Folks in Vacherie Louisiana have a saying for everything. They even say people born in March are crazy. Well in '53, my birthday came on the last day of March just like it did every year, 'cept this year I was bein' thirteen. "'Em 'a be a man today! I said. "'Em ringin' the bells now." Mom looked at Pop and said, "sat boy go' crazier den March wind."

I brushed my teeth with baking soda and a glass of water on the front porch of our two room and kitchen house. And I slicked back my hair with yellow Vaseline, then I headed to the commissary store to buy myself a birthday present .

I was still musing 'bout the old folks saying about people born in March being crazy when I saw Chang coming towards me on the river road. They said Chang was crazy too. They'd even locked him up in the crazy house for some time. Well I must've been kind of coo coo too, cause I liked talking to Chang. I always thought Chang was trickier than March weather.

Me and Chang sat down by the running ditch and commenced to talking 'bout bein' crazy. I was itching to know how he was freed from the crazy house.

Chang's little beady eyes rolled back in the deep sockets of his slim brown face as he started to recollect his reason for sanity.

Then he told me about how they use to get up in the morning at the crazy house, and how they would all be in this one big room. "All of us!" He said, spreading his long arms like he was counting hundreds. "Old people, young people, creole people, colored people, white people..."

I said, "White people, Chang?"

He said, "You think 'em crazy? Yeah, white people too."

Then he said one by one they went in the bathroom and when they came out they all dried their faces on one king sized white sheet hanging on the bathroom wall. Chang stood up and pointed like he was still seeing that damp, soiled sheet. He said when it was his turn to dry his face, he stood on a chair and dried his face on the clean part of the sheet. And when the white doctors saw that, they sent him home to his wife and daughter.

'Fore I left the running ditch, I asked Chang if he was born in March. He said no, but sometimes his birthday comes when February borrows a day from March.



"It was neat when we faced their sheet, then used a boycott to share the front seat. But to drive them and guide them, the solution was almost a revolution."

Old timers from the old Canal street station still rap on struggles of the first black bus drivers for the city of New Orleans.

They tested the tempers of a racist society with a white looking Negro the bus supertendant selected from the back end of a push broom in the station's bathroom.

Come to find out, white looking Chester didn't like driving a bus, or the spotlight of being a first. So he quit and went back to pushing his stick.

The game leg superintendent, pressured by the mayor to end segregation at the station, looked for a replacement to satisfy the angry black nation. But there weren't any more white looking black men to send, so he came up with Freddy who was brown skinned and kind-a heavy in the head, and the belly.

Some whites didn't take it light when they saw Freddie behind his bus that night. The buck shots missed as he stood taking a piss. The superintendent then made it known that he was looking for coloreds with strong jaw bones. He sent supervisors with flyers to fish frys on the bayou. He even sent one to a housing project named, Desire.

Out of the ghettos came hard hittin' Ben, and soul brothers with nick named skin: 'Sutt Ball, Poker Dot Red, Blue, and ruddy hue, me too. Decked out in new white shirts tucked into press black slacks, we resembled waiters wearing policeman caps."

We were eager to serve.

"Step up please!"

"Boy you telling a white man what to do!" Some people... time won't change them. Money won't change them... But a steel plated coin changer side the head will.

The superintendent today is a dark skin Afro American who was one of those first black bus drivers. The mayor is the son of New Orleans first black mayor who was a white looking Negro elected by the people. Elected by the people! But it almost took a revolution.


©1998, by Mack Dennis