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Saturday, 22 October 2016

Bobby Jones' Beginnings

Bobby Jones was a fascinating character. He began life as a sickly child--possibly one of the least likely candidates to become one of, if not the greatest champions of all time. Speaking of his beginnings, Bobby wrote in his book Down the Fairway:

    "Judging from certain photographs I must have been an odd-looking youngster. I started out with an over-sized head and a spindly body and legs with staring knees, and some serious digestive derangement which caused my parents and six or seven doctors a deal of distress. Dad says I didn't eat any real food until I was five years old, but I don't remember about that. I must have been pretty frail because I don't remember any playmates while we lived on Willow Street in Atlanta, except Camilla, our fat cook and nurse, and her fat brother, who was blacker than Camilla; and Camilla's beau. I used to enjoy the visits of Camilla's brother, who sat on the back veranda while I rode my velocipede there, and taught me to swear and call Camilla's beau all kinds of curious names. Occasionally Camilla took me to her home for a little visit and I have a distinct recollection of falling off the rear veranda of her house head first into a garbage can. It is lucky for me that I do not have to trust everything to memory, for I have no independent recollection of ever getting out of the can. I had a big black and white Collie named Judge, who caused me a lot of trouble by following people away from our house; he would follow anybody, and I had to go and bring him back. I liked the ice-man too--that was Camilla's beau--and when he came to deliver the ice I liked to hold my hands under the block as he sawed it, and catch the saw dust (I thought it was that) and eat it."

Bobby was born in the old South well before any real progress was made in terms of integration. I have often wondered what he thought about the society to which he was born and what he thought about the racial injustices that existed. I have never found any specific comments from him about these things. But what we do know is that his first friends were black folk, whom he obviously had real affection for and no doubt contributed to the wonderful person he became.

He even learned to cuss from Camilla's brother. By all accounts, he learned that lesson well; because he was famous as a teenager for his colourful outbursts on the golf course. I wonder if Camilla, her brother, and her beau ever dreamt that this funny-looking little white boy would become one of the most famous sportsmen of all time. It would have been interesting to talk to them about it.