always been available to all.

  12. @ CIDU Bill: I grew up in Toronto, Canada and I learned the racist version of that rhyme on the playground when I was perhaps four or five. That would have been about 1970. When she heard me saying it, my mother explained it was unacceptable.

    No segregated drinking fountains, but I do remember when their was a separate section of taverns for women and their escorts which had separate entrances.

  13. I had never heard of a “non-tiger” version until I started reading this thread, although in retrospect it seems like an obvious bowdlerization. For those who are unaware of the other one, the “tiger” version seems completely innocent, as this Calvin & Hobbes strip demonstrates:

  14. “For those who are unaware of the other one, the “tiger” version seems completely innocent, as this Calvin & Hobbes strip demonstrates:”

    And for those who *are* aware of the original, the tiger version is *so* ubiquitous and upon our hearing of the original is a curious fact in our teens or twenties we probably thought “gee, that seems so weird! The world sure is effed up”.

    My opinion, unless there is a concerted effort to get kids to stop saying the tiger version due to its racist origins we really can’t expect, Eeny Meeny Miney Moe to be immediately recognized and recognizable as racist.

    … unless you are the type who think we should declare The Cat in Hat and Bugs Bunny as racist due to the history of cartoon caricatures having racist/classist origins (which admittedly they do… but… c’mon….).

  15. ” unless you are the type who think we should declare The Cat in Hat and Bugs Bunny as racist due to the history of cartoon caricatures having racist/classist origins”

    Ask Little Black Sambo about it.

  16. “Ask Little Black Sambo about it.”

    *Entirely* a different situation. Little Black Sambo *is* itself racist. It never evolved into anything non-race related or sufficiently distant from its origins and if it directly inspired anything ubiquitous and innocent in appearance, I am unaware of or of any protest over the derivative.

    Also attempts to deracialize it aren’t universally condemned on the basis you can’t escape origins.

  17. Singapore Bill – because a woman with any class would not go into the bar part of the bar. This goes way back.

    Anne (me) “I know about electricity. My husband took me to the tavern – not the main part, but the room they have for dances and talks… ” She would not want anyone to think her the type of woman who would be found in the bar area. (She also would not stay in a tavern unless there was absolutely no other choice and they could get a “private room” which really was private.)

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