The Last Fling
By Lola Mae Johnson Gauff
“Georgia, Lilla and Gilbert Goodwin were my companions in Central Junior High.
I visited Opal and Delma Strickland and they came to visit me on Sunday afternoons and we had fund in my playhouse.
I enjoyed my visits with Verna Gordon who always took time to read Time Magazine before the rest of us did.
Labor Day was a great day at Lincoln Park. Mr. Oscar Harris supplied the meat from his ranch.”
We lived just west of the tracks. This separated me from my African-American friends on a daily basis. When I was in Lincoln Grammar School, I was the only African-American after my sister went to Junior High.
Occasionally, I played with Helen, a classmate and granddaughter of the owner of the Mission Inn. I liked to hear the rustling of the bamboo and the sound of trickling water and the raucous parrot. John Allen was the footman dressed in full regalia. I watched as he opened the door for a privileged lady. Her face was flawlessly made up, diamond rings sparkled on her age spotted hand, pearls partially cloaked her crepe lined neck. She was accompanied by her escort as they alighted from the black, immaculate town car. The chauffeur sat immobile, staring straight ahead, his black cap perched squarely on his head. I knew Mr. Allen well. He always had a warm friendly smile when he saw me. His son, Bryant, Blinky as we called him was my age. His daughter Juanita and my sister Lois sang in a chorus over the radio station KMPC in the 1930s. (LA)
I looked forward to Sunday School so I could see my African-American friends. I visited Opal and Delma Strickland and they came to visit me on Sunday afternoons and we had fun in my playhouse. Papa treated us with a jug of rootbeer. Sometimes I went with Papa to the rootbeer stand. A short, craggy faced man with a bushy mustache dispensed the foamy rootbeer from an oak barrel into our jug. We lived two short blocks away.
Georgia, Lilla, and Gilbert Goodwin were my companions in Central Junior High. Papa gave me lunch money to eat in the cafeteria but I wanted to be with Georgia and Lilla so they divided their egg or peanut butter and jelly sandwich with me and I bought each of us a Dixie cup of ice cream from the Cafeteria. We ate our lunch under our favorite palm tree at the end of the grounds. We were happy with our ingenuity.
I liked to visit Ellen Stratton and when she visited me we walked the four blocks from my house to Kristy’s, Kress, Woolworth, Leeds, where we bought shoes alike. We enjoyed downtown and if we had the money we enjoyed a ice cream Sundae at Woolworth’s lunch counter.
I enjoyed my visits with Verna Gordon who always took time to read Time Magazine before the rest of us did. Her mother cooked the best blackeyed peas and cornbread. Verna and I went to the matinees to see our idols, Clarke Gable, Robert Taylor and Cary Grant. Sometimes we had to stop by the American Cleaners were her brother, Raymond worked for him to give her money, he never refused. We stopped at Kress Store and pooled what money we had other than the 25 cent for the matinee to buy hunks of smooth chocolate candy that melted in our mouths while we enjoyed the movie.
Best of all I loved our last summer fling before we entered school in the fall. Labor day was a great day at Lincoln Park. Mr. Oscar Harris supplied the meat from his ranch. I can see him now barbecuing the meat over an open pit. The tantalizing aroma filled the air. His once-white apron stained generously with barbecue sauce covered his ample bay window. He was a Big Shot in the Masons who put on the affair. His agile helper, Mr. Trivel Williams, was my friend Jean’s father. They produced the best barbecue and served it with creamy, onion laced potato salad and fresh white bread.
These are wonderful memories of growing up with friends in my home town. Many of these friends I stayed in contact until their death. I still keep in touch with Ellen and Lucille Stratton. I will always have fond memories of my childhood friends in my hometown of Riverside.