Based on a true story.
In 1960, my parents moved from Russellville, Alabama to Chicago, Illinois. Luckily, they landed factory jobs paying decent wages.
I do not remember the length of time we lived in Chicago, but I guarantee my parents left after the first
Chicago and Russellville are different as night and day. The winters in Chicago are brutally cold. In a short period of time, a person can freeze to death without proper attire.
When it snows in Alabama, people panic and race to the grocery store. The stores can’t keep bread and milk shelves stocked quick enough for the supply and demand. In Alabama, roads, freeway and schools are closed.
In Chicago, snowplows spread salt on the highways and roads. People shovel their sidewalks and driveways. The snow does not stop northern folks unless a blizzard dumps an enormous amount of snow.
For the past twenty-six years, I have lived in Michigan and to this day, I do not look forward to winter. On the first day of snow, I think about Alabama’s mild winter.
If, I remember correctly, a bar sat on every corner in our neighborhood in Chicago and, if you were looking for trouble, you could find plenty just around the corner. Allegedly, the South-West side neighborhood in those days were rough and has not changed.
When we lived there, it was a dangerous place to live. Recently, people say, they would not visit certain places in daylight hours, especially, at night. In September of 1987, my husband and I took a trip to Chicago.
For many years, I wanted to see my old school, the apartment building and neighborhood. My husband, two of our children and I left Kalamazoo around 6:00 p.m.
Of course, we got lost; and finally; after, riding around town for several miles, my husband stopped at a fast food restaurant and asked for directions. The moment we walked inside the restaurant, we were approached by a Security Guard.
He asked us,
“What street or area are you folks looking for?
I told him, 26th and Spaulding.
Then, he asked, “Where are you from?”
“Kalamazoo, Michigan.” I answered.
By the look on his face, I knew we were in the wrong place. He looked me directly in my eyes and told me,
“If, I were you, I’d walk out of here and get back into your car and head back to Kalamazoo. You would not be safe in that area in the daylight,
It’s 10:30 p.m. at night, go home.”
We took his advice and left. A few blocks away, down the street, a man was walking in the middle of the street, carrying a radio and a television. Now, that is a sight, I’d only expect to see in a movie.
That very moment, I knew we made a smart move-- getting the hell out of that neighborhood. My plans of visiting the old neighborhood changed dramatically. Which, I do not think is right.
I have wanted to visit there for many years, and feel I must go. I believe, if I go there, many suppressed memories will come to the surface. There are bits and pieces of scenes, in my mind lingering from childhood.
The picture of the puzzle has not quite made a complete connection. A connection, in order to validate the truth. There are a few vivid pictures which flash and diminish the instant, they appear.
I just hope and pray, when and if the day comes and the picture fully develops, my suspicions are wrong. There were a few people in my life; I felt their love for me was genuine; I felt secure and safe being around them, the way every child should feel.
My uncle Odell, one of my dad’s brothers is one of those people.
When he came to visit, he brought sunshine into the room. His big
bright smile was capable of warming a heart of stone.
I thought the world of Odell. He was very handsome; his black and wavy hair was perfect for his complexion. I will never forget his fingers; they belonged to a hard worker. I do not know what he did for a living; but I do know that he was an avid fisherman.
He was goodhearted and I loved him very much. My daddy was tall and
handsome with blonde wavy hair.
In addition, my daddy was very intelligent; but, he lacked
self-esteem and confidence.
Naturally, my being a child, I had no idea; my dad was troubled by stress from his youth. My dad was agitated most of the time, mentally cruel and physically abusive.
Daddy often slapped, hit or beat me with his leather belt.
He always, looked for a reason to yell. According to my dad, I did not walk, talk or eat correct. My dad was a miserable man and he made sure whoever was around him were also miserable… When Daddy was not at home drunk, he was at one of the corner bars.
He’d come home drunk, mad and ready to beat on anyone. In Russellville, there were no bars or alcoholic beverages sold in our hometown. Franklin County was a dry county. If, you wanted alcohol you had to see a bootlegger. It is probably a dry county today.
In Chicago, Dad and his brother Odell frequented many bars. One afternoon, Mom had just finished stocking the refrigerator with groceries, when all of a sudden, Daddy came bursting through the kitchen door, into our apartment.
That day his judgment and decision making was definitely altered by the excessive consumption of alcohol. He came in yelling,
“Laura, where is our butcher knife, hurry up and find me the butcher knife, some bastard has just stabbed Odell in the chest, and I am going to kill the son-of-a-bitch.”
Walking toward the sink, daddy shoved the refrigerator, flipping it over spilling the contents. Mayonnaise, catsup, mustard and jelly splattered on the walls and floor. He was panting and cursing with every breath as he opened and rambled through the silverware drawer, searching for a butcher knife.
Once, he found the knife, he ran out of the back door. I took off running behind him, tears streaming down my face as I yelled,
“Daddy, come back, please, come back.
Of course, he was not going to listen to me, a seven-year old child…
“You better go back home, don’t you follow me. “
I could not keep up with Daddy; I was running fast as short legs could possibly go. Repeatedly, daddy yelled,
“I’m going to kill that son-of-a bitch for stabbing my brother“
By the time I arrived, my daddy was lying on the sidewalk in front of the bar, blood was oozing down his face and through his shirt underneath his sternum.
I was hysterical. I began to sob uncontrollably. I tried to comfort my dad; however, someone stopped me, by literally picking me up. I cried,
“Daddy, Daddy, please, don’t die, someone, please help my daddy.”
My Daddy looked up at me yelled,
“get my daughter away from here“
A police officer approached me and said,
"Honey child, your daddy is going to the hospital; he is going to be fine.”
He asked me where my Mother was. I told him she was home. The Officer took me by the hand and asked me to take him to my house. The officer and I walked down the alley; it was about two blocks. I led him up the stairs in the back of the building.
The moment we stepped upon the porch, Momma came running to the door.
Mom’s eyes were filled with fear, in addition, red blotches surfaced on
on her face and neck. I could see, she was trying to control her trembling hands by clasping them together; but, they continued to shake.
Bobbie pins and curlers began to fall out of her hair; as she nervously ran her hands through her hair. She cried,
"Officer, what in the world has happened,? Is my husband and
brother-in-law all right?
The Officer replied,
“Mrs. Lott, apparently, your husband and his brother were drinking and shooting pool at Charlie’s Bar and Grill, only a few blocks from here. An argument broke out over a bad hit on a pool ball, which provoked a fight and one of the men brutally and repeatedly thrust a knife into Odell Lott’s chest. Then, someeone said, your husband threatened to kill one of the two men involved in the argument. Three patrons sitting at the bar apprehended the guy who stabbed Mr. Lott. Your husband ran out of the bar threatening to return. Your husband came back to the bar looking for the man who stabbed his brother. For unknown reasons, the assailant did not run. Your husband demanded the man
to go outside. The same two men followed your husband outside, a witness stated, two men with knives stabbed your husband. He fell to the ground. When your daughter arrived, he was lying on the sidewalk.
Upon arrival, a paramedic stated that someone in the bar kept your brother-law alive massaging his
exposed heart. Your husband has multiple stab wounds; but, I do not believe, his condition is life threatening.
Now, your brother-in-law, I cannot say. He is in serious condition. The two men sped away in a late 1950‘s black Desoto. An All Points Bulletin has been sent out across Illinois, Wisconsin. and Indiana.
Your husband and Brother-in-law have been taken to Brentwood Hospital on 44th Street and Michigan Ave.”
As the officer left, he wished us Good Luck. Mom took us kids downstairs for
our Aunt Clarice to watch us while she
went to the Hospital.
Many hours later, when Momma returned, she told us, the doctors said Odell was a very lucky man to be alive. The person who massaged his heart in the bar saved his life. However; doctor said Odell would be lucky to live to be thirty-five years old. When my daddy was well enough, he spent time in Joliet House of Corrections for carrying a deadly weapon.
Two years later, 1962, in Russellville, Alabama my dad’s older brother J.D. came to our house and told us, he received a telephone call, stating his brothers Daddy and Odell, had been shot in a bar in Birmingham, Alabama.
He said Odell was in serious condition and daddy was dead, God, please don’t let this be true , I cried. I ran outside into the back yard, cried, and prayed it was not true .
Not again, it had only been a few years since Daddy and Odell had gotten into a terrible fight in a bar. Again, Daddy and Uncle Odell were shooting pool and drinking. We were told an officer came in and sat down and Daddy began a conversation with the officer asking the officer if he would like something to drink, a beer, coke or milk, the officer got mad and said no.
"Oh come on, let me buy you a drink, what about a coke?"
The officer told him:
"No, and if you do not shut
up, I am going to arrest you for Public drunkenness. My uncle overheard the conversation and told the police officer, do not pay any attention to him, he is drunk.
The officer did not care whether daddy was drunk or not, he decided he
was going to Jail. When Odell seen the officer was not joking, and once outside of the bar, my uncle went to the door still carrying the pool stick and yelled, officer, he is drunk don’t arrest him, I will take my brother home.
The irate officer turned his
gun on my uncle and shot him through
the screen of the doorway of the bar. Then turned the gun on my dad, he shot him in his chest, then he started to shoot my dad a second time, a group of people jumped on the officer and took his gun.
Momma went to Birmingham to Id my dad. When she arrived, Odell was
dead and daddy was alive. Odell was shot through the heart. He died from the gunshot. He was thirty-five years old.
The newspaper also made a mistake; they had him as a convict.
My uncle was not a convict. He was the nicest man you could ever meet. Allegedly, the officer who shot my dad and killed my uncle shot a young teenager in the back and he was sent to prison and while serving time, he committed suicide.
In conclusion, Odell was
thirty-five years old when he was murdered by an Alabama police officer. The doctor in Chicago said Odell would be lucky to see
thirty-five. The officer who shot my uncle in cold blood took the life of an innocent man, a man who was only trying to protect his baby brother.