The last time Dorothy Flood took a train to visit family in the South, she was not allowed to sit in the dining car because of the color of her skin. Now, more than six decades later, the 75-year-old’s wish of eating a meal in a train dining car has come true. In May Flood flew from Houston, Texas where she lives, to Colorado to get on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad and have the meal she has always wanted.
As a child Flood used to travel from Newark, NJ to North Carolina each summer with her grandmother. From the age of six until she was about nine years old, she made the trip by train and always wondered why when the train reached a certain part of the country she had to move.
“We would get to the Mason Dixon Line and I noticed that all the blacks would go to one end of the train and whites would go to the next,” she said.
“Suddenly I would notice that I was in a car with all black people.”
Flood grew up in ethnically diverse Jersey City, NJ and at the time could not understand why blacks and whites had to be seated separately. That separation became more evident when it was time to eat. Flood’s grandmother and many other blacks carried their food in shoe boxes when traveling by train.
“Each box would have fried chicken, a hard-boiled egg, pound cake and fruit,” she said.
“Up until today I have not tasted fried chicken so delicious.”
Her grandmother’s food may have been delicious, but she would still peer into the windows of the cars on the train longing to have a meal in the dining car.
“It wasn’t that I was angry, but I couldn’t believe it because back in Jersey City we could be around everyone.”
“I would ask my grandmother why and she would say its not your problem, its their problem.”
Even though Flood stopped traveling by train to the south and instead went by car, she still thought about the dining car.
When she was asked by the activities director of her retirement home if there was something that she wanted to do all of her life, eating in the dining car of a train was the first thing she thought of .
However, Flood did not think her wish stood a chance against others and waited until a second call for applications to fill a form out; and she was happy that she did.
“It was just prefect. It was first class, number one,” she said.
“I just thought about my grandmother and said grandmother this is for you and I.”
The trip was made possible by Brookdale Senior Living and Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime that grants wishes for seniors 65 years and older.
Flood was served a dinner which included grilled salmon with pesto, roasted vegetable orzo pasta, seasonal vegetables and triple chocolate mousse at a private table on the Royal Gorge Route Railroad.
She had the opportunity to go to the observation deck on the train, but Flood opted to sit at the table in the dining car the entire ride and imagine her grandmother sitting there with her.
Before this trip, Dorothy Flood never really talked to her family about what it was like to grow up during segregation. She credits the trip with allowing her to share a lot of history with her grandchildren.
“Everyone’s story is different, this one is mine and looking back I am so glad that I did it.”
Follow Melissa Noel on Twitter @noelknowswell