Friday, September 8, 2023
I was active in the NAACP Youth Council in Flint 1959-61. Flint neighborhoods were still viciously segregated, with the main stem, Saginaw St, through the north side of town as the impregnable line between black and white housing. Most restaurants by then were grudgingly taking anybody’s money, but the Help Wanted signs mysteriously disappeared whenever a person of the “None Have Ever Applied” category asked about a job.
We did a drive-in at a drive-in on N. Saginaw Street that catered to both sides of the street but restricted the hiring of carhops to the melanin deficient. We drove in, two to a car and one car at a time, as spaces opened, until we filled the place. We each ordered a small Coke, placed it on the dashboard, and waited.
After an hour or so, the owner noticed a lack of turnover and the profound silence of the cash register, and came out to look around. He screamed, hollered and threatened, especially when he located the adult leader, Edgar B Holt, but couldn’t do anything until we finished our orders. Mr Holt calmly explained that he had a delicate stomach and had to sip his Coke very slowly, and suggested that they might chat about the hiring policy as an aid to his digestion.
We left after 2 or 3 hours, and made our point. I did feel personally cheated, though. My car was the only one with two lightly complected people in it, and I was one of the first to drive in. The guy harangued everyone in the lot except me and my cohort. He glanced at us once but never could make the connection. Here we were, eager to be part of his problem, and he just ignored us!