Perry Junior Youngblood was born at home on November 9, 1926 in Farmington, Kentucky on a farm, the second oldest of 5. As a boy he walked to a one-room schoolhouse, and then had to walk to a different one-room schoolhouse a few miles away when his mom got mad that he and his sister got paddled too much and he kept being dangled down the well by an older boy.
His family moved to Detroit in the 1930s, because they were poor and were lured, like so many, to the booming automotive industry. In school, he went as far as the first day of 9th grade when he went to class, sat down, decided he wanted nothing more to do with it and he got up and left.
He was stubborn and did things his own way. He was driving at thirteen, and my grandmother didn’t realize that he was younger than her until they were married. She had just turned 18, and she didn’t realize he was 16 then because as she said, he worked at the DeSoto plant and you had to be 18 to work at the DeSoto plant. They were married for more than 60 years.
They had three daughters in three years, and he was a veteran of World War II. When he returned from the service, he and my Grandmere opened a Dipsey Doodle restaurant on Telegraph in Southfield, one of those old car hop greasy diner places. My Mamaw and Papaw had one on 8 mile across from the state fairgrounds and my great aunt Treva had one in Ferndale.
He also worked as a carpenter.
Later, after the restaurants were sold, the family ran a parking lot next to the Detroit Zoo. He was the flagger next to the giant elephant on 10 mile, while my Grandmere and great aunts worked at the Village Flea Market on Woodward. Those properties are now covered by I-696.
I spent many childhood summers with them, and we ate out after weekends working at the parking lot and the flea market, usually at some place like the Rialto on Woodward or someplace on Telegraph and he would say the food was “just like downtown!” They liked to take trips down south, and they took my cousin and me to places like Gatlinburg, TN and back to Kentucky.
He used to smoke, but I never heard him swear and I never heard him yell or saw him angry. Once, as a kid, I saw him drinking a Blatz but when he saw me walking up he quickly hid it. He never talked badly about anyone, the most he’d ever do was a shake of the head and a tsk tsk. He was a nice guy that managed to stay in good favor with the wackies in the family that would have nothing to do with anyone else. He would always start conversations by saying, “So, ya workin’?”.
He had blue eyes like myself, the only one of my parents and all my grandparents. In fact, he was way into the color blue. He only wore blue clothing, and he bought blue vans, had blue houses, and did everything blue.
In the past decade, he battled cancer and many other health problems. He was never the same after being treated for a brain tumor 2 ½ years ago, right after my mother died. He was still stubborn though, and he would still drive around even though he wasn’t supposed to. He didn’t complain, he always insisted on doing things himself. Too much, though, because he was frail and unsteady and he would fall. He didn’t like to ask for or receive help.
He was simple and humble, very salt of the earth. That was my Granddaddy. He died last night, the last of the five brothers and sisters, and just two weeks after his sister Treva died.
There’s one less democrat, one less good man, one less person to tell me that drinking pickle juice will dry up my blood.
Still, there is blue.