“You probably don’t remember Jimmy Gautier; but he…… ” so began the recent e-missive from P. Coleman Buck, longtime “of Counsel” for BobLee Global LLC.
Not remember Jimmy Gautier ?? Who do you think you’re talking to? Everybody remembers a “Jimmy Gautier”….. by various names. Jimmy dropped outta school in the 9th grade to be a painter……
Barrister Buck, in addition to (1) advising Mecklenburg Movers & Shakers ‘R Us, and (2) issuing periodic “I wouldn’t if I were you” warnings to those who wish ill will upon yours truly; is an obituary addict. No one he or I might both know officially crosses the River Styx until P. Coleman Buck (1) sees their obit and (2) notifies me. He has been noticeably busier in recent years. Uh Oh!
Jimmy Gautier died somewhere in Georgia. He was 69. That was all it said along with the name of a local crematorium. No COD or mention of surviving family or what to do “in lieu of flowers” or whether Jimmy had been a devoted father, husband, friend, city father, churchman or special honoree of any sort. ….. his cumulative life resume read “He was 69”.
Jimmy Gautier dropped out of school around 1961-62 “to be a painter”. Fifty-two years later Jimmy Gautier died in some WalMart-ville in Georgia. Oh. It’s Go-Tear …. not Gau-tee-a.
I have no clue whatsoever what happened with Jimmy during those last 54 years or during his first 15 years. All I can add to Jimmy Gautier’s resume is “…. wasn’t he a hood who hung out at Shady’s?”.
I will not use the phrase “Kinston’s Fonzie”. Many guys reading this believe they were Kinston’s Fonzie. A town can have multiple Fonzies.
Jimmy Gautier’s life path briefly intersected with mine and P Coleman’s around 1960. Kinston opened its first Junior High School in 1960. There was no such thing as “a Middle School” then. Just two high schools – a white one and a black one – and three-four white elementary schools and 1-2 black elementary schools. Don’t give me “that look”. It was 1960. I was 13 and not in charge of too much. In 1960 there were no such demographical group as “African Americans” either. All those semantical shifts were yet to come in 1960.
Kinston prospered in the late 50s thanks to flue-cured tobacco, polyester, and residual post-WWII optimism. Kinston, and environs, was a tobacco-centric economy which, everyone assumed would go on forever. “Forever” arrived not with a whimper but with a BANG about 15 years ago.
DuPont built a gianormous plant out on the Greenville highway where they “made polyester” which in turn made corfam shoes and leisure suits and other miracles of the mid 20th century. That Economic “Forever” ended well before the Tobacco Forever. DuPont also brought YANKEES who talked funny, made fun of barbecue, and some were even Catholics. They lived in Greenmeade….. Lenoir County’s very own LevittTown. The workers (khaki-shirts) lived in Greenmeade. The coat & tie DuPonters lived in Club Pines.
Greenmeade/Club Pines was for DuPont and Kinston what North Hills was for IBM and Raleigh in the 60s. North Hills later gave way to “Cary”. Greenmeade, North Hills and Cary were special internment subdivisions for YANKEES moving to “the New South”.
Southern City Fathers wanted Yankee $$$$ spent and taxed but preferred they (Yankees) not pollute the local Southern culture which was, alas, inevitable. Since Yankees tend to be “pushy”. The concept of keeping them clustered “among their own kind” was a noble experiment but doomed to fail.
DuPont and IBM would eventually have the same effect on Southern Culture that Chris Columbus and other European carpetbaggers of the 15th – 16th centuries had on American Indian culture. “Native American” being another term not-yet-invented in the 60s. That gawd-awful “disease” Political Correctness was not around in the 60s. A primary reason, perhaps, that those are universally referred to as “The Good Ol’ Days”. At least by middle-class white folks.
None of this has anything to do with Jimmy Gautier. I only knew Jimmy as “a hood who hung out at Shady’s”. “Gautier” doesn’t sound like a “from around here” name so maybe the Gautiers did migrate to Eastern NC during the Great DuPont Influx….. ??
In 1960 Lemuel Harvey Elementary School became Lemuel Harvey Junior High School. It is now Lemuel Harvey Vacant Lot. The 3-4 white elementary schools sent all their 7th and 8th graders there. One of them was Jimmy Gautier. Buck and I figure Jimmy musta come over from Lewis School which was in East Kinston which had become a euphemism for “where poor white kids lived”….. near where “the housing projects” were. You do the 60s style ethnic math.
One central Junior High was a Socio-Educ Rite of Passage for the adolescent white population of Kinston. Mixing our bunch from Northwest Elementary (normal “from around here”) kids with the Teachers Memorial (aka “Greenmeade”) kids was traumatic enough plus Jimmy’s gang. Buck and I were “Richie Cunningham and Ralph Malph”. Jimmy Gautier was an ilk heretofore foreign to us.
Even “a central Junior Hi” did NOT bring in the “county kids”. Mixing “city mice” and “county mice” would have been sacrilegious to a fair thee well. Fifty years later that traumatic social experiment is still in “the planning stage” and likely always will be.
Jimmy Gautier was at least two years older than we were but in our grade. Kids could actually “fail grades” back then. “Social promotions” would come into vogue after Brown vs Board of Education in the 70s. It would be 45 years later before a brave lady named Mary Wilingham would blow a whistle and say “Hey these so-called high school graduates CAN’T READ…”. I don’t know if Jimmy could read or not. He didn’t play football or basketball so it didn’t matter.
Two years at 13 is a LOT. Jimmy was shaving and probably had pubic hair TOO. I recall him with a blond duck-tail he was constantly combing, wearing a black motorcycle jacket, with a Camel hanging on his lip. …. Maybe I’ve seen too many productions of Grease and West Side Story.
“Shady’s” was The Ritz Soda Shop but everyone called it Shady’s because, I think, a guy named Shady owned it. “Hoods” like Jimmy Gautier hung out there.
I think girls like Eunice Pickett’s daughter (recall Eunice of the Raided Whore House fame ?) hung out there. What guys like Jimmy Gautier and girls like Eunice’s daughter “did” at Shady’s is still a mystery. It probably involved magazines like Saga and Argosy and True Crime. Arlene Murphy’s older brother Kent mighta hung out there too. I wonder if Arlene knows. Any excuse to talk to Arlene Murphy is a good one.
Was Jimmy Gautier always “a painter”? Did he have his own crew? Did he go to ‘Nam? He lived in Georgia…. was he a Dale Murphy / Chipper Jones fan? Did Jimmy Gautier know about Chef & The Farmer? Dunno…
Yes, I remember Jimmy Gautier. Jimmy died a few weeks ago. “He was 69”.
I wonder…. did Jimmy Gautier remember ME?