Nostalgic for Third Street, Not Jim Crow

Jan 16, 2013

Maxine Crump

I saw a photograph of Third Street in the 1940s posted on Facebook recently where many people posted comments of their fond memories of Third Street from those days.

I have fond memories of Third Street in the 1950s.

I remember my father drove me over from Maringouin, a small bayou town 25 miles west of Baton Rouge. We drove over in Dad’s unairconditioned Jeep, with the windows down crossing the old Mississippi River Bridge.  Parking at a meter and walking on paved sidewalks filled with people going in both directions -- that all seemed exciting to this little country girl.

Those who knew my father know he doles out doses of reality in simple clear language. He pointed out to me that he shopped at the Jewish stores, because they treated colored customers with respect.

“I shop where they treat my money the same as they treat the white man's," he'd say.

In time, I came to see those were usually Jewish owned stores. In the Welch & Levy store, sales clerks walked over and shook his hand and some even knew his name.

But when I asked my dad to buy something for me at the Kress store, he said,  “Kress! Kress will never get a nickel of mine because they refuse to serve colored people at their lunch counter."

It felt a little strange to hear him say that, because my father said I was supposed to have all rights of any American. 

Imagine, not wanting me and Emanuel Crump to be around with our brown skin! Ludicrous!

You can imagine how happy I was when I heard about the lunch counter sit-in in 1960. My father was alive for the sit in, but not the purchase of Kress by the owner of color. He would have liked that.

I still like Third Street.

I think my father would be surprised though to know that after more than a half century later, there are still places there I have to consider how those of my color will be accepted.  Like Dad, I usually don't go in. But these days, with no Jim Crow laws to support this color limit, where I have gone in, I have let my concern be known to the management. 

My father would have liked that too.

Commentator Maxine Crump is a Baton Rouge resident. She regularly leads diverse members of the community in conversation in the Dialogue on Race Series.

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