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Tom J. Mariani

(January 1948 / San Francisco, CA)

World War II Lessons That We're Still Fighting


Summer of 1966
I had been working
Since I turned eighteen
As an apprentice pressman

It was summertime in San Francisco
I got to work full time so in the Fall
I could afford to work part-time
And go to college

My dad had been
A newspaper pressman
Since he returned home
From WW II in the Pacific

He got me my job at the Chronicle
That was how you got union jobs
You had to know someone
Who was already working there

That's why no Blacks were in our union
None worked upstairs either
To report there were none
Working on the presses downstairs

My dad was only seventeen
When he and his buddies
Signed up for the Navy
Right after Pearl Harbor

His graduation was in North Carolina
Learning how to be a tail-gunner
Getting ready to ship out and find out
What the wide white line was for

Painted down the middle of the floor
Of the hall where the band played loud
While young men danced with women
Most would never see again

The local civilians thought
Concessions were being made
By even allowing them
In the building

But my dad saw firsthand
They knew their place
One side of the dance floor
Restrooms bar and buffet tables

Where for Whites Only
Sailors Waves nurses and
Local white females
Waiting to dance and be held

The other side of the line
Not to be crossed
Its restrooms bar and separate buffet
Were for the Blacks

They all danced
To the same music
Only careful not to cross
That wide white painted line

Summer of 1966
We danced in Golden Gate Park
Silly us - - - Did we think we had erased
That wide white dividing line

Submitted: Monday, October 29, 2007
Edited: Wednesday, April 20, 2011

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Comments about this poem (World War II Lessons That We're Still Fighting by Tom J. Mariani )

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  • John Nightingale (12/19/2007 4:16:00 AM)

    Tom. This is a topic that fascinates me. Once the white line is removed by authority, how do you then remove it from a persons mind? For the poem and the topic 10. (Report) Reply

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