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Lifelong Las Crucens remember life in the 1940s

By Vanessa de la Viña, vanessa@kvia.com
Published On: Aug 28 2013 11:04:23 PM CDT
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -

A piece of black history still stands in Las Cruces. At a time when segregation was the norm, a small cemetery gave the black community some relief.

The Community Cemetery was built at a time when people were turned away because of the color of their skin.

"There was a time when people of color did not have places to bury the dead. When you go to one place, they'd say we don't have any availability here or they'd make some kind of excuse not to accept you," said Grover Pettes, a Las Cruces resident.

The Community Cemetery was created in 1941. Back when there was only one school for black children in Las Cruces. Back when some restaurants had special rules for black people.

"The white restaurants you could sit at certain tables or you couldn't sit at all," said Clarence Fielder, another Las Cruces resident.

Despite the segregation, Fielder told ABC-7 growing up in that time was fun.

"That was just the way of life. Even though you couldn't go in some restaurants or you could go to the back door and order and they'd bring your food there but I didn't know that was segregation or anything like that," Fielder said.

Fielder remembers dancing the Jitterbug and smoking because it was cool.

"I used to get allowance of 25 cents. You could get a coke for 25 cents, you could get popcorn, you could go to the movies. You could do a whole lot of different things with 25 cents," Fielder said.

Decades later, Pettes said the world has come a long way.

"You just don't know how to describe it. The feeling of knowing that I have the opportunity to go to school, to get my education, to get a job, to have the opportunity to get things I previously didn't have," Pettes said.

The cemetery is now 70 years old.

Many of the headstones are faded and falling apart.

Pettes said local churches have helped maintain the cemetery over the years. He hopes to garner more volunteers to help

Pettes hopes the cemetery will stand for hundreds of years so future generations will remember the past.

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