The car dealer here in St. Augustine will be open on Martin Luther King Day. No holiday for its workers.
I learn this while waiting for my car to be serviced. I read the local paper, The St. Augustine Record, Wednesday, January 14, 2015. Tucked away page A6 under “News and Notes” is a small headline:
“Commemorative Breakfast Planned”
Commemorative of what? Martin Luther King, Jr., Monday, January 19 at First Coastal Technical College.
I put down the paper and walk through the show room to look at the new models. A white sales manager sees me get into one of the cars and points angrily to a 20-something African-American salesman to get with the program. The young man greets me through the passenger window. I tell him I’m just killing time during a routine oil change and that I’m from Minnesota. We exchange pleasantries.
I get a cup of coffee and go out to look at the used cars – it’s my thing, checking out used cars – and run into the young salesman again. I ask whether Martin Luther King Day is a big deal here in St. Augustine. He smiles. I tell him I’ve just read the newspaper and the small announcement. “Is the dealership closed for Martin Luther King Day?” I ask. “No, Sir. We’re open,” he says. “I’ll be working.”
“Do you know about The St. Augustine Four?” I ask. He doesn’t. I tell him we’re staying next door to the home of James and Hattie White whose 14 year-old son Samuel was sent to reform school in 1963 for sitting in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, and that the case of the four teenagers was responsible for Dr. King and Jackie Robinson joining the cause in St. Augustine.
Before I leave the dealership, he finds me in the waiting area. “I asked the boss,” he says. “He said I can have the day off if I want it.”
I tell him there’s a “Hands Up!” workshop Saturday morning at the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.) where MLK and Jackie Robinson joined the local the Civil Rights Movement in St. Augustine. It’s just around the corner from where we’re staying in Lincolnville. “Come if you can!” “Thanks,” he says, “Maybe I’ll see you there.”