Unfunny things happened on way to the forum

Editor’s note: Following is an edited-for-space version of the Sun., Sept. 4, 1966 column by The Atlanta Constitution’s Editor Ralph McGill:

One of five young girls who had their car break down in an upper income residential area as they were returning home from a stage play in a Southern city — Atlanta — wrote a letter about their experiences. Since the letter has general application, its publication seems indicated.

“Dear Sir, Four girls and I went to Chastain Park to see the play ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.’ Let me tell you of our experiences ‘On the Way Back from the Forum.’

“The water pipe of our car broke on West Paces Ferry Road near Peachtree Road. We were in front of a house owned I am sure by some very nice people. Only they weren’t too nice that night. You see we were Negroes in a white neighborhood.

“1st incident — Some nice kids passed by and stopped to help us. They were our age. They stayed with us until a policeman came by around 11:30 p.m. They told him of our trouble. Assured that they had helped us and that he would then help us, they left. If we saw or heard from that officer again, you did.

“2nd incident — We were immediately in front of a nice house. We rang the doorbell. If the occupant came to the door to help us, you did. However, if he were asked to give an accurate report of everything that went on that night, I’m sure he could. He stayed in his window. He even got a flashlight so that he could see anything he may have missed with his God-given eyes.

“A lot of people were slowing up to see if we needed help. Upon seeing that we were negroes, they decided among themselves that we didn’t. A car finally stopped to help us. They were white. As they stopped, a friend of ours passed by who had also been to see the play. We then told the nice people who had stopped — thank you very much, and our friend took our driver to a service station. We waited, four girls all alone, wishing that we had someone to turn to. The people above us kept staring out their window. We could have forgiven them (because I may not have opened my door that time of night, either — not knowing), but we felt that they had been there long enough to know how the situation was — even the way we were dressed should have told them something.

3rd incident — A blue and black vinyl top G.T.O. had passed us twice (I usually notice cars). Upon passing the second time, something was thrown at us. Just what it was, I couldn’t say, but I do know that it was metal.

“Why didn’t we get back in the car?” It was still smoking.

“A nice young man passed by and stopped. He went to get help for us. He returned to assure us that help was on the way. This is what you call a decent human being, not a (expletive deleted) lover. We were grateful because we had come to the conclusion that our friends were not having much luck. Our friends returned shortly after that. So did the mechanic, who had to go back to the service station to get a new pump. While he was gone, another incident occurred.

4th incident — A car full of young white men, who had been drinking, stopped. We then got into our car. The reason we got into the car were 1 — The young men had been drinking. 2 — One young man had on black gloves. 3 — One young man had a pipe in his hand. 4 — They wanted to have a party.

“They did not threaten us, they only talked foolish.

“When their car first stopped, one of the boys yelled, (expletive deleted)!

We could call the white man a ‘red-neck,’ ‘white trash,’ a ‘cracker’ and other things. The point here is to do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.

“Some people may say we had no right to be out at that time of night. Why didn’t we? We had just as much right there as anyone else traveling that street did.

“To the people who wouldn’t let us in to use the phone: I hope with all my heart you never, never have a daughter, niece, friend — or wife, even — stranded anywhere needing help.

“It is a sad business when a world passes by five young girls, all alone in a strange neighborhood (that was plain to see) and does not offer a helping hand.”

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