Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search This Transcript

Marsha Bruggman: This is Wednesday, June 15th, 1977; this is Marsha MB. This morning we are interviewing Mrs. Susan St. Claire SM at the Parkland Branch Library. We're continuing our project investigating the oral history of the Parkland area and the Parkland residents. Mrs. SM, can you tell me when you were born?

Susan Minor: August 24th, 1899.

MB: Oh my! And where were you born?

SM: Louisville, Kentucky.

MB: Oh, you're one of the few Louisville natives I've met up with! What were your parents' names?

SM: Frances M. Webster.

MB: That was your mother's name?

SM: Mother's name.

MB: And what was your father's name?

SM: Mitchum St. Claire.

MB: How many children were there in your family?

SM: Four.

MB: And where were you in that?

SM: The last one; the fourth.

MB: The last one; and how many brothers and sisters?

SM: Three brothers.

MB: Oh, and you were the only girl in the family.

SM: Mmm-hmm.

MB: What area of Louisville did you live in when you were a youngster?

SM: I was born around Third and Breckenridge.


MB: Oh right, I know the area. And was that the family home for quite a long time?

SM. Until I was fourteen.

MB: And then where did the family move?

SM: Then we moved to 811 S. Preston; east end, known as Smoketown.

MB: Oh, okay. It's so funny how these little names of areas of town, you center right in on where they are. Did you live there in Smoketown until you were married, with your family?

SM: No, I moved to the West End -- yes! I'm sorry, yes.

MB: So when you married, you moved to the west end?

SM: I was already in the west end; I left home.

MB: Can you tell me something about school experiences, where you went to school 2:00as a youngster?

SM: I went to the Eastern School at Jackson and Breckenridge. Now I believed it is called Booker T. Washington.

MB: Is it still open today?

SM: No, they closed.

MB: They did close? Okay. And it later became known as Booker T. Washington.

SM: Yeah.

MB: Was that -- all of your elementary school years were spent at that particular school?

SM: Mmm-hmm.

MB: Then was there middle school or junior high then?

SM: It ran from the first grade to the eighth.

MB: And then where did you go to school?

SM: And then I went to Central High School for four years and it was at Ninth and Magazine.

MB: And what year did you graduate from Central?

SM: 1919.


MB: Oh, that's right! I remember you' you're one of the oldest alumni!

SM: [laughs].

MB: What was -- do you remember much about Central in those days? Was it a very big school? Were there very many professors teaching there?

SM: Let's see . . . Mr. Matthews, Professor Matthews as we called him, was the principal. The other teachers . . . Mr. Nixon; he was a coach. [Asks if the tape machine is running]. Oh, there were quite a few.


MB: Do you remember how many people were in your graduating class?

SM: Fifty-five.

MB: Fifty-five, wow. Now of course, schools were segregated so that was the black high school for the Louisville area.

SM: Yeah, uh-huh.

MB: When you mentioned the coach, was that just boys' athletics or did girls also have athletics at that time?

SM: No, just boys.

MB: Were there any other -- did girls have home economics courses, or was there . . . ?

SM: Well they had home economics courses and of course we did physical education -- like, I think all the classes did physical education.

MB: Games kinds of things?

SM: No, we just did the old fashioned exercises.

MB: Oh, exercises!

SM: We didn't have any games.

MB: When you were in high school at that point, did you have any idea what you were going to do for a career?

SM: When I went to high school, you were told that if you took home economics, you would not be able to go to college.


MB: Oh really, why was that?

SM: Because home economics was not a college area but I eventually took cooking and sewing and maybe, for some reason, I was chosen to go to Normal School. And it might have been because of, maybe, family connections and I suppose there were others who had the same experience. But you had to take Latin and French and of course with the home economics department, you didn't get the philosophy that you needed, and I suppose that that was the reason you were told that.


MB: So then where did you go upon graduation in 1919 from Central?

SM: I went to the Louisville Normal School.

MB: And that again was segregated? That was a school for blacks?

SM: Mmm-hmm.

MB: Okay, and now what could you achieve at the Louisville Normal School?

SM: I could achieve all the background that I needed to become a teacher.

MB: Oh, is that what you wanted? Did you want to become a teacher?

SM: I just wanted to go to school. I really wanted to go to Fisk University because my older brother had finished there. I went up to the Presbyterian Mission while my mother worked and we had classes up there and I met up with Dr. 7:00Little. When I graduated from high school in 1919, he came to me and asked me if I would like to go to Hampton Institute in Virginia. I said to him, "My mother has already bought my books for the Normal School." The Normal School was free, you see? And a beautiful smile came over his face when I said, "My books cost five dollars."

MB: That was an investment though in those days.

SM: Why, surely! And I said, "I've already entered Normal School." And that was one of the fine interests that he had, in developing persons from the Presbyterian Mission which is up at Jackson and Rose Lane.


MB: Did you choose then to stay here in Louisville and go to the Normal School, or did you . . . ?

SM: Well I was too poor to go to Nashville and of course, I was told that if I went to Hampton, the only requirement would be that sometime in my lifetime I would pay back the amount of money that had been invested in me. But I had already decided to go to this free school, because it was free and it was two years. The Normal was two years.

MB: And of course, I imagine the Hampton Institute was probably a longer period of time?


SM: I imagine it was about four years.

MB: Plus travel expenses and all that.

SM: Well they would have given me all of that.

MB: Was Dr. Little willing to sponsor you then?

SM: Yeah.

MB: Oh wow, that's wonderful!

SM: Now he had some connections with progression in black civilization. He was a missionary and he had traveled throughout Africa and he came to establish this mission up there.

MB: Do you think he did this kind of sponsoring with other youngsters like yourself during that time?

SM: Yeah.

MB: That's marvelous.

SM: I think Dr. Henry Wilson -- he was in my class. He went to the mission. And I believe Houston Baker, whose name is on there; he went to the mission. And there were ever so many people -- Arlene Allen who later became -- it was a Sunday School, of course you know -- she later became Assistant Supervisor of 10:00Special Education. Of course you know, she was a black. She would be a wonderful person for you to interview.

MB: She's still alive today here?

SM: She's alive and blind.

MB: Oh really? Give me the complete name to make sure I get it.

SM: Arlene Allen that was her maiden name. No; oh, I'm sorry! Put Booker there instead of Allen. She became Arlene Allen. Arlene Booker Allen. Allen was her 11:00married name. And she is now a Kent, I believe.

MB: I'll see if I can trace her down.

SM: Hmm?

MB:[repeats] I'll see if I can't trace her down. Did she come out of the class at Central also or was she in the mission class with you?

SM: Well, we just went there because families were working and it was the time when you got out of high school or when you got out of school, if your parents were working, it was something to keep you off the street.

MB: Oh, I see.

SM: And at the same time to help you. It was another school. It was a mission of a type that taught religion and other aspects of living. She lives on 43rd and she would be a marvelous person to interview because she went to the catholic school and as she has told it, she says that she felt like that if she continued 12:00in the catholic school -- there wasn't anything wrong with it -- but she had a feeling that to get into something that she needed to switch to the public school. So when she finished the eighth grade, she went into the public school. I went into the high school; public school. Well, she'll probably tell you all of that.

MB: She sounds very interesting.

SM: Hmm?

MB: [Repeating] she sounds very interesting.

SM: Oh she's interesting; she's just dynamic.

MB: Okay, so made the choice then since your mother had invested and bought the 13:00books, that you went ahead and stayed and went to the Normal School.

SM: I made the choice because I was too poor to go and thought of a feeling maybe of wanting to do something that wouldn't obligate me too much.

MB: I see what you're saying.

SM: We were very poor. Well, I don't mean we were illiterate we just didn't have the money to buy all of the things that we wanted to buy.

MB: So you went to Normal School in preparation of becoming a teacher?

SM: Because it was free, that's the basic reason.

MB: [Confirming] and all you had to buy were your books and get there in the morning.

SM: [Agreeing] and get there in the morning.

MB: So what kind of a teacher then were you trying to be? English teacher, math teacher? Was it more general?

SM: Well, it was a basic education. Probably say -- I don't remember whether 14:00they had kindergarten. My only remembrance is that I was in the first grade and went through to the eighth and that made me eligible to teach from the first on through the eighth grade.

MB: Let me ask this question: for anybody listening to these tapes later, maybe they aren't going to be aware of it, so if I ask questions that sound a little dumb, bear with me. But at this point, when you got an education from a black school, were blacks ever accepted to teach in white schools, or was this simply qualifying you to teach in other black schools?

SM: It was qualifying you to teach in a segregated situation. Because they had the Louisville Normal School at Jackson and Breckenridge; that was colored.

MB: Mmm-hmm.

SM: And on Broadway, they had one for whites; a Normal School.


MB: Did you ever remember feeling at the time that maybe what you received in the way of education at the Normal School was not as adequate? Did you have the facilities or was there any question . . . ?

SM: Well I think at the time we didn't notice it so much because instilled in you when you came out of school was a basic need for survival and to help your race. And since the Louisville Public Schools were training only for teachers in that area, in the Louisville public area, it was a beautiful school, because we 16:00had our practice teaching right in the school and we went out into other black schools and taught and it was really fostering what Louisville stood for as an aid to its public schools. And it was beautifully done. Maybe there might have been a few little quirks that you really didn't understand but you basically wanted to do something for your race and you wanted to be the best. So we really didn't have the time to think of anything ugly and if you did you always had your parents as background to remind you that you are working for your race.

MB: You said before we started the interview, you were telling a couple of real 17:00interesting things along that line that your father used to say to you to remind you would get frustrated or questioned things. Could you relate some of those? I thought that was so interesting.

SM: Well I think I remembered the thing here that he said was, "What would you do with it? The money that you got?"

MB: Yeah, when you were talking about there was a difference in pay that blacks received as teachers for years than what whites received.

SM: He once said, he used to say to me, "The family background is a family of tempers; both families. Learn to walk away." With me having brothers and then being the only little girl, there was always that dominance characterization of males in the house. I often got into spats with my brother who was just two 18:00years older than I and there was a time I was able to protect myself and to protect him. But then it got to the place where his physique grew a little bit and I want able to retaliate and in the meantime my father said, "Walk away."

MB: Were you able to carry that all the way through your life?

SM: Almost. And even now, I walk away.

MB: I think sometimes, with those kinds of things that parents, when they're teaching you how to interact with your brothers and sisters and family, they're actually showing you a model for what the best way to handle yourself in the larger . . . .


SM: Well, there was one experience that we had in the home where we had one chair, a rocking chair, and whoever got in it, it was theirs. My brother, younger brother, he would wait until I got up to get a drink or get something and he would get in the chair. And of course I couldn't -- wasn't physically able to get him out. Then my father made the rule that whoever occupies the chair, unless you ask them if they're coming back, you must not get into it. So we were able to hold on to something that a youngster who had ideas about being bigger than the rest of the family would have to adhere to. My father was a very strict man.

MB: When he laid down a rule, he meant it.


SM: He meant it. I had another point in mine but anyway, that beautiful -- and they never told me to walk away with my younger brother. They thought a lesson for me to carry on was what had been taught to me. So it wasn't too difficult after Dad understood what was happening. You know how older brothers and older sisters will take advantage of younger ones.

MB: It happens in every family [laughs].

SM: And of course, being a little girl, I was supposed to grow up beautifully. I 21:00wasn't supposed to be aggressive or whatnot. Grow up to be a lady; that was really the meaning that has [gets far from microphone] when it came to the question of what the family stood for see because during the time of slavery, although I wasn't born in slavery, was that you were a servant. After slavery the trend was to make you able to carry on a home. And you had to learn some of the finer things that you had seen maybe in the area in which your parents were. 22:00It was sort of a thing that helped people to become self-interpretive and build on a tradition, rather, to do the things for which you were wanting to do. I'm probably not saying things exactly but in other words, with your background, you wanted to achieve -- that's what I'm trying to say -- you wanted to achieve something. So in my lifetime and I think others, it was the main idea of making 23:00yourself sufficient. And that carried with it something very beautiful because you were always striving to overcome the symbol of black.

MB: And what that had been to you.

SM: And I think I was lucky because my parents were well-thought of in the community. My mother worked as a domestic and my father also worked as a domestic. But now my mother's family had some college-related experience in some of them.

MB: Some relatives had gone to college?

SM: Yeah, now my grandmother who was a young woman at the close of slavery went 24:00to the [inaudible] school.

[Tape stops]

MB: We stopped for a short time there so let me remind myself of what we were talking about: we talked about your graduation from Central and we had talked about your decision to go to Normal School. And then, I don't know, we got off the subject a little bit and got to talking about relatives and things.

SM: Yeah.

MB: I had a couple of questions that I'd like to come back to: you mentioned that both of your parents were domestics and I always like to try to ask people what things cost; how much did you get paid a number of years ago? It makes it a nice comparison when people listen to it today where we talk about someone getting paid seven, eight dollars an hour. Do you remember what you parents were 25:00paid around the time you were a child?

[There is an issue with the tape recorder.]

MB: We were talking about your parents' pay as domestics, and I know the pay scale rose over the years, and I don't want to imply that people were being necessarily cheated; the wage was just much, much lower. But I think it's kind of interesting to hear what kind of wages people were paid for the kinds of jobs they did. Do you remember about the time that you were a teenager about what your parents made?

SM: I think the whole time that I was going, I believe through grammar school and high school that my mother got from [becomes inaudible] two-fifty or maybe 26:00slightly more. And her car fare was fairly large to do so. Ten cents one way and ten cents another and that was the expensive thing.

MB: And that was a street car that she took back and forth to work. That's hard to believe just looking at what bus fare is.

SM: I remember that instance because my father used to make my brother take me where if I had to go to Central or somewhere and I always had to give him a nickel of my twenty cents and most of the time we walked back. But he had to have a nickel of my twenty cents that I got for car fare.

MB: To go with you?

SM: Yeah. And I think bread was ten cents a loaf.


MB: Oh the prices -- during these interviews, the prices that people sold those things for.

SM: [This section, SM backs from microphone and the tape hiss garbles her sentences. From what can be pieced together, it sounds as if she is explaining that while eggs were sixty cents a dozen, blacks were possibly charged sixty cents per egg? ] And the only thing that I can remember, when I think of eggs being sixty cents and we thought that that was something out of this world. We didn't have them too much. But my father worked out a plan with the grocer man and he always got a little extra egg or two. But they were sixty cents a dozen!

MB: When we turned off the recorder a little while ago, you had told me an interesting story. You were making a comment about civil rights and that young 28:00people today think they're the only ones that ever reacted.

SM: Yeah.

MB: Can you tell me that interesting story about your graduation from Central?

SM: Well I believe that the boys high school was built at that time and we always wanted to go into the Macauley Theater; it was a beautiful thing and it had been used, as far as I know, for graduation exercises.

MB: For white folks.

SM: For both -- for colored, obviously for colored people. Anyway, we could go in the front door but we had to sidetrack and go up to the roof so to speak, to 29:00the balcony. And at this particular time 1919, the boys' high school, a brand new high school and everybody, all of the administrators, were overjoyed with it. . . .

[Here at 30:16 of the interview, the microphone is muddled and SM becomes completely inaudible so the context for the following sentences may be a little confusing.]

And of course my mother would have been very disappointed if she had known that I was involved in doing something like that; aggressive in my behavior towards 30:00what the principal and the board wanted. I kept it very quiet. Now where I was going to get the black shoes and black dress, I don't know, but finally . . . .

[MB asks SM to pause to work with the tape recorder.]


Finally we were allowed to get into the Macauley Theater and it was just five people in the class.

MB: Oh.

SM: And we thought that was something out of this world. And I couldn't find my graduation [inaudible]. I've got a lot of things I wasn't able to look up to find.

MB: That would have been neat. I imagine it was very elaborate and very formal 32:00compares to being graduated in say, a high school gym. I imagine that really was special.

SM: I believe that they did have [rocks thrown at? In audible] and my graduation from Normal School had it. But see it was something that -- I think few people thought less of what really happened to races because they were trying to push their own program and always liked to feel that in pushing one's program in a segregated area wasn't solely on race, it was for practical purposes. For money and for growth; buildings and whatnot. Now did I complete that [meaning MB's question]?


MB: Yeah, I just thought that was so interesting that in 1919 you made up your mind on what you wanted to do and went ahead and did it. I think that's great! You mentioned your graduation from Normal School and earlier in the interview we talked a lot about what Normal School was like; what year did you graduate from Normal School?

SM: 1921.

MB: So it was a two year program?

SM: Mmm-hmm.

MB: Did you go right into teaching after Normal School?

SM: Mmm-hmm.

MB: Where did you go? Can you tell me some about that?

SM: I went to what was then called Percy School and it later became the Frederick Douglas School and it was between Floyd and Preston. A beautiful school built by an Indiana contractor. I believe this large -- what do you call 34:00it? What is that thing, not a cornerstone, but it had the names of the contractors on it.

MB: Oh, I know what you're talking about.

SM: I do believe now that that school was built in 1915, I believe and it was built in the red light district, south of Jefferson Street.

MB: Oh, really? Was there any reaction about that?

SM: Well, I imagine but I think maybe that I was so busy trying to become a good teacher that I'm sure that was something I don't remember. But I believe the 35:00school -- it was a nice school. It had three large windows on one side and three large windows on the other; great big windows. It was beautifully built of brick and had wide staircases. The yard on each side was small and of course then you had -- what am I talking about? I'm talking about?

MB: [inaudible]

SM: Yeah! [Tape hiss is loud; sounds like] And it made it difficult because we had to have classes to play on the program and the children were confined in little areas. Your grade here and the next grade -- you didn't have that nice feeling that a recess should give you where you --

MB: Open space.

SM: Open space, uh huh.

MB: What grade did you teach for [that school]?

SM I taught first and second grade and I was moved from the second grade because 36:00my vocabulary was too big for the children. At that time I believe you were supposed to talk down to the children in a language they understood and my vocabulary was too big.

MB: Did you take that as a compliment?

SM: No, I didn't take it as a compliment because we had always striven for perfection.

MB: I had never thought of that. So then you went where?

SM: So then I went to the fifth grade, and I was better adjusted for the vocabulary I did have.

MB: Did you like that age group of children?

SM: I loved it.

MB: About how big of a school was it in terms of students? Do you remember when you started?

SM: Well at one time, I had fifty-five in my class. And of course you never had fifteen, eighteen or even as far as I remember, twenty children.


MB: It was a luxury having that much and we consider that crowded today.

SM: Yeah! And now this is my feeling of having a large class, and we had pretty good control over classes and I don't know whether that existed in white schools as it existed in the black schools. I had learned, I'm pretty sure, from my dealings with Dr. Little and the program -- he had a specialized program that he carried on that was a mission but it was like a school and from that, I had a 38:00method of doing things. I took my bright children and made them what I might call monitors or helpers. They were divided into one, two or three groups. In order to help them learn while they were sitting in these large classes, I made them monitors and they did part of the work as a committee and it worked out very beautifully. My children today, whenever anyone sees me, they have the mightiest, big beautiful heart-warming grin and talk and say how much I had done for them. I didn't have too many interruptions given things would be geared 39:00towards wanting to do a good job and to compete with what we thought were the whites. So, that was the way that particular thing worked. So I had a very nice area of work and when I moved to Perry on 17th and Magazine, it originally was a Western School. And then it became William H. Western first and then it became William H. Perry.


[Small section of conversation is inaudible].

MB: What year did you leave Frederick Douglas and move over to the Perry School?

SM: About 1955.

MB: Oh, so you were at the Douglas School for many years!

SM. About 27 years.

MB: So you did see many, many children go through there! So about 1955, you moved over to the Perry School.

SM: The Perry School.

MB: Okay, can you tell me a little bit about that school? Was it the same kind?

SM: I moved there because of an incident with the principal. [Next phrase is 41:00inaudible]. And I moved there because of an incident which disturbed me very much. And finally it disturbed me so much, in 1955 when my husband was in Europe, I decided to go to Europe. And before I went, I joined the Louisville Federation of Teachers. I'd done that in 1941, because it was sort of a secret thing between blacks and whites and the Board never knew how many members we had. I didn't even know it. I got Herbert Siegel, who was a lawyer I think, for 42:00the union. One of the members in the union took me to Herbert Siegel -- Pat Kern, have you ever heard of him?

MB: I've heard the name.

SM: Well, he was a magnificent person and this is a story about him. He was not readmitted to the public schools after volunteering to serve time -- and he was a brother, who I believe was a professor at the University of Kentucky at that time. But anyway, it was because of this incident and I had this letter written -- speaking about this principal, I had tried to see Mr. Carmichael, the superintendent, and he referred me back to Dr. Rubidor. Dr. Rubidor was the 43:00elementary superintendent and I had been to him and we had had quite a session and that was when my rights were manifested in me. I can remember telling Dr. Rubidor that, "You're going to have to do something." Because he was very, very ugly with me, as I thought and yet he had always complemented me. Well, then Omer Carmichael came into the system and he sort of let it be known that he was a little bit prejudice. I guess maybe Lyman Johnson has told you about him; maybe he hasn't.

MB: Oh no.

SM: Hasn't he? Well anyway, finally I had this letter written. It cost me $15 to 44:00have this letter written to my principal -- and this is the incident I'm telling you about -- and Mr. Carmichael had written me a very nice letter. And when this letter was written, she immediately took it to the board and you could only get through to the board from your superintendent in your area. And they . . . [inaudible]. In fact, he decentralized the system, Mr. Carmichael; he really did. He did a wonderful job. But when I got this letter, Superintendent Carmichael called me he and asked me and I went out and through tears and probably a little aggressiveness, I told my story. And he said to me -- I'm 45:00pretty sure he was taping it -- that he would advise me that I could do what I pleased about it, but he had a feeling that if I made this public -- and I was about to print it all the way across the paper, about this little incident that had happened with the principal. Incidentally, this principal had come out of the schools -- out of the Western, or Perry as it is known today -- she had been 46:00a teacher at the school and he had recommended her. And he felt that she saw something in me some of the things that she probably, as we all do, didn't like about certain people. And it was through that, that it worked out that she had done this thing to me. But he said, "I'm making this suggestion: if you publicize this and you move to another school, the principal of that school will be ever alert to what you have done and it will follow you." I'm a little mixed 47:00up. If I publicized it, the principal would be ever alert to me. If I moved, for as long as I was in the system and she was in the system, every time that this situation came up and her name came up, I would be about to say something about what had happened to me. In both of the situations, he felt like the he would like me to make a choice as to which I thought was the better thing to do. I decided on getting out from under her because I was very aggressive and had shown some aggressiveness with her. She had sort of pushed me around a little bit and I had been a super teacher. But anyway, I went on to the other school 48:00and got along beautifully.

MB: And so you left the Douglas School after 27 years?

SM: After 27 years, mmm-hmm.

MB: I bet that was a hard decision with all the other --

SM: Well it was a hard decision and it hurt me because of the nature of the letter. In the letter I got, Herbert Siegel went through it and she had used the words, "Un-American," "unethical" and "unprofessional." And he lingered on that. And he went on to tell her, "What do you mean by all these things?" from each paragraph, each area from which it came. And that's when she took the letter to Mr. Carmichael. But we didn't write him a letter; we wrote it to her. And so I 49:00went on to Perry, and I worked there until about 1962.

MB: And then what did you do?

SM: And then, I was trying to get three hours that I needed to have my thirty hours above my Master's. I finished my Master's in 1946 at Indiana University.

MB: Were you working part-time all the time that you were teaching and taking classes when you applied there?

SM: I went over to Southeastern Center in Jeffersonville at the time. I was matriculating in to Indiana University. I spent one summer or more on the campus and in '46 I got my Master's. And I needed these thirty hours to qualify for Rank One on the salary schedule. So I needed these three hours at the University 50:00of Louisville. And I had had the three hours -- which I really had six hours which should have been given me, but I think about the person, you don't want me to mention his name do you?

MB: It's up to you.

SM: Well, you wouldn't want me to mention the person who had charge of matriculating as the . . . ?

MB: [Laughs} yeah, probably not.

SM: He said that according to the policy, he couldn't give them to me; couldn't give me these three hours.

MB: What was the policy?


SM: That I had taken at this Master's level when I was at the beginning stages of my Bachelor's.

MB: So it wasn't acceptable.

SM: It wasn't acceptable but now when I went to Indiana University, I had all these credits and I had these credits from Simmons University. And when I went to Indiana University, I'm pretty sure it was policy as I think of how the black schools were set up -- all of our things came from state board of educations. And universities had . . . is it regencies?

MB: Mmm-hmm.

SM: They had eight men who set the policy. So when I went there, I had to take six hours of English at Indiana University and I took it very happily. And 52:00according to [Louisville's] policy, these extra credits were not acceptable; [chuckles] these English credits were not acceptable.

MB: I've heard of that happening before.

SM: Yeah, and I'm thinking that basically the things that your heritage would stand for are the things that make you solid in your thinking. And therefore, I just forgot about it. I often say that I could have been a real radical!

MB: [Laughs] Right.

SM: Raised up in a family with tempers on both sides. The portion of my mother's family -- my grandmother's brother was a college graduate and she had a sister, 53:00I'm not too certain what she had, but she was a teacher. I'm varying a little bit. Now my mother went to two years of high school and that's all they offered the blacks. She finished those two years of high school and for that time, she was probably well equipped educationally. She was a distinguished mathematician which I never could do anything with mathematics. I pass that on because our backgrounds have a lot to do with -- plus environmental circumstances have a lot 54:00to do with what we grow out to be.

MB: And obviously you found that a long history of achieving in education was worth it; taking the maximum of what they could get. I wanted to ask you some more questions about your long teaching career: Can you tell me what year you began to teach?

SM: After graduating from the Louisville Normal School -- which was a two year Normal school basically for the Louisville Independent District -- I graduated in 1921 and went to what they called then Pearl Street School, but it was actually Frederick Douglas School. From that time on, I taught the second grade 55:00and I was told that my vocabulary was too big and then I moved to the fifth grade. I taught the now-famous William Summers.

MB: Oh, really?

SM: Mmm-hmm. And then I moved up from there to the sixth grade and I taught elementary subjects including arts and science and music. And then as the time wore on, I found that there were more teachers coming in who were more adaptable to teaching certain areas. So I taught the science for a teacher who was a gifted artist. I also taught geography and history for a person who was a very 56:00good musician. So we really had a sort of, would you say extra-curricular activities?

MB: Well it sounds almost like what they consider now to be team-teaching where you trade off with your skills so the children get the best of what can be offered.

SM: Well yeah, team-teaching, yeah. And I taught there until 1955 and after 27 years, I had a little unpleasantness and I moved on to W.H. Perry.

MB: Where's Perry?


SM: Sixteenth and Magazine. And then in '62 I got a standard elementary certificate in the EMR class. Education for the Mentally Retarded. Then I went to MRCA [sp?] and I stayed there until about 1966 when the new school was built.

MB: From 1962 to 1966, you were there.

SM: Yeah.

MB: Now did you mention to me that you were the first black teacher at the MRCA school?

SM: At MRCA and the first black teacher at Lincoln Elementary, and I taught there until I believe 1969 when we had another young black that came in that the 58:00children just simply went riot over. And then she left and I retired in 1970.

MB: Did you have any unusual experiences in both MRCA School and at Lincoln Elementary with being the first black teacher?

SM: No, it was an unusual situation at MRCA. I went in and I've tried to think of what happened that made it so pleasurable. It probably was that maybe I had something new to put in to the elementary EMR class. The other teacher was a very fine teacher but I don't think EMH had arrived at the status that it had when I went in. In the earlier years, they just put children -- if the child was 59:00poor in behavior, why they just assumed he should go in the EMR program. It was more of a sort of -- well maybe a problem area.

MB: What they call now behavior disorders, I think. Don't they put children, I believe they do in the public school system now, put children with say behavior problems in behavior disorder classes, not mentally retarded classes.

SM: Yeah, they have now broken it down into that area that you just spoke of but at that time, they were just put in a class. Now we had a very fine supervisor, Mrs. Mary Wyman [tape cuts off].


MB: [Tape starts mid-sentence] . . . we were discussing her years of teaching [SM corrects MB on her name, which must have been spoken right before recording]. Now you were mentioning the last two schools, MRCA and Lincoln Elementary and your years of teaching there with EMR classes. And I was wondering about your experiences might have been, whether they were pleasurable or not?

SM: I had no difficulty with anyone, parents or whatnot; only probably the regular things that teachers go through. Probably a child being dissatisfied or maybe something that was said that was escalated, but we were able to -- I just 61:00really didn't have any unpleasant experiences.

MB: Was there any difficulty because in both of these school situations you were the first black teacher.

SM: Absolutely none; they loved me. That's the one nice thing that I feel when you speak of integration: that it is possible to integrate and make it a pleasurable experience. I certainly give a lot of credit to the principal and his administration. I never saw one or had one iota of disagreement with a 62:00teacher and I'm thinking of this one teacher who came to me and said, "Now which do you like to be called?" or rather, "Which do you like the best: Negro, colored or black?" And I said, "Speak of all three and I'll know what you're talking about." And we laughed about that and many times I'd walk down the hall and say, "Here comes Mrs. NCB." One of the teachers used to say, "Hello, Mrs. NCB," and even that could have had complicated implications but it was because of the beautiful attitude --

MB: Obviously on your part as well as theirs.


SM: Surely! But they were beautiful people.

MB: Now was that at Lincoln or at --

SM: That was at Lincoln. Now at MRCA, that didn't come up; I mean, the question of naming or symbolizing whatever it was. So a wonderful little experience I had with a class: I had two boys and they sat right next to each other and they had little cars that they'd roll across each person's desk, and one of the nice things that I learned that I didn't maybe have in the beginning to eliminate distractions of a kind, so I bought upon the idea of giving them a demerit. So I kept a little running account of things that the pupils did. And that came out 64:00of Mrs. Wyman's area; she said, "Keep a running record so when we have to present these things, we will have them." But it sort of kept me quite busy but I did have a freedom to teach what I wanted and the work was easy and there was no pressure because there were no tests of a kind like you have in a regular class. So it became a rather nice thing to do and I could go back and look it up. But I had one boy, maybe one or two children in the class who were problems 65:00and it kept me writing their names. So I said, "For each time I have to write your name, you get a five point demerit." And it finally dawned on them at the close of the grading period, what a demerit stood for. I was also allowed to do in that integrated class a lot of the things that my background in elementary before '62 gave me a chance to do. I was able to do a percentage in calculating demerits and behavior problems and it was just a really beautiful situation. May I tell another experience? Oh, let me finish -- these two boys, whenever they 66:00got out of school they had a fight! And we wondered and we wondered and one parent called up and expressed the fact that she wished that I would keep the white boy away from the black boy and not let them sit together. Well, I tried that but eventually they found themselves right back where they wanted to be. So I told her that that really wasn't my problem; that was her problem. And she talked and talked and talked and she said, "Well I just don't like white people." And I said, "Well maybe they don't like you!" And she said, "Well, I 67:00have to go get my husband's dinner!" And I said, "Well what do you think that I've been doing listening to you after school hours? I have problems to do and maybe, I could not like you even though you're black. So you think about it." And then she said, "Now here comes the white boy now, knocking on my door!" "What do you expect me to do about it, madam?" And she said, "Well, I've got to go" and I said, "Okay, call me again when you have time." And so the situations grew very pleasurable with her and the boys. Now going on from these same two boys, I began to think of what I could do to make a closer relationship. I felt like in what had been told at home, in maybe a pleasant kind of way -- "We did 68:00such and such a thing and we did this . . . ." And of course being the parent, maybe being distraught or a certain other thing, just picked up the wrong thing. So I said one day when they were in to something, I said, "B.B.P. and W.W.P." And I asked the children if they knew what that meant and of course, they didn't 69:00know. Finally, every time they'd come into conflict with each other, I left out the middle letter and would say, "B.P. and W.P." And finally the children said, "Well, that means those two boys!" Those boys had the same first names. So finally when the principal called one day -- and I had sort of established a very nice relationship with the teachers and all of us had done that together, and they had used the children. So when the principal called up one day and asked me to send him a boy, I said, "Do you want a B.P. or a W.P.?" "Well, Mrs. SM, what does that mean?" I said, "I'll tell you later; do you want one boy or two boys?" So I turned to the boys and said, "B.P. and W.P., go to the office." I had learned from another EMH teacher, a Mrs. Carolyn Sharp whose husband is a minister, she said, "Sue, always send two children at a time because you can't 70:00hardly trust one because they get in trouble with the regular pupils roaming the halls." That worked beautifully, so I picked up that little idea and would always send two. Now that is the end of the story of my two pets. Then I had a little girl once who would go home and tell her mother that I wouldn't let her be excused and I sent her to the health room. She had wet on herself. We didn't have anything except some boys' little shorts to put on her and she went home 71:00and her mother came back to school that day and said that the idea of putting shorts on a little girl. I said that wasn't my idea because it was an idea of keeping her dry. Finally then, we got into rather a controversial area and I told her, "Now your little girl told one of the boys in the class that she was going to do this thing." And she said, "Would you give me the name of the boy?" And I said, "No, you ask her!" And I had sort of developed a truthfulness among 72:00the pupils. The next time I had conference with the mother, she found out to whom the girl had told this. Then I called her in and we talked about this. I said, "After your little visit with me, your little girl, every five minutes, she wanted to be excused and I let her be excused." And she was appalled at the idea and she estimated the many times she had asked to be excused and that was many times. The average is maybe every twenty minutes if you're nervous or something like that but she did it every five minutes. Now this little girl was 73:00a wonderful little housekeeper. See the children did all of those things; we even got to the place where we had duties to perform. This week, three people would take care of the sink or take care of the art or take care of whatever there was to be taken. And it worked out very beautifully because these children wanted to go see their favorite teacher and so if you did your work well, you were put down as an individual who could go and work in a regular class with a regular teacher. And as we all know, to get out of the classroom is something, something --

MB: It gave them a little incentive to do something proper.


SM: Yes. And then often the teachers, particularly in kindergarten and head start and whatnot would have the clerk to call up and ask me if I could send one, and I would send these children. Now maybe, it would be for fifteen minutes while the teacher went to the restroom in the lower grades or if she went to the office or for some other reason. Sometimes the children were really adept at keeping order for the teachers and so they used them and it was sort of a push as to who was going to get to go. At first I let them go -- rather, I just picked them and then I finally found out those persons who were not able to get along in the community and then I picked out the people who could then get along 75:00with each other in the classroom, and that sort of community antagonism was lost. And it worked out very beautifully and I had a wonderful stay of eight or nine years at the school and . . . I'm thinking of another little situation: I had a boy in the class who was actually mentally retarded. His sister was not but for some reason -- this is just an opinion of mine -- if one child is put in an EMH class then the others automatically are thought to possess some of those 76:00characteristics. So when he came to the class -- now he actually was -- but when he came into my class, he got to depend on her and when I'd say to him sometime, "Oh go ahead, you can do that," he would call on his sister. That made her do her work and then help him. Now I got to the place where I said, "Now you must help yourselves!" So I failed him that year and he booed and cried and this is what I told him: "Now Richard, Mrs. SM is really tired of your sister babysitting for you. You're bigger than your sister and I know you're able to do a lot of things." But he boo-booed and cried but that year was quite profitable 77:00for him. I don't know that he gained anything except maybe attitude about himself and then with this same little boy, I had many books that I was able to get from the board -- easy books and I always got -- if I had nineteen people in the class or fourteen people in the class, I was always able to get fourteen books and the fifteenth was mine. And I put in each book, one of twenty, two of twenty, three of twenty, four of twenty and so on. Now if you were the first person in the class regardless of alphabetical order, you got number one of twenty, next one number two of twenty. Now I have never known whether that 78:00numerical arrangement had anything to do with being number one or number two or number three or number four but my membership and my first day's enrollment was very good. And they would say, "I was number one in the class and so-and-so was number four." It's remarkable how children know more about the things that are happening that you wouldn't think of for instance, that instance of saying "Johnny came in here fourth because he came home with me." And I then I got to the place where this particular class had a very good librarian; she's still in 79:00the system now, Ms. Juanita Kistling [sp]. She used to say, "Mrs. SM, you have the best behaved children in the class and I just don't know how you do it!" Well, we worked it out and she always had a beautiful little program for each class that came in -- every class from the first to the eighth. I said to her, "I'm trying a situation and I want these children -- instead of taking them out and tearing them up" because that used to happen, "I'd like for you to be familiar with my children and maybe suggest an easy book, and will you let my 80:00children come back at different times and get another book." So the interesting thing about it was, in about a month or two these children were going back all during the year to exchange a book, see? You only had one day a week to go in. They were very beautiful children and they were on their own. This is the way I worked it out: "Get a book that you can read. If you can't read the contents or the information that's in it, then you must know the title and you must know the author." And then since [inaudible] worked in groups like A, B and C or one, two 81:00and three I would say, "Well this is library time for Group One and what was your book about?" And the children would say, "I don't know what it is about; I can look at the pictures." And I would say, "I can look at the pictures too!" And I would say, "Tell me the author and the title." Or course, I couldn't spend too much time with a third of twenty people in a class, so that enhanced and they got all these little books and I said to Ms. Kistling one day, "Ms. Kistling, my children are just reading books!" And she said, "They're getting 82:00first, second and third grade books with great big print. Hadn't you noticed?" And I hadn't. But it was a beautiful incentive that they had for learning. And then when my supervisor, Mr. Harmon came in -- this particular boy Richard would jump up and go and show him what he learned. This one would go and read to him something from his library book. So it was really a beautiful situation. Recently, when the EMH group had a meeting I was invited to go and it was out at Masterson's. He came over and talked very beautifully to me and said, "Oh Mrs. SM, how do you do it?"

MB: This Richard, he's full grown?

SM: No, this is Mr. Harmon; Mr. Harmon, the supervisor. And he brought a very 83:00young girl and said, "This is Mrs. SM; she was one of the best teachers in the system." And I said, "Well, she is very beautiful and I'm pretty sure she is very smart." And he told her he never had to go in my classroom to see what was going on because the moment he opened the door, the children were there to let him know what had been going on.

MB: And what they were doing.

SM: And what they were doing. And he said he just appreciated it. Maybe he didn't exactly say it but I think it might have been a relief to him to come into a group where the children displayed what they had learned.

MB: It sounded so spontaneous that that's unusual.


SM: Yeah! And we had also, among all the classes, we made our own rules. Each child gave me a rule. We shouldn't be too long; a rule for behavior, a rule for health, a rule for good housekeeping and on Friday, a monitor went around and looked in your desk and your books must be in order. Now this seems impossible, but it was actually done. The only disorderly desks were the children who had been absent, two and three. And the children would tell you, "He was absent last week and he was absent this week!" But anyone coming in could raise a desk and go in and see that things were kept rather orderly. Now many of them were kept in a more orderly fashion than others, but as a general rule there was never any 85:00paper or anything on the floor or desk out of order.

MB: Often times that's training stays with a child throughout their lifetime too. It's really valuable.

SM: Surely! And then I got to the place where we had art. This is with the regular groups, not with the richest group [?]. When they'd cut paper and when they first came in, they threw it on the floor. I would say, "Put all of the P-P in the basket," and the children just laughed. And I said, "That means 'Pink Paper.'" And they would pick it up -- instead of saying, "Put the trash in the 86:00basket," because they had come up with the question of trash and well, the name we give to coloreds, and I thought that this would be a pretty nice thing to eliminate this word trash by using initials for --

MB: Make something very positive out of something that's negative

SM: Yeah. Well anyway, we went on with that and it was very beautiful and it got so that we had differences in chairs; brand new chairs in the new school. If you were one of twenty, that would be underneath your chair. If you were two of twenty, that would be your seat. And that worked out rather nicely and then 87:00during the summer when people would come in to clean up, my chairs would be here and there and everywhere. One child would say, "A pupil in Mr. So-and-so's room, he's got your chair, Mrs. SM!" Then I got so I put "SM" on there and I'd go and get it and I'd say, "I'm sorry but I have to get it; I have to get my chair." And the chairs were fixed so the desks could be raised, so that was another situation that we worked out where we didn't have to ask for another chair, we could just --

MB: Raise it as the child grew up.

SM: So, I've had many beautiful experiences.

MB: What a career!

SM: Huh?

MB: I said what a career you've had!


SM: The only one situation that I had which I'm just going to mention, was in 1955 after 27 years of being in a school and rated a superior teacher, that I had had difficulty with the principal.

MB: Right, I remember when you talked about that. Yeah, I'd say you had an outstanding career; there's no doubt about it.

SM: I don't mean to be assuming; I happen to be a rather versatile person. I taught music, I taught science and I taught art. The family was musical and the family was artistic. So it came rather natural for me and the only difficulty I would have with anybody would be personality among grown-ups.

MB: Well, I think that happens to everybody at one time or another in their life.

SM: Whatever I had to give, my dad -- coming back to him -- he would say, "Give this away and you can think of something else to do." If I had a good idea and 89:00somebody wanted it, I'd give it to them and then I would come up with another one. I think that came from early relationship with parents.

MB: Was that your philosophy all during your teaching years?

SM: I didn't call it a philosophy; I just called it being versatile so maybe it was a philosophy.

MB: How'd you feel about retiring?

SM: I hated to but I had done so beautifully and so smoothly and I really should have brought you a little retirement card that they had brought me. Everybody was sorry. I walked down the hall with Mr. Harmon and I said, "Mr. Harmon, you 90:00know I have reached the mandatory age of retirement." He said, "You have?! I didn't know it!" It was a heartwarming situation when I retired. At the close of twenty years, I got a beautiful silver pitcher with "1921-1970" on the bottom of this pitcher. We had this retirement [party] at Stouffer's and there was one other teacher there that retired at the same time and the principal just simply 91:00gave a beautiful account of both of our lives. She had taught in the first grade. It was a wonderful retirement. Each year, at the close of school, I have been invited to their closing day luncheon.

MB: At Lincoln?

SM: At Lincoln. And we have it in and around places. I believe the one nice and outstanding situation that happened was that we had four EMH classes [tape stops and starts at a different point]. . . . It kept me from saying to Johnny, "You're in the fifth grade. If you were not promoted, then you were one of the 92:00children that really didn't do your job. You were involved in some things that weren't conducive to promotion either in the way" -- I'd explain to them -- "the way of learning, behavior or cooperation." Whenever you got to sixth grade in the EMH class, you knew you had to perform and actually, there were really no hardly any failures except for this one boy I told you about because we got so we were able to put them in classes according to ages. That helped the situation. I don't think it was discussed that way but that's the way it really 93:00happened. I had a most remarkable stay at Lincoln and went back to teach for a while! And my principal retired in 1971 and we got a new principal and things sort of changed around as they will change. I just felt like I just really didn't need the money. So I just sort of quit. One time I got a notice -- each year you get something to tell you that you are eligible to be a sub. On one of these notes it was written, "A teacher is expected to teach in any school where 94:00he is called upon." Well the nice idea was, I had been up there and I knew the children so they could call on me at the last minute and I'd be ready to go. And then another thing is, I might add this -- not that I didn't feel that I could teach other places -- but the schools that I had never attended; I had never gone to because integration, I believe, had its beginning in 1954 and all that time up to 1962, I worked in a segregated situation. And even so, I didn't even get to be transferred from one school to another. And then to go find all of these schools and be called upon -- maybe at nine o'clock, if a teacher had to 95:00go, they got a sub -- I would have found it difficult to find these outlaying or even in the city.

MB: So many schools.

SM: So many schools. So I just decided that I would quit. And oh, I might say that I had done a lot of ceramics and I believe even today, when my husband sees me making boxes or making things he says, "Well you should be back in the schools." But all of that making and whatnot is a part of me, or music and whatnot is a part of me.

MB: And I've found the best teachers are the ones that are creative that way too; with their hands and their minds as well.

SM: What?

MB: With their hands as well as their minds, creatively.

SM: Yeah. Now don't say that I didn't have difficulty -- I mean a few unpleasant 96:00things -- but the atmosphere that I was able to find in the different schools, and more especially in Lincoln gave me a pleasant being and a sort of pleasant retirement.

[MB announces a short break]

MB: Can you tell me about what year you moved to the Parkland area?

SM: Oh, it was about 1935. February.

MB: Did you have prior memories of Parkland? Had you been here before?

SM: I had relatives that lived in this area down around 36th and Dumesnil. My 97:00mother's brother lived there and at that time, when I used to go backwards and forwards as a child, the street was called Orleans Avenue.

MB: And would you come out on weekends to stay with them?

SM: No, sometimes we would go down to see them; mother would take us to see them or dad would take us to see them. And then sometimes I would stay for maybe a week or the weekend. It was sort of a little rural area down in this neighborhood.

MB: Yeah, I was going to ask you: did it seem like country? [Laughs].

SM: Yeah: There was a pump on the corner of 36th and Virginia Avenue and as a youngster, when I went to see my aunt and uncle, we would have to go and carry the water.

MB: Did you come out by streetcar?


SM: Yeah, there was a little -- I guess you might have called it a trollie -- but there was a streetcar that came down Greenwood Avenue and we used to catch the bus at Oak Street --

MB: The trollie at Oak Street?

SM: The trollie and it wound all the way around, down through Greenwood.

MB: Do you have any idea, as a child do you remember how much it cost to ride the trollies?

SM: Well, I suppose in the early day it probably cost a dime and the streetcar was one track and it went down to the end of Louisville and turned around on a table and came back. It was all wooded. I have a lot of memories of where I live now in a very small house, of having thought about the trees on either side of 99:00the street.

MB: Was the area -- well, you said it was a rather rural community -- were there little farms around or were they actually kind of little neighborhoods of people who settled here but went into the city to work or were they people who farmed an acre or two?

SM: No, I think it was all called the city but this was sort of -- you went down to that neighborhood and it was the wooded section. It was not called -- there were some places I believe -- it was called Parkland. The Parkland area.


MB: When you moved here in 1935, did you move here because you got married and bought a home or what initially brought you to the area?

SM: Well, maybe it's not nice to tell but I sort of got a little fed up with being at home with in-laws, sisters-in-laws and whatnot and I had a feeling that I wasn't making as much progress because of outside influence. The best that I could do was to get away so that I could go on and finish my education.

MB: Were you already married at that time?

SM: No, as I think I told you some time ago, teachers were not allowed to marry until 1938.

MB: Oh you're kidding; I didn't know that. You probably told me and I just missed it.

SM: So in '38, not any women [teachers] were allowed to marry -- black or white 101:00-- until 1938.

MB: So you moved then in '35 out here because you wanted to be independent and be away from home?

SM: Yeah.

MB: Uh-huh, a lot of people do that. Did you rent an apartment, or room in someone's home or buy your own home?

SM: No, because see I had been teaching since 1921 and '35 wasn't hardly enough time to really get enough to buy a home. I moved to the Plymouth Congregational Settlement House which is right next door to the church I belong to now, and it had rooms and facilities for working people; working women. And I was sort of maybe lucky to get into it.


MB: So you stayed down in this area even after you left the Plymouth Settlement House?

SM: Well, after I left the Plymouth Settlement House, my aunt died and I went to live with my grandmother and my uncle and of course it didn't work out very well. Then I moved up on 20th Street and it was my moving down directly in the Parkland area after flood when I lived on 20th Street. My relatives -- my uncle and aunt -- they lived on Chestnut Street close to 19th and I just moved right around the corner. I moved in with the secretary of Simmons University.


MB: Oh, what was her name?

SM: Alberta Robinson.

MB: Where's the location of your house today?

SM: 3030 Greenwood Avenue, between 28th and 32nd.

MB: Have you been there many years?

SM: I've been in that particular house since 1945.

MB: You're a long-time resident!

SM: But after movng off of 20th Street close to Walnut, 511 -- I moved down on Grand Avenue. And then from Grand Avenue, I moved into an apartment on the street where I live now. Then I married; and then five years later -- married 1940 -- we started buying this house. Incidentally, I have had two husbands. 104:00This is my second husband. He's a twenty-year man.

MB: Is he still alive today?

SM: Yes.

MB: So you've been at this house since about 1945?

SM: Mmm-hmm, that's right.

MB: So you've seen a lot of changes in the area I bet, haven't you?

SM: Yes and no. Yes I have because the urban renewal came through and they were selling houses -- they were pushing people out of areas further into town and they were pushing the former residents out of the community -- the whites. So 105:00the settlement sort of grew up. Now at the time that I moved there, I don't think there were more than four colored or blacks in the neighborhood. But it has filled up. And the houses are small and they were little family dwellings.

MB: Many of them as I have driven around in the neighborhood -- of course right here on Virginia Avenue, 2700 and 2800 blocks of Virginia Avenue, there are the great big what look like must have been mansions fifteen twenty years ago and then there seem to be a lot of the shotgun-style cottages on the surrounding streets; the small family dwellings. When you came into the area, say the first ten to fifteen years that you were here; it was predominantly a white area at that time?

SM: Yes.

MB: Was it upper middle class area, quite well to do people or were they all 106:00pretty working class?

SM: Well I think they were probably middle class group because maybe if you can think of the houses in certain areas or maybe it was a mixture of people because at that time, when I moved into the area, I'm pretty sure jobs were much better for whites than they were for blacks.

MB: What about -- now you lived here for a number of years but then you bought your home in about 1945. What interested you in staying in the area? Was there anything pulling you in the area at the time or did you just simply like your home and that was it?


SM: I just liked living here. I think it might have been that I had always probably wanted to live on this end of town because it was a beautiful place and sort of maybe I might say country life. In the other area where I had lived, there were businesses; in the East end there were businesses and whatnot. Incidentally, I hope I'm telling the facts that most of the people who moved into the West end came from the East end. In the neighborhood where I lived, there were many professionals that lived in and around there; around Preston and Broadway and maybe as far up as Clay Street.


MB: Urban renewal ran some of those people out and you think some of those people just kind of got tired of being in an area that was just businesses?

SM: No. Urban renewal didn't come until very, very late; very late. And they were moving many of the people in the area of businesses on Walnut Street where there were little taverns or a grocery or something and they were trying to clean out the area, supposedly. And so many of the people up into that area who were purely maybe poor or making money in many ways were pushed out of the neighborhood and had to have some place to go. I know that there were several 109:00nice businesses up around 10th Street, 10th and Chestnut and in and around. Urban renewal just took in their property -- sort of imminent domain, I guess [laughs].

MB: What other kinds of things when you first bought your home and settled in besides the fact that it wasn't really an inner-city area, it was kind of a neighborhood with pretty trees; an attractive area. What other kinds of things attracted you to the area? Was it the neighbors, was it the shopping?

SM: Well yeah, no the shopping was all nearly close to 4th Street, the business section and we had to travel uptown to those stores and whatnot. Now we did have 110:00several florists down in this neighborhood and of course there was the Sunnybrook Distillery over there at 28th and Broadway and the Tube Turn which at one time, that place where Tube Turn is right across from the distillery, they used that for a circus lot. On the southwest corner, the circuses came to town and went in there.

MB: And that's the lot where Tube Turns is today. Did you ever use the shopping facility up here at 28th and Dumesnil much? Was it kind of in its glory in the Forties and early Fifties? Right up here where the A&P Grocery store is?


SM: Over there, they had had another grocery and of course in time one corporation put another out of business. But I didn't use this; I always went uptown to shop in some of the big stores. The truth was I didn't get out this way that much.

MB: It was a little more convenient to go the other direction into town.

SM: Yeah.

MB: Of course, I know you had such a busy career in teaching and everything but were you ever involved in any recreational activities in the Parkland area?

SM: No ma'am.


MB: Was your church membership maintained in the Parkland area?

SM: No.

MB: The Plymouth Congregation wasn't --

SM: That's 17th and Chestnut.

MB: Oh, okay right across Broadway then; a little more in the downtown area.

SM: Its north of Broadway; it's on the southeast corner, that's where the church is. I'm pretty sure they didn't call that Parkland area.

MB: No, uh-uh, I was thinking it was on this side; I didn't realize it was on that side of Broadway. No they didn't. In most recent years, what do you feel have been some of the negative kinds of changes that you've seen or are you still as happy today in your neighborhood and home as you were say, thirty years ago?

SM: No because in 1968 we had as they called it, a riot and it upset the 113:00community quite a deal. Down further -- to show you how difficult it was for blacks to move into certain areas -- on the parkway across from Chickasaw Park at the end of the Greenwood, we Negroes couldn't move into that neighborhood. And finally, it was uncovered rather strategically that Negroes were allowed to buy lots on Southwestern Parkway.


MB: I talked to a fellow who lives on Grand Avenue right where Grand Avenue and Southwestern Parkway intersect right close to Chickasaw Park and he was telling me that one of the first homes that was bought there was bought by a couple in an interracial marriage. It was a white woman and a black man. The white woman went in, bought the house, signed the papers and then moved her family in and that broke the area. And then I think he and his wife, Gilmore is their name, he and his wife were about the second or third family to buy in that area.

SM: Well that wasn't as far back as we're talking about. That was a little earlier -- [First names inaudible] Gilmore. See, it was a pretty little area.

MB: Oh, it's beautiful; still today it's beautiful.


SM: Yeah, and people that were able to move into areas got out of certain areas that were not conducive to happiness among themselves.

MB: It's a beautiful area; nice homes, big yards.

SM: And it used to be prettier than that. In other words, there was a section of whites that lived in it and then of course, after Negroes moved in, they began to move out.

MB: Have you seen a lot of changes since the area has become -- well, first it was predominantly white and now it has become predominantly black; have you seen a lot of changes that you've been dissatisfied [with]? I kind of think some of the things we're talking about happen in every city where the neighborhoods get 116:00older, the homes get older, it gets more expensive to make repairs, all those kinds of things --

SM: Well, I have a feeling that the whites had money to keep their homes --

[Tape ends]