Story Walk: better

Story Walk: "better"

Miss Jane Pittman Public Drinking Fountain by Midge Thomas (Mrs. Freddie Thomas)

I’m Midge Thomas, a native Rochesterian. My mother said I always looked at my surroundings and wondered how I could make things better.

One stormy morning in January 1988, I had a terrible cold. I was so sick. I went to Rite Aid pharmacy for medication. I decided to take the medication immediately. I stopped at a nearby restaurant. I was charged 10 cents for water in a plastic cup. I felt cheated. I know the cost of plastic cups. I thought water was free. I decided to do something about my experience.

I informed city hall that I wanted to donate a drinking fountain for downtown. I was president of The Freddie Thomas Foundation and established a Fountain Committee to develop plans for my fountain project.

We invited Ernest Gaines, author of “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” to one of our fundraisers at the Top Of The Plaza. The late, Dr. Freddie Thomas, my husband, said, “In the South there were separate drinking fountains, labeled Whites Only or Colored Only.” I didn't’ want that for Rochester.

Finally, this sturdy forest green brass fountain was installed at the Liberty Pole Plaza. Beside it was a black and gold cast iron plaque. It was so beautiful... A sight to behold... The unveiling of our water fountain was being planned for the climax of Rochester’s first “Main Event”.

The day before the dedication I saw a policeman, a blind lady getting water for her seeing eye dog, and kids with skateboards getting water from the fountain. I was unpleasantly disturbed. The ceremonial dedication was to be the next day. However, it was revealed to me by the Almighty the fountain was already doing God’s plan. That’s all I really wanted.

On July 30, 1989 Ernest Gaines, Mayor Thomas Ryan Jr. and I simultaneously took our ceremonial drink of fresh clear water from the three spigot public drinking fountain!!! I was so happy and elated. That day was an exciting time for me. I’ll never forget... Over 7,000 people attended the ceremony.

It’s philosophy... ”Equality-Liberty-Humanity”. This handicapped accessible drinking fountain, 21 years later October 2010, is still standing tall serving Rochester residents and visitors representing Americana’s history as well as Rochester’s history.

“Miss Jane Pittman Public Drinking Fountain” !!! Bottom line, you don’t have to pay for water any more in downtown Rochester if you’re thirsty.