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July 9, 2005

Millard Mayfield was part of a cadre of young black men who served as "porters" (a euphemism) at the four or five drug stores located around the Perry square. Millard was employed at our family's business, the City Drug Store, so I came to know him pretty well. This was in the late 1930s, when I was in the middle teens and learning about a lot of things. Millard was a few years older and much wiser than I was. We had many interesting discussions on a wide variety of topics.

Some of the other porters that I remember are Walter Baker at Brownie's Drug on the west side of the square, before he became a well-liked, full-time member of the "back shop" gang at the Perry Daily Journal, and a pleasant man named Leonard at Foster's Corner Drug. The South Side Pharmacy also had a man and I think Merrill Hamous and Jim Hopper had one at their store on the west side, but the names escape me now. As I recall, Leonard at Foster's also had a shoe shine stand at the Mossman Barber Shop. But Millard was exclusively a City Drug Store representative and we all thought a lot of him. He came from a big family and we enjoyed being around them.

The times were different then. We had Blaine Separate School for young black children, and the teachers and administrators there were pretty much the intellectual and social leaders of the black community here. When Blaine was merged with the Perry public schools (I believe that occurred in 1957) the leaders moved elsewhere. Mr. E.H. Hancox was principal of Blaine school but I have no further information about his subsequent location, when separate schools were kicked out by the Supreme Court. The Blaine football and basketball teams, both very competitive, disappeared as an entity. Their head coach became an assistant at PHS but many of the athletes concentrated on their studies. There were exceptions, of course, but the merger pretty well offset the benefits of the new prospects.

This is not the whole story about integration, nor is it so intended. It is, simply, a few personal memories of that critical time. Perry has not been quite the same since that profound change came along, but it's interesting to compare "then" with "now." No doubt you have your own personal recollections. Am right or wrong?