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Michael Jones: This is Michael L. Jones with the Unfair Housing Oral History Project that's being conducted by the Metro Housing Coalition and the University of Louisville Oral History Center. It is December 31, 2001--2021, sorry. At 3 o'clock, and I'm talking to Mr. Ron Lewis, who is a resident of the Shively neighborhood. Would this be considered Shively?

Ronald Lewis: Yes it is, this the Shively area.

MJ: And how long have you lived here?

RL: For 45 years.

MJ: Wow, so when you first moved to this area, was it still a majority white neighborhood?

RL: Yes, sir, it definitely was a majority of a white neighborhood. When we 1:00first moved here, my kids was like one year old, two years old, things of that nature. And it was basically--on this street right here where I am now, it was about two black families. All this was Caucasian families.

MJ: And so what's your street called?

RL: 1730 Kennedy Road.

MJ: Oh, okay.

RL: Like John F., this is Kennedy Road.

MJ: Okay, and so how did you come to move to this area?

RL: Well I grew up right around the corner from here, about six blocks up in the housing project.

MJ: The South?

RL: No, Cotter Homes. Cotter Homes itself.

MJ: Oh, okay.

RL: And so I've known about this area most of my life. So I'm (laughs) of all the running I've done, I'm right back in a circle. Right back in the same area. 2:00Basically I grew up here, so I knew about the Shively area.

MJ: And so Shively at one time was famous for being not really wanting black people in the neighborhood. So were there any concerns when you (inaudible 0:24:17.3)?

RL: Yes, my wife had a hard time selling me on the idea of moving into Shively because of what you just said. And so I said, "Well you know, I'm going to be a little liberal thinking and I'll take the chance." But I told her back then I was not going to move deep into Shively, so as you see where we are right now, we're not deep into Shively. It's almost the beginning of Shively. Oh the beginning of Shively is about two blocks going this way, so that's how that became.

MJ: Okay, so you said you grew up in Cotter Homes?


RL: Yes, sir.

MJ: So what year where you born?

RL: I was born in 1950.

MJ: Okay.

RL: I'm one of the original brick babies. Shoot, as we were called back when that phrase became popular, I grew up in Cotter Homes, and it was all I ever known was living in the housing project. And when I got older and went to the Navy and things I used my GI Bill when we came out, I said, "We got to house here." And the move, well we were, you're sitting at right now.

MJ: So what was Cotter Homes like when you were growing up?

RL: Oh it was great. It was great. It was a home--a residence for low-income people, as you probably know. And I mean, we had everything--it's funny, I always tell people this. I didn't know we were poor until President John F. Kennedy came over with that diagram and that map that showed middle class, upper middle class, and lower class. So one day I saw it on television. I said, "Mama, 4:00look. We poor." (laughter)

You know we had a--in between it--because everybody around us had the same things. They were nice buildings and you know, they had hot running water, and flushed toilets, and sinks, and things of that nature. So I had no problem.

I was glad I grew up--I am very glad that I grew up in a housing project that had all these elements because I later found out that some of my friends that grew up in houses, shanty houses, shotgun houses, you know, straight through (inaudible 0:24:17.3), no running water, no toilets, not tubs, and so I have no complaints. And I'm one of the original brick babies.

MJ: Okay, so the houses--there were houses around Cotter Homes that didn't have any utilities?

RL: When I--yes, when I remember 19--, oh I can remember back. I'm going to say '55, I went to DuValle Junior High School. And on Bohne Avenue. Across the 5:00street from DuValle back then, it was still a big open fields and there's little houses like I saying. And they didn't have no running water or no toilets and things like that. And there was a bunch of little houses back during those times.

It had been there for a long time, and hadn't been for, I don't know, how our thinking was urban renewal, they don't know what it was, but they'd of probably still been there. And families with goats, chickens, and pigs, (laughter) and things of that nature.

MJ: Okay, so what was the community like in Cotter Homes?

RL: It was a great community. Was a real community. People cared about each other. There was none of this killing and robbing and stealing, and all that stuff. If it was, it was just very small amount then it is today. We, you know, people took care of their yards and kept their grass cut, raised pretty flowers. 6:00They would jump on you if you was in somebody's yard playing, "Get out of that, boy. Get out of that yard, boy. You know you're supposed to be playing in Mr. Thompson's yard."

Things of that nature. They had pride in their surroundings. We loved pouring income that was our status, but we had pride. And I don't think we have that too much today that you see with all this stuff that's going on, so. I enjoyed it. If I had to do it again, I' d love to do it again and grow up again in the housing project.

MJ: Well so were you living in the projects when you start playing music?

RL: Yes, I was--I started about 9 year old, and I was living in Cotter Homes. 3252 DuValle Drive, Building 10, that's where I grew up and then, how you go to school. I was in the chorus in school, and you meet people that sing and try to play instruments and things of that nature. So I started with a guitar that my 7:00mother told me don't touch.

My mother had a boyfriend (laughs), and he was going to be a guitar player. And he always would put the guitar underneath my mother's bed and tell me and my sisters, "Don't mess with my guitar." Well you know how that went, don't you? So they disappeared and got away and dah-dah-dah-dah-dah. I was under the bed pulling out the guitar, picking it trying to get a note, a tune, and I did that for so long until one day they caught me. And what they liked what they heard.

It seemed like I was going to end up being a guitarist, which I am a guitarist now. And that was because I was told not to. And you know how kids are. When you tell them "don't do that," you might give them an invitation to do that. So that's how I ended up being a guitar player, because I was not supposed to be messing with that guitar.


MJ: So were you playing music around in vans when you were still a youngster?

RL: Yeah, I met other guys and girls in that area who was singing. Back then, we had a bunch of singing groups. Every corner in the West End I know somebody was--had a singing group and a dance group. You know, wasn't all the fighting, and like I say, shooting and things--there was some shootings some fightings, but not just three and four shootings like we have today. And you've heard on TV and seen in the newspaper. We would take it to the same stage or something.

Thought you was bad, well my group and your group is going to dance, have a dance off. Saturday night at different places like Harris Recreation Center down in Cotter Homes, it was a big recreation center. St. George's Recreation Center, and that's how we had our disputes and solved that dispute.


MJ: Where was St. George at?

RL: Oh, that's on Ormsby Street. (Inaudible 0:24:17.3) if I'm not mistaken, they're still there. It's right across the street from one of the WP Porter Funeral Homes. So that's how we solved our problems and things of that nature. Everybody had a group. I had a group. One of the first groups that I was in, we called ourselves the Dynamic Imperials.

It was five of us, and we sung, and danced, and I went and got my guitar and started learning how to play some of these songs that you hear on the radio or old stuff by James Brown and the Four Tops and the--oh my God. Just so many people I can name, but that's how that happened.

MJ: Okay, so how long did you live in Cotter Homes?


RL: Oh we was down there about maybe 10 or 11 years. I was thinking about that today. I say about 10, at least 10 or 11 years we was in Cotter Homes. Then I left after school and went into the Navy. But I enjoyed it. Everything I learned about women (laughter) and music and camaraderie and getting along with someone was introduced to me while being a housing member in Cotter Homes.

MJ: So when you went to the Navy, where were you stationed? Where'd you go to training and--

RL: Ah, U.S. Naval training in--how could I forget that--Great Lakes. I trained in the Great Lakes in November. Boy, you don't want go to Great Lakes in November. It was so cold seemed like you was just standing with no clothes on and when were (shivering noise). But anyway, Great Lakes was where I was trained at.

And then after graduating from the (inaudible 0:11:01), and I went on to the--they put me on the ship, I was on the U.S.S. Wichita, AOR 1, which stand 11:00for Ammunition, Oil, and Replenish. We was a floating gas station. Our job was to go out and see and refer ships that needed oil, gas, and something called black gun powder. That was what ship that I was on.

MJ: So what year would it have been that you were in the--that you served in Navy?

RL: From '68 to '72.

MJ: Okay. And did you live on base?

RL: No I lived on the ship. We stayed--once you get assigned to the ship, that's your home. Operation (inaudible 0:11:39.0) and the whole bit. So I was on the--I was on the U.S.S. Wichita, and I enjoyed it. It was an experience I'll never forget, and it was very exciting. (laughs)

MJ: And so when you left the Navy to come back to Louisville?


RL: Yes. (laughs) When I left the Navy, I came back home. I think kids, young men get home sick when you go to the military. It's like going away to college sometimes. You know, you always end up basically 90 percent come back home. So I came on back home and back then, the jobs was kind of plentiful. So I landed a job at GE, General Electric. Man, I (inaudible 0:12:25.8), but I didn't stay long with GE.

I ended up going to another job that was called CAC, Community Action Commission. I worked for CAC for years. I was one of the first young field workers, out in the field talking to people about food stamps, housing, I've been in this movement a long time. Food stamps, housing, child care, it was a program implemented by President John F. Kennedy to eradicate and to eliminate 13:00poverty. So I was in that program and that was something I wish I was into now because we didn't eliminate poverty (inaudible 0:24:17.3). (laughs)

MJ: So what were some of the housing issues that you were dealing with?

RL: Housing was back then as probably is now, it was just bad housing here in Kentucky. People needed houses more then I think they do now. Like I said, the running water, things of that nature, it's nothing new that they don't have it. Everybody doesn't have running water in their home as of today, is it? You know, this is 202- and soon to be 2, am I right? Everybody does not have running water in their homes.

So the housing problems in the state of Kentucky and around the world I presume has been kind of a bad situation. I've been to the Appalachian parts. I've been down to Pikeville areas. And I've been--well I've been all over the world three 14:00times and housing has been a problem. I'm glad to see some people working on it and talking about it and let's stay on it because it's very, very needed. Good housing, everybody deserves a decent place to live.

MJ: So when you were going around with your job, were you mostly in the West End? Or were you all over the city?

RL: The Community Action Commission was all over the state of Kentucky. I was assigned basically in the West End. I was in the Russell area. I was a neighborhood Russell worker for--they kept me up there about--maybe about 5 years. And we would go house to house and talk to the people about their social problems, getting on food stamps, and employment, housing naturally. And then I went down to Park DuValle, got transferred down to the Park DuValle area.

I was down there when they first opened up Park DuValle. They took two of the old buildings that were Cotter Homes Building 1 and 2 and turned them into Park 15:00DuValle. And that's where that started. And there was a lovely time meeting people that was all and up and was trying to do things and things of that nature. And it was just a--

MJ: So like the culture of the housing project was similar to when you were growing up then?

RL: Yes, yes, I mean hasn't that much changed. We've had people come through the (inaudible 0:24:17.3) politicians talking and promising to do some, but sometimes I'm saying it takes a little time and money and doesn't seem like all this appears as fast as it should.

MJ: And so what were some of the issues that the people in the places that you 16:00worked here would talk to you about? What were their complaints about the neighborhood?

RL: Well, the complaints about the neighborhood is when they had a bunch of derelicts and drunks hanging around. (laughs) And it was because there was unemployment. Unemployment was high. It just wasn't a lots of jobs that some of them people had. So they would be in the street. There's always been people in the street. Day and night, night and day. Hustling, trying to sell this, trying to sell that. Trying to steal this, trying to steal what you got (excuse me). And sell it to someone else.

So the unemployment stuff (inaudible 0:24:17.3), there wasn't no gang problems. But wasn't no gang problems, just unemployment, and the theft, and the drug was just getting into dudes basically here in Kentucky. Now around another bigger place like Chicago, New York, they had the heroin and the smack and all that stuff.


This was--Kentucky was basically marijuana because we grow it. (laughs) Pretty good here, so. But it wasn't no--it was just--it wasn't around when--the government, someone introduced all the heavy drug stuff to the people in Kentucky. It was no accident.

MJ: So you think like towards the end of that '70s and '80s when crack came in and stuff is when you noticed the change in the--

RL: I remember crack hit, basically. Here in the United States and basically in Kentucky. People, kids that I grew up with, got strung out, and got hung up, and things of that nature. It was a terrible time and it probably still is. They didn't feel like they was going to be left out, so they wanted to be hip. So they started using crack and crank and heroin. Heroin's a swift (inaudible 18:000:17:56.8) like rat poison. It was pitiful.

MJ: So after you were at your job for five years doing that, then what did you do?

RL: I went to--I left town for a while with a band. I did that. I left town for a while with a band, and we tooled around and messed around with musicians on the road here and there, and there and here. Things of that nature, then I came back and got married. I've been married twice, this is--she's my second marriage that I'm on now. The first marriage was where my son came from, (inaudible 0:18:35.2).

MJ: Yeah, what year was it that you got married?

RL: (Inaudible 0:18:37.5) 1972.

MJ: And where'd you live then?

RL: At this point, I was up--I had left and went up on Beech Street, 1419 Beech. A friend of mine had a--his parents had a 13 room house. You know back in the 19:00day (inaudible 0:18:58.1) big old houses. You know three and four and five kids and six, seven--you have big old houses so, I moved up that way and took me to another part of town. That's where I became really on my own and things of that nature because--

MJ: Where is Beech located--

RL: Beech is in the West End on southern side of town. That's about all I can tell you. It's Beech Street, it's a very nice--it was and still is a very nice black community of hard working people, families, mothers and fathers and kids. It was by a company called Anderson Wood Factory. I think the wood factory is still over there. But that's (inaudible 0:19:42.4) where Beech Street is.

MJ: And so you were renting a room?

RL: Remember man that had the house, he had one or two of his kids grown up and leave which left an empty room, so I rented a room from him. For 1419 20:00(0:20:01.9), 13 or 14 room houses. Back in them days they had them old mansions that people had moved out of, they turned them into apartment houses.

MJ: And so were there other houses like that on the street?

RL: Oh yes, sir. There was a bunch of them. Well kept up. At one time, people kept their houses looking good. Painted up, good shrubbery, landscaping, like I said, they had pride in what they owned. They didn't just let it go and say, "Aw." No, that little bit that they owned, they owned and they kept it up.

MJ: So did you stay there after you got married?

RL: Yeah, we stayed there. Oh, we stayed there. Oh wow, pretty much two or three years. And then we moved on a street called Magazine. Moved up by Chestnut Street here in Louisville. But we stayed up there for a while, and then, we just 21:00kind of like went the different places after. We started getting old in the job, started getting a little bit better mind.

Wife during that time worked at Blue Cross Blue Shield, and I was still downtown in the West End working for Community Action. So I was in the inner city doing the speaker thing, which I still love, I guess it's where I got my thing about passing out flowers, and talking to the people, meeting with the people. I still love it. I wish I was doing it now, like I say, because--I think it's more needed now than it was back then, because of where things are. (Inaudible 0:21:37.7).

MJ: So you were--you lived on Magazine Street, were you living in a house where you paid rent?

RL: Yeah, I was renting a house with a lady named Miss Johnson who owned about four or five houses on that street. My auntie was a friend of hers (excuse me), 22:00and they let me rent a house. That's where we was at for quite a while. Which is across the street from Elliott Park. Now if anyone knows where Elliott Park is in the West End, that's the area where Magazine. So we stayed up there for a while. Everything was great, and I was a young man, young wife, baby. (laughs) It's something else.

MJ: Okay, and then where'd you move after Magazine?

RL: Oh, let's see, after Magazine (phone ring). After Magazine, went out to the--oh my goodness, oh my, you got me going, you got me going--Southside Drive.

MJ: Oh, so you moved to South End?

RL: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I lived my--not too, by (inaudible 0:23:02.1). Yeah, and 23:00it was a nice area. It was quiet and mostly--it was still in the blocks of most of the blacks and whites out there. So we moved out that way on the Washington Park Apartments, stayed at the Washington Park. It was a nice area. I liked that area. It was different for me to being around people that was still trying to progress and do things with them (inaudible 0:23:27.5) shooting and all that kind of stuff. So it was a different time.

MJ: So was that the first time you lived in like an integrated neighborhood?

RL: Yes, sir. (laughs) That was the first time. And it was--it was a good time. Good time. And me we see the difference between being in an all-black neighborhood and living in an integrated neighborhood. I mean which is obviously it was a slight difference in people carried themselves and things of that nature.


MJ: Yeah, I mean, do you think it was a more positive or a negative (inaudible 0:24:01.6)?

RL: It was positive. Very, very, very positive, because see, first of all, they had jobs out that way and a man and a woman could go get a decent job if he is so desired and has the carry through to do that. Jobs were jumping at one time. Here in Louisville, I'm telling you, oh man. It was--your GE, your Ford International Harvester, oh I could go on and on and on and on. If you wanted a decent job like right now, the GE has revamped as you see on television.

And they've been advertising the--you can get a job through (inaudible 0:24:41.3). And I hope these young people jump on some of this stuff because the money's back out there. All you got to do is apply yourself and work the job if you get it. Ain't nobody going to give you anything, you've got to work for it. 25:00But it is out there again.

MJ: And so why did you end up leaving the South End?

RL: Well, we moved (inaudible 0:25:09.1) stayed at the South End. I forgot where we went. We was out there for a long time though. On Halsey Court. Yeah, we got there for quite a while. And I forget where we went, now? We went somewhere. (laughter)

MJ: And so then when did you end up separating from first wife?

RL: It was about--the kid was about 2-1/2 years old. So somewhere in that vicinity. And I stayed divorced, oh Lord, for six years. And that's when I ended up going on the road again with Jerry Green, and some people might know that 26:00name. And he had a band and was looking for another guitarist. And I once again, I played guitar. And the band was called the Unhooked Generation.

We toured all over the United States and with the USO and Bob Hope USO and went to five countries and all over the United States. So at that particular time, I was just out there playing that music and having a good time, so that's what got me on the music train. I'm still on a train of the music trails.

MJ: So when you went to these other cities and stuff, did you notice the racial situation or the housing situation? Was it similar to how Louisville is?


RL: Yes, you know back during that time, jobs were plentiful all over the United States in a sense, I should say. Especially in Detroit. The General Motors and they was--oh man, they was--people was living large. They were making good money and buying houses and things of that nature. And that's when they had the white flight I heard up in Detroit.

Some of the whites didn't want to live where black people was moving in, because we finally made enough money to move in a decent place. And it was called white flight I was told. But the blacks were making, white people was making money, everybody was making money and taking care of their families and doing what they needed to be done. And it was a miracle to see that kind of stuff.

MJ: So when you (inaudible 0:27:43.6) when you were on the road, where were you living? Or did you have your--where did you keep your stuff?

RL: Man, which stuff are you plan for?

MJ: Oh, I mean your--did you have an apartment or--


RL: No, we was on the road. We was on the road, man. We was--shoot. Living in the car. Living out of the car. We was staying on USO bases. The USO put us up on the housing areas. And that's where we stayed. In old beds, really nice beds though. Back during that time, we was the house band for several in USO shows and played in the officer's quarters. The officer's quarters at the old housing things of that nature.

So we stayed--and it was more like being in the military. Just like being in the military. And I enjoyed that too. We stayed everywhere from here to Bangor, Maine. And right now it's so cold in Maine you wouldn't even want to even want to blow your breath. But we toured all over, and went to Europe and went to Germany and Japan and they went with the Unhooked Generation. Jerry Green and he 29:00was the band leader.

We had the lead the Early Gardens of Drumming, Chris Hale, the late Chris Hale. And oh my God, who is it. David Pepper and Fred Thompson, Thomas, excuse me, Fred Thomas. The Reverend Dr. Barry Johnson in Louisville. He was our musical director. John Clay, trumpet. Angelo Lovely, old buddy, he's still around. He was a young man back then, well I guess we all were back then. He's a trumpet player.

MJ: So what clubs were around in Louisville would you play?

RL: Back then, they had the--well we always had our little hole in the wall, (inaudible 0:29:44.1) Club. But we had some better clubs back during those days, like I know you've heard of Club Louvine, which was on Broadway. It was like a circuit we called it. It was part of what they called the Chitlin' Circuit. And 30:00that was a name that was given to us basically from white people.

Because back during those days, all the clubs that were operating to make money, they would sell of course alcohol, beer, drinks, but one thing kept them afloat that most clubs didn't have. So chitlins, Kentucky oysters. (laughs) So you could go in there and get you a big plate chitlins and man, man, man. So that's where the slang Chitlin' Circuit came in from. So to play the Chitlin' Circuit when you hit Louisville, you have to play Club Louvine.

And then you have to do--after the bigger bands did their (inaudible 0:30:41.1) they would come on down and play at the Golden Brown Mounds which was a bowling alley. They changed it to a night club. Then you would go on there further (inaudible 0:30:50.2) Club Cherry if you lived in Kentucky. Then there was a club called Up Jumped the Devil that was in Lexington, and that was a nice 31:00little club too. Everybody's anybody played the Chitlin' Train.

And they still do (inaudible 0:31:09.1). It's just the way it is (inaudible 0:31:11.2) and I've seen everyone from Ike and Tina Turner to James Brown, all these young cats coming through there. The Parliament Funkadelics, Nightlighters, they were a local band, they was (inaudible 0:31:27.4) book that you and I are composing. Oh my God, so many people just so many, but those were the days.

MJ: Yeah, so a lot of the clubs are gone from the black community.

RL: Yes, sir. There's nothing there. Even the good hole in the walls are disappearing now. Miss Sylvia Arnett just passed, two or three months ago maybe? 32:00And she had a club, her and her husband called Syls Lounge. Every musician that came through like I say knows about Syls Lounge. But the better clubs are basically gone now (inaudible 0:32:07.4), and I don't think (inaudible 0:32:08.3). Just don't think they're coming back.

MJ: Yeah, so why do you think that that is, that there's no clubs in West Louisville now? There's a few, but what do you think happened?

RL: Well, people are kind of scared to participate in some things now in the street. I mentioned a while ago about the shooting and killings that's going on. You've heard about them, you've seen them on TV, you've read about them in the newspapers. Times are changing, man. People don't care about each other no more. 33:00In my opinion. They don't love each other. They don't respect each other.

MJ: So why do you--you said you were on the road for six years. Why did you decide to get off the road?

RL: Well, got a little bit older. Came on home and wanted to do some other things, that the money wasn't all that great and like I say, the drug scene was just--we had an opportunity, when I say "we" Jerry Green, Barry Johnson, and myself, when we were the Unhooked Generation. We had played on our clubs and tours and went to school and tried to do the right thing. And we ended up cutting some records, cutting some in the studio.

And Mercury Studio, I'm not going to name the person who had something to do with it, I'll just say Mercury Studio. And the producers liked what they heard at those sessions that we did and wanted to meet with us the next morning at their office. And we did. And we sit there and we talked, and we talked and the 34:00last statement that they said was, "Well you know we did see your all's session last night. It was great and we can put you all on the label and put you all out and have you on the road and traveling here and traveling there."

But one of the executives said, "But you know there's one thing we want you all to do for us." The room gets quiet and it's like this. We said, "Well," we looked at each other, "What do you want us to do?" We're green, we're young, didn't know what the deal was. What they wanted us to do was bemuse.

Now that expression means when you get through that was before you play the shows in some towns, they going give you a package to deliver to the program directors, managers of radio stations. In this package was drugs--cocaine, 35:00crack, real good stuff. That's how they used to get it through to towns through their musicians.

When they're traveling around, they would all have to stop at the station and drop off a package to Old Jim or Larry or (inaudible 0:35:11.5), and man, we said, "No, let's go back to hotel think about this." We went back to the hotel and packed so quick to get (laughs). I left a pair of my shoes in the closet there. Oh that's not what we was in for, man.

We could have did that anywhere, but so we blew that opportunity to play for Mercury Records. I do not tell you the name of the label. What we were trying to do, bemuse, because if they had left us out there, we would have either been strung out now, dead, or broke.

MJ: So then, so you're back in Louisville. What was this, '92 in (inaudible 0:35:55.0)?


RL: Yeah, somewhere in late '80s or something.

MJ: And so, what did you do for work?

RL: We got basically jobs. Still pretty good (inaudible 0:36:06.6) all of us went and got jobs, and two of them had taken a leave of absence from General Electric and went back to work.

I went and got a job, so we just went back to work and continued to play clubs, hole in the wall clubs that was left in Louisville back during that time and left (inaudible 0:36:26.1) and I decided to form a production company now, which is called Mr. Wonderful Productions, which is still rolling right now. But you know, we just decided be local, play music, have a good time. Keep your nose clean.

MJ: So you met your wife and you decided to buy a house. Was this your first house?

RL: Yes, yes, our very first house (inaudible 0:36:48.8) government loan, GI loan, very good thing, you know the GI loans is like, you go out and find the house, they send their inspectors out look at the house, and decide whether or 37:00not it's worth them shooting money in which they pay it off for you and you pay them back monthly, that's how it really worked, so. I'm just floating along.

MJ: So how'd you find the house?

RL: My wife found the house. Because I wasn't too high on coming to Shively. (laughs)

MJ: So what had you heard, why weren't you too high? What had you heard about that?

RL: The slang that you've heard, Lively Shively. That's when they was letting people know that they wasn't too keen on minorities living out here in Shively. You heard about the crosses they burned in people's yards and burning up people's cars. That was no accident. So I didn't want to really get off into that. So I was kind of scared, eh?

MJ: So you had heard about this as you were growing up?


RL: Oh yes, sir. It wasn't no secret. It still ain't. Ain't no secrets, though. It's not something you just want to directly put yourself into, so. (laughs)

MJ: So how did she convince you to move to Shively?

RL: I don't know. She just kept on, kept on, kept on, talking about Shively. Brought me out here to see the house, and it was a nice area, still is. And I gave in. I said, "Look we're going to, okay, remember what Shively was." "We ain't moving deep into Shively." You know if I have to run, I can get my gun. (laughs)

MJ: Because you are really on the edge of Shively because--it's the--it starts I guess on the other side of Algonquin Parkway, and so--

RL: Yeah, 18th (inaudible 0:38:45.0) Algonquin Parkway and that's where Shively starts. So like I said, I'm actually beginning of Shively. And you can say, "Well I got to get on back, I can make it." (laughs)


MJ: Well now Shively is become a majority African American community.

RL: Yes it has today. I now tell people that Shively is the new West End. And it wasn't a long time ago what it is now. I mean, there's more minorities in the Shively right now. We have a black mayor at the particular time. Almost all the council members are black, only one that's white on there is the attorney. All the other five or six council people on the Shively Council are African Americans.

MJ: And did you ever think that that would happen?

RL: No. (laughs) Not in my wildest dreams. And I'm sure they didn't either. (laughs)

MJ: And why do you think that that did happen?

RL: Well, it's just something that minorities here that I guess are voting. You know, we always preach voting, voting, go vote, vote. Well somebody voted. And 40:00they put you in, they put me in, and we just happened to be a minority. So that's what happened. Like I say, we got a first president in Shively. She is African American. Miss Burton, she used to live on that street, matter of fact. She used to live down the street here. And when you get to mass of people, if you got the people's voting for someone and they put in who--

MJ: But they had the--African Americans had to move into the community to vote for the mayor. So I'm saying why did you think the African Americans started moving into Shively in large numbers?

RL: It was a nice area, well kept up. They didn't take no mess, they had information about how they want the city, because I think it's a third class city, how they want the city to look. They don't want certain things happening there. You have to check with them before you do certain things. You can't just 41:00do anything. Because before you know it, you've got everything.

So it was a nice place to live. It still is, you know, like I say. Well the old Lively Shively stable came up again. Back during that time, (inaudible 0:41:19.6) jokes. But everybody was kind of like happy for us to make the move. We knew it was a good place to live. So, there wasn't no big thing, just--

MJ: When you first moved in, everybody was like--

RL: Yeah, when we first moved in on the street, I remember very well something I had heard of and had never seen. The neighbors next door, a white lady and her husband, two or three people down the street, they were white, one night someone knocked on the door. (knocking sound) I went to the door and I (inaudible 42:000:42:02.5) some white people with a fruit basket (laughs), a wine, and they say, "How you doing? We are the welcoming committee." (laughter) The committee--but I wasn't used to that. (laughter)

MJ: Yeah, I'm sure you never thought that would happen (inaudible 0:42:28.9).

RL: No, I didn't think that was going to happen. (laughs) But they were nice, we let them come in. They--we drunk wine, and we talked and they had been checking me out because they seen me come in and I had a police uniform on. At one time I worked for the Department of Public Safety, and you were their police department. They would see me, I know they saw me.

MJ: Okay, so when did you start working for U of L?

LEWIS:Oh wow, what year was that? That was one of the jobs I (inaudible 0:42:58.4). I can't seem to think right now. But Alabama, U of L, and what was 43:00funny, a little part of that is funny, at the time we had a black Z24 Jaguar. And every time I would get in that car and turn around (inaudible 0:43:18.9) and pull in the driveway, I had a police escort behind me. (laughs)

The police was following me. I said, now when my wife drove the car, she said, "They ain't never have (inaudible 0:43:32.3)." I said, "Yeah." (Inaudible 0:43:34.0) somebody would always follow me home. Right into my driveway. And I said, "Okay." (Inaudible 0:43:41.5). "How you doing?" "I'm doing all right." "We never seen you before." I said, "Oh, let me introduce myself."

MJ: So was this Shively Police or--

RL: It was Shively. Yeah, they said they didn't know who I was. So I introduced 44:00myself, and I had no problems. I knew what they was doing. They was doing their job. And I was trying to think from for myself that they were doing their job. It was something else, man. It was something else. I've been through some things, I'll tell you the truth. (laughs) But you know, it's all panning out, so.

MJ: Yeah, so after you quit your job where you were, working--handing out flyers and stuff and kind of working in the community, did you stay involved in the social justice movement?

RL: A little bit. Not as much as I now know that I should have. I think I got content. It's easy to get content. So, you know, I wish I had had because it got bigger and bigger when I left. You know, the Community Action and them turned 45:00into the Community Action Agency. Whose out there on 1st Street back during that time when there was a headquarters of the building. It was very interesting.

MJ: So well I was thinking outside of Community Action, have you been involved in other things that have gone on?

RL: Well I, yes and no. I ended up getting a job with the Youth Detention Services, JCYC. I worked there, in fact that's where I retired from, JCYC, Youth Detention Services is the correct name, and working with kids that are been in trouble. Things of that nature. I did that. That was really another story and very interesting. I tell you.

MJ: So now that there's a lot of efforts going on to revitalize West Louisville 46:00and have you been keeping up on those?

RL: Yes I have. I'm listening, looking, listening. I'm seeing what could become of that and why is it needed to be done anyway. For good or bad, better or worse, because it's going to be a match. And I'm just hoping that it works if it works out. I'm looking at the Loop Area, where there was been talking strong enough about that.

When I'm listening now to the proposals of they're trying to work with black companies, finance them, and doing things up by 4th Street, (excuse me) 4th 47:00Street Live. I've been hearing lots of stuff that they trying to pull some of the companies up there to revitalization but that remains to be seen. Because of how it was hit by the onlookers for futures was not our guys and girls who did that stuff back during the riot thing.

So I'm watching, I'm listening, because I know how the people felt and feel about 4th Street. So we have to watch that. Sometimes when people don't want you to give wanting to do things as a motive for happening. It might not be the motive that you think it is.

MJ: So why is 4th Street important, like what's--


RL: 4th is known as being the playground of Caucasian people. And that's, hate to call it, that's 4th Street. Back during the time when I go far as back as when Muhammed Ali wanted to go to the world championship of the boxing. You've heard the story. He likes to go out,. Went up that way. Walgreens, they wanted to go in Walgreens and get a hamburger, something to eat. You out with the boys and lead the boxing fame.

And they went in to get something to eat, which is on 4th Street, around the corner, Walgreens. They were told we do not serve (inaudible 0:48:36.9). And he said, "Well we don't eat them either." So but, you know, it was just--4th Street has always been the playground of Caucasian people in Louisville. 4th Street, that's their baby. Can you imagine 4th Street, he was kind of upset. (laughs) 49:00They upset in there.

So I'm looking, I'm listening to see why, well I know why, now they need to refurbish 4th Street. They either need to everything up there wasn't destroyed, windows were broke and boarded up. Stuff like that. But I don't know. I don't see minds of the people ever going back to 4th Street shopping (inaudible 0:49:22.6). Because I remember when 4th Street was just jumping at one time. I mean one time 4th Street was jumping.

Okay, something happened and 4th Street stopped jumping. And they're going to try to get 4th Street jumping again. I don't think people are going to come in town, especially some people Caucasians and spend their money heavily and feel safe on 4th Street. I mean feel safe. I don't think that's going to happen this time. I could be wrong, but I don't think it's going to happen this time.


MJ: I noticed that there's a reunion occasionally for people who grew up in Cotter Homes and Southwick. I wondered, have you ever been a part of that?

RL: Yes. I attended three Cotter Home reunions and a Southwick. And it was old times, like old times. It was old times. We've all gotten older, the kids, we were the babies, like I said, the brick babies. And I'm sitting in one now, but about four or five years ago. Yeah, there will never be another housing project like Cotter Homes and Southwick. I don't think the government's going to build one. Oh they've gotten away from that idea and that style of housing.

MJ: Yeah, we, when they tore down those projects and they built Park DuValle 51:00housing development there, and part of the reasoning was that it was old and the neighborhood had changed. So but there seems to be a lot of people like you who have nostalgia for that community.

RL: Yes, and it was good times, and I'll say it again, was good times. Been some of the best times of my life. When the people had pride, man. They had pride in their projects and homes. Like I said, the grass stayed cut. People raised flowers. They raised their kids. Kids was respectful. Kids want to cuss you out and bring out the ones that took off they did, so one of them tell you that when you get home and your mama get home, and that scares you. (laughs)

MJ: So did you ever go later when it got rougher in Cotter Homes? Did you ever 52:00visit, go back and visit?

RL: Yeah, oh yeah. I mean, I wasn't scared. Yeah, sure did. (phone rings)

MJ: So you were talking about how you would go back to Cotter Homes later and when you were older and that you weren't afraid to anything and the community you still had contact with the community and everything?

RL: Yeah, they have something called Cotter Homes Bee every now and then. And it's like a festival and they have a good (inaudible 0:52:40.3) band, they have food, little kids running around, (inaudible 0:52:44.1), face painting, balloons. Yeah, and (inaudible 0:52:47.9). And someone old here will get here and talk to some kids about this and that, and that and this, and just brings back great memories. So --


MJ: Well since Cotter Homes is gone now, I know that they've had it at Algonquin Park.

RL: Right, well in Russell, Russell Park over there. Yeah. In fact I did attend one with my daughter, I sure did.

MJ: Yeah, well with Beecher Terrace being redeveloped now, seems like Park Hill's the last of the old style housing projects.

RL: Yeah, I do well, like I say, I grew up in Cotter Homes.

MJ: Yeah, so you don't know much about Park Hill?.

RL: No, I didn't know too much about Park Hill. I didn't hang. Back in them days, you didn't hang in some areas you didn't grow up in. That's one thing that was not allowed if you had some friends that would let you come on and hang. They lay there and play there, so I kept my butt where I was. (laughter) Well, let's do it.

MJ: All right, so well that's all the questions I had. Is there something I 54:00didn't ask you about that you think would be interesting? Something to do with housing, or is that--

RL: I hope you do well with the housing aspect. I hope the powers that be put this housing thing in force and let's get some decent housing for people. We need it in the state of Kentucky and all around in America.

MJ: All right, thank you.

RL: Thank you.

[End of interview][0:54:23.9]