There was a day in the middle 1950s when Spencer Ambler betrayed his instinct and agreed to join his friends at the Silver Grill Restaurant in Chanute. All the kids said, Lets go to the Silver Grill, remembered Ambler. I said, No, I dont want to go. But his friends persisted: Youre with us, itll be fine. And so he went.
Ambler was a good student, quiet, a top athlete, the vice president of his class, and the only African-American male in his grade. He knew, on a cellular level, what his white friends couldnt have been expected to know. And when they walked through the front door of the restaurant, the teenagers were met by an employee of the Silver Grill, who gave voice to a warning that Ambler had heard echoing in this thoughts long before he ever set foot on cafe property. Well serve these guys, the man said, but we wont serve him.
You dont say anything when youre that age, remembered Ambler, you just leave.
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