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Re: "Aunt Lettie" - Journal entry

Hello George:

Your Aunt Lettie is quite beautiful and her spirit shines through in her photograph. I did a quick edit. Maybe some one else has some suggestions. I rearranged some of the paragraphs, and did some editing. Your later paragraphs, especially the description of Center City, sets the stage…that's why I put it first. I would like to know more about Lettie and your family connection. Was she still spirited and beautiful? What did she do for a living?

I enjoyed reading about Binghamton. I didn't know that it had such an old and sizeable black community. Let me know if you have any questions. A great story about a family member not wanting to let go of the past and staying in the old community. Many of us have relatives who did the same.

Aunt Lettie

Urban renewal began, in earnest, during the early 1960's in Binghamton, New York. Center City was the area where the black community lived. The city's housing was being razed to allow for the highway extension. Folks were displaced with the promise they would have first rights to return after the new construction was completed. That call came nearly twenty years later, better than a generation. The Geders and many of the 'Old Families' did not come back. They left the low-income housing to the new folks, migrants from Georgia and South Carolina, who worked in the factories at IBM and General Electric.

The second story window of Aunt Lettie's spare apartment building overlooked Columbus Park. She was the last from the 'colored section' called Center City in Binghamton, New York. In 1985, my sister Sonya, my wife Cynthia and I gave her a visit. She was in her eighties when she and I talked to me about City Center:

"You're looking at those new gee-chees from South Carolina. The old families are gone."

"Lord, I knew when they tore down them houses nobody was coming back. It's been twenty years."

"Why don't you move? Your family is waiting on you in the suburbs."

"No! This is home. Peoples came from Elmira, Ithaca, and Syracuse. At Gentleman Joe's, your Father's piano playing was tops. If I go, that's the end."

"Daddy passed away eight years ago. Binghamton's changed,"

"You be coming out of college soon".

"I came out of college twelve years ago. I want you to meet my wife Cynthia. She's from California."

Aunt Lettie told us a few things about the family and Center City. Throughout our conversation, she kept glancing out the window. She thought she saw familiar faces from the past. Aunt Lettie passed away some time later.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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