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Black/White Race Relations in Texas in the Late 1970’s

In the late 1970’s, I had graduated from the university and gotten married. My dad was working construction in Rockdale, Texas. He was what is called a Journeyman Electrician which means he was the lead electrician. He was no longer in the Air Force as he had been all the time I was growing up, but working for a big construction company called Brown and Root that kept him moving again. I had married a preacher, but the preacher hadn’t gotten a job yet, and my dad offered to get him a job as an electrician where he worked, and my husband took him up on it, so we went to Rockdale, Texas. They were building a power plant. My husband worked as the lowest level electrician with my dad learning about electricity for a while until he got his preaching job. When we first got to Rockdale, I only saw white people, no blacks, and I thought there were no blacks in town, but it wasn’t true.

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There were two sections of Rockdale, the white section and the black section. However, it was only there because of history. There was no animosity between the two groups. We learned about the black portion of town because the church in the white part of town and the church in the black part of town considered themselves brothers. They just didn’t meet together from Sunday to Sunday because they were trying to serve both portions of the town. Once a month, they had a big ice cream supper and both churches got together. If you have never heard of an ice cream supper, it it something they do a lot of in Oklahoma and Texas. Churches do it a lot in the summer. They all come together. People bring lots of deserts, and they make homemade ice cream together. We have ice cream freezers in America specifically made for making homemade ice cream. There is a big bucket with a metal cylinder in the middle, They put the ice cream mixture into the metal cylinder and put ice all around it in the bucket. They put salt in the ice, and they have a handle that they crank on the top of the bucket. People take turns turning the handle until the ice cream mixture turns into ice cream. It is the most delicious ice cream you have ever eaten! Now a days, they also have ice cream machines that work on electricity so people don’t have to crank them. Anyway, the black church and the white church were getting together once a month for an ice cream supper because they wanted to remain friends even though they met in different parts of the city. Something in history made the people live in different parts of the city, but it didn’t mean that the churches wanted it that way. As I have said many times in my blog, Christianity makes a big difference.

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When we met the black members of the church, and they found out that my husband was a young preacher just out of school, they invited him to come and preach for them sometimes, so sometimes, we attended the black church. My husband loved preaching at the black church. He said they talked to him. He knew if they agreed or thought what he said was good because they said “amen” every time they liked something he said, and it encouraged him. American blacks sing slightly difference from whites, and I love singing with them. They seem to swing and sway with their voices as they sing, and I had learned to do it by singing with my black friends when I was at Oklahoma Christian University. I used to car pool to work with a group of black Christian girls, and we sang all the way to work. It made the ride wonderful! When I sang with this church in Texas, it was the same way. They really influenced my singing, and when I was in Romania, a woman who knew a lot about singing said to me that I had the most melodious voice she had every hear, and I thought she was probably talking about habits I had picked up from singing with the blacks in Oklahoma and Texas. We also enjoyed going to that church because there was someone appointed to stay at the church building and make lunch for the guests every Sunday. We got to know the ladies who did the cooking, and they were wonderful cooks!

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As we drove through the black neighborhood to where the church met, we could see the old south. Some of them were still living exactly the way their ancestors may have been living on the plantations during the times of slavery. They had vegetable gardens in their yards. They had chickens running through their yards. The houses were small wooden and unpainted, not fancy at all. There were galvanized bath tubs in the yard, and I remembered back to my uncle in Oklahoma who didn’t have running water in his house and used a bath tub like that in the kitchen to draw water out of the well and take a bath. I wondered if all of them had water, but they were living in town, so surely they had city water. They seemed to live very simply like poor men, but then there would be a brand new Cadillac sitting in their yard. Their houses didn’t matter to them, but their cars really did. All of their money seemed to go in to paying for he fanciest car in town.

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The blacks and the whites in that town got a long just fine. However, they had settled in different parts of the town years and years ago, and they had stayed in those neighborhoods, and each neighborhood developed their own personalities. Many of the white were cowboys like in other parts of Texas and Oklahoma. The whites who lived there painted their houses. Some may have had vegetable gardens too, but they didn’t have chickens in their yards, If you have chickens in your yard, it is hard to grow a lawn, but the houses of the whites all had lawns. The whites put more emphasis on their houses and less on their cars. The two parts of the town had different cultures. There was no animosity between the blacks and whites at all. They were just different and lived in different parts of the town. They made friends with the people in the other part of town, but they lived in their part of town. The churches went out of their way to get to know one another even though they were located in different neighborhoods. In many ways, I really enjoyed going to Rockdale because I felt like I got a glimpse of old southern culture.

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