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In 1960, my dad, a Marine officer, was transferred from Barstow, California, to Albany, GA, which was quite a culture shock in some ways. I was 12 years old, and an active Boy Scout. In Barstow, my dad had been very involved in the Scouts. Soon after our arrival, we went to a Boy Scout meeting so I could join and so we could generally check out the scene.

The meeting was longish and not all that interesting. There were some ceiling fans rotating slowly above the meeting room, but they did little to cut the thick, hot, late-August SOWEGA (South West Georgia) air. The flies seemed to enjoy it, they were droning around and around in the almost imperceptible air current like tiny hawks. I was glad when the meeting finally ended.

I was very thirsty. My dad wanted to talk to some of the leaders, so I went ahead out into the hall to get a drink of water.

There were two drinking fountains, one, with a cooling unit and a sign saying White, had a lengthy line; the other, just a rust-stained ceramic basin, said Colored, and since everyone in the meeting had been white, had no line. Conscious of the 7th item in the Boy Scout law, I obediently got into the end of the line and stood there waiting my turn with the others.

After a few minutes my dad came out. He took one look at the long line and went right over to the Colored drinking fountain and took a long drink. Then he looked at me and said we ought to get going.

Conscious of all eyes on us, I sheepishly went over to the unused drinking fountain, and took a very quick, almost invisible drink, barely wetting my lips. Then I followed my dad out and we went home.

For some reason, that trivial experience just resonated incredibly in my mind and seemed to sum up a lot of things I had been wondering about. And, it's one of the little moments I will always cherish about my dad.

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