03/29/09 — A union of races, a union of memories

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A union of races, a union of memories

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on March 29, 2009 2:00 AM

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Elouise Williams

Elouise Williams remembers the day a northbound train brought two races together -- when blacks and whites gathered as one just a few feet away from the segregated bathrooms and water fountains inside Goldsboro's Union Station.

It was 1939, and each man, woman and child lining the tracks had the same goal -- to catch a glimpse of the husband and wife aboard that train, President Franklin Roosevelt and first lady, Eleanor.

"The train stopped and they waved and waved and waved," said Mrs. Williams, who walked 10 minutes to the station that day with one of her children in her arms and the other two beside her. "Just as far as you could see, they were waving."

And then they were gone.

Mrs. Williams will be among those on hand Wednesday as city and state officials open Union Station to the public for a celebration of its 100th birthday.

Tours will be given and speeches made, but for the 95-year-old who watched Roosevelt pass through her city 70 years ago, the event is about the chance to relive fond memories made along those tracks over a lifetime.

Her daughter, Clyde, will be there, too.

And while she was only 3 years old and, thus, does not remember that presidential pass, she has some memories of her own.

Like her first train ride -- at 5 years old -- when her father took her to Durham to see a relative.

"I remember us walking down Elm Street toward the station. It was still dark," she said. "We were all dressed up ... and I had this little purse."

But the purse broke, and the money inside it ended up on the ground.

"I was trying to pick up all my money and daddy said, 'We'll get you some more money. If we stay here, we're going to miss our train.'"

Others have memories, too, and have shared them with members of the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp., as part of a documentary of sorts to be shown during Wednesday's celebration.

The group's promotion coordinator, Lara Landers, said many residents will be featured on the video.

Those who wish to attend the 100th anniversary event need only show up at Union Station Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Mrs. Williams said she wouldn't miss it.

"(Union Station) was pretty to me -- pretty tile. Big columns," she said. "And the sunshine there was pretty to me.