Monday, January 10, 2011


Diamond was, in fact the last company to accept black drivers. As far as I am aware, there were three segregated companies: Yellow, Liberty and Diamond.

When I came to Diamond, the first black American driver was still there, Mr. Alston, #42.

At one point, Jimmy Heffner, who was the rental manager at Yellow drove for Diamond. He told the story how he desegregated Yellow. It seems that this black driver, a retired D.C. Fireman, came there to rent, as they made you rent for a while at Yellow before they would take you as a private owner. The boss told Heffner to make him sit on the bench and tell him that there were no cabs available. This went on for three days until Heffner told the boss that either Heffner was going to give this guy a cab or the boss was going to tell this Fireman that he was not going to get a cab. The boss backed off and told Heffner to give him a cab, then went around there telling everyone that Heffner had pressured him into letting a black guy drive at Yellow. Heffner said that he took quite a bit of grief for that.

I know for a fact that Heffner is dead. Alston is probably, as well. I remember when he left, because he told me that he was taking off time because his health was failing him, but that he hoped to be back. He always had a buffalo nickel in one ear.

Up until 2007, the driver card file was still in the office. Gloria Sartori, who was front desk Secretary from 1947-1989 maintained it. She typed the race of each driver onto a card and put it into the file. She would type 'Nigerian' for any black African (if you want to make a Ghanaian or a Sierra Leonian angry, call him a 'Nigerian'). She would type 'Arabic' for any middle Easterner, even Persians or Afghans (if you want to make a Persian angry, call him an 'Arab'). Pakistanis and east Indians were 'Hindu', black Americans were 'Negro' and white Americans were 'White' or 'Caucasian' as were some of recent European origin, although some of those were identified by the country of their birth. The file was still there in 2007, although I have no idea if it is still there. The first driver to get the designation 'Nigerian', Mr. Bernard Obi, cab #658, is still at Diamond.
I do not know from where Mr. Obi comes.

P.S Mr Obi is from Ghana.

This post is written by Phil the Dispatcher,
copy and pasted (stolen) by Mad Cabbie.

Thanks Phil, and don't forget the homeless,

Mad Cabbie.


Mad Cabbie said...

What year did you com to Diamond Phil?

Anonymous said...

I came January, 1983. Gloria tried to keep me out. She did not like my long hair. What is funny is that she was a lesbian, although she was in the closet.

The story goes that she walked up to the old Diamond Yard in June, 1942, fresh out of high school looking for a job. As many of the men has marched off to war at that point, they snapped her up. She had been there for so long and knew her job so well that Management tolerated her many flaws. It got to the point where she even pushed around presidents of the Company--until she came up against Bob Waller, that is.

Bob Waller was not about to let anyone push him around, especially not a crusty old dike. She lasted less than a year under his administration. She tried to tell Bob Waller what she was and was not going to do. When Bob Waller was in charge, you did not tell him what you were or were not going to do; it was the other way around. He told her that she could either do what he told her to do, or hit the street. She chose the latter. Diamond was the only job that Gloria Sartori had ever held.

There was a major slaughter at Diamond in the Kramer and first days of the first Waller administration. They sacked Jones and Red Cap from the cage, Roxie and Jerry Dong from the Office, Red Harris from midnight dispatching, Jack Loewy as Chief Dispatcher and kicked Billy Brennan out of the Company.

Billy had been Vice President for years and was often the real power behind the throne. He also ran the card and crap games at the old Diamond yard and had a loan sharking operation so that drivers did not have to hit the street after they had lost all of their money. Jones had started on the tyre line when he was fifteen and Diamond was the only job that he had ever held. He was in his late forties when Kramer gave him his walking papers.

It was the biggest blood letting at Diamond that I remember. I kicked out a few drivers here and there and fired a dispatcher or operator here and there, and was the field ring leader in the stockholder revolt of 1995, but I never spilled as much blood in my tenure as, Acting Secretary, Acting Chief Dispatcher or Secretary/Treasurer as was spillled in that period.

I did succeed Gloria as the Wizard, though.


Anonymous said...

hey cabbie - can you work on fixing your RSS feed???

you da man!

Anonymous said...

A funny story about Jim Crow and segregation:

I was a small child in Massachusetts. In the early 1960s, my father took a job interview in Huntsville, Alabama. He took the train down there and thought that since it was summer and I was out of school, I might like to make the train trip with him.

Anyhow, we got down there, he took his interview, we were wandering around, it was hot as all who knows what. He was looking at something in a store when I spied a drinking fountain. There was the normal fountain and lower one. I had seen drinking fountains like this in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine. I wandered up to the lower fountain, turned it on and began to get a drink.

From nowhere, came this older man with a straw Fedora, khaki pants a white shirt and horn rimmed glasses. He started hollering "Cheese an' Crackers, thunner an' lahtnin', boah, kain't you read? If you need halp, whah doan che' jes' ask fer it?"

A bit puzzled, I looked at him funny. As soon as I opened my mouth to ask what I had done wrong, he knew what was what.

"Now y'all Yankees may not do things that way up thar, but yer in Alabama now, boah. Whaht folks doan drink frum no kellered fountain down hyayuh. If ye' need some halp, jes' ask fer it, boah." At that point, my father came over, said something to the guy and hastily took me away. I asked my father what I had done wrong, he told me that I had done nothing wrong, but that in certain parts of the country they treat Negros (this is the early 1960s, remember)differently. I told him that I had thought that the lower fountain was for the children and the higher one was for grown-ups. He told me that while that was true in Massachusetts, it was not true in Alabama. I told him that I thought Alabama was a wierd place and that we should not move there.


Anonymous said...

I remember back in the 60's when I was just a kid, a friend of my uncle who drove a cab for yellow, left yellow and joined diamond after yellow start letting blacks to drive for yellow. As a matter of fact bunch of racist yellow cabbies left for diamond because diamond was still all white.


Anonymous said...

Phew! I am so glad for Gloria that she never got to call an Eritrean a Nigerian, she would have gotten one of their famous headbutts, like the one Zidane gave Materazzi during the world cup, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone let alone an elderly woman.

Mad Cabbie said...

Diamond had some dark history regarding race issues, the old fossils who run that joint maybe wish it staid all white. The problem is they are all dead, Diamond has the last few white cab drivers in DC....I say less than twenty including Phil the dispatcher.! When I started driving they were about 50 or so, and the old gizzers started to drop like flies.

I didn't know that Eritreans are well known for their headbutts. I will ask Abebe the dispatcher if he is good at headbutting. By the way when Abebe once told me he was from Eritrea, I told him he has more of a west African look, he wasn't too happy at all.

Anonymous said...

The white American drivers left at Diamond are:

#35, #54, #63, #113, #143, #185, #424, #597, #833.

Doug McGregor is still alive, but he let go of his DC face.

I may have omitted one or two. Of those, there are five dispatchers, although only two are working regullarly.

Yellow and Schaeffer do have some white American drivers, the other companies might have one or two, but there [i] ain't [/i] many of us left. Even if you add in the black Americans, there are not many Americans left in this business.

Oh, and Mr. Abebe is now Chief Dispatcher.