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  1. I was there, living on the corner of Burton and East Glenn. I remember the smell of gas in our apartment. My guess was that after the blast, gas lines were shut off to prevent more gas loss, and our little gas heater probably went out for lack of fuel. It was also getting cold in the apartment. But not primarily from the lack of heat… the door to the porch, on the Kettle’s side of our apartment, apparently had been blown open.


    This archival news footage serves as a reminder to me of how my former hometown, Auburn, AL struggled during the mid 60s with desegregation and civil rights related issues. In 1965 before attending college, I was employed as a stock clerk at Parker’s Department Store located across the street from the Copper Kettle. Typically, I, because I had no personal transportation, walked 20 mins away from downtown Auburn to get a 10-15 min lunch meal to keep within my 1 hour lunch break.

    On one very hot day in 1965, dreading taking the long walk to lunch, I decided to dine at the Copper Kettle, that clean, air conditioned diner across the street, instead. As I recall the only dining seating in the diner was counter seating. So, I took a stool and prepared to order. While I was not warmly greeted, my unenthusiastic waitress wanted to know what I wanted. I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich, chips and a coke. No problem until I observed the only other Kettle employee, a white guy cooking at the grill who (I later surmised to be the manager) seemed to be increasingly agitated and annoyed about something. It was then that I became more attentive and noticed there were no other black folks eating there (1965!) and the few other patrons, white, as they averted their gazes when I scanned the diner. The main lunch crowd had not yet arrived and I figured I would get a quick meal, be out with time to spare.

    My unenthusiastic waitress brought the sandwich, chips, and coke, but they were given to me as if I were a “take-out” customer… served on small paper plates and a paper cup, without utensils. I noticed that the other seated customers had been served using the Kettle’s china, beverage glassware, and flatware. I then requested that my food be re-plated on china and my drink re-poured and served in glass. Now my lunch hour was fast waning and my appetite was moving to ” I don’t think I need to eat, especially here!” In the meantime, my unenthusiastic waitress while taking my food back had conferred with the cook. She returned the same food back to me still in the same paper plates and cup now this time enthusiastically and with animation delivering the following message, “You have to take it this way or not at all!” in front of a full diner of patrons. I did not touch the food, chose not to accept it and left the diner… to the tune of a screaming cook (manager?) following (and shouting expletives and waving the meal check) behind me as I crossed the intersection returning to my work site across the street! When the Auburn Police officers came to the store…. Well, perhaps you can see why the Copper Kettle explosion does not sadden me. However, I am glad no lives were lost.

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