It is Greensboro, North Carolina. The year is 1968. I am a senior at James B. Dudley High School. We're all just trying to find something to focus on. At least I am. Because we were left feeling 'some kind of way' when they killed Martin Luther King, Jr. last month. I know I'm just trying to focus on graduating. I'm focused on going to college - and I want to make some money. So I saw in the paper where Tex and Shirley's Pancake House was looking for a waitress.
It is Greensboro, North Carolina. The year is 1968. I am a senior at James B. Dudley High School. I'm going to be graduating any minute. Thank you very much. You know, we're all just trying to hold on.
We're all just trying to find something to focus on. At least I am. Because we were left feeling 'some kind of way' when they killed Martin Luther King, Jr last month. I know I'm just trying to focus on graduating. I'm focused on going to college - and I want to make some money.
I haven't had a real job yet, some odds and ends, but I know I like the feeling of having my own money. So I saw in the paper where Tex and Shirley's Pancake House was looking for a waitress.
Now, I don't know why I was attracted to that job - waitress. Except I have heard that waitresses make tips, and that sounds like a really good thing to me. I've never eaten at Tex and Shirley's Pancake House. In fact, I don't think that me and my family have really ever eaten at any real restaurants.
I guess there are some reasons for that - one segregation, we were not always welcome, and even when it became where they said we were welcome, we weren't sure that we were. So we just didn't go. And two - my mother, always claimed that her cooking was better than any restaurant cooking.
I have nothing to compare that to, but I believe her. And number three, it just seemed like an unnecessary expense. But I went over there to apply for that waitress job, and when I got there, I met Miss Shirley.
I just thought Miss Shirley was a really nice-looking white lady. And she had this jet black hair, and I don't know what she did, what kind of spray or teasing she did, but she was able to get her hair to stand straight up on her head, and I didn't see any pins or anything.
And you would think they would look real funny like that, but it actually looked good on her when her hair just piled on top of her. And that day I saw her. She was wearing a red and white checkered dress.
And for some reason at that time, I thought that was the prettiest dress I'd ever seen. It was red and white checks, and it was gathered at the waist and had a full skirt, and the top was like a shirtwaist dress.
And I just thought she looked nice and I like the way she talked. She had a real Southern drawl, but it was so comforting, and when she said something, it was so soothing. I just liked her. I guess she liked me too because she hired me right on the spot.
She told me, she said, "I don't need a waitress right now. I need a bus girl. I'm hiring you to bus the tables. But as soon as I need a waitress, you're going to be next in line." I said, "Yes, ma'am."
And so I became a bus girl. I was the only bus girl. All the other bus people were busboys, but I was the fastest, the cleanest, the most courteous, and the most on-time bus person that Tex and Shirley had.
I worked there for a little while and I noticed that a waitress went and a waitress came. And at first, I tried not to let that bother me and I just kept on being a bus girl - until one day I was cleaning a table and I could overhear the conversation that Miss Shirley was having with this white lady.
And from what they were saying in the conversation, I knew that that white lady was about to be our new waitress. I wanted to cry. So I went to the bathroom. I got myself together. I waited until that lady left, and then I went to Miss Shirley's office.
I said, "Miss Shirley, I thought you were going to make me a waitress the next time you needed one." She didn't say anything to me. She just looked at me. I just looked at her. Then she stood up and she looked up at the ceiling.
She looked at the floor. While she was looking at the floor, she said, "I don't think my - my customers are ready. I don't think my customers will understand. I don't think they'll like it." Well, I wanted to cry.
You know what, I wasn't even mad at Miss Shirley. I wasn't mad at Miss Shirley. I was mad at the world. You know, I'm thinking, what world is this, you know? And I just got my stuff and I left.
So I just focused on graduating. And then after I graduated in the summer, while I was waiting to go to college. I saw in the paper that this restaurant called Hot Shops, was looking for a waitress, and I went to Hot Shops and I applied for that position.
And they hired me. I was hired for the 6 o'clock to 2 PM slot, 6 o'clock in the morning to 2 PM. That's when I waitressed. I loved being a waitress.