200 North Main Street | Bloomington, Illinois | 309-827-0428

Claude Hursey

Brief Biography:

Claude Hursey was born in Mississippi, the son of a Greek father and an African-American mother. His mother brought her son to Bloomington when he was about thirteen. His memories of Bloomington at the time of the World War I and after are very strong. He worked in the baggage department at the railroad for many years, but he is better remembered for his long association with the Third Ward Club.

Tape 1

Interviewer: Mildred Pratt | Date: March 30 1988

CH My name is Claude Hursey.
MP Your place of residence.
CH 913 W. Monroe Street, Bloomington.
MP When did you come to Bloomington?
CH I came to Bloomington in 1918.
MP Where were you living before you came to Bloomington?
CH In Mississippi.
MP And do you remember the name of the town?
CH Okolona, Mississippi
MP And you came when?
CH Well, we came to St. Louis in 1916 and stayed about four months. We went back to Mississippi and came back to Champaign and stayed in Champaign until August, 1918. And then we came to Bloomington.
MP How did your family decide to leave Mississippi, do you remember?
CH Well, we had a brother that lived in Champaign, and we had a sister that lived here. So they just decided they wanted us to come up. My mother and myself and my other brother George.
MP And did your father come with you?
CH No, my father died in 1916. He was in Athens, Greece.
MP Was your father born in Greece?
CH Right.
MP What do you remember about your father?
CH I just remember seeing him and everything.
MP He went back to Greece?
CH Yeah, one of my brothers, Andrew, went back to Greece with him.
MP And did your brother remain there?
CH Four years, and then he came back to the states.
MP Was your father in business? Would you tell me about your father's business ventures?
CH Well, he had a store and everything down in Okolona, Mississippi. He had some farms and stuff like that.
MP Do you remember when your father married your mother?
CH No, I don't.
MP You don't remember that. And you don't remember how your father happened to come to this country from Greece?
CH No, I don't.
MP I guess he came with that flood of immigrants, perhaps, in the late 1800's. You think so?
CH I don't have the slightest idea.
MP What was his name?
CH George.
MP What was his last name?
CH Cologero. C-O-L-O-G-E-R-O.
MP And he had some business ventures in Mississippi. Was it a grocery store?
CH A combination, just a general store.
MP Was this a town a small town, or was it a fairly large city?
CH It was a small town.
MP Were there a lot of Black people who lived in that town?
CH There was quite a few.
MP Was your father's the only business there? Was it the only Black business in the town?
CH There was two Colored stores in the town. MacIntosh had a store, and Gillum had a store. General store-sold a little bit of everything.
MP And you had customers-Black and white customers came to his store?
CH Sure.
MP Did your mother work?
CH She only worked in the store and the restaurant. They had a restaurant. She took care of.
MP What kind of food did they prepare in the restaurant?
CH Fish and chickens and stuff like that. Just general food.
MP Any Greek food?
CH No, I don't think they had no Greek food.
MP And how many children in your family?
CH Fourteen.
MP Fourteen children. And how many girls and boys?
CH I think, there was four girls-let's see (papers are being shuffled) four girls and eight, nine boys. Ten boys, I think, yeah. Four girls and ten boys if I'm not mistaken.
MP And do you know how your sisters happened to come to Champaign and Bloomington?
CH Well, my one sister came after my other sister moved from here to Champaign, then she went to Champaign from Mississippi.
MP Did you go to school in Mississippi?
CH Yeah.
MP And what grade were you in when you...?
CH Well, I went to what they called the "free school." I think I was only about twelve years old. I think I was along about the fifth or sixth grade.
MP I have not heard the term free school. Would you explain what that meant?
CH That meant you didn't have to pay. It was a public school, but there they called them free schools. Then they had one college they called Industrial College. You had to pay tuition to go to that one. Down there-these elementary schools they call them free school down there.
MP Did your mother remember anything at all about slavery?
CH Not that I know of.
MP She never spoke to you about it.
CH No.
MP Your mother-she would have been alive during slavery, wouldn't she?
CH Well, she died in 1930, and she was sixty-nine years old. Yeah.
MP She never said anything about whether she was a slave, whether her family members were slaves?
CH She never said anything.
MP Would you suspect that perhaps they were free, always free Blacks? You don't have any idea.
CH No, I don't.
? Did she ever say anything about the confrontations between Blacks and whites? How the whites treated the Blacks at that time?
CH No.
MPNow, we'll talk about when you came to Bloomington then with your mother, did you enroll in school here?
CHYes, in Edwards School.
MPNow, that's the one up here on Market Street?
CHYeah.
MPNow, did Black and white students attend that school?
CHSure did.
MPWhat did your mother do when she first came? What kind of work did she do?
CHShe didn't do any kind.
MPAnd she immediately started a business here?
CHNo, she never had any business. I worked after school, and my brother George he worked on the railroad.
MPWhat did you do after school?
CHShined shoes. We called it the "Greek" Shoe Shine place, but it was the United Shoe Shine Parlor.
MPWhy did you call it Greek?
CHWell, the Greeks own and ran it.
MPAnd your brother worked on the railroad?
CHHe worked for the Chicago and Alton Railroad.
MPWhat did he do?
CHHe worked on what they call the scrap dock. That's where they sort out all the scrap iron.
MPDid you know about the coal mines here at all? Tell me what you remember.
CHSure. I just remember when they ran right down at the end of this street right across, right along the tracks.
MPWere they many Blacks who worked there?
CHThere was, I say, maybe there was possibly seven or eight Black miners. There was probably three or four Colored teamsters that drove wagons and stuff.
MPI see. And when did that coal mine stop operating?
CHI don't remember.
MPLet's carry on with your life. You went to Edwards School and did you finish? How far did you go?
CHTo about the eight grade. That's as far as they went in that in grade school.
MPThen you went to high school? Did you go to high school?
CHNo, I didn't.
MPAnd then when you quit school, you took a job as a shoe shine boy? When you left school?
CHYeah. Well, I shined shoes while I was going to school. I'd shine after I got out of school and then on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
MPDo you remember how much you were paid?
CHYeah, about four dollars a week.
MPSo the company paid you there-the store where you worked paid you?
CHYeah.
MPAnd then after you left Edwards School, would you tell me what happened then?
CHWell, when I left Edwards School, my mother signed up for me to go to work down at the railroad down at the baggage room. I was assistant baggage man down there. I was only about sixteen years old then, but she had to sign up for me to go to work. And I went to work down there. And I worked there from 1921 to 1945. I got hurt over there in [19]41 and I had to have an operation on my back, and they didn't want to give me any kind of decent job or anything, just that old heavy work. So I stayed there until 1945, and then I quit.
MPAnd then what did you do?
CHI went to work uptown.
MPWhat did you do uptown?
CHWell, I went to work in a gambling joint.
MPAll right. Because they did have quite a few of those here in Bloomington. I wanted to ask you, you didn't serve in the military, did you?
CHNo, I enlisted-I mean, I was called and everything, but I had an essential job baggage room handling the mail and stuff, and that's why I got exempted.
MPDo you remember if any members of your family served in World War I or World War II?
CHNo, I think, I don't remember. I used to hear my brother, John, say he was drafted, but I don't know whether he even served. I don't think he ever served.
MPNow, tell me how you got going in your business.
CHWell, as I say, I worked uptown a while, and where I'm at now the Third Ward Club down there was a Colored fellow owned that club and everything.
MPWhat was his name?
CHWilliam Johnson.
MPDid he have a nickname?
CH"Dime" Johnson. We called him "One Dime."
MPHe started the business then?
CHNo, the fellow that started the club, his name was Revy Rhoades. He started that, and Johnson worked for him for a while, I guess, and then Johnson got it.
MPWhy was this man called Revy Rhoades? Was that his name?
CHWell, his name was Revelation. And they just called him Revy.
MPHow did the place come to be called the Third Ward Club?
CHThere was somebody that thought that was in the third ward, but they found out later that the location wasn't in the third ward. That's how it got the name the Third Ward Club. Nobody ever changed it.
?And also before it became Third Ward, there were other names. You know, before Third Ward. When I first come here, they said something about the Pink Lady. Was it called the Pink Lady?
CHThe place-they called it a lot of different names, you know-Bucket of Blood and a lot of different names, but it was always named the Third Ward. That's the original name.
MPWhere did this Revelation Rhoades come from?
CHBloomington, this is his home.
MPOh, he was born and grew up in Bloomington?
CHYeah. His mom and dad and everything lived right here.
MPSomeone told me that he was involved in politics in some way. Would you speak about that?
CHHe was a politician. He had a brother Simon that was a politician, too. He lived in Chicago. Simon did. He was right up there in the politicians.
MPDo you know what position he had? Did he have an elected position?
CHHe had some kind of a state job.
MPAnd was Mr. Rhoades involved in politics in Bloomington?
CHYeah.
MPIn what way was he involved?
CHWell, you know, he didn't hold any office or anything, but he was kind of the Colored chairman of the Democratic organization. He was sort of well thought of around.
MPWas the Democratic Party very active then?
CHWell, it wasn't too active. I guess they were just trying to get it going, but he was with them.
MPTell me now about the Third Ward Club. How did you happen to take it over?
CHI went to work for the fellow there, and there was another buddy of mine that we went to school together, Harry Woods. He was already working there. So we worked for Johnson and he got sick and he told us before that, if he was living another year, he was going to let us the place then. He didn't make it another year. He passed. So then we ran it for his wife. He passed in 1946. We ran it for his wife until 1949. And then she had some relatives come down, and they had a lot of different ideas. They were trying and get the place. So we just went on and got it ourselves. We bought it. Harry and myself and another boy, Frank Bright. Frank Bright had some juke boxes and stuff, we just decided we three would just take it and run it.
MPTell me, did Black and white people go there? Was it kind of a restaurant and also a tavern?
CHIt was a restaurant at one time. It was two different people had a restaurant there in the same building, but that was before they got the club license. But they didn't allow the Coloreds and the whites mix together.
MPOh, is that right? At the club?
CHNo, they didn't allow them to mix together.
MPSo it was only Colored who went to that?
CHStrictly Colored. I can remember when Mr. Johnson ran it-I won't call his name-told him if he ever caught any white in there, he'd close him up. Because the mayor, he had all the power over the license and everything else. And they couldn't possibly have any white people being served in here. "Then I'll take your license."
MPIs that right? Did you do a pretty good business there, you and your friend?
CHYeah, because that was the only place the Negro had to go to. Well, they had another one there on the West Side, and it was a small place.
MPWhat was it called, Mr. Hursey?
CHRoyal Palm's Social Club.
MPWho was in charge of that one?
CHAl Nathan owned it.
MPSomebody said that they thought there was a club above [Lucca's] Grill.
CHIt was a restaurant there when I was a kid. A man named Bill Tinsley ran that. But you see that was when the country was dry. There wasn't no booze or nothing. The only booze you got was bootleg whiskey.
MPSo there was a tavern above the Lucca's Grill.
CHYeah.
MPWhat was it called?
CHThe Elite Club.
MPAnd who owned that one?
CHDon't anyone own those clubs. They're membership deals. It's just like the Third Ward Club. I own the building, but I don't own the club. The members own the club. That's the way it goes.
MPWho determines who can be members?
CHWe have a regular board and everything.
MPExplain that to me.
CHWell, you have a secretary. You have a president, secretary, treasurer and you have the others, you know.
MPAnd only the members can come?
CHWell, each of the members can bring a guest in. But a lot of times, they aren't run according to rules and regulations.
MPHow often were the board meetings? Who elected the board? How did the board get started?
CHWell, I can't tell you how it started because that club was founded in 1924. It's the second oldest one in Bloomington.
?So I guess it was just a format under which it was ran. It was just continued.
MPAnd then when he took over the club, did the people just continue. So it's somewhat like what you call a country club, right?
CHWell, it's a membership deal.
MPIs it still membership?
CHYeah.
MPWho is the president?
CHMe.
MPHow long have you been president?
CHEver since about 19-Harry he died in. Ever since 1957.
MPWho was Harry now?
CHHarry Woods he was president. He was one of the other partners.
MPNow, can white people be members?
CHOh, sure.
MPHow long have white people attended? Been involved with the club?
CHEver since they've been allowed to come in.
MPWhen was that?
CHThat's right after that big disturbance down South when Kennedy and them.
MPYes. The Civil Rights activity, I see. Would you tell me about what you know about other Black businesses that existed here in the early 1900's?
CHWell, I don't know of any that amount to anything. The onliest thing I know of is that club I told you about. There was another club over on Center Street that the Watson brothers run that-Doll and Bill Watson.
MPSpell the last name.
CHW-A-T-S-O-N. That was back in prohibition days when there wasn't no booze or nothing. You know what went on.
MPYes. All over the country. That's right.
CHThen there was another Colored man. He was a preacher, Reverend Wells. He started a little store. I guess A. J. Henderson and Robert Nathan set him up in a little store business out on West Washington Street. Right there where Adolph's was. Only Adolph's was on that side, and he had the little store on this side in that same building.
MPThat was a little grocery store.
CHHe didn't stay too long, Reverend Wells didn't. Of course, there was several cleaning and pressing and shoeshine parlors owned by Coloreds.
MPWould you give me the names of the cleaning shops?
CHWell, George Nuckolls, he run a cleaning and pressing shop on West Washington Street. There was a Boone Meaderds. He ran a cleaning and pressing shop on Main and Washington Streets in the basement right underneath Walgreen's Store. Mr. Harris on Center Street ran a barbershop and a little second-hand store there. And there was Fred Rush. He had a second-hand store down on South Center Street for years. And his wife had a restaurant over on South East Street-Mrs. Rush. There was one other fellow. What was his name now? Of course, it's been a long time ago, but Mrs. Deanie Hunter ran a restaurant down on South Main right up from where the club's at now.
MPDeanie Hunter. That was a woman that ran that restaurant?
CHYeah. Her brother, Clink [Clarence] Stevenson, ran a cleaning and pressing parlor right across the street from the restaurant.
MPNow, the cleaning places, did Blacks and whites use those cleaning shops?
CHYou mean patronize them? Yes.
MPSpeak about the businesses in Normal.
CHNothing. I don't know too much about Normal.
MPLet's talk about barbershops you knew about in Bloomington.
CHThere was a barbershop right down on North Center Street, right down underneath where the club was upstairs. Archie Wallace had a barbershop there for quite a while. And then there was down on South Main Street, next door to where the club is now is a fellow named Harris. He had a barbershop in there-three chairs. Catty-corner across the street from the club, there was a guy named Bob Levi. He had a barbershop in there. There was a fellow right up the street from where Mrs. Hunter had the restaurant His name was (inaudible), I think. So that was several Colored barbershops. Strictly colored. Whites could go in them.
MPDid whites go into the barbershops?
CHYeah. But Colored couldn't go into a white shop.
?The barbers had shoe shining-shoe shine stands.
CHYou could go in and get your shoes shined.
MPTell me about-at the clubs did you have music? Entertainment?
CHWe had music. We had live entertainment for quite a while-orchestras and bands and stuff.
MPWhere did you get them?
CHThey come from different places.
MPDid you get any bands that became famous?
CHNo, we didn't get those high-class ones. They were small-three or four pieces.
MPAnd you had singers? Dancers?
CHNo, we never had any dancers.
MPWhat about beauty parlors? Were there women who had beauty shops?
CHNot that I remember. I guess there might have been, but I don't remember any. The women used go house to house and do each other's hair.
MPWhen all of these Black businesses were flourishing, was there any kind of an organization where all the Black people who owned businesses got together to talk about their problems and this kind of thing?
CHNot that I know of.
MPAlso, tell me how did Black people get the money to get themselves established in businesses?
CHThere was a few Black people around that had a little something. Mr. [Aquilla] Smith over there on Olive Street he had several janitorial places, jobs.
MPOh, he had businesses.
CHBusinesses that he'd take care of, and he bought a few pieces of property and stuff like that, you know. Mostly all they got was what they worked for. There was Colored people in the housecleaning business-Mr. [Frank] Pegues, Mr. Bailey, several of them in the housecleaning business. Back in those days they'd clean house for the white people. You didn't have all that stuff like you got now, these white people cleaning house. Just like chauffeuring and everything else back in those days that was all Colored. All your hotel work was Colored, all your bell-hops, and all your maids. Nowadays they are all white. But back in those days there was no white. The Colored did all that kind of work. Out on the East Side they had Colored yardmen, Colored housemen, all like that. The white man does it all now.
MPDo you know if there were women who did and took in laundry?
CHNo.
MPDid your mother ever work outside the home?
CHNo.
MPNow, tell me when you first came here your sister was here, right? You all lived with her?
CHNo, when we first came here, we roomed right down on Morris Avenue. 206 North Morris Avenue. A lady named Mrs. [Emma] McNeil-we roomed there with her. My mother, myself and my other brother. After we left there, she moved right over here on Howard Street. Mrs. McNeil had to move out of the house down there. So she moved over here, and then after she got settled in the house, we moved back over there with her. And we stayed awhile, and she left town. So we moved right up the street and stayed with Mrs. Deanie Hunter, the lady I told you used to run the restaurant. My sister, she was living in that little house at 911. And her and her husband left and went to Champaign, and we moved into the little house and stayed there. I've stayed in this neighborhood all my live.
MPHas this neighborhood always been integrated?
CHI should say not. It was only-course I own all three of these houses now. I didn't own anything back then. But the little house and the next house they was owned by some people, [unintelligible] and his wife. And they had I think about eight places over on the other side of the tracks. And they rented them all to Negroes and these two. That's how the Negroes got in this neighborhood. There was another two places right down the street that [unintelligible] White, a real estate guy-I guess he had the whites, and they wouldn't pay enough and so he started renting them to Negroes. So at the end though he finally put the Negroes out and put the whites in. In other words there's only two Negro families in the whole neighborhood, that's Nathans and us.
MPOh, is that right? The others were whites then?
CHI tell you, I look now-you could go up this street to town, you'd go Jefferson Street to town and you wouldn't see a Negro. Now, boy everywhere you look you see them.
MPWhat was the relationship like with your family and whites in the neighborhood.
CHWell, we got along. We all went to school together and everything. We'd go to each other's houses and eat and play.
MPWhat nationality were most of the whites in the community?
CHA lot of Irishmen.
MPIrish primarily. German?
CHYeah. Quite a few Germans, too. But all of the "Polocks" and the Hungarians, and everything, they stayed west of town on what they called the Forty Acres. Yeah, that old coal mine down there we used to go up on the dump you know. They'd have an old car that takes the slate up and dumps it you know, and there used to be coal mixed in with the slate, and we would go up there and pick it and sell it for ten cents a (unintelligible).
MPSo you always been kind of a businessman. Do you think you got this from your father, this knack for business?
CHI don't know that I always wanted to be a businessman.
MPWhat was it like in the Great Depression?
CHI didn't pay too much attention to it. That was [19]29. I was working on the railroad. I got cut off for about three years. I got cut off the regular job, and I had to work extra (inaudible). Of course, back in those days when I started working, I was only getting twenty-five cents an hour working ten hours days for two dollars and fifty cents a day. Seven days a week. Every two weeks we drew thirty-five dollars.
MPHow many hours did you work a week?
CHWell, we worked ten hours a day. Seven days a week for thirty-five dollars.
MPThat was rough work, wasn't it?
CHYeah, you had to pull those old mail trucks, and handle that mail, trunks, milk and bags, everything.
MPYour other brothers and sisters, did they remain here in Bloomington?
CHNo. One brother Aubrey, he didn't come with us. He came later on, but he came here, and he stayed here. He had a janitor's job at this Livingston Building on Center for years, and then he left the Livingston Building and went over to the Griesheim Building and retired from there. My three brothers and two sisters, they always lived in Champaign. Only this one sister here, when she moved from here, she moved to Champaign. None of my other brothers and sisters lived here. There was just the four of us that lived here to amount to anything. That was Aubrey-he was a preacher. That was Aubrey, George, John, and myself.
MPOne was a preacher? What was his name? Where did he preach?
CHAubrey Hursey. What was the name of the church?
?Christ Temple. It's a Pentecostal Church. I think it should be noted he was one of the most outstanding Black ministers in the community. Very well known and loved by both white and Black people.
CHYeah.
MPHow long was he a minister there?
CHQuite a while.
?When I came here in [19]70, he was minister then. So I know some time before then.
CHHe left the [African] Methodist Church and went over there.
MPWhat church did your family attend?
CHMethodist.
MPAlways Methodist. And your mother, when did she pass away?
CH1930.
MPHow old was she?
CHSixty-nine years old.
MPWere you ever involved in politics in anyway?
CHYeah, I used to be vice-chairman of the Colored Republican Club years ago.
MPTell me about the Colored Republican Club. When was it organized?
CHIt was organized when I came here. It was a nice outfit. Napoleon Calimese was the president. I was the vice-president.
MPWhat year were you the vice-president?
CHThat must have been about [19]60.
MPHad you been active in the club before then?
CHNo.
MPBut you think it had been organized for a number of years.
CHYes.
MPIt was an old organization. Does it still exist?
CHYeah, I don't know how many people are in it. Pretty near everyone who was in it has passed on. It still exists, but you don't hear too much about it. At election time you used to hear quite a bit, but now you don't hear too much about it.
MPWhat kind of activities did the club engage in? Were you concerned about only national elections or local elections?
CHMostly local elections.
MPWere you successful? Did you put in any Blacks up for office?
CH(initially misunderstands question) No. I don't think any Blacks run for anything.
MPBut you worked for other people, to put other people in office? Were you pretty successful would you say?
CHYeah, but didn't any Colored run for any office.
MPWere the majority of the Black people in the community who were active in politics Republican?
CHThere used to be quite a few of them. You'd very seldom see a Colored Democrat, you know.
MPHow did you happen to become involved with the Republican Party?
CHWell, when you are in business, if you want to stay in business, you have to stay involved. Maybe you don't want to. That's how I got involved.
MPDid they have the Masons organization?
CHNow this fellow I'm telling you about, Mr. Calimese who was president of the Colored Republican Club when I was vice-president, he was head of the Masonics. They had a pretty nice group, but after he passed and everything I don't know-they got Masonics going now, but they got two or three different outfits. And they ain't very strict now, they'll take anybody in. Used to be you had to be pretty strict to get in the Masonics.
MPWhen you came here, you came here with the children and your mother? What kind of responsibilities did you have to assume in the house?
CHI was just thirteen.
MPDo you remember what tasks you had?
CHI didn't have any tasks. I had to get in coal and kindling and stuff for the fires and stuff like that and do some chores. Shovel coal and stuff like that.
MPAnd your sisters what did they have to do?
CHWell my sister's way older than I am.
MPAre you the youngest?
CHI'm the youngest. I'll be eighty-three.
MPThat's amazing. Did you ever go to Greece at all ever?
CHNo, my dad wanted to take me over there when he took my other brother, but my mother said "no."
MPDid your brother ever talk to you about what it was like?
CHOh yeah, he liked it our there. My dad and his sisters owned a pig farm and an olive farm over there. He went over to settle the estate and everything. He had a stroke and died. He never did get back. My brother stayed over four years. Him and I talked several times. He said he liked them over there and everything-he liked his aunts and all. But he said-them people over there he just didn't like those people. He learned how to speak Greek. He used to go down to the docks every day and watch those boats and everything, and one day he just decided he was going to slip on one.
MPAnd that's how he got back. He was living with his relatives there?
CHHe was living with his aunts and stuff. I guess they never did settle the estate after my dad had his stroke. The ship he was on never found him until they was out two days. They just let him go.
MPIt was 1918 when you came here? Oh, that was just after the World War I, wasn't it?
CHWell, I was here when the Armistice was signed. I never will forget that. Well, I remember everybody up town was throwing paper out the windows and was raising sand. That was November 11, 1918. We came here in August, I think. They just tore the town up, drinking and everything. I was shining shoes up there after school. No, I wasn't. I'm thinking about another case. I was selling papers. We'd buy them for two cents and sell them for three cents.
MPYou've always been a businessman.
CHWe'd go down the street yelling. We'd go get five and sell them.
MPSo you made good money on that because they were announcing the end of the war.
CHYeah. People was buying them. A lot would just buy them, and they'd give you three cents, a nickel, or dime and just buy them and throw them up in the air.
End Side A
Side B
CHI know several left from here. I didn't know them when they left from here, but I knew them when they come back. The was one named Arschell Barker. There was "Black Jack," but his name was Roy Knowles, Linc[oln] Bynum, Ed Bynum, Charlie Thomas, Lincoln Clark, Donald Clark, Joe [unintelligible]. Oh, there's more, but I can't remember. Dick Dalton. I wasn't here when they left, but I was here when.
MPwhen they came back. That's nice that you told about the excitement. I want to ask a little about the house you lived in when you first came. You roomed with this lady. Now, did you use the outhouses then?
CHOh, sure.
MPAnd how long, when did they get rid of the outhouses in this community to your knowledge?
CHOh, I would say they got rid of them in the fifties, I guess.
MPAnd did you have electricity?
CHNo. When we lived in the little house there, we never had it. We had a pump. We had two pumps. We had a soft water pump that was the one run off the house we used to wash with, and we had a sink that's the one to drink and cook with. That's hard water. Then, we had gas. But no electricity. The toilet sit out back.
MPWere there any people in your family, to your knowledge, who were musicians?
CHMy brother George was a drummer.
MPThat's George Hursey? In this community?
CHYes. He played around here some.
MPHe played at the clubs?
CHYeah. He was with several small orchestras around here, too
MPWhat was the name of some of the orchestras?
CHThey was just get-togethers.
MPOh, I see. That was one musician, any others?
CHNo.
MPAny artists?
CHNot that I know of.
MPAny writers?
CHNo.
MPSo you think we have pretty much covered the businesses, right?
CHYeah. I don't know of anymore. All I know is the one grocery store as I said, Mr. Wells. Of course, there were those cleaning and pressing shops, you know.
MPWhen Black people died in the early days, would any morticians in this community take them? Which morticians would take them?
CHNo, they wouldn't. Beck's Undertaking they wouldn't take no Negroes. They had a burial association when old man Beck was living, If some Negro belonged to that burial association, then they'd take them. Otherwise, they wouldn't take them. Several of the undertakers wouldn't take them, but back a long time ago, Murray and Stamper would take them. Well, they had two Colored undertaker parlors here. Mr. Holmes had an undertaking parlor on West MacArthur over there, and Rowley had an undertaking parlor on South Gridley Street. I had forgotten about that.
MPWhat about physicians?
CHOh, yeah. There was one. This [Bloomington] was his home-his family and everything, Dr. Covington. He had a boy named-we called him Doc all the time. He was a policeman. And he had another boy named Gene. There was another Colored doctor came here named Dr. Hatcher. Right after Dr. Covington died, there was a Colored doctor came from Chicago named Dr. [Milton] Glascoe. Then we had a Colored dentist, Dr. Thompson. That's all the doctors.
MPDo you know this person who invented the "Oil of Gladness"? I forgot his name.
CH"Old Man" Scroggins.
MPYes, that's the name. Did you know him personally?
CHSure. A tall, lanky man. Lived on the corner of Western Avenue and Mill Street over there on the southwest corner. Mr. Scroggins, he used to go around and do housecleaning. He invented that furniture polish called the Oil of Gladness.
MPThat's what I wondered. It was a furniture polish, is that right?
CHYeah.
MPDid he do pretty well with that business?
CHWell, somebody tried to get him to get a patent on it, but he didn't, and I think somebody messed him out of it. They claimed it was some white fellow got it away from him or something and got a patent on it. And there was Mr. Pegues. P-E-G-U-E-S. He was in the housecleaning business, and they made their own wall paper cleaner. They tried to get him to get a patent on it too, but he never would. I remember Mr. Scroggins. They called him Oil of Gladness.
MPDid he operate this business out of his home? He manufactured in his home?
CHI guess he did. That's the only place I ever remember him to be-the old house on the corner of Mill and Western Avenue.
MPIs the house still there now?
CHYes, a two-story house. Kind of distinguished looking sitting on the southwest corner of Western Avenue and Mill Street.
MPTell me, Mr. Hursey, about what kind of entertainment other than clubs did Black people involve themselves in? Could they participate in recreational activities pretty much?
CHThey didn't have too much of that going. They visited a few of the parks and stuff like that. Still they had certain places in the park to swim and stuff like that. You couldn't go where the white people did. Miller Park out there you had a small place you could go. They even had at the TB Sanitarium-years ago they had a building off the main Sanitarium. When a Colored person went to that, they put them back in that building. If you had to go for treatments, they put you back there.
MPThey couldn't go in the main building.
CHIf you had to go stay for treatments, they put you back there. But they eventually got rid of that. They all go to the same place now. It used to be kind of bad around there. You couldn't go in the restaurant and sit down and eat. You could go in and pick it up and take it out to eat it, you know. You could go to school with them and stuff like that.
MPYou couldn't sit in a restaurant with them.
CHNo. That's the reason I say they should never forget Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Negroes should never forget 'em.
?Uncle Claude, how was the law enforcement here?
CHYou know we had no Colored policemen.
?How did they treat Blacks though?
CHWe never had much trouble out them. Of course, I could tell you a lot of things, but she's got that tape on.
MPIt's all right to say it. We want that history, whatever. Just don't call the names of people.
CHIf you was all right with them, you got along all right.
MPYes, I understand. There's politics everywhere, right?
?Could you expound a little bit on the red-light district?
MPDid you know Richard Pryor's aunt whom I understand...
CHMaxine. Sure. I knew Maxine. I knew her mother, (inaudible). I knew the whole family of them.
MPWere they born in Bloomington?
CHNo. Some of them were born in Missouri, I think.
MPBut most of them lived in Bloomington?
CHYeah. Well, no. The only one that lived in Bloomington was Maxine. Well, Louise, Maxine's mother, used to live here years ago in and out. It's just like anything else. You have a sporting class of people, and you have a non-sporting class. That red-light district it ran there for years and everything.
MPNow, I want you to tell me what you remember, did your mother ever use any home remedies on you when you had medical problems or illness?
CHNot that I know. I think I remember one time I had the mumps, and she put some kind of hog (unintelligible) on my jaws or something. I don't know what it was. Make you wear that asafetida around your neck or something. Some piece of thread or something they'd tie around your neck with tea or something. I don't know what that was for.
MPNow the food you ate when you were a young boy, did she ever make Greek food for you?
CHNo, she never did know anything about that Greek food. All she done was cook that old fashioned grub.
MPSouthern style cooking.
CHYes.
MPWas your mother born in Mississippi?
CHI think so.
MPWas there ever a newspaper owned by Blacks in this town?
CHRevy Rhoades had a little paper here at one time, but I can't remember the name of it. That's the only one I can ever remember. I don't think it lasted very long. At that time there was only two newspapers in town. That was the Daily Pantagraph and the Bulletin. (tape is shut off)
MPSay it.
CHIke Sanders had a business at 1101 West Washington.
MPDo you remember him?
CHSure I do. He had a restaurant there. He had a pool table in the back, and we used to go over there and shoot pool on the table.
MPNow she told me that once this entertainer... (tape is shut off)
MPAt the turn of the century, there was a great deal of hostility in the South against Black people, and I just wondered how your mother, who was a Negro woman, and your father, who was a white person, managed to live together in that community.
CHWell, they didn't bother them. They got along all right because the old man stood up for him. There was one time two white brothers who run a livery stable whose name was Whiteside. One of my brothers and one of the Whiteside boys got in a fight. And my brother beat him up. "Old Man" Whiteside, this kid's dad, told some other white fellow, "I'm going down to that 'damn' George's store, and I'm going to tell him I want a dozen lemons, and when he stoops down." Of course, the old man had done had trouble with him before. "When he stoops down to put the lemons in the sack, then I'm going to shoot him. I'm going to kill him." So this other guy went and told my dad. (inaudible) So he came down and said, "Hi, George. How is everything? I want a dozen lemons."My old man said, "Okay." My other brother said the old man just reached over and got a sack and gave the man a sack with a gun on him, and said, "Here's the sack, you son of a bitch. Now you get your own lemons and pay for them and get on out of here." (laughter) He made him put his own lemons in the sack and made him pay for them and made him get out of the store. The other white man had said when my old man would stoop over he was going to kill him, see. He told him. My old man was waiting for him. (a couple of unintelligible sentences)
?Dr. Pratt when he tells that, it would make me think that his father was an extraordinary man. That's maybe because he was a businessman. You know, the more common Negro at that time they would have lynched him.
MPThat's why I thought it was unusual.
CHThey used to treat him all right. I don't remember too much. It's what my brother told me. He was a mean old rascal. One day he went down to New Orleans and killed a fellow down there. He had quite a bit of money, I guess. He left there and went to New Orleans and killed a guy. I guess it cost him pretty near everything he had to get out of it. That's when he come back, and he wanted to take me to Greece. My mother said, "He ain't going nowhere." So he took my brother Andrew with him. Went back to settle up the estate and died.
MPHow old was he when he died?
CHHe was along about Mama's age. He was about sixty-nine or seventy.
MPDo you remember him at all?
CHSure.
MPWhat he looked like and how he looked? How was he to you boys? Was he a kind of "buddy Papa"?
CHYeah, he was all right. He never whipped us or nothing, but if you'd do something you knew you had no business doing, he'd grab you, and he'd take his fist and roll it over your head. (laughter)
MPYou never learned any Greek at all from him? Did he ever speak Greek? Use any Greek words?
CHNot that I know of. I wouldn't have known it anyway.
MPDid he ever tell you stories about what life is like as a little boy?
CHMy dad? No. I guess he told Andrew and them a whole lot of stories. I was the youngest. I'd remember we'd get out of school, and we'd go to the store. Go there and eat and everything.
MPYou owned your own house there?
CHHe owned two or three homes there. He well taken care of us.
?You were talking about artifacts. (conversation continues about artifacts and future interviews)
End Side B

Claude Hursey about Revy (Revelation) Rhoades

Interviewer: Mildred Pratt | Date: July 22 1988

Narrator: Claude Hursey (talking about Revelation Rhoades)
Interviewers: Mildred Pratt
Date: July 22, 1988
Side A (this begins near the end of Side A following an interview with R. Gaston)
MP Mr. Hursey, would you tell me when you first met Revy Rhoades?
CH Let's see I was a young fellow. I met Revy along about 1925 or something like that.
MP How old were you at the time?
CH I was about nineteen years old, nineteen or twenty.
MP And how old was he?
CH I'd say, he must have been maybe forty years old. (Gloria Hursey enters the room)
MP So you said Revy Rhoades was about forty?
CH I imagine he was about thirty-eight or forty years old during that time.
MP And how did you meet him?
CH Just around through-he had a sign painting place down on South Main Street right next to my place there now. In other words he was 410 South Main, and my club is at 412 South Main next door.
MP He had a sign painting business?
CH He painted signs, you know, around town for different people and stuff like that.
MP Was it a pretty good business?
CH I guess. It wasn't a great big business. I guess it was just little advertising signs and stuff like that, you know.
MP I understand that he had a newspaper.
CH Yes, he did have a newspaper for a short period of time. I don't remember what the name of it was. He started one.
MP Do you know how long he published it?
CH I would say maybe a year.
MP Where was he born?
CH His family-his folks was right here in Bloomington. His home place was out on South Livingston Street.
MP So he was born in Bloomington then?
CH I imagine. As far as I know.
MP Then he left and went to Chicago?
CH Well the whole time I knew Revy, he was right here in Bloomington. He had a brother Simon that lived in Chicago. He was a politician. He finally wound up down in Springfield. He had a pretty good job with the state.
MP Oh, his brother did? What position? Was he an alderman?
CH I don't know. He had some kind of a job with the government of some kind.
MP So you only knew Rhoades when he was here, and he had the sign painting business?
CH Yeah.
MP What else did he do?
CH Nothing that I know of.
MP Wasn't he involved in politics in some way? How was he involved politically?
CH Well he was Democratic. (inaudible sentence) But really he was a Democrat. I guess he kind of worked for the Democrats-the white Democrats. There wasn't any Colored ones. I mean there was a few, but they.
MP Most Black people were Republican during that time?
CH Yeah.
MP And you were a Republican?
CH Well, I don't think during that time when I first knew Revy, I don't think I was old enough to vote. But I finally turned out to be a Republican.
MP Oh, you did. But Revy was a Democratic?
CH Yeah.
MP Did he run for office?
CH No, not that I know of.
MP What did he do? Did he organize Black people in some way?
CH He had this little sign-painting place on Main Street. That's how the Third Ward Club got the name, the Third Ward. Revy named it that. Revy Rhoades did. I don't know why it was named the Third Ward because that isn't the third ward down there, but he named it the Third Ward Club. He was the first one that opened up the club there-Revy was, where I'm at now.
MP And he called it the Third Ward because he thought that was the third ward?
CH I guess that's why he called it that, but he found out later that wasn't the third ward. But that's how the club got its name. Revy Rhoades called it the Third Ward Club. I think he started that through trying to have something for the Negroes to attend and go to, you know. A meeting place and stuff like that.
MP Was he very active?
CH He was pretty active. He was pretty well liked by the white people, you know. All of them called him Doc Rhoades.
MP Doc Rhoades? Do you know why they called him that?
CH I don't know why. He was always in a hurry. Looked like he was going to fall on his face all the time. (laughs) All the people-the white people always called him Doc. The Negroes always called him Revy.
MP What was his real name now?
CH That's all I ever knew is Revy Rhoades. His mother and father lived right there on South Livingston Street. Their home place was out there. Yeah.
MP Does he have any relatives who still live in this community?
CH I never knew any relatives of his at all. Only his.
MP only his parents.
CH Yeah.
MP Now was he married? He never married?
CH He never married.
MP Is that right? So he didn't have a family?
CH No, just Revy.
MP I wanted to know how the idea of a club got started. It seemed like there were several Black clubs? Why did they call them clubs, do you know?
CH They started the clubs because back in those days they told me, if you could organize a social club and operate it I think. (tape ends)
End Side A
Side B
MP You could organize a social club.
CH You could organize a social club and have so many members and a board of directors and everything, and operate it I think for a period of four years. And after the four years was up, you could apply for a liquor license-to the state for a liquor license. If you were a club and you came up to the standard and everything for four years, then the state would grant you a liquor license.
MP That was a city policy then?
CH Yeah.
MP Do you know how he financed the business? How did he get that club started?
CH I think he financed it through white people.
MP Some of the white friends and not banks?
CH They set him up.
MP You think so. He operated how long before you took the business?
CH Well, you see he operated the club. Now I don't think he operated-I think in 1936. The club was founded in 1924. Of course, the country was dry from 1917 to 1933. They got their charter and everything, but you couldn't sell no whiskey because it was Prohibition, you know. There wasn't no liquor in the state. I think-well, they sold it, but that was back in bootlegging days. So I think that in 1933 when the whiskey and stuff came back, that's when he got-the club got-its first liquor license. I think Revy stayed there until 1936. And the other fellow he had working for him-the white folks liked him. He kind of undermined Revy, and he got the business.
MP Oh is that right. What was his name?
CH William Johnson.
MP So he took the business from Revy?
CH He took the business over, yeah.
MP Did he buy it?
CH Back in them days you didn't buy anything. I mean, you know, if you was in with the "white man," he would take care of you.
MP Is that right? Who were the white people who were influential that Revy worked with?
CH Well, now, some of them are still living, you know.
MP No don't do that then. I wouldn't want you to. But this man kind of took over the business. Then what did Revy do then?
CH He just still stayed right there and painted a few signs for awhile (inaudible).
MP He must have gone through some hard times then, Revy, after someone took the business from him? He just kept the sign business?
CH Well, he had the business-Revy did. But I don't think he really liked the whiskey business because, I mean, there were so many fights and everything. Every time somebody would get in a fight, he'd run out. He'd leave it, you know.
MP He'd just leave. (laughs)
CH I think that's the main reason why that he got out of it was because he couldn't handle it, you know. He couldn't take care of the people, you know. And everybody kind of picked on him you know, and started fighting in the place. So I think mainly that's how come the people up town got tired of it. So they just let this other fellow take it over.
MP Then Revy-after that he just made a living with the signs?
CH That's all he did was paint the signs, yeah.
MP Did he manage very well?
CH Yeah. He seemed to get around. His sign painting business was good. Just like all the merchants in town, they needed a sign every time they had a sale. He seemed to get along all right.
MP So he was pretty artistic then? Did he have someone working with him in his sign business?
CH No just him. He liked them girls. He had a gang of girls around him all the time. (laughter)
MP Was he very handsome?
CH I wouldn't say so. He was a little bitty short guy. I guess he was about 5' 2" or something like that. Like I say he always looked like he was going to fall on his face when he walked. He was always in a hurry. He was bald headed. To me he wasn't handsome.
[. . . text omitted . . .]
MP Do you have a photograph of him?
(Wide ranging conversation begins. Mention is made of Gertrude Dixon, who is in her
seventies, lived most of her live in Bloomington, gambled with the men, was born around
Centralia perhaps, could give lots of information about Revy Rhoades and a son-in-law Jack
MacDuff, a musician. Then there is confusion over Duff name. Mr. Hursey said he remembered
Ernest and younger Duffs. Discussion about what Gertrude Dixon could offer.)
MP When did Mr. Rhoades die?
CH I don't know just exactly. He left here, and went to Chicago and died. But I tell you Gertrude-they used to buddy together. She could tell you. I don't know too much about. Just a little bit you know.
MP What other talents did he have? Was he musical?
CH Well, yeah, He didn't have much talent, but he always got up little bands and stuff like that. He was pretty well thought of, especially among the white people.
MP Do you know why? Was he talkative? Outgoing?
CH I imagine he just went around them quite a bit, you know.
MP Someone told me they thought he organized a group to get Black people out to vote. Do you know anything about that?
CH No.
MP So now I going to ask you now-you took the business from Johnson?
CH No, no. I worked for Johnson in 1945 until in [19]46 he died. Then Harry Woods and myself we worked for him. He told us before he died that he was going to let us have the place. He didn't own the building. He didn't own anything. There was the club, and the club was owned by the members. Lawrence Getty of Peoples Bank [assistant vice-president of Corn Belt Bank]-his grandson owned the building. So he never did give us anything in writing. So when he died, we ran it for his wife Miss Jennie until 1949 when she died. So when Miss Jennie died, Harry and I just (inaudible). We had another boy there-Frank Bright, he had some juke boxes in there so Harry decided to take him in and the three of us would run the place. The three of us ran the place. Then Harry died in 1957. So Frank and I bought his wife out. So Frank got shot then in 1959, and he didn't want no more. So I bought him out. That was in 1960, and I've been there by myself ever since 1960.
MP So you own the whole thing now?
CH Yeah.
MP How does this club business-do the members pay a fee?
CH We had a fee of three dollars a year, but you know...
MP Did people pay that regularly?
CH Well, we carried the fee for maybe a couple of years. And then some people didn't want to pay it so we just gave them the card and kept them on the books. We paid it ourselves.
MP So actually anybody could go there?
MP All right. So as far as you're concerned anybody could go in now?
CH Well, yeah now. I mean there's a lot of them come in that ain't members.
MP So it's really not so much a club now?
CH Well it's a non-profit organization.
MP So it's licensed as a club.
CH Yes. Each member can bring in a guest, too.
MP Would you say the Third Ward Club is the oldest Black social club in the community and has operated longer than any other club.
CH I'd say it sure is. Well, there was a couple more, but they just went out of business.
MP Would you just run off the names of the other ones?
CH One was right down on Center Street. That was the Royal Palms. The first fellow who owned that was Tom Turner. He was a barber in Pontiac, Illinois. He sold out to Al Nathan and Bud [Robert] Nathan. They're brothers. He sold out to them and they. (another interruption)
MP How long did that operate, any idea?
CH That operated quite awhile. A lady came out of there and went across the street. And they had a fight over there, and one woman killed another. Al died. The man that owned it, the oldest one. Then his boy ran it, Alvin. But he never did like the business (inaudible). He just didn't want the business anymore. You know Al Nathan lives on East Walnut Street.
MP Yes, I talked with him.
CH Did you?
MP Would you say about five years maybe-it operated about five years?
CH You mean how long his dad ran the [Royal Palms]? I imagine his dad had it seven or eight years. But Little Al he didn't keep it too long.
MP Which other clubs?
CH Well, now to sell liquor-the Third Ward and the Royal Palms were the only two clubs I know that had a license to sell liquor. Of course, they had a social club there-Bill Tinsley he had a social club on the corner of Market and East Street. You know it was just a social club. You couldn't ever sell liquor-not legally. You bootlegged. Then where this Royal Palms was Doll Watson and Bill Watson had a social club before this Turner bought them out. Then he kept it that four-year period, I think (inaudible), and then he got this liquor license from the state. Those are the only two I know legally had a liquor license.
MP Which ones illegally had licenses? Which ones operated without.
CH Well this same place where the Royal Palms was. It wasn't the Royal Palms. It was just a place that Bill and Doll Watson ran. It was a social club. Roy Tate he had that too, but they (inaudible) too. You could sell soft drinks and stuff like that, but that's all. Then, Bill Tinsley had this one on East and Market Street. It was a social club too. They didn't have any legal liquor license.
MP Where did Black people go then?
CH They couldn't go anyplace.
MP After these clubs closed-because it seems that yours has been operating quite a long time-there must have been a long period when yours was the only club, right? Where did black people go? Were they now able to go to the white-where did they go for entertainment?
CH They probably went to different houses. They had what they call "house parties" and stuff like that at their houses. Negroes couldn't go to a white tavern. They wouldn't be served. They wouldn't even let you in.
MP But [whites] would come to your club, right?
CH Oh yeah. If a strange Negro came to Bloomington, he'd ask a policeman or something where's your Colored population. I mean Negroes didn't live all over town like they do now. Negroes were in certain areas. Now they're every place. Of course, they should have been every place all the time. This town was pretty bad about that prejudice and "Jim Crow" stuff. You couldn't go into a restaurant and sit down and eat. You could get it and take it out. At the picture show you had a separate place to set from the white people. They had what they called them after-hour parties, you know. They'd give what they call those chitlin suppers and chicken suppers and spaghetti suppers and stuff like that in the house, and that's where people would go.
MP And they would go there and pay for the food?
CH Pay for their food. They'd have drinks, too.
MP They'd call them house parties? Was that pretty extensive to your knowledge?
CH At a house party? You could go get you a pitcher of whiskey-it used to be in a restaurant they had a little pitcher that looked like a creamer. It would hold four or five shots. You could get you one of them of bootleg whiskey for seventy-five cents. So if you wanted a jug, they'll set you up.
MP And the police just turned their heads the other way?
CH They didn't pay no attention to it at all.
MP I don't know if you mind talking about the red-light district? If you don't mind talking a little bit about that, I know that someone said that Richard Pryor's aunt was a pretty good operator.
CH I don't like to call any names because some of those people are still living, you know.
MP Well, don't call the names of people-except Richard Pryor's [aunt]. She's dead. Maxine, that was her name.
CH They called her Mama Coco.
MP She was a pretty shrewd business lady I understand.
CH Yeah, she ran a pretty decent place.
MP How long did she operate?
CH Well, I guess fifteen or twenty years before (inaudible).
MP Did the police ever arrest her?
MP No?
CH Not, that I remember. Course there's a lot of things went on that I don't like to talk about.
MP I don't want you to call names of people. I wouldn't want you to do that.
CH Of course, I used to take care of her, you know, when she was in the business. She didn't give me anything. I didn't want anything, but people uptown they asked me who was all right and who wasn't. I'd say she's all right, and they wouldn't bother her. Oh yeah, they had a whole street there from Wright Street clear down to Gridley Street. Moulton, there was Moulton Street. It's MacArthur now. On the south side of the street they had about six or seven white sporting houses. They called them sporting houses. Up on Elm Street they had five or six not so good a places as there was down there where the white, and that's where most all the Colored was.
MP So they were separate-Black bordellos and white bordellos. I see.
CH Colored couldn't go to the white sporting house, but whites could go to the Colored ones.
MP That's interesting, isn't it?
CH And those white sporting houses they had Colored maids and everything, working and cleaning. And it was ran pretty straight. Every so often those girls had to go and take inspection from the doctors and stuff like that. Of course, over at Rantoul they had a lot of white soldiers. On paydays those soldiers would come down there. Boy you couldn't get up there.
MP So this provided an economic base for people?
CH Yeah.
MP For the community? When did it end?
CH Around about 1950, something like that.
MP How did it happen?
CH They got a new mayor that time. I never will forget. They got a new mayor in there, and he was one of them (inaudible), you know. He never had anything when he started out. He had his hand out (inaudible). If you didn't pay, he would close you up. He finally closed it. Of course, the police knew what was going on all the time. I guess some of them...
MP They were being paid off too.
CH Yeah, but you know after he got to be there-then he was only there one year. I mean one two-year term, but he really raised cane. (inaudible) Everything used to be wide open around here, gambling. I mean, everything. As long as you kept them gangsters out of it from Chicago out of the gambling stuff and stuff like that (inaudible). You get them gangsters in you get a lot of killing and stuff like that.
MP Do you think any of the gangsters did get involved at all?
CH I don't think any of them ever did. They tried to. Because at that time, I was running the policy wheel and everything else twenty-four hours a day see, and I had several proposition me. (Inaudible) propositioned me with a truckload of bootleg whiskey. Because, you see, you take something from one of them and pretty soon-he'll give you this and pretty soon you'll take a little bit more, pretty soon, he'd take over.
MP You're in trouble, right? You mentioned the policy wheel, I remember that's what they used to call it, policy. And was that very extensive here in this community?
CH Well, no, you could play from a nickel on up. You pay a nickel, and if you won three numbers, you won five dollars for a nickel.
MP So a lot of people played that?
CH Yeah, you could play nickels and dimes, (inaudible) a dollar. I ran one for around six years. Well, it's something similar to this lottery.
MP It's similar, that's right.
CH You know the only difference, this lotto stuff the percentages is so much greater for the stakes. When we set it up, we had four drawings a day and we'd take in maybe one drawing a hundred fifty dollars. Well, we paid out about thirty dollars or forty dollars. Sometimes we'd pay out more than we'd take in. It was just a matter of time. You just keep operating, and you know you're going to get it back. Somebody would hit nearly every drawing and that would put a little money in circulation. That's what kept things going.
MP That's right. Did you have something here called "rent parties?"
CH Yeah, they used to have them. Well, they would just call it a rent party. People would say, "Well, my rent's due the first of the month, I'll have to have a party so I can get enough to pay." They would charge twenty-five or fifty cents for the person who comes to the party. Probably if they charged fifty cents, they'd give you a free drink. House-rent parties they called them.
MP When did they stop doing that?
CH They stopped doing that right, I'll say, after they passed-after they started letting Negroes go in all those white places. Pretty near all that stuff ceased. They could go any place they wanted-in the tavern, in the restaurant, any place they wanted.
MP One of the things that I know is that there are very few Black businesses now in Bloomington-Normal. How will you account for this?
CH Well, there never was any too many.
MP Well, I thought they had a few restaurants.
CH Years ago there had been a few restaurants.
MP And barbershops. But there are almost none now.
CH Well, I remember when they had about four barbershops here and three restaurants. In Normal out there the Dabneys and Calimeses out there had barbershops. Anson had a little place out there they called Chat and Chew. Mr. Anson he looked like a white man. He had a little store where he served the students and stuff.
MP I want to ask you about some Black man who was a musician. Whenever the town officials would have some kind of parade or something, they would have him participate playing some kind of instrument.
CH You're talking about that guy used to play the steam kelio [calliope]. His name was Bruce Samuels. They had one of those steam kelios on this truck and they'd drive it around in town you know, and he'd play it. (loud background noise drowns out several sentences) Every time people would have a parade, he'd play that thing there. Steam kelio I think it was. Played like a piano, but it made a lot of sound.
MP Was he related to Carl Samuels? (much background noise. Tape is shut off shortly) End Side B