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STORIES THAT SHAPED THE CENTURY

Readers Remember

November 22, 1999

I am a black man, and in 2000 I shall be 81 years old.

I was a member of the glee club at Manual Arts High School, and we were invited to sing at Belmont High by Mr. Jack Webb (Sgt. Joe Friday of "Dragnet") who was student body president and a close pal of mine.

The late, great Humphrey Bogart was a Navy man and had a lot of close pals who had clout in Washington. When the war was looming in the early '40s, Bogart wanted to get my brother and me decent assignments. His friends said No, No, Bogie. They can only be stewards or cooks.

My grandparents came out to California in the late 1890s and my granddad was the gardener for the Huntington Library family in Pasadena. He planted a great deal of the trees on Olvera Street. They bought a small, ranch-type home in Bell Station, which I believe now is Bell Gardens or Bellflower. My grandpa and my uncles had to sit on the porch with rifles nightly, so that the whites wouldn't burn them out.

I was an extra in "Gone With The Wind" in 1938. Arriving on the set to shoot the sacking and burning of Atlanta, [we found] they had segregated toilets with 700 white Confederate soldiers and 400 black soldiers. There were signs above each door (white only and black only). Myself and three other young men knocked on the dressing room door of Mr. Clark Gable and promptly told him the signs must go! They went.

LENNIE BLUETT

Los Angeles

What do you recall most about the 20th century? In 200 words or less, send us your memories, comments or eyewitness accounts. Write to Century, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053, or e-mail century@latimes.com. We regret we cannot acknowledge individual submissions. Letters may be edited for space.

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