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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

The Three Young Atkinsons

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/15/2024
Occurred: 7/1/1965
Posted: 10/15/2022
Page Views: 699
Topics: #Autobiography
Every neighborhood has its eccentric, right?

A few doors up from our house on B Street was the home of a very nice lady who loaned me her copy of the soundtrack to South Pacific, which I played over and over.

But then she moved (I had to return the album) and a new family moved in, a family with children and an eccentric patriarch. They were the Atkinsons.

The dad was an older man. I had no idea how to guess a person's age from their appearance; I thought he was in his seventies then, but he may have merely been in his late fifties.

However, his wife was younger—much younger. She was also of some kind of Asian ancestry, which I mention not because of her, but because I had never seen such a person in real life before. That made theirs a biracial marriage, a phrase that would have meant nothing to me at the time, but which in fact would culminate in a Supreme Court ruling in four years' time.

But to me, at the time, the most interesting aspect of their marriage is that they both had the same first name: He, Carroll; and she, Carol.

And obviously, names were important to them; because their three children all had the same initials: AAA. I no longer remember their middle names, but they were Ardith, Alicia, and Arthur and I got to babysit them.

Mr. Atkinson was a college professor, or had been; he was also a published author of both textbooks and more popular fare, such as his first book, Intellectual Tramp. His books were autobiographical and revealed a man whose lofty opinion of himself was balanced by the scorn with which he viewed most others.

At the time I knew him, he was working on a manuscript for a textbook on Black history; and he paid me to help type some of it, even though at that time I was a very slow hunt-and-peck typist. Reading from his handwritten notes as I transcribed, I had my first intellectual exposure to what race relations had been like in the South in the 1920s. (Horrible.) The sympathetic way in which he recounted that history undoubtedly contributed to my own eventual hatred of racism.

Eventually the Atkinsons moved away from the neighborhood, but I continued to hear from them. Mr. Atkinson turned his three kids into a song-and-dance act (I swear I am not kidding) called "The Three Young Atkinsons" and they performed at various Florida locations, including Six Gun Territory. He even wrote a book about it: The Show Must Go On (Even For Children). (I get a shuddering flashback reminiscent of Gypsy when I think about it.)

Interestingly, as I Googled all I could in preparation for writing this memory, there's no online evidence that The Three Young Atkinsons ever existed. Even Carroll's book about them is long out-of-print. I do wonder what became of those kids, who must be in their sixties by now.