Friday, February 9, 2018

A Silver Golf Trophy and Prejudice

What does a silver golf trophy have to do with prejudice?

I'm not talking about the prejudice some people have against the scent of hyacinths. Really, some people hate it.

I happen to love their scent, and one gift I can count on getting from RH in February is a potted purple hyacinth.

Even if I have to remind him.

And I'm not talking about the prejudice that most designers have against keeping the pretty paper they come wrapped in.

I realize that's supposed to be removed and moss draped artistically across the top instead. 

The prejudice I'm speaking of here is one I hope no longer exists today, not in this country.

When I spotted a tarnished silver golf trophy at a thrift store a couple of years ago when we were living in Florida, I quickly put it in my basket. It was half price Saturday and only $12.

When I got home and polished it I was able to make out the inscription on it:

Beauclerc Country Club
Golf Champions

Away to Google I went and discovered that the Beauclerc Country Club was a historic Jewish country club in nearby Jacksonville. 

I immediately remembered a movie starring Gregory Peck where he was a journalist assigned to cover the subject of whether there was antisemitism in New York City.

Surely not, he felt. But once he went undercover, pretending to be Jewish himself, he found it everywhere including in Darien, Connecticut, the home of his new fiancée played by Dorothy McGuire.

One scene in the movie particularly surprised me. When Peck's character tries to register at a nice hotel he finds there are suddenly no rooms available to him. 

When I began researching the history of the Beauclerc community and the country club there, I found out that it was first established because the San Jose Country Club nearby would not accept Jews for membership.

Disturbing, isn't it? 

I hope that the movie Gregory Peck starred in in 1947, Gentleman's Agreement, helped change some of the prejudices in our country then. It was nominated for eight Oscars and won Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Celeste Holmes), and Best Director (Elia Kazan).

I guess prejudices will always be with us. 

Hopefully not as much as in 1947. 

Added on 3/6/18:

I am so glad I ordered the book after posting earlier about the movie. I not only discovered an author I loved but learned so much more than the movie covered. 

The title, Gentleman's Agreement, makes sense now after learning that the unwritten agreement among wealthy Darien, Connecticut residents was that they would not sell property or houses to Jews. 

Anyone else catch the irony in this? Gentleman? What gentleman, I ask you?

However, the book also brings up the bad problem of prejudice in California at that time, only there it was "the Filipino thing and the Chinese and the Nisei and the Negro thing..."

In other words, all the people of a different skin color who were doing the actual work that white people didn't want to do. Does that sound familiar?

Prejudice is a complicated thing, isn't it? Are some prejudices not as bad as others? The author of this book, Laura Z. Hobson, also covered stories of prejudice among Jews towards other Jews, the wealthy ones who form their own "snazzy golf club" and then "blackball guys of Polish or Russian-Jewish stock. Meaning, anybody who looks good-and-Jewish."

That reminded me of stories I heard back before the Black is Beautiful movement in my early married life where African-Americans looked down on other African-Americans who had dark skin tone. Does this still exist? 

I know that even when I was in school in the early 1950s through early 60s, there were popular and unpopular kids in school, mostly because of looks or grades or economic level. That's something that I wonder will ever change. 

And I don't remember a single student in my schools being physically disabled.

All this was before the Americans With Disabilities Act. I watched a movie the other night about the man responsible for bringing about that Act and heard for the first time ever that back before the AWD Act that there was an Ugly Law--I kid you not. It gave restaurants and other businesses the legal right to refuse to serve you if you were too ugly in appearance, or too disabled. Because heaven forbid someone ugly disturbs the meals of customers.

Can. You. Imagine.

Back to the book. A conversation Phil was having with a few fellow co-workers included what I hope we would all come to feel about the only kind of prejudice any of us should have.

They brought up the question of wondering, now that Phil had completed his magazine series, "I Was A Jew for 6 Months," whether they were obliged to like all Jews, even those who behaved badly.

Sam says that he has "a God-given right to dislike any louse alive, Jewish, Mohammedan, or whatever."

They all decided that "antilousism" was an accepted -ism.

I agree, don't you? Forget every single prejudice against anyone unless they are just a no-good mean louse, whatever color or creed they come in.

Or is it prejudice to dislike a louse?

In that case I guess I'm prejudiced.


  1. Gentleman's Agreement is one of my favorite movies. I love Gregory Peck.
    I didn't know as a child so much about the anti Semitism people faced.
    but having lived in some parts of the south growing up I remember seeing the signs "white drinking fountain" and things like that.
    and the confusing sign to me as a child was always this one in a restaurant.
    "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."
    it was a polite way of telling those of color to get out. to stay away.
    to not even try. (recall the restaurant in Giant?) what a scene it was.
    I remember asking my parents once... how do they take a vacation? how do they know where they will be welcome? I couldn't even imagine it.
    a little child already worried and knowing it wasn't and will never be right in ANY form or era.
    this is a beautiful post in so many ways.
    and I LIKE the paper! phooey on moss! XOXO♥

  2. I think you were much more sensitive and aware to these things as a child than I was, Tammy, I'm very sorry to say. Perhaps because you lived all over the place, not just the South. To someone like me, born and raised in the South except for WW II years when my mother and I followed my father from Air Force base to base, all of the horrible signs were just something I accepted as part of my world, not that my parents ever ever spoke or acted as if they should be there. It just wasn't talked about. As I've said before, I was wrapped in a cocoon of white wool and it seemed normal. But then it also seemed normal when I was a senior in high school and the times were changing, that things needed to change, had to change, why did it take so long and move so slow?

    Yes, Rock Hudson winning his wife's pride in him for fighting Sarge in his cafe is a memorable moment. And one that is not in the book, at least Rock is not present then. Sometimes movies are better, in spots, than the book.

    I want to find the book Gentleman's Agreement now and see how close to it the movie came. And to find out if the book also exposed the pervasive prejudice in Darien, Connecticut.

    But then I always want to read the book if the movie came from one!

  3. A very meaningful and timely post, Dewena. From reading your exchange with Tam, above, I realized that growing up, we NEVER had any such signs. Canada was always looking for new immigrants to populate its vast square footage, and as far as I can remember, everyone from ever corner of the world was welcomed. My grandfather emigrated to Toronto in the late 50s, and I am so grateful for his decision.

    Having said that, recently, believe it or not, there have been some instances of racial discrimination in my country of birth, and for this, I am very saddened.

    I am not familiar with the films that you and Tam speak of, but I'm sure they are wonderful.

    It's a funny and freaky world we live in, isn't it?

    P.S. Your purple hyacinths are so pretty, ESPECIALLY wrapped in that polka dotted pink wrapping paper and placed in that beautiful golf trophy, shining with history.

    1. I'm so glad you like the golf trophy, Poppy! I was charmed by it when I found it.

      I have hope that eventually children, or their children, will grow up without the prejudices of the past. I see my little granddaughters in church or school or neighborhood playing with children of other colors and not even noticing any difference. Won't it be a grand thing when that happens in succeeding generations?

      That will happen except for the adults who hand down their prejudices. Remember the line in the song in South Pacific about that? "They have to be carefully taught."