Salt and Pepper

Our oldest daughter out front leaning on the white picket fence.

   When I was pregnant with our second child we really wanted to buy a house. We were renting on Olive Avenue in Long Beach, in a racially mixed area. At that time ,there was an invisible line drawn  that started at Cherry Avenue. The invisible ink let evey real estate agent know that “No Blacks” east of Cherry. Growing up in Orange County, which was almost all white, with a sprinkle of Hispanic and Asian is was real simple to figure out who lived where. That was detemined by how much money you made. If you were middle class you lived in certain areas, if you were professional and made over $100,000. you lived in a different area.. and if you were richer than that, you lived in homes near the beach, or in the hills or in the gated communities. Every thing was determined by the money you had.

   When I moved to Long Beach, wow what a difference. Your money did not matter at that time. If you were black you lived west of Cherry , end of conversation. Well the good news for us was that we lived west of Cherry, so we thought, “No problem, we are working, let’s buy a house.”… A senior white couple, the Geislers lived down the street from us and they were getting older, the area was changing and they wanted to retire in Austin, Texas. They had known my husband since he was a child and  wanted us to buy their house. What a blessing and of course we stepped up , went to their real estate agent and filled out all the papers. They said they would get back to us, but they did not. After a few weeks I called them and was told that they already had another buyer for the property. I called Mrs, Geisler and asked her about the other buyer, she said that she was surprised and thought we were the buyers. She then called her agent and the agent said that they were not able to get financing for us and they did have another buyer. in mind. Mrs. Geisler was upset and asked me if I knew any real estate agents, because she sensed that something was amiss. Just so happened that my best friend was a real estate agent, in Garden Grove. So I called her , asked for help , and if so Mrs Geisler would agree to use her and she would make the commission. Cecilia was my best friend , she was white, an angel, really smart and hated bigotry with a passion.

   She came to Long Beach and pretended to have a Garden Grove buyer for the house on our street. She was able to see all the paper work and found out that the Long Beach agent had written S&P on our application. When she told me, in my ignorance, I asked “Well, so what does that mean?”… “Linda it means, salt and pepper, meaning you are a mixed race couple and they do not want to help you.”… I started crying, how outrageous is that I’m thinking to myself. But Cecilia stopped me… “Oh no, Linda, they are not getting away with this, don’t worry, you will buy this house or no one will!!”  You know that woman was determined , thank God and within 6o days we had a house……

   I loved the house and the street we lived on . As I said Blacks were restricted to certain areas because of skin color only and not money.  My husband and I were blue collar workers, but on our street and the next block lived two pastors, a nurse, a computer programmer, a millionaire property owner, a radiator shop owner, two government employees, a pharmacist, a cook, an accounting clerk, a navy man, a fireman, an obstetric nurse,  all living in this area, though most could afford any house in Long Beach. One lovely elderly Black  woman , very educated that had been a school teacher and was now a school principal, married to a dentist, told me she had looked at a house in Belmont Shore, (a very, very nice, very, very white area near the beach).. “It is so nice there and you can walk to the beach, and all the stores on the strip, when are you moving?” I said. 

   “I won’t be. ” she replied.    “How come, I know you two have plenty of money.” I laughed, because we both used to joke about her frugality.  “I wish it was that easy.”                   “Well what happened?” I asked…. Here is what she told me… “I called the real estate agent about the house I saw in the paper and I asked her if they allowed Blacks in the area and she told me “Oh don’t worry, absolutely not, not now, not ever:”  My friend said she hung up the phone and cried….


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