THE COMMON THREADS TRILOGY: Common Threads II

THE COMMON THREADS TRILOGY: Common Threads II

by L.A. Champagne

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Overview

After Liz McDonald and Joseph Allen are married in the mid-1940s, things go terribly wrong on the family farm in Chatham, Ontario, and there is a great deal of sadness for everyone. Joe and Liz decide to move to Philadelphia, Mississippi, where Joe has accepted a new job designing bridges and overpasses. In 1947, they are excited to begin a new life, especially as they are expecting their first child.

But Joe and Liz are unprepared for the outright hostility they face as a mixed-race couple. In this Ku Klux Klan country in the South, it's not acceptable for a black man and a white woman to be married, and the community holds this against them. A host of trouble follows Joe and Liz through the birth of their multi-racial twins and beyond.

Common Threads II, the second book in a three-book series, follows the lives of Joe and Liz who naively try to establish roots in a place where their interracial marriage is taboo. This novel narrates the couples' trials and tribulations and their experiences with racial cruelty and death.

"A tense tale with a complex portrayal of loss, life and love."

-Dr. Joseph Zadra

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781491786895
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 01/26/2016
Pages: 338
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Common Threads Trilogy

Common Threads II


By L.A. Champagne

iUniverse

Copyright © 2016 L.A. Champagne
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4917-8689-5



CHAPTER 1

A New Home - New Life


After Liz McDonald and Joseph Allen were married in the mid 1940's, when things went terribly wrong on the family farm in Chatham; there was a great deal of sadness for everyone. The deaths of doctors George McDonald and Marteen Allen proved to be a test of strength, in regard to the relationship between God and man. The McDonald and Allen families struggled to come to terms with their losses. They saw each other through the tragedies, like they always had through the generations.

At the same time, business couldn't be better. 'Olde McDonald's Potato Farm' and 'Olde McDonald's Golf Course', were making money, hand over fist, even though both businesses were seasonal.

Eleanor (now the McDonald Matriarch, by widowhood) was not only faced with the tragedy of losing her husband and Joseph Jr.'s loss of his mother, but with losing her best friend and daughter too, as they moved away to Mississippi: She wasn't sure she would be able to handle this. She needed strength. As she often did most of her life, she turned to her Bible and to God.

The first book of Chronicles 16:11 teaches, "Seek the Lord, and his strength, seek his face continually". She'd always relied on God to see her through her life's trials and tribulations and this was a time she needed His love to help her find the strength to let Liz go. Liz had her own life and her own child coming into the world soon. Eleanor had to let her daughter go and find her own way, with her husband. It would be a challenge, since a multi-racial couple, a black husband and white wife, were very unusual for the 1940's, anywhere in the world.

When Joe applied for a job in Mississippi and was offered a position, he and Liz decided to accept and make the move. He would be designing bridges and overpasses around the city of Philadelphia, Neshoba County and outlying areas in this region of Mississippi. There were roads, highways and new interstates that needed both.

In Mississippi there were three major rivers. The Big Black, the Pearl and the Yazoo, which all needed bridges at so many places. The firm he was joining was always busy and he liked that prospect. He knew he would always be busy and never out of work.

Joe and Liz were excited to be starting a new life in a new country, just as grandparents Diana and Johnny had, around ninety years earlier when they'd moved from Scotland; clear across the ocean to Canada. Liz and Joe weren't going quite as far as Liz's great-grandparents or Joe's great-grandparents; from Africa to Jamaica, then to Mississippi and on to Canada. But it still was an exciting and significant move.

While both John and Diana's and Jed and Mary's journeys had taken sixty-seven days to complete, Liz and Joe's journey would only take them about forty-eight hours or less. Technology over the near century had greatly improved. Now, it took only around a week or less to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.

George Sr. bequeathed his wife, Eleanor and each of his children a substantial inheritance, including a large share of the businesses: the farm and golf course. Marteen left Joseph the house that Johnny and Diana had given Jed and Mary nearly as that many years earlier: As well as the 320 acres that Diana had willed to Marteen upon her death. The 320 acres was the original 'west field', which the McDonald's bought, when they moved to Canada. It would always belong to the Allen family. Marteen had not sectioned off her land, as El suggested earlier. She decided to let the family just keep working the crops on her land and they would pay her that land's portion of the profits. That money would go to Joe and Liz now.

Liz and Joe appreciated the inheritance and profit checks but they wanted to save that nest egg for their future and family. They invested some of their money right away. They wanted to be able to stand on their own four feet. When they moved away, they wanted to be the first of the family to be successful in their own right.

Their plan was to live off Joe's salary at first. But Liz would also be teaching at some point in time, bringing in another income. Joseph wanted to be the sole provider for their family but he was not stubborn enough to go against Liz's plans. She wanted to work and bring another income to their family too; a family that would include a baby in less than five months. They'd be ready ... for him, or her.

They set aside their inheritance money and it would be there when they needed it, or wanted it; for something like a new house, vehicles, holiday, or their children and grandchildren's' future and education. They were determined to make it completely on their own. Eleanor understood and was very proud of them. Each of their lost parents would have been proud too. It was sad; but the grandchild Liz carried, would only have one grandmother. Most of the older generation from the farm had passed, by this time.


The day came when they set off on their journey. There were a lot of tears. Most of them were between Liz and Eleanor, especially with Liz pregnant! El was sure she wouldn't see her grandchild much: But Liz did some research recently and told her mother, "Mom, it's not like the old days of horse and wagon. Here in Canada we have Canadian Pacific Airways. You can fly out of Toronto and come directly to Mississippi, in only a few hours. You also have the option of crossing over to Detroit and flying out of there. It's likely shorter if you go out of Detroit, instead of Toronto." Eleanor was reassured and she said she'd come, as soon as the baby was born; and anyone who wanted to join her for the trip was welcomed to come, too. This was a grand family event and she wished to share it with everyone, so she would gladly pay. She was going to be a grandma!

Joe had to practically pry Liz and her mom apart. He wanted to get on the road as soon as he could because it was going to take them at least eighteen hours driving time, alone. They would keep the speed down to the proper limits, since they were driving with such a large load in the truck. It also depended on how comfortable Liz was. After all, she did have a baby sitting on her bladder. After finally prying Liz from her mom and her brothers, they were off for the adventure of their lifetime ... whether it was to be good or bad.

Liz would need several bathroom breaks along the way and they both needed to stretch their legs once in a while. Liz didn't want Joe to know, but she would need a nap, too. She knew she just couldn't get comfortable sitting in the truck that long. He did realize this without her saying so. On the way he said, "Honey, I would like to stop and have a couple of hours to take a nap. I don't know why, I guess I just didn't sleep enough last night. You know the excitement of moving and all. Would you mind?"

Liz looked at him with great relief and said, "No sweetie. I wouldn't mind at all. If you like, I can drive for a bit." She hoped he would refuse her offer, for now.

He said, "No dear I'd like you to have a rest." They stopped at a motel. It was late afternoon and she was so glad that Joe mentioned it first. He was smiling inside but not letting Liz know he was doing this just for her.


After driving over nine-hundred miles from Chatham, Ontario to Philadelphia, Mississippi; Joe and Liz were relieved the trip was finally over. They had left the farm about forty hours earlier. Liz was also relieved about another thing - she never had any morning sickness.

The 1946 GMC CC-101 truck that Joe bought and put all his faith in drove like a champ. Even after this long trip, he felt there were many good years left in her. Joe was the first one to break with family tradition. He did not buy a Ford vehicle. Instead, he bought a General Motors pick-up truck. He was relieved that Liz's father or his grandfather weren't around to witness his decision.

His beautiful 'baby blue', as he called her, moved them and as many belongings as they could fit into the truck's box. Eleanor let Liz take some things from the McDonald house, but much of what they took came from the Allen house. There were things in the Allen house that were still there, from the day Jed and Mary Allen bought them at Lavalle's Mercantile, almost a century ago.

The pick-up's box had thirty square feet of space and they made use of every inch, but still they couldn't bring all of their large furnishings. They would have to buy a sofa and chair for the living room and a dining room suite, but they were able to move their double bed; including the mattress and the frame, spring and headboard. They could live out of their suitcases until they bought dressers. El insisted on Liz taking the large mirror, which Diana and Johnny found in their attic, the first night in their new house almost a hundred years earlier; to their own surprise then. It was the one that Diana had fallen in love with. Liz's mom knew that her daughter had admired that mirror all her life and thought she could take it with her. Their kitchen table and four chairs fit on the truck, since they could be taken apart and reassembled. The coffee table and two end tables, all their lamps, and Joseph's favorite, dirty old beat up recliner (fondly named old reliable) ... which he would never part with, made it in the pick-up with no problem.

This was the infamous recliner he even managed to take to Queens University; and squeezed into his dormitory room. They were also able to fit their antique china cabinet and hutch in the truck. There was room for their dishes, silver and all smaller items, all their clothes and delicate and personal belongings, in the cab of the truck between them.


Eleanor had recently let Joe refinish one of the cradles and a rocking horse. She was letting the couple take both pieces with them to Mississippi. But it would be the first time that the set of two horses and two cradles would be split up. After Joe had refinished the set they were taking with them, Liz and Eleanor liked the job he did on them, so they asked him to refinish the other set. He didn't mind and it had been some time since it had been done. Everyone on the farm wondered who would need the other cradle and horse next. The two sets of finely crafted horses and cradles had held McDonald and Allen babies for almost one hundred years.

They could never leave their most cherished piece of furniture behind. They made sure they had room for it. When they married, one of the nicest wedding presents they received from their families was a beautiful console Victor Victrola radio and record player. This model played both AM and FM Radio with wonderful sound to it. The turntable was the most updated model and they loved to play all of their 78 rpm records which they had been collecting over the past few years. Since the 78's were a very breakable collection, they were difficult to move so they were stowed in the cab of the truck, between the two of them, all the way to Mississippi.

To top it all off, Joe purchased a large tarpaulin to keep everything dry. Albeit rare, there had been some freak snow and rain storms in the northern states, as well as in Chatham in past years, at this time of year. They wanted to be ready for any and all kinds of weather so as to protect all their belongings, while moving south. As always, they consulted their Farmer's Almanac which revealed that they had picked an excellent couple of days for their trip ... sunny! While Joe had been busy, wrapping up small details, packing, lifting, and making sure everything was looked after, Liz mapped out the route. She loved doing this.


After leaving Chatham, they headed to Windsor and then crossed the Ambassador Bridge, which took them from Windsor, Ontario to Detroit, Michigan. There was a delay at the border, however. The guards held them up for quite a while so they could check out why a black man and a white woman would be traveling together and claim they were married and relocating to Mississippi, of all places. The guards' laughter, gave way to concern. They thought that there had to be trouble.

After three hours, proof of their births and their marriage and a few phone calls; one being to Eleanor to confirm that this was her daughter and that she was married to Joe and he was not kidnapping her, the border guards eventually let them go on their way. One of the guards waved at them sarcastically saying, "Good luck folks. You're gonna need it where you're goin'!" Joe and Liz couldn't understand what the problem was, or what they really meant.


The Ambassador Bridge was Joe's favorite bridge when he was growing up. He memorized the details of this huge suspension bridge since around the age of eight or so. Its length was 7,500 feet which spanned the Detroit River. Construction on it started in 1927, when he was just eight years old. It was completed in 1929 and opened in 1930. Whenever opportunity allowed, he would take off from the farm if anyone was going into Windsor and he would go just to look at the bridge. They were also building a tunnel at the same time, which opened in 1930. The Detroit and Windsor Tunnel was constructed under the Detroit River. It was 5,160 feet long, just short of a mile long. Growing up, he was always telling Liz that someday he would become a structural engineer and would build bridges and tunnels.

True to his word, after graduation, Joe had a hand in the construction of overpasses and assisted on some bridges in Toronto. He loved the work. He was well respected in the industry in Ontario and for a black man; that was very rare. He was always hearing of major projects coming up worldwide. His boss in Windsor kept him apprised of job openings on other structures, although he did not want to lose him from the firm.

Then one day, came word from Mississippi. There were overpasses and bridges to be built in the Mississippi area. He applied for the job and received a glowing reference from his boss and Liz told him, "Wherever you go Joe, I do! We're in this life together, forever." He loved her so much. Her patience and dedication to him was unparalleled by anything else in his life.


They made their way through Detroit and then forged on to Ohio where they went through Toledo, Findlay, Lima, Sidney, Dayton and Cincinnati. They had to stop a few times for gas and rest stops. They only took time to buy cold drinks or coffee, since Caroline had made them many sandwiches for the journey. After Cincinnati, they went on to Louisville Kentucky, where they found a motel for the night. That first day, Joe had driven for almost ten hours total and Liz eventually drove two, just for a change of pace.

They took about six hours off the road when they arrived at a motel in Louisville. They slept well and got an early start the next morning. In Kentucky, they passed through Elizabethtown; where Joe teased that his wife was so special, they named a town after her. She blushed as she smiled at him. Tennessee was the next state on the trip.

When they hit Nashville, Joe surprised Liz with a stop at Ryman Theater, The Grand Ole Opry. Liz was so thrilled. They both had been brought up on country, gospel and bluegrass music. Both families listened faithfully to the Opry shows. Some of Liz and Joe's favorites were The Carter Family, Bill Munroe, Roy Acuff and of course the comedy of Minnie Pearl.

They stopped for a few hours. It gave her time to rest and stretch while walking around. His stop here was a big surprise to her; so she could take in and feel the history of the place. She had always hoped to visit someday. They walked around the theater and then a bit of the town

After Nashville they drove through Athens and then came to the Alabama border. The next main towns were Cullman, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. Joe asked if she needed to stop and she told him, "No love, let's just keep going." They finally arrived at the Mississippi border. They drove on through Meridian and DeKalb and finally, Neshoba County, and their new hometown of Philadelphia.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Common Threads Trilogy by L.A. Champagne. Copyright © 2016 L.A. Champagne. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgements, ix,
Forward, xiii,
Chapter 1 A New Home - New Life, 1,
Chapter 2 The New Job, 21,
Chapter 3 Life is Busy, 38,
Chapter 4 A New Teacher, Again, 51,
Chapter 5 Joseph's OWN Project, 64,
Chapter 6 February 24th - A Day Never to be Forgotten, 77,
Chapter 7 The Day After, 90,
Chapter 8 Hospital Time for Liz and the Boys, 108,
Chapter 9 Frustrations and Happiness, 121,
Chapter 10 A Friendly Face, 133,
Chapter 11 Growing Boys, 153,
Chapter 12 Finally Home Together, 175,
Chapter 13 Life Goes On at 2 Gilbert Street, 195,
Chapter 14 Aftermath, 217,
Chapter 15 Family Arrives For a Funeral, 235,
Chapter 16 Sad Days Ahead, 255,
Chapter 17 The Funeral, 272,
Chapter 18 Celebration of Life, 284,
Chapter 19 Back to a Normal Life?, 296,
Chapter 20 Life at Home, 317,

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