I enjoyed reading The Help, can't imagine what it must have been like. I grew up mainly in California which has never (in my memory) begin segregated, except by money. I always went to school with black children, swam together, ate in the same restaurants, went to the same stores.
But when Mac, who had by drafted by the Army, was sent to Georgia for advanced training I took the train (back then no one but rich folk flew) from California to join him. It was a long trip taking more than 3 days. I didn't have to change trains, but each time we had a layover and I could get off the train for a while and eat in a restaurant I did.
We pulled into New Orleans on the second day and were to have a lengthy layover so I hopped off and went looking for a cheap restaurant. Found one that smelled delicious and went in, sat at the counter and ordered my meal. It was my first time traveling on my own and once I had my coke I shyly looked around the restaurant and all I saw were black faces looking at me. I had come into a black restaurant, it had never occurred to me that the restaurants might be segregated. Well it was too late to leave, the food smelled great, the price was right, so I sat and ate my meal.
I've often wondered what the people in the restaurant thought about me, was I a northerner attempting to integrate their restaurant, a very white black person or just a poor soul in search of a good meal.