Bob Thomas, born in 1904 in Oberlin, graduated from Westervelt High School in 1922. His work record ranges from becoming a painting contractor, to a janitor at Oberlin College, to "running" a delicatessen with his wife, to dispatcher/supervisor at the Oberlin Post Office, and finally, to his favorite employment as a reporter for the Lorain Journal. He was the first black precinct committee representative in Lorain County. His other civic commitments include memberships on: Oberlin Community Welfare Council, Town Council, Metropolitan Housing Authority, Lorain Democratic Club, NAACP, and City Club. He recalls some memorable scenes during the first two and a half decades of the twentieth century.
"I grew up at 152 North Park Street and I started working when I was eight years old. The grocery stores and meat markets all had delivery services. There were about five different routes and I rode on the back end of the horse-drawn vehicles and made the deliveries. If I was lucky, I got twenty-five cents for the whole week -- five days after school and all day Saturday. Sometimes they'd give you only a dime on Saturday night. I would spend my dime to go to the silent movies at the Family Theater on the north side of East College Street. You had to pay a nickel to go in and you got peanuts or popcorn with the other nickel.
Another thing we did for fun was to go to the outside ice rink which was located on East Lorain. It was owned by a Negro man and that was where we hung out in the wintertime. There was a shack by the rink, and on Saturdays we would have a band which played on the second floor of that shack. But frequently we didn't have money to pay to go in, so we had to crawl under the fence which was in back of Tank Hall.
After I graduated from high school where I was active in athletics, I was admitted to Oberlin College. However, I didn't get involved in freshman athletics because of my heavy schedule. I didn't have enough money so I worked in a foundry over in Elyria for four or five hours a night trying to stay in school. I dropped out after spring break of my freshman year and Dorothy dropped out of the Conservatory and we got married. She also lacked the funds to continue.
I went to work for my brother-in-law who was a painting and paper contractor. I served my four-year apprenticeship, became a journeyman painter, and went into contracting for myself. I was doing pretty well until 1929 when Hoover messed up everything and things began to go down. I took odd jobs and everything, and I was lucky to get a job as a janitor at old Dascomb Cottage at the College. I took the postal exam and was lucky enough to get in the post office during the depression years in 1933, and that was a lifesaver."
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