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Mrs. Sallie P. Coaston, Pioneer

Mrs. Sallie Coaston worked at The Pentagon as a young woman.
Mrs. Sallie Coaston worked at The Pentagon as a young woman.
Tribble Photography

I’m from Crawfordsville, GA and was baptized there at Friendship Baptist Church back in the 20’s. I never will forget how my childhood friend, Jesse Jack and I made a deal that if I said I was saved and wanted to be baptized, he would too. Well, that is exactly what happened. We planned it. We sat on the mourner’s bench and after the preacher’s sermon he opened the doors of the church. It was then that I proclaimed that I was filled with the Holy Spirit and was ready to be baptized, and so did Jesse Jack. We were around 9 or 10 years old when the preacher took us outside in long white robes to baptize us in a pool. I was scared to death, certain I would drown.

My father was a farmer and we owned our land since before the 1920s. The KKK torched our house and destroyed the farm. Nobody was arrested, but it didn’t catch fire on its own. It was awful! We were homeless. I remember my mother shaking with fury but warning us all “Hate grows like a tree. It will take root and grow branches if you keep it in your heart.” That’s all I have to say about that.

I attended a one-room schoolhouse, and there were no whites to be found. The standards in the
Colored Schools were terribly low. If you finished the 11th grade you were qualified to teach. The school board was not interested in Colored folks learning. They’d give us some old raggedy books and head on back to their side of the tracks. When I finished the 11th grade in Crawfordsville, I went to live with my aunt in Atlanta so that I could attend Washington High School and earn a real diploma. My aunt had a rule: “Everybody in my house goes to church,” she would say. I had to go even if I didn’t want to — to somebody’s church. So, I visited different churches before settling on a Methodist Church, it was more to my liking.

After high school I attended Reed’s Business School in Atlanta, a two-year secretarial school. I only stayed 1-1/2 years because an opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., to work in
the Pentagon arose. All I had to do was pass the test, which I did.

Back then; everything was segregated, including the train that I was to take to Washington.
The porters were black. When the porter spotted me, he instructed me to go to the back of train to the “Colored Section.” Well, I showed him my government issued orders. I never will forget how he smiled at me proudly and said, “Come on then, get on in here!” There was a special section for me.

I worked part-time at the Pentagon in Munitions Building #2. The place was huge and I got
lost often.

I got my first taste of the Catholic faith when I went to church with one of my co-workers. I found it interesting but only observed.

I met and fell in love with an Army man that fought in WWII. We married at the Justice of the Peace in Baltimore, Maryland. While on the train on our way back to Washington after our short civil ceremony, some white folks threw a brick through the window. Luckily the porters knew that something like that might happen and didn’t seat any black folks by the windows.

After my husband was discharged from the Army, he brought me to Cincinnati where we began our family; we have three children.

Since I love the Lord and have always had a need to worship, I thought that I would give the
Baptist church one more try. Well, the preacher said that he would not preach until the congregation had put enough money in the collection. I thought, “That’s the end of that!”
I had noticed a sign at St. Joseph in the West End that said they had information classes in
regard to Catholicism. I knocked on the door and told the priest, Father Marinella, that I was
interested in the classes. He welcomed me, scheduled me for Catechism classes, and I have been
Catholic since. I was finally home. Once I finished Catechism classes and was baptized, we moved to Madisonville. Segregation was STILL in effect, and there were no black families at St. Anthony. The parish would provide black folks with bus fare to a black church, Mother of God in Walnut Hills. The priest at St. Joseph gave me a letter of introduction to give to the priest at St. Anthony stating that he did not want me to be sent to Mother of God. After the priest read the letter, he told me that I could enroll my son in the school. We were one of two black families at St. Anthony. Nobody wanted to socialize with us, but it didn’t bother me. I was raised in segregation. I would go to church and go home. I have always known that God would fix the wrongs that black folks went through, so I put it in his hands and went about my business.

Since I converted, I have grown closer to where I want to go — to be in communion with my
Lord and Savior. Faith is something you grow into. When I was baptized in the Baptist church, I
did it so the preacher would stop glaring at me on the “mourning bench.” My friend did it
because I did it: I often think about that. I chose the Catholic Church and I like going to Mass.
The main thing is the Eucharistic offering. What sustains me through good times and bad times
is the knowledge that God will never abandon me. He never has. I’m not leaving my church until they wheel me out.