I've lived in San Bernardino and especially here on Baseline 70 years. I've lived first out on 6th and Herris back in 1927, went to Harding School and then my folks built the home out on Baseline in 1930. So I've been living here ever since. I went to Mt. Vernon School, from Mt. Vernon to Sturges Junior High School and San Bernardino High School and San Bernardino Valley College. I think the opportunity for an education has been available to just about everybody if the the financial end of the spectrum is right. Why I say that when I grew up it was during the Depression. The opportunity for good jobs were not available during those times and by jobs I mean like at Harris' Department, being school teachers, being mechanics. Those jobs were kind of reserved for the whites. So it was survival.
The schools weren't segregated. I never went to a segregated school. and we didn't have segregated schools then in San Bernardino because it was the area in which you lived . if you lived in a certain area you went to a certain school. We call it now de facto segregation. You were segregated because of housing. The opportunity to live anywhere in San Bernardino wasn't availble to you during that period so therefore you went to one school. But if the opportunity to build housing or to move in certain areas was available you went to that school. For an example I went to Sturges and alot of my friends went to Arrowview because they lived in that area. It wasn't because of my race or color. It was because of where I lived. The opportunity for education was still the same because we had the same books and good teachers.
When I graduated from high school I applied for a job at the Santa Fe Railroad. The only job I could get at the time was a laborer's position. When I started there the blacks worked on one side of the shops and the whites on the other side. When the engine came in it was the blacks and mexicans that stripped the engine down, took all the parts, put them in live vats, steamed them, sandblasted them and then when they were all cleaned and tagged then they went on the other side of the Santa Fe and it was mostly the whites that assembled the engine again.The labor was there but the wages were cheaper. There was a difference. Instead of being called a machinist you were called a Differential Machinist. You were paid 5, 6 or 7 cents an hour less than the whites. I was fortunante enough after I went to the service and came back and went to Valley College. I applied for a machinist apprenticeship. I received the opportunity and I was the first black in the Santa Fe in San Bernardino to get a machinist appreticeship. I served four years and became a machinist after that. During that time there was a transition from the steam engine into the diesel locomotive. So they started laying off steam mechanics and machinists. I went out and and got a job at Norton where I continued unitl I retired in 1985.
The opportunity for employment as I said before was very poor. You couldn't work downtown. Matter of fact the only job you could get in a lot of places were elevator operator, you could clean floors, be a janitor, you could clean the silverware and polish but they wouldn't allow you to sell any items.
I'v seen a tremdous change in San Bernardino. It's all been for the good. It took a long time to do it. The opportunity now for young people to get an education and profession and make something of their lives. It's incumbent upon each person and each person in their family to instill in their child the need for an education and to follow that from the time that they are starting into school or even before that until they graduate. A parent needs to be involved. That is the focal point of the discipline and the education of the child, and once the child goes to school the parent still needs to be involved otherwise the child will regress and have nothing but problems.
When my folks built their house on Baseline, there were only four black families that lived west of Mt. Vernon. That was in 1930. They didn't have a gas line from Muscott, what is now Medical Center Drive now, for stoves or hot water heaters. My mother and a number of the neighbors got together and together petitioned the gas company to bring gas out here. I've seen the change and I'm kind of mad with the change now because their building a high school right across the street. When I went to high school I had to walk from here on Baseline all the way to San Bernardino High School, there wasn't even a bus that went that way. Then we were able to buy bicycles and then we'd ride a bicycle to high school.
Even the theaters and cafes were reserved, certain areas were reserved for the blacks. They wanted them to sit in the balcony or sit on one side of the theater. Up until the 40's and after that the war started and all the racial barriers were broken down. Rialto, the Isis theater, and the Temple Theater which wasn't segregated. but the main theaters like the West Coast, the Fox and the Ritz theater had a segregation seating area. But as again I said that area was broken down by people just really defying; saying "I'm not going to sit in the area you have designated for me. I'm going to sit in the area where I want . I've paid my money and this is where I'm going stay or going to sit."
I don't know. There are so many things that you try to remember that have happened over the years. I know when I went in the Navy I went to an all segregated training facility in Great lakes, Illinois. When I graduated from Communications School and went to Astoria, Oregon to a naval training station I had to be on station because they would not put seaman aboard ship. It was reserved for whites. That was during World War II. Near the end of the war after Roosevelt died and Truman took over as president. Truman integrated the services.
Things have changed over the years and I feel it's been for the good. It's been positive. and again I think that every young person needs to get an education. Everything is technical now, computers have taken over. But the opportunity for employment, advancement, and for being a professional is available. If you just strive and study. Not everybody is designed to go to college but everybody has a skill or trade within themselves.