BY-WAYS - 4/29/43 - Essie. - April 22, 1943

E is for Easter, and also for Essie. Because the two are related in my mind this year, I decided, on this Easter Sabbath, to write about Essie. If you were to stroll into plant 3 of the Warner & Swasey Co. during the first shift (but just try strolling in without an official pass!) However, if you should stroll in, and meet an immaculate woman of about 35, with jet black hair and brown eyes, wearing a dark red uniform (or else blue, or green, or rose) trimmed with white collar and cuffs, and a crisp and spotless organdy apron, that is sure to be Essie. She will have dainty pearl earrings adorning her ears, and probably a mop in her hand. For she is our "maid." Essie belongs to the colored race. She spends her days keeping the class rooms and our rest rooms clean. And yet Essie sits with us, by unanimous invitation, at our lunch table. We are proud to have her; for she is not only the cleanest and best dressed one of the bunch; her heart is pure, and her mind is humbled, yet exalted. Essie is a dark mulatto, with beautifully groomed hair. It is de-kinked, whether by evolution or by some secret or laborious process of brushing. I do not know. Her teeth are beautiful; more subject to decay than most colored folks; but she "sees her dentist every six months," and has just a tiny rim of gold here and there that enhances her good looks. Essie is the confidante of supervisors, white woman workers, and the humblest porters. Her heart is very tender; if anyone loses her job, Essie is so obviously sympathetic that you would think Essie had just been fired. And Essie would be heartbroken, if she had to leave Plant 3. Because Shelby has taken on new responsibilities, down on second floor, I am alone a great deal - up in the sunny south end of third floor. So Essie comes back there when she has anything special on her mind.

It's a company policy that we call each other by our first names (which suits me just fine). Not long after I came there Essie came back to tell me that her check that week was oversize - that some mistake had been made. She wanted to know to whom to go, to rectify it. She said, "Flo'ence, some of the girls say I'm a darned fool to say anything about it, but I don't feel that way." Of course I assured her that those girls were the fools. But Essie wasn't even tempted; for she always keeps on good terms with her conscience - and her conscience is very strict. We found her sad and red-eyed one Monday morning. Because her husband had not sat with her in church; and some vicious busybody wanted to know if they were not living together any more. She takes her job as mother seriously. Her own mother keeps the home fires burning; but Essie sees to it that Margaret and Dick behave themselves. We run into embarrassing little snags. Like one day one of the girls brought some of those tiny licorice "dolls" in her packed lunch. Before I came to the little lunch room one of the stupid girls (there were only two) said, "Oh, look at the nigger babies!" Well, Essie was quiet that day; and right after lunch she came back to my bench, her fine dignity so hurt. "Essie, those girls wouldn't hurt you for the world. The girl who said it and one who laughed have no background of good breeding; but it was pure thoughtlessness. Put it out of your mind and heart; for it has no connection with you whatsoever." And, with a sweet, childlike trust she did. Not long after, when we were dividing up some raw carrots, and someone - the most considerate girl in the bunch - began "Eeenie, meenie, mynie, mo; catch a..." she caught herself in time; but our charming timekeeper finished the rhyme - then thought of Essie. But Essie laughed gayly, and assured the utterly crest-fallen initiator of the rhyme that her own children used it. Essie simply doesn't let those things bother her any more.

Oh, there are dozens of interesting stories woven around Essie. And I wanted to tell about Essie and Easter. But a half dozen interruptions have taken all my writing time; and I must close. But more another time.

Florence B. Taylor

Next - 5/6/43 - Ed Starret. Visit by F.D.R. to Warm Springs, GA. Letter by Nana to F.D.R

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