The Reverend and Lette lived on a chewed-up stretch of concrete that ran north and south parallel with and about two miles east of West 47th and was called Begonia St. It had two purposes. On the one hand, it served as the quasi-official boundary between working class whites and the small community of Negro bourgeoisie, which consisted of business men along with a handful of doctors, dentists and lawyers who had their offices in their homes. And some teachers. On the other hand, it was the way for those people to move out to Five Corners and so on to their jobs and off-work play.
The Negroes called it Be-Gone-Ya because behind it lived all the rest of the colored folks. Both reasons explained why it was paved and even had a street light dangling over an occasional intersection. But no buses. Sewers on the white side, and at best, septic tanks on the Negro side. Mostly brick privies.
Five Corners had evolved bit by bit during the wartime boom in airplanes, gas and oil, cattle and people. Through those years it had come to be a rudimentary ground traffic control system and an edgy but seldom seriously violent social and business center for Negroes, working class whites and the few Mexicans who lived beyond 47th avenue.
It was a tricky intersection. Forty-Seventh, otherwise County Trunk B, started at the modest but profitably specialized port docks north of the city, ran west before it turned south, and then curved southeast where Maggie had left it for the last blocks home. It served as an unplanned, and surely underdeveloped ring road for industrial traffic, and when it reached Five Corners it turned southwest and once again became simply County Trunk B to provide taxpayer assistance for the Crown Ranch and various industrial and chemical plants.
As a feeder track, Begonia St. ended at Five Corners. Beside opening up on 47th and County B, it provided access to two other roads. One was a sometimes gravel strip that wandered off to a cluster of Mexican shacks and then petered out along the last few miles of the drainage ditches that had wetted Maggie and finally exited into the Gulf.
The other was Seaview Avenue, a short east-west connection between Five Corners and Bay Boulevard, which began in the heart of the city and curved southeast around the bay and provided access to view sites for wealthy citizens. Halfway along Seaview was a big Y that turned south: called Naval Highway, it was an often dangerous three land burn that fired straight to the Air Station.
Locals asked for directions by strangers had a standard reply: "Can't explain it; you got to try it and start early because you're sure to get lost at least once."
The large amount of traffic involving everything from buses to the Navy to gas tankers and cattle trucks was marginally controlled by an uncoordinated system of four stoplights-the Mexicans took their chance-and the twenty-four hour presence of a city police squad car joined on weekends by a county sheriff's patrol. Cars, trucks and motorcycles overturned, fenders were dented, and people now-and-again injured or killed, but the city leaders never mustered enough concern to spend the money to order the chaos.
The pie-shaped section of land between the roads at Five Corners had gradually attracted various business enterprises. A major truck and car repair garage shared business with one traditional gas station, as did a drug and variety store and a well-stocked grocery. Three cafes specialized in the favorite short-order food of the area's ethnic groups. And the taverns. One of those provided good jazz on the weekends and hence attracted a small white clientele from the Air Station and upper-middle-class city folks. They knew they were tolerated but not welcome, and mostly avoided trouble by gathering unto themselves in the dark corners near the door. Only the foolish or the very, very good risked claiming space at the pool tables or on the tiny dance floor.
Table of Contents
- Maggie and Mr. Hank
- The Reverend
- Squalls Along the Flight Line
- Flying Home to Church
- A Visit with The Judge
- Monday Morning With The Admiral
- Into the Dining Room
- On Toward Walking the Streets
- Glimpses of An Election
- The Dream and The Reality of Violence
- The Admiral Loses More Than a Few Good Men
- Down That Lonesome Road