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Ruth Linear shares stories of 'Old Hannibal'

Hannibal Courier-Post (MO) - Friday, March 18, 2011

Author: Ruth Hunter Linear, Jacksonville, Ill., for the Courier-Post, Hannibal Courier-Post

This is the first of an occasional installment of a story written by Ruth (Hunter) Linear of Jacksonville, Ill., formerly of Hannibal. She shares her memories of growing up as a black child of the 1940s and 1950s in Hannibal, Missouri, where she lived until 1963. In order to keep the stories of African Americans alive, each year during Black History Month she makes presentations to school groups in Jacksonville. In 2009, she portrayed Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass during a program at the Willow Street Christian Church in Hannibal. Ruth's story:

I subscribe to the Hannibal Courier-Post because it helps keep me in contact with home. I am a native of Hannibal and I can remember back as far as around 1945 when I started to school at Douglass in the first grade with Miss Queen as my teacher. I remember all my school years at Douglass and at Hannibal High School. My class was the first sophomore class at Hannibal High School in 1956. Some of the class members were Judge Robert Clayton, James Cary, Anne Ellerman, Dr. Green's daughter Carol, as well as Barbara Jo Long. Barbara Jo had long red pretty hair that she wore in a pony tail. Her father was manager of the old Kroger Store when it was on Market Street. Another classmate's father was Mayor Clyde Toalson . She was a friend of mine who helped me a lot with her friendship. Then there was Judy Strode, whose parents owned Strode Co., and Nancy Wright's parents owned Wright Brothers Furniture Co. I can remember all my teachers and years at "the white school" as we called it. There was a guy whose name was DeLaPorte. I think his dad ran DeLaPorte's Shoe Store on Market Street. Mr. DeLaPorte would let us get shoes on a time payment. He was always nice. I remember the 1947 flood very well. I was 7 years old. I believe it was on Easter Sunday when the water came rushing early in the morning. The current was so swift that it moved my grandfather's house some 20 or 40 feet. The newspaper said it almost became a "moving boat." During that time people would have a wake or lie in state at the house when you died. I remember a man, "Mr. Hughes," was lying in state and was taken out by boat from the raging waters. I lived in the areas of South Arch, Vermont and Lindell Avenue when I was growing up. In the later years I lived on Wardlaw Avenue. We used to walk to school because we went to Douglass. While at Douglass, I don't ever remember going to the public library but once, and it was with the whole class, after school with the teacher. We could go to the theater but had to sit in the designated area for "Colored." There was the Rialto Theater but colored people were not allowed. There was 150 Taxi and 3400. The 3400 taxi would let coloreds ride but they really didn't want to. Then there was "326" cab company, run by Mr. Ron Gilbert. He was nice. It was only 25 cents or two people for 35 cents. I remember when there were no phones in the cabs. They had to go all the way back to the station to get another order. I remember when "coloreds" couldn't sit at the lunch counter at the dime store. My aunt could cook the food but couldn't sit at the counter to eat. There was a restaurant and tavern on Lindell Avenue called "Logues." Colored men would go but had to sit outdoors in the back. It was called "The Hole" I know because my stepfather was one of the men. Women didn't work outside the home very much, but when they did it was cooking or cleaning houses or "day work." At the Country Club was Mrs. Clara Lewis. Boy could that woman throw down on some food. My mother cooked there too. Her name was Thelma Bolden. There were some more colored people who worked there but I don't want to call no names. But I remember who they were. Thelma Bolden, my mother, cooked for the "McCooey School" Nuns also. They really liked my mom. After the nuns left they kept in contact with my mom. I still have a letter one of the sisters wrote her. My mom worked for the Lamptons, Darlene Goodrich, Donna Schwartz, and she did laundry for many people. They would bring their laundry on Sunday, and we washed them in an old-time ringer washer, then iron them. One time the man came to pick up the laundry in the "hearse." Neighbors wondered who died. It was Schwartz the mortician. I remember Mr. Roy Audrey the contractor and Mr. Authur Craig who was with the Breeding Transfer Co. Oh yes, I can't forget the Schanbachers. I would babysit for Janis. She had two kids. The kids were Pammy and David. I used to babysit for Dr. Roller too. I remember the little girl named Merrilyn Roller. My sister would babysit for Mr. Cohn who owned the "Famous." His daughter was Marilyn Cohn. My uncles worked for "Yates & Hagan's Clothing store too, after school hours. Minnie Morrison Smith worked at the Don Sigler Photo studio downtown. I worked at St. Elizabeth and Levering hospitals. My sister, Thelma J. Bolden, was a nurse at Levering Hospital in the 1960s. They didn't put colored and whites in the same room like they do now. I remember once when this girl was white and when they found that she had a colored boyfriend they moved her into the hall. This was at the Levering Hospital. I know because I was working as a maid at that time. In fact she was a classmate of mine at Hannibal High School. I remember her name but again I won't call it. She wanted to be black but when she found she couldn't do anything, she bleached her hair blonde and turned white again. Kathleen Kelly and Fannie Griffin were both nurses at St. Elizabeth Hospital. By this time is when colored's could get hired for jobs of their capabilities. I don't remember any colored waitresses. Maybe dishwashers but not out in front. My grandpa owned and operated "Jeff Moore & Son's" garbage route. Charged $1 a month. But he also worked for the Burlington Railroad at night. I don't remember but one policeman and he was Cass Jones, who walked the beat. In the later years there was a colored "Meter Maid." Back then there were no colored firemen nor mailmen. The jails were even segregated. We as teenagers couldn't go the "Mary Ann Sweet Shop." The colored kids didn't have no place to hang out, this is when The "Coffee Pot" was opened by Harold and Louise Williams. Mr. Vernie Hale opened a skating rink down in the bottoms because we couldn't go to the one out on McMaster's Ave. I don't ever remember going bowling or to the YMCA to learn how to swim. Most guys swam in Bear Creek. I knew of some who drowned at the "high banks."

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