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 which was familiar and comfortable. Our life included our children and grandchildren, our many friendships, our church, a busy surgical practice, my Mom who was elderly and disabled, and the many intangibles of living in a small southern town. On the other hand we were moving to Cathy’s home state where her brother, sister and their families lived, and to a large and exciting metropolitan area with a beautiful beach. The area churches were growing rapidly, and the church to which we were going was one of the leading Baptist churches in the state. The one thing to which I believed God was calling me, and the 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 concerning our move that I had “lost my mind,” and didn’t understand the significance of this move to Florida. The rumor included Cathy going along to protect me from making other serious mistakes in judgement.

Initially we had to rent an apartment until we could find the best 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 fifteen minutes. Located at the intersection of Starkey and Ulmerton Road was a gaudy purple building which housed a XXX – rated club which 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 from August to December I was studying and preparing to take the Florida Medical Board exam in December in order to obtain a medical license. The clinic doors could not be opened until I had the document in hand.

Together Cathy and I started building the senior adult Sunday school class to which we were assigned. The first Sunday morning there were five precious souls who came. One was confined to a wheel chair, one was using a walker, one needed a cane, and a healthy couple who had agreed to help us build the class. They were near our age, were very active and fortunately didn’t need a device to stand or walk.

A special friend we made the first Sunday was Pixie Gordan, an eighty 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 and 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 any difference. Cathy and I were excited to be part of a class which 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 which 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 there were women employed for lewd and immoral purposes. She said she knew 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, God loves them and wants them to close it down because of the harm it is causing.” As we shook our heads in agreement the club should be closed I was thinking, I sure hope God didn’t tell Pixie she was supposed to take her Sunday school teacher with her! She wanted us to pray for her, and at the close of our meal we did just that.

About two weeks later Pixie called and asked us to meet her again for a report of her meeting at the club. 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 the owners. He also told her the owners would not permit people to talk to employees in that part of the building. Pixie said she asked him if his mother knew where he was working, and he said she did not. He 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 this business.  Pixie said she went back in another week and the young man she met was no longer working. She said the new man 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. We are convinced she accomplished what God sent her to do, and the young man she encountered was removed from this 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 God’s ways are much higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts.

Dr. John


Deeji and the Horseless Carriage

Deeji with Lydia 1954

Deeji with Lydia 1954

It was unfortunate for me 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 four 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 sixties in age when I was born in 1939, so at my earliest recollection of her she was in her mid-seventies 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 had, 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 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, “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 she was well-cared for and the groceries and other things needed for housekeeping were on hand. What I didn’t know 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 two years he practiced medicine there on a much reduced scale, and the disease was cured with medications. He and Deeji and their three children moved back to El Dorado in 1912, and he began his long and very successful medical practice.

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 believe the car to be a Ford Model T which was just becoming popular nationwide. The Touring model in 1913 sold for a whopping six hundred dollars, 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 which 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 which 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 of its’ type in the city of Fort Lauderdale, and they had built such landmarks 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 about him from Cathy and what a brilliant man he was with outstanding character. I had  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 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 of her approval, so that was sufficient. I believed 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 he had met and with whom he had interacted. I wanted to have the same type of relationship with Dad Young, but it was not possible 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 best characterizes Dad Young’s character and the reputation he had in the city of Fort Lauderdale.

A wealthy 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. Throughout the remodel the wife made numerous changes to the agreed upon project, and Dad made those changes knowing the final price would be higher than the contract price. He assumed 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 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 filed a suit in 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 which 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 full 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 who 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. 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 which have made many wonderful memories in our hearts. In remembering him it has been the prayer of Cathy and me for 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 Virginia Young 1974

Cathy and I were introduced to each other in October of 1964 by Marsha Moore, whose husband Dan Moore was 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 long time. Cathy was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and I had never known anyone from that city prior to our meeting. My understanding of the 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 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 six weeks I wasn’t surprised 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. This 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 Hospital 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 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 surely caught her eye. Overall I was pretty certain I had made a good first impression despite the blood.

Cathy and I continued to date throughout the year and both decided God had meant for us to spend our lives together in marriage. 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 four year training in general surgery on the LSU Service at Charity Hospital. We had a small but nice apartment in Kenner which was near the elementary school where she had a teaching job.. 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 this 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 three or four 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. Her Mom’s calls kept her current on her family and the things happening in Fort Lauderdale.

Mom Young loved to travel, and she visited us more often than any other family member throughout her life. Financially we struggled because the salary I was paid at Charity Hospital kept us under the federal poverty guidelines. It was only Cathy’s modest salary as an elementary teacher which enabled us to pay our apartment rent and the few bills we had each month. We loved receiving a “care package” from Mom Young, because often it contained two 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. Cathy was an expert in making the most delicious Key lime pies I had ever eaten. In fact before we married I had never had eaten a piece of Key lime pie, and it is now my favorite.

Mom 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 second largest vote- getter was named Vice Mayor. In 1973 following the next election Mom became the first woman to have ever been elected as Mayor of Fort Lauderdale and served until 1975, when she was again elected Vice Mayor. She served in the 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 eleven years she served on the Commission, and it was always exciting and fun for us to be on the “inside” of all of those changes.

Following completion of my surgical residency in 1969 I entered active duty in the U. S. Air Force as a Major in the medical corps. I had been commissioned as an officer early in my training years and had been promoted to my current rank. Our country was near the height of the Vietnam War, and trained surgeons were needed. We thought I would surely have to go overseas, but instead I was sent to Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia. One of the benefits of living in south Georgia was it was an eight 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 frequently. As we began having children Mom’s name was changed to Gram Young

During those years we were able to witness up-close Gram Young’s skill, both as a grandmother and an outstanding city administrator. I was amazed at her ability to deliver as many as six 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. I don’t think it ever happened. When she was home she  took off her political hat and was very content to be a wife and grandmother. The only evidence in their home of her importance to the city were the number of phone calls she received daily. This was prior to the universal use of cell phones, and she was able to get some relief from all the calls 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 two 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 the city. More significantly she was a great wife to her husband George, a wonderful mother to her children George, Nancy and Cathy and a magnificent Gram to all her grandchildren.

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 which has long since passed away. In 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? There was an entire culture of young people living in El Dorado whom my friends and I never considered joining in any kind of activities.

We were isolated from black kids not necessarily by our choices, but by society over which we did not have 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 seven years. The only significant contact I had with any black person were with those who worked in our home over a fifteen year period.

Mose Graham began working for our family as a yard maintenance man in 1947 when I was eight years old. Over the next fifteen years during which he worked at our home he became one of my best friends and confidants. It is sad to remember, but a black man was never identified as “Mister.” A term of respect which was frequently used was “Brother;” thus Mose Graham was known to my family and me as Brother Mose.

Brother Mose was in his late 40’s in age when he began working for us, but he always seemed to me to be an old man. He was five feet eight inches tall, weighing about one hundred and fifty 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 he could strip a barbecued rib as fast as anyone with a full set of front teeth. His lower teeth  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 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 ten years old, I had sung it with him so often I knew every verse. There were other songs he sang, and I remember them as well. Even now more than seventy years later when my sister Marilyn and I are together and reminisce about Brother Mose, we will occasionally sing some of the songs we heard and learned from him. His only vice I remember was playing cards in a tavern called Lonnie Mitchell’s, which was located in the black section of town known as Saint Louis. His favorite card games were Pit-T-Pat and Coon Can. He never taught Marilyn nor me to play either game, probably because he didn’t want to corrupt us in some way.

In addition to Brother Mose our family was privileged to 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 by far was Sister Bobbie Fike. When I remember her I think about her fried chicken and hot-water cornbread (hush puppies). They were absolutely delicious and close in quality to our Mom’s, and I think it was Sister Bobbie who taught my Mom to cook them so well.

Most of the time she and Brother Mose got along with each other pretty well, but occasionally she would get aggravated with him. It bothered her how slow Brother Mose moved from one place to the next, and how long it took him to complete a task. It didn’t seem to bother him at all, and when she fussed and fumed he would respond with a “yessum, you sho’ is right.” A characteristic response of Brother Mose when he was some distance away and called by Mom or Sister Bobbie was to answer with a high-pitched, owl-like “Hooo.” No one else could make a comparable sound, and I could recognize it from three hundred to four hundred feet away.

I dearly loved Brother Mose and Sister Bobbie, and when I was with them and could get them to stop their work, I would ask about “the old days” and different people in their lives. Often I could get them to sing their favorite songs, and I would sing with them. Sister Bobbie’s favorite song was, “There Will Be Peace in the Valley.” If I kept them singing too long or was asking too many questions, either one or the other would say, “Masta, we gots to get to work. Miz Mo’ will be comin’ any minute now.” I didn’t know the salary Brother Mose and Sister Bobbie received for their work , but I know it was not much. Every week when I was given my allowance of one dollar from Pop, I always gave ten cents to each of them. I don’t think Pop knew of my gifting, but feel certain he would not have objected. I never asked them to call me “Masta,” but this was the name they gave me. By the time I was in junior high school and certain 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  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 sorrows me to think how shamefully blacks were treated, and had it been in my power all racial barriers would have been torn down years before. The truth is when we allow our precious Lord to take our hand and lead us on, all prejudicial and racial barriers will be broken down. At their fall there will be peace in the valley about which Sister Bobbie, Brother Mose, Marilyn and I frequently sang.

Dr. John