The Times They Used to Be by Lucille Clifton, Susan Jeschke |, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
The Times They Used to Be

The Times They Used to Be

by Lucille Clifton, Susan Jeschke
     
 

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Mama, Mama.
Tell us about when you was a girl . . .
tell us one of them stories
about the olden days.


So begins this tender story, set in 1948, when Satchel Paige was in the majors, Ralph Bunche was at the U.N., and each evening Sooky and her family turned on the radio to listen to Amos and Andy. Uncle Sunny, a veteran of the 92nd

Overview

Mama, Mama.
Tell us about when you was a girl . . .
tell us one of them stories
about the olden days.


So begins this tender story, set in 1948, when Satchel Paige was in the majors, Ralph Bunche was at the U.N., and each evening Sooky and her family turned on the radio to listen to Amos and Andy. Uncle Sunny, a veteran of the 92nd Division in World War II—it was his time, too. But mostly it was Sooky's time, as she sat on the curb with her best friend Tallahassie May Scott in the dusky summer nights, waiting for the street lights to go on. That summer Sooky was 12 years old and got her first pair of wedgies, and sin broke all out in her best friend's body because she wasn't saved.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The Times They Used to Be by Lucille Clifton, originally published in 1974, portrays life in the summer of 1948 for 12-year-old Sooky and her family. New drawings by E.B. Lewis help readers picture Sooky sitting outside the hardware store, viewing a television for the first time, strolling with her best friend, Tassie, or spending an evening at the dinner table. ; Jan. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780030121715
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
06/28/1974
Pages:
64
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Mama, Mama,

tell us about when you was a girl.

Yeah, Mama,

tell us one of them stories

about the olden days.

Yeah, Mama,

we like to hear about the times they used to be.

Well,

I do seem to remember once, a while ago.

It wasn't these times. . . .

It is the story

of what happened to Tassie Scott

the time sin broke all out in her body

because she wasn't saved.

And also about me,

and how it was

the summer my uncle Sunny

followed the nun

back and forth

across the Grider Street bridge.

All us colored lived in Cold Spring

or else around William Street, downtown.

Our family was Cold Spring Colored

and everybody thought we was rich.

We lived in a big old duplex

right next to Tassie and her granny,

and Uncle Sunny, my mama's baby brother,

had a cottage in the rear.

He was tall and skinny,

but had Mama's color

and her smiling ways.

He got a check from the government

so he didn't have to work.

Daddy said he never had worked,

and one time Mama and him had a big fuss

about it.

Oh, she was crazy about Uncle Sunny.

"He the smartest man in the world

next to your daddy!" she would smile.

He had been to Tuskegee

and then overseas with the 92d,

the all-colored division,

and he could see spirits and things

'cause he was born with a veil over his face.

Uncle Sunny come in our house

one early summer night hollering at Mama,

and waving his arms all around.

"Come withme,

come with me, Lil."

Daddy grabbed him by the shirt

and asked him what was the matter,

and Uncle Sunny told about how he was just driving around

and got to the Grider Street bridge

when he saw a nun

walking out in front of the car,

and how he speeded up

to offer her a ride.

When he got right up

to where he should of been next to her,

she looked over and smiled at the car

and disappeared into thin air.

Well, Mama was all ready to go with him

and see the nun-ghost for herself,

but Daddy wouldn't let her.

He said it was too late

for her to be going out,

and Sunny was most probably

just shell-shocked

from being in the war

with the 92d Division;

anyhow wasn't no such thing

as a nun-ghost.

Ended up she never did go,

but Uncle Sunny followed that nun all summer

back and forth across the bridge;

some nights going real fast

to catch her quick,

and some nights easing on up to her

before she knew he was there.

But every time,

soon as he was close,

she would turn around to smile at the car

and be gone,

just drop right out of the headlights.

"I'll catch her, though,"

he would say to us,

"and give her a lift in my car,

just like a man and a soldier."

That was the summer

my uncle Sunny drove after the nun

on the Grider Street bridge at night.

Satchel Paige was up to the majors

and Ralph Bunche was at the U.N.

The Elks' convention was coming to town.

I was twelve years old

and got my first pair of wedgies.

I wore a hat with a feather to church,

and my wedgies,

and fell flat on my behind.

And sin broke all out

in the body of my best friend.

It was 1948.

Mama was a riveter in an airplane factory during the war,

but when it was over she went back to folding at the laundry.

Daddy worked in the steel mill

with Granddaddy and Big Uncle,

and I just went to school.

I was in the eighth grade.

Twelve years old and in the eighth grade.

I was a good girl

and smart, too.

Tassie was thirteen

but in the same grade as me.

Me and Tassie.

Tassie and me.

We was best friends;

going to the show together, and hitching on the iceman's truck,

and going on long walks

over to the white folks' section

to look in their windows.

One time we walked all the way uptown

to see Johnny Ray come out of the radio station.

He touched Tassie's hand,

and she swore

she wasn't never going to write with it anymore

or nothing.

Her whole name was Tallahassie May Scott

and she lived next door to us with her granny.

And she wasn't saved.

One thing about Tassie

was that she hadn't never joined no church.

Everything else

she always did right

and never said a word,

but when Gran Scott fussed with her

about being saved,

Tassie would fuss right back.

"I just want to belong with my friends, Granny,"

she would beg.

"Just let me join Baptist."

"No, indeed,"

Gran Scott would say, shaking her head,

"you must be sanctified and made holy."

"Sanctified is too country, Granny."

Her granny would shake her head real slow and old.

"You thirteen years old now,

old enough to know sin.

Baptists shout on Sunday

and drunk on Monday.

Come to God

before your body is made all unclean."

And she would walk away mumbling.

Over on Purdy Street,

one thing we used to do

is sit on the curb by the bus stop evenings

to get first light

before we was supposed to go home.

Me and Tassie

would usually get there early

to trade comics or sing a little.

But this one night

I'm thinking about,

Tassie didn't want to read no books

and she didn't want to sing neither.

"Well, what is the matter, Tassie?"

I kept asking.

"Nothing."

"Well, how come you acting

like something is?"

"I said wasn't nothing wrong,

didn't I?"

"Shoot, go on then!"

And I walked away a little.

"Oh, come on now, Sooky,

Copyright 2002 by Lucille Clifton

Meet the Author

Lucille Clifton is an award-winning poet who has written many acclaimed books for children and adults.

E. B. Lewis has won three Coretta Scott King Honor Awards for his artwork.

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