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I had a telephone call last night from an old friend who grew up in Trenton as I did. We went to the same school for a while and he was several grades behind me. After we were grown, he came to work at the factory where I worked for over thirty-two years before my injury. We laughed and talked about the times we spent on the job and about my writing about Trenton. He was excited to read my stories but he did have one comment for me. I didn’t include any “Negro” stories. That was his word not mine. I then asked my Negro friend was he trying to tell me I had too much salt and not any pepper. I dedicate this story to my friend, Curley Paul Green and to Mr. “Shorty” Brown. Shorty Brown could be described in many terms, some may prefer to use the term Afro-American, Negro, Colored, a Man of Color, I prefer to just call him what he was to me “back in the day”, a man. He was a polite, respected, hard working and an honest man. He worked at the “Locker Plant”, “Slaughterhouse” or “Meat Packing Plant” located at the south end of Pearl Street. As kids, we would often pay visits to the meat packing company and spend hours talking to Shorty in the back of the plant when he was not busy. He worked as we talked about many different things. We asked him many questions about his job there. We knew when he was going to be butchering an animal by watching the stockyard behind the plant. When there were any animals in the pens, we knew we could go to the plant and watch the man do his work. Shorty allowed us to watch until he reached a certain point and then we had to leave. It was the law and he followed it no matter how much we begged him to let us stay a little longer. The cafes in the early sixties were segregated and the Negro customers were not allowed to eat in the front of the café with the white people ate. As kids we knew that this was not right. In Zettie’s Café, there was a backdoor for the Negroes to come into the café and there were three booths for them to eat their meals. If we were in the café when Shorty came to the backdoor to eat lunch, we would pick up our plates, go to the back, and eat with him. The first time we started back there, Zettie tried to stop us from going. She said that it was for the Colored people only. We went anyway. Some of our best meals were eaten in the back of that café, not just with Shorty but also with many others who didn’t mind sharing their space with us. I remember when segregation was abolished and the café was open to all people not matter what their color was. There were several of us in the café when Shorty came to the backdoor as usual to eat lunch in the back. Zettie told him he was welcome to eat in the front with everyone else in her café. I can still hear his voice
and his exact words to her, “No thank you Miss Zettie. I know my place.” Shorty Brown was joined for lunch that day by more than a few kids. I don’t recall how long it took us to finally get him out of the back but I do think we got him to come out to the last booth to eat with us when we were there. We were honored to be in his booth and to be considered his friends. I have now proudly added Mr. Shorty Brown to my list of childhood mentors. I consider his place in my life equal to that of Miss Willie Catherine Murphy, O.J. Savage, Jr., O.C. Robinson, Herman Jinkins, Charlie Short, Denton Felment and so many more people who taught me so much about what is important. The common thread between all of these people is honesty, loyalty, hard work and most important- friendship.