40 Years in America
From Norfolk, VA To Washington Monument
Mr. Watanabe, who had a prosthetic arm, was our leader. We called him "One-Arm Watanabe." He was a martial artist. Sometimes he would spar with his wife. She was really pretty and taller than he was. He came from a line of Samurai. He would take the arm off and beat people over the head with it if they were falling asleep when he was speaking! Bruce Brown was his assistant. Norfolk had a separate identity from Richmond in those days.
We had all these buses ready to go to the Monument. All the buses were loaded and there were still about 65 people who didnít have any transportation. They were upset. This one lady, an enormous fat lady, said, "I am going to the Monument." She laid down on the ground in front of the bus and wouldnít let it go. She said, "If Iím not going, nobodyís going." It was on the tails of the 1960s, civil rights. If you wanted something, you lay down.
There were a bunch of cars parked there as everyone was going to ride in the bus. We were embarrassed to drive our car -- it was old and dirty. But she didnít care. She said, "Letís drive that." We had an old, raggedy station wagon. She had a chicken, and a cooler, and she said, "Letís take that car." She was determined that she was going. We were exhausted. We had about 17 buses going from Norfolk.
So we had this big fat lady and her entourage. She called Burt Leavitt, Mr. God Bless America. "Mr. God Bless America, letís take your car!"
So we left. About halfway there, Burt was falling asleep at the wheel and she said, "Mr. God Bless America, you gonna get us there or you gonna get us killed. Pull over!" And she made him move and she drove us, talking all the way. She was going to get there come hell or high water. She kept saying, "Letís Go!" We had to lug her cooler for about a mile. It was red with a white top, I can still see it. Then we had to go back for a second load of her stuff. It seemed like there was a million people around.
When we drove back we were so exhausted, she drove the car all the way back! She talked the whole way and sang "God Bless America" all the way back. She fed us chicken and she tried to wake Burt up by feeding him. But the more he ate, the sleepier he got. What a day!
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