Things I Remember:1959
I remember going shopping with my mother at a Murphy's 5 & 10 in Downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
There were two water fountains in the back. One was tall, shiny and metallic. It had a foot pedal that, when pressed, would send a arc of water shooting into the air. Next to it was a smaller, porcelain fountain with a handle on one side you had to twist. Then you had to put your mouth close against the spout to catch the trickle of warm water that came out. There were signs above the fountains, but I couldn't read them at that age. My mother would get nervous about me pushing the pedal on the large fountain and I was never allowed to drink from it. It wasn't until years later when I saw pictures about the Jim Crow years that I understood why.
I remember being in my early teens and I went to a Murphy's downtown. I sat at the lunch counter just about noon and sat until after dark waiting to be served -- which I never was.
When I was 13 or 14 years old, I used to go to the Buhl Planetarium by myself to see the sky show and the other science exhibits. Once, while walking from the busstop a car full of white teenagers drove by. They were shouting, "Hey nigger!" and one of them threw a beer can at me.
Around that same time, a relative gave me a $50.00 bill for Christmas. I went downtown to spend it on a day that had seen several inches of snow. I ended up not spending any of the money -- no one would accept the $50.00 bill. I didn't have change for the bus and no one would break such a large bill. I tried to get a cab, but none would stop. I tried to panhandle bus fare, but no one would even talk to me.
I walked in ankle-deep snow from downtown Pittsburgh to Homewood-Brushton. Homewood-Brushton is east of East Liberty on the map. Downtown is where the big, black dot is in the middle. The green line pretty much follows the route I walked for almost 5 hours.
I was living in Tiburon and taking classes and working in San Francisco. Most mornings I would take a bus into The City. Every day that I was at the busstop, the Tiburon Police would stop me, ask me where I was going, if I lived in the neighborhood, and could they see some identification. Same cops -- every day.
I was working and renting a room in an apartment in Berkeley, California. My cousin lived a few blocks away and I would often go and visit her. When I walked home in the evenings, the Berkeley Police would stop me on the street and ask me where I was going, if I lived in the neighborhood, and could they see some identification.
I was going for a job interview in Santa Clara, California. I was dressed in a dark suit, shirt and tie. I looked very professional. A group of people were waiting with me to get on the elevator. They were all white. When the elevator door opened we all got on. The other people all looked at each other and, before the door closed, they stepped off of the elevator leaving me by myself.