Dan Has Some Explaining to Do about Being Jailed in Knoxville (Part 5 of 6)

As the dinner hour approached in the Knoxville City Jail this September of 1971, I soon learned that no dinner was coming.  I wasn’t hungry, but eating would at least have helped pass the time.  Always hoping my name would be called with news that my bail money had arrived, I wondered about my night in jail ahead.

Knox jail bars

With no windows and the ceiling lights always on, the cell block in the South scared the beejeezus out of this sheltered Yankee boy this Saturday evening.  I was soon to learn what Saturday nights were like in city jails in the South; the drunks were picked up and deposited in our cell block.  Loudly protesting their innocence, they filtered in all night long.

Trying to fall asleep to pass the time in my 8’x14’ cell, I crumpled up my jacket to use as a pillow on my metal lower bunk.  Fortunately, since I had not slept the night before while hitchhiking in the dark of Georgia and hanging out at the diner in Cartersville, I finally fell asleep exhausted.  I slept soundly til what I guessed was 8A the next morning.  A blessing indeed.

knox pb sandwich

Awakened, I immediately thought of the $100 of bail money that the Yellins said that they would send.  I tried to get the attention of the skewed eye, toothless jailer to no avail.  At 10A, the jailer did bring us all “breakfast.”  As he approached with the same greasy can of oily peanut butter, my appetite disappeared.   Though I had eaten but two pieces of white bread in the last 30 hours, I again just peeled apart the two peanut butter sandwiches that he made right in front of me and ate the plain white bread.  The black coffee went down the combination sink/toilet.

At what must have been near noon this Sunday, with 40 others I was moved to a drunk tank.  This 30’x 30’ barred enclosure offered no privacy, though no one was paying attention to me anyway.  There I met Saint John and Creeping Jesus, two 17 year olds who had come from Florida to set up a church in Knoxville.  When the police found them, they were sleeping on the steps of a downtown church.  Get this!  The police awakened them and charged them with prowling.  The kids were hardly bothered as they renewed old acquaintances and sang with the drunks.

knox bail monopoly

Throughout the afternoon other inmates had their names called and were being bailed out.  I never heard the sweet words “Rothermel” from the jailer all afternoon.  My trial was set for Monday morning and I figured I’d be spending another night on the concrete floor of the drunk tank or be returned to the metal bunk in my cell.

And then I heard “Rothermel.”

The final mini-blog will be posted Saturday as I go to court for my version of Southern justice.

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One thought on “Dan Has Some Explaining to Do about Being Jailed in Knoxville (Part 5 of 6)

  1. What a harrowing experience, Dan. Wow! I look forward to reading the next installment. But I have a few questions about the beginning such as: What were you doing at the time and where were you? Where were you going? Hitching in the dark on the Interstate? That doesn’t sound so wise.
    I myself did some foolish things in my life and in some cases am lucky to be alive. I studied at l’universite de Caen from January through June 1969; then went to Paris for several weeks, became acquainted and then friends with a girl from Virginia. Together we hitchhiked through southern France and into Spain. For the most part, it was a great experience, but for one or two incidents which could have turned ugly.
    Back in 1969 hitchhiking back in the US could have been risky and never being female and by oneself. In Europe back in 1969 it seemed okay, but of course I would have never done it alone back then. If I were young and in France today, I don’t think hitchhiking would be wise. Of course, it’s all very different being a male.

    This was not my first time hitchhiking. In April 1969 during the Spring break a fellow American university student hitchhiked through Wales, England, and Ireland. It was a great experience.

    In mid July my friend and I returned to Paris. Philippe LeBonnois, a French friend from the university drove me up north to the port of Callais(sp?) where I boarded the ship “Auralia,” which was comprised of all students, teachers, or professors. It was a nine-day- trip and a beautiful experience. I had never been on a ship before. There were all kinds of fun, educational activities to get involved in from movies to theater workshops, playing music, talking with interesting people. Of course during our journey we were informed of the stupendous feat of the moon landing on July 20.

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