N***** Heaven

Here’s a funny thing. Way back when, when I was a kid in Paterson, my sister Sherry and I would go to the movies every Saturday. One of the movie houses was the “Majestic,” in the old days before us the “Lyceum” opera and burlesque house. There were still stage shows in it. We saw the lady “Siamese Twins” there and other vaudeville acts in the late ’40s and early ’50s.

There were several balconies in the Majestic. There was one way up high, a small one. One time, Sherry and I went up there on one of our Saturdays. We saw “The Last Days of Pompeii” and “She” (the latter based on a Rider Haggard classic).

Thing is, that high third balcony was called (even in the ’40s and ’50s) N***** Heaven. Do any of you remember that? I don’t think any of my black friends went up there (although many black kids went to the movies at the Majestic). On the occasion I mention, Sherry and I were there alone. It was little. Only about 10 or 12 seats. We knew what it was, but we liked being there. The view from N***** Heaven was great.

My wife’s father (the sainted Rev. James Willard Yoder), a to-be episcopal priest in seminary in the University of the South (Sewanee), early ’50s, Sewanee, Tennessee, used to go to the movies with his friend, a black to-be episcopal priest, and the friend was told that he would have to sit “upstairs.” Her father insisted that he would sit “upstairs” with his friend. After two weeks of that, the theatre management phoned the university divinity school administration to complain about these two seminarians refusing to comply with the “tradition.” That led to this: all of the other seminarians (mostly white) began attending the movies every week, crowding into the little balcony “upstairs.” The management gave up.

They all went to N***** Heaven.

Later, they all went to Heaven.

“Therefore with Angels and DARKangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts: Heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High.” :)