“A Pink Typewriter for Lizzy” I will make the changes to keep it in Mrs. Briscoe’s POV
She had been writing stories in her Big Chief Red Tablet for quite some time, when her mother found the tablet on the bed upstairs one day. “Well, how long have you been writing?” She asked her 10 year old daughter, Lizzy. “I don’t know she said” and put her head back in the book she was reading. “Well, said Mrs. Briscoe, “I hope you keep writing and have a book” she said, as she climbed back down the narrow creaky stairs. She had to go to work, cleaning some of the ladies houses on the Hill, where all the rich folks lived. Actually, Mrs. Briscoe had been a reader and a writer when she grew up in a little town in Kansas, but the time was not ready for her to become a writer in 1930’s when she was ten, the age of her daughter, Lizzy. She knew times were changing and things would be different for her daughter and she would make sure of that by sending her to college. What a crazy plan for an African American girl in 1953, but Geraldine, or Mrs. Briscoe, as people called her around town. She would see about that.
Slyvan, Kansas was a small town in central Kansas with about 20,000 people. There were about 400 African Americans, most of them did labor or domestic work. There were a few African American families that owned businesses, like grocery stores or beer joints. The Hudsons, owned several little stores and they had sent their daughter, Agnes to Emporia State Teacher’s college. The only problem was she hadn’t found a teaching position yet, but that would change, it had to change. This was America, the land of free, the home of the brave. Many of those “brave soldiers” had come to Kansas during WWll, but they hadn’t been treated like brave Americans. Some of the men were members of the 101 airborne unit of the United States Army. Geraldine had been out dancing, that night with her husband James, when all hell broke out in downtown Smolan. The soldiers wearing their combat boots had smashed in quite a few windows when they were told, they couldn’t eat in the Casa Bonita Café, which also happened to be the Greyhound Bus Station. It seemed very strange that the soldiers could be discriminated against in the military uniforms, wearing their war medals. The Military police were called from Smokey Hill military camp and they took all the soldiers back to the base, before they could be put in the local jail or killed by the local police.
It did show times were changing, discrimination and segregation were going to disappear one day and that would be the day Lizzy would have the chance to be a writer, or a teacher, or anything she wanted to do. Geraldine believed that with all her heart and she would start making that dream come true by encourage her daughter to read and do well in school. She would be the one to break the barrier for the women in the family and go to college and become a professional, not a domestic like all the other females in the family. A pink typewriter would be the catalyst for Lizzy and it would propel her into her professional career and college. Geraldine knew what to do, go downtown to the store and find that typewriter, just as soon as she got paid. This week she would ask for some additional hours of domestic work from some the “ladies” on the “Hill” and this would be the beginning of Lizzy’s journey to college and a professional career.
That afternoon, as Geraldine, cleaned, washed, ironed and did all the work around the Smith house; she thought about buying Lizzy that typewriter and what it would mean. The typewriter had become a “symbol” of Lizzy’s freedom from this kind of life, working for white folks, cleaning, ironing, washing and doing day work in their big fine houses on the “Hill” on the other side of town.
Freedom to be a woman, who made her own decision, was one of Geraldine’s major objectives in educating Lizzy. She wouldn’t be tried down to day work, a man who drank too much and beat her. She would have the opportunity to travel, to write, to buy beautiful clothes, cars and read whenever she liked. Geraldine loved to read, but never had time. She worked almost every day at other folks’ houses. She was too tired to clean her own house, when she got home, so she usually laid down just a few minutes before going to prayer meetings or Entre Nous women’s clubs on the weekend. She loved socializing and she loved church, so she always did her part. The Entre Nous Club was fun and she loved getting together the women playing card, drinking beer, smocking Kool cigarettes and just having a little fun. She also believed in helping everyone in the community that needed help, although she would be considered “po’ as Job’s turkey” by anyone else in town.
Geraldine taught Sunday School and sang in the choir too. She had a lovely alto voice, so she had been invited to sing with the Traveliers, a group of African American men and women who traveled around Kansas singing at different churches and different events. Geraldine was a Kansas Sunflower, the first in her family born in Kansas in 1920. Her mother, grandmother and great grandmother had been part of the Black Exodus from the south, after Jim Crow and the KKK started killing, threatening and hanging African Americans in the South. Her Grandmother Laura had been fortunate enough to graduate from the 8th grade and become a country school teacher outside of Memphis, Tennessee before they had to “run away” to Kansas with Uncle Ed. No one knew what happened, but something happened to make them fear for the lives, so they came to Kansas with all they had, a cow, a wagon, a mule and their belongings all in the wagon. Geraldine’s oldest sister was only six months ago when they moved to Kansas. They say a sunflower always turns toward the sun, so Geraldine thought of herself, as the one who followed the sun and was never satisfied to stay in the dark. Geraldine was all about following the light of a new day for her daughter, Lizzy and all the women in America.
The next week, Geraldine stopped downtown to look in the some of stores for a typewriter for Lizzy. She didn’t have much money, but she had never let that stop her from doing anything she made up her mind to do. She would take a beating from her alcoholic husband, before she would give up on her dreams for Lizzy. She knew if she spent the money, she would have to do without something, a new dress, shoes, or something for the house, but she didn’t care this was too important. She would just have to “trust in the Lord, and Lean not to her own understanding” as it said in the Bible. Somethings were just too important. This was one of those things, she thought. She walked slowly down Santa Fee looking in all the storefront windows for a typewriter. She was tired and her feet hurt as she looked in several windows. She had cleaned, all day and washed and ironed a basket of clothes for the white family she worked for the Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Mowery family had two children and they never picked up any of their clothes. She had taken Lizzy with her one day to help and to teach her that this was not the kind of life she wanted or the kind of life she had to accept. “This is my daughter, Lizzy” she said as they walked in the front door of the Mowery house to clean and do laundry that day. “She is going to help me iron today, but this is not what she will be doing after she goes to college” Geraldine announced. “She will be a teacher or a writer or something professional” she said to Mrs. Mowery. That was enough to make Mrs. Mowery, smile and reply, “I am glad to know, Lizzy is going to be a teacher” she said. Geraldine didn’t care if she meant it; it was a fact that Lizzy was only here to iron handkerchiefs, nothing more. It was a day for teaching the lessons of life and Geraldine was the teacher of that subject.
Well now it was time to find the typewriter, Geraldine thought. She stopped at every window for a block and saw nothing. She had one last place she wanted to look, Consolidated Printing, maybe they would know where she could find a typewriter for Lizzy. She turned her head toward the sun and then she saw it in the corner of the window. It was something pink.