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Sunday, July 29, 2001 - 12:00 a.m. Pacific

Remembering Seattle in the 1930s: Marian Valley-Lightner

She's a compact woman, her black hair flecked handsomely with gray. As she speaks, she perches on the edge of her sofa beside a picture window with a sweeping view of the Renton Boeing plant and South Lake Washington.

I was born and raised at 25th and Roy. We had our own small community where everybody knew everybody. There were lots of black-owned businesses — Chatters Laundry, Angelus Funeral Home, the Northwest Enterprise newspaper, the Woodson Apartments where Sammy Davis Jr. once stayed.

Blacks didn't get the meaningful jobs. We had two dentists, social workers, some longshoremen, and a lot of women had service jobs in wealthy homes. But there were no black bus drivers and no black teachers.

For recreation, we went to Madison Beach or Madrona Beach, or the Gala Theater. Or we'd watch the Black and Tan football team or the Ubangi baseball team play at Garfield.

Oral Histories

Bill Cumming

Jesse Petrich

Patsy Collins

Tom Sandry

I remember the "Dinky," a streetcar that ran from Madison to Cherry. If we had two or three cents, we could take it to school, but mostly we walked.

Church was a big part of our lives. We went to Mount Zion Baptist. They had the junior choir, piano recitals, and we always looked forward to the Sunday picnics at Lincoln or Woodland Park.

I don't recall trouble between the races. Nobody was mean to me. They wouldn't serve us at the dime store. But that was the only place I knew of.

The schools were integrated. The teachers discouraged us from taking college-prep courses. But our parents encouraged us, because they believed there was going to be a new day. And it paid off. I graduated in 1938 and went off to Hampton University and worked as a dietician for the Veterans' Administration in L.A.

Later, I came back expecting the same city. But things changed. People moved in from all over to work at Boeing. Black people got meaningful jobs. Some of them became engineers and did very well.

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