What Color is Water?
Growing Up Black in a Segregated South.
What Color Is Water?
As a small child, I remember the water fountains in the larger chain stores. There was usually a water cooler for whites and a small, dingy looking fountain for colored people. In many stores, the water for coloreds was not
cold. Most smaller, locally owned stores did not provide water for customers, if so, not usually for colored folks. I can’t remember any of my family drinking from the colored fountain.
In Hinesville the churches were small, white painted wooden structures, but they looked large to us kids. Daddy had been ordained as a minister before he married Mama, so he sat in the pulpit. Sometimes, he participated in service. We had morning and night service. There was a fairly nice crowd for the morning service but at night, the churches were filled. In the summer time, there was also Homecoming when some people who had moved away came home for this annual service. We had box suppers, womanless weddings and other activities to raise money.
The School Bus
When World War II was declared, Hineshaw School was in the area that had been selected to build Camp Stewart. All the houses were evacuated, and people moved to other areas of the county and to adjoining counties. Our family moved to the other side of town on the road to Savannah. We were able to remain in our school until the end of that year. Mama, Florine and I made the long walk back out to the Rosenwald School every day from October until the end of the year. The school bus, filled with white children, passed us many mornings on the way to town, sunshine, rain or cold.
The Tea Room
Before going to Albany State College, I was employed as a stock maid at Rich’s Department Store in Atlanta. I was often asked to take garments up to the 5th floor art department to the men who were drawing items to be advertised in the Atlanta Constitution. I always had to go by the Magnolia Tea Room Restaurant and the photo department for portraits. When I passed the Magnolia Tea Room, I longed to be able to go in and have lunch. It looked so classy, but colored shoppers and workers had to eat in the colored restaurant in the basement. Our restrooms were down there as well.
The General Store
When I was a child in Hinesville, it was customary to see most colored folks stand back and wait until whites had been served in stores. Usually, the sales persons would acknowledge white customers first. In the general stores they sold groceries, hardware items, shoes, cloth, thread, radios and even Christmas items such as dolls, toys, and Christmas decorations. My daddy often waited until Christmas Eve to shop for our presents. There were no coloreds hired as salespersons in the towns where I lived.
Sunday After Church
After church, we sometimes walked back home through town and stopped at the corner drugstore for ice cream cones. We stood at the end of the counter and ordered our cones. We were waited on politely but could
not sit down. The white people sat on stools along the soda fountain counter and sat at tables dressed in their Sunday best and ate lunch after church. As soon as we got our order, we exited the store and went on our way licking our ice cream cones. Practically all drug stores and five and dime stores had soda fountains until the Civil Rights Movement sit-ins.
No Restrooms for Coloreds
Chain stores in large cities had restaurants and restrooms for coloreds in the basement while whites used the restrooms and ate at lunch counters in upscale restaurants on several floors. Some of the larger stores in small towns had restrooms in the basement but, most that I saw were not clean. The smaller stores did not have any restrooms that colored people could use.
We Don’t Serve Colored Here
Throughout the course of history, many people have lost their lives working for justice, equality and freedom for mankind, not just for people of color, but for disenfranchised people of all races. People who fear change are often insecure, misinformed or afraid. I sympathized with the organizers and marchers of the Civil Rights Movement, both black and white, who worked to bring about change, especially because of the brutality they endured.