“Just right white folks, just right”
In the South of the 1920's, African Americans were allowed to live, but that was about all, and sometimes not even that. White people just assumed that the smallest of favors bestowed on African Americans would be received with delirious joy. During Prohibition, a white citizen of Calypso, NC, my father’s boyhood home, bestowed such a trifling favor on a local black man, George Grant.
Usually moonshine was the only liquor available in the rural South during prohibition. However, every once in a great while a bottle of distilled spirits that had been smuggled in from abroad would make its way to Calypso. On one such occasion, a one-half gallon jug of some sort of foreign whiskey came into the possession of a local white man. Full of anticipation, he opened the bottle and took a small sip. Immediately upon having the whiskey hit his tongue, the white man’s eyes involuntarily slammed shut and his entire body momentarily quivered. It was foul-tasting stuff. Not wanting any liquor to go to waste, regardless of its taste, the white man magnanimously offered the bottle to George Grant. Mr. Grant took a taste of the liquor and responded much the same way as had his “benefactor,” but none the less accepted the bottle. George Grant had a weakness for liquor, but fortunately he knew he was weak and always took steps to minimize the damage that his drinking might cause.
Mr. Grant had a good job working at the Post Office. He took mail down to the railroad station several times a day where it was picked up by passing trains. He also collected any mail which these trains dropped off. Upon getting the bottle of liquor, George Grant approached the Postmaster and asked if he could have three days off. As he was a good employee, the Postmaster quickly granted his request.
George Grant disappeared for three days. At the end of his short vacation, he showed up for work at the Post Office, completely sober. Later that day, his white “benefactor” inquired as how he had enjoyed the liquor. Mr. Grant replied, “Just right white folks, just right.”
The white man asked whether the liquor was any good. Mr. Grant replied, “Just right white folks, just right.” The white man kept asking questions about the liquor, trying to find out whether he had given something good away too hastily. But to every question, Mr. Grant had the same response, “Just right white folks, just right.”
Finally in frustration at getting what he perceived to be a non-responsive answer, the white man exclaimed, “What do you mean by ‘Just right white folks, just right?’” George Grant looked him directly in the eye and replied,
If the liquor had been any better, you wouldn’t have given it to me and if it had been any worse, I wouldn’t have drunk it.