This is an excerpt from the book PATHWAYS entitled “Pepsi Cola.” Because of “Separate but equal” and “With all deliberate speed” I had very few opportunities to interact with African-Americans until I graduated from college. Pepsi Cola would be the first African-American adult male that I would have the opportunity to meet and observe. I have heard it said that it was easy to fear what you don’t understand, meeting Pepsi Cola would provide the opportunity for one of those first steps toward understanding. Please note, I attempted to write this from the stand point of an eight-year old mind and in the language of the period.
“While I had seen African-American males I would not meet my first African- American adult male until the very late fifties when we remodeled our house. A black brick mason with the interesting name of “Pepsi Cola” Mobley was hired to add the brick veneer to our original home along with the two new rooms added onto each end. Not only would he add layers of brick to my home, he would add layers to my thinking and understanding.
“Pepsi Cola” was impressive, as were his two sons who served as helpers and apprentice brick layers. It was their responsibility to carry the bricks and “mud” to their father as he did the placing of the brick runs. I found the whole endeavor to be interesting but not nearly as interesting as the “colored” folk who were carrying out the tasks. The acorns did not fall far from the tree! Close-cropped “steel wool” hair over clear ebony skin; they possessed the whitest of stereotypical teeth below broad flat noses and wide cheekbones. They looked nothing like my friend Maw, who, though tall, had an almost delicate look compared to them. All three were powerfully built with muscles bulging and glistening with sweat from handling and placing the bricks. “Pepsi Cola’s” decades of brick work had given him shoulders so wide I doubted his ability to walk through a door without turning sideways along with hands beaten, scarred and as rough as the slabs on the side of my grandparent’s barn. All three started the day in tattered yet clean tees and denim pants that had patches patched over patches. As the heat of the day intensified, shirts would be discarded exposing broad, powerful chests that were covered in tight black curly hair. Curiously, whenever my grandmother or mother stepped outside, there was a bit of a scramble to put their shirts back on. “Pepsi” was gregarious, singing Negro hymns and laughing his way through the day or “holding court” for anyone nearby, which was usually the eight or nine-year old “little man” that was me. I found him to have the most interesting accent to go along with a lot of words that began with “dees” and ended in “esses.” His sons were the exact opposite – quiet and, I would say, somewhat sullen. In hindsight, my guess is that there was little way to wedge a word in edgewise with “Pepsi Cola” around.
I learned a lesson of the times during the course of the remodeling. Sent to carry a jug of water out to the workers, I asked Mr. Mobley, “Mr. Mobley, would you like some water?” “Eyes do, Eyes do, indeeds, Little Man,” he answered with his best grin. In turn, I gave the sons water and returned to my grandmother who informed me of my grievous faux pas, “You don’t refer to ‘coloreds’ by mister unless you use their first name.” Okay, “Mister Pepsi Cola!” “
If you would be interested in reading the complete selection “Pepsi Cola” and the book Pathways, you may purchase a paperback or downloaded a version using the following link: http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM