Racial segregation is alive and well in parts of the U.S. where strange laws – about keeping African-Americans separate from white folk – are still being practiced.
It was back in the late 1970’s that military personnel stationed at the NORAD radar site at Mount Hebo, Oregon, learned that a local law banned all “people of color” from being on the streets after dark.
Needless to say, this “law” caused quite a stir when African-American airmen were assigned to duty at Mount Hebo.
While the famed Mount Hebo Air Force Station closed in 1980 – after serving as a long-range radar installation for both the Air Force and NORAD since 1956 – visitors can still look to the very top of Mount Hebo and spot the remains of this military facility that has a spectacular 360-degree view from its summit.
Mount Hebo is a mountain located at the junction of Highway 101 and Oregon Route 22 about two hours west of Portland.
Segregation continues today across America
As with many American towns that once practiced segregation, Mount Hebo is no different than places such as Montgomery, Alabama, where white locals still practice segregation in a stealth way.
For instance, a recent visit to Montgomery was a real eye-opener for Tom and Judy Goldsworthy who hail from Portland. “We heard about this great hot dog place in downtown Montgomery, and decided to check it out,” explained Tom Goldsworthy during a recent Valentine’s Day interview at a popular coffee shop in Portland.
“Judy and I sat at the counter and enjoyed a few hot dogs and beer in those long-neck bottles. We noted the help were all black people working hard cooking the hot dogs. We noted the cashier was white and so were all the customers sitting at the counter at this famed Montgomery hot dog joint,” added Goldsworthy while then winking his eye as he disclosed more details from his visit.
“When I went to the bathroom, I heard lots of noise and talking. When I came out of the bathroom, I looked into this huge room where about 50 African-American locals were enjoying their hot dogs and beer,” Goldsworthy added. “I later asked the cashier if a party was going on in that back room. He said ‘heck no, that’s where the blacks eat.’”
Mount Hebo known for its race relations
As for Mount Hebo, well, it’s fair to say that it’s not unlike segregated life in Montgomery.
While the local law about “no blacks on the streets after dark in Mount Hebo” is no longer enforced – as it once was back in the 1970’s and earlier when U.S. military personnel were warned about this law – there is still “the vibe” in town that people of color should not hang around too long.
“They sort of give strangers – especially those of color – the skunk eye,” said Tom Goldsworthy when pointing to his recent visit down the Oregon coast that reminded him and his wife of their recent hot dog lunch in Montgomery.
For instance, visit one of Mt. Hebo’s few watering holes (bars), and you will learn why this state was once called “White Oregon.”
As an example, Portland local Tom Goldsworthy remembers sitting with a group of mixed color visitors who recently visited Mount Hebo. Goldsworthy said they got “strange looks.”
He said the looks were aimed at several people in the group who were African-American.
So it goes in America today where strange laws and attitudes are still being practiced in a somewhat covert way, added Goldsworthy with a look of deep sadness in his eyes.