Still surprised that I am being booked for hitchhiking on the Interstate here in eastern Tennessee this September of 1971, I have no smile for my mug shot; the clerk then asks for my belt and all my money ($7). My first thought was Really? You think I am going to hang myself because I was brought in for hitchhiking? Later I understand that a belt could be a weapon and the $ could be a source of tension between inmates if it were stolen. My bail was set at $60. Can you believe it!
I then asked to make my one phone call. Reluctantly the clerk gave me the phone and I dialed my parents in New Jersey. No one answered, for I later learned that they were in Gambier, Ohio visiting my younger brother Richard at Kenyon College, some 100 miles southwest of where I was going to meet Hannah.
When I got no answer, the clerk said unsmilingly, That’s your one call. I said, I didn’t get through, can I make another call? Peeved, he agreed, but then I had to ask him for a phone book to look up the number of my parents’ friends, the Yellins, who lived in Memphis at the opposite end of the state. Connecting with the Yellins, I was thrilled that they would send me $100 by Western Union for bail and a bus ticket out of town.
Led to a corridor of 12 cells each with one inch bars spaced inches apart, I found that my cell had four bunkbeds made of one quarter inch metal with symmetrical one inch holes spaced throughout. There were no mattresses, no pillows, no blankets. We had a combination sink/toilet which was as disgusting as you might imagine.
With no windows in this cell block, individual light bulbs hung from the only ceiling were the source of illumination. I was scared, here in the South and no one knew where I was save the Yellins. I was a mess. I had led a pretty sheltered life and felt so alone.
After two hours with nothing to do (there were no books, please), I still hadn’t received any word from Western Union. “Lunch time” arrived about 2P. A man with a metal can two feet deep and 15 inches across filled with the oiliest peanut butter known to man came down the cell block making peanut butter sandwiches for us all. His eyes weren’t right, he had few teeth and they were askew and yellow.
Oozing with oil, the peanut butter sandwiches grossed me out such that all I could do was pull the two pieces of bread apart. All the peanut butter stuck to one side and I ate the other slice. Raunchy black coffee was our lunchtime beverage. And still there was no word about my bail money.
Learn tomorrow about my stay in jail and a drunk tank!