Friday, April 24, 2015

Mary Fahle and the Civil Rights movement (strong language)

This was written by my father, Bill Fahle, about his mother, Mary Fahle

I'm sure that most people think of the heroes of the Civil Rights movement in the sixties and seventies as the product of strong men, determined preachers, women willing to drink from the forbidden water fountain or ride in the front of the bus. I also admire those heroes. But I wonder how many know of the heroic things done by people just because they knew it was the right thing to do. These don't have a day named for them; there have no statues erected; they are the common people who could see injustice and did their part to correct it. One such person was Mary Beatrice Fahle, my mother. This is a story that took place in 1947, if I can recall the dates correctly. I was 12. My mother was about 52.

First a little background is in order. My mother was a devout Catholic. She attended Mass most days, walking the mile to Holy Name church in Beech Grove, Indiana. She was quite active in the church. The town of Beech Grove is a fairly large suburb of Indianapolis. The dirty little secret of Beech Grove is that it was a KKK stronghold during the Thirties. My family did not live there in that era, but the remnants were there. In fact, when I was over 21, while out walking, I remember seeing a Beech Grove policeman questioning a black man who was walking on the sidewalk in front of our house. The policeman passed me and said: "I just wanted to make sure he was getting his black ass out of town". That is the environment we lived in.

My mother was such a devout Catholic that she decided to do some missionary work in an all black neighborhood in Indianapolis proper, about two miles out of Beech Grove. The neighborhood was on the poor side, but the people were not destitute. Yards were mostly well kept, and the houses were neat and clean. I don't know exactly how my mother set up the mission in this one story building that may have formerly been a gas station. She would go there once or twice a week and talk to the people. She was trying to get some to convert to Catholicism. After a few months she succeeded. There was a couple with two children, and one other couple with one as I recall. If you were Catholic and lived in or near a large city with a good sized Catholic population in that era, you were expected to send your children to a Catholic school. I'm not sure but I think it was a mortal sin - you go to hell for those - not to do so. Problem is, there were no Catholic schools or churches in range of the neighborhood we are talking about.

So my mother goes to the pastor of Holy Name, the Catholic church in Beech Grove, and says: "What are we going to do about these children? Where will they go to Catholic school?" To the pastor's credit, he said without hesitation: "I guess they can come to Holy Name." Wow! We who now live in an era where we have a black president and many esteemed black men probably can't relate to the heroism in that conversation. There was no place in Beech Grove where a black man could get a drink of water, much less an education.

Well in a small town it doesn't take long for the word to get out. I'm reminded of the scene in Blazing Saddles where Gabby Johnson is on the roof shouting; "The sheriff is a ni_ ..." and the church bell drowns out the rest of the word. After that there is this meeting in the town hall, where the little old town librarian reads a letter to the townspeople that she will be sending to the governor. The letter is full of pejoratives and expletive-deleted words. Well, a similar meeting actually took place in the basement of Holy Name school, though it was not near as funny. I think they were actually trying to petition the Archbishop of Indianapolis to stop those nigger kids from coming to our school. If they did get their petition sent, the Archbishop decided to leave matters up to the pastor. I remember my father getting up and saying: "I don't like 'em any more than you do, but this is the way it has to be."

The parish decided - not the whole parish so much as the pastor and my mother - to go ahead and admit the children. There was talk of cross burnings, though I don't think it ever actually came to that. A few of the parents said that they would pull their children out of the school. Imagine, you are risking going to hell rather than have your child in school with some nigger boy!

I only recall one actual incident. I do recall it vividly since I was very much involved. My mother and I attended some church service one night. We were walking home (I'm sure that some of you readers are more shocked by the amount of walking we did back then than by the events). A car, with a young man on the running board, pulled up next to us going at a fairly fast rate of speed. The running board guy pushed my mother into a ditch and yelled "Nigger lover"!

My God! This guy's brother was in my grade at school. I used to lust after their sister. He lived on my street. The families had visited with each other many times before this incident. When an eighteen year old boy pushes a sixty-something woman into a ditch, you have got think of the hatred in the climate that brought this about.

The story ends pretty well. The boy's parents brought him to our house where he apologized in tears over what he had done. The black children did enter Holy Name and graduated from there. Children did get pulled from school, but they were back in about three weeks. I made friends with one of the black children, who was a boy my age. My mother kept in touch with him for many years. He became a Catholic priest and communicated with me and my mother until her death.

How can you not be proud of such a heritage?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Removing Spam Comments on Blogger

This is mostly a post to remind myself, but others may also find it helpful. I get a spam comment on my posts every now and then, and as soon as I do, I get an e-mail from blogger on having gotten a new comment. I don't get that many comments, so I choose to allow all comments and manually remove them. If this is ever abused, I will immediately begin moderating comments, which is a setting under dashboard. If you prefer to be laissez-faire like me, you can just delete the spam comments as they come. The procedure is a little weird though, so I'm posting it her as a reminder.

1. Log in to blogger and go to the dashboard.
2. Find the offending post, and scroll down to the bottom of the comments.
3. The spam comment should be the last one, but it doesn't matter if it is not.
4. Choose POST COMMENT at the bottom of the comments. This takes you to the screen with the delete icon next to each comment.
5. Choose the trash can icon next to the spam post, and check Remove Forever.