Discrimination Lesson from 75 Years Ago

A memory from Kath Cavanaugh

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.


3 Replies to “Discrimination Lesson from 75 Years Ago”

  1. Loren, it was so good to see you again. Thank you for sharing your writings. I have read a couple already and am enjoying! Keep itgoing!

    1. Thank you, Jill. Good to see you again, and I’m guessing there aren’t many dull or boring moments in your house with all those young ladies. I appreciate your encouragement, going slow for now but hoping it picks up. May stop in PE and visit you sometime.

  2. Thanks for getting back with your stories I have missed them

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