Say Hello to my dad, Roy Lee Payne Sr. He grew up in Florida and his real name at that time was Charlie Leroy Payne. He changed it after a time. Daddy passed away on Veterans Day, November 11, 1987 at the age of 66. He had a heart attack and when my mom found him, he was just laying back on the bed.
Growing up in Florida in the early 1920s and 30s was difficult for African-Americans to say the least. My dad, I came to believe, was a victim of those times and it translated into him being a cruel man most of his young life, as a father, and dad. No matter. Maybe if I had seen and experienced the things he did, I might have morphed into someone other than who I am now.
My dad only had a 3rd grade education and could only really write his name. I believe that is why he was so adamant that all of his 7 children complete high school. We all did and went further in our education and careers.
I remember a time when my dad got his first real good paying job, one that could have brought his family up a notch, if his mind had been on them. Like most people, he could do the job masterfully, but because of the 50s and 60s and the lack of rights for black men, the establishment used every tactic to get rid of him and other black men working as skilled tradesmen. It didn’t matter that white men worked as skilled tradesmen during that time and that many of them couldn’t even sign their names. They literally made an “X” on a line and someone who could write witnessed it. These men didn’t have to get their skills validated by reading a detailed text book, about 300 pages long and do the assignments in them and turn them in. Only my dad and others of his “persuasion” had to. My dad couldn’t read well, at all. So when he cursed and threw the book in the floor and stomped away saying he could get another job, my mom picked up the book and with her 9th grade education she read the lessons, did his homework for him; he copied it down in his own writing and turned the work in. To the chagrin of his superiors, my dad got his skilled trades certificate and license and worked at that job until he retired. Family is important, don’t forget that.
As a teen and young adult, he saw things that made him very private about his life. He never talked about it. My mom and my aunt, his sister would relay things about his family history from those early years. For instance, as a young teen he was on the chain gang. We don’t know why. He was a marine as a young adult and served in the Korean War, a war not many Korean vets talk about. Neither did he. He and some of his friends were walking home in the evening after working their jobs in the south where they lived. When they separated to go to their various destinations, some white men came and for no reason beat up one of his dear friends, and killed him. They put him on the railroad tracks for the train to run over him, but when the train came, it was moving very slowly and was able to stop before striking his friend’s corpse. Another time, while working for another white boss, the boss’s two sons kept throwing snakes on him. The boss told the sons to leave “Charlie” alone. They didn’t. They kept up this cruel game until my dad had had enough. He beat up both of the boys. Later, of course, a group of “interested parties” came to his mom’s home and wanted to “talk” to him about beating up two white boys. My grandmother didn’t tell them where he was. In traditional manner, during those times, they beat her and my aunt. What they didn’t know was my dad was coming through the back door with his knife. When it was all over, he left out the back door. Nuf said.
Daddy maintained a rough exterior that kept anyone from getting in. That is my one regret. I don’t know anything about being a ‘Daddy’s girl’. More tomorrow.