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Saturday, February 2, 2013

"Miss Bethune": Dad Was Her Paperboy

Dr. Mary MeLeod Bethune was a formidable woman. She was part of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's " Black Cabinet". The cabinet advised FDR on matters of race relations and advancement. Dr. Bethune established a school for African American girls that evolved into Bethune-Cookman College in 1904, in Daytona Beach, Florida. She was also good friends with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who would visit the campus during the 1930's. The town would be buzzing about her arrival. "Miss Bethune" is how my dad always refers to this extraordinary woman, and he unconsciously adapts a respectful tone to his voice. As a matter of fact, I don't recall anyone ever speaking badly of "Miss Bethune". Ever. She "held things down" in the early part of the previous century, kind of like a Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, plus elements of Oprah Winfrey and Rosa Parks, all rolled into one.

"Mary McLeod Bethune"

When Miss Bethune spoke, people listened. It was her close relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt (first syllable in last name pronounced by people in my father's generation with the long "u" vowel sound) that suggested that Negros were capable of serving in the military in combat positions. Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady for sixteen years, and she was very influential in promoting civil rights and various humanitarian causes.

 The Primus family lived very close to Bethune-Cookman's campus. They lived so close to Miss Bethune that she used to call out to my dad's younger sister, who was on her way to school, "What are your goals for today?" It left such an indelible impression on my aunt. Successful and productive people always set goals and benchmarks. My aunt went on to have an illustrious career in nursing and has mentored countless individuals in her field. She earned a Doctorate in Nursing, taught at many colleges and has done consulting work in South Africa on H.I.V./ A.I.D.S. Certainly, my aunt listened to Miss Bethune about having goals.

Former  First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt

Dad was "Miss Bethune's" paperboy. Today's term is newspaper courier, because the job can be done by either male or female. If you were a paperboy during the 1930s, you had a highly coveted job. People in your neighborhood relied on you to deliver their newspaper bright and early. Dad did not have to brave rain or snow, since Daytona Beach is located in the "Sunshine State". The newspaper was a primary source of information next to the radio.

Source:  Flickr/Discover Black Heritage
Paperboy, 1920's

The radio informed and entertained its audience. If a family could afford it, the radio was a source of entertainment where families gathered around it to listen to news broadcasts, sporting events, comedy and drama. Did you know the term soap opera or soaps, was derived from the advertisers that paid for advertising during serial shows? Companies like Proctor and Gamble would advertise their products during scheduled show times, because they knew that is when people would be listening. This practice is still used today, but in other mediums as well. An advertiser will pay millions to have their product promoted during the Superbowl because millions will see it and talk about it.

 The Primus family was fortunate to be able to afford  a radio, and neighbors crowded around it to listen to the first Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling heavyweight boxing fight. That was a major sport event, much like Muhammad Ali's "Thriller In Manila" and "Rumble In the Jungle" or the aforementioned Superbowl. Additionally, Former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used the radio frequently to reassure the nation during his long, challenging administration.


Back to "Miss Bethune".  Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune went on to create the National Council of Negro Women. She was a trailblazer, and was a pivotal person in the lives of not only The Primus Family, but for the nation overall. It was Miss Bethune that believed that Blacks could serve well in combat.Consequently, my father as a teenager was able to serve as a Montford Point Marine, specifically in a history making battalion. But Dad's early brush with greatness as a child was being Miss Bethune's paperboy!

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