Blues music, AK 47s and questionable materials

Cindy ArpFeature

I recently returned from a Memphis visit with my sister, Judy. With our husbands off on their own adventures, we could be as girly and silly as we wanted to be. The first morning of my visit, we sat on Judy’s back deck, drinking coffee. The conversation turned to my sister’s first American Library Association (ALA) conference, held that year in Chicago. Besides Judy, Roy, a fellow librarian, and a friend named Bettie attended.

At the end of the conference’s first day, Judy, Roy and Bettie ran into some Memphis musicians at a downtown blues club. Their advice: “Go hear Junior Wells. He’s playing at Rosie’s on the south side. Take a cab.”

Short on cash, they looked at the bus map, and saw “Rosie’s” was just a block from a bus stop. They could take the bus, cut across a park and be there. They would cleverly save some money and hear a great blues harmonica player.

Cutting across the park, Judy and Bettie realized Roy wasn’t with them. Looking back, they saw he was being robbed by a young guy who may or may not have had a gun in his jacket. Roy made the best choice and gave him all his money. Minutes later the police drove by. Roy flagged them down saying, “I’ve just been robbed.”

“Get in the car,” said the police, “we’ll find him.” Everybody got in, but the thief was long gone. The police dropped them off at Rosie’s.

The only money they had was the five dollars Judy had in her shoe. They bought two beers to share. During the break, they started talking to Junior Wells at the bar. Turned out he’d been born in Memphis and suddenly they were all best friends. The band bought them each a beer.

A wonderful time was had by all and at closing time a taxi was called. The three figured they could convince the cab to wait while one of them ran into their hotel for cash. As they were leaving, the proprietor of the club yelled, “Y’all come back now, but next time don’t arrive in no cop car, you hear? “

This is just one example of my sister’s adventurous spirit. Single for most of her life, Judy raised her hand whenever adventure beckoned. She once traveled with some ladies to the mountains of Ladakh, India, to provide teacher training for an all-girls school.

After arriving in India and spending a few days enjoying the sights, it was time to go to the school. The women hired a car driven by a Hindu man who spoke very little English. Because they had a hand-drawn map given to them by a sponsor of the school, they could show the map to the driver, and they would soon be at the school.

The map included an arrow pointing to a location with the ominous words, “This way the War.” The driver didn’t read English and the ladies failed to point out the sign. The school was remote, a wrong turn was made, and their car was stopped by serious guys with AK-47s. They had stumbled onto the Pakistan border and the soldiers were not at all happy. They shouted in Urdu, the driver shouted in Hindi, nobody understood anybody, and things were looking iffy.

The ladies frantically made turn around signals and they got out of there. They didn’t find the school that day and spent the night in a questionable guest house, sleeping on even more questionable materials. The next day they finally found the school.

Bravery and foolishness, adventure and danger, stories and experiences to share with others. Lessons learned. Our parents always said that Judy did these things just to irritate them and as Judy and I laughed our way through these stories we decided our parents were still shouting at us – “Stop laughing and act right!”

Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.


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