With “influence felt far beyond the state borders.” TIME, Sept. 27, 1968 “The conscience of the political community in Texas ….” THE NEW REPUBLIC, Nov. 20, 1965 “In Texas the only way things are changed is with the help of the press … I think this is where the Observer comes into the Texas picture. You will frequently find stories in the Observer that haven’t been printed simply because there hasn’t been digging done on a particular subject.” SISSY I FARENTHOLD, Jan. 23, 1973 Jane By Max Woodfin Galveston Jane gets up at four in the morning. “That’s every mornin’ for 17 years. No alarm, no nothin’, I just feels it. First thing I do is put my feet in Charlie’s back and push a little bit. Helps me get the stiff outta my back and gets him goin’. ‘Fore Charlie it was Eddie, ‘fore Eddie it was Don. Sometimes Charlie don’t wanna get up. I just reaches down and kinda grabs ‘im. I grab, you know, I just grabs ‘im. That wakes ‘im up and I get outta bed.” Oatmeal is ready for Charlie, then he’s gone before five. He works on a clean-up crew along the beach. If his crew isn’t working, he leaves anyway; six of the eight kids are Jane’s, not his, and he can’t stand three of them. He has his union card to work on the docks, so he can figure a week or two’s worth of work there every year. From five until six, Jane sits. “I do thinkin’ then. You lookin’ at me kinda funny, but I do. Most I thinks about what bills we gonna pay this month and maybe Charlie can work the dock or I can get some private duty sittin’. I used to think a lot about my work, goin’ in and spendin’ eight hours wipin’ shit offa old people, but I quit that. You’re gonna think this is real funny, but I think about where I’d be if I’s born white. I ain’t old enough to do everything whites say, but I ain’t young enough to be real proud I’m black. Most I think I got a bad deal, ’cause my grandmother was Cherokee Indian and I coulda had it better that way.” Six o’clock means getting up eight kids, more or less, depending on who stayed with a friend. Alice, the oldest girl, gets up first to cook breakfast for the rest of the family. Jane works on her hair, then walks two blocks to catch a ride with another Alice to be at work by quarter to seven. Alice charges Jane a quarter each way, but to ride the bus she’d have to get out an hour earlier and it’s 35 cents anyway. Jane works at a nursing home as a nurse’s aide. She earns $1.80 an hour, few benefits. “I’d like to make more, but the main thing is knowin’ that check is comin’ every two weeks. It’s gonna be there ’cause I’m gonna work. I hear we’re gettin’ a ten cent raise before January and maybe sick leave next year. I ain’t missed a day in four years ‘cept for funerals, but I’m gettin’ older.” Jane is a big woman. Her legs look thick rather than strong, but her forearms and hands are beautifully shaped. They have the shine I notice on black athletes. Her voice is surprising, high and squeaky, breaking frequently into a laugh that gets on my nerves. I’ve noticed other people wince at it, too. When Jane talks to me, in a sitting room or in a patient room with no other aides around, her voice gets deeper, matches her frame; her eyes brighten at the idea of an attentive listener. She wants her kids to be good kids. She wants them to have some extra money. She wants to have enough money in the cigar box for Charlie to take her out once a week, even if only for a couple of beers in a dirty bar close to Galveston’s huge housing projects. She knows she fits the part: black, female, divorced, remarried, kids, a service job. I’m tempted to say she is intensely aware of her social position, but when Jane talks to me she is human, she is not a paragraph. “Sometimes I gets mixed up. You know it costs $750 every month for these people to be here? And that don’t count `chux’ and medicine. [A private room does cost $25 a day, semi-private rooms cost less, and she’s correct that there are many extra expenses.] If me’n Charlie had $750 a month, we’d have us some leftover. I look at it a bunch of ways. They’ve got the money and it gives me a job, but that’s too easy. What hurts is knowin’ these families, all but some, don’t give a shit for these folk. If they didn’t have all that money, they’d be takin’ care of ’em at home, and they’d have sombody to love. We takes care of my mother and Charlie’s mother, one’s got a room and one an apartment and they’re in worse shape than some of these people.” It amazes me to witness the control Jane and other aides have when they get the abuse they do. Spit in their faces and old men’s hands wandering. Striking a patient is cause for instant firing, as it should be, but I wonder if Jane might not find years of pleasure in one slap at an old white man. “They’s old, they’s old.” I ask Jane if she ever feels a vestige of slavery, maybe not from management, but from her relationship to patients. I can tell by her look that I’ve said something I shouldn’t have. She doesn’t answer that day, but weeks later she does. “I’s been thinkin’ bout slavery. Look at ole man Steve, he ain’t never had none a’this and here he is ’cause some white church and welfare got him here. He loves to tell me what to do ’cause they’s been telling him all his life. Lots a’ these ole folks is so old they ain’t heard that blacks is people now. I takes some, but it’s clean here an’ I couldn’t do much else. I goes home every day tellin’ myself that Alice is learnin’ to type an’ she ain’t gonna have to put her hands in some white man’s shit, never.” Woodfin works in a nursing home in Galveston. January 18, 19 74 15 1.1.=…..1…. am an mom= wen “THE TEXAS OBSERVER’ I I I 600 West 7th I I Austin, Texas 78701 1 I Enter a 1-year subscription, at $8.40 1 I I I I I I street I I I I city state I [ J Check enclosed zip I . always impious. We recommend it.” I. F. STONE’S BI-WEEKLY, May 31, I 1971. “I think The Observer ranks with The Progressive as one of the two most useful papers in the United States.” JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH, Sep. 16, 1970 “The Observer rates high among my favorite reading.” ARTHUR SCHLESINGER, JR., May 18, 1970 “One of the best publications in the country remains The Texas Observer.” THE NEW YORK POST, Dec. 18, 1969 64. . probably as close as any publication in America to the high European standard of informed reportage and commentary.” THE SOUTH AND THE NATION by Pat Watters A journal of “considerable influence in Texas public life.” THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, Oct. 22, 1967 I “Probes fearlessly into areas often I I ignored by the establishment press, 111 ranging from state house scandals and the plight of the minorities to the I establishment itself.” NEAL R. PEIRCE, I I The Megastates of America, 1972 111 I I I “Time and again since its first appear I I ance in 1954, the Observer has cracked I I stories ignored by the state’s big dailies 1 I and has had the satisfaction of watching the papers follow its muckraking lead.” I I N EWSWEEK, March 7, 1966 I IMO IBM 11111111111111111111111111111111111111 MOM MIMI I 11:1
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