Pixie Visits the Night Club

Pixie Gordon 2001

Pixie Gordon 2001

When Cathy and I finally made the decision and moved to Largo, Florida in 1999, we had mixed emotions which were weighing heavy on our hearts. On the one hand, we were leaving everything in El Dorado and in Arkansas that was familiar and comfortable; our children and two grandchildren (at that time); the friendships developed over the previous 28 years; a church through which we had invested many years of service; a busy surgical practice that I thoroughly enjoyed; my Mom who was elderly and disabled; and many intangibles of living in a small southern town. On the other hand we were moving to Cathy’s home state where her brother and sister and their families lived, and to a large and exciting metropolitan area where churches were growing rapidly, and the church to which we were going to be on staff, was one of the leading Baptist churches in the state.The one thing which I believed God was calling me to do, and the prime and only motivating factor for the move was the opportunity to direct the medical clinic ministry of the church. Cathy and I later discovered there was a rumor circulating in El Dorado following our move that I had “lost my mind,” and couldn’t understand the significance of this move to Florida, and that Cathy was going along to protect and take care of me.

Initially on moving, we had to rent an apartment until we could find just the right house for us. Our apartment was located a few blocks from Starkey Road which intersected with Ulmerton Road, the main east-west road to the beach. Our church, the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks was located on Ulmerton Road and the drive from our apartment to the church took about 15 minutes. Located at the intersection of Starkey and Ulmerton Road was a gaudy purple building which housed a XXX rated club that seemed to have some popularity in the area based on the number of cars in the parking lot. Whenever I passed that vile place, I would pray for the people who owned those cars, that God would turn their hearts back to Him and to their spouses.

Within a week of my arrival, Cathy was able to join me, and we began our ministry  through the church. Throughout each week I was diligently studying and preparing to take the Florida Medical Board exam in December, in order to obtain a medical license, so we could open the church-based medical clinic. Together we started building the senior adult Sunday school class to which we were assigned. The first Sunday morning that we began the class, there were 5 precious souls that came. One was confined to a wheel chair; one was using a walker; one needed a cane, and a couple who had befriended us early and had agreed to help us build the class. They were near our age,  were very active and didn’t need a device to stand or walk.

A special friend we made that first Sunday was Pixie Gordan, an 80 something year old widow, who despite her age and the inconvenience of a walking cane, was very active and spry. Pixie had such an out-going personality and a love for the Lord Jesus, that she was just plain fun to be around. The first time we met her she said she would be glad to help us build the class since she had a number of friends that were looking for a “good Sunday school class.” She assured us that her friends were not disabled, although that would not have made a difference to us. Cathy and I were excited to be part of a class that was growing and had a hunger for God’s Word.

Pixie called one day and said she wanted to meet us for lunch and discuss something she believed the Lord was telling her to do. Pixie was one of the oldest members in the class and despite her use of a cane, she was still driving and totally independent. We met at a favorite restaurant that was equidistant for Pixie and us. As we started on our appetizers, Pixie began describing her thoughts about the declining morality of our nation and especially the area in which we lived. She said it was breaking her heart to drive by places where pornographic magazines and movies were being openly sold and how this type of business was corrupting the minds of young people as well as adults. Then she mentioned the name of the club at the junction of Starkey and Ulmerton Roads where it was advertised that there were women employed for lewd and immoral purposes. She said she knew that those women had mothers and grandmothers who were also heartbroken over their employment and were praying for them just like Pixie and so many other Christians. She said, ” God wants me to go and tell the people who own that club, as well as the people who work there, that God loves them and He wants them to close it down because of the harm it is causing.” As we shook our heads in agreement that the club should be closed, I was thinking; I sure hope that God didn’t tell Pixie she was supposed to take her Sunday school teacher with her! She wanted us to agree in prayer for her and at the close of our meal, we did just that.

About 2 weeks later, Pixie called and asked us to meet her again for a report of her meeting at the club, and we were anxious to hear all about it. She said she had gone to the club with her Bible, and the only person she encountered was a young man in his mid-twenties in age, working at the front desk. She said he was very polite when she told him about the reason for her visit, but refused to allow her to go into “the back room” to talk to the employees or owners. He told her the owners would not permit people to talk to employees in that part of the business. Pixie said she asked him if his mother knew where he was working and he said she did not and agreed with Pixie how disappointed his mother would be if she knew. Pixie then prayed for him and for the other employees that God would convict them how wrong they were in their business.  Pixie said she went back in another week and the young man was no longer working and the new man at the front desk was “not very polite,” and asked her to leave.

Cathy and I loved the heart and enthusiasm of Pixie, and admired her courage to do what most of us would like to do, but find a reason to decline. We are convinced that she accomplished what God sent her to do, and the young man she encountered was removed from that place of moral corruption. Who knows; he might now be the very person leading the fight against similar clubs in Largo and central Florida. We do know that God’s ways are much higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts.

Dr. John

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Deeji and the Horseless Carriage

Deeji with Lydia 1954

Deeji with Lydia 1954

It was unfortunate for me that I did not know my grandparents very well. My maternal grandfather, Henry Schmuck had died before my birth, and my paternal grandfather, Dr. John Aaron Moore died when I was only 3 years old. My parents named me for my grandfathers; thus John Henry. The only grandparent with whom I was able to have any relationship at all was my paternal grandmother, Daisy Graham Moore who was affectionately known by everyone in the family as Deeji. She is shown above holding her first great-grandchild, Lydia (Caraway) who is Berry Lee (Bubba) and LaNell’s first-born.

Deeji was in her late 60’s when I was born in 1939, so at my earliest recollection of her, she was in her mid-70’s in age. She was very thin and petite in appearance and never seemed to me to have much energy or strength. I don’t remember any specific illnesses she endured, but I can recall only a few instances that I was in her presence apart from her home. Her bachelor son, Uncle Walter lived with her, and up until the last year or two of her life, she prepared all the meals for them, which I think were pretty meager. Uncle Walter was not very neat, and his bedroom always looked cluttered and disorganized. In asking Pop why Uncle Walter had such a messy room, he would say, “Well you know your uncle is a brilliant man and just doesn’t think about things like that.” Deeji kept the rest of the house neat and spotless. Her daughter, Aunt Mae who was married to Uncle Dick Smith, was her primary care-giver and was at her home daily, making sure that she was well-cared for and that the groceries and other things needed for housekeeping were purchased. What I didn’t realize at the time was Deeji never learned to drive an automobile.

In 1910, Granddad Moore moved his family from Lisbon, Arkansas which is a small community outside of El Dorado to New Mexico. He had contracted tuberculosis and was advised by his physicians to move to a warmer climate. Over the next 2 years he practiced medicine there on a much reduced scale, and the disease was cured with medications. He and Deeji and their 3 children moved back to El Dorado in 1912, and he began his long and very successful medical practice there.

Sometime shortly after their move, Pop said that Granddad bought the first gasoline engine automobile in El Dorado, and could be seen chugging around the mostly un-paved streets of town. I don’t know for sure but believe the car to be a Ford Model T which was just becoming popular nationwide. The Touring model in 1913 sold for a whopping $600, but offered Granddad a faster mode of transportation to make the many house calls he routinely made. Pop said that earlier Granddad drove a horse-drawn buggy pulled by his faithful horse “Dolly.” While living in Lisbon, it was said that “on many a night Dolly could be seen pulling ole’ Doc Moore’s buggy back home while the Doc caught up on a little much-needed sleep.”

At some point after the car was purchased, Granddad attempted to teach Deeji to drive their new and what must have seemed to her a complicated machine. The levers and pedals in this automobile required a greater amount of eye to hand coordination than was required to drive a buggy, especially one pulled by Dolly who knew her way around town. Granddad had a garage built to house the car, and it was located near the rear of their residence and at the end of a relatively long driveway. Following several training sessions, Granddad must have felt comfortable with Deeji’s driving skills, so he allowed her to drive alone. I have a visual in my mind of the experience for both Deeji and Granddad. I can just hear Granddad’s final instructions, “Now Daisy, don’t forget the lever on the steering wheel to make the car move forward, and remember that the brake to stop the machine is located on the floor board on the right.” She must have said, “It just doesn’t feel natural holding onto a wheel instead of holding Dolly’s reins!”

The first part of the trip must have gone well, and she probably went around the block at a snail’s pace. When she finally saw their driveway and was almost home, I imagine she gave the machine a little extra speed to prove her daring. As she sped down the driveway, she must have thought about Dolly needing no instructions to stop, and assumed the carriage in which she was riding would also stop on its’ own. It was told by her neighbors that you could hear Miss Daisy’s high-pitched voice screaming “whoa Dolly” as the gas-powered machine crashed through the back of the garage. It landed safely on the grass in the backyard without overturning. Fortunately it was only Deeji’s pride that suffered any serious injury, and despite Granddad’s persistent and loving encouragement, Deeji never drove again her entire life. Some experiences are just too painful to risk recurring. As far as I know, Dolly was retired to a leisure life in the pastures of Three Creeks, where the family land was located and many friends of the Moore’s lived. I imagine that Deeji much preferred Dolly over that fancy Model T and longed to have her back in service more than Granddad did.

Dr. John

“George, Did You Do the Work?”

Granddaddy and Grammy Young

Cathy’ s dad, George F. Young was one of the most remarkable men I have ever known. When Cathy and I first met and began dating in 1964 while I was an intern at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, I had never met anyone from Fort Lauderdale. I met her mom, Virginia in Atlanta after we had been dating for several months because as President of the Florida School Board, she was in town for a meeting. Cathy’s dad and granddad, George W. Young were well-known building contractors in Fort Lauderdale, in a business that her granddad founded with his brother Will in the early 1900’s. The two of them were master cabinet makers from England. When I met Cathy, her dad’s construction business was the oldest one in the city of Fort Lauderdale and had built such landmarks there as the Riverside Hotel and the exclusive shopping area known as Las Olas.

When I finally met her dad during the Easter weekend in 1965, I had heard many stories from Cathy about him, and what a brilliant man he was with outstanding character. I had quite a bit of anxiety prior to our meeting, because I wanted to make a good first impression. I was planning to ask for his blessing for our marriage the following August. The first thing I discovered was that he was a man of few words. At our initial meeting and seemingly for several years afterward, I don’t recall him initiating a conversation with me. He was not impolite or rude, but I was never quite certain in those early years whether he liked me or approved of me as Cathy’s husband. Her mom, on the other hand, was open and verbal, and I was confident in her approval of me; so that was sufficient. I believed that if Virginia (Mom) approved, then George (Dad) approved also.

I always loved sitting with my own dad (Pop) and listening to his stories relating to his life and the many people that he had met and with whom he had interacted. I wanted to have that same type of relationship with Dad Young, but it was not possible in the early years because of his basic quiet and private nature. Mom Young however, was a story-teller like Pop, and she loved telling stories almost as much as I loved hearing them. One of the stories I have repeated often to many people, best characterizes Dad Young’s character and the reputation he had in the city of Fort Lauderdale.

A well to do man and his wife contracted with Dad to do a remodel on their beautiful and expensive home in Fort Lauderdale. Normally Dad’s fee to a customer was on a cost-plus basis, but in this instance he had agreed to a contract price for the work to be done. Throughout the remodel work, the wife made numerous changes to the agreed upon project, and Dad made those changes knowing that the final price would be higher than the contract price. He assumed that the husband would honor the added expenses and pay for them accordingly. When the work was completed and was inspected and approved by the owner, Dad presented the final bill which was considerably higher than the contract price. The customer told Dad he was only going to pay the contract price, despite Dad’s explanation for the added amount. Dad went home telling Mom that they were just going to have to absorb the loss since the homeowner was adamant in his refusal. Mom said, “George, this is just not right and we are not going to stand for this. We are being forced to take legal action.” In all of their previous dealing with customers, they had never taken anyone to small claims court.

An attorney was engaged and on the appointed court date, both Mom and Dad appeared with the necessary documentation of the work that had been done, and presented the detailed accounting to the judge. The judge very carefully examined the documents, looked at Dad and asked, “George, did you do this work?” Dad said, “Yes Judge, and that is my bill for the work.” The judge looked at the defendant while striking his gavel on the stand and said, “The court orders the defendant to pay George Young the amount of this bill.” The defense lawyer said, “Judge, we have not presented our defense.” The judge quickly said, “There is no need for you to speak. Everyone that has lived in this community for any period of time knows the integrity and honesty of George Young. If he says he did the work and this is his bill, then you must pay it because it is fair and reasonable. Case dismissed.”

Our children were fortunate to have known their Granddaddy Young before he departed this life, and they were also blessed to have seen a more talkative and open man than he was at an earlier age. He told us he enjoyed coming on visits with Grammy to Arkansas, even though he didn’t like the colder weather they occasionally encountered. All of their visits were filled with surprise gifts from Florida, lots of conversation with jokes and laughter, and plenty of good stories that have made many wonderful memories in our hearts. In remembering him, it has been the prayer of Cathy and me that our children and grandchildren and especially the men, will have the character and reputation similar to their Granddaddy Young.

Dr. John

Gram Young aka Madam Mayor

 

Mayor Young

Cathy and I were introduced to each other by Marsha Moore, wife of Dan Moore, a physician friend of mine. She and Cathy were teachers together at an elementary school in Atlanta, Georgia. Cathy had just graduated from Florida State University, and this was her first teaching assignment. I was an intern at Grady Memorial Hospital, and Dan and I had both graduated from the University of Arkansas Medical School in Little Rock, so we had been friends for a number of years. Cathy was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and I had never met anyone from that city. My understanding of that city was based on viewing the movie, “Where the Boys Are,” which was a far cry from the reality of a very beautiful and culturally significant south Florida metropolis.

After the first few dates, I was stricken not only by Cathy’s beauty but also her sweet and sensitive spirit. I just couldn’t believe that she wanted to continue dating this Arkansas hillbilly, but I didn’t complain and the seriousness of our intentions toward each other escalated. After dating for about 6 weeks, I wasn’t surprised that her parents wanted to meet the young man who was seriously dating their daughter. Cathy’s Mom, Virginia Young, was President of the Florida School Board at the time, and she had a meeting scheduled in Atlanta, so that was her opportunity for us to meet. On the evening of our meeting at her hotel, I was on call in the Emergency Room at Grady  and had just finished my shift for the day. I was still wearing my white uniform since I didn’t have time to drive to my apartment to freshen up and change clothes. She told people for years afterwards that the first time she met me, I had on my white uniform which was covered with blood. I really think there were only a few scattered blood spots, but they had sure caught her eye. Overall, I was pretty sure I had made a good first impression despite the blood.

Cathy and I continued to date that year and decided that God had meant for us to spend our lives together, so in March 1965, with her father’s permission I asked her to marry me. We were married in Fort Lauderdale on August 7, 1965. I had already moved to New Orleans the prior month to begin my 4 year training in general surgery on the LSU Service at Charity Hospital, and we had a small but nice apartment in Kenner, which was near her  elementary teaching job there. A surprise wedding present we endured along with all the residents of New Orleans was Hurricane Betsy which came on September 8, 1965. I have already written about that experience.

Cathy’s Mom and Dad were very supportive of us throughout their lives, but we were especially blessed by them in the early years of our marriage. Gram Young kept in close touch with us by phone, and it was not uncommon for her to call 3 or 4 times per week. Those calls were very important for Cathy because many nights she was alone in our apartment while I worked at Charity Hospital, and that contact kept her current on her family and the things happening in Fort Lauderdale. Gram loved to travel and she visited us more often than any other family member while we lived in New Orleans. Financially we struggled because the salary I was paid at Charity Hospital kept us under the Federal poverty guidelines, and it was only the fact that Cathy made a modest salary as an elementary teacher that we were able to pay our apartment rent and the few bills we had each month. We loved receiving a “care package” from Gram Young, because often it contained 2 or more nice dresses for Cathy and occasionally a dress shirt or a good book for me. An added blessing she frequently sent were large sacks of limes from their Key lime tree, with which Cathy made the most delicious Key lime pies I had ever eaten! In fact I had never had eaten a piece of Key lime pie before we married.

Gram became more involved in Fort Lauderdale politics when she ran for the City Commission in 1971 and was elected, thus becoming the Vice Mayor. The city’s by-laws stated the commissioner with the most votes became Mayor, while the 2nd largest vote getter was named Vice Mayor. In 1973 following the next election, Gram became the first woman to have ever been elected as Mayor of Fort Lauderdale, and served in that position until 1975 when she was again elected Vice Mayor. She served in that position until 1981 and assumed the unexpired term of Clay Shaw as Mayor until 1982. The city of Fort Lauderdale underwent major changes during those 11 years she served on the Commission, and it was always exciting and fun for us in the family to be on the “inside” of all of those changes.

Following completion of my surgical residency in 1969, I had already been commissioned as an officer in the US Air Force, and because our country was at the height of the Vietnam War, I was certain I would be sent to Vietnam as a fully trained trauma surgeon. I was, however stationed in Valdosta, Georgia at Moody Air Force Base. One of the benefits of living in south Georgia was it was only an 8 hour drive down the interstate to Cathy’s hometown of Fort Lauderdale. We were able to visit her parents and her brother and sister much more often than previously.

During those years we were able to witness up-close Gram Young’s skill, both as a grandmother and an outstanding city administrator. I frequently marvelled at her ability to deliver as many as 6 speeches to various organizations in one day without the use of notes. I always wondered if she ever was confused about the organization to whom she was speaking and called them by the wrong name. As far as I know, she never did. When she was home, she always took off her political hat, and was very content to be a grandmother. The only evidence in their home of her importance to the city were the number of phone calls she received daily. This prior to the universal use of cell phones, and she was able to get some phone call relief by going with us to the shopping mall or to the beach.

Near the end of her life, she was honored by the city of Fort Lauderdale by 2 significant presentations. A city park and a new and magnificent elementary school were named for her and both had great personal significance. Throughout her adult life she worked diligently to make Fort Lauderdale more family friendly, and she also made public education an equally important priority. Whenever Cathy and I go back with our family to visit Fort Lauderdale, we never fail to visit these two sites and reminisce just how important Mayor Virginia S. Young was to that city and what a great Grammy she was to all of us.

Dr. John

Brother Mose and Sister Bobbie

Brother Mose picture

Brother Mose

Sister Bobbie

Sister Bobbie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing up in South Arkansas in the 1940’s and 1950’s exposed me to a cultural setting that has long since passed away. In so many respects, life was simple and reduced to such burning questions as; how late will I be able to stay up tonight and what sports will I participate in tomorrow, and with whom will I be playing? However, there was an entire culture of young people living in El Dorado that my friends and I never considered joining in any sporting activities. Along with most of my friends, we were isolated from blacks kids, not necessarily by our choices, but by societal choices over which we didn’t seem to have any control. We lived in separate neighborhoods, attended separate schools and were separate in every aspect of life including; hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, grocery stores, department stores and even doctor’s offices. I participated in varsity sports in high school and college and never competed against a black athlete during those 7 years.The only close contacts I had with any black person were with those who worked in our home over a 15 year span.

Mose Graham started working for our family as a yard maintenance man in 1947 when I was 8 years old. Over the next 15 years that he worked for us, he became one of my best friends and confidants. It is sad for me to remember this, but a black man was never identified as “Mister.”  A term of respect; however, that was frequently used was “Brother;” so Mose Graham was always known to my family and me as Brother Mose.

Brother Mose was in his late 40’s when he began working for us, but always seemed to me to be an old man. He was 5′ 8″ tall, weighing about 150 pounds and with thinning grey hair. Unfortunately, he had poor dental hygiene and had one single incisor in his upper gums with multiple other upper teeth which were in poor condition. He called his front tooth a “snaggle-tooth,” and often bragged that he could strip a barbecued rib as fast as anyone with a full set of front teeth. His lower teeth were present, but were also in poor condition. Dental care was out of the question for Brother Mose, since there were no black dentists in the area, and to my knowledge, white dentists at that time did not accept blacks as patients.

Brother Mose was always cheerful, and I never saw him angry or upset. When he was working or concentrating on anything, he was always humming or singing one of several familiar tunes. His favorite song was “Precious Lord,” and by the time I was 10 years old, I had heard it and sung it with him so often that I knew every verse. There were other songs that he sang when requested, and I remember them as well. To this day, when my sister Marilyn and I are together and we reminisce about Brother Mose, we will frequently sing some of the songs we heard and learned from him. His seeming only vice was playing cards, which by his own admission, he played often in a tavern called Lonnie Mitchell’s located in the black section of town known as St. Louis. His two favorite card games were Pit-T-Pat and Coon Can. He never taught Marilyn nor me to play either game, because I suppose he didn’t want to corrupt us in some way.

In addition to Brother Mose, our family was privileged to also have a maid working in our home. During the time of Mose’s employment, we had several different women doing domestic housework for us, but my favorite during those years was Sister Bobbie Fike. When I remember her, I think about her fried chicken and hot-water cornbread (hush puppies). They were very close in quality to my Mom’s, which were absolutely delicious; and I believe it was Sister Bobbie who taught my Mom to cook them. Most of the time she and Brother Mose got along with each other pretty well, but occasionally she would get aggravated about how slow Brother Mose moved from one place to the next. It didn’t seem to bother him at all, and when she would fuss and fume, he would usually respond with a “yessum, you sho’ is right.” A characteristic response Brother Mose would make when he was some distance away and Mom or Sister Bobbie would call out his name; was to answer with a high-pitched, owl-like “Hooo.” No one else could make a sound like that, and I could recognize it from 300 to 400 feet away.

I dearly loved Brother Mose and Sister Bobbie, and when I was alone with them and could get them to stop their work, I wanted to hear their stories about “the old days,” and about different people in their lives. Many times I could get them to sing their favorite songs and I would sing along with them. Sister Bobbie’s favorite song was, “There Will Be Peace in the Valley.” If I kept them singing too long or asking too many questions, either one or the other would say, “Masta, I gots to get to work. Miz Mo’ will be comin’ any minute now.” I never knew exactly the salary that Brother Mose and Sister Bobbie received for their work , but I know it was not very much. Every week when I was given my allowance of $1 from Pop, I always gave 10 cents to each of them. I don’t think Pop ever knew that I gave them part of my allowance, but I feel certain he would not have objected. I never asked them to call me “Masta,” but that was just the name they gave me. By the time I was in junior high school and was certain that I was going to be a doctor, they started calling me “Docta” or ‘Docta John.”

Brother Mose and Sister Bobbie were in my life prior to the civil rights movement and the mandate for desegregation, but those laws would have not changed my relationship with them. I never thought of them or treated them as anything other than family. It does embarrass me to think how shamefully that blacks, in general were treated; and had it been in my power, all those racial barriers would have been broken down years before. The truth is that when we allow our precious Lord to take us by the hand, to lead us on and to let us stand, then all of those prejudicial and racial barriers will be completely broken. At the fall of those barriers, whites and blacks alike, will experience that true peace in the valley about which Sister Bobbie, Brother Mose, Marilyn and I frequently sang.

Dr. John