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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Quinton E. Baker, February 23, 2002. Interview K-0838. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Gay communities in the North and reasons for return to the South

After working in the restaurant industry in Boston for a while, Baker decided to come back South. He describes his disillusionment with the gay communities in the North and also the way he met his partner Ron.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Quinton E. Baker, February 23, 2002. Interview K-0838. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

CHRIS McGINNIS:
Come back to North Carolina. When was this, what year? What decade?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
1990.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
1990, wow, so how long was the restaurant opened?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Three years.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Oh, so it was 87 to 90?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
82 to 85 I think it was. Yeah, 82 to 85—and then after I left my own restaurant, because I was ahead of my time, I was in an area where people were used to food hanging off the plate, they were used to large quantities, I was doing—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Quality not quantity.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Right, you could get quite full at my restaurant; you just had to order all of the courses to do so, but yeah. I managed other people's restaurants for a while. I managed other people's restaurants, I was fascinated by the restaurant industry, I did that as a part of working my way through Wisconsin, I did that until my mother died, and then I decided that I needed to get out of the restaurant industry, I was burned out, because it is twenty-four seven. And at the time, I said, I think I was reading what's his name—Oh my god, I can't even remember his name anymore—I was reading a book that was talking about what had happened in terms of segregation and integration, It was talking about how we were re-segregating ourselves, we were talking about particularly around U-mass where people of color and white people were not even—wouldn't be in the same vicinities of each other—and I decided that I would—that I had not been in the South to live since it desegregated, I had no clue as to what life in the South was like. I had long believed that the South had a greater shot of achieving full integration than did the North because at least there were relationships or contact, but I wanted to see. So, I decided, it was a decision to either come back here or to go to Wisconsin, to go back to Wisconsin, which was where I had a really—for some reason, I never really, as much as I loved it, I never found a niche in a Northeast, Boston was just not, I couldn't, I didn't find a niche with the African American Community in the Northeast because, for my perception, I was not willing to pretend that I was not educated, that I wasn't a member and I didn't fit in there. The gay community in Boston is very segregated—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
You had sold out in the Black community because you had become educated and so forth?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
No, it was because all of the educated people pretended like they weren't educated, you know, like they were one of the people growing up in the—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Slums or whatever and had never gotten an education—
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Right and it wasn't true, and also Boston is this kind of closed community anyway and so most of interactions that I had in Boston was in the gay community, but it was the white gay community and that wasn't, I didn't quite find a niche there, although I lived in a house, the people's whose house I lived in, had been together for—when I moved in 15 years or more and they were, and they were really good to me. It was a good relationship, I had the run of the house, this was a six story brownstone, I had two floors at the bottom and I pretty much had the run of the house in terms of the way—But still, I felt that I wasn't doing, that I wasn't thriving, I wasn't growing, I wasn't—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Reaching your full potential—
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Right and so I decided that I needed to, you know, and I knew that geographical cures don't work, so I wasn't really, but I needed to go back, I needed to get back into an environment—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Geographical what?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Cures.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Oh, cures.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Cures, don't work, at least I believed at that time—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Nothing magical was going to happen if you moved back to the South.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Nothing magical was going to happen. But I decided that I was going to come back anyway, I wanted to come south, and so I decided to come here. At the same time, at the beginning of that time, I had met Ron.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
In 1990 you came to Hillsborough.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
1990 I came to Hillsborough, I have been in this house since 1990.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
So, for twelve years.
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Right here
CHRIS McGINNIS:
So, you came down, bought this house, you met Ron here?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Rented this house.
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Oh, you rented this house?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Rented this house, then we bought this house [Laughter] I met Ron in Massachusetts. Ron was working at a health club that I attended on my day off and I met Ron there and before we came down here, we decided to go cross country together, so we spent much of the time, I was just trying, I was not—
CHRIS McGINNIS:
Were you out to find yourself?
QUINTON E. BAKER:
Yeah, I was just trying to figure out, I had actually suggested to him that he go across country, because he had not ventured out. The I said, "Well, why am I telling you to go across country? I should go across country, I have never been across country." And so, that is how we met.