I remember that as a child every year we moved to a different apartment. It was like we were on a 1 year schedule. After awhile I wouldn’t unpack my stuff. I’d just leave my stuff in a box. I figured, “why bother, we’re going to move again anyway!” Saved me packing time each year. Everybody else was scrambling trying to pack stuff up. I just scooted my boxes of stuff over to the door and went out to play.
One year we made the ultimate move. We moved from Saint Louis, Missouri to Compton, California. Why, I still don’t know. Cause life turned to hell for us in California. My parents drove two old ass cars 2,000 miles across country from Saint Louis to California on one tank of gas. We were driving about 20 miles per hour all the way. My dad in one car with my oldest brother and me pulled a small U haul trailer behind his car. My mom had my sister and one of my brothers in the other compact car. At night time we slept in the car. Forget sleeping in a hotel. This was 1968 America. Black people didn’t sleep in hotels on road trips. We were barely allowed in hotels still.
We wore the same clothes every damn day. Showering? Hell no. If we washed up we did so in the public restrooms. Meals during the trip? We started off eating homemade sack meals of bologna sandwiches. We had a container of water and no cups. Everybody drank from the same container. Yeah I’m talking backwash city! Once the bologna sandwiches ran out I think we barely ate anything. I do recall my dad stopped at some place and got us each a big ass hamburger. I mean this burger was as big as your face. It excited my Dad but I was like “how am I supposed to eat a burger as big as my face?”
At 20 miles per hour it took us what seemed like 69 days to get from Saint Louis to California. The small car that my mom drove had about 12 flat tires on the way to California. My mom wound up driving into Compton on just the rims. Then we finally got to the Promised Land. A housing project in Compton called Park Village. It had a big ass Berlin Wall all around it. The wall was about 10 feet tall. It served its purpose though. It kept the inmates, us, contained in the project. And it kept the outside world from seeing how bad we had it or that we even existed. When we got there I was thinking, we left Saint Louis for this? Hell, I was ready to head back home to Saint Louis. I just looked at my parents each day after that and shook my head disgusted. “Thanks for moving us to this American Dream in the projects!”