Second Ward Alumni
Second Ward High School was opened in 1923 in Charlotte, North Carolina as the city’s first high school for African American children. The following people are included in this interview:
Tape Log: Oral History Interview with Second Ward Alumni
Interviewed by Kathryn Wells
|Time||Description of Interview Contents|
|0:00||Beginning of interview.|
|0:07||Introduction by Kathryn Wells.|
|0:41||Introduction from Vermelle D. Ely.|
|1:02||Introduction from Wright Hunter.|
|1:21||Introduction from Price F. Davis.|
|1:43||Question – Fondest memories of Brooklyn?|
|8:32||Question about leisure time.|
|15:02||Question about working in Brooklyn.|
|18:40||Questions about churches in the community.|
|0.00||Start of File 2|
|0:03||Re-introduction of new interviewees joining the group.|
|0:20||Introduction from Naomi Davis.|
|2:36||Introduction from Calvin Davis.|
|5:09||Vermelle Ely brings up the rivalries in Brooklyn.|
|6:39||Question re-introduced as a discussion on the rivalries in Brooklyn.|
|12:00||Naomi Davis: “But you know the most amazing this was, now all of this, that was rivalry, but at the game, you know like they have games now, you have to kind of be afraid now that something’s going to break out now, it was no fighting, and we didn’t have to be afraid of someone bringing in a weapon or anything, everybody came to enjoy the games and to support their school…”|
|12:41||Wright Hunter introduces the story of the drowning of several children on the bridge in Brooklyn and the “black cat”.|
|0:00||Start of File 3|
|0:01||Question about African-American owned businesses in Brooklyn.|
|3:06||Price Davis: “You also, you name it, you had it, right there on Second Street … And, on Second Street, I found Second Street to be very fascinating, because you had funeral homes there, you had speak-easies, you had cafes, you had Fred’s Taxi Cab place … all black owned businesses.”|
|11:42||Questions on Urban Renewal. Wright Hunter: “To me, Urban Renewal means Black Removal!”|
|12:07||Vermelle Ely: “And, how does it make you feel? Angry.”|
|12:09||Naomi Davis: “We can’t put our hands on anything that during that era that, you know, remains. The, it, it means that you have taken away from me, you have taken away my heritage, because at some point you should be able to recapture things, you know, it should be there, something to remind you, you know. But, it was all taken away…”|
|13:05||Price Davis: “There was some good rich black heritage out there.”|
|13:12||Vermelle Ely talks about her father and Mr. Blake holding out on the City from moving and the notice that the bulldozers were coming and the check would be downtown.|
|15:13||Question about property compensation and bidding process.|
|16:52||Price Davis: “And, you know something though, out of all those black businesses, I’m just runnin’ it through my mind. Out of all those black businesses, the only thing left are the churches, I’m putting the churches into the black businesses too and the funeral homes. That’s the only thing that you can find now that’s still there…”|
|19:08||Question about a voice or choice in Urban Renewal and relations with the Mayor’s Office.|
|19:32||Vermelle Ely: “We tried to stop them from tearing down the school … Second Ward School and we went to court and everything. ‘Cause I remember leaving school, I was working, you know, in the school system here at that time, and we got off and went downtown to try to fight that, but it didn’t help.”|
|20:58||Question about the response from surrounding communities to Brooklyn.|
|21:13||Price Davis: “I gave it some thought and because I been in this discussion a long time, a many a time, I give it this, …Brooklyn needed Urban Renewal…”|
|22:16||Wright Hunter: “They could have rebuilt…”|
|22:18||Vermelle Ely: “They could have encouraged or made sure that, see the rental property was the…you get the newspapers’ perspective of what Brooklyn was like, it was the ghetto and it was because of the rental owners, people that owned the rental houses that would not fix those houses up…”|
|24:56||Wright Hunter discusses building a house only to learn three months later it would be torn down to Urban Renewal and his builder had been on the Planning Commission.|
|28:51||Calvin Davis addresses the “done deal” mentality when dealing with government decisions.|
|30:43||Question about what politicians could have done differently. Price Davis: “I think they should involve the people.” Calvin Davis: “Whether they are people with power or no power…”|
|32:44||Closing and Thank you’s.|
Second Ward Transcripts of Second Ward Alumni House
March 25, 2004
- KW: Kathryn Wells (Interviewer)
- PD: Price F. Davis (Interviewee)
- CD: Calvin C. Davis (Interviewee)
- ND: Naomi A. Davis (Interviewee)
- VE: Vermelle Diamond Ely (Interviewee)
- WH: Wright Hunter (Interviewee)
START OF FILE 1
KW: My name is Kathryn Wells and today is March 25, 2004. This interview is being conducted in conjunction with the History Department of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte as part of the Voices of the New South series. This particular interview is taking place at the Second Ward Alumni House on Beatties Ford Road as part of the focus on the former Brooklyn Neighborhood of Charlotte. I have with me today Ms. Vermelle Ely, Mr. Wright Hunter, and Mr. Price Davis. Would each of you begin by briefly introducing yourselves.
VE: Good morning. My name is Vermelle Diamond Ely. I am a member of the Second Ward High School National Alumni Foundation, a Board Member, and I am also the Executive Director of the Second Ward Alumni House Museum, which is located on 1905 Beatties Ford Road.
WH: I am Wright Hunter, I grew up in Brooklyn, which we call the Second Ward area, and I lived there until I was fourteen years old, and at the age of fourteen, I moved here, right up the street about two blocks and still attended Second Ward High School.
PD: Good morning, I am Price Davis and I lived in Cherry, but I did walk the pipe or walk the swinging bridge on my way to Second Ward High School. I finished in that great class of 1939. I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Second Ward Alumni Association.
KW: Well, I would like to begin the questions today by first asking you, what are your fondest or earliest memories of Brooklyn?
VE: I would say…First of all I’d like to say I was born in Brooklyn, at 616 East Stonewall Street, it was called then, and it later changed to 1013 South Independence Boulevard. But, I was born at a house, ah, on Stonewall street. I attended elementary school where I had very fond memories of my elementary grade years and I went on to Second Ward High School where I graduated in the Class of 1949. There was a very close-knit, well we were like a close-knit family in the area. The elementary school days were just great and we played together, you know, we played. You didn’t have the activities and things that people had, the children have today. We had to make our own games, make some of our own toys, and but, it was just fun. Kids now-a-days would not realize what fun we had doing those things. We played games in the street. Those things I remember that were really fond. We played games like roll-abat, you’ve never heard of it I’m sure, [laughter] and we did, we had another game we called “May I”, and you had Red Light, and you had. The boys shot marbles and we played Hop-Scotch. These were just fun activities that we had, right there in the neighborhood. We made our own, I mentioned toys, like the ice house, we had the string that they used to carry the blocks of ice with. We used a Coke-a-Cola bottle and used the top, and used the string from the ice house to make hair for a doll. The Coke-a-Cola doll, and we would wash and curl and do all kinds of things with the Coke-a-Cola doll. That was just one of the things that we did, and those are very fond memories that, and how the children in the neighborhood all played together and had fun together.
WH: I, too, grew up on Stonewall Street, 1029 Stonewall Street. That’s about three blocks from down where Vermelle lived, and my relatives, all of them lived around here. My mother had about nine sisters and all of them stayed there with the exception of her oldest sister who lived out by the airport. And, we played Second Ward Alumni 2 together as cousins. We played most of the time during the summertime with cousins and the neighbors and we did go to Pearle Street Park. Although Mom would not permit us to go down there, I don’t know why. But, I didn’t go down there until I was in third grade when they had the Vaudeville, or something like that coming to town, or the fair, or something like that. But, I enjoyed Brooklyn and my cousins and neighbors, we played games, the same games that Vermelle talked about. I didn’t know she would remember those games, spinning the bottle, Hop-Scotch, shooting marbles and playing football down to the sawdust. We would go to Second and Myers Street where the sawdust was, down by the House of Prayer. Which was down there on Second Street, there was sawdust, and we played football. Then we would go to the YMCA up there at the Bethlehem Center on Caldwell and Third Street and we played baseball. And, we enjoyed doing that, because we played baseball with the older boys. These guys, we were young, about twelve or thirteen. These guys were in their twenties and thirties, and they would let us win. [Laughter] We thought we’d won, but they let us, they would let us win. But, these were good memories and everything was informal … I didn’t enjoy going to that ice house Vermelle and getting that ice with that string on it, during the summertime. I was worried about it might crack [laughter] and break and get a hook ….we had to go up there and get ice, but the summertime was really, really…
VE: During those days we didn’t have a refrigerator, we had what we called an ice box, and you had to get the blocks of ice to put in the ice box, and so that’s what we got the string off the ice from [laughter]…
WH: And going to the movies, the Lincoln theatre on Saturday after we had completed our work to see the western cowboys. And, usually there were two features, and if we had time, we would stay and see them all over again. But, we would move in a different seat so that wouldn’t tell us to leave, and then see the double features. But, those were good times. [Laughter] Those were fun times.
VE: They had chapter pictures doing that time, and you would have to go back the next week to see the next chapter.
WH: And going to Myers Street Elementary School, the same school that Vermelle went to in the first grade, I would sit there, and Vermelle, and try to pull her hair. I don’t know what her mother put on there, what type of cream, but it was a good smelling cream [Laughter from all], but I enjoyed it, and I think we stayed together until we were in the fifth grade, in the same grade until we got to sixth grade, and Vermelle went to Ms. Patterson. She taught only girls. She didn’t teach boys. But, those were good memories.
VE: In talking about the Lincoln theatre, my brother and I would go to the Lincoln too, and we, you know the brown grocery bags that they have now-a-days, we were limited with funds sometimes. My brother would pop popcorn, fill up the grocery bag, and we would take it in the moves [laughs] and that’s what, that’s how we ate popcorn all through the moves. A big grocery bag full so we didn’t have to buy any.
PD: Well, some of my fondest memories of Brooklyn, prove the fact that I grew up in Cherry. Cherry was sparsely, the houses were not close together, and there weren’t a lot of people like Brooklyn. When I came to Brooklyn, I just to compare it, it’s like going from Charlotte to New York City. When I got to Brooklyn, there were a lot of people, lot of people, lot of action and what not, and I couldn’t wait to get to Second Ward in Brooklyn, because that’s where my teachers were, my extended family, my friends, my family, and it made you feel so good just to walk on the grounds in the morning to Second Ward. Even too the janitor was glad to see you, and that’s some of my fondest memories.
KW: Well, would you say that your leisure time, the movies was a place that you spent a lot of time when you were younger children? Second Ward Alumni 3
WH: I would say, yes. We didn’t have as much as we have now, as you know. My leisure time, I guess it was on a Saturday, because my mother kept us busy all the time around the house. But the leisure time was on a Saturday, going to the movie, going to the Lincoln theatre.
KW: And, what about when you were older, when you were older teenagers, not quite out of high school, but, how did you spend leisure time then, if you had any?
PD: Well, my Daddy always had a car, and my Daddy let us, he trusted us with the car, because we were good children. I don’t say it because I was one of them, but we were the kind of kids that he could trust, even to go to the beach with girls. And, in your high school later, my high school years, when you get into that fifteen, sixteen years of age, the greatest leisure time I would have, me my brother, my two brothers, and another fellow that ran with us all the time was to get in the car, come to Second Street, not so much McDowell Street, but sometimes McDowell Street, but to come to Second Street, to sit in the car and just watch people. And, well, I won’t talk about Second Street right now unless you come back to it later on…
PD: …that was what they called The Block. But, just to ride through Brooklyn, and during the time that we did have, because I worked most all the time. My spare time, I had to work in order to get clothes, and money was scarce back then, get clothes in order to go to school, and buy books and things like that.
KW: That leads to the next question…
VE: Can I say something about leisure time?
KW: Sure, go ahead.
VE: Ah, on Saturdays we did attend the movies too. Later in years they had a Grand Theatre which was on this side of town, on Beatties Ford Road, and we were able to go to the Grand, and meet your boyfriend, or your girlfriend, what have you. We would meet there. And, movies were very popular then. Then they had another movie theatre on McDowell Street called the Savoy. O.K., but on Sunday, we spent out leisure, after Church and all, we spent time taking a bus ride. We would ride the bus, get on the bus and ride from Second Ward or Brooklyn to Biddleville, to this side of town, which was the end of the bus line. We’d ride just ride and go back, turn around and pay another fare, and go back ‘cross town. So, that was a lot of fun. So as Price was watching we’re watching people from the car, we were taking a bus ride on Sundays. And, there were places, like, on Second Street, where what they called the Queen City Pharmacy, we would meet there, you’d meet your friends on Sunday evening. You’d go there and have an ice cream sundae or banana split. There was another place on Statesville called Razades, we met there, and just had fun. Hi-Fi Country Club had a swimming pool, and we, my girlfriend and I both had brothers. They were boy scouts and the boy scouts offered swimming classes for the boys, so we begged the scout leader to let us, let the two of us go along with the boys to take the swimming lessons. So, he agreed. We’d get up about five o’clock in the mornin’ and we’d have to walk, cause the busses hadn’t started running, so we’d walk most of the way from Brooklyn to Biddleville, the Hi-Fi was on this side of town, so we would take part in the classes. We learned how to do everything that the boys did, and then at the end of the swimming class season, they had what they called the Water Festival, and so, he [laughs] made us participate in the Festival. People all sitting around and looking and here’s all the boy scouts and these two girls [laughs]. I was all right until we had to participate with the boys at the end of the season. But, that was fun. It was fun, and that’s how I learned how to swim.
WH: My leisure time was very limited. As I said, before, going to the movie on Saturday, and Sunday I was at Church at the Young Folks service at five o’clock in the evening. And, when we didn’t do that, a few of us would go to Cherry, Price’s area. And, we would go to Cherry because they said the prettiest girls lived in Cherry. And, we went over there, a few of us, and one of the fellows, Wilburn, oh, I forgot his last name, but, he would tell us that he had told some girls about us, which he had not, and we went over there, and we saw the girls coming from church, ( ) was one of them at that time, and they Second Ward Alumni 4 completely ignored us. And I guess I was too proud, I didn’t go back anymore [laughs]. On a Sunday, we went to a movie, usually the Grand Theatre, which was up there by the Smith University, and I spent a lot of my time in the library on Second and Brevard Street, Mrs. Feltson?…
VE: Ms. Phelts…
WH: …was the librarian and Ms. Allegra Westbrook, who lives off Lasalle Street. Allegra Westbrook would tell you today, she had never seen a student spend as much time in that library as I did. I would spend most of my time in the library after school leaving Second Ward and, when I got through I would walk on the street, catch the bus and come over here…I lived over here. Bus fare was seven cents. And, I must add this to it. When my father moved over here, I thought I would be going to West Charlotte, because it was just two, three blocks, and my father said, “No, you’re still going to Second Ward because they have the best teachers.” That was one of the most joyful days of my life. All my friends were in Second Ward and I didn’t want to leave, bus fare was only seven cents then.
KW: That’s great. Well, you were talking about working. Did any of you work in the community at any of the businesses, or what kind of work did you do?
PD: Well, I worked mostly in Myers Park. Cut grass, worked in yards, ah, we had a little cart. My brother had made a little car out of some wheelbarrow wheels and whatnot…and we’d take that little car and go out in Myers Park and ride the kids in Myers Park for two cents, three cents, and at the end of the week, God, we had twenty dollars…twenty dollars was a lot of money. People weren’t making but three or four dollars … and I’m talking about … people were making three and four dollars a week, and we wound up with all this money. And, these kids, oh, they just waited to see us. We were like the Good Humor man when we came to Myers Park [laughter] kids would line up a block, and we’d ride ‘em up and down the hill and whatnot … push ‘em, I mean you push it, ride down hill, push it, ride down hill. And, that’s the way I mostly made my money, yeah.
WH: The only work I did when I was in high school, I think I was in the 10th and 11th grade, on a Saturday, a lot of guys would go to Myers Park Country Club and caddy. That’s how I made…go out there and caddy on Saturday and Sunday after church. But, during the school week, I didn’t do any work because my father said you can’t work and study too. But, on Saturday, all day long, golf, on a Saturday. And you know, when they gave you a tip you had four dollars…eighteen holes. That’s on a Saturday and on a Sunday, just caddied for nine holes. That’s all the work I remembered doing.
VE: All of my work was done in the home, I think. But, I had a brother, a younger brother, that Price mentioned about making a wagon … he had made a wooden wagon too, and he carried newspapers, for the Charlotte Observer and he would get up early in the morning and go to the Savoy Theatre. The papers were dropped off there, and he carried papers until he was, well, in fact, he carried papers the morning after his junior-senior prom. My mother wanted to kill him I’m sure, but he had on his white dinner jacket, his red and white polka-dot bowtie and cummerbund and he left his date and went to get his papers and carried papers that morning. So, that’s how dedicated he was. But, they would take boys on trips. They took … well, they would take the white carriers to Myrtle Beach and places like that, because they had to take them in two different groups during that time. The blacks went to what they called Atlantic Beach or whatever. There was a picture in the Observer where they had carried one group to Myrtle Beach which was real nice and Atlantic Beach where there was nothing to do, you know, but that was the only way that they could … but, you know, they did take them on a trip.
PD: That was in the wintertime mostly. I carried the Observer. That’s how I made my money too. I worked all my life, all my life. And, it was good for me, it kept me out of trouble.
KW: Can you tell me about some of the churches in the community? Were you involved in any of the churches, or attend any of the churches in Brooklyn?
VE: I didn’t attend church in Brooklyn. My church was located in Third Ward, called First Baptist. And, we went to church, we walked from Brooklyn to Third Ward to church on Sundays. However, we would, Second Ward Alumni 5 you know, go to the visiting churches. There was the House of Prayer which was located in Brooklyn, and all of us, you know, all, we would all at different times go to the House of Prayer, especially when Daddy Grace was in town. And, they had the parade, the Daddy Grace parade every year in September, I believe it was, and it never rained on the Sunday when Daddy was in town and had his parade. And, of course, we would all look forward to that. And, we would go to the House of Prayer. At one time the House of Prayer was on Long Street, where they just had the sawdust floor, and I remember going there and it was interesting to see the people how they would walk around and put their money in the tin tub. And, it was just, ah, those kind of activities that we attended. Then the House of Prayer built a big beautiful, beautiful building on McDowell Street, and of course, we had to go there, especially when Daddy Grace was in town.
WH: O.K., my memories of church or my family church was originally at Gethsemane AME Zion Church. And, when I was thirteen or twelve, I think I was twelve years old, my mother joined the House of Prayer, which was located at 324 South Long Street, the same one Vermelle talking about, with the sawdust in the floor. So we would split time, some of us would, some of us would split time between daddy’s church and mother’s church, the House of Prayer. The thing about the House of Prayer I liked best was the band and the music, and the girls. [laughter] Vermelle said when Daddy Grace would come to town, everybody from different sections would go there and you’d see all the girls and the band and stuff…
VE: Beautiful dresses.
WH: Beautiful dresses and the parade the Church would put out. That’s mainly it, and that was the main thing. START OF FILE 2
KW: We stopped with the question on churches, but we’re going to back up just a little bit. We’ve had two additional individuals join us today and if each of you would please introduce yourselves and then recap a little bit about your life in Brooklyn for us.
ND: I’m Naomi Davis. I grew up in Cherry, not Brooklyn. But, I went to Second Ward High School, and I had a lot of memorable experiences there. During that time, it just seemed as if the teachers were so interested in the children and seeing that they were educated. And, my only, the teachers worked with the kids, but parents were more concerned, and you didn’t have to be that child’s parent to chastise them. You were just a member of the community, and you listened. So, I remember Mr. Grigsby, this is an experience I can remember. My husband now, we were childhood sweethearts, when he graduated and went to Johnson C. Smith, he came back over to see me during the lunch hour, so anyway. One day Mr. Grigsby was out there and he said, “Calvin, come here.” So, Calvin came over and he said, “You’re over here to see Naomi I know, but this is your last time over here.” He said, “You are in college now, and we do not allow those people to come on our campus talking to our girls…[laughter]…so this is your last time.” And that was the last time Calvin was able to do that. But, I can just, maybe as you go to another person I can remember things, but I had a good experience. I was Miss Second Ward one year, can’t even remember the date. I was a member of the May Court, two, I know two, I believe it was three, but I’m sure of two times. But, I just had a wonderful experience, and enjoyed going to school. It was just fun. You just felt safe when you left home, yeah, you really did.
CD: My name is Calvin Davis, and I’m Naomi’s husband. I have very fond memories of Second Ward. I remember all those young ladies who became Miss Second Ward [laughter] And I’ll have to say, my father got a new Buick … and I think it was for that reason that they made me Mr. Second Ward [laughter] to drive the Queen out on the Court. And, that is done by the faculty, which required my mother to go to town and buy a new suit for me [laughter], so I would fit into the procession – it worked well. But, I have fond memories of all the teachers the
re: Mr. Farmer, Mr. Levi, Mr. Diamond. All of those people were people you could go to when you had a problem. And, they didn’t just brush you off, they helped you work through the problem. I remember getting scholarships for three years at Johnson C. Smith, and the City paid an award which was one year. So I had three years of free college. Why Second Ward Alumni 6 they selected me I don’t know, I was a pretty fair student. But, they gave it to me and I was honored. It was the thing that caused me to finish school. I recall calling all the time on those teachers and they never refused a request. My parents were quite active in PTA and they followed you. And there was always communication between teachers and parents, which, I think is lacking now. But, it was a wonderful experience. And, what I learned at Second Ward supported me for the rest of my life, morally, socially and educationally.
VE: Naomi mentioned the Homecoming Queen, Miss Second Ward, I was fortunate enough to be Miss Second Ward too, in 1947…
CD: And, I have your picture… [laughter]
VE: That’s right. And, in 1948, I was the first Miss Queen City Classic. That was a football game that they had between Second Ward and West Charlotte. They were great rivals and I think they still are to a certain extent. You wouldn’t believe [laughter] that some of that rivalry mentality still exists. But, they stopped us from playing ball at one time, because of the fights. And, when we say fights, we’re just talking about throwing rocks and [laughter] running, running and now you’re talking about guns and stuff like that. But, those were the only kinds of fights we had…they’d run you back across town [laughter] whatever. You know, the railroad track between Third Ward and Brooklyn was the divider, you know. If you got across the railroad, if you were running from Third Ward to get back to Brooklyn and got across the railroad track, you were safe [laughter]. The same thing going the other ways. If the people from Third Ward, boys, got across the railroad track they weren’t bothered after that. But, those are some of the fun things that we did.
CD: Sugar Creek was the divider between Cherry and Brooklyn [all voices come in]
WH: Let me mention this, Naomi didn’t mention this, but she sang in the chorus at Second Ward and had the most beautiful solo voice …
VE: She did…
WH: Naomi…had the most beautiful voice, I’ll never forget that, would sing solo parts many times.
KW: Well, it’s interesting that you mentioned boundaries and rivalries because those are two things that I was going to ask you about. The question was how would you define Brooklyn’s boundaries, that’s one question. The other one is, do you remember the rivalries within Brooklyn and can you talk about that. So let’s just have a discussion about that.
WH: Well, I didn’t go to Third Ward, I was afraid (laughter from all). Because… the time I went to Third Ward, really, seriously, was the time I took Hester Greene to the Prom and picked her up in the cab, cab fare was fifty cents, and took her back in the cab. And I was almost afraid to go to Cherry, because they said if you go to Cherry you couldn’t bother their girls. And, that’s the time that I told you I went to Cherry because they said Cherry had the prettiest girls. And, this guy named Wilbur, somebody, I can’t think of his last name, he said he had mentioned to several girls about four of us coming over there after church. Those girls ignored us like … wouldn’t even look at us, and I didn’t go back.
VE: Price got in trouble with all the girls, especially the light skinned ones. [laughter]
PD: Yeah, but you know when you kids came along, I think things had kind of settled down, because back in when I was going to Second Ward, it was bad that we had to walk to Second Ward…it was o.k. as long as you came home before dark, but if you wanted to stay and look at a play or something like that, or look at some kind of gathering or something like that, it was bad to have to leave school at night and have to come home, because they would run you. And, if you messed around and got in the dark, you know street lights weren’t to plentiful back then and you missed that pipe that we used to walk down there when ….Boyle lived or missed that little swingn’ bridge where those kids got drowned on, you were in trouble, you were in trouble. So, most of us, we would get together and maybe twenty-five, Second Ward Alumni 7 thirty kids would walk straight down Alexander Street to Fourth Street and go down Fourth Street and go home to Cherry. But, I must comment on what Vermelle said, back then fighting wasn’t like fighting now. The worst thing you could do, maybe you could get hit with a rock, now they would throw rocks at you not to maim you or hurt you, just to make you run and that was the fun of it. And, I belong now to what you call the Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club, which are old timers retired, and most of them are Cherry and Brooklyn people. And we laugh about the old times whenever we used to run and have you run. And, now when they bring in a new person and he says I from Brooklyn, the first thing somebody from Cherry runs up and say, “You want to fight?” They do it as a joke and we all have the biggest laugh [laughter] about it. Because, that was what was happening then, and there was no buses. Now, in the summertime if you really wanted to get together and maybe pool your money, a ride in a cab back then costs you ten cents. You could ride anywhere in the city for a dime, and if you didn’t want to run and have rocks and things thrown at you at night, you’d get out there and get a cab, and a cab take your whole crowd home to Cherry.
VE: Some of our friends that had an old, I think it was Joe Hopper or some of them in our, you know, era, had an old Buick and they used to go on Moorehead Street to the gas station to get gas and get about twentyfive cents worth of gas and you could ride, for twenty-five cents. What happened one Sunday, we went, we called an attendant at the service station, we named him “Speedy” ‘cause he was so slow. So, anyway, we went to the gas station and we were going out that Sunday evening, some of the things we did before on Sunday nights, to go for a ride, so they went into the gas station that night and asked for fifty cents worth of gas. Speedy looked at the boys said, [in a slow drawl] “You boys must be going a trip.” [Laughter] That was so funny.
CD: I remember that there was a young man named Bill. Bill had a deformity, he had a crooked neck. And, you graduated in ’39…
CD: …it started to easing off then, the rivalry, but I remember Bill, I would get out of school early and he would come by and get me and we would go down on the creek. And, pile up rock, and when the kids would come…
VE: You’d be prepared.
CD: We’d be prepared. [laughter] The thing about Bill, is when he would throw a rock, because of that deformity, his whole body would go around, and I would just enjoy sitting there and looking. I helped him pile up the rock, because I had gotten out of school before the high school kids. I don’t know why Bill was out of school, but he just enjoyed throwing those rocks [laughter].
ND: But, you know the most amazing thing was, now all of this, that was rivalry, but at the game, you know like they have games now, you have to kind of be afraid now that something’s going to break out now, it was no fighting, and we didn’t have to be afraid of someone bringing in a weapon or anything, everybody came to enjoy the games and to support their school. But, now these other things would happen, you know what happened at other times, so that’s a difference now. That’s why they …what…these detectors…
ND: Security so you ….
WH: I remember one tragedy. I guess I’ll never get…I was not even nine years old, because when I was nine years old we moved from Stonewall Street, so I was less than that. One day after school, some fellows who lived in Cherry, going across that bridge…it had been raining, you might remember this, you remember the Brooms that lived in Cherry, some Brooms…and the bridge gave way and they drowned…
PD: No, here’s what happened. Second Ward Alumni 8
WH: Remember that?
PD: They were down there trying to drown a cat.
WH: I heard that they were trying to drown…
PD: All of them were on this bridge…
WH: A black cat….
PD: …and this bridge was like this [talking over the voices of Wright Hunter and Calvin Davis] and had some little screens on it, a little swingin’ bridge, cage was on it…and they was trying to drown this cat and the bridge, too many kids got on the bridge and the bridge turned over, and I think about what, nine, or ten …
WH: Seven, seven…
PD: Seven of ‘em got drowned.
WH: They said it was a black cat.
PD: Well, yeah…. [laughter]
WH: Trying to drowned the cat.
VE: That was bad luck.
CD: Had thrown the cat in, and the cat got out.
WH: Yeah [others agree as well]
CD: …but they didn’t.
VE: That’s sad … I remember hearing about it.
WH: I’ll never forget that.
ND: I, yeah…
CD: ( ) Alton Gardner …..
ND: That was a sad time.
PD: I remember that.
CD: The vibration and they were jumping and …on the bridge.
VE: We still have some of that rivalry. We have, Second Ward has a foundation reunion, and annual meeting every year on Labor Day Weekend, and we’ve had what, we call Old-Timer’s basketball game in the original gym. The gym was completed in 1949 that’s when Wright and I …we were the first class to graduate in that gym. But, we have that basketball game between the Old-Timers of Second Ward and Second Ward Alumni 9 West Charlotte. So, we still have that rivalry going on even now. The last couple of years, Second Ward has not been able to win the game, but we still have fun [laughter]. We have cheerleaders and even some of our faculty members have dressed up in cheerleading outfits, and we have a lot of fun with that game. But, there’s no air-conditioning in that gym and this past year it was just too hot to sit and watch even. So, I’m not sure if we do it this time we’ll probably have to have it someplace else. (PAUSE) Beginning of File 3
KW: O.K. I’d like to take some time now and talk about some of the businesses in Brooklyn, those owned by the African-Americans in the community and those owned by white individuals in the community; maybe some places you went to eat, or went to shop, that you can remember.
ND: Well, I don’t know too much about the businesses in Brooklyn, because really, I lived in Cherry, and I can only remember two businesses in Cherry, one on Baldwin and Baxter Street and I think it was owned by a white person that in the building in the back of the building it was another little shop, it was operated by a black. But, I don’t know, I think the white person owned the building and just gave them that part to use and then there was just a grocery store up Baldwin Avenue, and it was owned by a white. And, so we didn’t really have any black businesses in Cherry, we really had to go out of Cherry sometimes to shop to get certain things.
KW: Did you go into Brooklyn to do that?
PD: I did.
ND: Yes. My parents would go to Brooklyn to shop.
VE: Most of the, most of the neighborhoods had the little grocery stores and they in Brooklyn they had several of those and they were owned by whites, and mostly ran a little tab, a little deal. And you know, you could charge, you know, whatever you want, whatever you would get and pay for it weekly, or whatever. But, we did have an area of Brooklyn, that was Second Street where you had your black businesses. You had your Queen City Drug Store Pharmacy, it was owned by blacks, you had Isler Drug was there too. It had the shoe shop, had a shoe shop that was run by Mr. McKissick, had a shoe shop in that area. We had barber shops, beauty shops, you had, I’m going to let Price tell you about [laughs] cafes they called them instead of restaurants, we call them now, and then they had a place there of entertainment called the Green Willow, where they would have dances and we were to young to go there. [Laughter] They had …. And the theatres. Yes. Which was also owned by whites, but run by blacks…
ND: Run by blacks… [simultaneously]
PD: You also, you name it, you had it, right there on Second Street. Now, I had just become at that age where I’m ready to chase the girls and to go to the movie and be out a little after dark. And, on Second Street, I found Second Street to be very fascinating, because you had funeral homes there, you had speak-easies, you had cafes, you had Fred’s taxi cab place…all black owned businesses.
VE: What’s a speak-easy? [teasingly]
PD: The speak-easy was where you rang the door bell, you look up and the guy would drop you a key and you [laughter] opened the door, go upstairs, make sure it was closed behind you, go upstairs and buy yourself a drink of alcohol…
VE: thirty-five cents…
PD: Don’t….ten cents. It cost ten cents a drink…
VE: ten cents [laughter]. Second Ward Alumni 10
PD: …because Charlotte was dry and it was hard to get a drink of alcohol for those who wanted alcohol unless you knew the Sheriff or were on good. The Sheriff was the only one that had the alcohol. [Laughter] But, you had cafes, and I’m glad Vermelle mentioned that because the cafes were equivalent to what you would call a sidewalk café, especially the Green Willow Garden. The Green Willow Garden you walk in at the first part of it was the café like out, but in the, you walk out into the back yard and is where they had the chairs and the tables and the umbrellas and what not…
CD: …and dancing…
PD: …and dancing and what not, the entertainment. They even had a couple of boxing matches back there that I went to, I mean prize fight boxing matches. But, you could find anything on Second Street that you wanted, all black owned businesses. I’m trying to think if there was a white owned business on Second Street, and one doesn’t come to my mind right now. No, they were all black owned businesses, all except the theatre…
PD: …but it was run by blacks.
VE: You had the churches and grocery.
PD: And there was the churches right close to it also. And like I say, you had a taxi cab that was run by Fred Moore, was it Fred Moore?
PD: I hate to call names because I might be calling it wrong, but there was a black owned taxi cab businesses there. And, you had, you had, it must have been a bakery, like right there down below Caldwell Street, right on the right hand side there, the man would cook, it looked like a bakery, he done it out of his house, I think. But, you had everything there on Second Street that you wanted to find.
VE: You had Dwiggins grocery store too…
PD: Grocery store…
VE: …black owned.
PD: Second Street was a place like Jamaica compared to it, it was like Fifth Avenue New York on Easter Sunday morning. If anybody has ever been to Fifth Avenue, I don’t think they do that anymore, stroll down Fifth Avenue on Easter Sunday morning to show off, to be seen and to see. Second Street was the place to go. That’s where businesses deals were made, I’m not talking about shady business deals, I’m talking about this is where black business men got together and talked and sit in their cafes and discussed businesses and what not. It was a fascinating place back in those days, very fascinating.
VE: Publication house.
PD: Publication house, yes.
VE: The Brevard Street Library, the first library for blacks…
PD: Yes. Absolutely.
VE: Calvin mentioned the church, Ebenezer Church in Brooklyn. We had quite a few churches. I think we said off record that we had twelve of the thirteen churches, there were thirteen churches I think in that area. But, twelve of them were done away with during urban renewal. I know we’ll get to urban renewal, but I want to say something about the grocery store, Dwiggins grocery store, I guess you’d call Second Ward Alumni 11 him a butcher. His name was James, and my mother, my grandfather lived on a farm and raised hogs, and you know, and all kinds of animals and chickens and whatever, in the eastern part of the state, down in Tarboro, and every year he would, when he killed hogs, he would send a hog, put it on the train. I don’t know how they refrigerated or whatever they did, but James would always come to the Stonewall or Independence, I don’t know which it was called during that time, on our back porch and cut up that hog, you know, separate all that parts. We’d have sausage and we’d have the hams, you know, you had to hang up. Also, it was interesting to watch him do that. And after Second Street was one, James went to Purity Market, you remember, on College Street, I think it is. But, anyway, I remember, it was just fascinating to see him, him you know, work with that hog and we would have meat to eat all winter. But that was interesting.
CD: Yeah, J.C. and Graham now on First Street …
PD: …across from the, yeah…
ND: …across from Second Ward?
PD: You wasn’t supposed to go over there…
ND: Yes. No you weren’t supposed to go…
CD: There was a restaurant there on McDowell…
VE: El Chico?
CD: No, it was across from the named after the fellow, what was it
WH: You mean by First and McDowell, on the corner a block up…
PD: I think it was probably…but I tell you what was on McDowell Street that fascinated me, I remember when the Fat Back King was on …
VE: Oscar Harris…
PD: …on McDowell Street next to the theatre there. And, you go into the Fat Back King because he fried all this fat back and laid it in the window, and you go there and get a fat back …only white ham
VE: White ham they called it, sandwich…
PD: And that was, and when I finally retired and came back and saw the Fat Back King had moved …
VE: Nobody got ….
PD: But, the Fat Back King, but that’s where your action was, your really business in action in Cher…in Brooklyn, was the Fat Back King, I mean on Second Street…
ND: Second Street… [all echo the response]
PD: A little bit on First Street and McDowell… [all echo the response]
PD: There’s something else that I don’t want to leave out that is very, very important, and this is back in the day. You did not have the button that you push and your house got nice and warm. You had the coal man, the wood man and the ice man. [all echo “the ice man”] Second Ward Alumni 12
PD: The coal man, and the wood man and they’d come around at night on a cold night “Wood man, Coal man” and sell it and a bag of coal cost you a quarter and a bag of wood cost you a quarter, and your ice you got a sign from the ice company would have fifty, seventy-five, hundred, and you’d go out on the porch on the morning and turn [makes motion of a sign with hand] what you want the ice man to leave so when he come around he didn’t have to ask you what you wanted. He’d look at that sign and if it said fifty pounds, he’d chop you off fifty pounds and lay fifty pounds on your porch there.
VE: I mentioned El Chico which was on McDowell Street, it was right up above the, that was the place where when we had dances, you know, all the fraternities and sororities and places, people would have dances and that was the place everybody went for breakfast after the dance. The Kappas had what they called the Kap of Dawn Dance and it was, an all night thing until dawn, and of course everybody gathered at El Chico, which was in Brooklyn too.
ND: Now the House of Prayer was a highlight on …
VE: Oh, yeah, on McDowell Street…
PD: …on McDowell Street.
CD: And, there was a restaurant right above it …
PD: That was El Chico…
CD: She’s talking about, first class, Ingram owned it…
VE: Abe Ingram
PD: Ingram was the first….one of the first blacks in Charlotte to own a Cadillac because he went here to try to buy it, and what’s this Cadillac company here? And they wouldn’t sell it to him and he went to Washington, D.C. to pick it up ‘cause I was going to ride up there with him to pick this Cadillac up…
PD: …he was one of the first blacks in Charlotte to own a Cadillac, yes he was.
KW: Well, these businesses are gone now and we’ve come to the part of Urban Renewal. The first question is, a very personal question, what does Urban Renewal mean to you?
WH: To me? [Laughter from group]
WH: To me, Urban Renewal means Black Removal…[voice raises]
PD: Now you’ve got it. [Laughs]
WH: All over the country.
VE: And, how does it make you feel? Angry. [All echo, “yes, angry”]
PD: Because they said they’d be no more churches in this, in Brooklyn. Second Ward Alumni 13
VE: They torn down all…
PD: And the first thing you see you have First Baptist…I sound like I’m angry but I’m not, I can die now and go to peace… [All talking over each other]
ND: We can’t put our hands on anything that during this era that, you know, remains. They, it, it means that you have taken away from me, you have taken away my heritage, because at some point you should be able to recapture things, you know, it should be there, something to remind you, you know. But, it was all taken away…
PD: And, I just must say…
ND: …and we didn’t have a say so.
PD: There was some good rich black heritage out there.
ND: There were…
VE: Wright mentioned the yellow house that I used to live in that he used to walk by that’s where I grew up, born and raised and that house was taken during Urban Renewal. My dad and Mr. Blake, who had a beautiful, big beautiful house on First Street, was the Principal of West Charlotte, and, of course, the two of them stayed much longer than some of the other people, trying to get more money from the City for their property, because people, the money that they were given, you see, a lot of these people were of the age where they were not able to go out and start over and they were not given enough money to relocate to have the kind of house in that they had. So, that was what was so discouraging, so my dad and Mr. Blake stayed as long as they could. ‘Cause finally they got a little more one time when they stayed longer and they gave them a little bit more, finally they got a notice that the bulldozer, your bulldozer would be there on Monday morning and your checks would be downtown if you wanted to come pick them up. [Others chime in “Uh-hum”]
VE: But the bulldozer was coming anyway. But see, a lot of those people had to move into the projects, you know, they moved to places like Earle Village and Fairview Homes and you see, what has happened to those people, they’ve been uprooted again, you know just because they changed Earle Village, you know, and had people to move out and of course they claimed they had affordable housing, and plus those people, had to go some place again…
ND: They can’t afford it…
VE: They can’t afford it. Now they talking about rebuilding Second Ward neighborhood and putting in, you know, some of the shops and some of the streets and stuff back and coming up with affordable housing, but affordable for whom? You know, that’s the question, you know, its not going to be for the majority of the people that were relocated, dislocated or whatever.
KW: Well, you brought up two other points I wanted to talk about the property compensation and the bidding process I’ve been hearing about and about where did some of the businesses relocate, the churches relocate, if they were able to, and I think those kind of go hand in hand.
VE: Most of the churches did relocate.
ND: We moved downtown…First United Presbyterian, College and Seventh. Second Ward Alumni 14 [“Uh-hum” from group]
ND: Little Rock is still downtown…
WH: We’re still downtown…
ND: And, is there another one?
WH: Those are the only two…
VE: Grace AME Zion…
ND: Yeah, but they relocated. They bought …..
WH: That’s Bob Davis’s church.
VE: Mount Moriah…
ND: And they are the only churches I know downtown.
VE: But a lot of the churches moved to this side….Brooklyn Presbyterian and what…
ND: And Seventh Street and Brooklyn merged…
VE: Stonewall… [Lots of conversation and talking over each other]
VE: And then Stonewall was on Stonewall Street there right up the street from ( ) and Friendship is on this side. What else…
CD: Emmanuel Congregation…
VE: Yeah, was right up the street.
CD: From the House of Prayer.
VE: House of Prayer.
ND: What’s …..church?
CD: They went downtown…
PD: And you know something though, out of all those black businesses, I’m just running it through my mind. Out of all those black businesses, the only thing left are the churches. I’m putting the churches into the black businesses too and the funeral homes. That’s the only thing that you can find now that’s still there. That was Grier’s Funeral Home, and Alexander’s Funeral Home. What’s the funeral director that used to come out in the morning with his …. own….
PD: Mr. Robinson, his funeral home, I can see it go…
ND: It was Harrison went too… Second Ward Alumni 15
PD: Yeah, but I’m talking about the funeral homes in this neighborhood…
ND: Oh yeah, OK.
PD: And the only thing left are the churches, which are moved to a different section and the funeral homes…
WH: ‘Cause you only had Harrison over here…
PD: You had Harrison over here?
WH: Yes that was the only one the only funeral home that was over here..
PD: Oh, that was on, I was talking about the Brooklyn businesses…
VE: The Brooklyn…
PD: Yeah, I know Harrison was out here, but Robinson Funeral Home was there and Alexander and Grier…
WH: All in Brooklyn? And you had Carolina Funeral Home … [Lots of talking over each other]
VE: Mr. Peterson’s funeral home, what was the name of that one? I don’t know…Price I…
PD: Yeah, I can’t think of…
VE: It was on McDowell Street…
PD: McDowell near Myers …
WH: Didn’t … used to have a funeral home for a short while on Second Street, Bub Hughston the policeman?
PD: Yeah, Bub had one…
VE: Well, I know he had the newspaper, the Charlotte Post.
VE: But, our church moved from Third Ward too, it was torn down too, and it moved too. We had First Baptist Church West on Oakmont Avenue, so we’re on this side of town.
WH: There are fourteen black churches on Beatties Ford Road (pause)
VE: Is that right?
WH: Fourteen. ….further passed, fourteen.
CD: Whole lot a legend. Second Ward Alumni 16
KW: Now, you said something about you weren’t given a voice, you didn’t have a choice. Was that the way, do any of you feel like there was a way to speak out against Urban Renewal? What was the relationship with the Mayor’s Office? Could you have, you know, could the parents have said something, or the people who were elders in the community have said something?
CD: They didn’t provide that opportunity.
PD: I don’t think so.
VE: We tried to stop them from tearing down the school…Second Ward School and we went to court and everything. ‘Cause I remember leaving school, I was working, you know, in the school system here at that time, and we got off and went downtown to try to fight that, but it didn’t help.
ND: You know, I think with almost everything that happened the blacks got together. Groups got together and tried to speak out and that let them know, the City Council members, let them know how we felt about it, hoping that they would have a change in mind, but their plans were already made.
PD: But, you know what, I played golf with a white fellow and he told me he was involved with it and he told me this, now I was listening to him, he said the reason why they went ahead and disposed of that section of the city was because you had more rental property in there than you had black ownership in there and the rental property people were ready to give up because they were the ones that made the money off of it. He said, and you can’t stop progress, he said that money is what talk, he said there just wasn’t enough black homeowners, like it was in Cherry. Most of the people in Cherry were black homeowners and they were proud people because they could own a home.
KW: Well, what was the impression of how other communities responded to what was going on in Brooklyn? Did you get support from the other communities? [Resounding “No” from all]
PD: I gave it some thought and because I been in this discussion a long time, a many a time, I give it this, this is my opinion and I’m only speaking for Pri
ce: Brooklyn needed Urban Renewal. It was time, I’m only speaking for me, I’m not saying you shouldn’t, I don’t know where Vermelle lived, but I do know where Mr. Blake lived. Mr. Blake had one of those old-fashioned looking homes that you would find in Charleston where the elite lived, and it shouldn’t…
ND: That’s where Vermelle…
PD: That’s where Vermelle…I didn’t know where Vermelle lived, but anyway, to look at some of the houses in there that blacks owned, blacks did own a few of those houses there owned in Brooklyn, I’d say a few…
VE: A lot of homes.
PD: I look at it wherein certain parts of it had deteriorated so bad, where the shotguns were…
VE: OK. but let me say something…
WH: They could have rebuilt…
VE: They could have encouraged or made sure that, see the rental property was the, see there again, you get the newspapers’ perspective of what Brooklyn was like, it was the ghetto and it was because of the rental owners, people that owned the rental houses that would not fix those houses up… [Resounding “That’s right”] Second Ward Alumni 17
VE: …and that’s what they should have done, should have made them either move out, do something with those houses. And see The Observer, that was one of the things that I was concerned about during Black History Month when they asked, you know, the question about whether The Observer pictured, you know, things about blacks. No. They didn’t. The only thing, and I was on WFAE radio with, what’s his name, Mike Collins? And, I said to them, that what they, what the Observer showed about Brooklyn was only the shotgun houses and I didn’t, I left off the other little part, the little “pickaninny children”.
VE: …But, those are the things that The Observer showed about, they never showed how Brooklyn had elite people, homes and you might have had a shotgun house next door to you, but still…
ND: …you owned that…
VE: …you never saw that…
WH: But, you know what happened, Vermelle,
PD: And, this guy, I listened to him and he knew what he was talking about. What they did, the landowners got together and if you did not want to sell, they were going to find some way to rezone your property or …
WH: Or condemn it.
PD: And condemn it.
VE: There was no way out.
WH: There was no way out.
PD: There was no way out.
WH: You take McCrorey Heights up here, let’s see, McCrorey Heights behind the waterworks, Dr. McCrorey owned all that property and he owned the property with the waterworks, it’s true. But he was not going to sell that, Dr. McCrorey where the waterworks is, so they condemned it. [Response from others “Uh-hum.”]
VE: I wonder what happened to the housing, you know, where you all had your housing, how they decided to run the highway through …
ND: Yeah, we, yeah…
WH: Yeah, I stayed out of school for that hearing. Ike Heard showed them downtown at the hearing how they could put that highway by that railroad track that was in the back of the house way back there, he showed them exactly how they could do it, ‘cause I still have that newspaper at home, it was a yellow paper, ‘cause in my backyard it showed them how they could run that highway, cause now every time I get on it, every time I get on it I say I can ride throughout the dining room. [Laughter]
WH: Most of these decisions that they make locally and statewide are done deals. [Others chime in “Yeah”]
WH: Most of them, Urban Renewal in Brooklyn, I was at a zone hearing, a zone hearing meeting a couple weeks ago, it was at the “Y”. McCrorey was not downtown, …gonna build some apartment houses and ….said we are going to be surrounded by this, what quality are they going to be? You know, and I told them then, ( ) was down there with them ….I said, “I think I’m wasting my time sitting here.” I Second Ward Alumni 18 said, “Is this a done deal or a just a perfunctory meeting?” And, that’s what it was a perfunctory meeting to say that…. [Everyone talks]
WH: …it was going to be done…
ND: …it was going to be done…
PD: …Are we getting away?
KW: No. This is quite OK.
VE: Back up a little bit and say how you’re houses were built, those people had just built your homes.
WH: Yeah, we had just….
VE: See those houses were, back up a little bit…
WH: We had just built that house, there were eight houses on that hill, and you know where it was, you’ve been there, eight of us, and we were there three months when we found out that we had to go, but we stayed there seven years longer before they finalized the thing. And, the one who built the property, what’s his name, Marsh Broadway? You remember Marsh Broadway built it? We were not quite ready to build, but we always wanted a split level on a hill and the house was on a hill. So how we found out, Mr. McCrorey’s daughter, Ms. Flannigan, she and Ann’s mother are members of Mary Bethune Book Club, so I got in touch with the man and we put a deposit on it, and the next thing he’s telling me …you have to build right away. He was on the City Planning Committee, we found out, Commission, he knew about it, that’s why he rushed everybody to build. He was on the Planning Commission, Marsh Broadway, so we were there three months before we found out and we stayed there seven years longer before they settled with us. Now the only saving grace about that was that the Federal Government was involved. Because we would have lost, and it was really almost a blessing in disguise, ‘cause they paid us double, you know what I mean? Because, only because the Federal Government was involved. But, he knew that, he was on the Planning Commission, he knew that, that’s why he rushed us to build…
VE: Some people ( ) moved their houses to Hyde Park…
ND: Yeah, some people moved…
WH: Jack Martin, Dr. Duront, Evelyn Floyd, Ruth Johnson…
VE: Some of them moved …
WH: Those four moved, there were eight of us, four of us moved out. Bob Carter….and they took the brick off it…
VE: But, with the, you know, we talking about how things, do we have any, any input political, we didn’t have no political power. Calvin was with the, what were you Assistant Superintendent and then a Principal at one time and an Assistant. And he can tell you about how things are already a done deal.
VE: When we find out, I’m sure, what’s going to happen, like when they closed down the school, when they closed Second Ward, and I understand that was done because some of the whites were going to have to, you know, according to the zoning were going to have to attend Second Ward, and rather than do that they tore the school down.
CD: That was the underlying … Second Ward Alumni 19
ND: That was the underlying…
KW: Can you talk more about that, about that situation?
CD: Well, you don’t get it all, it’s just handed down to you, that this is going to happen, and it happens. I think back when they first started busing, it was late in the afternoon and my bossman called me. At that time I was Director of Special Education, and it was about 4:30 in the afternoon, and he said the Superintendent had called him and told him that they could not from the transportation department do the Special Education busing, that we would have to do the planning. And, so there were about four other ladies who were supervisors in Special Education and it wound up that the bossman and I were the ones to do the transportation for Special Education. And by court order, we had to do it. So, we stayed up all night long reading the map, locating the kids and routing the buses. And, we finally got it when we found out that there were a lot of streets on the map that didn’t exist, and it took us another week to really straighten it out, that was a biggie. That was a done deal too.
KW: Well, I have two questions left and I’ll reintroduce the question in a minute, but I’ll go ahead and ask the three of you. What, O.K., hold on just a minute… [At this point guests had entered the Second Ward Alumni House and Pause had to be made to accommodate] OK., we’ve been talking about Urban Renewal and I note that they are talking about re-building downtown, what lessons do you think the politicians should take from the experience in Brooklyn? What could have been done differently? How could it have been done differently?
PD: I think they should involve the people.
CD: Whether they are people with power or no power. They should be involved in the very beginning when they talk about renewal of anything. When it comes to human lives.
VE: Not just talk to them, they need to listen and try to do some of the things that the people suggest. You have the town meetings and what have you, they’ll have them and it’s just like pouring water on a duck’s back, you know, just, it just, you talk about it and that’s the end of it. And, they still do exactly what they plan to do, that’s the way it seems. Now, if they would just listen and try to accommodate the people, you know, listen to their voices and try to do some of the things that the people want.
WH: As Calvin, said, they should involve the larger society.
KW: Well, last question. Given everything you know now, and looking back, what are some of the positives that came out of Urban Renewal, and we’ve already discussed some of the negatives?
ND: Well, I think that it afforded better living conditions for people. So that is one of the positive things that came out of it. [Lengthy pause from group with mumbling]
CD: And affordable really mean affordable? [No other comment]
KW: Well, I just want to thank each of you for being involved today. This is very helpful and I appreciate your help. If you can think of anything else, just give us a call. END OF INTERVIEW Approximately 1 hour 10 minutes