Sunday, August 15, 2010

President Roosevelt

I just ran into a transcript of a conversation I had with my landlord 1983.

Mose was my landlord from 1976 to 1985. He owned three houses in a row on 39th street near Grove in Oakland. It was called Grove Street then, but now it's Martin Luther King Jr. Way.

I learned a lot from Mose, especially about American History. He told me that when he bought the houses there on 39th street in the 1950s that was the farthest north a black family could buy a house. There were laws restricting home ownership by race then. He said 39th street was the last and best block he could buy a house on, so that's where he bought; wanting the best for his family.

He was 62 in 1983. We were chatting while he was gardening. Here's what he told me:

When I got back from the war my wife was pregnant by another guy. But what could I do? I was off fighting the war and there was nothing I could do about it, so I couldn't get mad about it. I mean, when I got that letter from President Roosevelt I was milking cows, two dollars a day, sun up to sun down.

You got a letter from President Roosevelt?

Yeah, I got a letter from Roosevelt asking me to help out with the war.

You were drafted, you mean?

President Roosevelt sent me this letter and, well, I went. I had been milking cows, two dollars a day, working from sun up to sun down. That was a good job. My father worked there, too, but he didn't make that much. I milked the cows, from sun up to sun down, every day, seven days. I'd been milkin' them cows so damn long I decided to go fight the war. When I got back my wife was pregnant by this other guy, you see, but how could I be mad when I wasn't even there?

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