I received several e-mail responses to my “Ham Sandwich” story which reminded me that my youthful encounter with racism was not unique, and that such encounters have left an indelible mark on the psyche of many members of my generation. A former Bell Labs colleague, John Alston, went so far as to tell of an experience he had as a youngster when he visited his relatives “down South.” John’s brief story and picture are shared below.
Ice Cream “Joyland” Denied
We set off from Newark, NJ for our annual family trip to Warrenton, NC. It was August 1955; much warmer than the weather we left.
There was a Woolworth’s 5 & 10 cent store downtown. The store had reluctantly agreed to serve food to Negroes; but, it did not allow them to eat inside. It was HOT, and my country cousins were eager to take me there for an ice cream treat. This was to mirror what they enjoyed when they would visit “up-south.” So, off we went — all 5 of us.
The eldest cousin, 14 at the time, ordered first: “vanilla, please,” followed by his sister: “strawberry, please.” We were on our way to [ice cream] “Joyland.”
Then, some whites came to the counter. The server proceeded to fill their orders…4 milk shakes, a banana split and a walnut sundae with chocolate syrup. By the time he got back to us, the first 2 had finished their cones. Otherwise, the ice cream would have melted from the heat!!
We would not be enjoying our ice cream together. Before leaving, we politely told the server: “never mind.” The thrill was gone: “Joyland” was denied!
I never returned to a Woolworth’s again….down-south nor up-south!!
The stores have since closed; my “boycott” was part of their demise.
john h alston, ii
plainfield, nj 07060