John Melançon's Life

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Lying to get a job

So I asked Dad how much he'd lied to get a job...

told them I was a short-order cook. At a breakfast place. I didn't know how to crack an egg. I had two buckets of eggs I didn't crack right.

He quietly paid me and told me to go home.

He had a black guy that worked there come in a little early– he was a whizz, in no time at all he had caught up

Supporting the civil rights movement


I met, I personally met a lot of these women
[the women who were the real driving force, and backbone of the civil rights movement]

try to teach us how to sing
a spiritual you've got a good voice

prosecuting attorney whose phones we used

"I know you've got negras over there

if someone reports you I'll prosecute the hell [out of you]
but I don't want you to stop using the phone"

at least I had the sense to not say anything

Star in a Cambridge bar

when I chose to leave
my friends in the Greek mafia

Apparently he spoke to Teddy for like two hours.

If the tips weren't right you found yourself a home somewhere else.

And every couple of weeks it seemed he was giving me a raise.

then came the springtime when as is my wont I went on a long, long vacation. Except I told him [simply that I was leaving]

I was a star with the customers too

half Harvard students and half neighborhood

a lot of law students from Harvard would come in late at night and sort of unwind

[after Dad got back]

Hoover says "No organized crime"– a child knew the truth

Dad as a young kid in New Orleans (working for a big wheel in the mafia) remembers J. Edgar Hoover's statement that there is no organized crime in the United States.

[When anyone could stand on any street corner in any city in the U.S. and know there was.]

Drugs in the United States

Dad remembers a cook at a restaurant he worked at as a kid talking about a mission into China during the Opium war

nearly starving to death

later a movie - cinemascope and all that, he thinks starring Steve McQueen -- called Sandpebble about one of the ships used in that mission

Dad's Recollections on James Farmer of CORE visiting the community

James Farmer of CORE (Congress Of Racial Equality)

while Martin Luther King and them were fighting it out

James Farmer visited us at the community
I recall him being uncomfortable
I think the reason is, after many years thinking about it
the main thrust of the people down there was economic
the main hope of poor people and everyone else was the way you make a living

and they came up with this idea of intentional community
from each according to his ability, to each according to his need kind of thing

and they realized that required an incredible commitment

Could have worked at Cheers

The place where Cheers was filmed at the time would have killed to hire me.

I had an apartment on Beacon Hill, which even then wasn't cheap.

As much money as I could make now, $400 aweek, I could make then-- pre-inflation!

entertaining all the time

living large

goes to show you how screwed up the economy has become

One of the reasons doesn't like birthdays

One of the reasons I hate birthdays

When I was quite young I fell into reading Russian literature, like I knew Russian or something.

And the Russian aristocracy celebrated everything, birthdays, name days

But all through my life I liked buying gifts for people, for no particular reason, when the mood strikes me.

On benefiting from racism

in the same place where he spotted the misspelling of deodorant in deodorant soap

Dad said he must have been 18, 19 when he applied. Talked in the room outside the office with an eager, bright, young black man while waiting for the interview.

He left, happy-- probably told 'we'll call you.'

I went in, and was given the job on the spot.

And I knew-- I knew I got the job because I was white.

I think about that all the time.

still can bring tears to my eyes if I keep thinking about it

What is it I missed most about the US?

Rethinking my answer to a question I was asked in Europe and Israel often
[What is it I missed most about the US?]

The ability to live at any level I wanted to.

Which you couldn't there.

You could have a room someplace and work two or three days a week.

What incredible, incredible freedom that allows you.

That was before the fascists really took power
slowed down a little bit by Carter

But they were operating, representatives of the Republican administration

The day the election was over they turned them loose.

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