White baby in the black projects.

image34Jamie Bishop,
Florence, MA.

I am a bastard child conceived in the back seat of a Chevrolet in 1965. When I was born, I was sent to an orphanage. I don’t know what all happened, but my grandfather, (Daddy, or Mr. Bishop) had strong feelings about family duty, and five days later, against my grandmother’s will, he went and got me. From what I understand, since Daddy was the one that insisted that I be kept, my grandmother insisted that I be his full responsibility. They adopted me, and my mother became my sister; the mystery of the details surrounding my adoption is a story for another time.

I don’t know a whole lot about my grandparents. They didn’t talk about their families or their lives very much. Most of what I know is very basic or learned second hand. I do know that you can’t be any more native Texan than my families and still be white. My ancesters were the first white people to settle Texas. My grandparents’ parents were farmers who grew cotton and raised cattle with the aid of share croppers. My grandparents were both born in North East Texas in 1917. Daddy was born in Krum; my grandmother was born in Prosper. They each had 7 siblings. They met in Denton, married in Oklahoma, lived in Denton for a while, then moved to Dallas sometime in the 1940’s.

Daddy enlisted in the army during WWII, and became a seargent in the motor pool stationed in the Phillipines. When he came back to Dallas he landed a contract with Ezell Randall, owner of Terminal Taxicab Company. Randall was one of the first successful black business men in Dallas. Daddy set up Bishop’s Auto Repair down on Munger Ave. across the street from the black projects where many of the taxi drivers lived. Down at the cab stand and all over the black part of town, he was known as Mr. Bishop. He was often the only white man in sight. Terminal Taxi grew to be the largest cab company in Dallas with a fleet of about 950 cabs by the mid 1980s. Bishop’s Auto Repair painted, equipped, and serviced every single one of them for 45 years.

For the first five years of my life, Daddy, the cab drivers, and their families were my primary caregivers. I was known down at the cab stand and in the projects as Little Bishop. My playpen was constructed of three tractor tires piled one on top of the other, and placed in the shade near the engine hoist and tire machine. I spent the majority of those five years happily playing in grease and dirt with taxicab meters, auto parts, and tools. I went to a local preschool. I loved loving and being loved to pieces by the cab drivers and their families down in the projects. I was happy and safe there. Those first five years were the closest I ever came to being nurtured. It all came to an end when I was five.

In spite of the situation, my grandparents were racists. My grandmother thought I was picking up bad habits in the projects, so she decided I should go to kindergarten at a fine private school in North Dallas. All of a sudden, I was thrust into a class conscious, wealthy white culture. I had no context, no social map, and I certainly didn’t have the proper clothes (I remember very clearly the importance of not owning a pair of Tretorn tennis shoes). Daddy, the shop, the taxi drivers, their families, and the projects were gone. Little Bishop got very lost, and she’s never managed to find her way back home.


Tweets by Michele Norris