Who Wants to Kick Little Butch Harris?
This is a personal column. Personal to a group of young mothers who probably consider themselves pretty typical American parents.
They're the mothers of 8, 9 and 10-year-old Cub Scouts in Thunderbird Pack No. 298, here in town.
The rest of you can read on, if you'd like. Or you can turn to the comics. Unfortunately, they might be a little more enlightening than what I'm going to talk about.
Besides, what I want to say, I want to say directly to the small group of mothers whose sons are in Pack No. 298.
The subject, ladies, in case you haven't guessed, is a 9-year-old named Butch Harris.
You know him. If not personally -- at least for the color of his skin.
Butch Harris is a Negro.
He's a handsome little kid, well-dressed, well-mannered and smart.
He's the kid you ganged up on not long ago. Remember? The hushed meetings after he tried to accept your invitation to ALL boys at 87th Street School to join your Cub Scout pack?
That was more than two months ago. And Butch took you a little too literally. He thought you meant -- like it says in the Scout pamphlet I have on my desk:
"It makes no difference whether he's a fat boy, a skinny boy, a tall boy or a short boy -- no difference where his mom and dad were born, what their family bank account might be, or what church they attend.
"Nor does it make any difference what color skin a boy might have -- Scouting's hand of fellowship is extended to him."
That's what the pamphlet says. And I guess Butch's mom and dad took it literally, too.
They told Butch -- who's their only child, incidentally -- that, yes, they'd get him a uniform. It would be alright if he joined. It would be a good, wholesome experience for him.
Now, before I remind you of exactly what you did to freeze Butch out, I'm going to tell you what he's been doing lately.
He's been reading the manuals, just like your kids have.
With no prompting, he can recite:
"On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."
He knows a few of the Scout knots, too. He begged his mother to buy him a book that explains them.
But what Butch doesn't know is that you don't want him.
He's not aware of your original tactic to just ignore his application.
Nor does he know that finally, after Butch's mom begged you repeatedly for a yes or no answer you met and took another vote. And then sent a spokesman to the Harris residence in your neighborhood to explain to his parents that Pack No. 298 "just isn't ready to integrate."
It's Like This, Butch . . .
These things Mrs. Harris has been afraid to tell her boy.
As of yesterday, at least, she still hadn't told him. Then, she admitted to me that she just plain didn't know how.
"Two days ago," she told me, "I finally worked up the courage to ask him if any kid at school had ever called him 'Nigger.' I thought maybe I could lead into it that way.
"But he answered, 'No, Mom. Why would any kid say that?'"
Mrs. Harris wondered if I could possibly help her explain to Butch why he's not going to be a Cub Scout.
I can't. I'm afraid I wouldn't know where to begin.
But if one of you Pack No. 298 Den Mothers wants to volunteer. I guess Butch is going to have to be told by somebody.
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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
Mash Notes and Comments
"Dear Paul Coates,
"I am writing to you--
"(1) Because I received a beautiful portable typewriter for Christmas;
"(2) I have written to all my relatives and friends who live more than five miles away;
"And (3) because you are a standing joke in our house . . .
"We (my husband and myself) never watch your night television show because we are wrapped up in stereo until the wee hours.
"We (my 4-year-old son and myself) are not so fortunate at 2 p.m., though. He is a TV bug and figures that any channel that employs Sheriff John deserves at least half his time. This includes your program.
"Doesn't anyone ever meet with your approval, Mr. Coates?" (signed) Mrs. John F. Hughen, 9937 Rideau St., Whittier.
--Yes. Sometimes I like my mother.
(Press Release) "Actress Phyllis Standish observed the other day that a man never marries a girl who looks sensible because a sensible girl has more sense than to look sensible!"
(signed) Levin, Cohen & Fletcher, Public Relations, 1356 N Vine St., Hollywood.
-- For her sake, I hope nobody overheard her.
"Dear Mr. Coates,
"I stopped by your office with the hopes of meeting you -- a prospect I have been looking forward to for some time.
"Your secretary suggested that I call on Monday to inquire what time you may have free from your busy schedule.
"I shall look forward to our meeting. Cordially," (signed) Phyllis Standish, Hollywood.
-- Drop in anytime, Phyllis. You sound like a nice, sensible girl.
(Press Release) " 'Let Me Call You Sweetheart' will be the theme of the colorful Valentine's Day celebration to be held at Vagabond's House, Feb. 14, JoeChastek announces.
"Beautiful hearts will be given to the diners and those ordering liquors from the doctors of mixology.
"To live up to the theme of the evening, organist Pomping Vila will play Victor Herbert's 'Sweethearts' and 'Sweet Mystery of Life'; Irving Berlin tunes such as 'Always' and 'Because I Love You'; L. Wolfe Gilbert's 'I Dream of You in Lilac Time'; and JimmyMcHugh's 'I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby' and 'I'm in the Mood for Love.'
"P.S.: Please, dear Paul, come and be our Valentine." (signed) Arthur S. Wenzel, Publicity, 2505 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.
-- I can't. I've already been spoken for.
"I found my wife in a bar last night, drinking with two guys I didn't know. They seemed like OK guys. She was gone, like they say in beatnik land.
"She said to me, how are you, Baby Doll. I said OK you old beatnik. Then she said, I feel real cool.
"I said I feel cool, too, dear, let's have a beer. Then my wife says, let's dance, man. I said, OK Baby Doll, let's dance. We did.
"Then my wife says, don't talk about me when I'm gone."
"I said, Baby Doll, I am gone -- I am going home and get a good night's sleep.
"My wife said, if you go home, I'll make a date with another guy. I said, I don't care. I am gone. Good night.
"P.S.: Before I left, I told her, don't EVER call me Big Daddy." (signed) Anon, L.A.
-- I'm sure she didn't mean anything by it.
The Times reports that detention facilities for juvenile girls is badly overcrowded but doesn't really address the reason, merely saying that the rapid increase in Southern California's population and lack of room at state facilities are to blame. But why were they suddenly locking up so many girls? I hope we find out in the days ahead. --lrh
||Here's a real period piece from Bullock's Wilshire. The vendor, alas, did not include a photo of the label. It's listed on EBay with bids starting at $19.99.
Saved by the Knell
In everybody's life there is a dark, unforgettable moment when it doesn't appear he's going to make it. A downtown group somehow got around to discussing the this topic over coffee, and KenBromfield Jones, Title Insurance employee and spare-time TV actor, recalled his big near miss.
In 1942 he was in command of a gun post on HMS Londonderry, convoying ships north of Ireland. During a German air attack he was shot through a lung. Hours later, he was removed to a hospital ashore.
In the night he came out of a sedative. He felt no pain, only extreme lassitude. As in a dream he heard a nurse say, "He'll be on the slab by morning."
He felt a fierce resentment against death and called to another nurse to get him a glass of brandy, which he gulped down.
"I don't know what happened, but I guess the brandy started my machinery going again," he said, "I have always been grateful to that nurse."
A PERSON doesn't ask for much in this pressure era, just a small satisfaction now and then, such as came the other day to a man named Charley.
He dialed a phone number and through some quirk known only to telephone men was plugged into an open line. Two men, apparently attorneys, were haggling savagely over a point of law. Charley listened for a few moments, then said in a sepulchral tone, "You're both wrong!" -- and hung up.
Once upon a song
We wished upon a star,
Now we wonder if it's ours
And if it's going far.
- RAY SOUTHWORTH
THE WAY Dick Ashby of KNXT tells it, two pilots stationed in a lonely outpost in Africa got down to their last two cans of beer, a distressing situation. But being sporting gentlemen they made a bet. The first one to bag a lion would get them.
One grabbed his high-powered rifle and disappeared into the veld.
After he'd gone, the other got into his plane and flew low over the bush. After a while he saw a lion, got it into his sights and machine-gunned it. He landed, tossed the carcass in the plane and flew back to the base.
When his companion returned lionless from the safari he chided, "You should have realized a strafed lion is the shortest distance between two pints."
QUOTE & UNQUOTE -- Overheard by Bill Morgan at a French restaurant in Hollywood: "These French could make a dish out of an appendix" . . . Lost and found notice posted by a reporter on the city room bulletin board: "A Spanish grammar is missing from my desk. Valueless except for a nude photo ofLili St. Cyr I was using as a bookmark." . . . Dr. I.Q. on Channel 7 asked a lady (not in the balcony) which would win in a race, an ostrich, a greyhound or a horse. "The bus," she replied.
THE NEWS from Cuba is loaded with paradoxes, but some sort of high point was reached yesterday when Fidel Castro was quoted as saying that "200 -- 400 gringos will die" if the U.S. sends in Marines. He made the statement, the AP story went on, "in a hotel lobby as he was headed for a Rotary Club luncheon."
AROUND TOWN -- Apparently it's not only an ill wind that blows nobody good, it's also an ill fire. Since the big fire and subsequent flood struck Beverly Glen,Zella Marggraf's tomcat has killed six huge rats routed from their lairs . . . Shame on some large independent markets for raising their grocery prices since the strike . . . In which connection, the elderly man who runs a small neighborhood store near Echo Park told a customer, "I don't know why they call us Pop and Mom markets. Mom hasn't been here in years." . . . The cute messenger girls who rush memos from office to office atDuMont Electronics in West L.A. are known among the engineers as the ponytail express.
Someday, Butch H., Try to Be Forgiving
Some stories I'd rather not print.
And when I first heard about what a bunch of grown men and women were doing to a kid named Butch Harris, I filed the information into that category.
It was a little too unbelievable, too grimy, to put in a newspaper.
That was three months ago. At the time, Butch and some classmates of his had accepted an invitation to all boys at 87th Street School, here in downtown, to join the Cub Scouts.
But not Butch. He was ignored -- subtly like a sledge hammer.
The 9-year-old -- according to some mothers and fathers of the kids in local Cub Pack 298 -- wasn't the "right kind" to be associated in Scouting with their sons.
Butch was an average kid, well-mannered, well-dressed. But he was a Negro.
I checked out the story, verifying every fact of it. But for nearly two months, I didn't print a word. I waited, hoping that the parents of the other kids would reconsider.
But the longer I waited the more obvious it became that certain powerful influences in the pack weren't going to do anything.
The boy's mother had been informed flatly that since Butch was a Negro he was unwelcome.
Finally, five weeks ago, I got tired of waiting. I wrote about Butch's problem.
Since then, I've been keeping in touch with the youngster, his parents, local Scouting executives and other interested parties -- hoping to reassure any doubters that, as it says in the Boy Scout pamphlets, "It doesn't make any difference what color skin a boy may have -- Scouting's hand of fellowship is extended to him."
I wanted to report a quick, happy ending to the boy's story.
But it didn't work out that way.
There were still some people -- some very vocal people -- in Pack 298 who refused to be "enlightened."
I'll say this. Local Scout officials worked practically night and day to convince the hard core of dissenters to get the boy into a den quietly and gracefully.
The sponsoring Kiwanis Club group did the same. So did the pack's club master, a manufacturing executive with three sons in the Scouting program.
But the dissenters chose to go out the hard way. A letter was circulated among parents by the pack chairman announcing a meeting to discuss mass resignation. The meeting was held and a woman's request to be den mother of a new den in which Butch could be a member was openly ignored by the membership committee.
Finally, a couple of weeks ago, Butch did become a registered member of the pack. But there are still those blocking the formation of a den in which he can actively participate -- where he can go to meetings like the rest of the kids.
Butch, Here's to You
I've been promised by both Scout and Kiwanis leaders that the die-hards will get their ultimatum this week:
Either go along with the policies of both organizations or resign.
They've been told it before -- politely -- but they just didn't seem to understand polite language.
I've also been assured that by next week Butch will be wearing Cub Scout blue at his first den meeting.
So it may be a happy ending after all.
Jan. 11, 1972: Andrew Wyeth announces he will paint Nixon's official portrait.
Jan. 12, 1972: The White House repudiates Wyeth's announcement.
Jan. 14, 1972: The Nixon White House says it misspoke itself. Kind of.
In 1981, the White House unveiled a portrait of Nixon by Alexander Clayton, although I'm not able to locate a copy of the image. Clayton's painting was replaced with a 1984 portrait by J. Anthony Wills. Norman Rockwell also painted at least two portraits of Nixon during his campaigns for the presidency.
On January 14, 1939, The Times published the news that an English actress had been cast in the lead of "Gone With the Wind." Excuse me, but Jean Arthur as Scarlett?
Hedda Hopper covers the furious reaction over David O. Selznick not casting an American actress in the lead of "Gone With the Wind."
A great photo page from the Pro Bowl.