One of my sisters sent me this newspaper clipping from 1970. There’s Les Green, a very important person, in Binghamton, NY with city and county leaders, state legislative representatives, and others.
If I’m reading my Les Green history correctly, this took place largely over a 15-year period. It was roughly from 1959, when he first started singing and playing his guitar publicly, until 1974, when he, my mother, and my baby sister moved to Charlotte, NC.
And it wasn’t because he was a civil rights leader or a singer of folk songs. It was that he was those things AND a tremendous arranger of flowers AND a painter of signs AND a set designer for the Civic Theater. He was very active in his church, from running the mimeograph machine that produced the weekly bulletin to singing in the choir to leading the MAZET singers, the youth choir which included my sister Leslie and me. Also, he was an advocate for those with mental illness at Binghamton State Hospital; I do wonder what was his special affinity for that place was.
Moreover, he and his wife bought their first house in 1972, after living in a property owned by his mother-in-law for all of his married life. After I wrote about my dad a few years back, an acquaintance seriously suggested that there should have been a statue of Les Green in Binghamton.
So, on the anniversary of his death in 2000, I’ve been musing about how he felt about the move to Charlotte. Surely, he took time to find his bearings. When he first came down there, he referred to it as a “big country town.” And he wasn’t wrong, though it become more civilized over time, with a real mass transit system, not the abomination it used when I lived down there at the beginning of 1977.
The family had a rental house and they took time before discovering the right church for them. He did important work there. His job, where he became a Vice-President of J.A. Jones probably generated more income than any other job he had. He was very involved in his church, with music but also a breakfast program.
But he was always out looking for the financial rainbow, starting so many little businesses that neither my mother nor their accountant knew how many. He regularly came to me in the latter stages of his life wondering how he could get rich on this new World Wide Web thing. (The brutal truth is that he couldn’t because he was lousy at recordkeeping or even giving his wife or the accountant his receipts. Being online wouldn’t have helped.)
When he moved the Charlotte, he was sure that he couldn’t find a market for his music in the South. I was not convinced he was correct. He did start writing poetry; I have a massive manuscript in this very room.
Thinking about you, dear old Dad, as you liked to be called.