Arkansas had the “Little Rock Nine”, Crowley, Louisiana had the “CHS Three.”
Meet Ms. Myrtle Cain, as she shares her stories about growing up to become a civil rights activist and leader.
The first thing that came to mind was when I was a young girl. There was a bus station here in Crowley that had a cafe. We had to go to the back door, instead of the front counter when we wanted to order our food. We could only order food to go. We were not allowed to eat in the cafe. When we went to the doctor’s office we had to go to the “Coloreds Only” entrance in the back. While I was young, I was old enough to remember and to know it wasn’t right.
Not that much later I decided to be part of the “Freedom of Choice” act and integrated Crowley High School (CHS) in 1967. I was one of the first of three black students allowed to attend Crowley High School. I know my mom was “shaking in her boots, fretting about why does Myrtle Cain need to go to that school?” My principal Dr. Griffith called me into his office that first week. He asked me, ‘Why did you choose to come to CHS?” My response to him was simple, “I wanted to prove to whites that blacks are just as intelligent and we can excel as well.”
There was a trip with FHA (Future Homemakers of America) to Mississippi. The only black people we saw on that trip were the butlers and maids. Part of the trip was to visit some of the stately homes and gardens, the tulips and other beautiful spring flowers. Here comes this little black girl (me) dressed like the whites. The lady of the house started commenting, “When did this start?” She kept hemming and hawing. I just went right up to her, to rub her and let her know it doesn’t come off. She started screaming “ewww . . . ewww”. My classmates started laughing and said, “That’s good, that’ll fix her.”
There were so many examples of people trying their best to make me quit and give up. The worst was when Dr. King was killed in 1968. The next day I dried my tears and made my way to school. I remember I was welcomed that day by a group of white boys. They got in my face and were laughing and laughing, “ha, ha, ha, your black president is dead.” They wouldn’t stop. I was so sad, crying too much to say anything. They thought that was going to stop me. We went through a lot, but with the help of God we didn’t give up and we made it. They really thought they had discouraged me, but they didn’t.
I went on to be the first black graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana Department of Home Economics. They thought it was too refined, too much etiquette for a black girl. I was discouraged constantly and I would not give up. I had one very racist instructor. I took a clothing class with her. I knew immediately that she hated my guts. She failed me in one of the required courses for my major. The next semester I had to go back and retake the very same class, with the very same hurtful and hateful instructor. I finished the course with a C, the lowest grade earned in my college career. Despite racist instructors and classmates, I graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana with a BA in Education. I went on to earn my Masters & Certification in School Food Service from Louisiana State University, to then become a Teacher of Home Economics for 37 years, teaching students all of the important parts of home economics: cooking, sewing, caring for children and families.
Additionally, I became an NAACP member, Certified First Responder; AKA Sorority Incorporated: Exemplifying Excellence Through Sustainable Service, Golden Soror; President of the National Association of University Women, Crowley Branch; evangelist missionary for the Church of God and Christ; Crowley District Sunday School Superintendent, and the Historical First Jurisdictional Business and Professional Women of Louisiana, President. While I did my part supporting those who came after me, my proudest accomplishment is as a mother of two beautiful and accomplished women and grandmother to my three kings.