Dan Has Some Explaining to Do about Being Jailed in Knoxville (Part 4 of 6)

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!

Knox dial phone

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.

Knox jail bunkbeds

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.

Knox western union

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!

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3 thoughts on “Dan Has Some Explaining to Do about Being Jailed in Knoxville (Part 4 of 6)

  1. Hi Dan,
    Now that was a pretty harrowing experience. What year was this? I gather it ended on the bright side.

    I had a somewhat similar experience in Buenos Aires, where I lived from July 1972 through November 1974. I was with a small group of Argentines. We were not far from Uruguay. when we were surprisingly hauled into a basement of a police department accused of trespassing. We were forced to stick it out in a cold, dank cement cellar for several hours until we were thankfully released with little explanation. We were at the mercy of the police. It could have be far harsher. I learned that laying low was the best policy. Had we protested vigorously, there’s no telling what might have happened.

    See you on the 8th. I’ll let you know my suggestion of where to pick up lunch.

    A bientot,
    Louise

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