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Down on the farm

Down on the farm
Out of the woods.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A VISIT FROM MRS. JACKIE ROBINSON

I was messing around in the office, modpodging an old pair of sandals and checking for updates on Jenni and Claude's move to the new house.
Geoff and Dick were discussing the new Jackie Robinson movie in context with the older versions. While they talked a tiny piece of trivia popped into my head and I shared it with them. Geoff said "Why don't you write stuff like that on Face Book instead of writing about failed detergent?" So I put it down while I still remembered.
My father became pastor of the First Christian Church in Rochester, Minnesota in about 1950 or 51.  At the time the resident population was about 10,000.  At least 1/4 were doctors, another 1/4 were doing residency and 1/4 were supporting professionals. The "bad" section of town consisted of a 2 block stretch of poorer blue collar 2 up/2 down clapboard sided homes. The other 1/4 was us. Clerks, mechanics, carpenters, and so on.
Downtown consisted of a few blocks of businesses, a high school on a 3 block campus with buildings connected by a warren of tunnels that connected to the Mayo Clinic which took up a lot of the downtown area. The rest of downtown was hotel space. DE-lux, lux, middle class, cheap and the tumble down building by the rail road station used by American people of color. Nearly every family in town picked up Christmas money by renting out rooms to a "transient population" of about 17,000 annually.
Walking downtown was a geography lesson. German, French, Spanish, plus languages unknown spoken by folk of every shade of white, brown, and yellow. It was notable that every black person strolling the streets was exotically clad in long silky robes, hard round brimless caps with tassels, no matter what language they were speaking.
I remember my parents being in conference, talking softly. Mrs.Jackie Robinson was coming into town. I do not know if she was going to the clinic herself, or if she was visiting someone. I do know every hotel in town had refused her reservation, except for the "Colored" Hotel by the tracks.
The clergy and the doctors were aghast. MRS.  JACKIE ROBINSON refused room at our inns? Appalling! Why, the Robinsons were rich and famous!
Yeah, even then I thought it strange that nobody seemed to condemn that rattrap hotel when it was just your average black family.
At any rate my father, along with a number of other families offered to open our homes to her.  I don't recall if she spent the night but I know it was discussed. We had a meal together, at least.  I remember a very pretty, pleasant, well dressed young housewife, who happened to be darker than me.
And that's my story.