“Dad, can you tell me how to get rich?”
My dad put down the evening paper. “Why do you want to get
“Because today Jimmy’s mom drove up in their new Cadillac, and
they were going to their beach house for the weekend. He took three
of his friends, but Mike and I weren’t invited. They told us we weren’t
invited because we were poor kids.”
“They did?” my dad asked incredulously.
“Yeah, they did,” I replied in a hurt tone.
My dad silently shook his head, pushed his glasses up the bridge of his
nose, and went back to reading the paper. I stood waiting for an answer.
The year was 1956. I was nine years old. By some twist of fate,
I attended the same public school where the rich people sent their
kids. We were primarily a sugar-plantation town. The managers of
the plantation and the other affluent people, such as doctors, business
owners, and bankers, sent their children to this elementary school.
After grade six, their children were generally sent off to private
schools. Because my family lived on one side of the street, I went
to this school. Had I lived on the other side of the street, I would
have gone to a different school with kids from families more like
mine. After grade six, these kids and I would go on to the public
intermediate and high school. There was no private school for them
or for me.