Coming to America- In the Beginning (Part 1)

San Diego 2008 as viewed from Point Loma

It was 1968 that I learned my mother was really my stepmother when she called me to the kitchen and said “I’m not your mother. Your real mother lives in France and you have another family there with two sisters.”

Offer of employment from Convair, San Diego to my father P.Frank Freeman

I was beginning my sophomore year at San Diego City College as a pre-engineering major.  You see she was the only mother I knew for she came into my life when I was a three year old toddler.  We had been living in Germany when my father was  riffed from his Art Director position through  a series of maneuvers by the administration in his department which sought to remove most African-Americans from their positions. His fight along with several other African-Americans went all the way to the White House with no satisfaction for those who instituted their grievance against the U.S. Army.  But that’s another story for another time.  Instead this is my story about growing up in San Diego between the years 1955 – 1970.

After moving to Detroit in May 1955, P. Frank, my father, was offered a position as an Engineering Illustrator at Convair  in San Diego.  via a letter dated September 29, 1955. His beginning base salary was $475.00/month (based upon inflation this salary is equivalent to $5,441.69 in 2021.). The offer of employment was based solely on his resume’. 

I never thought much about his trip cross country until the movie the Green Book came out in 2018. Now, I’m sure many of you have heard and or have seen the movie “The Green Book.” What many of you probably don’t know is the fact that there were several places in San Diego listed in the Green Book as a safe haven for the traveling African-American. I have posted the screen shots (slide link listed below) for those facilities in San Diego which are listed in the 1955 Green Book.

The Green Book was started in 1936 by Victor H. Green, a postal worker to help African- Americans navigate the perils of traveling the United States with as little “embarrassment” as possible. Embarrassment was the code word for racism. The book provided information and addresses where African-Americans could interact peacefully and not be harassed – as stated in the Green Book,“The Green Book helps solve your travel problems.”

After learning about this book I began to wonder what barriers my father may have come across on his journey (fall of 1955) when he drove his red 1949 Mercury cross country from Detroit to San Diego. I’m sure part of his journey included Route 66 – did he use the Green Book as his guide?  When he arrived in San Diego, did he stay at the Douglass Hotel at 206 Market Street and eat his meals at the Sun Restaurant at 421 Market Street? How many times have you or I passed those locations not knowing the history that occurred there. Unfortunately I’ll never know if my father stayed and dined at those establishments while he went looking for housing to rent for his family.  Today much of Route 66 is underneath I-40.

Now, the movie “The Green Book,” had very little to do with the actual travel guide “Green Book” and much to do about Tony “The Lip” Vallelonga.  But, based upon my research, many of the incidences didn’t happen in that one tour as shown in the movie, but over several tours. The incidences shown in the movie were compressed into one tour to make the story flow. If you would like to see and obtain an actual pdf copy of the Green Book, then click on one of the below links (1949 version):

Links 1-3 opens into a new tab.


If you would like to see and compare copies of this book from 1936 – 1966-67 (last year published,) then click on this link:


However if you would like to listen to a podcast about the Green Book, the BBC has a wonderful 39 minute program about how the Green Book was used. This podcast was broadcasted on April 1, 2018:


So this was the beginning of my journey to San Diego.  In October/November 1955 I moved with my family from Detroit, Michigan to San Diego,  My fondest memory of that journey was stepping off the DC-3 airliner, which had flown us from Los Angeles, and walking into the very small terminal located on Harbor Drive. This was the beginning of a new chapter in my life and leaving the trauma and hurt of my toddler years.

Family portrait (1955-1956)
4855 Guymon Street, San Diego.    Red 1949 Mercury parked in the driveway of the duplex home we shared. two-single single car garages separated the two residences.

My father had found an integrated housing subdivision known as Glencliff,  at 4855 Guymon St. off of 47thand Market streets in Southeast San Diego. I lived a normal childhood life, going to school and playing with my friends until dark. Growing up in San Diego was wonderful. I had many friends and girlfriends of all races and ethnicities.

In September 2022 I traveled to Jackson, MS to the Civil Rights Museum where the Smithsonian traveling exhibit about the Green Book was on display.   Here is a link to that story:


Photographs for part 1. Click here

Photo Captions

  1. The Green Book:  Did my father use this book when traveling from Detroit to San Diego when he accepted a position with Convair?
  2. Green Book Address;  Did my father visit one of these establishments?
  3. Family Portrait;  Family portrait, 1956. My dad’s red 1949 Mercury is standing in the driveway. Looking to the left of my brother’s head you will notice a hill above the background house. That is where my father would build our home in 1960.
  4. Me riding my bike. If you look closely at the rear tire you might notice a playing card rubbing against the spoke. In those days kids would attach these cards and balloons to their bikes to make noise as they rode down the street.More about who I am

To be continued in Part 2, Elementary School

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