Prejudice became real to me at age seven.
It was the summer of 1941, 4 months before Pearl Harbor. My parents, 10-year-old brother Mike, and I were staying at a resort in Minocqua, WI, for a week—log cabins, endless woods, and a beautiful lake. We checked in on Saturday morning and enjoyed the day. At 6:00 that evening my dad and I walked to the lodge office to check out places to go. A black 4-door sedan pulled up, and a well-dressed man got out and came into the office. He asked the owner if there was an available cabin for the week. The owner responded in a brusque manner—“We’re filled up for the week.” I watched the man return slowly to his car, and I saw two children and his wife sitting in the car, looking so sad. I can still picture the little girl. So my dad and I left to walk back to our cabin, and I asked my dad why the manager had said “no”. The cabin next to ours was empty. His reply still rings in my ears. “They’re Jewish.”
I asked what that meant, and he just said people don’t like Jews. I asked why and he had no answer.
That short conversation and incident always stayed with me. Since that night 76 years ago I have never understood prejudice against race or religion.
Kath Cavanaugh teaches English and writing at a parochial school, Assumption High School, in Wisconsin Rapids. She’s also our fearless and wonderful writing mentor in a writing group that meets twice a month in a senior center in the same city. Her focus, her welcoming manner, and her suggested assignments make our writing meetings come to life.
This first-hand brush with discrimination at a young age bowled me over when I first heard her read it to our group, and I knew it would work well in the elkfarm blog. Thanks Kath for writing it and agreeing to let me publish it.