KC: This is Ken Chumbley of the University of Louisville Oral History Center,the date is January 10, 1979 and I'm interviewing today Mr. Nelson Goodwin at his home 3820 Newburg Road. This interview is part of the University of Louisville's black oral history project and once again, Mr. Goodwin, I'd like for you to just tell me as much as you remember of your early days, your parents, your grandparents. NG: Well, I was born in this community and on this plantation, a land grant is what it amounts to in 1907. The first thing I remember about history, I remember my grandfather he was a great big black man or at least that's what I thought as a boy. And we were sitting by the fireplace after my grandfather died and I said to my father I thought my grandfather said 1:00he was going to whop me. And he was a kind man, I'll tell you when I get to that point, he wouldn't do that but that's just what he said to me of course being a little kid I thought so. So I told my father he was mean and he said no, he wasn't mean. And then the thing that shook me more than anything was, I asked my father did he know who his grandfather was. He said no I don't know who my grandfather was. Twenty years old, I used to question. I said well why don't you know? And this really disturbed him. He said, "I'm going to tell you something. I don't know, my grandfather was a full blooded African and when they shipped slaves to come to the United States," so his father told him.
KC: Is that right?
NG: Yeah and then my grandfather never did learn to speak the African languageand they were separated when they were quite small, so.
KC: So this would be your great-grandfather?
NG: My grandfather and my great-grandfather were separated when they were quite small.2:00
KC: Oh, I see.
NG: It would be my great-grandfather on my father's side was full bloodedAfrican. So what he did, my grandfather belonged to Jake Snyder, I want to you to know about this name change, names changed a lot. He belonged to Jake Snyder and Jake Snyder was fond of him, so Jake Snyder sold my grandfather -- this is what my father told me in front of the fireplace -- to Butler Goodwin with the proviso that he never whop him. So he never did whop the old man, so when he turned twenty-one during the Mexican War, my grandfather Butler Goodwin, Jake Butler Goodwin, was a veteran of the Mexican and the Civil War, but I got ahead of my story. So when Butler Goodwin bought him, he made him drop the Snyder name but when he died he was Jake Butler -- he made him take his name see -- Jake Butler Goodwin when he died. So he whooped him in the morning with a corn shuck, 3:00can you imagine a man getting whooped with a corn shuck. My grandfather used to lay and tell my father about it and he said I want you to be a man and go and join the Mexican War. And my grandfather went to the Mexican War and then he made a career soldier of himself, I think. And he was available and joined in the Civil War and he was with Sherman and ranked in during all the southern battles coming up, and that's where he met this old man Ed Green that I'm telling you about. He was off the King Plantation in, I believe, South Carolina, I forget the name of the river now, but it was nineteen miles long, the plantation was, can you imagine that? You think we got a big plantation, that was nineteen miles long, though square wise this might be as big, so far as yardage goes. Well, anyway at the battle of Perryville when they were all mustered out, all the Negroes didn't know where to go.
KC: These were all freedman? All the blacks, your grandfather included who were4:00serving in the Mexican War and Civil War? Were they free blacks?
NG: Yeah, after the war, see. After the Perryville, when Sherman moved up heturned Ed Green over to General Grant as his caretaker, took care of his horse and his clothes like something like a valet you know in the Army. I don't know how that works and it was in the Army but everybody else was out of it. So when the war was over [there was] no place to go. My grandfather was up out of Spencer County and for miles around he'd heard of Petersburg. Petersburg was a land where white people would sell to Negroes. And many Negroes would give away their land and [?] don't know what they're giving away their heritage and birthright but didn't know what they were doing, but I knew it see, I knew the history of the thing and that's why I struggled so hard to keep it. So, they all came here, now, also my grandfather met my maternal grandfather there Nelson 5:00Allen who I'm named after. [TAPE STOPS REPEATEDLY.]
NG: Is it running now?
KC: Yeah I hope so.
NG: Anyway he never was a slave and he was so concerned when they mustered inthe Army they got eleven dollars a month and he wouldn't take eleven dollars a month. No sir, he believed a man ought to fight and serve his country freely. He thought that was his responsibility. He would never take his -- he was the first manager of Bashford Manor farm.
KC: Who is this again, tell me.
NG: Nelson Allen.
KC: He was your--
NG: Maternal grandfather.
NG: Nelson Allen. But one of my long heritages comes in on in this general area,was on my maternal side of my family and my grandmother Clara Beal who was the daughter of Daniel Beal and granddaughter of John Beal. And the Beals are the slaves of the Beal's, you know Beal's Branch --
KC: Beal's Branch Road?
NG: Off Springport is that where it is
KC: Uh, huh.
NG: Well that clan of Beals in Virginia had a lot of slaves. They sold slaves6:00you see.
KC: I see.
NG: And that's the way we come down from Virginia, see. So my grandmotherbelonged -- great-grandfather belonged to George Hikes
KC: Your great grandfather?
NG: Yeah, belonged to George Hikes, on my mother's side, grandmother's side. Andit was a custom in those days that all Southern people have slaves or servants you know. So when she married the Robinares, who did not believe in slavery and did everything he could to overturn slavery. And what he did, why he a -- and I have documented proof to dispense with that. He wouldn't sell any slaves, but never bought any and my grandmother Clara Beal Allen was born in his cellar on Buechel Bank Road and Buechel Bypass, see. Right in that cellar, right next to 7:00that Chrysler thing there, in a cellar. I have a picture here somewhere of the old house partly burnt. So what happened -- old Robert Ayers, who I have a lot of respect for, and that's his book here, the big book, that's his writing in that book. While he owned my grandparents and if you'll look through that book you'll never see the word slave or servant he said, "The forces did so and so" each day. He was a very intelligent man, he distinguished so bad he wouldn't even say, "My slave did this," he'd say "The forces did this," "we forces did this." In other words he must have worked with his farm hands.
KC: Where did he get these, his labor force, he--?
NG: He inherited these eight slaves, see.
KC: Oh, I see, you said he wouldn't buy but he--
NG: He wouldn't buy and he wouldn't sell, see. And any additional slave work hecould come over here to Livers Tiverton and rent slaves, you know, hire them for 8:00mark and pay for it, but no slave was his idea. He was [?] against slavery.
KC: Would you say he was an abolitionist?
NG: Yes sir, he was an abolitionist and I'll tell you why he was anabolitionist. He got so strong with his Underground Railroad stuff till the mob came down from Bardstown and mistaken identity next to the Raceland Mall up there, they killed John Kilphis thinking they were killing Robert Ayers, his next door neighbor.
KC: You told me earlier he operated an Underground Railroad station.
NG: In his basement, yeah.
KC: In his basement --
NG: No basement in those days, cellar!
NG: Yeah, we weren't so proper, didn't know what a basement was.
KC: Called them cellars?
NG: Yeah, that was it. And my grandmother stayed with him until after the war.She stayed with him till she died if you want to ask me, 'cause they never was anybody that could be no closer to her. They taught her everything but reading 9:00and writing and I've seen his daughters come here, they were about my grandmother's age, and they would take my grandmother an old shack house and they'd have dinner for them, and they loved her and did everything they could. And this is one of the things that I understand about slavery, like I told you about my grandfather never being whopped, and my grandmother, how kind they were. Now on my grandmother's side, on my father's side of the family, now that is a different story. But I hardly ever say anything about that because I don't like to make inflammatory statements because we're trying to bridge the gap between the races and I don't think inflammatory stuff like some of the things [?] has a tendency to do that.
KC: I'm interested in this Robert Ayers. You told me earlier that the propertywhere your house sits and where all this other stuff sits, GE and all, belonged to the Hikes.
NG: Yeah, but see Hikes, sold Robert Ayers --10:00
KC: A part --
NG: -- part of his land.
KC: I see.
NG: Or give it to him so to speak.
KC: But Robert Ayers had married Hikes' daughter you told me --
NG: Daughter. And he owned an enormous amount of land. All where GE is was hisproperty at one time, Robert Ayers.
KC: I see, okay.
NG: But as time moved on it's broken up.
KC: Are there any descendants of Robert Ayers around?
NG: Yes his [?] daughter, his granddaughter, great-granddaughter
KC: His great-granddaughter?
NG: Yes, that's her picture right there on the wall.
KC: Her name is Ayers also?
NG: No, her name is Edna Terrill.
NG: Yes, Dr. Terrill's wife. She's about seventy-six years old. They'rewonderful people.
KC: I'm just trying to get all this, all the --
NG: They're wonderful people. I mean, they're very cooperative with me in doingthis thing, and I've had some complimentary letters and all that come in from Tucson, Arizona and various places that the Ayers family live, you know. They appreciate what I'm saying about them because on Hikes' side of the family was 11:00pretty rough family, see. But I never talked about anyone, I don't talk about the bad [?]. That's why we have so much trouble in Louisville today: everybody's playing the bad up and nobody wants to listen to the good.
KC: Your grandmother, who was with the Ayers family, you said. How did she meetyour grandfather?
NG: Well, in my opinion they all met here. What happened was, in 1866, afterslavery, see, they all came here. And Eliza Tivis who was John Holland's half- sister, and he owned Bashford Manor farm, and he given her twenty slaves and two thousand dollars back in 1820 because she had taken care of him when he had the smallpox. So actually what it amounts to a Negro community had been established right here, see. And since it had been established more Negroes came. Where [?] 12:00Hikes' had all whole bunch of land over here that sold for fifty cents an acre in 1820, 'cause I checked it out with a niece of [?] and this was a good way to get rid of it, see. So they sold it to a Negro. Well, nobody -- it was a godsend, because nobody else would do that. They wouldn't sell to them. And Negroes came in here and they cut down the trees and built log houses and they built churches and schools started in church till about --
KC: This was after the Civil War?
NG: After the Civil War, see. What happened was Eliza Tivis lived in a tent fora year at Indian Trail and Petersburg Road, which was Newburg Road then. Well, the only thing the Negroes thought about in slave time -- if you look through this community, the only thing they thought about is, "When I die I and go to heaven" -- religious. They go all out for churches, they don't think about no business or nothing like that. Churches was the goalpost. So they had a [?] 13:00right to slaves I'm pretty sure what they did, because their God brought them a long ways and they appreciated that. So what they did, my grandfather [?]. So my grandfather being a military man, and having been trained a lot in the Army and all, he sensed the idea that they would take and build a church of their own. But you know what they did? Every Sunday morning they walked from Indian Trail and Newburg Road, which is Petersburg Road and Indian Trail, now to Preston and Liberty Street. It was a long walk to church.
KC: That's a long walk.
NG: And walk back.
KC: It was called Green Street then?
NG: Green Street.
KC: Was that Green Street Baptist Church?
NG: That's Green Street Baptist Church. That was Green Street Baptist Church.And they said they never tired because they sang all the way there and sang all the way back.
KC: There was no church out this way?
NG: No church, no, no there was nothing, no church, see. So, in '67, two yearsafter slavery, William King, Lewis Bartlett, Evan Blackmall, Jay Keller, and 14:00Butler Goodwin. Nelson Bartlett, Dave Spencer, Smith, Carter and Coleman, Dave Coleman. They were old slaves. And some of them people where living [?] and some of them people was living when I was a boy. They didn't die so quick then, I don't know why. But they were there when I was a boy, see, I remember some of those people. Well, they were the ones that put the church together. My grandfather was a trustee. He was the brain man of the thing. And when they got ready to organize the school, my Grandpa was the brain man of the thing. When he got so old that he couldn't do around like he was, I don't know how old he was, well he brought this fella Ed Green I told you about, this smart man with the General Sherman Grant. He saw great qualities in this man, and he put him in the lead of things. And he told me about it himself. He said, "Your grandfather -- I 15:00didn't want to do it, said he was going to handle everything. Said I didn't want to do it, but he insisted, he was old, tired and couldn't do it no more," and that's more sense than his grandson's got. But he put him in charge of what they called the business. It was really a business to them, the church run everything. And he -- see, my grandfather was head of the school thing. And every school day, once a month -- they didn't call it PTA, they called it "school day" -- they would go to school to see how the kids were coming along. And when the teacher would have them up there reciting work, they tell me they'd just cry like babies, just like a religion. They were so glad to see their children read and write. Now education in my father's family and my Grandfather's family, they are not high school or college, it's the kind of thing that I got, learn to read and write, I got to learn to read and write --
KC: Read and write.
NG: Yeah, I learned to read and write and a little arithmetic, see. Also with acalculator and a dictionary and everything I can get by pretty good. I do appraisals for the State Highway Department and everything [?]. So they got that 16:00school together and this old man he took over and when he died he was still trustee.
KC: That's your father? Your grandfather?
NG: No, Ed Green.
NG: Ed Green.
KC: Ed Green.
NG: Yeah, see my grandfather died in 1911. Well, this old man took over in 1911,see. You see his picture on that thing with the --
KC: Right, I remember seeing it.
NG: Yeah, well he took over and that was probably his first year or maybe secondyear, and that was a smart thing, 'cause he knew where could, continuity of responsibility and somebody he knew could carry it on.
KC: He took over the school?
NG: Uncle Ed Green did, yeah. Now look: you'll hear me use the word "uncle."Now, back in the old days "uncle" was not Uncle Tom, Uncle Tom [?]. The white people had these slaves and they were so intelligent and they had so much respect for them and they trusted them so much, they wouldn't allow their children to call them by their first name, so that's where "uncle" started. 17:00
KC: Is that how? That's interesting.
NG: That's how, that's what they told me now.
KC: Is that right?
NG: Yeah and when I was a boy everybody wanted to be "uncle" that was somethingbig. Not me, I mean the older men.
NG: See, my father was called Uncle Seymour up there and respected by everybody.People had a lot of respect for old people when I was a boy. Oh just a world, old people they wouldn't do [?] old man, Christian man, see you do nothing in this neighborhood, and we never locked our door that was-- up until oh God, I never locked a door until urban renewal came out here.
KC: Is that right?
NG: Yeah, we never locked no doors.
KC: Tell me how, tell me again the name of the woman, who I guess was the firstproperty owner in this area. You said her name was?
NG: Eliza Tivis.
KC: Tivis? T-i-v-i-s?
NG: Yes, yes, and she - Eliza Tivis - belonged to John Honley, but she's alsohis half sister, see.
KC: She belonged to whom?
NG: John Honley, Honley owned Bashford Manor Farm.18:00
NG: And he had smallpox in about 1819 or something like that, see, and she wasthe only one that would go near him and he set her free. And that stone there, I got that stone there, it's out of the foundation. Only other thing is I know is a big meat platter, but I can't buy from Harris Gotty. I may get it some day, a big mean platter that she had, and another old piece of furniture. They tell me that she had some beautiful furniture but they don't know what happened to it when they divided her estate, see. You know who handled her estate when she died? You know where Guthrie Street is?
KC: Um huh.
NG: Well, Guthrie was a lawyer from Bardstown -- he was the man that handled it,I got documented proof that he handled her estate.
NG: Old newspaper, I have a newspaper here about fifty years -- 1919 newspaper.
KC: But this Conley gave this woman how much property out here?
NG: He bought her twenty acres of land and gave her two thousand dollars. Inother words, ten dollars worth of land and two thousand dollars. How much do you think, now if you could buy land for fifty cents an acre, twenty acres was two dollars, I mean ten dollars. Now if you got two thousand dollars, you got a lot 19:00of buying power.
KC: Right, and she owned slaves, you said.
NG: Most of the slaves she owned where mostly her half sisters and like that,and they lived and died together. She's buried down the road. They never did separate, see. They were close. And then the other people in the neighborhood are close. And she was kind of a -- did I say religion was big business? And I got stuff, that she used to rent those slaves out, but the big thing was religion in those days. Although some of those slaves weren't very religious.
KC: What kind of community though formed around her --
NG: Oh, the closest community you've ever seen in your life. Even when I was aboy we had one church. Now we have eleven and a half or twelve churches and everything's-- In other words Negroes are going back, history's repeating itself, they're going back to the old tribal stuff. They don't call it a tribe, they call it a church, but it acts as the same thing, 'cause it separates them. And anytime you are separated -- in this church -- you have five and two halves 20:00Baptist churches out here, two halves I said. Now I can go along with the Presbyterian, we don't have a Catholic is the only thing we don't have. Presbyterian, Methodist, any other one of a kind. But that Christ Church, that's a ridiculous church they don't believe nobody going to heaven but them, I don't know why this man here, and I hope white people don't feel that way.
KC: What was the first church out here though?
NG: Forrest Baptist Church.
KC: Forrest Baptist Church.
NG: Forrest Baptist Church, yeah.
KC: And that was I guess long after Green Street was established?
NG: Oh yeah, Green Street was established-- See people, Negroes lived in GreenStreet -- town -- long time, they had church there before slaves were at Forrest. But see they were members of Green Street Baptist Church, we read the document on stuff. They walked everyday see, they walked in order to be able to have regular-- The first church was organized down the road about where the church is now, on this road. 21:00
KC: On Petersburg Road?
NG: Yeah, on Petersburg. There are stumps and a rail fence, just logs and a railfence that's just something to hold the children, it was the summertime, I'm sure. And then they built a church, a log church, and Uncle Ed Green told me that when they got ready to build this church that I show in this picture there, that modern church so to speak, with no running water, no nothing just -- out of milled lumber, why the old man, the pastor of the church, his name was Reverend William Reed, so they said, "Well we're gonna tear the old church down, gonna put it right here on this land where it's sitting at." They said, "No, we can't do that." Said, "This is God's house," said "We can't tear down God's house, that would be a sin." So the only way the preacher could do it, he took the pick axe and started tearing the logs down, then they all followed him. But otherwise they wouldn't touch it, couldn't get a man to touch it. That old man told me that, old man Ed Green told me that.
KC: But your grandfather wasn't a member of that church, he was a member ofGreen --
NG: Yes sir, my grandfather -- see they came out of Green Street.
KC: Ok, ok, this was a spin off?22:00
NG: They always say Green Street was the Mother Church, so Green Street is theMother Church, that's the way they put it all the time. We are a part of Green Street.
KC: Where did your grandfather and grandmother, now married, did they buyproperty in this area?
NG: Oh yes, oh yes. We still own my grandfather's place over there [stop andstock corner?], a little old piece of land about -- could put this house on it, on Poplar Level Road. That's where Buddy Goodwin lived. And right over here, at my grandmother's we had two acres and there was ten of us ten brothers and sisters of us who own it.
KC: Oh, I see.
NG: We still own it, it's the only piece of land that has never changed hands inthe area.
KC: Now where is that again?
NG: Right over here on the Newburg Bypass, right across in front of me here.
KC: You still own that?
NG: Still own it, yeah.
KC: What kind of work did your grandparents do, your grandfather do?
NG: What all Negroes did in this general area depends on what was available inwalking distance and their farming. 23:00
NG: Yeah, related to [crops?] -- and domestic service.
KC: Was this area good for farming? You mentioned earlier that originally it hadbeen a swamp.
NG: Well, now this area wasn't, but they worked for the rich the other farmers.
KC: Oh I see so they.
NG: Of course. Listen, they did it, though. They cleared the land and when itgot dry enough they planted the garden, and everything, they really did. Yeah, they plowed it. Yeah they had a big garden every year.
KC: Were there a lot of freemen who bought property around here?
NG: No. Most of the people who bought property around here were descendants ofslaves and the plantations, like the Peter Lowe [i.e., Laws] right up here off Petersburg Road? Peter Lowe, see. Well, his house still stands, one room of his old house still standing. It was the first house built after slavery and when he done that, why the white people down the road teased him called him "Petersburg" and never used his first name -- never a black last name, they just used the first name. And that's why this here place is called Petersburg. 24:00
KC: It's named for --
NG: After Peter Lowe, see. And I would show you here on the map if I can findthis thing here. [Paper rustles.]
KC: And this is your 1879 directory reprint.
NG: 1879. Reprint, but I have the original though.
NG: See we had a [?] live out here, I'll show you [?]. Let's see, Peter Lowe
KC: This is the two mile house map.
NG: The two mile house yeah, church, McMahan, McMiken -- there, right there, hishouse stand right there, one room still there. Do you see Lowe?
KC: I see it.
NG: See Peter was all he used didn't use [?]. You know Lowe Road, up the road,Lowe Road up there?
KC: Uh huh.
NG: That's where he belonged as a slave. But they all came here.
KC: That was the first house out here?
NG: No, this was the first one that a Negro built after he built a log house. It25:00was a two room job with a kind of a breezeway between, but it was simple to find because you know how he got his plan? It was the same kind of thing he had done on the plantation was a log house, so he had probably built them there before for slaves. And just about move to the other side of the road and build the same thing.
KC: After the war, when the slaves were freed, a lot of them, I guess a few at atime perhaps, settled in this area is that right, from nearby plantations?
NG: It was a must, it was a must. If they lived in the general area [?] theyfind the places there's just so much land, or limited where they could go, you know.
KC: And this was it?
NG: A few of them went to Johnsontown; a few of them went up there on[Nachand?]; wherever land was available, see. Sometimes people had left good land to Negroes, see. Now this was the largest area that a Negro could spread in see. And this, it's the biggest now inside of Jefferson County.
KC: There, isn't there a place called Berrytown, Griffytown nearby?26:00
NG: No --
KC: Where is that?
NG: Outside Middletown, up in Anchorage,
KC: Oh that's up that way.
NG: See I'm house commissioner, I'm on it see.
KC: I see.
NG: See, I'm house.
KC: That was a community, though.
NG: I'm embarrassed, but nobody up there knows how to do research. I've foundtheir name but they don't seem to know how to dig back in there and I just don't want to go into it. It's just a little bit more than I want. I think if I handle this general area here, I've got my hands full. Listen I've got a lot of work to do, and when you study a while, when you study this stuff a while, the sad thing about it is, you're not what you know but how much you don't know. That's what worries me about more than anything, landscaping or whatever it is. I don't worry about so much, it's what I don't know. And boy, I'll tell you, there a lot that you don't know, you've got a lot to learn. Even at seventy-one you've got a lot to learn.
KC: Uh huh. Tell me about your parents.
NG: Well, my mother and father were good Christian people who loved their kidsand everything, but they didn't have no -- my father was a church man, 'cause he was deacon in the church, a church clerk like that. That was the highest he got; 27:00that's what he wanted to get, other than just a laborer. And my mother did whatever she could to help take care of us twelve kids, see.
KC: They lived out here though?
NG: Yeah lived here, she died in my house, my mother did.
KC: Did they live on this very property?
NG: No, no.
KC: Where did they live?
NG: Shoot, my mother lived over on my grandmother's place. That's where I wasraised was on my grandmother's place. And [when I married?] I bought this place myself, see.
NG: But this is still part of the plantation, see, cause there was thirty eightthousand eight hundred acres here see.
KC: And that plant--, the Hike's plantation.
NG: Yeah, well, not, I would call that a land grant. That's too much for aplantation. That's too much land. I think that's why it cost -- the reason why they got the land, was distinguished service during Revolutionary War, see.
KC: I see.
NG: That's where that land, like the Bullitt's and all of them, that's why itcome down.
KC: Yeah, that almost was a land grant.
NG: Yeah, a land grant.
KC: So he really didn't have to buy thirty eight thousand acres?
NG: Give to him, so to speak.
KC: They gave it to him.
NG: Well, that's the only way -- Listen, they had so much they didn't know whatto do with it
NG: And at the time they hadn't done enough research on precision tools and28:00chemistry to utilize the stuff, see, so that's the way it worked.
KC: Your father, though, you say was a laborer.
KC: And I guess he worked for -- worked mostly on farms?
NG: No, a contractor mostly, in the rock quarries and stuff like that, and heworked on a farm too [?].
KC: He told you most of these stories, and you picked up a lot of thisinformation from old people?
NG: No, I picked up a lot of it, he just give me the key.
KC: Uh huh.
NG: Some things, see and I guess the biggest thing was, me and my mother, a fewyears before she died, about twenty years ago, we're going through Buechel Bank Lane, and all time I've been there with my grandmother, and all the time I passed up there, she said to me, "See that old building in there? Your grandmother was born in that cellar." She said it so solemn, and that's the first time I learned it, see. In other words, the only way a Negro can get an 29:00answer, he's got to be observant with conversation here, because they weren't writing down too much then. My mother and father could write, now, I remember them saying that, but Negro slaves and the [?] slaves, they wanted to forget slavery, they figured it was antagonistic to them and they figured it was a violent subject and that's why they don't nobody [?]. But to me it's history.
KC: But the ones who had been slaves weren't concerned about remembering those tales.
NG: No, that's it -- they didn't want to remember, they wanted to forget it.
KC: And so as an adult it was not always passed on
NG: Well, in a sense now, some slaves had it so rough they wanted to forgetabout it. They couldn't think how to make a living, when they had to work for white people, think about what happened to their people, [?], so they wanted to forget it. And I think it was smart of them they did, 'cause as a matter of survival. And I think it was smart that they did. Then again, you're a white 30:00man, I'm black -- me and you, we don't know nothing about what happened back then. And we just can't live in the past, we got to take the present and future and try to make it better.
KC: Your father never was a slave or grandfather or mother?
NG: No, he's born in 1872, my father was born in 1872. And he's older than mymother, see; my mother was born about 1888. About sixteen years difference in their age. But at any rate they, in slave time, they-- NG: They wanted to forget about it and I think it's well that they did, see. Ad of course I don't know somewhere down the line, I could never understand why there's such a wide gulf between the white and the black. The white had education and the black didn't. 31:00The white had the money and the black didn't. Anytime I got everything and you got nothing, I get worried about you. But you know, customs and traditions, you'd have a hard time making me something other than a Baptist out of me, you would. I'm Baptist see.
KC: Uh huh. It's so much a part of your --
NG: It's my life.
NG: That's it and I believe in it and that's it. I mean and, yep, I can see whya man can be born again, be a Christian and be of another denomination. Cause Jesus didn't say you had to be a Baptist. But they hadn't been trained that well and you all know the church better the Baptist church 'cause I understand their language so to speak.
KC: Why were so many blacks -- [phone rings] -- let me turn this off. [Taperecorder turns off, then resumes.]
KC: Why were so many slaves and former slaves a part of the Baptist church. Whydid they become Baptist or Methodist?
NG: Well, the South.32:00
KC: Yeah, because of the prominence of both denominations here.
NG: Prominence of the South, I think had a lot to do with it. I think that. I doknow, if you go up to Springfield, Kentucky, you start definitely [?] Catholics. Lebanon and up that way? There's Catholics up there see.
KC: You mean to say blacks became Catholics? NG: Catholics up there, most allthe blacks up there are Catholic. Washington County and all up through there and-- what's the name of that little town? I go around the state see I [?] Indianapolis, Cincinnati, [?]? I build up a pretty good rotation they like it so well, man, I keep busy. I'm telling you. And I've been all around to Loretto, Kentucky; Greenburg; Cave City; Springfield; Mt. Washington; Shelbyville-- 33:00
KC: You've been around then.
NG: Oh, I've been to every one of those, but I'm see I belong to I've neverplayed baseball in my life, I've never rode a motorcycle in my life. But I belong to them helped organized motorcycle club but never rode a motorcycle club in my life.
KC: Is that that there's a motorcycle club over here, is that it?
NG: Well, there's a motorcycle club over there, but it used to meet here andthey made a mistake and went down on Indian Trail, and now everybody, nobody's got any good blood for motorcycle clubs.
NG: I used to let them use, clean the lot up and pick up equipment and cut mygrass for them and everything and some weeks you wouldn't see them and they haven't done any good since they left here knowing they done wrong. I wouldn't let them come back because I just couldn't think, I didn't want them to think they was doing be a favor when I was an old man coming up and I just can't get the idea somebody thinking they're doing me a favor and I'm trying to help them.
KC: How many children did your parents have? You're one of how many?
KC: Twelve children?
NG: Ten of us living, [?] living, and my oldest brother, two years older than Iam living.
KC: Did they all remain in Petersburg?34:00
NG: Well, I have one sister in Buffalo, New York; I got one sister, two sistersin Louisville; and I got a brother that lives in the West End. That's were we got it -- we haven't got out of Jefferson County, so yes we're in Petersburg.
KC: Why do you insist upon calling-- let me put it this way: why do so manypeople refer to this area as Newburg and not Petersburg? NG: Well, it's simple. You see, that's why I'm working so hard to get a library out here. We have never had any kind of nothing to identify with. See, if you were to write a letter waiting here you'd write Louisville, Kentucky. Well my wife's people in Alabama thinks we live in Louisville -- we're a long ways from Louisville.
NG: Now back in the old days the post office used to be out in Newburg, that'swhere the post office was. So every time, they say, well ride out to Newburg, when people come out to Newburg, see, and say, "We're going out to Newburg." Then nobody there to challenge them; I'm the only man challenge the thing, in my time. I might have been late but I done it -- better late than never. 35:00
And there see I was able to get the park named Petersburg Park. Why I was ableto get the road named Petersburg Park, because when I showed this to the planning board of Jefferson County they couldn't deny me the opportunity. That was my option and they couldn't deny me and as long as I met their guidelines on the road -- you had to have fifty percent of the people, well I'm a hundred percent. From here to the railroad tracks. And you couldn't have no two Newburg Roads that's confusing, still confusing.
KC: Where did the word Newburg come from?
NG: Well Newburg means "new town" [?] Old Shelbyville Road. And in German itmeans new town. That's what it means. The Germans started up Newburg up there at the -- h you got a lot of Newburgs all over the United States, I guess, but they started up there at Old Shep and Poplar Level Road. When I was a kid there was a lot of houses up there used to be old Shively's old grocery where the post office was, and oh boy, I know a lot of things that's all torn away now.
KC: And since you, all this whole area was close to that it just took its name.36:00
NG: Our mail come there see, the mail. The mail run see.
KC: Oh your mail.
NG: That's the only communications you had was mail. You didn't have noautomobile. A mule -- how far in a day could you get on a mule? So that was it.
KC: When did your interest in Petersburg and history and all begin? Did it beingat four years old when you listened to your great, your grandmother's stories?
NG: As I think about it I can't ever remember when I haven't, quit thinkingabout it. But I didn't know how to turn it on fast enough to get what I ought to got, see. 'Cause see this old man, Ed Green, I used to sit down underneath his hickory nut tree and he'd tell me all about the battles of the Civil War and everything see, about Sherman and Grant.
KC: He served with both of them?
NG: Yeah and he would get so emotional and disturbed that he might shoot a fewrebel soldiers right there in the fields.
KC: Oh, is that right?
NG: Yeah, he was a good old man, and a Christian man, but he really lovedSherman and Grant, see. [Got?] orders to march and he's being a character so close to him and heard more about battle plans and Hattiesburg, they didn't pay 37:00no attention to him, see. But he was smart enough to absorb it, see.
KC: Did he tell you anything about Sherman and Grant?
NG: Oh yeah, he'd talk about them all the time. Fine men, don't you mess withSherman and Grant. Buried him in his old uniform.
KC: What about Sherman's march through Georgia and burning and all that.
NG: Well, I'm sure he wouldn't [?]. Sherman came through their plantation, theytook him along. He didn't-- See, there was a closeness in the South before the war, between the black and the white. You were the black, and you stayed in your place, and you were white -- I ain't saying it was good, now, I don't say I want it. But they had a way of organizing. They had a crew of Negros he was with, they told me that a woman would run -- a woman run the thing. They would [?] a big cannery they had all that fruit and stuff, growing on the river. They'd pick that fruit and make preserves and sell it. And Ed knew when to pick it, he knew about pruning of it -- he told me how to prune trees. 38:00
KC: Where was he from?
NG: He was from South Carolina, down there around -- I can't think. I got it ona tape somewhere what the name of that river is. But he was on this big King Plantation, see.
KC: And how did he find his way into the Union Army?
NG: Sherman come through and found him farming.
KC: Oh I see so he kind of liberated him.
NG: Sherman came through and found him farming. Sherman liked him so well heturned him over to Grant, see, 'cause that's what they were looking for: Negroes that had the ability to lead, you know. Made it easy for them.
KC: Was there discrimination I wonder in the Union Army? Discrimination againstblacks? Was there, I think a lot of people think.
NG: Well, from what I picked up from Carl Sandburg, you know -- that's an oldbook and that belonged to white people, that wasn't written by black people, and it wasn't written for black people. And the former President of the Greater Louisville's widow give me this book and she bought this book over fifty years ago.
KC: That's Carl Sandburg's biography of Lincoln.
NG: And I read it and it's the most fabulous book I ever read about the issue.39:00Do you know that in 1863 there were more Negroes killed white people in New York City than there was in the South? You read that book, you'll find it. They didn't want to go fight see. They were killing, so -- You know, Washington -- there were slaves in Washington.
NG: Washington, D.C. And Virginia and all that other -- Washington was a hub ofslaves. But when they got them organized and equipment and everything, why it changed -- they sold to the South where they were in cotton fields normally, and then come back and say look you got to let those people go. KC: I just wondered though from listening to Ed Green whether you'd heard anything from him about conditions, the conditions of say the black soldier serving in the Union Army. NG: No, he must have been pretty -- and my grandfather was, too. They must have been pretty well pleased with the condition in which they served. Course they [?] Harry Truman, done away with it. You know that? KC: Yeah, yeah, uh huh, uh 40:00huh. NG: Truman done away with all that stuff , and it's better for everybody 'cause you can't -- You see, I know a friend of mine that was in Korea, and said they were walking along there, one time -- a boy that worked with me -- and he said, "Those little soldiers said, 'we could kill you, we won't want to kill you -- you look the same as we are.'" They killed his commanding officer, just cut his head off. See, that -- I mean that's the kind of thing, so when eliminate that thing why, soldier, American soldier is an American soldier, don't care what color he is out there. He's just a soldier like everybody else.
KC: You mentioned that this fellow had worked for you, you went into the nurserybusiness you said when you were fifteen?
NG: Yeah, fifteen when I started working for the nursery. I started working atthis nursery when I was fifteen and I'd go there on my bicycle and the man looked out the window and said, "George what you got out there?" said Mr. 41:00Schultz said, "This is a man" -- [?] Schultz Company, at Gardiner Lane and Bardstown Road. Said this is the man I brought you. "Man?" said, "where's the man at?" Said, "That ain't nothing but a boy!" Said, "Mr. Schultz, he works over there with Mr. Dahl." Said, "You work with Mr. Dahl? Good enough, come on in and work." And I stayed there fifteen years.
KC: Where was this again? What company or what nursery?
NG: Jacob Schultz Company
KC: Jacob Schultz, what kind of company was that?
NG: It was forest and nursery. It was the biggest at one time.
KC: Where was that located?
NG: Gardiner Lane, Sharp Lane -- where Gardiner Lane Shopping Center is, there.
NG: We really had a diversified type of nursery. [?] a lot of iris, and peonies,and dahlias, man we had over a thousand varieties of dahlias. Man you talk about something -- you know those dahlias were separated with name, characters, style and everything. It's really something, in our nursery. I mean, we had it -- so I went in there and of course--
KC: Where you the only black working there?
KC: Where you the only black man working there?
NG: No, no, no, I wasn't there, then they hired some more blacks in there, comein there and work. And they were paying three and a half a day. 42:00
KC: Was that good money?
NG: Oh my God -- that's like fifteen dollars a day, and twenty dollars --
KC: Uh, huh.
NG: Three dollars and a half a day, and black and white getting the same thing,unless you was a white boss, see. And the boss got six dollars a day. White boss -- thirty-six dollars a week -- he thought he was making money, man. So, what we did, we got this -- on a -- I got a white [?] and I started picking up -- I wanted to learn. That was my weakness, I wanted to learn. That's I wanted to learn a new phase. And no [?] I made a mistake, on the farm, I left the farm -- there was an old man named Tom, from Texas. Tallest old man I've seen, but the man couldn't be that tall, but I was a kid then and I thought he was. He told me I made a mistake, said "You ought to have stayed in school. You done been around this farm two, three years." See I was fifteen, and I'd been on the ground several years, out of school, see, quit school. And he said, "You ought to go back to school." Said, "They're going to get trucks and they're going to haul all the citrus stuff here," said "you got Mexican labor down there," and said, 43:00"You will starve to death up here." That man was right. Man, that's been -- God knows -- that's -- when that man told me that, that's been over sixty-eight years ago. He told me that, and it shocked me so, I never had nothing stun me like that. So when I got the chance I went over there. I didn't like the nursery, 'cause over in the farm, every row had to be straight, everything had to be exact and this is the farm, everything had to be clean, no [?].
KC: Where was this farm?
NG: Right across the road, where Wellington is right now. Wellington, where thecollege is right there on Bardstown Road, by the expressway.
KC: Oh, you mean --
NG: We rented that property too, we rented that property. We rented farm land.
KC: Oh, ok.
NG: We rented all that -- the boss rented all that, the man I worked for rentedall that. [?] They were an old family and what they did, they worked there so when I went over to Schultz's and started working, the only thing that impressed me was I saw a woman buy a little perennial, a phlox it was, and she paid 44:00seventy-five cents for that plant and that was more than we're getting for a bushel of cabbage and I said, "This must be the thing." People got money like that must be getting another clientele. That's the first time, they got [?] it was in 1924, and it was the first time I ever met a governor of the state of Kentucky. Governor Fields came down there, and I was kind of a handy man for the boss, a flunky so to speak. Whatever you bought, you didn't have to say a lot about it, go out in the field and dig it for you, right in the yard. And I put these shrubs in the Governor's car. And he was a fair man so when I got back, he said, "Wait a minute." He give me forty cents. So my boss was standing there, he was the straw boss. He said, "Who was that man?" And I said, "I don't know who he is." "Don't you know the governor of the state of Kentucky?" I said, "No I don't know." Here I was, a fifteen year old boy, didn't know who the governor of the state of Kentucky was. I bet you there ain't never been a time since then that I didn't know who the governor of the state of Kentucky is. See that woke 45:00me up, see. He talked about it, he said, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Here you are a fifteen year old boy and don't know who the governor of the state of Kentucky is."
KC: When did you drop out of school? At what age?
NG: Quite young, yeah.
KC: Yeah, you knew how to read and write you said.
NG: Yeah, but I've learned a lot about reading and writing since I left school.Boy, I tell you, I did a lot of reading -- I've, what I did when I left school, what I did -- what we do in the nursery business is all botanical stuff, Latin, see.
NG: I don't have no problems, I can tell you that much.
KC: You picked a lot of information up.
NG: I don't have no problems. If I have to go to school [?] was hindsight. LordI could be a PhD cause I know how to go get things -- now I learned a lot how to do things see and still got a lot to learn.
KC: Uh huh. You stayed in the nursery business for a good while didn't you?
NG: I'm still in it.
KC: You're still in it -- your own business now.
NG: I own my own business but I stayed, I worked for that company seventeen46:00years and I've been in it myself since 1940.
KC: What is your business called, your nursery business?
NG: "Landscape and Lawn Service," I call it that, but actually I mostly handlebig trees and all that see. That's what kind of push going there. But I can do any of it. I just got through doing a big job. Anything in landscaping, I got all kinds of equipment, chainsaws--
KC: I saw all that -- what is all that out there? All those trucks?
NG: Stuff I use in landscaping. Each and everything. We're snowed under now, butI had a boy work for me thirty years and he died last year, the first of the year. I didn't die with him but I sure miss him, I'll tell you that.
KC: Was he a kind of partner or something?
KC: Was he a kind of partner?
NG: Oh, no. Just working. I don't have no partners. No, they don't want to putno money up -- it takes money, it takes time, and you got to be a good landscaper, you got to do more than just work -- you got to take that thing to bed with you sometimes, think about it. You have to come up with ideas. You have people to suit, who -- you want money, you want their money, you have to suit those people.
KC: Uh huh. Has that been a good business for you, the landscape business?
NG: For me it's been excellent, I'll tell you why. I'll tell you why it's been47:00good: I didn't have nothing when I started, didn't have nothing but a model T Ford and a trailer.
KC: That was in 1940, when you began?
NG: Yeah, I built this house with it, and bought all the trucks and tractors andbulldozers and things [?] other jobs and still going. So I can't think of any -- I don't have to retire if I don't get too physically disabled.
KC: Uh, huh
NG: I think this -- [?] living sometimes. You know, if a guy says, "Look" -- ifa guy like me says, "Look I work with Mr. So and So," alright. He will never get to be chairman of the board. See I can be chairman of the board one day, I can be president one day, I'm treasurer all the time and landscaper, repair shovel, weld or anything. I can do it all and actually it's the most gratifying thing ever happened to me. To be able to do some of the things you want to do, even 48:00though you don't make a lot of money out of it you get to do it anyway.
And the most gratifying thing is when you're seventy years old and still indemand, people still call you. Now that's -- and like the way you do things. Now that's the thing, right when they got ready to move a large tree at the courthouse, they asked me about it, [?] they'd tried all the big shots, they got me and I moved them. [?] The only difference between this and a typewriter you got just a bigger piece of equipment to move. That's all there is to it. If you know how to move one tree you can move them all.
KC: Were there opportunities, a lot of opportunities available for blacks or anyopportunities -- you went into business yourself in 1940.
NG: It's hard for me to say that the opportunity wasn't there, because if Icould do it I can't see why other people wouldn't do it, see. I would be rather [selfish?] to say I was the only black that had a chance to do something, I don't think so. I might have been better prepared literally, I wish I had been better -- I'd like to be a lawyer or a CPA, those are the two things I'd like to 49:00be. If I were going back to school, I'd want to be a lawyer or a CPA, 'cause they're the two things I need, lean on so heavily, see.
KC: When you went into business you didn't have any capital you said, other thanthe model --
NG: Naw, still don't. [Laughs] So far as capital goes, what I call capital, Istill haven't got any, but all I want to get out of life is a living anyway.
KC: Uh huh, uh huh. To move on and perhaps change the subject a bit, during the1950s and so on, the Civil Rights Movement began and into the '50s and '60s it began to pick up steam. What do you recall about that period? Did that have any affect on your life?
NG: No, all the riot, the demonstrations -- all my [?] white, so they still getwhere I'm at -- I never did make any inflammatory statements, see. All the news releases [that I made?] I never made an inflammatory statement, 'cause I never 50:00could. And the reason why I couldn't, I knew too much about Carl Sandberg and stuff handed down through my parents and all. And I think about the history of the Civil War, how one white man stood up and killed another man another white man so I could be a free man. No, I never could do that. No, I'd be an ingrate if I did it.
KC: Did you think that blacks were well off, and --
NG: No, I didn't think that. At the same time -- look it's the way they dothings. Now, I don't believe that I can come out here and kill somebody and make a point, or burn something down. I don't think that makes a point. My father told me the only way to overcome, if there's any events you want to overcome, overcome it with intelligence. That's the thing we got to think about: you've got to make an intelligent approach to whatever you do.
KC: But Dr. King wasn't burning and killing and--
NG: No, he didn't. And today people all over the world used his philosophy. You51:00know, in Ireland and places like that, you read about it. They use his philosophy. You can't -- if you're going to burn, you can get burnt, that's all I can tell you. There's always somebody ready to burn. Cause you got somebody just like you, not thinking. But when you come to thinking, there's always going to be some reasonable people say, "Look, this guy ain't doing nothing, he's going straight down the road and he's going to make it."
KC: So you weren't involved yourself?
NG: No, I never was involved, I've never been in a demonstration in my life andthey come to me when I was fighting urban renewal [?] NAACP, the Urban League-- some white dude come, all that begged me to come around. I said, "No I can't do that. I'm going to take the judiciary system's work, make it work." It's a good country. If you or -- I prove it, I think I demonstrate without a doubt if you work with anything long enough, hard enough it will work. And I can tell you one thing -- and right here is a demonstration of, this is an example of it: it's 52:00always said that no man could ever stop imminent domain. Well I can show you, I've got documented proof that I stopped imminent domain and uh --
KC: You mean with the urban renewal.
NG: Yeah urban renewal, and if you're right, why -- you got to be right, though.
KC: When was this, 1968 or so?
NG: Well, this is 1974.
KC: Oh, so it's --
NG: Came down see. Now this is Western Recorder. Let's see one ninety --
KC: You're talking about fighting imminent domain, urban renewal? Ah, yes, UrbanRenewal and Community Development Agency of Louisville versus Nelson Daniel Goodwin and Zio -- how to do you say?
NG: Z-O-L-A, Zola.
KC: Zola Goodwin, his wife. Huh. What was the judgment in that case?
NG: They ruled to me.
KC: You were able to what?
NG: To survive, stay here.53:00
KC: To stay here? They wanted to come in and what did they want to do?
NG: Tear this house down and leave it like field, like they got out here.
KC: What -- I don't see any houses out --
NG: That's what I didn't see! You see, the part is this, when urban renewal camein here people thought I was just being controversial. And they say, "Look, you're black, and you got an old shoddy house and we're going to tear it down." Alright, you tear my house down --
KC: This looks like a nice house to me.
NG: But don't build [?], don't build me no house, see? It was a whole lot betterthan this before my wife took sick, buddy. We were really on the ball. I can always come back with that, but she's the first consideration.
NG: But, they still don't build no better house, alright. And they said, "Youcan go somewhere else." I said, "Where?" They didn't know. I said, "What about -- you're gonna tear my house down, what you going to build?" Said, "We don't build no houses." "Well if you don't build no houses, what are you talking about tearing my house down." I mean you got to look at -- Said, "How much you want for your house?" I said, "It's not for sale." I said, "I ain't going to sell my house without knowing where I'm going." I said, "My house not for sale." And that was his key, right there, word, if I said, "sell," what I wanted for it, 54:00they would put it in escrow like they did, make me take it. If they put it in escrow I wouldn't take it, because I never did put no price on it. So what they did they said, "We'll, you can go out this place," there's a Negro sitting there, a great big black Negro, black as that book. He said, "You can go anywhere you want to, Mr. Goodwin." I said, "I'll tell you one thing my friend, you're just as black as I am, let me see you go down to the French Quarters" at that time. "I can't go." I said, "Well what you think I --" I said, "I'll tell you what, you all say you want me to go. Find me a [quiet?] amount of land or a little better, 'cause you're going to take mine and anytime you take a man's something, you ought to give him something it better isn't that right? A little more land, and with a better house than I got on it, and zoned so I can use it commercially. I'll say it with you, there won't be no [?]. So they came to us, I can't do it either.
KC: This man worked for urban renewal?
NG: I was talking to the whole group then.
KC: Uh huh.
NG: He was sitting there for them, he worked for urban renewal. See, but that's55:00what you got to think. People got to think about things.
KC: But they evidently were successful with your neighbors, because surroundingyour house here is nothing but open --
NG: Cause they didn't try. Well, they didn't try.
KC: How long, what used to sit on these fields?
NG: I want to tell you. They say, "Look," to me say, "we tore that down, we putin sewers, we put in streets -- can you live out -- that's snow out there, could you live in a street or a sewer out there today?' We live in houses man, I'm talking about houses, I'm not talking -- about any kind of house I got on a snowy day like this is better than no house at all.
KC: Better than no house at all.
NG: And that's what they didn't come up with. and the houses they built werepoorly constructed, lot of trouble.
KC: They were hoping to use it to put I guess subdivisions in here.
NG: They were going to -- they did, they did this is done that way. But this isgoing to be apartment houses, here. And you know you don't want no more apartment houses, you know what's happening to them apartment houses -- go out here [?[ all. Ain't no way for a human being to live in those [?] they rob you, 56:00you come out your television is gone, your bed furniture's gone, your wife's raped. There ain't no way to live in an apartment. You don't put that many people together. You got to understand that zero from zero makes a big zero don't it.
KC: Uh huh.
NG: You take a man he hasn't got an education and the man next door to him ain'tgot any, and the man in the next door ain't got any, and the economic security is insufficient to survive, what do you do? You got a loaf of bread, I take your loaf of bread, see. I mean, that's jungle law. So that's what it is -- them apartments is the jungle. St. Louis and other cities -- it didn't work. Actually, what we're doing now, what I'm trying to do now, is get the Housing Authority to liquidate urban renewal. Get out government -- get out of business -- the government can't do it. Now all the fine subdivisions has been built, like out in Hurstbourne and Highball, all that, that's been built since this thing started, it can be done, but you got to get somebody with -- you can't take a politician, sit down there and say, "You are coordinator and you this --" 57:00I'm [?] the Housing Authority and I know what it's like, see, and they can't do it.
KC: Uh, huh. Uh, huh. What has the urban renewal done to Petersburg here?
NG: Ruined it.
KC: Ruined it?
NG: Brought a lot of murders out here. In fact, we got a case down there now.Ruined it, that's right they ruined it. That's what they done for it.
KC: I guess --
NG: You got to think about -- communities are not trees, they're not houses,they're people. People is what we're interested in. People is what you're interested in, you're not interested in buildings, it's people. You got to think about people, the quality of life -- right of education, my [?] is to improve the quality of life of the individual who preserves it, and in turn he'll improve other people. But the average educated person today, what do they use it for? To take advantage of some stupid guy. I mean, that don't work, see.
KC: How exactly, tell me exactly how urban renewal ruined this community, I'm --
NG: Well, it came in and tore the houses down. And they were already doing it inLouisville. And they didn't have no place for the people to move, see. And the 58:00houses they did put up were poor quality houses. I'll show you why they ruined the thing, and I'll give you an example of some of the stuff they done that I protested against. [Tape shuts off and restarts.]
KC: Oh, this is a newspaper article from the Times. "Newburg Group Drops Part ofits Effort to Develop Low Cost Houses for Area," January 6, 1971, Louisville Times. Uh huh.
NG: See, they haven't lived up to their commitment and that's the thing thatdisturbed me.
KC: Uh, huh. They didn't, they promised --
NG: Go on back to them other pages.
KC: They promised you to, that they would develop the houses out here butdidn't, is that right?
NG: That's right. Look there, there's some hot air over there, he's the one thatdid all the talking, never built a chicken coop in his life. 59:00
KC: Uh, huh.
NG: See you can't do it that way. See, that's what I had out there showing themabout how Kinnard was, said he was going to do something about it and nobody would ever get a job, and you know they're lying, next day I was looked, three days later, the same man build up those houses had Bishop Lane Plaza.
KC: Jessie Warners. Didn't he serve in the house?
NG: He was the first regional officer we had here.
KC: Uh, huh.
NG: We have a new guy now, a Negro guy now, I've never met him.
KC: Tell me, I'm probably neglecting a lot of areas, but tell me what you'retrying to do with your Petersburg Historical Society. Out in front of your house you have a big sign that says "Petersburg"
NG: Petersburg Historical Society has done a lot. It instills pride in blackpeople in their community. See what happens is when a Negro gets a job, and gets to making some money he wants to move out of the black community. Everybody is 60:00-- they do it. Look the Negroes will never rise until that Negro who thinks he's so smart stays there and helps pull his own bootstraps up. Now he moves into a white neighborhood, well, the white man has got a nice yard, yes, but he worked to build it. Well why can't he stay in the black neighborhood and do the same thing. So the idea is to instill pride in Negros and what they have and take what they got and make what they want out of it, instead of take what somebody else has got and do nothing but just live on it, see. The West End is the perfect example. The West End was beautiful when they moved out of it. Look at it. You have to paint and repair and all or it'll fall to pieces on you. So this is the thing, and then again, the library thing, I always try --
KC: Uh, huh. You're trying to get a library for this area?
NG: Yeah trying, I think we got a good chance to get a library.
KC: When might it be built?
KC: When might it be built?
NG: Oh I don't know when, we been working on it for seven years. Right now, I'mhaving a meeting with the library people the sixteenth of next month. Fifteenth or sixteenth of next week. And I've been to Frankfort, talked to the Governor, 61:00and I talked to everybody I could over the years, but always run into one thing: no money. So they have a million and a half dollars of the urban renewal left over from this project and they trying every way they can to spend that money without spending it on the library and I'm trying to use library money, see, use that money for the library. I think this -- you see what a library [?], we want to put it up here, at the end of this street.
KC: Petersburg Road.
NG: See, I went all around to get this library, see what could be done. Now aman that is living as I am, when you mention a library, you got to know he don't know about no library. So what we did, we talked to the Governor, we talked to the state library people, we talked to the gentleman who's out there [?] Louisville library now. And we talked, I talked to superintendent of the Jefferson County School Board and talked to the present superintendent VanHoose 62:00-- this was six or seven years ago, see. And they showed me how it is. They say it's needed and they told me the limitation, about how limited they are, but they have -- what they have is a makeshift thing and what I want is a public library and he feels it would be invaluable to the community. So this is the thing we are trying to do. If you're going to do it, you do it right.
KC: You have an interview, you're going to talk to the library people the fifteenth?
NG: Next week, yeah, I'm going to talk to them about it and then-- See we talkedbefore, we done a lot of work before and I'm trying to follow the philosophy of my grandfather. I take the, I got, the Petersburg Historical Society is composed of the old families so -- whole lot of years, everybody has a whole lot of years in the area, so. Like the Spencers, you name it, everyone's in there. Forrests 63:00and all, well, and I'll send them down to the library, they can look at things they can do. Boy, this is getting to be a lot of work for me, you know, what I'm doing other [?]. When you got a historical society organized, if you don't do nothing but the same thing it gets to be a dead subject. You got to keep exploring, trying to come up with new ideas and new interests, and what can we be doing. I said "We ought to have a library. You won't have to go." That's where the library was born, right here in this house, the idea, see, so --
KC: How many people are involved in your society?
NG: It's small, we got about fifteen. And we had a pilgrimage back toFarmington, man was something.
KC: What do you mean a pilgrimage back to Farmington?
NG: Well we called it, I named it a pilgrimage. We went back to, see Farmingtonwas where Dave Spencer belonged to the Speeds.
KC: Oh, I see.
NG: And the Speeds was from Lexington, see, and Ms. Speed was a Spencer, so. He64:00made the bricks at Farmington, I learned that when I was a boy. And I actually [?] the fort house and I got the millstones here in my yard that once belonged to Farmington and I give him a big grindstone back see. So I got the idea that these kids that are here and I talked to all of them, didn't know anything about it. Some of them's [eighteen?] years old and didn't know a thing about their grandfather living over there. So I said we'll organize a pilgrimage and go back. We'll call it a pilgrimage, like Jewish people do, you know, go back to the Holy Land. I guess I was using the right word, I don't know what kind of grammar I was using, it was true I reached out in left field and got it. So anyhow [?] so what we did, we rented a bus. And I want to tell you it was the biggest bus that Greyhound's got and got that thing back and couldn't hardly get out, the road wasn't angled well. And I got some pictures here I'm gonna show you of them kids and the old spring and they were trying to [?] what are you gonna do, I think this water is contaminated so don't let the children drink out 65:00of the spring. But you couldn't keep the little black kids from drinking out of the spring. "My grandfather drank out of it, we want to see what it's like." And they drank out of it; nobody got sick. Probably wasn't as bad as she thought it was.
KC: Did the Speeds, what kind of property did they own?
NG: They owned a lot of land right there, Speeds did, on both sides of Bardstown Road.
KC: They were slave owners too?
NG: There on Newburg Road, see. They had ninety slaves, that will give you anidea what kind of property -- ninety slaves.
KC: I've been over there and I read that Abraham Lincoln spent some time over there?
NG: Yeah, I got the millstones that was over there. Have you been to theblacksmith shop over there?
KC: Uh, huh.
NG: Did you see my name on that stone?
KC: No, I didn't look at the stones.
NG: That's my name on the stone, I give that stone back. I didn't know if they'dwrite it or not.
KC: They obviously weren't abolitionists then.
KC: The Speeds.
NG: Yeah they were, Lincoln...
KC: I was wondering, --
NG: They set their slaves free in 1856.
KC: Oh, did they?
NG: Sure did! The Speeds were [?] and a lot of the culture that -- these Negrosworked in the houses and everything. Martha Spencer, she was Martha Spencer was 66:00Abraham, Ms. Speed's cook, and they worked in the house and they picked up a lot of that culture and a lot of that they brought back here. And they put this together see, and what they did was my grandfather sent to Pennsylvania to get their cousin to come down here and be a schoolteacher. I don't know how much education he had, but nobody else could read, so that was alright wasn't it.
KC: To start the school out here?
KC: Where was the school located?
NG: In the church.
KC: In the church.
NG: In the old church.
KC: And the church, you told me, where's that again?
NG: Down the road, it was down the road, it's not there no more, it's was onthis side of the road.
KC: On Petersburg Road?
KC: So your grandfather was in on the founding of the church and the school.
NG: Yeah, yeah he did it all.
KC: I guess a lot of --
NG: Now he didn't do it alone.
KC: No, but he was involved.
NG: I'll give him credit for one thing, his ability to do things. See he was acontractor, and my grandfather worked for Dr. Standiford and he drained Standiford Field when he got out of slavery. That's all he did was ditching, so he must have learned it in the Unikon Army or somewhere. And I'll tell you something else, talking about Dr. Standiford. There was an old lady that lived 67:00right across over here, across the street from there. Her name was Ellen Jenkins. She was a slave -- I pick up things now -- she was a slave on Dr. Standiford's farm and Dr. Standiford, young Dr. Standiford in slave time had to go to Pennsylvania on a train on some business, [?] conventions and he wanted her to go along. Mrs. Standiford would not go, said she had something she wanted to do and she wanted her slaves to stay and get that work done. So when he got on the train she ran all the slaves away, including Ellen Jenkins and Ellen Jenkins stayed with the Clayetts on Green Street and she wanted to know where to go and they took her in. And she worked for them till she died, after she lived out here. See I got some stuff I picked up verbally.
KC: Was this after the Civil War?
NG: No, she, they was set free before the Civil War, this girl was. This wasbefore the Civil War.
KC: Oh, I see, so this Dr. Standiford did this. He owned where Standiford Field68:00is, that was his property?
NG: Yeah, that was his property.
KC: That was a farm or a plantation?
NG: Oh man, was it a farm, yes Lord. I don't know how many acres maybe aboutfour hundred.
KC: Tobacco, corn, what, what kind of--
KC: There were a lot of plantations --
NG: I don't really know what that is because my grandfather was wet see --
KC: Oh yeah.
NG: My grandfather's job was to drain it, see.
KC: Oh, I see.
NG: See, he was an engineer in his own right, see, he had a group of men, Idon't know what he paid them or anything, but that's what he did.
KC: Uh, huh.
NG: That shows you, and that's why I'm so opposed to senior citizen movement,and I'm opposed to food stamps , I'm opposed to Medicare, I'm opposed to Social Security and I don't have any of it, I never been in it -- If the slaves could make it everybody in this world ought to be able to make it. They sent them out in this cold world, "Get away! Get off this place the law says you get away!" They didn't have nothing. They come here and built churches, homes. It wasn't a 69:00fine home but it was the best they could make it [?] it was alright. So the slaves -- you didn't you have to think about a cold world, and not like you drive on a road -- this was a mud road, woods, nothing. No sewer line, no indoor plumbing, no nothing. And people survived. Now you here you got this, got everything, this hothouse plant, you can't make a living.
KC: Of course a lot of people died, too, a lot of them.
NG: Well, but they die now, too.
KC: Well, but I think proportionally more died then than now.
NG: Well, but they died, but you got to agree: you know [?] we got someone downhere and they pay fifty dollars a month, but if the light bill is forty-nine dollars, it'd be a dollar a month. You ought to hear them come down complain. [?] cause no matter where you live you got to pay the light bill wouldn't you? 70:00Heat. You ought to hear them come down and complain. So, when you look at it then and now, I'm still considered -- look I ain't saying, look I don't believe [?] how a man lives
NG: Cause nobody was born in no worse house than we were and [?] was fifty-fouryears old. So housing don't make men, and housing is not a [?] sort either, they're just something that you use, but you got to have some common sense to live in that house to survive, that's what it takes.
KC: You mentioned that you were doing roots long before Alex Haley.
KC: Tell me about that.
NG: I didn't call it "roots" though
KC: No, but the idea though
NG: The idea, my idea was that we would put something together to perpetuate,that's what we had done -- a preservation, I'm a kind of a preservationist anyway, I collect old things, see. Like I got those old handcuffs, and that old kettle and stuff like that around the fireplace and that junk. Old milk bottles and stuff like that. In order to -- and that old meal box that's two hundred years old, that's what I put my wood in, fire wood in. So I'm kind of a 71:00preservationist see, I collect old things, see. I -- just like that book there, see.
NG: It's good to take note of the hardships of the generation before you, itgives you something to gauge yourself. You say to yourself, "Look, I'm living in the nineteenth century and I ain't living as good as them people, and the reason why is I'm not doing it." There's no reason why I should take and have to live worse than my grandfather lived, but I know people that around here don't have as much as my grandfather had. I mean they don't have nothing see. So, there's no reason why I should be living in a house like he lived, no reason.
KC: Uh, huh. Do you think -- so doing what you're doing, that is, preserving thepast and digging up the past --
NG: I think that's important, I think there should be more people doing it. Andnot just any -- you know the sad thing of it is they just started digging up 72:00black history but black has been a part of American history every since America has been America. The reason why I have so much trouble with Negroes, they don't know how to -- you have to make an intelligent evaluation of little things. See, the little things that they did, see. If a man didn't write his name in a book there about what he did, he took the credit but anybody that read behind the lines know he didn't do all that work, see.
KC: Uh, huh. Uh, huh. So it's helpful to know about the past because it helpsyou judge the present you're saying?
NG: Not only the present, it gives you that moral lift, that proper lift thatyou need, so you can work hard when you need it [?] and that certainly was a big help to me during my struggle against urban renewal.
KC: Uh, huh. What are you doing now in the way of research and all?
NG: Well, research is a way of life for me. I don't never get in no big hurry73:00and I don't ever slow down, I guess the big thing is-- The only thing that slows me, I don't know how much more I would add, because the way I'm going is the thing -- but my wife is sick see and I don't have nobody [?] see. What I used to do was just take my old jeep and out in the country and you got to know how to talk to people, especially in the [?]. And I take and see an old house with an old foundation, and I know the area and the age that that foundation's built and that's a good clue, and you know that ninety times out of hundred that weatherboards on top of logs. And you get in there and digging back and you'd be surprised how far back you can go back into history that way
KC: Uh, huh.
NG: And I had a young white boy say to me, say "I sure wish I had good history."I said, "Man you can get history. You may not want more, what you can find, but you still go in history. "How do I do it?" I said, "Go back in the community, 74:00where you live?" He told me somewhere in the country, go back there start asking someone about your father. Well it unfolds itself. There's always somebody that knows just a little bit, or heard just a little bit by accident.
KC: What do you hope to do with all this once you've collected it?
NG: That is a good question. I know I was trying to play to the galleries,anyone there. But there's nothing I can do I don't talk to the galleries. It's a question of wanting to know and know where you're at. I don't know what will happen to it, I was hoping we'd get a library or something, I don't know, I have to be honest with you. Like everything else I got around here, I don't know what's going to happen to the house. I got a lot of brothers and sisters but they never help me put it together. [?] that's the thing I don't know. The only thing I'm saying is I just didn't want -- if it hadn't been for me, I hate to 75:00say this, to put yourself way out front. The [?] whites got all their history from my grandfather and the grandfathers of other people, and just pushed it out, they pushed it out. And Newburg's gone. They up there in Newburg, ain't nobody but one white man living there. They just let him push it out see, he had big money. Of course white people go other places, too, but black people couldn't go other places. I remember when black people weren't allowed. For example, right out here behind me here is Terrace Green. When they built that there was nothing for black, even though it was built on black ground that was built for white people.
KC: Terrace Green?
NG: Yeah, right back here.
KC: Is that a subdivision?
NG: Yeah, right back here. Adjacent to my fence line. Lincoln Park was built forwhite people, it wasn't built for Negroes; Rangeland was built for whites, see.
KC: How did you feel about that? Here's all this--.
NG: Well, I didn't worry about that too much, 'cause I had such a struggle withurban renewal, kept me so preoccupied I guess I couldn't. But at the same time I didn't demonstrate.
KC: I'm also wondering -- blacks couldn't go into restaurants and white76:00restaurants and so on. I'm wondering did you run up against any of that?
NG: Anybody black did.
NG: When they integrated the Tenth Street Depot, Negroes flying airplanes theyneeded it see.
KC: Uh, huh.
NG: I'll tell you, I'll give you an example when they brought Jackie Robinson toAtlanta, Georgia to play ball they had to turn away ten thousand Negroes. The man told them said, "Look, you all come back, if you don't bring no Negro ball players don't come back." They didn't know they missed that much money. Ten thousand were turned away that would have went in. So the idea is, the thing I'm concerned mostly about right now is the Board of Education. I like the idea, I think we got one sober-minded Negro in Lyman Johnson on the Board of Education. Because the Board of Education integrated is a better board [?] and I think that Mr. [Meadows?] and all -- I've been up, I went to Washington about the Board of 77:00Education. I went up there and tried to change things. I have documented proof I've been up there and talked to them about it. And they told me don't you worry, Mr. Goodwin, said -- I left tape recordings and news clippings I picked up related to the problem, as a matter of fact that's where I get my information, I get it where I can. I can't get in where reporters get in. I have to get it when it hits -- I said this is inconsistency. For example, Jean Ruffra who was President of the Board of Education, the Jefferson County Board -- I challenged her about saying Negroes are academically inferior to whites for genetic reasons, I don't believe that genetics have anything to do with a man's intelligence who wants to learn, I don't believe that.
KC: What'd she say?
NG: Oh she tried to [?]. But what hurt me so much, it wasn't what she said, butthem other Negroes that's got an education, all sitting around [?] not saying anything, that hurt me more than anything. But here I am ain't no way for me to reciprocate, I'm too old, I don't have an education, and I just didn't 78:00understand. Bill Summers did get up and make a comment.
KC: Who did?
NG: Bill Summers -- he was on the board.
KC: Oh, Bill Summers.
NG: But the point is, that's not, that's not an antagonistic thing for me to getup and protest, I just felt the woman should be answered, that's all. [?] cause she's head of the [?] -- she had the right to do that, [?] position. You see, there's certain things you do, is alright if you're not in a certain position. Now if you're a preacher of the church, now if you wasn't a preacher you got that bottle of whiskey alright, but you can't get there before they crack that bottle of whiskey, even though it might be in the wrong, because of the position you are in reflects the image you [?] on the thing. And that's what she didn't know. And that's what I complained about. I let her know, I said don't know [?] laws and I know, ruled me out of order the first time and I said alright. What 79:00did General MacArthur say, [?] "I shall return" and I did return, too. [Laughs.] And I told her about it and she couldn't do nothing that time. I don't like going down to the Board of Education and just go down there and start a hassle. I don't like that at all. I like to have -- reason is, you got to push me a long ways before I go. Got to be a real -- I feel that education, my grandfather felt that education, the responsibility for education belonged to the educators, but if they get too out of line started discriminating and all like that then I think it's time let them know they're working for us, all of us, not just blacks, all of us.
KC: Do you think black kids are getting a good education in public schools here?
NG: Well, I'll tell you one thing, this community with busing and all going on,they could get a good education if they wanted. The only reason why they ain't getting a good education -- I never was exposed to all the fine things they got now. I know if I were going to school I could have done a lot better -- see when 80:00they got integrated at Newburg Elementary School, Middle School they tore out everything. They spent -- no telling how much -- over a million dollars remodeling that school. As long as Negroes in, it was good enough, see. I mean that's the thing
KC: Do you think they've forgotten their roots? You mentioned earlier that oneof the reasons you're doing your research is to show how conditions were then and kind of contrast conditions with the present and see that the present's pretty good. Do you think that they haven't done that, that they don't know their roots, they don't know their advantages--
NG: The average Negro, average young person I don't care if they're Negro, theydon't know that I had to pay to go into a theater to listen to a broadcast when Jack Dempsey fought Gene Tooney because didn't but a very few people have a radio and none had a television. Television is for granted now. They think that TV -- man, we made old crystal sets--
KC: To listen to the radio.81:00
NG: Yeah, you can't understand how appreciative we were for any kind of musicwe'd hear. We got a whole generation of ingrates -- everything is handed to them on a plate and it's taken-- A Negro didn't have no indoor plumbing or nothing like that, nor did the poor whites did when I was a kid. They think that's the way it's supposed to be now. It is supposed to be that way but you've got to remember, you've got to work to get it. That's the thing, the decent thing, of course. It's hard for me to buy a loaf of bread, bread's seventy-nine cents and we used to pay a nickel for it. But I just come down off a job and checks [?] I make thirty-seven dollars an hour, so actually that loaf of bread is cheaper now.
KC: In a way.
NG: Oh, I made a dollar a day then. So I could take one dollar out of one ofthem hours and buy me a loaf of bread but if I had that nickel, was bigger in other words it's ten times bigger than now, purchasing power. So basically some 82:00things are equal, but you didn't have enough money in circulation to do nothing. So, this is the thing we've got to think about. I really admire that young people are going to this thing. There's a young colored boy come to me, grew up out here, he came by this week already, Monday, and he's so interested in the history of this family that's probably out on Westport Road. And he's really interested in it but how far he'll go I don't know, see. Many of them will stop -- you got to do more than just-- I even got it on tape recorder, I take my tape recorder along and talk to people. I learned something about a man that would shock my brother. He just couldn't believe it. The Negros working around church couldn't read and write. There was an old man named Snyder. And I was there, back in those days I was a kid, and he used to go around and solicit money. He said, "I want to tell you, come here a minute." Said, "I want some money, you give me some money [?]" Said, "I helped organize your church, taught your 83:00grandfather and [?]" I thought about it, I thought, "Ah," I said, "this man don't know what he's talking about." Well he done his job, he taught them how, the kids learned to read and write so they don't need him anymore, but that man was still ready to do that, that shows you what kind of Christian man he was. He felt like he was needed to help these Negroes run that church, helped set them up.
KC: Who was this?
NG: A man named Snyder, old man named Snyder.
KC: A white man?
NG: White man, yes, and it's been-- I was sixteen years old and I'm seventy onenow so the man's been dead, he was ready to died then, when I looked at him.
KC: Where did he live?
NG: Up on Klondike Lane.
KC: So he taught blacks.
NG: He was one of the many, of several white men, one of several white men thathelped put that church together. Helped the Negroes -- you know the Negroes couldn't read and write. [?] man when I came on and [?] why it'd be easier to make the Jefferson Bar Association, [?] Negroes couldn't even read and write but 84:00they knew every rule and regulation tell you what page number and everything. I've never seen anything like it in my life. I never was that good. He had really done his job. They knew that thing by heart -- couldn't read it, but they knew it. [?] make you sit down. They really knew it. The church is a big thing, see, to them.
KC: I want to thank you for taking time to talk with me today. I learned a lot,learned a lot, thanks.
NG: Well, I don't know what you learned. I never did feel like I had thecapacity to teach but every time somebody come to me I don't only -- I know I ought to be listening while I'm talking and I learned a lot, too, how you're going about doing this thing and it maybe that sometime I want to tape something. See you're from the University of Louisville, why, you see, I never... You see this typewriter? KC: Uh, huh NG: I never did any typing but when I get ready to send Mr. -- the gentleman, I don't recall his name on this 85:00tape, Bill, why I can take this letter here that I got, and my letter is up there like that, and everything that-- This is the lawyer in my urban renewal case. I'd send you out a letter just like that and a lot time, people think I got a stenographer. I do it, for just stealing my education, see. Makes an intelligent presentation, see. KC: Well thanks, I enjoyed it. NG: Well thank you, I'm glad you did. 86:00