MLK Jr. Day Closings And Openings And An Opportunity To Serve

Monday will be the official Martin Luther King Jr. Day that will results in rethinking of what’s open for business. Here is a brief list of organizations that will be closed:

  • Banks
  • U.S. Postal Service
  • Libraries
  • City of Dallas offices
  • Dallas County offices
  • Dallas Independent School District
  • Greenhill School
  • Highland Park Independent School District
  • Jesuit Dallas
  • Plano Independent School District
  • Richardson Independent School District
  • SMU
  • State of Texas offices
  • University of North Texas
  • University of Texas at Dallas
  • Ursuline School

Perot Museum of Nature and Science*

But what will be wide open and greeting you with open arms? The Dallas Zoo and the Dallas Arboretum are both offering their special pricing. But it might be rainy. Then what about a museum visit? Alas, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center are following their standard operating procedures of being closed on Mondays. But never fear! The Perot Museum will be wide open.

VNA**

And if volunteering is more to your liking, consider VNA Meals on Wheels. They’re expecting more than 600 volunteers to take over 350 routes starting at 10 a.m. to provide more than “4,700 homebound, hungry seniors” with chicken fajita taco, fiesta rice, refried beans, fudge cream cookie and milk.

* Graphic courtesy 
of Perot Museum Of Nature And Science 
** Graphic courtesy of VNA

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebrations Extend From Friday To Holiday Monday

Another federal holiday will have banks, government offices and most schools closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But there is so much going on to celebrate the late civil rights leader. Here’s just a smattering of the events for your consideration:

  • FRIDAY, JANUARY 13 — Presented by Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, the MLK Jr. Oratory Competition takes place at the Majestic Theatre from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. It features fourth- and fifth-graders delivering three- to five-minutes original speeches. It’s free, but registration is necessary.
  • SATURDAY, JANUARY 14 — The 35th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award Gala will get underway at the Fairmont Hotel with doors opening at 5:30 p.m. and featuring Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough and special guests Laila Muhammad and Yolonda Williams. The Afterglow Event will follow the gala. Individual tickets are going for $85 for the gala and $20 for Afterglow Event.
  • MONDAY, JANUARY 16 — The 2017 MLK Day Parade begins at 10 a.m. at the intersection of MLK Boulevard and Holmes Street. It’s free for the viewing. Let’s hope the rain dries up in time for the bands to strut their stuff.
  • The 2017 MLK Symposium*

    MONDAY, JANUARY 16 — Presented by BaylorScott&White, the 12th Annual MLK Symposium: MLK’s Legacy: Issues of Social Justice in the 21st Century will feature presentations by journalist Jelani Cobb and #BlackLivesMatter Co-Creator Alicia Garza at the Dallas City Performance Hall from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets must be purchased in advance because they will not be sold at the venue.

* Graphic courtesy of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture

Sitting With The Angels

[Editor’s note: The following story was printed a few years ago, but we’ve been asked to reprint it on this day when a “king” sits with the angels and continues to inspire.]

The 50’s in Dallas were simple. Black rotary phones hadn’t been replaced by pastel princess phones. Television was limited to a 10” screen that showed black-and-white newscasts for 15 minutes from New York. We thought that was amazing. It was during this time that the first presidential conventions were viewed on the small box and united our country in the selection process, much to our chagrin. It meant missing “I Love Lucy.”

Dinner was not a forced get-together of the family. It was an end of day gathering of the troops around the proverbial campfire.

It was a time when skies were devoid of jet liners. Kites were the norm. The sounds of birds, crickets and even grass growing could be heard because sirens, screeching tires and planes were still a rarity. Just the sound of a lone sprinkler spritzing in a circle seemed to cool things off.

People sweated a lot, not because it was any hotter. Rather, air conditioning was a luxury for houses, cars and people. Maybe it was because of this lack of AC that the smell of grass after being mowed seemed branded between your nostrils and your brain.

Women suffered, but didn’t realize it was all that bad. For instance, there were those stiff painful layers of petticoats. They were itchy, hurtful baggage that made skirts stand out despite the sweltering heat. There were the white gloves that ladies would wear when socializing. They looked so pretty holding teacups.

Unmentionables were just that. Such paraphernalia as girdles were the grind of the day. They not only compressed your excess baggage, they held your stockings up. And stockings came in a variety of beige tones. Light beige, medium beige, dark beige, beige beige. At the top and toe of each stocking was a super duper strong armor-like layer of nylon that was hell bent from letting anything rip through.

Even the hairstyles were rigid, with tight curls that ladies would go to the neighborhood beauty parlor to prepare for the week. If your hair lost its oomph during the week, a quick bobby pin curl saturated in setting lotion would lock the spring back in place.

Home perms were another way of rededicating the coil. The process inspired many a teardrop. You would drench a piece of cotton in an ammonia-based solution and then saturate a strand of hair before winding it around a rod. Because the summer heat would only enhance the smell of the ammonia, many a teardrop was shed over this exercise in beauty. The sad thing about the home perm was its life expectancy. A good perm would last three months and during that time there was only a two-week period smack dab in the middle in which the perm looked good. The rest of the time it was either too tight or too loose. For that reason, my mother opted to put my hair in pigtails. It was easier than the home perms for both mother and daughter.

Maybe it was because of this lack of AC and the chance of a summer breeze that we spent more time outdoors, because it was just too darn hot indoors. Swimming pools were rare and public pools were still suffering from the hangover of polio.

Our family was considered well-off. We had two cars, a television and a maid. That’s what other people called a person who would help out in the house. We called her “Vonie” and she helped us survive our childhood. At the time, we didn’t realize that she was different from us. That is where we were truly fortunate. We lived in a true dictatorship headed by our parents. They came from totally different backgrounds. Our father was from southern Louisiana. His father had been a much-beloved doctor in a small town outside a small town. Our father had followed in his father’s footsteps and, despite being raised in the South in the first part of the 20th century, he had managed to be color-blind. He judged people on their own worth.

Our mother was Irish-Catholic stock from Colorado. Her father had been a postal clerk, who emphasized education above all things to his two children. Perhaps this was because he had hungered to have gone to college and law school, but had lacked the funds to do so. His son went to Notre Dame and his daughter went to Stanford. In fact, mother’s father traveled all the way to Stanford to make sure that the school was up to his expectations and would be suitable for his daughter. Evidently the relationship had worked out for school and daughter. She eventually became the head of advertising for Neiman Marcus before marrying our father. Like our father, she was color-blind.

Perhaps their lack of color awareness was the reason that we never thought Vonie was “different.” She laughed like us; she smiled like us; she liked to play tricks like us; she cried at an elaborate funeral for a fallen robin like us; she skipped rocks like us; and she was the very best at hugging.

Even our little dog Skippy adored Vonie. When she would walk to the bus stop for her ride home, Skippy would accompany her the three blocks and then, once Vonie was safely on the bus, he would trot on home. Remember this was 1955 and a little dog could do such things.

It was such a bus ride that complicated our lives. Because it was so hot and a new Walt Disney movie was showing downtown in an air-conditioned theater, my mother thought it would be a grand idea for a visiting cousin and me to go to the show. Since she couldn’t go because she was pregnant with my soon-to-be baby brother, she asked Vonie if she would take us on the bus to the show.

My cousin and I put on our crinkly petticoats, summer dresses with sashes bowed at the back, white gloves and anklet socks and black patent leather shoes. This was a moment in history for us. We were going to ride on a bus and go downtown without our parents. My mother doled out just enough money to pay the bus fare, the movie admission and a candy bar. We put the money in our little handbags and walked to the bus stop with Vonie between us. What a sight we must have been. My cousin in her floral printed summer dress with a petticoat that made the hem level to the waist and me in a baby pink cotton dress with white collar. Vonie in starched uniform seemed like a guard from Buckingham Palace as she walked proudly with her two children holding her hands.

We boarded the bus and paid our fare. As Vonie led us to the back of the bus, we thought this was really quite grand. I imagined it was like being chauffeured to a movie premier. Despite the numerous stops, Vonie assured us that she would let us know when to get off.

With a gentle pat on the knee, she motioned that it was time to depart. We walked a block to a huge building with multi-colored lights and signage. There were pictures of movie stars in glass enclosures on the wall. Vonie told us that she would meet us after the movie at the glass enclosure with Mickey Mouse. This didn’t seem right. Vonie had talked about wanting to see the movie. Why didn’t she want to see the movie with us? She said that she was going to go upstairs and watch it because of her eyesight. I figured that Vonie knew where the best viewing spot was and I insisted that we sit with her. After much head shaking, she finally agreed and led us up what seemed to be hundreds and hundreds of stairs. The second balcony lobby was very special. It was smaller and had its own concession bar. After purchasing our Hershey bars, we entered the balcony which seemed warmer and danker than other parts of the theater. You practically had to lean over the seats to see the movie screen. But once the lights went down and the movie started, the heat and smell seemed to disappear thanks to the laughter of the others in the balcony. It was a wonderful movie except when Bambi’s mother died. Then you could hear sniffling throughout the balcony. In my preparation for our outing I had forgotten what every young lady always remembered. . . always bring a hankie with you. Luckily, Vonie had brought a small pack of Kleenex and handed one to each of us.

As we left the balcony with all the other patrons, we were slightly jostled going down the wooden steps that were older and narrow. One of the men caught me by the arms just as I was about to fall. I looked up at him and he looked as relieved as Vonie and me.

“Did you like the movie, Miss?”

I replied that I had and asked if he liked it. He said except for Bambi’s mother’s dying he thought it was a very good movie. I told him that I thought it was great fun watching from the balcony. “It’s sorta like being an angel in the clouds,” he said. Vonie agreed and thanked the man for helping her save her young urchin.

Today, 60 years later, summers don’t seem as hot or as charming. The skies are crisscrossed with jet plumes. Houses are tightly bound to keep cool air in and hot air out. The smells and sounds of grass growing don’t exist. People rarely sweat. Both of my parents eventually relinquished their dictatorships to old age. Vonie learned to drive a car, got a job with Frito Lay heading up their cafeteria and eventually moved to Mineola with her handsome husband Harding, who worked for Texas Instruments for 40 years. They both had the most beautiful smiles and laughs because their world is rich with their love.

As for me, whenever I go to a theater with a balcony, I remember sitting that summer day in the clouds with angels. Today Rosa Parks joined the real angels after a long-ago ride on a bus.

-October 24, 2005