Harold Maurice Baron born in St. Louis, Missouri grew up in University City, the first suburb due west of downtown, lived in an upper-middle-class section, which was third Jewish, third Protestant, and a third Catholic. The rest of U City might have been majority Jewish. My father was a lawyer, mother a homemaker. Mother was born in Russia, emigrated at about 3. Father was the 10th of 11 children and the first one born in America; his family came from Russia. Grandparents’ occupations were petty merchants and working class. Parents were New Deal Democrats and leaders in Jewish community organizations. They did not put time into New Deal political organizations.
When I was growing up, St. Louis was segregated in about everything except street cars and buses. Interstate buses became segregated about 30 miles south of St. Louis. No black people lived in U City. Clayton, just to the south had a small black servant population and a Jim Crow elementary school. They paid St. Louis to take their high school students, who took the street car through U City to get to school. I went to the K-6th elementary school down the block, then did two years of junior high in Tucson, Arizona because I had severe asthma. There blacks were segregated in school. In my middle class neighborhood there were two Latinos in my grade. When I came back to St. Louis, I went to St. Louis Country Day, an elite boys’ school located near Ferguson. Between Ferguson and Country Day was the all-black town of Kinloch, and the saying was all blacks had to be out of Ferguson before sunset. My exposure to black people was limited. I basically knew them as servants. My folks hired whites as our live-in maid, but a black woman came once a week to do heavy cleaning and another woman came 2 days a week to do laundry. The black women had to use the toilet in the basement. On the other hand, my parents wanted my brothers and me to have to work as they did as children, so they arranged that we would work Saturdays at my aunt and uncle’s grocery store in the black community, where we would stock shelves and hand carry groceries to the customers’ homes. There were two black guys my age who also worked there. When I got to know them, I discovered they were a lot like me. Much later I discovered my mother reimbursed my aunt and uncle for our wages.
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- Harold Baron, Email message to Lou Turner (Project Lead), 2016. ↵