Eric, Barbara and her husband Alan discuss life in New Orleans in the early 1950’s
Me: How old were you when you guys left?
Barbara: I was… I had gone to my first year of college, so I was…
Alan: 18? 19?
Barbara: Yeah 18 or 19. Something like that. And when we came out [to LA] Eric was a baby and he was a little baby.
Eric: I was six.
Alan: To them you’re still a baby.
Barbara: [Eric was] a little baby and when they had midnight mass they had the manger inside the church and they wanted Eric to be the baby Jesus.
Eric: That’s where that picture came from.
Me: What picture?
Eric: That drawing.
Me: Oh right okay.
Barbara: He was to be the baby Jesus. So grandmother and pops had to take Eric to midnight mass and walk up the aisle and put him in the manger. That was in New Orleans. See midnight mass was a big deal in New Orleans, I guess it is now, but back then it was a big deal and everybody went to midnight mass, even the little babies.
Barbara: When we were in New Orleans… when Eric was born and grandmother took him out of the crib because he was getting big for the crib, she put him in my bed with me because we didn’t know what to do with him. So I had to sleep with poor little Eric and I was so afraid I was going to crush him, so I would walk the floor all night. I would get up and go around, keep walking around, because he would sleep right here and I would try to move him and he wouldn’t move so I’d have to get up and walk around the bed and let him sleep on this side. And I was happy because I used to get to feed him after he would sleep. I would see if I could feed him and I loved his food and I’d give him all the spinach and carrots and nasty stuff and I would eat up all of the pudding and all of his good food.
E: Yeah so… I had my share of vegetables.
Barbara: I used to take him shopping. I didn’t have any money, I guess at that time if you have twenty-five cents that was a lot of money. And I don’t know where I was taking Eric shopping. But anyway, I would take Eric shopping.
Alan: Just you and him?
Barbara: Yeah. Well I was the big sister, so you just hold Eric’s had and don’t lose him and it’s alright. But I wanted to tell this to Alica, because at that time New Orleans and the south were very very prejudice. I would… Eric and I would get on the street car to go shopping.. I only had 25 cents, I don’t think we were going far, maybe to buy him an ice cream or something. But at that time there was a screen on the bus and the street car.
A divider, and so the white people used to sit up here. And then… they used to call them “colored people.” They would sit right here. Behind the screen. And they would look at me and Eric and then they would take the screen and put it in front of Eric and me, because they thought Eric was white. I don’t know who they thought I was. But they would put the screen in front of us and I had been taught all of my life that, because my mother and father taught me what to do when I went shopping, so I would take the screen and put it back. Put it back by the white people right here. So they would put it back. And it would go on until finally I’d say “Come on Eric let’s go home.”