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

Roy & Delores Shavers

Brief Biography:

Roy Shavers was born in Centralia and schooled in Clinton, Illinois. He grew up in a business-oriented family and started his own housecleaning business as a young man. He ran this business for more than half a century. He speaks about early twentieth century businesses, the Negro baseball teams, and much more.

Delores Harber Shavers grew up in Bloomington and Pontiac. She lived for a time with her white grandmother and white step-grandfather. She worked in downtown stores before going to Chicago to study to be a beautician. Mrs. Shavers had her own beauty shop for many years. She was active in community service and in St. Mary's Catholic Church. She also talks about the Melody Gospel Chorus with which her father was involved.


Tape 1

Interviewer: Mildred Pratt | Date: November 3 1986

Side A

MP November 3, 1986. I am at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Roy Shavers at [address omitted] in Bloomington. Mr. Shavers is going to begin talking.
RS My name is Roy Shavers.
MP Roy Shavers. And you were born where?
RS I was born in Centralia, Illinois.
MP Would you tell me the names of your parents?
RS Clara. William and Clara Shavers.
MP Do you remember your grandparents, the names of your grandparents on your mother's side and your father's side?
RS My grandmother on my mother's side was Emma Covington, and my grandfather was Joseph Covington.
MP Were they related to the physician Covington who was in this community?
RS No, there was a different Covington.
MP Now, were your parents born in Centralia?
RS My father was born in Tennessee, and my mother was born in the state of Illinois. Let's see, it wasn't Centralia.
DS Carlyle, wasn't' it?
RS Carlyle, Illinois.
MP Now, your father-when did your father come to Illinois, do you remember? Any idea at all about what time it was, the period?
RS Let me see. Ethel was. Well, all the kids was born in Illinois. That's a good one. I really don't remember.
MP Would it have been the late 1800s do you think?
RS Well, it would be late. It would be late 1800s.
MP All right, because I know that quite a few Black people left the South around that time and moved North, that is why I was wondering?
RS In fact my folks, my mother-we were an integrated family. We never lived in the South.
MP Your mother never lived in the South?
RS No.
MP Just your father did?
RS Just my father was born in the South, and he left the South at a really early age. Then he come to Illinois.
MP Would you say that he left when he was an adult or when he was a child?
RS He was a youngster.
MP And he came with his family?
RS Yes, evidently come with his family.
MP What did he do, how much what level of education did he achieve?
RS My father as a youngster or as an adult?
MP As an adult.
RS As an adult, he was a very fine chef, a cook. As far as education, I don't know what, he must have had a fairly good education because he was a very fine chef. In fact, he was in business for himself for years and years and years.
MP Would you tell me about that, more about that?
RS Yes. He was in business in a little town of Clinton, Illinois twenty-two miles from here. Very few Blacks lived there. The ones that lived there they were practically all related. My father started a business, a restaurant business and catered to white because very few Blacks was there. He was in the restaurant business for years and years, and then he went into tailoring. He had a tailoring business.
MP Now, this was in Clinton?
RS Yes, in Clinton, a tailoring business. He was part owner of a billiard-room business with another white person. At his death, he was still-had just disposed of the business.
MP So now your father came to Clinton when he came to Illinois?
RS That's right when he come to Illinois, he came to Clinton.
MP Did your mother work?
RS My mother never worked a day in her life.
MP Except at home?
RS Except in the home, right.
DS Right. (from the background)
MP I should have asked you something about your father and his business. As far as you know, he was in business from the time you remember until his death, and then was the business discontinued then?
RS The business was sold at his death.
MP Now, what was the name of his business? Do you remember?
RS Well, it was-let's see, the tailoring business. There was a name of the restaurant. I forget the name of the restaurant.
MP Did it have his name?
RS Yes, his name was William, but they called him Bill. He was known as Bill. The tailoring business was under Shavers. It was under Shavers Tailoring business. The restaurant was under Shavers and Coates.
MP Was your father involved at all in politics or any kind of organizations to your knowledge?
RS My father was, yes. He was in some politics, but he was very religious, and he was considered one of the pillars of he community in this small town among whites and Blacks. Well, let me see. As I say he was.
MP Did he hold any kind of an office as a politician?
RS No, no. No politics.
MP Did he help elect people? Did he have leadership in helping elect people into office, to your knowledge?
RS I think so, yes. He was influential in that way.
MP What do you remember about your father's personality?
RS He was a fine person. We played baseball together. He was a little man, short heavy-set man. He liked baseball. We had a baseball team, I remember as a child, and of course there were quite a few people traveling on the railroad coming through. Clinton, Illinois at that time was a Illinois Central division railroad. They had railroad shops there. Very, very. It was a good town, and they had a lot of Blacks that would come through. They were on what they call "extra gangs." So we picked up a baseball team from that. That is where we got our baseball players. He was very well liked. Everybody liked him, Black and white.
MP So, would you say that he really had a good business? It was very profitable?
RS Very profitable business. I have never been hungry in my life, and he was a good father. Made us a good living. At the time, I remember that we was, well, the second Black family in that town to ever own an automobile. (laughs) And we were about the third. Well, we were the second Black family that ever had indoor toilet.
MP Is that right, that was very important, I know? (laughter)
RS Yeah. He was highly respected.
MP Did he ever tell you how he became interested in the restaurant business, the tailoring business, and how he learned the skills?
RS In the restaurant? No. He was just. My mother was sickly, and my father did all the cooking and like that, and as I say, he was just a fine cook, and he developed a real good business, a profitable business.
MP Now, why don't we talk about your mother now? What was her name, her first name?
RS Clara Covington.
MP Where was she born?
RS Mother was born in-let me see.
DS Carlyle.
RS Carlyle, Illinois around Centralia.
MP What was the background of her parents?
RS Her mother was. Let me see, Grandma lived with us, I remember as a child. In fact, she lived with us until she passed. That's my mother's mother. She lived with us. Of course, that goes back quite a ways, but she made her home with my mother and father.
MP Did you say something that your family was interracial?
RS My. Yes, we have.
DS His grandmother was white, wasn't she?
RS Grandmother, well she was English, Dutch and Irish. Dutch and Irish and very, very light. Of course, I don't know-they never talked too much about it.
MP Now her husband was he Black or white? Your mother's mother, was her husband white or Black?
RS Oh, no. He was Black.
MP He was Black, yes. Now, tell me about your mother. What do you remember about her?
RS My mother was very pretty, very vain, and she just loved to travel. She liked good clothes. She liked the better things in life.
MP Was that because she was used to those things when she was grew up as a young child?
RS Yes, I think so.
MP How many children?
RS There was six-three boys and three girls.
MP What was life like for you growing up in Clinton?
RS Happy. I didn't know I was Black. All my friends was white. I played basketball, played baseball. I lost a friend here about two years ago, a banker. John, he was the president of the John Warner Bank here in Clinton. I was at his house as much as I was at home. I didn't even know that I was Black.
MP So there really were no problems that you had at school?
RS No, I had no problems.
MP What school did you attend?
RS Grade school and high school in Clinton.
MP Did you graduate from the high school?
RS No, I didn't.
MP What about your brothers and sisters, did they graduate?
RS Yes. My oldest brother and my oldest sister and well, let's see-Ethel. I was the onliest one that didn't graduate. I went until my sophomore year. I quit in my sophomore year.
MP Yes, I see. You dropped out of school to work or.?
RS I dropped out of school. In fact, they tried to keep me in school, and at that age I guess I...
DS Spoiled. That's what it was,
RS Spoiled.
DS He had a car and run up and down the road.
MP It is good to have the wife present when you talk. (laughs) You had a car yourself?
DS He was the baby boy, and they gave him everything.
RS Yes, I had my own car.
MP So your family-they were very well to do then?
RS Yeah, we were considered the.
DS Rich.
RS I won't say that, but we were considered well to do. In fact, there was about three or four families that was supposed to be well-to-do families in the city there, and these were farmers-one was farmers and another was real estate people. We were considered the cream of the. You know.
MP So you owned-your family owned your home, right?
RS Oh yes.
MP Did your father construct the home, or did he build it?
RS No, I think he bought it, and remodeled it as people did in those days.
MP And you lived in that one home all of your growing up years?
RS All of my growing up years until I left and come to Bloomington.
MP Tell me about the occasion on which you came to Bloomington. Why you came to Bloomington, and when you came?
DS The university was here. The girls were here.
MP Oh, that's where all of the girls were? (laughs)
RS In those days, there wasn't too much-not like it is now. We had very little and, of course, the Blacks at least had to make their livelihood. But Bloomington has been good to me.
MP So what did you do when you first came here? You had this car, and you went around with the ladies.
RS Well, I had a little orchestra. A friend and I had a little band. But I have always worked. I have always had a job. I remember that my first job in Bloomington, I was a chauffeur. I lied about my age to get the job.
MP As a chauffeur?
RS I always worked. I worked for a man with a very prominent family, Hudson Burr. They were wealthy people here in Bloomington. And I chauffeured for him. And I had this little band, and then I got tired of working for him, and I went to work for Judge T. Lillard.
MP As a chauffeur?
RS As a chauffeur. Judge [John T.] Lillard was related to the Davises. Judge Davis here in town. I worked for. Let me see that would bring me up to-one other job I had, if you want to call it a job in those days. I worked for my wife's father. He had a cleaning and press tailoring shop. I worked for him extra. Then I.
DS started the housecleaning.
RS I started-her father had a housecleaning business. And I helped him. Learnt the business. Then I decided that I would go into business for myself, and, now of course, that was right after the Depression time. Dorrie and I were sweet on each other, and so I decided that-my father always said that if you can make it for somebody else, you make it for yourself. So I ventured into. I went into the cleaning business. Well, we didn't. Let's see, [19]31-[19]29 (unintelligible). In fact we got married right in the Depression. We got married right in the Depression.
MP And by that time you had your own business, is that right?
RS I was just getting started. I was just getting started in my own business. See, the Depression was in [19]29, and we got married in [19]31. Things were rough, but I was still lucky because the people I was connected with were the only one that had any money.
MP They were wealthy so you. (laughs)
RS The banks closed and everything. I remember the different ones I was with. One owned a coal company. T. F. Harwood had a coal company and owned a lot of real estate. And I worked for a banker. Hoblitt, he was a banker for one of the big banks. They couldn't pay me, and they said, "Well, we'll eat and you'll eat." And so I remember that's when I started my own business. It was slow, but we made it. From then until well, that was in [19]31 we got married. And we started housekeeping in [19]31. I'll never forget, fifteen dollar a month rent. We had a house, and the people that I had been working for they owned quite a bit of property, and they told me, they said, "Now anything that you do on this property, fixing it up, you can take it out on the rent." He owned a coal company. Didn't have to worry about no coal. They had an interest in the Campbell food wholesale house. So I got coal, food, but very little money because the banks was closed. Some money, but very little. When we started housekeeping such as it was, we thought it was fine.
MP Yes, you were in good shape considering other people
RS Then I bought a car.
MP I think you like cars. (laughs)
RS I bought a little Ford Roadster, and it was a [19]29, but this was in 1931.
MP In [19]31 that was about a new car.
RS So how come (unintelligible) to buy the car.
DS Your mother wanted hers back. He had borrowed it from her.
RS I wanted my own now I'm married see. These people I was doing housecleaning for said, "Well, you need a car. Why don't you buy a car?" I bought the car. Of course, I bought it on time. I have always had good credit. This lady that I did a lot of work for, she had two fine cars, and she would borrow my little old car. She'd say, "Let me use your car." And she would go to the grocery store and fill it full of groceries and fill it full of gasoline.
MP That was nice of her. (laughs)
RS That was in the [19]30s-the first part of 1931. I got my business going.
DS All of her friends, she.
RS That's how I got-I never run an ad in my life.
MP They would send them to him? Is that right?
RS Yes, if they would go out of town, I'd have a key, and everything would be done when they came back. I was the first one who started rug cleaning in the home.
MP Is that right? In Bloomington?
RS The first one that started that. Of course, I worked up this trade. Of course, I catered strictly to the Country Club area.
MP They were the ones who had the money. (laughs)
RS So, I've been very fortunate. Well, up until seven years ago I decided that I would retire. I didn't want to retire, but I have a respiratory condition. So I had to give it up.
MP But you operated that business until.
RS I operated that business for fifty years to be truthful because we have been married fifty-five years.
MP Did you hire other people?
RS Oh yes, I had a payroll-sometimes I had six and eight men working in those periods of times.
MP Did you have any ladies helping?
RS No, only men.
MP Would you comment on why?
RS Well, during that time women, didn't go for that type of work.
MP All right. Yes.
RS They were maids in the home, but they didn't go for. See we did everything. We did wall washing. In fact, we did decorating work.
MP Interior decorating?
RS Interior decorating, yes. I'd sublet jobs, and I would work with interior decorators even from Hudson in Detroit and Marshall Fields down here because the clientele that I had here. And I worked with all the union white painters.
DS Underwoods in Peoria.
RS And Underwoods in Peoria. I had a very, very flexible business.
MP I should say it was.
RS And it was something that I liked to do.
MP You trained these people that worked for you?
RS Yes, I trained them. I was always.
MP White and Black?
RS White and Black.
MP Did you have difficulty keeping employees?
RS No, in fact at one time I had two or three. Well, I had a couple of Black policemen working for me. They were working extra time.
DS One is still living.
RS One's still living. Well, Paul Ward is still living. Girard Covington he's dead. He worked for me.
MP What was the name of your business?
RS Shaver's House Cleaning Service.
MP Where did it operate?
RS Out of the home here.
DS Had his office in the basement.
MP I want to go back before I forget it and tell me about this band, the name of it and what instrument that you played.
DS I was the drummer.
MP How did you learn to be a drummer?
RS Well, I just kind of picked it up. In those days we.
DS Well, all of the white dances out here at Shady Nook they played for.
MP How many people were in your band?
RS The most we have ever had was, I think at one time we had six.
MP And who were these people? Could you give me the names? Just give me those names that you remember.
RS Let's see, they're Curtis Hall. He's dead. Matt (Unintelligible), he's dead. Willie Larks is dead. Let's see here, Clifford (Unintelligible) he's living. He's in California. And Jerry Lynch, he's living. He's in Chicago.
MP How long did the band operate?
RS We played around here for. Let's see, I'd saw five or six years.
MP Is that right? This was before or during the Depression.
RS That's right.
DS Just before we got married.
RS Before we got-we was just out hustling, you know, making money.
MP Did you play for the country clubs?
RS No, we played for dances in all these little country towns, you know, and Decatur and, well, Springfield. Out here they had a Shady Nook. (Unintelligible) pavilion dances, you know. In those days, one place they called it a ten-cent dance. You paid a dime to dance, you know.
MP Oh, that's interesting. That's Tina Turner's music suggests that you pay for a dance. Did you meet any of the nationally prominent musicians while you were in your business?
RS I have met Fletcher Henderson and Earl Hines. Oh, the bands that we. Down to Decatur we used to have.
DS Fletcher Henderson. I remember that one when you played out on the road going to Springfield because I had a purse that was autographed by him.
RS And the Four Clefs.
MP All right. Fletcher Henderson I don't know, but Earl Hines yes I know. And what is it? The Four Clefs.
RS Yes, the Four Clefs. They're all dead now, too.
MP Now, who are some of the people that played in that?
RS Johnny Green. Johnny Green is still living. He's the onliest living. He is in California.
MP Was Nat King Cole.? I thought someone told me.
RS No. No. Bill Chapman and Johnny Green.
DS What was the piano player's name? James McKinney?
RS No, not James McKinney. [James Marshall] What's his name? He's a piano player. I tell you he's been dead quite a while. And I just lost all those photos in the flood. They were all on the wall. (tape is turned off)
RS I started an Elks Lodge here.
MP You did? Do you remember about when?
RS It was in [19]40. It was about [19]40. I organized it, and we had a real nice-one of the youngest lodges in the state of Illinois. I was the exalted ruler.
MP Now, the Elks Club is that a Black organization?
RS Yes, it's a Black organization.
MP All right. Is it still active?
RS Well, yes it's still active. I think-I don't belong to it anymore. I got out of it. But I started the Elks Lodge. Wasn't that in 1940 I started the Elks Lodge here?
DS Yeah.
RS I started it. I got the building for them, and I got all of the furniture. It was real nice. It was real organized. We worked with Champaign and Danville. I had a very good friend that was a big shot in the Elks, Dr. Frazier in Danville. He was a very well known Black dentist. As I say, I started that lodge and eventually it interfered with other things. I stayed in there for a while. I was traveling deputy and after one trip out to California in [19]47-I had helped set up some lodges, but I didn't care for. It had got a little.
DS A little rough.
RS You don't want to use that. (laughs) So I got out of it. And then I-my church of course.
MP And what is your church?
RS I'm Catholic. I belong to Saint Mary's Catholic Church.
MP Was your family?
RS No, no.
DS We're converts.
RS Converts. My family were Baptists.
MP So, you're active in the church, Saint Mary's Church.
RS Yes.
MP Any other activities?
RS No, outside of my church. And since I'm not in the lodge, I got other things to keep me busy now. I'm kind of a loner. All my old friends is practically gone. I stay busy. I've got properties to take care of. I have other business interests to take care of.
MP Oh you do have? Do you want to speak about them?
RS I have rental properties.
MP Oh, I see. I understand.
RS As I say, I always was a good mechanic. I can do anything, but my health won't let me do it. I can do-electrician, plumbing-you name it, I can do it. Now, since I have this upper respiratory condition, I have to be careful, and hire everything done. So I have enough to keep me busy you know what I mean. I have enough just here. But outside of that, I have. There's three or four ole buddies still around, and I can make some money.
MP That you get together with.
RS Oh yes. We think of each other, you know.
MP What about military were you involved in that?
RS No, I wasn't in the military, but I had to go into the war plant. I had to work in the war plant right here in Bloomington. I worked for Eureka. It was.
DS Eureka Williams it is now.
RS But it was. What was the name of that?
DS Eureka Williams bought it out.
MP But is was a war plant during World War II?
DS He ran his business at the same time.
RS I ran my business at the same time.
DS From eleven to seven-we were married-and then he would come home at seven in the morning and go on these jobs he had lined up.
RS So I worked hard all my life, no wonder I.
MP But you are quite an entrepreneur, though. You can manage your own business.
RS As I say my associates, the people I did business with, were such wonderful people. They respected me.
DS We've been to their homes for cocktails and different things like that.
MP Friends, right? Was their a chauffeur's club?
RS No, there was no chauffeur's club. That was before my time. I remember my uncle through marriage speaking of that.
MP But you wouldn't know anything about that.
RS No, that goes back too far.
MP Are there any other things about your life or the lives of your relatives that we have not covered that you want to speak about?
RS Can you think of anything?
DS Well, Maceo your older brother was in business for himself in Rockford. In fact, all of the kids-the father raised them like that. If you can make money for somebody else, you can make it for yourself.
RS Yes, my oldest brother he had a restaurant, a tavern, and he was a baseball player, too. He played baseball, professional baseball on the Black.
MP What was his name?
RS Maceo. Maceo Shavers. [resided at 301 East Clay Street in 1917] He had a nickname. They called him "Porkchops."
MP Oh, he played with the Black professional team.
RS Yes, he did, and he lived in Rockford.
MP Where was he living when he signed up to play with them?
RS He was in Rockford.
MP So when he left Clinton, he went to Rockford?
RS Well, when he left Clinton, he left as a seventeen or eighteen year old boy. He went to war. He never spent too much time around this area because when he got out of service, he was up around Rockford and Beloit, Wisconsin through that area up through there.
MP When did he play for the Black baseball team?
RS Well, that would have been before Satchel. Well, let me see.
MP Did he play with Satchel Paige?
RS No, he didn't play with Satchel Paige. I'm trying to think of some of these outfits. You know the Blacks-they just run all over the country. It wasn't like it is now, you know. They had to pick their game, underpaid. I think he played with one outfit they called Morehouse and Wells, and that was out. I think that was out of Chicago. But.
MP About how many years did he play, do you know?
RS He played about four or five years. But as I say there was very little pay in those days. You did it cause you liked to do it. But he was in business for himself in Rockford. Nightclub business-nightclub and restaurant business.
MP Say his name clearly on the tape.
RS Maceo Shavers.
MP And his nickname was?
RS Porkchops.
MP Because when we are working on this, we may be able to find information about the club, and it would be good to be able to point that out. Do you have a photograph of your brother?
RS Yes, I do.
MP I want to be sure to get a copy of that.
RS I have a photograph of my brother and my father.
MP Your other brother died when he was nine.
RS We're all living except him. As I say, the girls, my sisters, they married. Good marriages. We're a very fortunate family. They all own their own homes, beautiful homes.
MP Where do they live, your sisters? Are they in this area?
RS I have one sister in Los Angeles, California, and I have two sisters in Decatur. They own their own homes, and they are pretty well fixed, you know.
MP Your father's father probably was in business or had an interest in business, don't you think so?
RS Could have been?
MP You don't know?
RS No. I met.
DS Do you know any of your father's people?
RS Only Reverend Shavers, I met in California, remember?
DS Yes. After we were married-accidentally. The strangest thing. We were visiting California and each time we were introduced to someone, they would say, "Oh, are you related to Reverend Shavers?"Roy said, "No, I don't have any relatives here." The lady who was visiting had a friend, and they had brunches and lunches and everything in California, and she was invited to this brunch, and she said, "I have company from Illinois."And they said, "Well, bring them." And this Reverend Shavers was there. And they looked like they was two peas in a pod.
RS As a rule, not many Shavers. There are quite a few Shaver. S-H-A-V-E-R. But not with the "s."
DS And Shafer.
RS But not Shavers. And he was a Shavers. And we got to talking and he had pictures.
DS "Oh, is that so and so?"
RS He was the son of my father's brother.
MP So he was your nephew?
DS First cousin.
MP First cousin. I'm sorry, first cousin. That's right.
RS Yes, we had a field day. He was with an inter-racial church in San Diego, a large church.
MP Isn't that unbelievable, though?
DS It was.
RS So as I say, we-the family tree is-my sister and brother-in-law, well, they're in Los Angeles, a beautiful home. But she's been very ill, but she's getting along pretty good now. My nephews. I'm proud of them. I've got one that's with Caterpillar in Decatur. He's a supervisor. He's a college graduate. Then I got another one. He's with Caterpillar. He's got a very fine job. Then I've got. So they're all.
MP doing quite well then.
RS They're are doing well, very well.
MP Do you still have any relatives in Clinton at all?
RS Yes, I have. I have first cousins in Clinton.
MP These are your mother's relatives.
RS Yes, I have the first cousin, and they got two or three kids. And they've been there. They won't leave Clinton. Clinton's not a bad town. Have you ever been to Clinton?
MP I have passed through it, and there is a park there that we visited. I can't remember the name of it now. It was a very nice park.
RS Of course, they got that nuclear plant there now. (Unintelligible) No, Clinton as I say a lot I know a lot of people who drive back and forth. When I first started, even as far back as [19]40 and [19]41 I had a housecleaning service in Decatur, too. I drove back and forth. I had one going here, and I had one going in Decatur.
MP You need to teach some of these young Black boys how to do things like that, to be independent.
RS You know, I begged. I have one boy. He's right here in Bloomington now. He was with me for about fifteen years. When I got ready to. I had to quit, health wise. I asked him, I says, "Thurman, take over this business. I'll give you the business. Give you business and help you." I said, "Why don't you take it. I just hate. " You know.And he had worked with me and knew a lot of my very best customers. He said, "I appreciate it, but I don't want the responsibility."
MP This is the way with young people now. The young people are just like that now. Yes.
End Side A; Tape 1
Side B: Tape 1
RS We married in.
DS Six months before we got married.
RS My mother died in [19]72.
MP So she lived quite a long time after your father died. Did she remain in Clinton?
RS No. She was in Decatur.
MP Oh, she went to Decatur to live. How did she manage once your father died? Was she able to manage her life fairly well?
RS Oh, yes. My mother never wanted for a thing in her life. We took better care of her than we did ourselves.
DS In later years she remarried.
RS Later years she remarried, but she was still "Mom," you know.
MP Was she a very independent lady?
RS Independent! She was independent.
DS And vain.
RS Vain.
DS Nobody was good enough for her son. (laughter)
MP Your father was responsible for that, right. He just babied her, right? (laughs)
RS Well, I sure miss her.
DS She was a nice person, though.
MP I guess we'll start with you and then. (taped is turned off) Mr. Shavers is going to tell about some of the changes that he has observed over the years in Bloomington.
RS You take in the latter years things has improved, but during the Depression and after the Depression-well, in the thirties up through there Bloomington was segregated. It was segregated.
DS It was prejudiced.
RS Very prejudiced. The schools wasn't prejudiced, but work and at one time the theaters was prejudiced. Of course, that all broke down. You didn't get the good jobs.
MP How did you happen to get the job with the war industry? What was the name of it?
DS The Eureka plant?
RS That was a government deal, you see. They had a government contract. And I went in as a boss over janitors in the maintenance department. I was the boss over the janitors.
DS They knew that was his line of business.
RS That's how I got that, but as I say-discrimination, yeah. They always got the worst jobs. Very few had-you had to make your job. That's the reason I decided I'd make my job. And I've got two or three friends that did the same here in town. They made their jobs. And they come out, and they made money. We kind of look at each other and pat each other on the back because you had to be better than the other guy. Whatever you did had to be better. It's changed some now, but it's still a little rocky. Right now it's a little rocky. Now, if you can buy a home- you can buy a home, if you've got the money, practically anywhere if you've got the money. But when I was coming up, you couldn't buy a home. Certain areas you couldn't buy a home. When I built this house...
MP When did you build this house?
RS I built this house in [19]56. And when I bought this property, a man come down the street, and he wanted to know-from my father-in-law I bought this lot. There never was anything here. My wife's father owned these two properties up here (unintelligible) house here. And they seen them start building. The man talked to my father-in-law, and said, "They tell me that Colored people are building this house here."
DS You see my father looked like white. He said, "Oh, yeah. I wonder what the neighbors are going to think." My father said, "I'm sure I don't know, but it's my daughter and her husband that's building the house." He got a big kick out of telling him that.
MP That's interesting. I'm sure he turned kind of red.
RS I imagine. So when they broke ground here to build this house, I paid the payroll while the house was being built. I never owed a mortgage. I paid the payroll as it was being built. It's forty-three tons of Bedford stone on this house. I had it all hauled in from Bedford, Indiana. And I hired my own contractor...
MP That's right. Indiana has the good stone, doesn't it? In the southern part of Indiana.
RS That's right. All the decorating-there was nothing on here. Everything on here I put on here.
MP Did you two design...?
RS We designed. It's our plans. Our own plans.
MP The plan was damaged in the flood?
RS Yes, but I've got that just about whipped now downstairs. A man is coming today to clean the floors.
DS Here's some of the stuff.
MP Now, once you moved in, did you have any trouble in the neighborhood?
DS Oh, no.
RS No. Do you know what they say?
DS Best looking house.
RS Best looking house and the best house in the neighborhood. Everybody wanted to come and go through it, you know. And so it was all right.
MP So this is...
DS That was furniture in the basement. Nothing happened upstairs. This was all downstairs.
MP Now, this was after you took it out, right?
DS There was water in the basement.
MP That was great that you got to take these.
RS So, anyway, when we-our neighbors was all white as I say. There's a Black family living next door here, and before they would sell that house to this family, the neighbors called us and wanted to know...
DS did we have any objections?
RS if we had any objections. (laughter)
MP (laughs) The white neighbors called you.
RS Called us. Wanted to know if we had any objection to letting a Black family buy that place.
MP That's interesting, isn't it. So they accepted you as white. (laughs)
DS See, we had block parties, and they came to our house.
RS We had Christmas parties.
MP You were part of the system, yes. That's very interesting. Now, was this the first house you personally owned?
RS No, no. The first house I owned was over on Jackson Street about a block from the Catholic Church.
MP Did you build that one?
RS No. I bought that one and rebuilt it. Then I come on down here (unintelligible) house up here, and we built this one. We had-I got a house in Decatur. Part owner of a house in Decatur, too.
MP Now is this the only one you actually designed and built?
RS This is it. This is the one I designed. This is all our own plans. Not a dry wall in it. Everything is plaster.
MP Is that right?
RS Everything is plaster. Inter-com system all the way through, and the patio and...
MP Did you do any of the work yourself?
RS No. Oh, you know, I did some.
MP You were your own contractor.
RS Nobody could do any decorating like that. Subcontracted most of the plumbing and all the stone work had to be... See we got double fireplaces. Fireplaces up and down. (unclear) our fireplaces are out in the corner. What did you say Babe?
DS All the plasterers that built this come from Champaign. They were Black.
RS I hired as much Black as I could.
DS "We're going to give you a good job because you're one of us." They plastered all the walls. A crew of eight or ten of them, I think, was here.
MP That's marvelous. So you avoided through your own efforts having to deal with discrimination because you developed your own business.
RS That's right. And I built my own house. I always could have gotten too much credit. And as I say now, the only mistake I made was I built in this area. I should have gone...
DS Then you couldn't.
RS You couldn't buy.
MP You couldn't buy property in certain neighborhoods? In [19]56, you couldn't? Is that right?
RS No.
DS We saw a lot out on North Main as you go to Normal. The people were getting ready to sign the papers on a Sunday. The people said, "You aren't Colored are you?" And talking to us. All afternoon they talked to us. And Roy said, "No I'm blugh, thugh, thugh." They said, "That's all right because we didn't think we could afford to sell it to Colored people."
MP Isn't that interesting? They are really dumb, right? They're talking to you, and they say...
RS Then the next deal. As I say, I had a rich real estate dealer and a rich banker who said, "I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll buy it and turn around." I said, "If I got to get it that way, I don't want it."
MP That's the way they said they would sell it to you. Was it difficult for Black people to get mortgages? Loans?
RS Yes, it was. I don't know how it is now. Very few people in those days owned their own homes. I think now there might be a few, but I think very few. They say no discrimination, but you know.
MP But there was. Do you when things began to change, and why do you think they began to change?
RS Things changed after all this...
DS After the war.
RS No. I mean in the sixties things started changing after schools had all the trouble in the schools, you know. And it seemed to kind of start changing, but I'd say in the last fifteen years. Now, if you've got the money, if you've got the down payment, you can go out here and buy practically anywhere. If you can get the mortgage money. They're glad to sell it to you hoping you'll lose it. (laughter) As I say, Bloomington is-there's a lot of culture here. It's a beautiful place to raise a family. The automobile plant might help it some. I don't think it will help our people too much because...
DS It's skilled labor.
RS Skilled labor. It's going to have to be. That's the trouble.
MP Well, we'll start with you Mrs. Shavers and see how far we get then. (tape is turned off) If you'll begin again then.
DS My name is Delores Marie Shavers, and I was born and raised in Bloomington. And I lived here all my life except after my mother died when I was five, an aunt and a grandmother raised my sister and I. And my aunt had to work. So therefore we couldn't be alone so we moved to Pontiac with my father's mother who was white. Very strict with us. Of course, we were two little Black kids living in a white home. But she had married a Black man, but he had died, and she remarried a white man. Grandpa, he was very good to us though. He was what they call a track walker on the railroad, and there wasn't a pay day that he didn't take the two little Black grandchildren to town to buy us something. Up until I was about twelve years old, I lived here in Bloomington and went to Bloomington schools. Then after my grandmother died, we went to Pontiac, and I went to school there and graduated from high school in Pontiac. Used to always say when I get old enough, I'm leaving here. (laughs)
MP Oh, you did, that you were going to leave Pontiac?
DS Because I didn't like it there. My sister stayed. My father stayed single. He was only twenty-nine. My mother was twenty-nine when she died. My father was twenty-nine. Of course, that's why the grandparents taken the girls because a man that young I guess they thought couldn't raise children, two girls. He passed for white, and he was up and down the road all the time.
MP When you mean up and down the road, meaning?
DS He was a traveling salesman for a tailoring company. After he settled down, I guess, in later years, he did remarry and moved to Galesburg, Illinois. My sister and I went to Galesburg to live for a while, but my aunt was so taken with the two girls she was back and forth to check on us, you know. Finally, I guess it wasn't a very good step-mother, you know, so Grandma and Aunt Cora brought us back to Pontiac. So we finished school in Pontiac, Illinois. What else did you have?
MP Let's see now, I want to be sure that we get-your mother's name was?
DS Frances Thomas.
MP Frances Thomas. And she came from?
DS She was born in Bloomington, Illinois.
MP And she died when.?
DS When she was twenty-nine years old.
MP Now her father-what about her parents?
DS Her father was a policeman here. And also a brother.
MP What was her father's name?
DS Jack Thomas. Well, they drove the patrol wagon, but they wore police uniforms because I remember seeing the pictures in their uniforms. I didn't know my grandfather. I never remember seeing him at all. But I did know Uncle Jack. But I didn't know my grandfather. Where he was born and where he come from, I couldn't tell you.
MP So that was your mother's father. And what about your mother's mother?
DS Her mother? I don't know where she was born either.
MP Did you ever see her?
DS Oh, yes. She's the one that raised us after my mother died.
MP Her name?
DS Margaret. Margaret Thomas. What her maiden name was I don't know?
MP And she was the one who lived in Pontiac.
DS - No. My mother's mother lived in Bloomington. And my father's mother lived in Pontiac. My father was born and raised in Pontiac.
MP And it was your father whose mother was white?
DS Yes.
MP And what-English or what?
DS She was English, yes.
MP Do you know how they had happened to have come to Pontiac?
DS Yes. I do. My grandmother used tell us when we were little kids living there. Seems like her mother and her step-father lived on a farm out on the edge of town in Pontiac. Grandpa Pete's mother washed for Grandma Harber's people. And Grandpa Pete would take the washing back and forth. Grandma Harber didn't get along with her step-father, and he used to tell her, "Stay away from that Colored boy." And they used to swing on the gate talking. She used to get the biggest kick out of telling us this. And finally they decided to run off and get married. They ran off and got married up in El Paso, I think, or some little town up the road. This step-father was so disgusted he taken the mother and went back to Europe. Said they disowned her because she had married this Black man, you know. But when he died, Grandpa Pete had sent to Europe to bring the mother, the mother-in-law back to Illinois. Grandma has told that story so many times I think I lived it. She lived with them up until Papa was born. And I think it was about a year or two before I was born. Papa was married a year or two before I was born. I didn't ever see her, you know. Just the pictures of her that Grandma had on the wall. But I never saw her, but I remember she had a piece of hair that she had cut and had it in the picture by her mother's picture you know. But I never saw her at all. But to me that was always.
MP That's a fascinating story.
RS We had a lot of dealings with Grandma (Unintelligible).
DS Yes. After Grandpa Pete-I don't know what their trouble was, but her Black husband and her had two children, Aunt Daisy and my father. My father was very, very fair, and the daughter was about my color I guess. Well, she always resented it, you know, the two kids. Aunt Daisy resented her brother being so light and thought that he got all the favors in the family. So she left home, and I don't remember much about her either. But Papa, as I said, all his teenage days he passed for white.
MP In Bloomington.
DS No, no. In Pontiac. But he was very religious. It seemed like he got hooked up in a church of some kind. And he wasn't a minister-well, he was a local minister in his later years. But he come to Bloomington and went to the Methodist Church. I guess that's where he met my mother because... Then they got married because I had a big piece in the paper where the caption was "A Swell Colored Wedding."
MP Do you have that?
DS Yes. I have that. As I say my father was born and raised in Pontiac, and my mother was born and raised in Bloomington. Let me see now.
MP What about your father? What kind of work did he do? You said he was a sales person.
DS For a tailoring company. Then he was in the restaurant business, too.
RS He was in the restaurant business, and he was in the tailoring business. He was in the housecleaning business. And he was at the post office.
DS He worked at the post office for twenty-five years.
RS When he retired, he was at the post office.
DS He had a mind. You'd give him that many figures, and he could add them up just like that. He's the one who-if we'd have listened to him, we'd have owned half of this territory down here.
MP So he did work at the post office in Bloomington.
RS Oh, yes. He retired there.
MP When did he retire?
DS I have an article and clipping of him when he retired.
MP What was his name now?
DS Frank Harber.
MP Did your mother work outside the home?
DS Not that I know of. You see I was quite young when she passed. And I know when I had my physical at the doctor's, I said, " I don't even know what she died with." They always ask you what your parents died off, but I don't remember, you know. In those days, the older people didn't tell us.
MP They didn't talk to children about those personal things very much.
RS On your birth certificate.
DS (Unintelligible) white on my birth certificate.
RS Dr. Covington brought you here in the world.
MP Dr. Covington is the Black physician.
RS He was a Black physician.
DS - He was the only one we had in those days up until he passed. He belonged to the boards of all the hospitals.
MP Oh, he did. So he didn't have trouble with the...
RS Oh, no. He was a fine doctor.
DS No, right now if you talked to the better class of white person, they'd say, "Oh, he's a fine person." I don't remember-I know my mother-I don't know whether she worked or not. The childhood experiences-I think I was in the third or fourth grade when I left here in Bloomington and went to Pontiac to live with my other grandmother.
MP And you graduated from high school there?
DS From high school in Pontiac. And about the ancestry-I don't know about no slavery or emancipation or anything like that. And I didn't have any brothers-I had a brother, but he died when he was two or three years old. I don't remember him.
MP Did you have a sister?
DS Yes. She died when she was. There was four in our family. Three girls and one brother. And they all died early, at an early age. Just my sister and I are living now.
MP Do you know if there was some kind of-in that time was there some kind of outbreak of disease?
RS No, no.
DS No, my brother was on a little tricycle, and one of the little Hoagland boys in here.
MP Now, Hoagland. Go ahead and talk.
DS A Hoagland boy and he was playing, and it seems like they pushed this tricycle, and it tilted back and he fell on his head. At that time he had a brain tumor, had a clot, and couldn't...
RS An accident.
MP Yes, it was clearly an accident.
DS Accident, and I think they said my sister had double pneumonia, and she died two weeks before my mother did. I remember Grandma and them talking about how they wrapped mother up in a-her feet. Of course, they had horses and carriages to take them to the cemetery, and Mama wanted to go to the funeral. And they took bricks and heated them to keep her feet warm, but I don't remember that. I just remember Aunt Cora and Grandma talking about it. I told you about Papa.
MP Before I forget it, you mentioned Hoagland. And I understand there was some Hoagland who...
DS Reverend Hoagland. He had the Third Christian Church.
MP Oil of Gladness?
DS Oil of Gladness, yes.
RS Yes, way back.
DS Oil of Gladness. Un-huh. He was the pastor of the Third Christian Church here. All of our family went to Third Christian Church. There was a Loraine Hoagland was about my age. In fact she was. We all grew up. He had several kids, but Loraine I remember and Roland. Roland was a mortician in Detroit in later years, you know. During the time when we was growing up, Loraine was the only one I can remember of the Hoaglands. But we were friends. They lived on Jefferson Street. We lived on Monroe just across the alley like. So we were friends. This aunt that raised me she was a cateress here in Bloomington. She did fancy parties.
MP What was her name?
DS Cora Osborne [903 West Market in [19]20s and [19]30s].
MP What was the name of her business?
DS She didn't have a business. She'd fix a party for you and maybe one of your friends would want a party, and she'd fix a party for them. I don't think they called it a business in those days. It was just her way of living, you know. She made her living. And she had two girls and a mother to take care of because her husband had died. Plus she had her own son to take care of. And later my husband and I had her for ten years. She was ninety-one when she died. We had her for ten years. We finally had to put her in a nursing home. She didn't have any aches or pains. She was very proud. And proud of us, you know.
MP When you graduated from high school. You graduated from Pontiac, what happened?
DS Well, I went to Watseka and lived with my father for a while. He had remarried and like all step-mothers I didn't get along with her too well.
MP Now Watseka's a small...
DS Yes, it's a small town. We were the only Black family there. There was one out in the country-the Gorenses. They were farmers. We went to white churches and white schools. There was an Indian family there that I used to socialize with, but we were the only really Black family there. My father had a cleaning and pressing place there and a shoe shining thing. He catered to all the little town. In fact, he would collect clothing and send it some place-I don't know, but I remember taking it around the corner to the depot to pick up and bring it back. And he would press them, and people would come to get it. I can't understand that just exactly. He would collect the clothing and send it off to Kankakee, I think.
RS Where they had a large plant.
DS A large plant to clean them.
RS They'd do the cleaning , and then he'd do the alterating [sic] and the pressing.
DS But I didn't like it there so I come back to Bloomington and lived with this aunt that I was telling you about. Then I worked downtown at the Newmarket Department Store. My father had a restaurant here. He had come back to Bloomington in the meantime. And he had a restaurant here.
MP What was the name of that?
RS Frank Harber's Restaurant.
MP Frank Arber's Restaurant.
RS Frank Harber.
DS H-A-R-B-E-R.
MP Where was it located?
RS Under the viaduct on South Main where the old Third Ward Club is now. Where the old club is now, but it was a restaurant.
MP All kinds of people went there.
RS Oh, yeah. All Colored and white.
DS At the time the viaduct was being built. And all those people who worked on the viaduct ate at my father's restaurant because they couldn't eat at the white ones. They ate at my father's restaurant. I worked downtown at Newmarket, and of course, it was my job if I come wait table at noon, got my meals free. But I couldn't stand the type of people that worked on the railroad, pinching and going on when I was waiting tables. And Papa fired me. (unintelligible)
MP What did you do at the department store?
DS Beauty shop. I was a beauty operator.
MP How did you learn how to do this?
DS I went into this white shop as an apprentice, and they taught me. Then I decided that I didn't like this. I was young in those days, of course. It was a big department store and on the same floor that the beauty shop was they had their ready to wear department. And this Jew come down one morning and wanted to know if I'd like to work in another department, and I said "Yeah."So I worked at wrapping packages and making out the tickets for the sales ladies in a little cage you know where they'd bring the stuff up. Then Mr. Klein decided that he was going to-he had nine, eight brothers. They were going to open their own store here. He wanted to know if I would leave Newmarket and go to work for him in this other store `cause he-he said, "I'll give you a good job." So I left and about three or four of the sales ladies downtown, and where the beauty school is now they had a big department store there.
MP Yes, I remember that Klein's Department Store.
DS I was the shipping clerk there. All the merchandise come through me. I marked it and got it in stock, except shoes and hats were lease departments. I would send out merchandise that didn't move in such a length of time. I would ship it out to another store-they had nine stores. What they didn't move they'd ship to me. (tape is turned off) I opened up with them and went bankrupt with them. (laughs)
MP So you worked there for how long?
DS Let me see. When did I go there? That's before you and I were married. I probably worked there until 1930.
RS Yeah, because you was working there when we got married. They gave you your wedding dress.
DS The store gave me my wedding dress, and they had big parties and things for me, you know. Showers and things. A bunch of them come to the wedding that was supposed to be at my father's house. They made all the arrangements for the minister and the photographer and everything. My father kept telling Roy, "You can't get married because you got the license in another town." We were going to slip and not let them know we were married.
MP Oh, you were going to...
DS He got the license in Clinton out in a different county. You have to get married in the county where you got your license, and we didn't know that. We were supposed to get married at four o'clock in the afternoon, and it was seven at night before we got married.
MP You had to go to Clinton?
DS We had to go to Clinton. There were about six or seven cars that followed us down there. And the first church we stopped at...
RS The Nazarene Church.
DS We asked the minister if he'd marry us.
MP I think this is fascinating. (laughs)
RS So they told (unintelligible) come up to my mother's house. She's in Clinton.
MP She wasn't expecting you people.
RS Oh, yes. She was waiting. Everyone was there. We went down there, and we ended up getting married at my mother's house.
DS The preacher-we didn't want to go in to his... It was a white church, a little Nazarene Church.
RS The preacher come over to our house.
DS Mother said, "None of the kids ever got married at my house. Could we have it at my house?" So he left his congregation and come over around the corner and married us.
MP We have to have the details of this story down. Did you know this church before you went there?
RS No.
MP The first church you saw. What time? What day?
RS On a Sunday.
MP Sunday. And what time was it now?
DS It was a church service time. It must have been about seven o'clock in the evening. Because we were supposed to have gotten married at four here, but we couldn't.
MP Now it's about seven o'clock, and you happened to decide to go in there. And you found the minister. What was he doing at the time?
DS Waiting for his congregation to start his church.
MP And you found him in his office?
RS I went into the altar and asked for the preacher and told him what I wanted. He said, "I'd be happy to." Told him the circumstances. He jumped in the car and-it was only about three blocks from my mother's house. Come on in and performed the marriage, and I'll never forget it. Then we all jumped in the car and come back to Bloomington for the reception.
MP I think that is absolutely fascinating.
RS Sometimes we rehash that thing over and over. That brings you up to where the store. The store went bankrupt.
MP Wait a minute now. When you came back here, where did you have the reception?
DS At my father's house.
MP And all of the people followed you there and followed you back here? All right.
DS Tin cans and things on the car for twenty-two miles.
MP I think that's very romantic.
DS It was cute after you thought about it, but all the girls at the store and managers and all was at the wedding, you know. But we wasn't telling anyone in Bloomington we was getting married, you know.
MP Did you people really think you could get by without telling anyone?
DS All these people when they found out we was married said, "They're going to be together six months because he thinks he's important, and she thinks she's([drowned out by laughter)." Give `em six months to be together. Six months. And boy do I rub it down on them now. It's been fifty-five years.
RS We went on a honeymoon, too. Went to Yellowstone Park.
MP Did you drive?
RS I had a new car. We went to Yellowstone National Park on our honeymoon. What were we gone-about two or three weeks, wasn't it?
DS I had two weeks. I was still working at the store, and he had his business, getting his business started.
MP I think that's fantastic. So when you came back, did you go back to work at Klein's?
DS No, I decided I wanted to take up beauty work. So I went to the Chicago Beauty School, and I graduated from the Chicago Beauty School, and I come back and had my own beauty shop. From 19.... Well, clear up till we built this house.
MP So you both were pretty independent people, right?
RS When she was in beauty school, I continued to run my business. When she got out of beauty school, I bought the house on Jackson Street and had all her equipment in.
DS If I hadn't have graduated, it would have been a sad day.
RS Then things begin to really shine for us. From then we continued.
MP So each of you had your business. Did you hire people to help you?
DS (Unintelligible). I had a couple of Normal students, Theresa Lawche from Chicago that was going to school. And I did all the students' hair and a lot of people here in Bloomington. And Theresa was a nice young girl. And I had a niece that was going out there. So Theresa would come and do a lot of the shampooing. Her mother was a beauty operator in Chicago. So she had been around it, you know. She did a lot of shampooing and picking up towels and things for me. I think, she had gone to beauty school in Chicago.
RS Yes, she had.
DS So she knew the work.
RS She was good.
DS So she helped me you know. I'd give her a little money and do her hair. I helped her both ways. Get her hair done and get a little change, too. And I heard from her mother here just about a couple of years ago telling me-she was a school teacher. After she graduated from her, she was a school teacher. And she was an exchange teacher between Germany. Seemingly, she had gotten a tumor on her back. Mrs. (Unintelligible)berly called me and said that she had passed. I was kind of sad.
MP What was her name?
DS Theresa Lawche. But her mother remarried and still lives in Chicago, I guess. I haven't heard from her in a couple of years, but I imagine she's still there.
MP When did you close your business?
DS When we built this house. He said, "No more jobs."
RS She had done her part. I wanted no more tracking in and out. I wanted her to retire and be a housewife.
DS I miss it.
RS So we'd close up my business, and we could travel. We traveled and I just closed up and leave the men here, and we'd go and stay sometimes a couple or three months. Before I got sick. I could drive. I used to love to drive.
MP I bet you did. You liked cars.
DS He had a sister in California, and I had one in Boston. One year we'd go to California, and the next time we'd go to Boston.
RS We did a lot of traveling. All through Canada and Mexico. I never cared to go abroad. I never wanted to go abroad. I never did want to go aboard. That is over in Germany and France. I didn't care about that.
MP You couldn't drive over there, right?
RS Of course, I fly. I like to fly. My sister...
DS They went around the world a couple of times. They begged us to go with them. I've never flown, and I don't like water. We went to Martha's Vineyard. Went to visit my sister one time. They (unintelligible) to get on this boat to Martha's Vineyard, and a storm come up. It was pitch black. They said, "Oh, come on downstairs." (Unintelligible) I said, "I'll never go in a boat in that environment." We stayed four or five days at Martha's Vineyard and coming back it was beautiful. I taken pictures all the way coming back. The sea gulls following the boat, you know. But.
MP But that's enough for a lifetime, right?
RS If I hadn't gotten-oh, I guess I could. Then we thought about going to Hawaii. We have very good friends, like a brother...
MP Then you would have to convince her. You'd have to blindfold her.
RS We had almost made up our minds.
DS We were going to Trinidad. See, my sister lives in Boston. All of her friends are West Indians. She's been to Barbados and Trinidad. She and her daughter went on one of these boats where the boat is you hotel, you know. Different islands you know. Grand, beautiful time they had. I said, "You can tell me about it."
MP You really would go?
RS We made up our mind at one time that was going to go.
MP But you still could do it.
RS Well, yeah, but I don't know.
MP Just take your medicine. Really, it may just be the best thing for you.
DS That's what everybody says. Just to get away. We've gotten home bound I guess. And I don't know. It's like pulling eye teeth to get us away.
RS And as I say what do they got that I don't have. I have customers who say, "Mr. Shavers, why don't you go to Florida in the summertime and get away from the heat, the cold." I say, "I can get away from the cold. I stay in. I don't have to go to Florida." Just kidding you know.
MP What's important is as long as you enjoy your life.
RS We enjoy each other.
MP That's great. You don't really have to leave.
RS We've been very fortunate. God's been good to us, and so we have no complaints I guess, really.
MP I think that's great because you worked hard at it. I think that's marvelous.
RS Yeah. And I've been in a position to be able to help some of my relatives that wasn't so fortunate. And it makes you feel good that you can do that. (phone rings)
MP So now you can tell about joining the Catholic Church.
DS Oh, I joined in 1947. My sister had been a Catholic. In fact, she had raised her children in the Catholic Church. Her husband died, and she went to Chicago and lived with a cousin of mine. The son of this aunt that raised me lived in Chicago. Margaret went to live with them. She had one little girl. Well, she had two boys and a girl, but my father had the two boys that they raised for her. Then she'd taken the little girl to Chicago with her. Later on she went into nursing in Chicago. Then she got into Catholic Church through living with my cousin and his wife who were Catholics. She went to Saint Elizabeth's up there. And when one of her sons died, I went to Boston to the funeral. And I thought it was the most beautiful funeral that I had ever seen in my life. He was at Fort Dix, New Jersey. And they sent eight boys from the camp home to do errands for my sister. And the chaplain come. And the morning that he was to be buried, they had his casket on a dray draped with... And these boys all walked on the side of that. To me it was the most impressive thing. I'd never seen a funeral like that. Then the priest talked about when this little boy and his mother moved from Ottawa, Illinois to Boston, he knocked on his door and told him he was an altar boy and could be at any service. And he said he could call at four or five o'clock in the morning and said he'd be there. He just talked so. It wasn't sad. It was sad, but if was full of lovely things. So when I come back, I decided I wanted to be a Catholic. So I started taking instructions, and I liked it because I like the quiet and the serenity of it. And you could go there with a boot and shoe on and nobody. There wasn't a lot of gossip and things going on at church. My husband didn't join until several years afterward because he was a hard-shelled Baptist.
End Side B; Tape 1
Begin Side A; Tape 2
DS I belong to Saint Anne's Society which is a missionary society type like. Then I was secretary to Saint Anne's for four years, and then I was vice-president of the little society. And then you go into the diocese-what they call the diocese. Each little community has their own deanery, and then they meet once a year, and I was elected from the diocese as a secretary for them. Then I was first vice-president. Second vice-president and first vice-president. Then one year I thought I had enough of it, running back and forth and going, giving, talking. I was social action chairman for the deanery. And I had to go to these different little towns and talk.
MP Race relations, right. Yes.
DS After we moved here, I did it for a long while, but it got kind of nerve wracking. Not that I ran into any discrimination. I was treated just beautifully in all these little country towns that I attended. I just decided that I had enough of it.
MP That was pretty demanding though, wasn't it?
DS Yes it was. Once a month you had to go to Peoria to a meeting where all the chairmans attended, you know, to give your reports at the National. We had thirty-two deaneries in this community from Kankakee down to Decatur. Then Kankakee went up to Chicago to a different deanery. I have different articles and things that I had a piece in the paper The Catholic Post every month, and I have all kinds of articles that I had to have in the paper.
MP I hope you are going to give me some of those things to let me Xerox them.
DS Un-huh. As I said, I enjoyed it. I still enjoy it because we have missed. When Roy was sick, we didn't get to go to church, and you'd have thought we was the King of England getting back, you know. There's different masses, you know. We go Saturday at four o'clock because we used to go at eleven on Sunday, but there's so many people until all the oxygen is taken, and he just can't take it. So we go to a mass now that isn't so crowded. So we go at four o'clock on Saturday, and that's the same as going on Sunday, but being old-fashioned, still I don't think it's Sunday.
MP Unless you go to church.
DS Unless I go to church on Sunday. Sort of old-fashioned. But I enjoy it, and they call up. Two years ago all of the priests were here to a cookout, and they're very lovely and friendly, and I like them all. And as I say, one of the priests lived at our house, when we lived on Jackson Street more than he lived up the street at home. He just had to get away. And he'd come down there, and this old ninety-one year old aunt of mine. He come down and gave her private instructions to take her into the Catholic church. She was buried in the Catholic church, also. My stepmother was buried in a Catholic church. She was buried from Trinity. Of course, she was a cook up at Trinity, and they loved her. But my father, of course, never did. No, he didn't bend an inch. He always went to the [Wayman] Methodist Church. In fact, he was a local minister up there. My uncle-I guess all my family went. After Third Christian Church dissolved, they all went to the Methodist Church.
MP Now, where was this Third Christian Church located?
DS Over here on. What is that-Livingston and Henshaw? Northwestern.
RS What was that?
DS The Third Christian Church. It's where Alice's church is now.
MP The building is there, but it is used by another group now. Yes, I think.
DS No, it's all boarded up. I hear it's condemned.
MP Mrs. Dean took a photograph of that for us. I know that is the one. Were you active in any other organization, Mrs. Shavers?
DS Well yes, during the war, I belonged to Fred Hutchinson unit. Have you ever heard of that?
MP No, I don't think I have.
DS It was a society out of Chicago.
MP Fred Hutchinson?
DS Fred Hutchinson. He was. This Fred Hutchinson to me it seemed like it was. He was an airplane pilot, and it seemed like he was either killed or something happened to him. Anyhow this organization was named after him. When the boys were drafted to go away we'd go down to the depot with candy and cigarettes and stuff for them you know, white and Black. We would give to them you know. And we had uniforms. (laughs)
MP Is that right? I have not heard of that organization.
DS That was during the war. I think it is still active in Chicago. Are you from Chicago?
MP No, I'm not. Now is that group-it's not functioning now.
RS No.
DS No.
MP Just during the war, right?
DS I don't think. Bud Billiken Parade. They was always in the Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago. And I'd always go up because we were all officers, and then they was taking in new ones. But those were the only organizations that I belonged to. I was too involved in my work, you know. I was never politically inclined at all.
MP Were any members in your family involved in politics at all?
DS Not that I know of. If they were, they didn't talk about it. Because I always say I'm not Democratic or Republican. I'm for the man that's going to help what I feel should be done. They wanted to put a sign out here. I said, "No, I don't advertise what I am because I don't know myself." I have to read up on the people to see.
MP To know what you are going to do.
DS Un-huh.
MP I was going to ask you one other thing. Were there any people in your family who were involved in music?
DS No, not that I know of.
RS No. Tom he's a (unintelligible) my sister's husband.
DS That's on your side, not on my side. No, they was just. No musical. Only Frank, I guess. Frank Osborne he was in that little. But that was years ago when I was a little kid. He lived in Detroit, but he is passed now just a couple of years ago.
RS Now your sister was a nurse.
MP Your sister? Is this the one that is in Boston that is a nurse?
DS Yes.
MP Where did she get her training?
DS In Chicago. That was the time when I told you she was in Chicago.
RS She finished it in Boston.
MP Oh, did she?
RS Oh yeah. She was-what was the name of it? Matapan?
DS Matapan, yeah. You know when you take nursing, six months you got to stay in a mental institution before you. Well, she liked it so well until she stayed in the mental institution.
MP Oh, she is doing that kind of work?
DS Up until she retired.
MP Oh, is that right? That's marvelous.
RS She was a good one, too.
DS She loved it. And on the side to build up her social security-that was a state job. To build her social security when I had my aunt who raised her and I in a nursing home here, she went to work in a nursing home in her neighborhood to build up social security. So when she retired.
MP She would qualify for it, yes.
DS So now she's retired and she lives in a beautiful apartment that the Christian Science people built, and they rent to retired state workers and social workers and all like that.
MP That is interesting, and that is in Boston?
DS In Boston, yes.
End Side A; Tape 2 (side B is blank)

Tape 2

Interviewer: Mildred Pratt | Date: November 1 1986

MP I'm in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Roy Shavers. Mr. Shavers is now going to speak about some of the Black businesses, as many as he can recall.
RS Well, I'm going to start out with most-as you know, our people was death on having restaurants. So I'm going to give you a list of Black restaurants. That would be Frank Harber's restaurant and a Klink Stevenson restaurant and a Mrs. Rush, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Rush restaurant. Now that takes care of the restaurants.
MP Now, these were the restaurants located in Bloomington.
RS Yes, all in Bloomington.
MP Do you know of any that were in Normal?
RS No, in fact there was no Black restaurants in Normal until latter years they had what they called The Chat and Chew Restaurant, a little sandwich place for students. Mostly students, but they didn't get no regular meals. Kind of a little place they could get sandwiches, and they could get pop and like that, mostly for the Black students.
MP Were most of the restaurants that were in Bloomington located in the downtown section of Bloomington?
RS Well yes, because Mrs. Rush was practically right where the city hall is now. Yeah, the city hall is now that area, see, that's right up in town. And the Klink Stevenson restaurant was on South Main Street right downtown. Let me see, Frank Harber's restaurant was on Main Street. Well, he was in about the three hundred block under the viaduct. So that's practically downtown. Now, I'll give you a list of barbers.
MP Let me backtrack on the restaurants for a moment. Did any of these people own the buildings, to your knowledge, in which they operated the businesses?
RS No, but the person that owned that building, one building, he had a club and I was going to get to that later. In fact, he owned the building. Where the Nolan barbershop and the Frank Harber restaurant was located was owned by a Mr. Johnson, nicknamed "Dime" Johnson. (laughs)
MP Why was that? Do you know how he got that nickname?
RS His nickname was Dime Johnson. He owned the building and also had a club in the same building. Let's see, how about the barbers?
MP All right, great.
RS One of the oldest barbers-well, in the latter part of the twenties, I remember as a boy-was Nolan's barbershop. It was on South Main Street under the viaduct in the same building that Mr. Johnson had the club. Then we had the AdolphYoung barbershop. He was a barber here for years and years. He was originally from Carlyle, Illinois. He died about. He's only been dead about four or five years. Since then the Gastons, father and son, opened a barbershop.
MP Did they open that originally in Normal or Bloomington?
RS They opened that barbershop originally in Bloomington over on Center Street. In fact, they was right on the square at one time across from the courthouse. Then they moved down further on Center Street, and then they decided to try to go to Normal. Now they're back in Bloomington. So that takes care of the barbershops. We had-getting back to the Rushes, Fred Rush, that had the restaurant, he also had the only pawn shop ever had in Bloomington. He bought and sold-and it was on Center Street-clothing, watches, jewelry. You name it; he had it. Only pawn shop Bloomington ever had had. He was one of the leading Black businessmen in this town.
MP What was the Rush first name?
RS Fred Rush.
MP Fred Rush. All right.
RS Let's see, the pawn shop. As far as doctors, I know you've got Dr. Covington, our leading Black doctor. We also had a Dr. Glascoe.
MP Do you know his first name?'
RS No, I don't know. I don't remember Dr. Glascoe's [name]. In fact, he had rented the same office that Dr. Covington had which was right next to the Covington home on Market Street. We also had a Dr. Thatcher [sic] here. Now, this Dr. Thatcher.
DS Was he the undertaker?
RS No, Dr. Thatcher was here for a while, and I've heard recently that he is out East doing very, very well.
DS In Cleveland.
RS Yeah, I believe it is Cleveland. We did have a.
DS a dentist, but I can't think of his name.
RS Was Dr. Glascoe a medical doctor or dentist?
DS Dr. Glascoe, who couldn't talk?
RS Yeah.
DS He was a medical doctor.
RS I thought he was a medical doctor.
MP He couldn't talk?
DS He was sort of tongue-tied. Because he tried to go with me. That's why I.
MP So, you know. (laughter)
RS Don't need to bring that up.
DS I wasn't married at the time, but I roomed at the Covington's home, and his office was next door. I never went out with him, but he was always calling me, you know.
MP But he couldn't speak well.
DS No, no.
RS He stuttered or something.
DS Yeah, un-huh. He thought he was important.
MP He wasn't important enough for you, right? (laughs)
RS On the latter years. When I say latter years, we'd say from the-in the thirties we had Richard Bell. He had an automobile body shop and paint shop.
DS What about (Inaudible) Lewis?
RS I'll get to him. He didn't own nothing. He just worked. We're talking about owners. Richard Bell Body Shop, and it was located on Center Street. Then latter-later on he built his own building out on. That would be close to Route 66. Anyway, he's retired now, and he become a farmer. And now he's retired practically altogether, bad health has caused him to retire.
MP Didn't he have some kind of an aMuseument center?
RS He had a little skating. Well, at one time he had a club. He had a club out there, and he sold that and tried to have a skating rink. He's been in several different things. Very successful.
MP Yes, that's my impression.
RS Let's see, right now after Richard went out of business, retired. I'm retired and that practically takes care of all the businesses that amounted to. Let's see, that takes care of it. Well, right now we still have a social club, I guess. (laughs) It's still under the viaduct.
MP What's it called, Under the Viaduct?
RS Third Ward Club.
MP Who started that, do you know?
RS The Third Ward Club was founded by a fellow by the name of Revy Rhoades.
MP Revy Rhoades, yes.
RS Revy Rhoades, a Black politician out of Chicago. He was a good one.
MP Did he get involved in politics here?
RS Oh, yes very much-in politics, and he was a sign painter. He was very capable, and he had started up several social things for the students and a dance hall where the students could go.
DS He could tap dance.
RS Yeah, he could tap dance.
DS He was originally from Chicago, and his brother was a big politician in Chicago. So he really started this Third Ward Club, and now it's owned by Claude Hursey. Now, it's changed hands. At one time, Harry Woods owned it. He's dead. That's about the only social club they've ever had around here.
MP What about his involvement in politics-what kind of political activities was he involved in? Did he try to get Blacks elected to office?
RS He'd try to steer them the right way. In those days, who to vote for and give them a lot of good information.
DS And he hired cars to take.
RS to take them to the polls. Very active in politics from presidential down to the county, and he was capable. Very intelligent. Beautiful sign painter. He made signs for all the different businesses here in town.
MP How long did he remain in Bloomington?
RS He was in Bloomington until he died. He left here and went back to Chicago. He was only in Chicago a short time before he died. I think he left Bloomington. Had he left Bloomington when we got married? I think he had.
DS Let me see, because I worked at Klein's. Yeah, I believe he had. He hadn't been gone too long.
RS I think he left Bloomington about.
DS about [19]30 or [19]31.
RS Near as I can remember. He was in Chicago just a short time before he passed, but he was a well-known figure. Everybody knew him in the area.
MP Did anybody else pick up this political activity?
RS No.
MP That's interesting because this part. This is the first discussion about involvement of Blacks in politics. So this is very helpful.
RS Because during that time the whites had a pick, didn't have to worry about the Black votes, you know. Just know they was going vote Republican. (laughs) So they didn't put too much stress on. You know what I mean.
MP Was he more involved with Republican or Democratic?
RS He was really for the man, the man he thought would do something for the Black. And he had some pretty good choices, too, if I remember right.
MP Did he himself actually align himself with any one politician that he worked for?
RS Well now, he was. Let's see, offhand I really don't remember, but me being young in those days I wasn't too much involved, but I knew him personally. I knew him very well.
MP So his major concern was that Black people involve themselves.
RS That's right.
DS He would get cars for you to go pick up the people who had no way of getting to the polls.
RS He was about the only person I know who was really active politically.
MP You mentioned a Lewis.
RS Earl, right. He didn't own a business. He just worked in a business. [in 1930s and 1940s he was an auto mechanic for Bloomington Radiator and Body Works] Well now, there's (chuckles) of course that's going back too far.
MP No, go back as far as you can.
RS I'm trying to remember. Well, the man who really taught me, encouraged me to go into the housecleaning business was Mr. Ed Bynum.
MP Would you spell that name, please?
DS B-Y-N-M-U-M. [sic]
RS I worked for him, and he had a housecleaning business. He was one of the first house cleaners in town. Now he had a regular business. He run it out of his home, and he was good. And I practically learned the business under him. He was one of the old, old-timers here in town. And let me see-I always thought a lot of the Bynums. They was a social family. It goes back to when Fred Rush and them. Of course, I was a kid, but I remember them. I think that pretty well.
MP Now Normal had some barbers.
RS Yeah, Normal had barbers, but they wouldn't cater to us. They catered only to whites. That's the reason I wasn't too interested to talk. Yeah, the Calimese was fine barbers.
MP But they would not.
RS White only.
MP The only ones for Blacks were the ones you mentioned. Now, tell me, someone mentioned something to the effect that there was a Black person who was barber for President Lincoln. Do you know anything about that?
RS No.
MP From Bloomington He was called. And Lincoln remembered him in his will with something. He was from Bloomington.
RS I never heard of that.
MP Well, shall we go to the Pythians?
RS Where is that?
MP Now that's the organization of it, isn't it?
RS There it is. That's the article, and this is one of the sabers. That's one of the sabers.
MP Do you know how old this. Any idea?
RS No, I don't. William H. Crawford. William H. Crawford was.
DS My stepmother's stepfather.
MP Your stepmother's stepfather, and he was the one to whom that belonged.
RS His name's engraved here, but it's the same lodge that Frank organized. He organized it.
MP There is no date on that.
RS No, I tried to find a date on here, but you got the date right there when it was organized.
MP No, it's not on here. No, the date is not on there.
DS It's probably on the paper that I tore it out of.
MP It may be there, but that's everything about it though in that little article. That's a complete article.
RS (Inaudible). No Sir, there's no date on there.
MP Could you approximate the date of it?
DS Way before my time. When my father was married, I imagine. 'Cause I don't remember anything about no Pythian Lodge.
MP That was around when? Late 1800s?
RS Oh yeah, late 1800s because he was a very young man then during when they organized-where is that article? That would have to be early 1980s.
MP You mean 1880s.
RS I mean, I mean, yeah.
MP Now the person who was the president or leader had that saber.
RS He was one of the deputies.
MP He was one of the deputies, and that's why he had this saber, is that right?
RS Yeah, that saber is part of their uniform. After you get to a certain stage, you request it. They had the saber. Then they had the high plume hat, and the regular uniform.
MP Do you know anybody who would have one of those uniforms?
RS No, in fact, this was the first time I knew that Frank organized it. I knew about this-the saber and the Crawford-but I didn't know her father had organized it till this come up.
MP Are you going to be in town on Saturday?
RS This Saturday? Yeah, I don't know where else I'd be.
MP Do you think you could come to that meeting? Did both of you decide you can come?
RS I can't come. I shouldn't be here today. I got a million things. I got roofers.
MP I know. Can you come even for a little while because I want that-Mr. Koos from the Illinois Historical Society [sic] is going to be at that meeting, and he's going to be there to photograph all of the things that will be brought. I really would like him to take a photograph of that.
RS You can take it and let him photograph it. You can take it all, and you can bring it back.
MP I will sign my life away if you let me do it. (laughs)
RS Because I won't commit my Saturday because.
MP I know you are busy. I understand.
RS we got a lot of personal business to take care of.
MP If you would let me do that.
RS Yes, you can take it.
MP Great. I'll let him photograph it because it would be nice to be able to put that on display with this article. I think that would be great.
RS You could put a picture of that with this. A copy of this. This uniform got damp down there, and the guys when they cleaned it, they told me they had dried it well, but they didn't.
MP They didn't. Oh, thank you so much. That's great. Now, did we have anything else on the list?
RS Let me see. No, that takes care of all the businesses and that little bit on that political area that I'd given you. See we brought up to the present businesses. As I say-well, the Third Ward Club is not too.
MP is not too active.
RS It is active, but the class of people that go there.
MP is different. Un-huh.
RS Maybe that's the reason nobody give it, you know.
MP Information about it. That's right.
RS Because you know it's kind of.
MP it really has changed. I see.
RS You'd be surprised. Students slip down there right now.
MP Oh, do they? (laughs)
RS Sure.
DS They always did.
RS Always did.
MP You have that-in every town you've got it.
DS It's an oddity for them, you know.
MP Something different.
DS They go down there to see what's going on. And they get in the wrong class of people.
RS Do you remember. It come in my mind a minute, but it's gone. Do you remember the first social. What did they call it, social.?
DS I know what you're. Down on South. Ice-cream parlor.
RS Yeah, the first social center we had-the guy's right on the tip of my tongue that started it.
DS It wasn't Franklin?
RS No.
DS And Mr. Young had that restaurant across the street. Do you remember?
RS Well, you see, at one time Young was in with your father.
DS Yeah, but Frank was the main boss. He was just in business with him.
RS Almost called the name.
MP Was this a social center or recreation center?
RS Yes, a social center.
DS Not a recreation center. They just had. You went down there, and they had ice-cream sodas. No liquor or nothing. No liquor.
MP Nobody's mentioned that.
RS No, I can't. Right on the corner. Real nice place. Real nice place. That building's been torn down now.
MP Where was that located now?
RS On South Main Street at the entrance as you go over the viaduct.
DS I can't remember his name either.
MP Well, maybe it will come to you during our activities today.
RS The first real nice social center because up on the far corner that's where Klink Stevenson had their restaurant right up on the far corner.
MP Clint Stevenson?
RS Klink.
MP Klink, was that a Black business? You gave me that.
RS I gave you Klink Stevenson. He had a real nice restaurant on South Main Street. You know that was always.
DS Mr. Young used to have that. Remember when way before you and I married, you played in the orchestra, and they had the "dime a dance."
RS That was up on. (laughs)
MP Oh, did you tell me about your playing with an orchestra? Did you tell me last time?
RS Yeah, I told you.
MP Did you?
DS About playing the drums.
MP Oh, right?
RS Mr. Young had a little nightclub up over right down on the square, right on top of. What's there now? Well, where the Shield's Jewelry just moved out, upstairs we had a-your daddy was connected with-him and Mr. Young with that.
MP He's a good businessman, right?
RS It was a huge place. And kids-young students-well, students and all. And we had dances up there every week. It was open every night. They had a restaurant up there, too. There would be restaurant (unintelligible) because.
DS there was no place to go.
MP Because that was the only place that Blacks could go if they wanted to eat out.
RS That's right. We had dances up there, and my band played up there a lot for them. That was right up on-everything we had was right up on the square. So that's one good thing. We did have.
DS Did you tell her about the Elks?
RS I told her that I organized the Elks, the first Elks Lodge they ever had here.
MP You told me that last time.
RS What else do we got here?
MP Did you tell me the Pythians, is that group still operating?
RS No.
MP Since when?
MP It's a national organization?
RS National, like the Masons, but I think they was a little bigger than the Masons at that time. It was a very popular lodge. Let's see, is there anything else worth talking about. (shuffles papers) Businesses, businesses, politics. I brought you up-to-date on the few Blacks that we have that is trying to be in business. We've got a Black restaurant. Did anyone give you the Black restaurant up there on Main Street?
MP Is that a ribs place?
DS Yeah.
MP I think they closed.
DS Oh, did they close?
MP I was going to mention, any kind of laundry businesses?
DS Unless they did it in their homes.
MP No, Black grocery stores at all?
RS I can remember that little old grocery. That little old man tried to have a grocery store on West Washington Street. Down there where Adolph used to have. In the Smith Building, that old Smith Building. It didn't amount to anything, but he tried to have. No way for me to remember his name. God.
DS I don't remember that.
RS You wouldn't. You wasn't.
DS I wasn't here.
RS What was his name? I can't remember. He tried to have a little grocery store there at on time. What else? No car dealers or anything like that.
MP Shoeshine?
RS Well, let me see, who were the shoeshine parlors around here. The Greeks had all the shoeshine parlors.
MP Oh, the Greeks? Is that right?
RS Well, except in the barbershops had a single stand. That's a business, but the Greeks come in here and tied that.
DS Stokely was a piano player.
RS Stokely, that was. Yeah, Stokely was one of them.
MP He was the one who played at the. Yes. Un-huh. Do you know if Black people worked in the coal mines? I understand there was a coal mine over by the railroad.
RS I never knew, way before my time, but I know there was a coal mine out there. I don't know of any coal miners that ever worked out there. What else can I think of here? You know, that goes back a long time. Three-I League, let me see.
MP Typical businesses.
RS (papers are shuffled) Band. Let's see what else is there? Mrs. Rush. I guess that's about.
MP Any fortune-telling businesses?
RS Oh, yeah. We used to. I used to. What was her name? Darn it. She's dead now, but she was a good one. Folks-oh Man, they ate it up.
MP Where was it located?
RS Out here on East Wal.
DS Empire.
RS East Empire. What was her name? Now darn it. (laughs) What was her name? We used to laugh, but she was a good one. You bet she was.
DS I don't think many Blacks went to her.
RS No, no, no.
MP She got the white people's business.
RS Whites. Made a lot of money too. Did anybody ever talk about-all these businesses I gave were run by men. Now how about women? Miss Emma Smith.
MP There's one over there.
RS Yeah, my wife. You had your own beauty parlor. Miss Emma Smith was one of the first Black-had a masseuse in the Roland Building right uptown. She catered to the rich.
MP What's her name? Now spell her name out would you?
DS Emma Smith.
RS Emma Smith.
MP All right.
RS And she was in the Roland Building right on the square. Her clientele was the rich, East Side rich.
MP Do you know how long she operated?
RS For years. For years.
MP So really when we are talking about these business, we're talking about the early 1900s pretty much, is that right? Up through.?
RS Oh, yeah. Way.
DS After the war.
MP After World War I, right?
RS Oh, way after. See we're talking.
MP All right. All through around the 1960s, right?
RS No, 1915, [19]16s, [19]18s.
MP [19]18s. All right. Great. So this massage parlor she had.
RS Because I can remember hearing about her, and I knew her personally.
DS My sister worked for her. She gave baths and massages to these wealthy women, you know. And then she had a teashop up there, too. After the massages, she had the teashop.
RS That would be right after the Depression. You were going back before you said [19]15 and [19]16. That would be. [19]29 was the Depression,
DS Her business was after the Depression?
RS Her business was before the Depression, and after.
MP All right, because that was the period when you had these people-conspicuous consumption. Everybody was anxious to live the good life, who had money, right? All right. All right. That's interesting. So there's a massage parlor.
RS And it was a fine one. They had all these satin gowns and sheets, and very, very high class. Nobody could afford to go but the rich.
DS And she had the most beautiful hands I've ever seen. Oh, her hands was just beautiful.
RS We had another beautician around.
MP Does she have any relatives around?
RS They're all dead.
DS Mrs. Barker on Oakland Avenue was her sister.
RS They're all.
MP Mrs. Barker, who lives on Oakland Avenue?
DS Oh no, she's dead now. She lived on Oakland Avenue. Then she had a brother who we used to call Cheka.
RS Cheka, he's been dead for a long time. They're all dead.
MP That's an interesting one.
RS But the old-timers that's left would remember.
MP So what about other women's businesses?
RS We had another beautician. Mrs. Johnson had a beauty shop.
MP What's her first name?
RS What's Mrs. Johnson's name? She come here from Chicago. She had been married, but she was a widow or divorced.
DS Jennie Johnson.
RS Jennie Johnson.
MP Jennie Johnson. Now was this beauty shop primarily for Blacks?
DS Yes.
RS She had it in her home?
MP Do you know if any Black women operated beauty shops primarily for whites?
RS Just primarily for whites, no. The onliest one I know that ever worked on whites was my wife.
DS I worked downtown in a white beauty shop before I went.
MP That's right, you told me this.
RS Now, the only other Black women business. Well, we had-never really amounted to anything. Well, I guess that was practically all. What do call it? Is this thing on?
MP Do you want me to turn it off?
RS No, I was just trying to think whether it would be worth-trying to be a real estate dealer.
MP I was going to ask you if there were any real estate dealers.
RS Naomi Martin.
MP Naomi Martin.
RS She had. She's very ill now.
MP She's still alive. Somebody is trying to interview her. When did she start her real estate business?
RS It's not.
MP Pretty much in her home?
RS Yeah, that's right.
DS She had an office in Decatur, remember?
RS I don't know about that.
DS That's when I first learned about it because we lived in (unintelligible).
RS I don't know where the office was.
DS I don't know where the office was, but the article. It was probably out of a home down in Decatur.
RS I think it's probably some friend that she knew down there.
MP But she was selling?
RS Yeah, she was. Well, she was in the business. I don't know if she sold anything, but she was in the business.
MP What time was that?
DS That was right after we built this house because she called me one time and wanted to knew if I wanted to sell it, and I said, "Why would I want to sell it? I just built it."
MP You built the perfect house you wanted, right? So you'd say the fifties maybe.
RS Oh, it was in the fifties, sixties. I'd say sixties.
MP Sixties. All right.
RS Probably in the sixties because, you know, what's his name tried to be a real estate dealer, too, Leslie Smith.
MP Yes, he was saying he had started something.
RS Never.
MP Never too successful?
RS No. His father put him in several things, but he could never make anything go. I'm trying to go along with some of the things that sort of you know.
MP Kind of flourished.
RS kind of flourished. That worked out pretty good.
MP Would you say that Black women, that quite a few of them maybe did laundry in their homes. Took in laundry? Did you have any knowledge of that? To what extent that happened?
RS No.
MP I know one woman who said she did that.
RS Mrs. Boykin?
MP Yes.
RS She did, since you mentioned it. She's good too. She specialized in curtains and shirts, I think. She was a good one, but she's about the only one I know that really did that kind of work. That was just like everything else. She catered to the East Side, the rich.
MP She said those were the people who had the money.
RS Who had those things done.
MP Any efforts on the part of Black women to start services for baby-sitting businesses.
DS Not that I know of.
MP I guess there's not that much demand for it.
RS I wonder if anybody ever give you any information about Mrs. -the best Black cateress that ever hit this town, Maggie Smith.
MP No.
RS That was the-now she was the best. In those days, they didn't have all this fast food.
DS She catered for the rich when they had special parties. She fixed the food and go out.
MP And served them, right? Did she hire women to help?
RS Yes, she hired help.
MP And where did she operate?
RS Out of her home. She would do a lot of the work on the job, and then she'd do some of the work at home. But she was the best that ever hit this city, and she catered strictly to the rich, too. They were the only ones who could afford it.
MP They were the ones who had the money.
RS Maggie Smith. She hasn't been dead too long. She died after Uncle Ed died. Yeah, she died after Uncle Ed did. But you know, talking about business that was really a business. (Unintelligible) was expensive then.
MP I wondered if any women tried to organize a business such as you had where they would send women out to do day work and this kind of thing.
RS No, it wasn't organized then. They tell me that there was a couple that tried it. I don't know whether they succeeded or not. See my business-we took over. My clientele was so that I knew where we were going every day. They made appointments.
MP And you trained them, is that right?
RS I trained them, and I was with them. I was responsible. People would go to Europe or they'd go to Arizona or out of state for the winter, and I had the keys. We did everything, did everything-the beds. And when they come back, all they had to do was just walk in. Black women never-they worked as maids, but like they said, "We don't do windows." (laughs) You know, like they used to say. They didn't do none of the heavy work. Most of them would cook and like that for different people.
MP What about sewing? Did women have any organized way of sewing for people?
RS No, I don't think.
MP I'm glad you mentioned women because.
RS Yeah, I'm trying to think of any women who ever did any sewing? Of course, Hazel could really sew, but she didn't make a practice of it. Who else? Oh, that girl that died. She used to try to be a seamstress. They're both dead now. They died on Gordon's.
DS Oh yeah, Walker.
RS The Walker girl. Their family, they're all dead, too. She had.
DS She did altering and things like that.
RS She made dresses and all, but I don't know of any.
DS They didn't make a real business out of it.
MP A few things they would do in their homes, right?
DS Yes, they stitched at home because all the stores downtown had alteration women, but there was none of them Black. They was all white. Well, they just didn't apply for the jobs-like it is now. A lot of them.
MP I see what you're saying, yes.
DS Elaine was one of the best seamstresses around here. She worked in Chicago for one of the best stores.
MP Yes, she told me.
DS Did she tell you? But she doesn't want to do it anymore.
RS Well, I'll tell you a gal. Well, she's dead, too. They had a Black woman's business. Remember she got burnt. Chavis.
MP Spell the name.
DS C-H-A-V-I-S.
RS And she had a cleaning and tailor-she had a tailor shop on West Washington Street, and it caught on fire. She was severely burned, and she never got over it. She used to go with Girard Covington.
DS That's way back, too.
MP Was that the physician or another Covington?
RS Well, the physician's son. His oldest son. Well, it was a business, a woman's business, and she was. That would be about.
DS Around [19]34 or [19]35.
RS Maybe longer than that-later than that.
DS Well, since we got married.
RS But see, "Doc" been-I call him Doc. Doc died in [19]50. Mace, my brother, Mace died in [19]50. See, that's only been about thirty years, thirty-five years-for a business it's been.
DS She's the only one I know.
RS Well, "Old Man" Nuckolls (laughs) he had a tailor shop, too.
MP What's that name now?
RS Nuckolls. Some of them is still living. George.
MP Spell that name.
DS Wait. N-U-C-K.
MP L-E-S. [sic]
DS Un-huh. Sarah Nuckolls married into that family, you know.
RS He had a tailor shop there on Washington. He's a good tailor. He had a tailor shop on West Washington.
DS He was the one who ruined your white.
RS (laughs) tuxedo. I should never forget him. (laughter) I'll tell you. Man, that goes way. I'll tell you.
DS There ought to be a couple of those girls. A couple of the girls were nurses out here to the McLean County Nursing Home for years. I think they're still out there.
MP You know who would have that-Mrs. Posey is getting that all together for me, all the nurses.
RS She'll have the Nuckolls' girls on there.
DS Of course, she would know the nurses at the hospitals, but she may not know the nurses at the nursing homes because she worked at Brokaw Hospital.
RS Because she was just a recorder out there.
End Side A
Side B
MP We were talking about the McLean County Nursing Home. Do you want to give the name of your aunt who was there?
DS Cora Osborne
MP And you are saying she was the first Black person ever in that nursing home. And you were saying they had Mexican-American girls working there, and also the Nuckolls, Black girls, who work there as nurses.
DS Because Dr. Ed Stevenson is the one who said, "Well, we'll just have to put her in a nursing home."I said, "Oh, no, that's the last resort." And he said, "It's either you or her."
MP Now, Dr. "Who" Stevenson?
DS Ed Stevenson.
MP McLean Stevenson's father?
DS That's right.
MP Now, he was your family doctor?
DS He was our family doctor.
RS And friend. And very close friend.
MP Yes. Did you know McLean?
DS Oh yes.
RS Did know him? I worked for him.
DS He taught him how to play the drums.
RS McLean and his sister when they were little kids the lived on.
DS on Whites Place.
RS No, Clinton Street.
DS Oh, Clinton Street first.
RS Clinton Boulevard. He was a real nice kid. We'd go there and do work, and he had this set of drums set up in the basement. We'd get down there, and we'd play the drums. Yeah, after Dr. Stevenson. Dr. Ed hasn't been dead very long. I babysat for Dr. Stevenson. He and his wife-after the first Mrs. Stevenson died, he remarried and then he took ill. Hasn't been about four or five years ago, he had this operation, and he had cancer. And he didn't just want to give up, but finally he had to retire. She got to the place-he didn't want to see nobody. She couldn't get away. She'd ask me to come out. He'd say, "Have Roy to come out." I'd go out and sit with him.
MP You really went out and took care of him as a friend.
RS As a friend, I would sit with him, and went out there and helped him -all his file he had to keep for a certain number of years. And I rearranged all of his files down in his big basement where they. Where she is now. Because those patient files had to stay for five years. I did all that. I'd go out and sit with him just like a baby-sitter. We were friends. Good friends.
DS They'd have us out for cocktails for our anniversary and different things.
MP He was related to. What was his relationship to.
RS Cousin.
DS Adlai Stevenson?
RS Cousin, they were first cousins. And "Old Lady" Ives out here was his aunt, and I worked for her, too, the ambassador. See her husband was an ambassador, "Old Man" Ives, and they'd be out of the country, and I'd take my crew out and have it all ready when she come. She was (laughs) a wrang-dangle to work for. (laughs) I was the only one she could get along with. And when the president come here. When President Johnson come here, my crew went out there and got the house ready because the Ives was still in Europe. They come for Adlai Stevenson's funeral, the president and them. And they was out to the house.
MP They stayed.
RS the secret service and family. I was out there.
MP You were out there?
RS Yeah, we got the house ready. We got the house ready for them.
DS And my stepmother catered the dinner-the luncheon what they had for them.
MP So she personally had contact with Johnson then.
DS Oh yes. Un-huh.
MP Do you know if she got an autograph or anything? Or she wouldn't have bothered?
RS No, I don't think so.
MP Do you have any photographs of you with the Stevensons?
RS No. With the.? No. But we were good. We still-when Mac.
DS when Mac is in town, he'll call.
MP Isn't that marvelous? I think that's marvelous. I think several people have mentioned Dr. Stevenson. He did have quite a few Blacks as patients, is that right?
RS Yes, un-huh.
MP Would you say that he was one of the major white physicians who did.
RS That's right.
DS Tell her the story.
RS He told me that I gave him new incentive to take Blacks. He thought so much of me.
DS He would take them, and they didn't pay him, and then he stopped for a while. And when he started doctoring Roy why.,
RS he changed his attitude.
MP Is that right, because you paid him?
RS At a certain time, a Black could hardly get a doctor. Bloomington was terribly.
DS That's why those Black doctors come in here.
MP What did Blacks do then for physicians? Did they go to Peoria or Decatur or some place?
RS No, they just took whoever they could get.
MP Did they just take remedies and do whatever they could do?
RS Take whoever they could get. The medical profession was bad, bad.
DS I guess they could always get a doctor, but you didn't know who it would be?
MP It was difficult?
RS A good doctor. We had some "quacks" in those days as doctors, too, like everything. A lot of quacks in those days.
DS 'Cause I don't remember ever not taking any doctors in our days.
RS No, not in our days. I know just like the undertakering business. They had to bury you. They picked one to take, you know.
MP So that was difficult to get undertakers, also?
RS Well, sure.
MP I see.
RS Well no, you take Murray's-Murray's got all the Blacks.
DS Well, there used to be a lot of them that wouldn't take it, but there would always be one that would take.
MP At least one that would take, right?
RS Beck's is the oldest undertaker here.
DS Well, my grandfather and all of Grandma Thomas and them belonged to it. They paid.
RS Burial association.
DS They paid in a burial association. When you died, the burial was paid for.
MP Tell me about the burial association.
DS All I know is that it was like an insurance, and you paid.
MP Now, who operated it?
RS The undertaker.
DS The undertaker. I guess through your doctor as far as I know. I don't know. But I know Grandma, Grandma (Unintelligible) had it because-that's my father's mother in Pontiac had it because when she died-she got killed in an automobile accident-and the undertaker's name was (Unintelligible) in Pontiac. [He] said that he couldn't bury her under the circumstances because she didn't have enough money paid in for her burial. But I talked to an undertaker here in Bloomington, and he said, "Oh yes, she's got to be." No matter how she died, her burial has been paid for you know. And when I confronted him with that, I said, "Well, if you don't bury her, I'll take her to someone else." And he took her and did a beautiful job.
MP That's interesting-the burial association. That's right.
DS But I wouldn't have known how to do it except Dan Carmody who just died here a couple of weeks ago [his obituary was printed on September 21, 1986], he told me, "Well if he doesn't want to take her, we'll go up and get her. If she has paid into that burial association, it's up to him to bury her, no matter how she died or when."
MP I see.
RS But he tried to tell me-see, when she was torn out of the car, the car mashed her head, and he had to build up all that. He did a beautiful job doing it, but it's just knowing the right people.
MP Knowing the right person to go to.
RS Otherwise, he could have just buried her and not even shown her.
MP That's right. Absolutely.
RS She was mashed pretty severely from the automobile accident. She was killed instantly from the automobile accident.
MP I'm glad you told me about the Stevensons because I would have missed that.
DS His second wife is nice, too.
RS Yes she is, very nice.
DS She's had us out there several times. And I've gone to lunch with her and some other white ladies.
RS I'd be out there taking care of her now if I was able.
MP If you were able to, yes.
RS We was just.
MP really close friends, yes.
DS Everything Roy would have. A sweater or something he'd wear he'd say, "I'd like to have that sweater you got." He had all the money. He could buy sweaters.
MP It was almost like a brother, right? It was such a personal relationship.
RS Last plane trip he took, I persuaded him. I said, "Why don't you go?" He knew he was very sick then. I'd take them to the train. I'd meet them when they'd come back.
DS I had several letters-thank-you letters from him. I don't know what I did with them.
RS I used to keep that stuff, but a lot of that stuff got lost downstairs. [water damage in the basement] Then after he passed, I stayed out there. I was retired, but I'd go out and do a little cleaning for her.
DS When he died. We'd gone to the hospital to see him a couple of times. And when he died, we didn't go to the house for the wake, you know. They called up. Mrs. Rust called up, and said, "Mrs. Stevenson, Reny [Lorene] Stevenson was upset because Roy and I hadn't been out.
MP Is that right?
DS When I called to make excuses-we had company, and I wanted to remember him as I had last seen him, you know. And Mac answered the telephone, and I told him who I was. And he said, "We've been looking for you. Reny's been wondering why you haven't been by." So the funeral was the next day, and I said, "We will be at the funeral." Of course, they had a private room for the family, you know. But after the funeral was over, we was standing. My sister and I was standing on the corner for Roy to go get the car. And Sam Stern had stopped me and was talking to me, and Mac honked the horn and waved to us to let us know that he had seen us at the funeral.
MP And was delighted that you had come.
RS Of course, I went up to see Doc Stevenson all the time when he was in Brokaw when E. K. was in the hospital. I see E. K. and then I'd go up there and spend time with him before. He released him-he made them release him, and then he come home. He wouldn't take chemotherapy anymore. So he come home. And as I say, he was.
DS He was a wonderful person.
RS Yes. I got all the records and rearranged everything for him. He knew he was going to die.
MP And he wanted somebody to do this who he could trust. He said, Reny." He called her Reny. "You can depend on Roy."
DS His first wife was nice, too.
RS I was nice to her. Yeah, his first wife, too. I was just as close to her. Oh, she was.
DS a beautiful woman.
RS a beautiful woman. It was class. You talk about class. Man, she had class, class, class, class. She laid sick for quite a while. And I was the same by her. And then when he got ready to marry, (inaudible).
MP Oh, he asked your opinion of her, right? (laughter)
RS I told him I thought it would be a grand thing. I told him, "You might as well get married. You can't stay on the job if you keep flying to California every two or three weeks."
DS He was wondering how his friends would feel about him getting married.
RS He was a wonderful man, a nice person.
MP Well, I better start on your activities, and you can start wherever you like? Give Mr. Shavers a little breather. (some movement and muffled conversation)
DS Well, I told you that I didn't have any civic duties, but I had forgotten that I has worked on the ration board.
MP Tell me about that. How you got on there and how long you worked there and what you did.
DS Well, the office of it was at the courthouse.
MP And we are talking about the War Ration Board.
DS The War Ration Board. Mr.-I can't call his name. It will come to me in a minute. It was called the war service for the Office of Price Administration. At that time sugar and coffee and different things was rationed. When they would come-they was supposed to go to people's houses and find out how much coffee you had stored and how much sugar you had stored. And if you had over a certain amount, then you couldn't get stamps to get more. Of course, everyone told little white lies that they didn't have any. The rich people and all had to declare what they had and even the farmers. They schooled us to tell the farmers that they could use saccharine and people who canned a lot, you know-when they couldn't buy sugar. Of course, gasoline stamps was rationed. I've always said how the government-each morning you was given a certain amount of books, and you would tear off so many that was allotted to different people who didn't have sugar or didn't have coffee or gasoline. If there was any books left in that stamp, you had to destroy them which I always thought was so stupid that you'd give extra stamps to people, but you couldn't. Mr. Walters, Mr. [George] Carruthers, and Dana Rollins was the board chairman in that. Mr. Bowles was the administrator. I had a certificate that said: "Delores Shavers, in sincere appreciation for devotion to our country's need in time of great national peril for volunteer services in a successful operation of price control and rationing. This award is given on the thirteen day of October, 1944." Then I got one, I think, the same thing from the president, President Truman, at the time. This was the Office of Price Administration, also. The award from them is signed by Harry Truman.
MP Let's go back to the War Board now. What was you task?
DS Giving out the stamps.
MP Did they come to the office?
DS They come to the office. There was five girls in the office, just like a bank. You had your own little stall.
MP And that was at the courthouse?
DS That was at the courthouse, and people would come to you with their"woe" telling you that they didn't have any sugar or (unintelligible), and they was ready to can food or can vegetables and fruits and things, and they didn't have any sugar. And you had to question them, of course, to find out about.
MP To make the decision.
DS To make a decision. And automobile tires was also rationed.
MP Yes, because of the rubber.
DS Because of the rubber. As I say, the farmers got first priority on account they needed the tires, and they needed gasoline and things. They was given a little extra.
MP How did you happen to get this job?
DS I really don't remember. I think I was just confronted, and I thought I'd be the first Black to do it.
MP You were the only Black.
DS Yes, I was the only Black.
MP How long did you work there?
DS All during the time it was in operation.
RS During the war.
MP All during the war, and you only stopped when it went out of business.
DS It wasn't open every day, just certain days. Because I had my beauty shop at the time.
MP Were you paid?
DS Oh no. It was volunteer.
MP You weren't paid anything. That was voluntary, strictly voluntary.
DS All you got was a certificate. (laughs)
MP So now, they rigidly screened you though.
RS Oh yes. You had to be screened. Ed Raycraft was on that board, too, wasn't he. Ed Raycraft, a very rich car dealer out here.
MP So that was a prestigious position to have.
DS Mr. Bowles was the administrator, and the regional administrator was Mr. Walters and Carruthers was the district. They're the ones I guess. And Dana Rollins, I remember him. He's the one who questioned me for the job.
RS About your loyalty, you know. Yeah, because if anybody was caught cheating you'd go to jail.
MP That's what I'm saying. I sure that was very important.
DS Those are the two awards from the war service. Of course, in 1943-what was that [19]44-I have a certificate from the Red Cross.
MP Now that was during the war. What did you do with the Red Cross?
DS Well, it was during the war, and we went to the railroad station if people were sick or hurt.
RS The draftees, too.
DS They would take little treats down to the boys.
RS Cigarettes and candy when they was leaving to go serve. They didn't know whether they was going to get to come back or not.
DS If they got sick or anything, the Red Cross would take care of them. They would get them to the office, or hospital, or know what to do for them.
MP So you were one of the volunteers with this. Were you the only Black person?
DS Yes, during that time. I was the only one volunteered to work at the courthouse. There was several Blacks on the Red Cross because we formed a little club called the Fred Hutchinson Club. It was a woman out of Chicago come down here through the Red Cross. It was all Black. She formed this Fred Hutchinson [Club]. And the reason it was named Fred Hutchinson was that he was the first Black aviator, and I guess he was killed. I don't remember now.
RS He was killed. He was the first Black that offered his services when we was having this first trouble with.
DS Africa.
RS Yeah.
DS And they didn't want him because he was Black American. Yeah, I remember that now. But that was what that-it come through the Red Cross.
MP So you worked with the Fred Hutchinson group? There were several Black people in that?
DS Yes, it was a Black organization. We'd taken training where you started out as a private just like in the army. You worked yourself up as the captain and whatnot, you know.
MP Was there a Mrs. Wyche? W-Y-C-H-E.
DS Wyche.
MP Was she Black?
DS Yes, she was Black, but she was very, very fair.
RS She was one of the old, old-timers.
MP I ran across her name several places.
RS She left the property to our church, Saint Mary's Church. Her home place. Fred Wyche's wife. He was an old paperhanger, (chuckles) when I was a little kid. An old, tall guy.
MP Did he have his own business?
RS Yeah, Mrs. Wyche was a beautiful woman. I always remember she had snow-white hair, and she was a beautiful woman.
MP Did they have quite a bit of money?
RS Just good livers. In those days you know-good livers. I imagine.
MP They owned their own property.
DS Oh yeah, a couple of houses over there on West Taylor Street.
MP And when they died,.
DS they left it to the Saint Mary's Catholic Church because the Black people was very upset about it, you know. They thought that they should-she become a Catholic. I think she at one time belonged to the A.M.E. Church-before I become a Catholic. I don't know what her intentions were, why she joined or anything.
MP Did she have children?
DS No. [sic]
RS They way I remember the story is the Catholics took care of her when she got ill. He died first, didn't he? And they just took over taking care of her where the Blacks didn't.
DS She lived across the street from the church.
MP So this is probably why she left it to them.
RS That's right.
DS She had a beautiful funeral. I think she was the first Black, that I knew, that belonged to Saint Mary's. But you couldn't tell her from white. I imagine she was three-fourths white. More white than she was Black. As I say, you're not proud of this integration because you can't help it.
MP No, there is nothing you can do about it. That's right.
DS When I say that my grandmother's white, in those days it was unspoken of.
MP That's your heritage.
DS It was unspoken of, of course, but they're doing it now.
MP Sure. I stopped to mention her because I thought I read some place that she was involved in some international aspects of the Red Cross. Is that to your knowledge?
DS Not that I know of. That was before. It could have been. She was a Civic Woman, and belonged to a lot of things, but not in my time. Because I just heard of her-I knew Mrs. Wyche very well. I think I have some pictures of her. She belonged to the Three C Club. Mrs. Posey and them could probably tell you more about her belonging to that. I don't think she belonged to the Progressives. I think it was Three Cs. No one except the members knows what Three Cs stands for.
MP They said they don't tell anybody that.
DS [text omitted]
RS Did anybody ever give you any rundown on Jennie Johnson?
MP No.
DS There's another Jennie Johnson.
RS Another Jennie Johnson. She was an aunt to Caribel Washington.
DS They'll probably tell her.
MP No, no.
RS The reason I asked-about the Methodist Church-talking about the church. Now the Methodists, the Colored Methodist Church, that's an old, old church. Well, we used to go up there to the Methodist Church.
MP Wayman?
RS Before Jennie died, you know, I put that hardwood floor-she had me, we put that new floor in up there at the church. I just wondered.
MP Was she an active member of that church or on the board or something?
RS No, she was just-she had quite a bit of money. She was the wife to this Dime Johnson I was telling you about that had the club. In latter years she married him, and then she died and left him. I was just wondering if anybody told...
DS Well, Caribel will probably.
MP I have to interview them again. When you do the first one, you just don't get everything.
RS I liked Jennie.
DS We called her Aunt Jennie.
RS We called her Aunt Jennie. Course she was a hard customer to get along with. Her and I was just like this, but she was nice.
MP Let's see now. The Booker T. Washington [Home] we ought to start with that. You were a member of the Lucy Morgan Home, is that right? Would you speak about that when you served.
DS Well, I was a volunteer for it, too. You had to be recommended by someone on the board.
MP This is Lucy Morgan before it combined with Washington?
DS Yes, it was first Booker T. Washington and after it was closed, I don't know where the "Lucy" come from. I had a piece of paper here about that. It was called the Morgan-Washington Home. Lucy Morgan-Washington Home. They had Black children out there-girls. They were all girls at this particular time, and I imagine by getting Blacks on they had to have some Blacks on the board. Naomi Martin was one of them. She was the first that I knew of. She and I were the only two, that I knew of, that belonged to the Morgan-Washington Home. It could have been that she recommended me. I don't know, but I know that there was a professor from the university come here-what was her name. She said I had been recommended for the board and interviewed me about it, you know.
RS Didn't Dr.-Mrs. Stevenson try to get you.
DS Well, I was her secretary, but that was way before. She wasn't on the first board that I belonged to.
MP Secretary to.?
DS Reny Stevenson. She was the president of the board. And after-I was on the board for two terms going into the third term, the fourth term. See, I went four years. The first president-I've forgotten her name now, but they were all very nice. Mrs. Stevenson was elected president, and I was elected to be her secretary of the board. I didn't take it because I had the beauty shop, and we were getting ready to come into this house, and it was just too much. It was all right to go once a month to go to meetings, but I didn't want that responsibility. I didn't accept it. Remember Dr. Ed Stevenson called me. And I said, "Under the circumstances I couldn't accept it." I forget how the letter read now that I wrote to decline the nomination. Dr. Stevenson called up to find out what the circumstances was that I wasn't accepting Reny's, you know-her secretary. I told him, and he said, "Oh, I can understand." But I still belonged to the board.
DS As I say there was about four or five Black girl inmates at that time, and they had a teacher from the school come out for those that was. Well, they wasn't retarded. They were just girls that had been picked up that couldn't stay at home, and some of them was bad, and some of them was good. Once at a board meeting, I was on a committee where you had to check the girls' rooms. To see how neat-because they had a housekeeper there to taken care of them. But this board met to give instructions to the housemother on how to take care of things and to see how they were doing. To see how they was keeping their rooms and whatnot. You'd give them gold stars or checks for different things. But you know, our people, so many times they blame you for so many things. There was one little old Black girl. I did check her room, but there was two other women with me, and we gave her a check because there were shoes and brassieres and every. You had to step over things. She wasn't the only girl in the room. There was three girls in each room. When she found it the check, the next-when I went to the board meeting, she walked up to me and said, "I know nobody, but you put that check there." It was just that.
MP (laughs) I know. I understand that.
DS And I said, "I didn't put any check." In fact I knew there was a check, but I didn't know which girl they was holding responsible for the room. Anyway she and I got to be pretty good friends in the time she was there. We were supposed to interview the girls as close as we could to find out what their home situation was, why they wasn't happy at home. And I did. I told her it sit next to me. We had a luncheon once a month, and the girls sat with you, and you sat with the girls.
MP So you were intimately involved with the girls directly.
DS Yes, there was one girl that was out there who got a scholarship to go to ISU, but she stayed long enough to become pregnant. I don't know what happened to her.
RS Didn't one of those girls, Babe, take up beauty work?
DS Not that I know of. Unless it was this girl that went to the university, but she wanted to be a social worker, but she come up pregnant some way or other. The board was crazy about her. They gave her all the advantages in the world, openings for her. I enjoyed working with the girls. As I say, I worked with the Girl Scouts. Working with the Girl Scouts was a lot of fun, too. But these were disturbed girls. They couldn't stay at home, but there was always a reason why. And if we found out that reason, we probably could help.
MP So you actually did some counseling with them then?
DS Yes.
RS During those days they didn't have all this notoriety about abused children like they do now. It was hush-hush in those days. You had to pry it out of the girls. I remember you used to come home and tell me about that one particular child whose father mistreated her, but still she was anxious to go back every time she got a chance, but things have changed now.
DS Her mother wouldn't believe her. She was a Black girl. She was from Saint Louis, and her mother wouldn't believe her. I guess her mother believed her, but she was afraid to do anything about it. Then of course they had a bus. I wasn't on the bus. But they had a bus every morning that picked the girls up to take them to high school or to elementary whichever school they were attending before they started the school out to the Home. They'd let them out at the front door, and the kids would go out the back door and just roam around the street all day or something. There was no.
MP Is that right? It was very difficult.
DS Un-huh, it was difficult. I had a letter the other day where they're having an alumni meeting, and all the board members were invited to come. Oh, it's been a couple or three months ago now. Every now and then I get a letter. I guess they still keep up with the old board members.
MP You served on the board for how many years?
DS Four years. That's about all I can tell you about that. I couldn't think of anything else. The association of commerce every year.
RS What we have given will fill the book. We won't give anyone else a chance to put anything down.
MP Don't worry one ounce about that because the point is that I get so much information from everybody, and we need it. And the point is that there is very little overlap. You may mention a name, but something you tell me about it someone else didn't tell that information. We want a complete story.
DS That's the only thing that I know about myself. Well, the only thing before I married I worked downtown at Montgomery Ward, but that's on the other tape.
MP But you didn't tell me about Jerry Lewis now.
DS Well, that was muscular dystrophy. That was volunteer, too. I was the chairman for it for this district from Oakland Avenue to Lincoln and from Clinton Street to Main Street. I had to get workers for this whole area, and then we had to collect the money that they had gotten. We took it to the Corn Belt Bank. Each chairman had a stall, and you had all this money, and it's the first time I knew that you just threw the change in, and it separated it for you. I never knew that. Because we had all these nickels and dimes and things. And on the floor there was a button, and one girl that was in the booth next to me accidentally kept hitting this button, and the police was there like this. I guess that's how the bank worked.
MP for safety purposes.
DS for safety purposes. But it was a lot of fun. But it was depressing in a way because you'd have to run down the different workers to get the money. They should have brought it to you, but a lot of times they didn't. I know one that I had to go up what we called then "The Hill" to get the girl's money. She had it, but she kept saying that she'd bring it to me, and she didn't. And when Roy drove me over there to get the money, the fire department was coming from one way and the police was coming from the other. It was called the "red-light" district, and I was frightened to death. She had her money. She gave it to me, but she was about two weeks giving it to me. I imagine she collected enough there. Then anyway from my work on it I had gotten this award from Jerry Lewis. It's just a thank-you from working on it.Shavers and Dr. Pratt look at and discuss many clippings and awards.) (tape is turned off)
MP You were mentioning Mr. Rhoades and his newspaper.
RS 1941. Got the date on that.
MP He published a newspaper called The Cooperative News. Do you know how long he operated that business?
DS Oh, a long time. The whole time he was in Bloomington.
MP Was that the only Black newspaper that...?
DS That's it. (tape is turned off)
RS You haven't got that.
MP I remember that name, but I don't remember that information.
RS Here he is right here. That's Willis Stearles. He worked out at Miller Park, and he worked with the animals, taking care of the animals.
MP He was the animal trainer out there?
RS He helped train animals, do everything. He worked in there till he died.
MP Anything else about him that you know of?
RS Well, he was a military man. See, that's his uniform.
MP He was in World War II, right?
RS World War I.
MP World War I, is that right? (tape is turned off)
DS I don't know a thing about Madam Walker. I went to Madam Walker's Beauty College. Mrs. Joiner, she ran it. She didn't own it, but she was the supervisor of the school that I went to. I had been a beauty operator in a white shop here in Bloomington, but I had never worked on Black people's hair. So I had gone there to get my diploma. Here I worked in a shop-you didn't have to have a license. I had worked in the shop. I could have gotten a license without going there if I had stayed here and kept on under my work here. You worked so many hours and you got an assistant, and they gave you your license. Mrs. Joiner opened her shop under the name of Madam C. J. Walker College. And she was the supervisor of it. I had worked at Newmarket [102-108 North Center] here in a white beauty shop as an apprentice, and after you work so many months or so as an apprentice you get your license from the state would come in and quiz you. I decided I wanted to work on Blacks. So I decided to go to Madam Walker. I had all my practical work, but I had to have my bookwork to coincide with the practical work I had known. That's why I went to Madam Walker College. Then they were doing marcelling and croquignoling. Things like that. Oh, yes, facial massaging and things like that. Anyhow, I went there for six months because I had enough practical training that I just needed my bookwork. Of course, I kept working on students and people who came in. Any beauty school could get your hair done. They'd bring their towels, and the school would furnish the soap. I worked (Unintelligible) Center to get my shop experience. You just worked there for tips. At the school you didn't get paid at all. Just people come in and you practiced on them. Just like the school here. You can go in there and get your hair done, and if you are smart, you'll ask for a senior or a junior. Those are the two girls getting ready to graduate. They're supposed to know what they are doing to go out in the world. So when we were juniors and seniors, they would put us in different Black stores. South Center was a Black department-oh, dimestore and beauty culture. Just a conglomeration of everything. It was right around the corner from Madam C. J. Walker College. I worked down there then until my time to take the state board examination. You had to take your own subject with you. You picked out a girl that was going to be easy to do her hair. This girl was a stranger and so was I in Chicago, knowing our way around. We got lost. You had to be there on time or else they wouldn't take you, and we were ten minutes late. So a big, old redheaded Swede said to me, "What are you doing here?" And I said, "Well I was here to take my state board examination." "Well, you're ten minutes late."And I gave her my story that I had gotten lost and I had. And I was new in Chicago and this, that, and the other. Anyhow, she let me take it. She kept right after me. (phone rings. Lucinda Posey called. Mrs. Shavers and Dr. Pratt talk a bit about the Melody Gospel Choir)
End Side B

Tape 3

Interviewer: Dr. Mildred Pratt | Date: November 1 1986

/tr>
MP This is the tape number three of the Roy Shavers'.
DS The telephone rang and Mrs. Posey called to remind me that she was the first organist of the Melody Gospel Chorus when she was still in high school. She played until she was a senior, I guess it was. She wanted to make a note that you'd get that. The Melody Gospel Chorus, my father had it for thirteen years, and they were just in operation for about thirteen or fifteen years. I think it started out as a chorus. Just a regular chorus. Mr. Williams out in Normal...
RS Way out here in the country like.
DS He and Papa went in together.
RS That's right.
MP Do you know his first name? Mr. Williams first name?
DS Caroline was her [the wife's] name, but I can't remember his name. Anyhow, Papa went into it. I think it was just a chorus when Lucinda must have had it because she said when she had it, it was at Mount Pisgah Church where they used to practice. So I think it was just a chorus that started first. And then Papa organized it into the Melody Gospel Chorus. Because, when I went in, it must have been in the forties because we lived over on Jackson Street, and we used to practice at the social center that we was telling you about. Not the one that had the ice-cream social. Another one on South Main.
RS One that's been destroyed where the city hall is.
DS That's where Janice Johnson played the piano then. Then [Lee] Stokely, he was the pianist. He was a student at ISU. [19]43 and. I got up to [19]49. This [a photo] must have been an early one. There is no date on there. This was in [19]42. Every picture I have Papa-then Papa had you to come in to help him. Then Mr. Anson come in to help him. We went out to little towns around here and gave.
MP So you really did give performances then?
DS Well, we went around to all the little towns giving recitals, and we were on the radio.
MP Oh, you were. In Bloomington-Normal?
DS Bloomington is the only one that had the station then. The studio was upstairs over the Castle Theater. We gave a recital up there that went out over the air. Janice Johnson was the pianist. [19]42 is all I have.
RS This goes up to [19]49.
DS Yes, I have it up to [19]49 from [19]42, but I guess every year they didn't have a picture taken.
MP What were some of the towns you visited?
RS All around this area's small towns.
MP And what kinds of groups would ask you to sing?
RS Church groups. Just church groups.
DS Church groups. They sang gospel music. All they sang was gospel. This minister that went with Hazel Harris. What was his name? Married Mildred Stewart-Mildred.
RS Stratton.
DS Stratton, Reverend Stratton. He with Papa they got these little towns because he was the minister at the Methodist Church. I guess the ministers all sort of got together. Papa would go and talk to them. And of course we went in for a collection. We got a certain amount. The people didn't get anything, but enough to keep the organization going. For traveling and whatnot. But to Merna and Saybrook and all over.
MP To Black and white churches?
DS They was white.
RS All white churches.
MP All white churches. Yes.
DS Now, this is. See how they changed their uniforms.
MP What is the likelihood... What radio station were you on?
DS WJBC.
MP What is the likelihood that they would have some of your old tapes?
RS That station went out of business. See we don't have a TV.
DS Oh yes, we do. The radio.
MP The radio. That's what I'm saying. Would they have some of those tapes? They probably would have some of that stuff on tapes.
DS They probably would.
MP Maybe I got to check and see. This is the first time that I knew they were on radio. Who is this person here (looking at photo) who seems to be the conductor?
DS Hazel Harber, my stepmother.
MP Oh, she was the conductor. She was really quite a creative person then, right? She painted?
DS Oh yes. She's the one that painted all those pictures downstairs. She embroidered and crocheted like mad.
MP Isn't that interesting. So she directed the chorus.
DS She directed it. That's why my father was the administrator or whatever you want to call it.
RS Business manager.
DS Business manager.
MP Did she have any special training for that, or was it talent?
DS It was a talent.
MP Yes. A natural talent that she had.
RS Now this is a Presser Hall at Wesleyan.
MP So you sang out there, too.
RS Oh yeah, this was in [19]49.
MP Do you remember singing at any high schools or grade schools?
RS Mostly churches. All churches, I think. My God, 1949. There are a lot of them gone. There's "Old Man" Anson.
DS We sang at the high school here once. I think this is a picture from high school. (inaudible) Davis. This says Presser Hall, given at Presser Hall, March 26, 1943.
RS This is six years later, you was back again.
MP They may also have tapes of some of these.
DS This is at Presser Hall. Must have been there two or three times. Guess every year we must have went there. This is 1950.
MP So that probably was an annual event.
DS The Melody Gospel Chorus. I don't know when or how they started the name.
MP But what I think is interesting was that there were always men and women in the chorus.
DS Oh yes . They had the different voices. As I say, Hazel Harber, my stepmother, was the director, and she was a good one. She sang also and had a beautiful voice. Different ones had different solos to take. I don't have any of the programs. You see they're all dressed alike because Hazel made my white... We had long black skirts and white satin blouses.
MP You sang gospel music.
RS That's right.
DS WJBC moved they are out here on [Greenwood] Road now, but they were up over the Castle Theater.
MP And that's where you went to do your.
DS Over the air lines.
MP I wonder if they have copies of that. I'm going to check it and see.
MP Now you were talking about Madam... Who was Joiner now?
DS Mrs. Joiner was the head of the school.
MP She was the head of not only the school there, but wasn't she head of all the chains at one time?
DS I don't know about that.
MP Because her name is very prominent in literature.
DS She was a politician, and her husband was in everything. He was sort of a playboy.
MP In what sense was she a politician? What's her full name?
DS Marjorie Joiner. I saw her on television here a couple of years ago in the Bud Billiken parade.
MP When did she die?
RS She's still living. Her husband died, but she's still living, I think.
MP Did she run for office?
DS No. She was wrapped up in the beauty culture affair.
MP But she worked for politicians to help get them elected?
DS As far as I know. I don't know. All I know is this Bud Billiken.
RS That's a city. You know how cities are.
MP And Chicago, too.
RS That's what I'm saying. You got your fingers in a lot of things there. Especially if you come up with a lot of money, you've got to have your fingers in everything.
MP That's right.
RS They were real nice people.
DS I think everyone in Chicago knows Madam Walk-Marjorie Joiner.
RS Margie Joiner.
MP That was about all about the school. I had a picture here. Of course, you saw that, of the graduation exercise.
MP So we'll be able to get a copy of that then.
DS I had these all separated at one time. Now, what else did you want to know?
MP You said you served on the mental health board.
DS Yes. I was secretary for that too, for...
MP What years, do you remember?
DS Oh, Tick was the president of that.
RS Let's see. How long has Tick been dead?
DS It must have been... We had been here four or five years. It's been at least ten or fifteen years ago.
RS It hasn't been that long.
DS Don't you think it's been that long?
RS It hasn't been that long because Tick moved... The last meeting I remember that you attended was out on Vale Street.
DS That was a special meeting out there. We had all our meetings out to the university.
RS Ten years. I'd say ten years. Mrs. Tick hasn't been dead that long.
DS But see, it was him.
RS I know, but I'm saying.
DS This was young Tick, the son. I was his secretary.
RS I used to have to take you out there when you had special meetings.
DS After that guy was leaning up against my car.
RS I'd say... Time goes so fast. I'd say ten years.
DS At least ten years.
MP And you were secretary.
DS Just for one year.
MP Were you the only Black person on that board?
DS Yes, and not that I knew any people in mental health, but it was just sort of a civic organization, you know. I did learn a lot though. And they talked about different people. Most people who belonged to the board either knew or had someone that had been ill.
MP Mentally ill?
DS That's right. Then I belonged to... Well that wouldn't be interesting because it was still out to the Catholic Church when Margaret (Unintelligible) had these doctors come here, but it was sort of mental health also because it was about-what do you call this? Those awful pictures that the doctors from Chicago brought. About these teen-agers becoming pregnant.
MP Oh, I see. Teen-age pregnancy.
DS Teen-age pregnancy and whatnot.
RS We had so many things going on.
DS I'd just retired.
RS We were active, you know.
MP But after a while you just feel...
DS You've done your part. And I just don't go into those things any more. But I do know that a lot of the things they are doing now that I've already done. So that's about all the civic things I can think of. I just thought about that after you had gone. But I had pictures to back it up. To show you that I had. And a lot... Well, you had a bowling alley. Not a bowling alley. But you sponsored a bowling team. I was thinking about those medals.
RS I have medals downstairs. I sponsored a bowling team here for several years.
MP What does sponsored mean?
RS Bought their uniforms. Paid for (laughter).
MP Oh, I see.
DS They won.
RS Yeah, we won.
DS We have two.
RS We got three, but one got broken by the flood. A bronze.
MP That's what I didn't ask you about, what kind of recreational activities you did? You played a little tennis, right?
DS Very little.
MP Were you a bowler?
RS I used to play basketball. We played basketball around here. We wasn't professionals, but we was a private team. And we were all Black. We challenged all these small towns in basketball. We were good. We were called the Buffaloes. But I always liked baseball. Well, I like football.
DS What's her name Mrs. Bynum? Had the girl's team that I played on.
RS You played basketball.
DS Laura Bynum had the girls. We played Decatur and Peoria. It wasn't no professional.
MP It was just a recreational activity.
DS Yeah, that's about the only athletic...
MP Did I ask you about the Great Depression and whether or not either of you was involved at all in the Great Depression.
RS We got married right in the Depression.
DS Got married in [19]31.
MP You got married during the Depression.
RS The Depression was in [19]29 and wasn't over until...
MP About World War II.
RS It started easing up in [19]36.
DS (Unintelligible) going to school in World War II. I was.
MP Do you remember being actively involved in any of the programs Roosevelt established? Did you work in any of the programs? Work Progress Administration.
RS No. Only thing that we was-no.
DS Because I wasn't even voting when President...
RS You take that Roosevelt war that was in [19]40.
MP The Truman War.
RS The Truman War. No, that's too far back.
MP I'll ask you these general questions. This important. We want this. What's been the best part of your life?
RS (Unintelligible)
DS I don't know. I can't think of anything. Just being healthy and happy. God's been good to us. The fifty-five years we've been married we haven't wanted for anything. That's about. Just had a good life. Even though there has been a lot of sadness and sickness, we've weathered it.
MP What has been the most important factors that influenced your life? Individuals? Organizations?
DS When Roy and I married it was right in the Depression. We roomed with my father for about six months, and Roy was just getting started in his business. There was a white woman that said to him one time- of course, his father had always said if you can make money for somebody else you can make it for yourself. And Mrs. Harwood used to say if you can pay fifteen dollars a week room rent, you can get you a house. I think he told you about him buying his first car through her. And she'd say, "If you've got fifteen dollars buy one dress instead of two. Buy a good one and dress it up." She just took Roy and I in like we were relation to her. And you know her daughter still comes from Tryon, North Carolina every year. Her husband's stepmother is still living here. He was a dentist. Dr. Shaffer. And Jean and Roger still come. And when they're in Bloomington, they come here and have lunch or take us out to lunch. So I think Mrs. Harwood was influential in getting us started. Because I worked downtown and Roy was trying to get his business started at The Al Hambra [318 North Center Street], remember?
RS Yeah.
DS He had done cleaning for her, and I went out one time, and she just sat us down and showed us how you can do this and do the other. [text omitted]
MP Yes.
DS Right now. I tell him money means more to him sometimes than I...
MP Do you think you got that from your father?
RS Yes, I did. I had a lot of business experience to start out with. Because I stayed home. I was the only boy that stayed home and stayed right with my father. Doing his business for years. So I knew what it was to be in business. Although I had a lot of responsibility because in those days you worked. You didn't be like children today and have an allowance. You worked for your pay. I always had ambition to have a home, nice home and nice car. Raised up that way. Didn't mind hard work. But that had always been my ambition to get to the place where I could have a nice living, a home, be able to help my relatives if I could.
MP Well, you certainly achieved that.
RS I've achieved it all. I've been nice to my family, and we have done pretty well on our own. I always felt, you know, in those days we had such a hard time, such a hard time. I said one of these days. (two unintelligible sentences) You've got to dream. I'll always been a dreamer. You've got to believe in something to do it well. I always had ambition. Anything I tried to do the best I could possibly do.
MP I think this is useful to have on tape because young people today need this kind of wisdom.
RS That's right because nobody is going to give you anything. And it's gotten worse now. I tell young people now today, you almost have to have two jobs. It looks like a certain percentage of our people will never be able to own a home or rent a halfway decent place right today. So you got to have that extra push to really make it. You got to want it. We still got to be a little bit better in everything we start out to do today. Right now today it still stands that way.
MP That's right. Things are a little improved but not much.
RS We've got to be just a little bit better because there's so many people out there that's ready to do the same thing. We still can't be choicy. Well, you can be a little choicy if you're good, if you're good.
DS Nothing is handed to you. You've got to work for everything you get. The generation of today. Like we heard on the television tonight. Kids less than twelve years old getting five dollars a week allowance. You just can't visualize little kids...
RS One little kid said he got, three and a half years old, he got four dollars or five dollars.
DS He was about five or six years. In first or second grade.
MP Isn't that something?
End Side A (side B is blank)