“Whites Only”

My mother-in-law tells a story about when her family moved
to another state for the winter back in the early 1960s.
Because of a hurricane, my father-in-law was going
to work on a construction team to help rebuild houses.

Most of her life she had lived in a small rural community in the
heartland of Missouri. It was an area where everyone was treated
with respect as long as they were good law abiding citizens.
Moving to a distant state, even for a short time,
was to be quite an experience for her.

Having to spend several months during the construction season
in her new surroundings, she and my father-in-law found a house
to rent but the house did not have any kind of laundry facilities.
However, a neighbor came to her rescue when she informed her of
a Laundromat nearby where she could do her washing
and offered to go along with her.

My mother-in-law got up early the next morning and separated
the laundry she planned to take to the Laundromat.  There was a lot
of laundry to do with a family of six and she had several piles
of clothes all separated into baskets.  She found that she had several
baskets of colored clothes and one basket of white clothes.
She packed all of them into the car along with a box of detergent
and some bleach for the white clothes.  As soon as her neighbor
arrived, they left for their trip to do the laundry.

After arriving at the Laundromat, they made a couple of trips
back to the car to bring in all of the laundry.  The next step
was to find empty machines and fill them with the clothes.

As my mother-in-law looked up above the washing machines,
she gasped and cried out to her neighbor,
“Oh no, this will never work, I can’t wash my laundry here!”

“Why, what’s wrong?”  Her neighbor asked with concern.

“Well, I have all of these colored clothes to wash and look at that sign!”
My mother-in-law exclaimed anxiously.

The neighbor looked up at the sign that she had pointed out and
there in big letters across the wall of the room were
the words, “Whites Only.”

My mother-in-law thought that the sign had to do with
the color of your clothes.  She never thought for a moment
that it was about the color of your skin.
Pamela R. Blaine
© September, 2003