LIMA — Green Book. These two words put together now likely bring to mind a film of the same name.
“Green Book” was released in late 2018 and stars Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, who has been nominated for an Oscar. Set in 1962, Mortensen plays an Italian-American tough guy hired to drive an African-American classical pianist on his concert tour in the South. The film has sparked some criticism, both for its billing as truth and for its telling a black story through a white perspective.
The film gains its name through a very real and important part of American history: The Negro Motorist Green Book.
New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green compiled and published this booklet beginning in 1937 and into the ’60s in an effort to help his fellow African-Americans travel safely and more comfortably. It was sold at Esso gas stations. This was the Jim Crow era, and blacks were faced with segregation and thus had poor access to most services — restaurants, gas stations, restrooms, hotels and more. This was compounded by “sundown towns,” cities that advertised violence against blacks if they stayed past sundown.
Traveling was dangerous, simply put. At best, it was demeaning when service or access was denied.
“The idea of ‘The Green Book’ is to compile facts and information connected with motoring, which the Negro Motorist can use and depend upon,” the 1937 Green Book states, accessed via the New York Public Library Digital Collections. “The motoring season is here again. The roads are calling to thousands of motorists to explore them. … This, our premiere issue, is dedicated to the Negro Motorist and we sincerely hope that you will find the many places of reference and information valuable and helpful in aiding you to enjoy your motoring in and about New York.”
The guide soon expanded. Yearly subscriptions were available for 25 cents per copy. The 1937 edition asks readers to send articles and ideas. They could also phone or write to Green’s “Vacation Service,” essentially his travel agency that took calls in the evenings.
“Let’s all get together and make motoring better,” the 1937 edition stated.
A closer look into the Green Book reveals Lima had several listed “tourist homes,” private residences of African-Americans where lodging was available.
Daisy Boone, 1105 W. Spring St. — 1939, 1940
Sol Downton, 1107 W. Spring St. — 1939
Sol Downton, 1124 W. Spring St. — 1940, 1948, 1953
Edward Holt, 406 E. High St. — 1939, 1940, 1948, 1953
Amos Turner, 1215 W. Spring St. — 1939, 1940, 1948, 1962
George Cook, 230 S. Union St. — 1939, 1940, 1948, 1953, 1962
None of these homes stand today.
Daisy Boone was born Nov. 25, 1880, in Van Wert County and moved to Lima around 1910, according to her obituary. Her husband, Isaac, was born in Madison County and died at age 46 in 1915 of diabetic acidosis, according to his death certificate. They didn’t have children.
She owned and operated a grocery store at Spring Street and Kenilworth Avenue from about 1920 to 1945. The 1930 U.S. Census lists her as living at 1105 W. Spring St. with her nephew, Harold, who worked at a garage.
She died at age 74 and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery with her late husband. Her obituary, which appeared Sept. 10, 1954, states she was a member of St. Paul AME Church, its Allen Class and the Order of Eastern Star, Cyrene Chapter 31.
The location of the home is just west of St. Paul AME Church, now the parking lot.
Solomon Downton was born July 4, 1871, in Bedford, Kentucky. His marriage license to Kentucky native Lucy May Beecher was filed in Indiana on Dec. 27, 1909, and they moved to Lima the following year.
The 1930 Census finds he and his wife at 1107 W. Spring St., along with daughter Pearl and mother Martha Posey. He worked with the railroad. His wife was a private cook, and Pearl was an elevator operator.
The 1940 Census finds the family at 1124 W. Spring St. Daughter Pearl and her children, Marlen and Diane, are listed — as was lodger Mary Thomas, 52, who was a maid.
He died at age 85 after spending 16 days at St. Rita’s Hospital, according to his obituary. His memberships included Second Baptist Church and its Men’s Finance Society, Samuel W. Clark Lodge 67 of Free and Accepted Masons, Hamilton Commandry 33 of the Order of the Knight Templars and Siroc Chapter 35 of the Royal Arch Masons.
Survivors included two daughters, Mrs. Jessie Carter and Mrs. Pearl Phillips, both at home; and a son, Reuben, 3100 Springview Drive. A brother, William, also survived, listed as living at 123 Lafayette St.
He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
The location of the home at 1107 — listed in the Green Book just one year — is west of St. Paul AME Church, now a parking lot.
The location of the home at 1124 is now Stepleton’s Outdoor Development Co. This is the parking lot of the former Harris IGA.
Edward Milton Holt was born Sept. 10, 1867, in Lorain to parents who were born in Virginia, according to his death certificate.
The 1920 U.S. Census lists him as living on North Jackson Street with his wife, Ella, and brother Thomas. Holt was a chauffeur, and his wife did “housework,” each for private families. Thomas was a laborer.
The 1930 Census finds he and his wife at 406 E. High St. His occupation is listed as a porter at a hotel. He was 62 years old at the time.
The 1940 Census shows the widower, 72, was a church caretaker. He reported his highest education attained was the sixth grade.
He died of heart failure at 74 on Feb. 11, 1942. His death certificate lists him as working as a porter at the Lima House (hotel).
He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
The location of the home is in the area of Lima Senior High School.
Amos Morman Turner was born May 25, 1876, in Logan County. He married Martha Ardelle Turner, who was also born in Logan County.
He moved to Lima in 1918, according to his obituary, and was a restaurant proprietor.
The 1930 Census shows he and his family — a son, daughter in law and daughter — lived at 1215 W. Spring St. He plastered houses for a living.
He died May 25, 1943, of leukemia. He was 66. His obituary states he was a member of Masonic Lodge No. 67 and St. Paul AME Church, serving on the church’s Brotherhood and as a trustee.
His wife died in 1964 at age 90. Her obituary lists membership at Mount Vernon Baptist Church and Order of Eastern Star, Cyrene Chapter 31. A few surviving family members are listed: daughter Martha (John) Burden, of 1215 W. Spring St.; two grandsons, John Burden, of 136 W. Cole St., and John C. Turner, of Sidney; and two unnamed great-grandchildren.
George Cook was born April 21, 1877, in Lima.
The 1930 Census reports he and his wife, Florence, lived at 230 S. Union St., with Florence’s father, Robert Nelson. Cook’s occupation is listed as a laborer at a garage, and she was a servant for a private family.
The 1940 Census reports his occupation as janitor at the police station, and Florence was employed as a servant. Lodger Perry Valentine, with no occupation listed, was also there at the time of the census.
His obituary appears in The Lima Citizen on June 11, 1961, complete with a photo.
“George Cook, 84, of 230 S. Union St., a former Lima policeman, died in his home at 9:45 a.m. Saturday while preparing to leave for work,” it states. “Mr. Cook was employed as a maintenance man at the UAW-CIO Union Hall, and served as a member of the Lima Police Department during World War I.”
Services were held at Second Baptist Church, and he was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
The location of 1215 W. Spring St. today includes a house built in 1997 and owned by Allen Metropolitan Housing Authority.
Reach Adrienne McGee Sterrett at email@example.com.