Back Down Memory Lane: Jefferson Avenue

Back Down Memory Lane: Jefferson Avenue




Photos Courtesy of Willie J Lightfoot


By James Young

I remember Jefferson Avenue from Plymouth Avenue to Main Street as this corridor of Black Pride which resonated in the people who were very much a part of what made Jefferson Avenue, Jefferson Avenue. During the 1960s there was a consciousness which spread throughout the entire country and yes, we in Rochester became a part of that consciousness.

Starting at the corner of Jefferson and Plymouth was Stamps Dry Cleaners. Mrs. Stamps wasn’t just an owner of where we took our clothes to be cleaned; she was also a guardian of the neighborhood. She watched over all of us as if we were her children. As we began to go north on Jefferson Avenue you would see Black people beaming with pride, feeling good and it made you feel good about being Black.

Just like Stamps Cleaners was an anchor on Jefferson and Plymouth, Lopez Restaurant was the anchor on Jefferson and Hawley Street. The food was absolutely delicious. In Lopez you could hear all kinds of news from the Civil Rights movement to who was cheating on their spouse. This was
the gathering place. I can remember sitting in Lopez as a kid thinking I was grown listening to the grown folks talk about whatever was popular that day. Lopez was quite a character himself. Everyone knew you didn’t come into Lopez starting trouble. Oh no, Lopez wasn’t haven’t any of that. He let
you know right from the start that if you had bad intentions don’t come in his spot. He demanded respect and he got respect; in turn, he respected each and every one of us.

Lopez Restaurant

As I said, I was a young man going in there to eat and many times Lopez would come over and talk with me. Lopez’s presence of respect echoed out onto the Avenue as well. We truly respected one another as a community. As a group of Black people, we were consciously aware of behaving kindly
towards each other.

Further down the street on Jefferson and Columbia Avenue was Ray Knight’s Barber Shop and Liquor Store on one side of Columbia and Ray Daniels’ Barber Shop and Liquor store on the other side and some how they both seemed to thrive. Going from one shop to the other was like visiting another
city. No matter which one you went to, the conversations were lively.

Across the street was Mrs. Moxley’s house. Mrs. Moxley was the beacon of hope for many young people. Mrs. Moxley was struggling to raise five children of her own and yet always found time to share some love with those of us who were in need. I haven’t even taken you half way up Jefferson
Avenue, but do you feel it? Do you feel the sense of warmth we had? We were a community who knew each other. When you walked down Jefferson even if you didn’t go into Lopez, you waved. When you walked past the barber shops you waved. There was always someone on Mrs. Moxley’s porch and you waved. Just a sea of Black faces smiling, feeling Black love and caught in the consciousness of Black Pride. This consciousness transposed us in such a way that even our businesses were a part of this as well.


Remastered and Published