Cork and Liquor
were once the two main accessories to the Comics.
Or at least those are the ones
that have stuck in my memory from childhood.
My impression then was that
all you needed were some like minded friends,
raggedy old clothes and some burnt cork
to join in the most amazing outburst of
joy and mayhem,
I had never before imagined.
Blackface and Minstrel Show
are Pretty Damn Offensive and
it is an Embarrassment that they
were Such a Large a part of this Parade
for So Many Years
That being said,
when I first noticed people blackening
their face with cork, I naively did not associate
it with a mockery of African Americans.
("Colored people" was
not trying to be offensive
phrase in my Italian American family.)
My contact with black folks was
zero at the time as
they did not live in my South Philly neighborhood and hadn't really shown up on the
TV as yet.
I just saw it as a cheap
change your identity
and go wild.
My first up-close encounter with
up all night comics
probably wasn't until maybe 1961
when I was twelve years old.
This was just 3 years before the
1964 ban on blackface.
Prior to that I am sure that my mother's
take on the Comics was that they were
a disreputable bunch,
and she would have steered me away
from going to the parade until the refined
excess of the Fancies and the String Bands
took over Broad Street in the afernoon.
I knew that some folks
stayed up all night on New Years Eve.
I could hear them through my bedroom window
singin and banging or blowing on god knows what
and roaming the streets of my neighborhood all night.
But I had been sheltered from any close encounters
with the noisemakers until the morning
I went by myself to Broad Street and Snyder Ave.
The chaos, exuberance, joy and touch of danger
I felt from seeing that throng of
is still strong in my memory.
And it is probably
that memory that is causing me
to write these pages right now.
Back then the Comics could
much more with the crowd.
Audience members were even subject to
getting their faces blackened by the passing comics
who would pat their faces with
fingers covered in burnt cork.
I stood far enough away from the action
that I avoided getting my face blackened,
but I do remember seeing many people
who had not been so cautious,
walking home with black finger
smudges on their cheeks.
Life goes on....
equivalent is the
obnoxious silly string in a can
that is sold by vendors to the parade audience.
Broad Street is left littered by the resultant
life goes on....
warning mess simulated by computer trickery
Click here for a real mess