When I was in the first grade (1954) we lived a few blocks from the city park, the centerpiece of which was the municipal swimming pool. You could swim from open till close for 10 cents. I don’t know this for a fact, but I don’t think most small towns in southeast Missouri had a pool. Come to think of it, Kennett had another pool. At the country club, although I’m not sure it had been built in ’54.
I never noticed that the city pool was segregated, until it wasn’t. That happened in the sixties due in no small parts to the efforts of Sol Astrachan, Kennett’s first Jewish mayor. No connection implied. It was a big deal. I seem to recall some white families forbidding their children going to the pool once “anyone” could swim there.
Barack Obama’s speech today (video/text) started me thinking about growing up in a segregated community. I don’t think most of us were even aware there were no black kids in our classes. We just didn’t think about them. They had their own school somewhere, didn’t they?
It was called Willoughby School and it was located in what most white people in Kennet called “colored town.” Did the kids sitting in those classrooms wonder where all the white kids were, or –like us– did it never come to mind?
Growing up, I never had a black friend close enough to ask. We just didn’t talk about those things back then. Props to Obama for talking about them today.