Being vastly ignorant about the realities of segregation, Jess and I asked what it was like for the Reedy Creek Rangers to be working then. Mr. Johnson said, “That’s just the way it was, they didn’t worry about it, they just did their job.” I then asked him for the real deal, but he didn’t add anything; only that his mom might remember differently. Jess and I shared a look, both thinking we would have to talk to her in the near future.
As a follow-up question, we asked what would happen if someone went to the wrong park, and he surprised us by saying many whites came regularly from Cary and no one cared. I asked if anything would happen on the Crabtree side and Mr. Johnson said, “Myers Braxton (Crabtree State Park Superintendent) was a progressive person and didn’t believe in those laws.” Mr. Johnson seemed to know that it was not an issue on the Crabtree side because he said, “Black people policed themselves. They knew where to go and not go.” At that time, he said, “There were three state parks that blacks could go to, Reedy Creek State Park, Hammock’s Beach, and Cliffs of the Neuse.” After doing a little research, I think he meant Jones Lake State Park rather than Cliffs of the Neuse.
Ranger Jess asked about desegregation and what that looked like, and Mr. Johnson said, “It took some years to tell any difference because all of the groups that came to the camps during segregation were the same afterwards. It took awhile for it to look different.” Mr. Johnson continued, “After segregation, they (the state government) had to get Reedy Creek up to speed, paving the roads and adding Ranger residences.” When he went over to check out the Crabtree side, he immediately saw where segregation showed because he thought, “Good Lord, they have everything here. Over at Reedy Creek we had about one-fifth of the equipment.”
Born to be Wild (Part Three) - Early life in the park
Coming October 1st.
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