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Re: Sharing Memories of Years Ago
In Response To: Sharing Memories of Years Ago ()

I too remember the back of the bus, the separate facilities, and not being able to try on clothes before you bought them (you held them up to
yourself to see if they looked like they'd fit).

An early distinct memory is of the first time I ever saw an Afri-Am bus driver. I was small, perhaps about 6. A family friend had moved to New
York City to live, and we went to visit her for a week that summer. She was taking us sight seeing (I LOVED the "Automat" cafeteria!), and as we
stood on a street corner waiting to cross, a bus pulled up. When the
door opened to discharge passengers, there he was! My jaw must have
dropped a mile! EVEN NOW, 50+ years later, when I think of this, I can
"feel" my eyes widen in amazement and "see" his brown face! In a very
loud voice, as little children are apt to use at the wrong time, I said,
"Mama! There's a colored bus driver!" and pointed at him. I had never
seen one before, had never even considered the possibility... In
Washington DC, where I lived, driving a bus was a "good" job, reserved
for white men.

The first time I sat at a lunch counter in DC to eat, I was in High
School, in the early '50s. The law desegregating them had passed the
day before, and my friends and I made plans to celebrate the event.
There was a drug store on the corner near our school, and we had often
stopped there in the mornings to get a donut and a cup of coffee (trying
to look grown-up - LOL). Of course, we had to stand at the end of the
counter to order and make our purchase - THIS indignity in the Nation's
Capital! Few white customers were ever there at that hour, but we were
never allowed to sit, or even to rest our books on the seats as we
shuffled through our bookbags for our money to pay... And, of course, we
had to take our food outside to eat it.

On THAT morning, however, we arrived VERY early, and we each bought a
newspaper carrying the banner headline announcement about desegration of
lunch counters. The 5 of us trooped in, and sat at the counter with our
newspapers folded in our laps - we felt pretty daring, at least I did,
and probably looked the part. The white waitress just completely
ignored us for quite a while, until some white customers finally came
in. She waited on them, and apparently someone made comments to her
about us. Then she came over to us and hissed, "Move along! You girls
know you can't sit there!" (Obviously none of them had yet read the
paper, or kept up on current events the way we had.)

With that, like Radio City Rockettes, we all took our newspapers from
under the counter, unfolded them, and laid them on the counter facing
her! She turned SCARLET, but she knew then that she had to take our
orders and serve us. All the white customers rushed outside and bought
papers to read with their coffee, glaring at us from time to time. She
never gave either of us a menu, and I don't know until today what they
had available other than donuts - that's all I had ever ordered there...
We hadn't thought far enough ahead during our planning session to know
what we'd order, and by then there wasn't time for a full breakfast
anyway... But we wanted SOMETHING "cooked", so we all ordered an English
muffin (and coffee). I suppose I am still wanting that breakfast... I
still don't think much of English muffins.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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