Monday, 05 March 2012 by Keith Bahlmann
Patsy Nelson loves Belton.
After nearly eight decades, it's the only home she's ever known.
But she wouldn't want it any other way.
Belton gave her, a black woman, a place to grow up, build a home, raise a family, and touch the lives of others in her community.
She is as much a part of Belton as Belton is of her.
Patsy has lived in the same house on Pearl Street for 57 years. There, in 1955, in racially segregated America, she and her husband Noah built their home.
She said that unlike many other communities during the Civil Rights movement in the 50s and 60s, Belton was a place largely void of violent protest and racial clashes.
Her parents grew up in Belton, living across the street from one another. They lived in a home on 9th Street where Patsy and her three brothers and one sister grew up.
Patsy graduated in 1950 from the Thomas Breckenridge Harris High School.
Patsy still remembers fondly on her achievements at the school, coolly smiling as she points out that she finished as valedictorian of her graduating class.
Her options for continuing education were limited – though not by the lack of colleges catering to black students as much as her family's inability to financially support such an endeavor.
"When I was growing up, we couldn't do things because we were poor," she said. "I had a four-year scholarship offering to Prairie View because I was valedictorian, but we couldn't pursue that."
She said Belton was more heavily populated by blacks at that time than whites.
"They (white girls) would push us off the sidewalks, and we'd try to stay on and push back – we fought, but kids are going to fight," she said.
She spoke of the segregation in the community at places such as Crow's Café and Greyhound Bus Station, where blacks had to enter in through the back door and eat in a separate area.
She said the same of the Beltonian movie theater, but again referred to it as a place of reverence for her, both then and now.
"We didn't know anything else, and it didn't bother us at all," she said. "It didn't bother us, we just wanted to go to the show!"
She recalled only a single racial incident during her childhood that made her fearful – but it was more because of the lack of understanding of a young, 6-year-old girl.
It was simply the sight of a police car that had pulled up to her home when she was walking home from school. She saw her relatives standing on the porch, and she saw the white police officers simply roll down the window and never step out.
There was no violence, there was no raised voices, no threats made – only an underlying, inescapable fear of a 6-year-old girl, terrified of a conflict between the police and her family – of a child who felt the potential danger of white men in power over a black family.
Today, Patsy is a board member of Belton Concerned Community
Alliance, where she continues to assist and aid those who live in the community she knows and loves so well – the city of Belton, which will forever be her home.