My current work in progress, entitled Tuesday’s Gone, is a historical piece set during the Prohibition era of the 1920s American South. There are many things to consider when it comes to historical pieces and often the first thing that comes to mind about the American South during this time period is the latent racism which seems to always overshadow anything that might have occurred during this era. We chose to recognize all that is awful and unsightly in the interest of not forgetting it, but in the process we forget the rest of our history and judge all of it based on the poorly understood elements we were spoon fed in school.
There is a great deal more to the history of the American South than slavery and racism, but you might not know it based on what you learned in school. It’s estimated that only about five percent (5%) of southerners actually owned slaves up to the time of the
Civil War War of Northern Aggression and so when we can accept that history is written by the victors we can understand how the North was able to paint a picture of not only military victory, but also a moral one as well. In reality the vast majority of Confederate soldiers never owned slaves and volunteered to fight because they understood the conflict of their time to be a matter of establishing an independent nation that honored the virtues of small government their grandfathers and great-grandfathers had established. Most who volunteered to fight for the North did so in order to preserve the Union rather than free slaves, though abolition was certainly a hot topic at the time. Henry Flagler (born in New York, but worked and died in Florida) built a railroad all the way down the Florida coast to Key West because it would help to open the area up, but mostly because he could, thumbing his nose at his critics and showing what a little drive and ingenuity could do for the determined individual. These are Southern values and the essence of Southern Pride.
But more to the point…
Prohibition was a time when we allowed our elected officials to decided for us that our society was faltering due to the open sale and consumption of alcohol. As a result, alcohol was banned and listed as an illicit substance from 1920 until 1933 when the government finally learned that if you ban or prohibit something from the public use the people will still find a way to get at it and use it.
The result of the banning of alcohol was that all operations went underground. When you leave a gigantic hole in the market for something that had been previously been legal all sorts of people with capitalist interests start to vie for control of the illegal market. Enter organized crime, who began running contraband liquor into the United States from our wonderfully polite neighbors to the North: Canada.
This is detailed in Tuesday’s Gone by a fake outfit known as the New Life Bible Company, based out of Saginaw Michigan. They stamp their labels on wooden crates in the hopes that temperance officials will pass them by on inspection. In truth they are loaded with whiskey, the same whiskey that finds its way into the personal supply of circus owner Francis Eugene Delmar as well as the speakeasy hidden in the basement of the general store in Rocky Mount.
Then of course there are the domestic operators such as Tuttle family patriarch Theodofolus Tuttle, known by his kin a “Grampy”. Grampy is a liberty minded Confederate veteran who commands a great deal of respect in his Sarasota Florida community. He also runs his grand-daddy’s moonshine recipe down the Myakka River into Port Charlotte under the cover of orange crates and honey jars.
Prohibition is just another example of our nation’s long history of telling its citizens what is best for them and what they may do. This seems to be a common theme that repeats itself over and over again, but this is neither a Left or Right issue, it’s a governmental one. Leonard Glawson, Grampy Tuttle’s son-in-law, was known to have been vocal against the Temperance League in his Rocky Mount, North Carolina community. As a result, something of a minor feud develops between his family and that of Prudence Moore’s who sits as the local chapter president of the Temperance League.
Her attitude about the Glawson’s is best summed up by her disapproval of Leonard’s daughter Mabel, who carries on with a local town tramp named Ernie Hicks. Women in this era were beginning to come into their own, being vocal about their voting rights and suffrage. The feel-good atmosphere of the Roaring Twenties, as best described in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, illustrates a sort of sexual awakening for American women that had never been known previously.
What develops from Tuesday’s adventure is a somewhat forgotten theme known as the Southern Family Saga. In many ways there is little more appropriate setting to talk about issues concerning liberty than the Prohibition-era American South. The Civil Rights movement is still years away from its full grandeur, but just sixty years prior the entire region had fought a war in the interest of seceding from what they viewed as an oppressive foreign power. These issues are still relevant at this time and Confederate veterans are still heralded as heroes.
Grampy Tuttle is one such man, having served as a captain with the Second Florida Infantry during what the family refers to as the “War of Northern Aggression.” His officer’s sword hangs over the mantle in his family’s homestead by the Myakka River. His grandson Jesse takes the family moonshine down river in johnboats and sells it off in Port Charlotte. In this way he still thumbs his nose at federal oversight and considers his vast acreage almost sovereign land. The only Yankee he’s come to tolerate is a young girl who finds herself in his care; Tuesday the Boston-born runaway circus girl.
If Tuesday represents anything it is the redemption of a corrupt and twisted society. She has been abused, exploited, and scarred by people who saw little value in human life and dignity. Yet her love and trust of the people who show her kindness and affection, despite her looks, is matched only by her zeal for self-reliance. She hungers for knowledge as much as her independence, ultimately deciding on her own what is best for her.
As a bonus, there are constant allusions to trains, something that I think Ayn Rand might have appreciated. Trains are symbols of industry and a means by which poor people can become successful. However in Tuesday’s Gone the trains are often used to demean and cause suffering to Tuesday and Judah, along with the rest of their circus crew. It is a job, but not all of them entered into it willingly. Many humans who worked in the circus then, even now, are exploited and treated as chattel. The money spent to train and condition these performers was often seen as an understanding of servitude, and when Tuesday runs off with an expensive lion they chase after her. The train also acts a deliverer of sorts, bringing her to a better place where she is free, but missing someone who has become an important part of her life.
Ultimately what needs to be understood about this novel is that it is an appeal to freedom and self-determination. Not allowing a powerful governing body or rich men determine what your life is going to be about (or what is best for you) is the foundation of the society our forefathers established. They decided that the best course of action was to beak ties with a government that no longer represented the wishes of the people, establishing not a democracy, but a Constitutional Republic with rights guaranteed because The People say that they have those rights. Tuesday’s Gone is an appeal to those sentiments and a way to better understand our fellow countrymen’s history rather than the skewed images we read about in public school and college text books.
Expect it to be released Spring 2015.
This book is going to be dedicated to a very special woman who was a child performer and star during the silent film era. Baby Peggy, known today at Diana Serra Cary, was incredibly exploited for her talent and charm. By the time she was eight years old she was out of the Hollywood scene, the money that she had made squandered through poor management. Having experienced the life of a child star, Diana later advocated for improvement in their working conditions and wrote several books detailing her own experiences and those of the children she played opposite of.
Currently Diana is one of the last remaining silent film stars, but she has never been honored with a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood. Turner Classic Movies has expressed an interest in seeing this oversight righted, but little else has been done to further the cause. Please help A Star for Baby Peggy and myself see this wonderful women receive this honor. I am asking my readers to please send Turner Classic Movies (TCM) a polite message encouraging them to increase their advocacy for this worthy cause.
They can be reached by email by clicking HERE (Click the link on the page that says “Contact us”)
They can also be reached by traditional mail at:
TCM Viewer Relations
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Atlanta, GA 30318