Ordinary People. Extraordinary Lives. The Untold Story.

Growing up in Riverside

By Delora Allen


Palmer’s Restaurant was on of the place we “hung out.”


As a child, I remember going to the “Stay at Home Camp” at the Settlement House during the summer where we learned arts and crafts, swimming, tap dancing (James Calhoun) and many other activities.  At the Settlement House, adults had meetings, sewing classes, flower shows, banquets and other events.


Along with Church, the Mercantile Hall, and the Settlement House activities, there was plenty to keep us busy.  During WWII there were dances attended by the servicemen from the Military Bases in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.


The teens belonged to organizations like the Jr. NAACP, the Sub Debs, and the Teen Canteen.  While a member of the Jr. NAACP, we submitted for consideration and passed on majority vote to establish the Inter Cultural Scholarship Fund.  Scholarships were given to “minority” students who were going on to college.  We also voted to put it in the hands of an independent group outside the Jr. NAACP to keep it from “dying” if the Jr. NAACP disbanded.  During that time, Lorraine Allen was the first from Riverside to attend the National Jr. NAACP Convention in Wilberforce, Ohio, and Minnie Carter was the second going to the Convention held the following year in Texas.


A social club the Sub-Debs was founded by my mother, Fannie.  We were taught the social graces and parliamentary procedures.  Each month we had a social event.  During the summer we sold tickets and spent a day in Long Beach at the “Pike”.  We also had a spring and winter formal.  One year we went to Big Bear for a weekend and another year we went to Murray’s Dude Ranch in Victorville which closed during WWII.  Palmer’s Restaurant was a place we “hung out”.  Malts, shakes, ice cream sodas, hamburgers, etc. were some of the menu items.  Mrs. Streeter took some of us (Doris Jordan, Helen Adams, Danny Culpepper, my sister Lorraine and myself) out to West Riverside to horseback ride early Sunday mornings and then back to the Teen Canteen for a waffle breakfast.


During my growing up years, I worked at the Sweet Shop.  I finished high school at an all Black boarding school in Topeka, Kansas – Kansas Vocational School (KVS).  While there, I took a Commerce Course, typing, shorthand, bookkeeping and tailoring.  Also attending KVS were Percy, Paul and Llana Strickland.


After coming home from school I found work near the end of WWII (July 1944) as a Federal Civil Service employee in San Bernardino at the SBATSC (Norton AFB).  After the war ended, I was laid off.  Later I applied for work at the Pacific Bell Telephone Company and was turned down.  I also applied at the Riverside County Offices, and was refused again.  No business in Riverside would even interview me.  I could only find work as a domestic, and for a short time I worked at Lerner’s Dress Shop as a presser and floorwalker.  Pauline Crisp also worked there as a window dresser.


Sometime later, I moved to Los Angeles and at first, could only find domestic work.  Eventually, I was hired at a small Toy Company, Centaur Productions, in Burbank as office clerk.  Georgina Campbell and Vernie Strickland worked there also.  Later, I worked for Government Agencies, Hospitals, Doctors’ offices and in the Aerospace Industry.  I also worked for Temporary Agencies from California to Maryland.


As a youngster, I remember reading several Black publications.  The Crisis Magazine (NAACP) the Chicago Defender, Pittsburg Courier and the California Eagle.  We also listened to the Fisk Jubilee Choir, Wings over Jordan and Amos and Andy on the radio.


My children are Jacquie (Tendai), Cheryl, Lesley and Connie.

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