The words “the vote” and “Jim Crow” have been much in the media lately. I would like to share my observations of those, back in the 1930s in Dade County, Missouri.

I was born in 1924, only four years after my mother was allowed to vote.

Each summer, when we could spare a day, my dad would hook up two teams to two gravel wagons. Each was made to hold one cubic yard of gravel. He would put me with the wagon pulled by Ol’ Kate and Helen, gentle giants that even a small boy could drive.

We went to the gravel pit three-fourths of a mile away, and Dad scooped both wagons full. Then we often drove 3 or more miles to a place where our township roads needed more gravel. Both loads were dumped, spread out, and we returned back for late evening chores.

Dad had paid the poll tax so my mother and he could vote that year. The poll tax was $3 per person per year, and a load of gravel was worth $3.

Daily wages then for manual labor were $1 a day.

I wonder how many people today would be willing to give three days wages to be allowed to vote.

Mel West of Columbia is a retired Methodist minister and founder of Mobility Worldwide.


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