Road trips and the term ‘White Trash’

Road trips and the term ‘White Trash’

By Dave Morgan - Contributing columnist

This story kind of coincides with current events going on in today’s times. Maybe this will put things in perspective as to what is happening in today’s world and my feelings.

My family started going to Myrtle Beach in the later 1950’s. Every summer we would spend a few weeks at Myrtle Beach State park. The park was near the beach and had a swimming pool and a fishing pier nearby. It was quite an outdoor experience. The park had no electricity and the bathroom shower houses had no roofs. The campsites were nestled in amongst the pine trees and quite small but comfortable in size. I think there were water hookups but probably not water that you would feel safe drinking.

There were no reserved campsites and you lined up outside the campground in the morning and waited for someone to check out to get a spot. I remember sitting in long lines for most of some days before we could get a spot. First come first serve in those days. There was no choice as I believe at the time this was your only choice if you wanted to camp near the beach.

In those days there were no interstate highways and very few if any four lane highways. The turnpike was 88 miles long and cost $1.25 for the entire trip. One toll booth at the beginning and one at the end. We hauled our what seemed like 15 ton all metal camper with a rear end shock re-enforced Rambler and later a Chevy Malibu convertible. The only air conditioning we had was the kind where you rolled down the window. Maybe that’s why dad bought a convertible. I remember us looking for gas stations along the way and of course trying to find the cheapest place to buy it. We would sort of have a game of who could find the lowest – 27.9 cents a gallon is a number that I seem to remember as the winner one summer on our trips.

Our vacations usually included Mom and Dad of course as well as my brother and sister and my cousin. On many of our trips, several of our neighbors from our hometown would be there also. Our days consisted of playing at the pool, beach or the fishing pier. The evenings everybody would gather up and head downtown to the Pavilion and amusement park. Mom and dad would sit on the benches and “watch” people as they turned us loose. Many years later I did the same with my kids and found myself sitting on these same bench’s but now as a parent. That was a scary moment when I realized the circle of life had suddenly grabbed on to me. I realized and thought to myself “Oh my god I’ve become my parents”.

One such trip we were making to town, we all loaded up in a station wagon and me and another young person were clear in the back-rumble seat staring out the window. My family while not wealthy and not poor was quite comfortable in our wants and needs. My dad had a good job and my parents were very frugal with their money. I was at the time about 8 or 9 and my companion was a few years younger and his family was what you might consider “well off”. We were leaving the campground and headed out to highway 17 through the 2-3-mile entrance way into the State Park.

Dotted all along this winding road were various picnic shelters where families could come and have cook-outs. There were many people taking advantage of the nice weather and taking advantage of these areas. One such area we passed, and my companion said, “oh look the white trash are having a picnic”. This is a term I had never had heard before in my short life. I looked at them and wondered to myself what made them white trash. They looked just like me and everyone else I knew. So, being naïve and curious at the same time, I asked “what is white trash?” The answer I was given was “you know, like you.”

I have never repeated this story to anyone in my life but given today’s atmosphere I think it may be an appropriate thing to bring up. That one statement probably changed my entire outlook on life. It hurt me to think that someone thought I was beneath them. This was someone whom I played with and was friends with and yet he felt this way about me. Throughout life I remembered that feeling I had and never ever wanted to have another person to feel that way because of what was said to me. I have throughout my life always treated my fellow man or woman as if they were my equal. The feller that said this to me was somewhere about 7 or 8 at the time. The saying today is that you’re not born that way, your taught or raised that way. Thank goodness my parents never raised me that way.

As a person in the retail world and dealing with people from various paths in life I have heard others refer to people in similar terms as above. The most attacks I hear are those directed at people receiving public assistance. “Them there welfare people need to get a job” or “if they can afford cigarettes and beer then why can’t they pay for their medicine” or the thing I dislike the most is “that colored person or the n-word…” I have always treated people the same regardless of who they were. Just as I was judged many years ago and the feelings I had then have carried over to my feelings towards others. I have heard the saying “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Not that I am a religious person but I have always lived by this principle.

This was around 1962 that all this happened, and I have never told this story till now. The next year when we returned to the State Park there was a closed sign at the entrance and it was barricaded shut. Not even the picnic area was accessible. It remained closed for many years thereafter. The year was 1963 and the civil rights movement was out in full force. Early that spring two young African American students from one of the local colleges showed up at the swimming pool. Rather than grant them entry they shut down the entire park and camp ground. The local people said “they have their own campground down the road (30 miles). They don’t need to be trying to use ours.” This was the year all the other campgrounds sprung up just below the state park. Ocean Lakes, Pirateland, and Lakewood.” We camped at Lakewood that year and it was one big muddy mess in that it was so new and unexpected.

Road trips and the term ‘White Trash’

By Dave Morgan

Contributing columnist

Dave Morgan is from Point Pleasant and this was excerpted from his work “The Life and Times of a Youngster Gone Bye.”

Dave Morgan is from Point Pleasant and this was excerpted from his work “The Life and Times of a Youngster Gone Bye.”