Erma Johnson

1333 Words 5 Pages
Erma Johnson was born in Racine, Wisconsin in 1933. Shortly after, his family relocated to Arkansas, the place where he grew up. They were extremely poor sharecroppers, often Johnson would have to pick cotton all day just to help his family barely make a living. One time, after working for a man for a week, the man refused to pay him, and being black, he had no recourse, he just had to accept it. His family often could not afford basic necessities like shoes. In spite of this, his father was an extremely resilient man. He raised his children with the attitude that nobody owed them anything and whatever they wanted in life they needed to get for themselves. They faced unimaginable racism in Arkansas, blacks could not walk on the same sidewalk …show more content…
Johnson got a job at a hotel as a dishwasher, and was soon promoted to cook. He soon became tired of working in the hotels, so he tried construction. But as soon as the Las Vegas heat hit, he decided to go back to cooking. He was convinced by a friend to cook on the test site at Area 51 to make more money, so he did. He lived on base and drove down to see his family when he had the time. He cooked for the mess hall and a small cafe they had on base. He recounts cooking for several congressmen and even President Dwight Eisenhower. He got to see many nuclear tests, and recalls seeing a plane that flew so fast that it would pop in and out of sight almost instantly. Despite all this, he felt uncomfortable working there, especially after the bomb testing. This is how he described the tests, “you could feel heat for weeks up there. They make you stay off three days, but it still would be hot when you go back in.” He was not the only worker who was concerned, most of them questioned why they were up there, but were forced to stay, because they could not make the same amount of money in Las Vegas as they did at the test site. Many of his friends who worked in the tunnels died as a result of working there. After retiring, they developed yellow skin and got cancer shortly after. They died without receiving any compensation. After working at the test site for a year and a half, he decided to quit, saying his life and family was more important to him than the money he was

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