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

Josephine Samuels & Reginald Whittaker

Brief Biography:

Reginald Whittaker lived all his life in Normal. He graduated from Normal Community High School and worked for F.W. Woolworth Company for twenty-six years. Later he worked for GTE for more than two decades. His detailed memory of the people, places and events of Normal is remarkable.

Josephine Whittaker Samuels (sister of Reginald) grew up in the family home purchased by her grandfather in the 1890's. Her father's family came from Louisiana and her mother was from Georgetown, Kentucky. She graduated from Normal Community High School and attended Illinois State Normal University. She married and lived much of her life in Normal. She worked for many years in a retirement community which later became a sheltered-care home.

Life in Normal

Interviewer: Mildred Pratt | Date: March 26 2014

Topic: Life in Normal
Side A; Tape 1
JS It was more like transportation at that time, you know.
RW And at that time there were quite a few Negroes living in Normal.
JS All up and down on Locust Street.
MP That's what I wanted to ask you-that will be the next question. So you would way that it was necessity because there were quite a few Black people in Normal and transportation was a bit of a problem. Right?
JS I think so.
MP All right, would you just name the Black families that lived in Normal while you were growing up?
JS The Rosses.
RW The Rosses, I forgot about, on Locust.
JS And then there was a family of Browns on Locust-that's East Locust. And then coming down to the corner here was John Robert Duff. The grandfather of Fay and John.
MP John Robert Duff was the grandfather of Peter Duff?
RW No.
JS They were brothers.
MP Oh, John Duff and Peter Duff were brothers? All right.
RW He lived right over here on the corner, Oak and Locust.
JS They've got an apartment house sitting there now.
MP Yes.
JS And then on farther across the tracks there was a family of Greens. Then the Headleys.
RW Crawfords. Ansons.
JS The Ansons. I believe there was a family that lived there by the name of Bradshaw.
RW And over on Willow Street there was George Thomas, who was a blacksmith. Everett Thomas, his brother, who was a blacksmith also.
JS Then the Simons too. Don't forget them. They lived right across...
MP Now was the Simons the one-the man who built the house over on Kingsley.
RW No.
MP That was a different Simons?
RW That was the Malone family.
JS Simon Malone.
MP That's right, Simon Malone. That's right.
RW No, the Simon family lived on Fell between Locust and Willow.
JS They lived right across the street from the church. And I believe Reverend Simon was the minister there at the Methodist Church there.
RW Oh, was he? The only ones I remember was Kate and-what was her sister's name? Her last was Moore. That's the only two I remember living in that house. I didn't know the mother and father.
MP Now do the Simons have a store?
JS No, that's the Ansons.
MP The Ansons had the little store. Now, you didn't mention the Calimeses.
RW Well, we haven't got that far yet. We're right in this area. And then there was the Deans, lived around on Cyprus and Fell.
MP Are these... this Dean related to Kathryn Dean?
RW Yes, her husband.
MP This was her husband's family.
RW Wasn't it?
JS That's where he and his first wife Roberta lived. The Rowleys lived next door.
RW Yeah, they lived on Fell between Cyprus and Poplar.
JS And then you know the Pattersons used to live on the corner of Poplar and Fell. Oh, there was Eli White, too. He lived on Cyprus.
RW Yes, Eli White. He was a policeman in Bloomington. His daughter is still living.
MP Is that right? What's her name?
RW Jacquelyn. She lives in Chicago. And then, of course, the Duff on Poplar. And then up on Fell, north, the Williams-John Williams family. Mrs. Williams was a Crawford.
JS The Crawfords lived up there too.
RW Did they?
JS Yes the father and mother and some of the.
RW The Meadreds lived out here at one time back in those days.
MP Oh, did they? I know several people have mentioned that name. Someone mentioned the Meadreds.
RW Yes, that was Boone, wasn't it? Boone Meadreds. Lived up on Linden Street, didn't he? Linden and Cyprus or Poplar up in that area somewhere. And who else was there?
JS And we had the Burkharts right up here on Linden and Willow.
RW Yeah, Burkharts. Then the Calimeses lived over there on-what was that?
JS Let's see. That was University and Church Street.
RW Then down the street from them on the next corner south was a family of Millers.
MP Now, tell me, was that the family.... Did they have some children who were mentally retarded or something?
RW Yes.
MP Yes, Mrs. Calimese mentioned something about that to me.
JS Their grandmother was named Lee, I believe.
MP Oh, their grandmother was named Lee?
JS She lived there and Mrs. Miller and she had twins-twin girls and something was wrong.
RW On the corner of University and Virginia, the northeast corner, there was a Black family that lived there. They sold vegetables and fruits. Do you remember their name?
JS That wasn't the Scrivners, was it?
RW Well, I thought they lived in that house. All I can remember is the Scrivners living up on Linden back down in that-it's a street. It's Carpenter Street.
JS Well, it seems like they were related to-was the Mrs.-what was her name? Every time you seen her she had on of those bonbons in her jaw.
RW I know who you're talking about, but I can't call her name.
JS I can see her just as plain.
RW Let's see-oh, the Stevensons lived on Apple Street. They were related to Mrs. Calimese, weren't they?
JS Related to Mrs.-that was Elaine's grandfather. Elaine and Jordan Grigsby's grandfather.
JS (inaudible answer)
MP All right.
RW He was a lodge member. I remember he would call here and Dad would say, "Oh, Sandy," and I used to get that confused with "Santa".
MP Oh, you thought it was Santa Claus.
RW Yeah. Sandy, they called him. He had a nickname. I don't know what his real name was.
JS That was Clara's father. Clara Anson.
RW Oh, that's how that went. And who else?
JS Williams. Remember Billy Williams?
RW Oh, yes. Billy Williams. Now, their, mother was what-a sister to Caribel and Kathryn? Grace Williams.
JS Now, I don't know whether she was...
RW Well they were related some way or another. They lived on Main Street.
JS Or they're cousins. Kathryn[Dean] and Caribel [Washington]-they were cousins to Gwen [Samuels]. Now, what-I don't know. I know they were related.
RW And let's see. There were some others.
JS Around the corner was the Malones.
RW Oh, yes. The Malone family on Kingsley.
MP Yes. Now was it just the one house. What was his name? You'd mentioned his first name.
JS Simon.
MP Simon Malone. Now do you know his wife's name?
JS No I don't. I remember there was one girl named Clara Malone, and I remember they called one Ellis. Although, whether they were sisters and brothers...
MP You don't know.
JS I know the two girls were sisters...
MP But they all lived in that house though.
RW The Malones and those Millers on University Street were related, weren't they?
JS I don't remember. She had relatives-you know, Mrs. Jones, Louise Jones's mother, was a cousin to the Malones and I know Mrs. Miller used to come over. In fact, she stayed there at the house after Mrs. Jones died there. She stayed there for a while because they kept students. I think she died.
RW Now, those families, we're going back in the early thirties.
MP So that's what you're referring to-the thirties, the early thirties, these were the Black families that lived here.
RW Yes. There's been others. Now Oscar Waddell's mother and father lived there on the corner of Fell and Locust at one time.
MP Oh, is that right? What were their names?
JS Waddell.
RW Waddell. Oscar Waddell.
JS I think their dad was named Arthur, wasn't he?
RW I don't know, but that came later. What-the late thirties?
JS Oh, yes, it had to be the thirties.
RW Around [19]38-9. Somewheres in there. And who else lived around here later on?
JS Mr. Harris, he used to live here, too.
RW Carter Harris?
JS Carter Harris.
RW Yes. Well, he lived there at Ansons. He owned that house.
MP Did most of these people whom you are referring to now-did most of them own the houses in which they lived?
RW The majority of them did. Yes.
JS There was a family of Daniels that lived there on West Willow [109] across the street from the Thomases. Daniels and then Mrs. Krem. I don't know whether they were sisters.
RW Carter Harris worked at the university as a janitor.
MP Oh, he did. Was this in the 1930s?
RW You know they named a room or building or something after him.
MP This was in the 1930s when he worked there?
RW Well, he retired from there. Yes, it would be in the thirties, early thirties.
MP They named a building for him?
RW Yes. It's a building over there or room or something named after him.
MP Carter-what was his full name now?
RW Carter Harris.
MP Carter Harris.
JS Then there's the Carter Harris trophy too that they gave to the...
MP Oh, there's a scholarship or something?
RW Could be. He left some money. When he died, he left some money to the university.
MP I think that's the one. There is a building named for-a green that's named for a Black person, too, I understand. That's about it?
RW As far as I can remember.
JS You did get the Burkharts in there, too, didn't you.
RW Yes.
JS Frank Burkhart.
MP Now what was the relationship between Jesse Fell and Black people's property ownership? Did most people buy their property from Jesse Fell, do you know?
RW Yeah, I know the Duff property was bought from him.
MP They bought that from Fell.
JS Seemed like he saw to it that he employed quite a few.
MP Of the.
JS Black people.
MP What did they do for him?
RW Labor.
MP Do you have any recollection of anybody ever saying that Jesse Fell's house was used as a part of the underground railroad to harbor slaves? Do you remember anyone saying that? I'm reading a book now that was written by a woman-it's her diary-who worked at ISU. And she mentions that. Do you remember anybody ever saying anything?
RW I don't recall myself. I don't know what his relationships to Blacks were.
MP That's what I was wondering too.
RW Other than working for him.
JS Well, you know, I wonder if there was something to that when you think about it because like Mr. Barton-Dorothy's [Dorothy Barton Stockstell] and Bill's [Wilbur Barton], their grandfather came from one of the Carolinas, either North or South Carolina, and it seemed it was Jesse Fell that brought him here. You know there could be something to that.
MP They said according to this record, when his wife was away quite often, and that she used some of the rooms for runaway slaves and I just thought you may have heard someone say something about that.
JS Abraham Lincoln used to meet there. He and Fell were very good friends.
MP Yes, and so did any of the people whose names you mentioned now work directly in the home of the Fell's as domestics?
RW I don't know. (unintelligible)
JS And you know, back then and for the longest, you couldn't get Alberta and them to talk about the Stevensons. Just kind of.
MP Do you think that-you know, this is true, for example, with the people who work for royalty? They kind of have to sign some kind of statement that they will not divulge information. And I wonder if there was some kind of unwritten agreement that they may have had.
RW Could have been or it just could have been-people back in those days that worked out in private families were more or less, you could say, a sort of a profession within itself, and they had ethics that they followed. 'Cause I remember we took Caribel's daughter-in-law- she's a reporter-up to talk to Alberta about Adlai when he was running for president. And-well, he had died, and she was down here to write a story about the funeral and all, and we took her up to talk to Alberta. She was very reluctant.
MP Is that right?
RW Yes. She talked a little but not too much.
MP I think that your explanation makes a great deal of sense. I think that may very well be the reason, you know, that they had that kind of...
RW They didn't want any of that coming back to the family that your maid said so-and-so and so-and-so or this was reported by so-and-so that works for so-and-so. It was a means of protecting their job, I would say.
MP I think you're right. Absolutely.
RW It's just an assumption on my part.
MP Yes, but I can understand. It makes a great deal of sense to see that as a reason.
JS But there sure would have been some nice history.
MP Yes. Absolutely.
RW Now this Mrs.-did you want to talk about-you've got about all you want on my mother?
MP Yes. I think, unless there's something you want to tell me something about.
RW No. There wasn't anything I wanted to tell you. I didn't know whether you wanted to ask some more or if you're pretty much through with that.
JS Mother.
MP Your mother did that. And she pretty much took care of the business matters?
JS She would take care of the business matters.
MP And what would you say was your father's basic function in the home? To earn money?
RW He was the head of the family and the breadwinner.
MP And the quiet disciplinarian, huh?
RW Yes.
JS That was really something nice. They were together on that. He would say, "What does you mother say about that?" or "Ask your mother."
MP He had a great deal of respect for her abilities. Would you say to your knowledge-this is difficult to answer, I know-that this was pretty much the role of the father and mother in most of the homes. That the mother pretty much looked after the children and made the basic decisions about them?
JS I believe so because very few of the mothers worked at that time. Seemed like the fathers they were going to be the breadwinners, and the mother was to take care of the home and the children.
MP Yes, and there was pretty much a general understanding then?
JS And then they would also look out for the neighbors' children, too. They'd see that things went correctly because they didn't have all this delinquency and stuff that's going on now.
MP Yes. I know what you're saying. Well.
RW Mrs. Walton, that we've mention over here on Cherry Street-I don't know how a person could get anything on her. It's been so long. But she was a slave.
MP Is that right?
JS Her first name was Chlora.
MP Chlora? Spell, please.
JS C-H-L-O-R-A.
MP Chlora Walton was a slave? Is that right?
JS Her husband was named John.
MP And what's the address now?
RW You know where Mr. Ross lives?
MP Yes. Cephas Ross.
RW Straight behind his house was her home. And she owned the property next to her where the Caldwells lived.
JS I guess that number would have been 408. Mrs. Caldwell's house-she owned that house, too-was 410.
RW And she owned this property up on the corner of Linden and Willow. And the empty lot next door. Of course, there's a house on it now. She owned that. I understand there was some other property here in Normal she owned.
MP What was her husband's name?
JS His name was John Walton.
MP How did they-they had quite a bit of money?
JS Evidently, they must have.
RW Don't know. And she was a very light-complected lady. I don't know where she came from.
MP When did she die?
RW Back in the [19]30s. Around [19]31, [19]32, or [19]33, in that area.
JS It was in the summertime, I remember.
MP How did you know that she had been a slave?
JS She told us.
MP Is that right? What did she tell you? Can you remember? Just recollect.
JS We were talking about slavery, and she said when she was a girl-I guess, shortly after that they freed them, you know-that they were slaves. And I asked her about did they whip them, and she said, "Yes."
MP And you don't know anything of how she happened to have come here.
JS No, I don't. I was trying to think...
RW Arlene's still living in Jacksonville.
MP In Jacksonville. Is that the one you told me about? That's the one you told me we should go down and see and visit and talk with her?
RW Yes.
MP That's the one.
RW If we could find out where she lives and what her married name is.
MP I wonder who would know.
JS Marcella.
RW I called her but never could get any answer at her home. I've got her number. I had it. I lost it.
MP Marcella's number. Who was Marcella now?
JS She knew Arlene. She lived in Jacksonville.
MP Who would know?
RW I would imagine most any of those Negroes from down there would know.
MP She lives in Jacksonville, right?
RW I don't know if she does now or not. What was her name-Marcella what?
JS She was Marcella Moore, and she married Bubby Hunter. She'd be Marcella Hunter.
MP Oh, that would be her name now?
JS Wait a minute. She married-Moore was her maiden name. Hunter was her married. Then she had a second marriage.
RW I've forgotten what it is. I called Bob Gaston and he...
JS 'Cause he was married to her sister.
RW He told me her name now.
MP Would he know?
RW Yeah, he should know where she lives.
MP Oh, is that right?
RW He should. I don't know whether they stay in touch anymore or not since.
MP Now, his daughter lives down in Springfield now doesn't she?
RW Someone told me she lives here now.
JS Who?
RW Jewel.
MP Oh, she's moved back here?
JS She's moved back here?
RW That's what I heard.
MP Why don't I call Mr. Gaston, and ask him if he knows a Marcella whose mother was named Walton, how's that?
RW No, no. Marcella just knew her.
JS She knew Arlene Walton.
MP Now, Arlene is the one who lives in Jacksonville?
RW Yes. She's been married. She lived in Detroit for a number of years. Her husband died, and she moved back to Jacksonville which was her home.
JS But she's originally a Walton-Mrs. Walton's granddaughter-great-granddaughter.
MP So Marcella is...
RW Marcella's just a friend.
MP Who would likely know.
RW Yes.
MP And Mr. Gaston knows Marcella.
RW Marcella would be a sister-in-law to Robert Gaston.
MP I'll check with him. So this woman you know-this is really interesting. Now we ought to be able to find her name in the directory, this Mrs. Walton in the city directory.
RW If we can get her married name.
MP Oh, no. I'm speaking about this Mrs.-what's the women who was the slave?
JS Chlora.
RW Oh, you're talking about her. Oh.
MP Chlora Walton's name should be in the city directory. But the point is how we could do any tracing? We may be able to find some city records or something. Do you know where she worked? Did she work outside the home?
RW I've never known her to work.
MP Did here husband work?
JS He had died.
MP Oh, you never saw him?
JS I never saw him. It's raining.
MP This is fascinating that she was a slave. And she spoke about it.
RW Yes, and they owned this property in here Normal.
MP She may have very well been a runaway slave just like this man, Malone, you know. The story is he came here in chains. He was a runaway slave.
RW And she always called my father "Cousin" Walter.
JS Always called him Cousin Walter.
MP Cousin Walter?
RW And I don't know whether they were related or not.
JS He never did say.
MP But you know-were they about the same-no, they weren't about the same age.
JS No, no. She was much older.
MP She was much older. But you know, there was a tendency for-there is a tendency, and if she was a slave that would be the case, for them to refer to anybody who was a friend just as a cousin. They did that, and I don't know whether that was the basis or whether they were in fact related.
RW Well, that's it. I don't know whether they knew-Whittakers and she knew one another down south or what.
MP Your brother John may know?
RW No.
MP He wouldn't know?
RW I doubt it, but you can make a note to ask him.
MP Isn't this really fascinating? Now do you know any other people who said they were slaves or their relatives?
RW No. Outside of the Malones, Mr. Malone over on Kingsley. The only reason we know about her is she was my first-that's where I would go until my mother got off work.
MP She was your baby-sitter. Yes.
RW To me she was old then. And I hadn't started school yet. But, of course, they looked old in those days. She could have been forty years old, but she wore the long dresses and...
JS But you could see she was a fine looking woman.
RW But her granddaughter, I don't know what kind of shape she is in. How old would Arlene be? About sixty something? Getting close to seventy?
JS She should be like sixty-five or sixty-six years old.
MP Do you remember what church Mrs. Walton attended?
JS Just like the rest of us, she'd go down to.
End Side A; Tape 1
Side B; Tape 1
MP She may attend one of the Black churches there-the Methodist or Christian church in Jacksonville, and that may be a way one might trace her.
RW The granddaughter?
MP Yes.
RW Oh, we can get her easy. It's just a matter of finding out her married name. I knew it once, but of course forgot it.
MP Once you know her married name there's no trouble finding her, right?
RW No. She's down there. She was working at the state mental hospital down there in Jacksonville.
JS Seemed like she worked at both hospitals-the regular hospital and then she'd leave there and go to the...
MP Well, do you think that if I called the hospital and just asked for Arlene, ask about Arlene-did they have an Arlene who worked there?
RW That would be a long shot. Get ahold of Gaston and get Marcella's last name. Powell was her last name, I believe. Powell or Powers.
MP Marcella Powers?
RW I think so. 'Cause I was in the directory department, which was on my floor at work, and one of the girls was in there. And they had a Jacksonville book, and there were two numbers for Powers. We'll just use the word "Powers" for now. And it had M. Powers. They always put a woman's name mostly as the initial, M. Then it had another. And I called both numbers and never did get it. There were only two in the book. And I never did get an answer. I called in the evening.
JS I understand she's living in Springfield.
RW Oh, she's moved to Springfield? Well, now, I've talked to the boy. Bob's boy.
JS Gary?
RW Yeah, and he said-Gat was there. We call Robert Gaston "Gat." He was there, but he didn't put me on with him. He just turned around to ask him. And I said, "Is she still in Jacksonville?" "Well, I think so," he said. That was the answer I got.
MP So the house in which she lived has been torn down now?
RW No. Mrs. Walton?
MP Mrs. Walton.
RW No.
JS It's still there.
MP Who lives there now?
RW I don't know. White people.
MP Somebody has bought it.
RW And I don't think there's been any additions put on it or anything. There's been some siding put on it.
MP Then they might let me go in and take a photograph of that house, right?
RW I don't know.
MP Now, let me get the address again.
JS That would be 408 East Cherry.
MP All right. I'm going to try...
JS Wonder what happened to those pictures they had. She had a picture of her family. Sure had a good-looking family. Her picture, Sophie's, Mrs. Anna Gaston, you know, that was her daughter who lived in Freeport. She's got some more relatives if we knew where they were. Roberta and Margaret and William.
RW What was John's son's name? Raymond.
JS Raymond. And he had a sister, too.
RW He did?
JS Yeah. Let's see, what was her name? Was it Marian? Good-looking. She lived in New York.
RW Somebody said that Raymond was out in Elgin or somewhere, and then somebody said they thought he went out west.
JS I heard he was in Kansas City, Kansas.
RW Kansas City?
JS Somebody seen him on the street. He taught school or something there. He was so huge.
RW Weighed what? Close to 300 pounds? I know the car they had-his father worked for the post office in Chicago. Of course, he drove Buicks, and for his son Raymond to drive, they had the steering wheel cut in half so he could get underneath the wheel.
MP Is that right?
RW His dad was what, a son to Mrs. Walton? He was a fine looking man. Raymond was fine looking, too.
MP How may people have lived in that house since Mrs. Walton lived there? Do you know?
RW A number of people.
MP Oh, is that right?
RW A fellow who worked with me, George Shriver bought it. And his wife. Then there was another family who lived in there before George. Oh, it's been a number of people.
MP Do you know anything about what kind of people these are who live there now?
RW No. I haven't been around that block in twenty years.
MP All right. I'm just going to take a chance and walk up there and tell them about the history and say, "Would you permit me to take a photograph." The point is there may be some things up in the attic or something. There could very well be.
RW I don't know.
MP I'm going to try and see if I can trace this one. This is fascinating.
RW Now, Arlene's father was the man I was telling you-Alonzo Walton was the fellow that Josephine was telling you about that was in World War I, and he had all these medals.
MP Which one was this one now?
RW This is Arlene Walton's father, Alonzo Walton. His name is out in Miller Park on that plaque at the entrance with all the others.
MP Oh, now we can put all of that together for a very interesting story. I'm going to have this young man go out and take a photograph of that and this.Mr.-Arlene's father.
RW Alonzo Walton.
MP Now, he is-this is Mrs. Walton's son, is that right?
JS He would have been a grandson because that was Sophie's son.
MP Alonzo Walton is the grandson of this Mrs. [Chlora]Walton.
JS Her husband was named John.
MP And he served in World War I? And he was decorated?
RW Yes. Several times, I guess. Did several heroic things.
JS He was a big daredevil.
MP Is that right?
RW Well, we had an old sheriff-at least a city policeman or something, that shot him. And he limped from then on. He told him to halt, and he just kept walking.
MP Is that right?
JS Yes, he went home to get a checkerboard. They was up here at Burkharts, and they was playing cards, and they wanted to play checkers. So he walked back around to his grandmother's house to get this checkerboard and walked straight on down. He used to come through here-and I'm sorry he didn't do it, but he walked straight from his house on Cherry to Linden, and then started walking up, and I guess this man must have been watching. And he was on his way back up to Willow and Linden-to the Burkharts, and they shot him there on the corner of Cherry and Linden just as he was turning.
MP About what year was that would you say?
JS Oh, that would have been back in-let's see, ]19]25 I believe.
MP 1925?
JS Yes. [19]25 or [19]26.
MP He thought he was stealing?
RW No.
JS He couldn't have been thinking that.
RW He used to be-Wilbur was talking to me about that out there (unintelligible). He asked if I remembered it. I said, "No, it was before my time."
MP But Wilbur remembers the incident?
RW He remembers him being shot. I don't know whether he knows why or what. But my mother told me about it. Seems like he told him to halt, and he just kept walking. I guess he was one of these little old city policemen here. We used to hire anything, coal-haulers or anything else, for policemen.
JS I wish I could think of their name. They lived on Mulberry Street west of Linden Street, the second house on the north side of the street.
MP The one who did the shooting?
JS Un-huh.
RW On the corner of Ash and Linden he had what they call a plane mill where they planed lumber. The building's tore down now. Wilbur would know the name.
MP You know there should be some material in some of the histories about this Alonzo Walton.
RW There should be.
MP And I have a book that was written by Booker T. Washington's secretary that presents a lot of information about Blacks in World War I. So I'm going to check that out and see what I can find.
JS What was his secretary's name?
MP Scott. Something Scott.
RW Arlene might still have his medals.
MP She may have them, right? Gee, we really need to contact [her]. I'm going to call Mr. Gaston and see if he can get...
RW Do you want to call him now?
MP Yes. I could. I have his telephone number.
RW What is the name of his shop?
JS Is it the Upper Cut?
RW Just ask information.
MP All right. Let's see, information is...
RW 14-11.
MP Yes, I'd like the telephone number for the Upper Cut Barber Shop in Bloomington. Upper Cut. Robert Gaston's shop. Yes. All right. Hello. Mr. Gaston. Yes. Is he there? If I may. Thank you. Hello, Mr. Gaston? This is Mildred Pratt calling you from Illinois State University. Do you have a few minutes? Or just a second? I'm talking with Mr. Reginald Whittaker now, and we're talking about trying to get information about a Chlora Walton who lived here years ago. Chlora Walton, who lived in Normal years ago. And they tell me that she has a granddaughter, Arlene, who lives in Jacksonville, Illinois, and that you would know somebody named Marcella Powers who would be able to tell me where Arlene lives in Jacksonville. Could you give me? Yes. Arlene. Marcella Powers. All right. All right. Thank you. (pause)Yes. [phone number omitted]. All right. Thank you so much, Mr. Gaston. Good-bye. So I'll call-on Monday I'll call. I have Marcella Power's telephone number in Springfield.
RW Oh, she's in Springfield.
MP Oh, yes. It's 217 so that would be Springfield.
RW Well, Jacksonville would be too.
MP Now, I'm going down to Springfield on the 17th, 18th and 19th and I may, if I can, set up an appointment-I will call her before the-and it may be possible-I'm going to be pretty busy- but it may be possible for me to arrange to talk with Marcella Powers. Who is she now? Marcella?
JS Robert Gaston was married to her sister.
MP Oh, I see.
JS That would be his sister-in-law.
MP Yes. This woman is his sister-in-law.
MP Yes. This woman is his sister-in-law? Was she related to the Waltons at all?
RW No.
MP No relation at all.
JS She just lived in the same (unintelligible) with Arlene.
MP Did she ever live in Normal?
JS Marcella lived in Bloomington.
MP Bloomington. All right. Well, this is great. It seems like we may be on to her. And so the thing to do is if we can get her telephone number, that one day we'll arrange when you both can go down, and we'll just go down to Jacksonville.
RW I'd like that because I haven't seen Arlene in four years.
MP That's exactly what I will do. I will call Marcella on Monday and then make arrangements to see her when I'm in Springfield. And then I might, if she could give me the telephone number at that time, then I will call this Arlene. Oh, this is great!
RW Walton is her maiden name-like I said I don't know what her married name is. I did know, but I didn't... I asked some people from Jacksonville one time-I was in Springfield. And they said, "Oh, yeah. Her name is such-and-such. She's living in Jacksonville again."
MP Now when was that?
RW It's been several years.
MP Several years ago? But it's likely that she's still alive.
RW Oh, I think she would be. At least, I hope so.
MP We might be on to a really nice piece of information, right?
RW Yes, she might be able to really give you-yes, that would be really interesting on Mrs. Walton. I'm sure she would have pictures of her.
MP All right. I think that...
JS Erma. I think that was Erma Walton. I think that was what she called her sister.
MP Arlene's?
JS No. Arlene was the only child. I was trying to think of-I was speaking of him awhile ago.
RW Burkhart?
JS No, the big, fat...
MP Oh, the big, fat person?
RW Raymond.
MP Now, who was Raymond?
JS Now, Raymond and Erma were Mrs. Walton's son's children.
MP Oh, her son's children. Her grandchildren. Now, are they living now?
JS As far as we know. Now, the last I heard he was in Kansas City. Now I don't know where he is. And the last I heard of Erma she was living in New York, and she used to come back and visit every once in awhile.
RW I never saw her.
JS You wouldn't remember.
RW I don't think I ever saw her, but I do remember seeing Raymond.
JS She has been over there at Mrs. Walton's. And Mrs. Caldwell's, too. But you just didn't pay any attention.
RW Well, that's a possibility. But I do remember Raymond. Big, old rosy cheeks.
JS You know, they used to have dancing up on Forty-Third Street when Forty-Third Street in Chicago was something. They used to have a ballroom where they had dancing. I think he even taught dancing. Raymond was so light on his feet.
MP And still so heavy, right? That's like Jackie Gleason, you know, he's very fat, but he's very light and swift.
JS They said he was just terribly ill.
MP Oh, yes. They did. I just saw that little squib in the paper. Very talented. I always liked him. I thought he was great really.
JS Especially those "Honeymooners."
MP Oh, I think they were just fantastic. It was so true to life. It was great acting. Fantastic acting. That was good television in those days. Now, it's so difficult to find anything worth looking at.
JS Now they still come on, you know.
MP Yes, I know. They still come on. Just classics like "I Love Lucy," you know, really classic ones.
RW I wonder if Dorothy Scrivner is still living.
JS She would be about little Walter's age.
MP Where would she be?
RW Down in Missouri.
JS Was that Montgomery, Missouri. She wrote a letter here about the time she heard of our father's passing.
RW She wrote a condolence.
MP When did your father-that's what I didn't ask you.
JS He passed in [19]64. March 25, 1964.
MP Your father died on March 25, 1964. And your mother?
JS She died in [19]52.
MP Before you father?
JS Yes. October 9, [1952]. (pause) Twelve years.
MP Did she do any writing herself?
RW You mean like poems.
MP Yes.
RW No. Just letters. Her spelling was just flawless for not having a formal education, you know-high school and college.
JS Very seldom you'd run into anybody back in those days that had a formal education.
MP 'Cause it just wasn't possible. But it's amazing though their dedication to learning. That is just absolutely outstanding.
JS It seemed like that was uppermost...
MP They just had a tremendous thirst for knowledge.
RW Josephine was telling me that's why our Grandfather Whittaker came here to Normal, so his children could be educated.
MP Your Grandfather whom now?
RW Whittaker. That's why he came to Normal or Illinois.
MP So they could get an education. That's the other thing I really wanted to ask you too, and I'm glad you mentioned it. Why do you think-you told me why your mother happened to come here, and you're telling me now why your father's father came here, but how did they happen to know about little Normal?
RW I don't know.
MP Why did Black people happen to settle here in Normal?
RW Well, Mr. Koos seems to think that Jesse Fell brought most of them here.
MP Yeah, that's what I'm really wondering.
RW My grandfather worked for him but not...
MP But he didn't bring him here?
RW At least, I don't think so.
JS No, he didn't bring him here. I wonder if Mrs. Walton. (loud train whistle drowns out answer)
RW There might be a tie there, see. My Grandfather Whittaker and Mrs. Walton might have known one another down south.
JS That might have been where the tie was. They could have been cousins on my grandfather's part.
MP That's right. And if she came here as a runaway slave, then she got established. Then she may have, you know, had those contacts 'cause that's usually the way it happens with Black people. You know somebody, and they say, "Well, come on up," you know.
JS And it's still going on.
MP Yes. That's right. That may have been how you...
RW That's why I'd be anxious to find out something more on the Waltons because I'd like to find out something out on my-Dad would not talk about his side of the family. You'd ask, and he's answer you and it'd stop there.
MP Just "yes" [and] "no." Is that right?
RW Well, no, he'd say, but he didn't elaborate.
MP But it could be because of slavery.
RW Well, but not-his father was not a slave.
JS They were from Baton Rouge.
MP They were free Blacks, right?
RW I'm certain they-of course, my Grandfather Whittaker, they tell me, was a tall-straight black hair, and you'd figure he was a white man coming down the street.
MP Is that right? That's your father's father.
RW Yes. My Grandfather Whittaker. And Mrs. Walton looked kind of like-I imagine when she was young, she looked like a white person.
JS She had beautiful hair. I can remember it being gray, but in that beautiful silver gray. And in that picture, it was black. And she was really a pretty woman. Of course, she was a good-looking old lady.
RW I'm certain that my grandfather's father was a slave.
MP So your grandfather's father was probably a slave?
RW Or mother was a slave. One or the other. I think that was one reason my father didn't like to talk about it because he didn't like that idea. It was embarrassing, I guess. You know how they did.
MP Oh, yes. Many old people just don't want to talk about that. It's embarrassing. There's a book that's written and the title of it is They Told Us Not To Tell Anybody. And this is the people who were slaves, the Blacks, talking about their experiences. They were told not to talk about, you know, and not to tell anybody. And I think this is it. I think you're right.
JS In some of these books you read they take the good-looking ones and put them in the house and make those the house slaves. And the ones that didn't look so good out in the fields.
MP And it was embarrassing to talk about it. And that's true with some Jewish people. They don't like to talk about what happened to their people in the Holocaust, and some of them just want to forget it, wipe it away. And I think that was probably the case with your father, as you say, Mr. Whittaker. Yes. It probably was.
RW He just didn't want to get into it. Wouldn't elaborate on it.
JS And I could remember he certainly must have made them respect him here because we'd walk down the street, "Good evening, Mr. Whittaker. Good evening, Mr. Whittaker." Or those that really knew him they would say, "Walter." Very friendly.
RW All these neighbors around referred to him as "Mr. Whittaker" and they referred to my mother as "Mrs. Whittaker," and there were no first names.
JS You know, there used to be an apple tree out here, and Mom was out here, and I come out the back smarty. I said, "Oh, Caddie. Caddie." She says, "Young lady, don't you dare call me by my first name. I'll horsewhip you!" I said, "Why?" She said," You sound just like trash!" (laughter)
MP And they do not dare call her that.
JS No. And if you-I remember a lady who used to come here. She wanted to know mother's first name, and she told her, "But I prefer you call me Mrs. Whittaker." (inaudible sentence) She demanded respect, and she carried herself in that in that position.
MP And she also taught her children to do likewise.
RW And of course she always-any of these neighbors she called them Mrs. whatever their name was. Of course, she never bothered none of them. She didn't go to their house. They would come over here, stand in the yard, and talk to her, but she kept a distance. And it was always "Mrs. Buck(?)," or "Mrs. Lowry," or "Riley," or whoever was around here. You know, it's amazing when you think back over it how they stayed on top of things.
MP Yes. Yes, it is.
JS They knew who were Ku Klux.
MP Were there Ku Klux Klanners around here?
JS Oh, yes.
MP In Normal?
JS Normal and Bloomington. They used to have their cross burnings, didn't they Reggie, right down here on Jersey Avenue. Straight through here off of Linden. Across the big field. Close to where the Scrivners lived.
MP And they would burn their crosses?
JS They had big meetings there.
RW We came in from, wasn't it Chicago? Turned in the driveway and some went running across the back yard here.
MP Is that right?
RW Of course, my brother John, and my brother Walter, and my dad was right in behind them.
MP Is that right?
RW They didn't catch them. They thought they were scared of them.
MP Were any of the neighbors part of the Ku Klux Klan? Any whites in this community?
RW Do you mean the community around us?
MP Yes.
RW I don't know. Do you know?
JS Mama always thought the [name omitted]. She always felt like he was one.
MP Is that right?
JS We don't know for sure. Some of them think they are still here, but they keep it quiet. You know Champaign is just full. They're just (inaudible) and Danville.
MP Is that right?
JS They were on the TV here a couple or three years ago. They had the meeting...
End Side B; Tape 1
Side A; Tape 2
JS (in mid-statement a inaudible sentence) And they were sitting up there-you look at them in their robes, you know, with that little pointed-and those white robes and there was about twelve of them. And different people called in and so that was a disgrace.
MP They never did anything harmful.
RW No.
MP They never attempted to damage your property or anything like that?
RW No.
JS And then at different times why they'd shut off all the lights. It was dark around here when the streetlights were off, and they'd come out in the backyard, and I'd be waiting to see if something was going to happen.
MP Is that right?
JS We had to be quiet in the house.
RW I remember I came on in the house. I guess Mother must have come back here to see what was going on.
JS Yes. Mom come out...
RW I come on in the house and had one of those pedal cars or something. I was playing with that. I wasn't alarmed at all.
MP I understand-and this is something I'm not quite sure about-that this area was really pretty much settled by many Southern whites.
JS Yes. Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Carolinas.
MP It's still very interesting, though, that Blacks could live right around here with whites in, you know, I guess you'd say mutual respect in a sense.
RW Well, things ran in cycles, seemingly. I guess during the time of my father, when he and my mother were young-married and young, you could more or less buy in a neighborhood like this. They had saloons they called them, uptown. The men could go in and get them a drink. They used to-like the Three C Club and then my brother John belonged to a young men's club, and they used to rent the different dance halls for parties. In Miller Park Pavilion my mother's club, the Three C's, used to rent that. And then the cycle moved around to where they wouldn't rent you nothing. You couldn't even rent Miller Park Pavilion. The wouldn't let you have it. Had excuses. These other halls, they stopped renting to you. Only way you went in one of these taverns was to go in and sweep it out. Or go in there and buy something and come out, see. And that's what I remember.
MP So that was around the forties?
RW And they had quit selling property to Negroes-or Blacks. I still like the word Negroes myself.
MP In Normal, is that right?
RW In Normal.
MP Was that around the forties, would you say?
RW Yes.
MP Because I know that there were several Blacks who came here around the sixties and said they had difficulty buying property in Normal.
RW And certain areas in Bloomington.
MP Yes, that's right.
RW So now the pendulum has gone the other way.
MP Yes, that's right.
JS At one time they told my brother Walter-I guess he got into it with one of those kids in school, and he told him, "There won't be anymore Blacks in Normal." And I think there was about...
RW Wasn't what-about twenty families.
JS Well, there might have been around fourteen families lived here. Some of them have moved on and moved out. And shortly after that it looks like it's been invaded. I thought those predictions didn't...
MP They didn't pan out.
JS Didn't pan out like they thought they was going to.
MP Yes, yes.
JS It doesn't matter to him. He says, "I'll still be here. We'll be here."
RW I guess some families were talking at the supper table, and the kids overheard it, and they burned a cross over here in the next block. This would be in what-the early sixties? It hit Jet magazine.
MP In the early sixties? Is that right?
RW Right up here in the next block. There's a house up there with the Garrisons. The kids set a cross-who was living there? The Alexanders-Tommy Alexander and his boys. They were going to buy that place. And these kids put that cross up there. The Vidette ran a big story on it. The Pantagraph. The mayors come out and said, "We're not going to have that."
MP Oh, the Pantagraph ran a article on it? That was in the sixties. Well, we should be able to find that. I have somebody looking through the Pantagraphs.
RW Yes, that was in the sixties. Late fifties or early sixties. It was even in Jet magazine. Friends of ours in California read it.
JS At the school it was very-they didn't like that at all.
RW All it was was some kids.
MP Some kids who were doing that?
RW Listening to their parents.
MP And they didn't understand what they were doing.
RW My neighbor here told me one of the boys. Her boy might have been on it, too.
JS I remember when they tried to call the fire department. I think Norma's dryer caught on fire, and it had her little daughter's Easter dress, and she was trying to get the telephone. And she asked the folks on the line if they could let her use the phone so she could call the fire department, and they just wouldn't do it. She had to go someplace else.
RW Party line.
MP Yes, sure.
JS They just wouldn't let her do it. They just kept it busy. They just kept talking.
MP That's a very interesting part of the history.
JS That was right around that same time when that occurred. Cross burning.
MP But there were no problems in the schools? You didn't have any experience with those problems, is that right?
JS As to being prejudiced like that?
MP Yes.
JS No. Just what children would say. Most of the time we had to fight for-literally fisticuffs for calling names and things, you know. And after you gave a few good whippings you brought things around.
RW We had some Dabney kids down here. They loved to fight. If they were a little too big for us, we'd get ahold of them.
MP Let them do it for you.
RW Yes, they'd wait.
JS They'd wait. After it'd start, they'd help all of us.
RW ISU was quite prejudice for, I guess, a long time.
MP Yes. I understand.
RW Black students would go to the Homecoming dances, but anything else they didn't go to. They had their own Spring Prom in the spring. But the other social events, I don't think the students would attend them. They didn't come out and tell them, I guess, they couldn't come. But they knew they didn't belong.
MP They knew they didn't feel comfortable there.
JS Or tell them like Dean Lillian Barton. She'd tell them to stay for a little while and then leave.
MP Oh, is that right?
RW You heard of her?
MP No. Say the name again now.
JS Her name was Lillian Barton. And Barton Drive was named after her.
MP And she was the dean?
JS And she was the Dean of Women.
MP Now, is she still alive?
JS No. I think she died a few years ago.
MP I think she's the one somebody told me I should talk to.
JS And then there's... I'm trying to think of the one who took her place. It will come to me at midnight.
MP But that was interesting. She told them "You can come and stay a little while and then go." So you don't cause trouble I guess.
RW It's been an interesting time.
MP Well things do go in cycles. They do go in cycles because for a long time you never heard...
End Side A; Tape 2

Reginald Whittaker - 1986

Interviewer: Mildred Pratt and Mary Williams | Date: March 26 1986

MPMr. Whittaker do you remember if your father ever talked with you about how he felt that he had a college degree and was not able to find employment related to the degree?
RWNo, he never talked about it. He was a type of man-I guess, you call him a studious person. He was always reading, and he wasn't a-he didn't get out play catch with any of us kids here. He would go to school functions with us or things of that nature, but other than that, any free time was spent reading the Bible or the paper or encyclopedia. He'd set here and work math problems, things of that nature. But far as talk, he just I don't know anything about his family because he just never talked about it.

1986 Tape 2

Interviewer: Mildred Pratt | Date: March 26 1986

MP Seven.
JS Eighteenth.
MP Eighteenth, 1986 and I am speaking with Mrs. Josephine.
JS Samuels.
MP Samuels. If you would begin, Mrs. Samuels by giving you name and when and where you were born.
JS My name is Josephine Whittaker Samuels. I was born in 1922 in Normal, that's Illinois.
MP What address?
JS [address omitted]
MP Right here, right? Were you the first child?
JS No, I have a half-sister and half-brother, and then I have another brother that is deceased.
MP Would you give those names please?
JS Fay Duff Lee and John Robert Duff, and my brother that passed was Walter Whittaker. I have one younger brother here, Reginald.
MP Tell me your mother now-your father was named Samuels, right?
JS No. My father was Whittaker, and I married a Samuels.
MP I'm sorry. I understand that there are-well, let me get that story later because I understand that there were quite a few Samuels and I want to ask you about that, but I will get to that later. Tell me about your early life experiences-where you went to grade school?
JS I went to grade school here at the Normal Public Schools School, Mulberry, and at that time it was Ash Street, but they call it College now.
MP What was the name of the school?
JS That was it-the Normal Public School, the grade school.
MP The grade school. Did you go to junior high?
JS Junior high?-it took you to the first eight grades, kindergarten through eighth grade. Then you'd leave there and went to Normal Community High [School], and that was over on Sudduth, which is West College now, and Kingsley. That was your four years and then ISU.
MP Now you graduated from high school?
JS Yes, I did.
MP Approximately how many Black students attended your grade school?
JS Well, let's see, there were the three Ross children. I am trying to get it together.
MP If you can give their names, if you remember them.
JS Let's see. As I can remember, there was Alnathan Ross. There was Herman and his sister, and at that time these were the younger ones-[Easter] Ross. For a while there was Gertrude Marshall. She is Mrs. Stockstell's niece, and she left when she was in the third or fourth grade and went with her mother to Chicago. Then there were the Dabney girls. Let's see, there was Lillian who was in school at that time. There was a Frances, Lucille, Lillian was in the grade school.
RW Sherma and Geraldine.
JS They went to Thomas Metcalf. Milton went to the public school, their brother. Lyle went to the public school.
RW Geraldine Burkhart. Imogene and Margie.
JS Yes, Imogene and Margaret Sanders. There was Margaret, Roberta and Geraldine. Didn't William go too?
RW I don't remember.
JS I believe he did, [William] Burkhart.
RW They only went a short time, and then they moved away.
JS They moved to Freeport. (pause) There was Loretta Thomas. Then my brother too, Walter Whittaker went there. Reginald [Whittaker]. Oh, Billy Williams and Gwendolyn Williams.
RW There was Wilbur Barton, but he was older. He would have been going probably to high school when you were in grade school.
JS Seems like he went to University High.
RW Oh, did he? Maybe he did.
MP So there were quite a few Black students when you were in grade school?
JS Yes.
MP Grade school and high school, right?
JS Right.
RW Well some of them weren't here too long. They moved either to Bloomington or out of state. I mean out of town.
JS Oh, the Crawford children.
RW Clyde Williams.
JS Yes. Their name was Williams. I was thinking of their mother's maiden name. Clyde, Barbara and Donald.
MP Now did most of them live in this general area around here?
JS No, we were pretty well scattered. Now the Rosses lived a block and a half from here. The Bartons right straight through here two blocks, and the Dabneys two blocks on Cherry [Street].
MP So it was on the east side pretty much where they were located?
JS Let see, now there was the Anson children. They came along later. Delores. But they would be later on.
RW They were after me.
JS Oh, we almost forgot about Gayle Anson. She was older, but she used to go to Normal. Let's see, Elaine Asbie-she went to school out here, too.
MP Yes, she said that she went to school out here. Now what year did you graduate from high school?
JS In [19]38.
MP And then what did you do after that?
JS I went to ISU.
MP Did you graduate from ISU?
JS No, I didn't. I went to ISU a couple of years.
MP What did you study?
JS Four-year Elementary.
MP Elementary Education?
JS Yes.
MP You went there two years?
JS Yes.
MP Then what did you do?
JS Then I married.
MP How old were you when you got married?
JS Oh, I was about, I think I was about twenty-two when I married. Then I lived in Peoria for a while. Then Decatur.
MP Did you work at all before you got married?
JS Oh, I did things like baby sitting and you know little, small jobs.
MP And then after you got married, was your husband living here in Normal at the time?
JS No, my husband was from Peoria.
MP Oh, is that right? Was he a part of the-we were looking through some census material, and we found a long list of Samuels. Do you remember any Samuels who lived here in Normal?
JS My husband's-this is my second husband. My first husband was (unintelligible). His mother, Mrs. Pearl Samuels, was born out here in Normal, and then he had a cousin that lived-he was born here in Normal. He was a doctor in Alton, Illinois. But there is some more Samuels here that had the same name but weren't related. But then there are some that are related, but I can't get them all together.
MP So you went to Peoria and your husband was then living in Peoria?
JS Yes, my first husband.
MP What kind of work was he doing there?
JS He had a coal business and also an auto body paint shop.
MP And how long did you live in Peoria?
JS I lived there-we lived there about three to four years, and then we moved to Decatur because that is where my first husband's mother was. She was getting up in years, and she needed somebody to be there with her.
MP When did you come back to Normal?
JS I came back to Normal, I guess it was about in [19]48 or [19]49.
MP Did you work in Peoria?
JS No, I didn't.
MP In Decatur did you work?
JS In Decatur I was more or less a housewife.
MP When you came here?
JS When I came back home, I stayed with Mother and Dad for a while, and then I worked for the [Fred] Dolans. That's the people that owned the Pantagraph Printing. Then I also worked for the Rusts, Edward B. Rust. The one that died last year, his family. They had three children. Then after the death of my mother-well, I worked for them right after the death of my mother, and then I stayed here with Dad and Brother. Then I decided to-oh, I went to-one of my friends said, "Come on over to this ." You know this beautiful place over there that they had built for teachers. There's a retirement home [Shamel Manor] that they built for teachers, retired teachers and principals. So one day, I said, "Oh, all right, I'll see." Because I did read about it in the Normalite. So I went on over and the minute that I walked in, they hopped on me wanting me to come to work. And I thought, "Oh my, should I do this or not?" About two weeks later, I went over there, and I've been there ever since.
MP So you have been there for about how many years?
JS This was my twentieth year.
MP Well, you have been there a long time.
JS It is just so interesting, and I went through quite a few changes. After they left-what was so funny about it, is that after they had sold it from the retirement to ECA out of Peoria, they made it into sheltered care and then from that it went into a nursing home. It has been very interesting every step of the way. I have met lots of people. The town has changed so much.
MP Yes, tell me how it has changed since you were a girl.
JS First it was-well, Beech Street up here would really be the end [of Normal]. After that would be country, clear over. Going west, let's see, where did it end? Well, I believe starting at about Adelaide wouldn't it, Reggie, be country?
RW Yes.
JS North-is you got past Lincoln Street up here, that would all be country. Now you can see for yourself how it's grown. Yes, it's really grown. People have come in and you would never would have the idea that it would grow this much.
MP Now, I understand that there were quite a few Black businesses. Mr. Whittaker probably told me some things about the Black businesses and churches, but what do you remember about Black businesses in Normal?
JS In Normal, we had, let's see. We has a blacksmith's shop.
MP Who owned that one?
JS Everett Thomas and his brother George Thomas. Mr. Frank Dabney had a barbershop. And two Calimese brothers, Bert and Napoleon Calimese, had-that's all along Beaufort-they had a barbershop there. That's two barbershop and a blacksmith shop. What else did we have? Oh, Mr. Anson had a little store.
MP A grocery store?
JS A grocery store.
RW Well, it was a sort of a little-he had groceries in there, but the purpose of it was for the Black students to have somewhere to go to have a milkshake and a hamburger because in those days, you just didn't go into these white establishments. They wouldn't serve you. So Mrs.-the first wife-Mrs. Anson, Lutie Anson, opened up this little store, and they called it the Chat and Chew.
JS Then it developed more into a grocery store.
RW The building is still down there.
MP The building is still down there?
RW Yes.
MP What was the address now?
RW I think that somebody is living in it. It is right on Fell Avenue, between Locust and Willow.
MP On Fell Avenue between Locust and Willow.
JS On the west side of the street. I think that there is two apartment buildings. On Locust Street there is a big house right behind it.
MP What is it used for now?
RW I think someone is living in it.
JS I think they made a home of it.
RW It was a beauty shop for a while.
MP Now it is on Fell, between...?
JS Willow and Locust.
MP Can you describe the house for me?
RW Well, if you go down here to Fell and Willow, you turn left.
MP Turn left.
RW Well, right there on the southwest corner there is a big long apartment building and that property formerly belonged to Blacks. Right next to it is a kind of a little square building that sets close to the sidewalk. That is the old Chat and Chew.
MP I am going to try to get a photograph of that.
RW Right on the corner there is a big house-I guess it is still there. I don't know they are tearing down so much-which Mr. Anson owned. Then next door on Locust Street right around the corner-of course, there is a big apartment building now-was Mr. Anson's home where he lived. The house on the corner he rented out.
MP So Black people owned quite a bit of property in this area then?
JS Yes.
RW About all of the Black people in Normal owned their own property.
MP Did you say they all did?
RW Just about all, yes. I don't think any of them were renting out here.
JS Like the Thomases-they lived right on the corner of Willow and Fell and next door coming this way on Willow Street was the brother, George Thomas. They lived next door to one another. Those were the gentlemen that had the blacksmith's shop.
MP Now you know what I want you to do. I want you to draw a map of how you remember where most of the Black families lived. Would you do that at some time for me?
JS Yes.
MP Great. Now you were talking about, now were there any other businesses that you remember? Was there a cleaning shop here in Bloomington-Normal, that Black people owned?
RW You mean like for clothing?
MP Yes.
RW I don't recall any, myself. Now I don't know.
JS I don't remember either.
MP Somebody told me-do you know the Bonds family?
JS The Bonds family that...
RW You mean Floyd Bonds?
MP Yes, Floyd Bonds. Where did they live?
RW Bloomington.
MP Oh, they lived in Bloomington. Not in Normal?
RW No.
JS No, not at that time, but they are living in Normal now.
MP But they didn't before?
RW No.
MP Oh, I see, that is what I was wondering about. So those are about the only businesses that you remember then?
RW Yes, in Normal.
MP I know Mr. Whittaker told me about your parents. That your father had a college degree. Do you want to say anything about that? What you remember.
JS He graduated from Wilberforce, in Xenia, Ohio. He also went to school, I think, a year at ISU.
MP Do you know how it happened that he went to Wilberforce?
JS No, I don't remember him ever saying why he decided to go there. I think that they also taught a trade there, too. He was very good in math.
MP Yes, your brother said he was. You know, Mr. Whittaker that is a very good reason that it is a good that you gave some things to that museum in Ohio because some people there would probably remember your father.
RW Oh, this was the Duff things that I gave them.
MP That is right.
RW Well, they bought, rather. I didn't have anything.
MP You don't have anything from you father, is that right?
RW No.
MP That would be nice if you had some things from you father because there will probably be people there that remember him.
JS Well, one year, I think they'd been out East, and they ran into-they stopped in Xenia, and they saw one of the professors. Dad got to see one of the professors he had.
MP How did your father and your mother think about girls getting an education? A college education?
JS At that time, I don't know, it seems like they was kind of looking down the road. It kind of felt like they were going to need this-because at one time they thought that marriage was, you know, at that age we thought marriage was the thing for the girls. (Inaudible) they kept saying to get all of the education that you can.
MP Was you father primarily responsible for the fact that you went to ISU do you remember?
JS I think, well that and not only that, but I think the environment.
RW My mother was high on education. Very high on education.
JS The school children, you know. The students coming in here from other places. I just noticed that the kids in Normal always kind of liked the idea of going to school. Plus you are kind of proud of having two universities.
MP Yes, that is true. That is right.
JS You associated with college children-or they are young ladies at that time. (inaudible)
MP Were there any Black teachers in your public school or at ISU?
RW No.
MP I thought the answer would be "no," but I wanted to be sure to ask that.
RW Black teachers didn't come about here until about the late fifties or early sixties.
JS Sixties, I believe.
RW That's been that recent.
MP Have any Blacks to your knowledge ever been involved in politics as you were growing up in Normal. Or did they have jobs in the government of Normal?
RW Well, Everett Thomas used to work on the city street department, if you call that government. (laughter) In his later years, you know kind of on his way out, you might say. You mean like sitting on the council or something of that nature?
MP In any kind of capacity.
RW I don't recall any during my lifetime.
MP Except as a street cleaner?
RW I don't recall anyone during my lifetime.
JS Only like at voting time, Juanita used to be interested in getting people to come to vote.
MP What was Juanita's last name?
RW Dabney.
MP Oh, she did, she went around and tried to get people to register to vote.
JS And seeing to it that they get down to the poles. I can remember that.
MP What year was that?
RW Thirties on up. Until she became, you know, immobile. You know that was back in the days when all of the Blacks were Republican around here.
MP That is one thing that I have not talked with anybody about, and that is interesting. So most of the Black people in Normal and Bloomington to your knowledge were Republican?
RW Yes.
MP How do you account for that?
RW I guess, Abraham Lincoln began that. He freed the slaves. (laughter) No, I don't know why.
MP That may very well be.
JS I think that.
RW Well, there's a little more intelligent.
MP During the Reconstruction period, they would have.
JS Yes.
MP Were they active in trying to get people elected? Blacks were?
RW Yes. They used to come around and have my father go around and hand out their little cards and things on the streets to help them out. Certain candidates, you know. He had been around her for so long that he knew a lot of them. They grew up together, and he would help them out. I think that he was voting Republican in those days, too.
MP When did it change? When did Blacks become...
RW I would imagine during the Roosevelt Administration, about his second term, I would say.
MP Do you remember-let's see, you were born when Mrs. Samuels?
JS In [19]22.
MP But you do know what the Depression period was like. I was going to ask you about that. Do you know something about the Depression era?
JS Yes when the-it seems like you could hear about everybody jumping out of the buildings you know in New York, the crash. That was in [19]29. I don't know, it seems like around here people had gardens, and.
MP They owned their own homes.
JS They owned their homes. Seems like they got along pretty well.
RW This area was what you would call a conservative area, and it doesn't have a high and a low. The biggest boom around here was the couple or three war plants we had going during World War II. So things more or less stayed at a level. Naturally most of the people here-what jobs they had, why they made do with the amount of money they made. They were able to by their homes and what have you.
MP What about World War I, did you have any relatives who served in World War I?
RW None of us-our immediate family did, but I don't know. My father didn't. I don't know about his two brothers whether they were living then or not. But there used to be some pictures here of them in uniform.
MP Of your father's brothers?
RW Maybe it was some kind of National Guard.
JS That must have been in World War I.
RW I don't even know when they passed.
MP What about World War II? Did very many Blacks from Normal go to World War II that you know of?
RW All that were healthy.
JS Lyle, he had to go, didn't he? Was he in World War II?
RW Yes.
JS He was in the Philippines. Lyle Dabney.
RW But during that time, there weren't that many young Blacks here in Normal. We had got down to the point that we could count the Blacks living in Normal. Mostly just old established families. Their children had left if they had any.
MP Why did they leave?
RW For opportunities because there was nothing here in the way of work for those who had finished high school. Back then, finishing high school was doing good then. Some went on to college. Well, naturally they went mostly South where they could teach. The others that didn't, they went to Chicago or St. Louis where they could get a little more decent job. Around here there was janitor work and private home work mainly.
MP What about during World War II, did many Blacks get jobs in the industries that were converted to...?
RW Un-huh.
JS Yes. That seemed to be when they really started blossoming out.
MP Did women get involved? I mention women because in some areas specifically women got involved in helping out in the war effort in any way, to your knowledge?
RW You mean like War Mothers?
MP Yes.
RW They had a War Mother's Club here. Not in Normal necessarily. It was kind of a combined effort in Bloomington-Normal.
MP It was called the War Mothers Club?
RW Yes. I think that's what they called it.
MP What did it do?
RW I don't know. At that time, I didn't. I was busy over on the campus.
MP What were you doing there?
RW Girlfriend.
MP Oh, excuse me Mr. Whittaker. (laughter) You didn't have time for the war effort.
RW I didn't have time to talk about the War Mothers. I cared less what they were doing.
MP All you knew is that some of the ladies talked about the War Mothers.
RW They also had an organization here called the Fred Hutchinson organization.
MP Fred Hutchinson organization? What was that about?
RW As they would leave from the station to go to Chicago for their induction, the boys. They would have their uniforms on-the Fred Hutchinson organization, and they would be down there giving you chewing gum and candy bars and things like that. Now Fred Hutchinson, evidently was a Black person that was of renown, I guess, because it was a Black organization. I am guessing there.
MP But it was named Fred Hutchinson?
RW Yes, and they would take the college girls over to Camp Ellis on Saturday night. Not only college-any of the girls around Bloomington-Normal. They would go over there and dance with the soldiers, that was over by Peoria.
MP Camp Ellis?
RW South and west of Peoria, around Bartonville in that area. On Saturday. Not every Saturday. I don't know whether it would be one Saturday a month or something, but they would take a bus and they'd go over there and dance with the soldiers. Kind of like a canteen. Golden Scott was living here in Normal at that time...
MP Golden Scott?
JS She was a student.
RW She was the head of it.
JS And then she married Manuel...
RW Manuel, I can't think of his last name. I always called him Manuel.
JS He was from Lewistown, Illinois. I wish I could think of his name. I can see him now. Oh, I think that was his name-Harold Manuel.
RW Oh, was it?
MP Harold Manuel?
JS Un-huh. Now, they live in Gary, now.
MP So that Hutchinson Club, maybe I will come across that name someplace else?
RW I will tell you. Ruth Waddell could tell you about that. She was in it. I think, in or else she.
JS Didn't they have a camp over here?
RW Had a camp where?
JS You know of soldiers over here?
MP Camp Attaberry was it?
JS No, over here in Rantoul. Camp Attaberry was out of Indianapolis, Indiana. The girls would go over. They'd take them over and be hostesses and things. They would entertain, which was kind of nice. Some of the girls got husbands, I think. (laughter)
MP Would you tell me now about the Duff family and their involvement with Stevenson family. There were some interesting little tidbits of stories that you were telling about, Mr. Whittaker. Who was it who worked for the Duffs?
RW Alverta Duff.
MP Alberta?
JS Alverta. A-L-V-E-R-T-A.
RW She worked for Helen Stevenson, mother of Adlai and Elizabeth. Adlai Stevenson and Elizabeth Ives. I think her brother George worked out there, off and on-George Duff. Then as I understand it, she got my brother John a job out there as a chauffeur, and he worked out there for maybe for three or four years. In those days, that was a good job.
MP I should think that it was.
RW I think, (CB interference)
MP What did she do there?
RW Just whatever they wanted done. She would take care of the house.
MP Take care of the children? Little Adlai.
RW Yes, and Elizabeth, and naturally clean and help. I don't think she did any cooking. I think that they normally had a cook, someone else. She was sort of a...
MP Did she live with them?
RW No, she lived up here. When they were out of state or something, she might would stay out there at the house some nights. Something of that nature. But she normally came home every night up here on 107 Poplar-West Poplar
MP Did she ever travel with them?
RW I don't think so. Yes, I believe she did go to Florida with them.
JS Yes, she did go to Florida with them. It seems like she went to Carolina, too.
RW Well, they always went through Carolina to Florida.
JS Oh, yes, I know they did, but it seemed that they went down there for a little while. She was quite a member of their family.
MP Oh, is that right?
RW She was-she and George were the only two of that family, and of course Julia taught school. Her sister Julia was away at school. She went over to Ames, Iowa. I don't know where all she went. She went to Normal. Just where she finished, I don't know if it was Normal or Ames, Iowa. But anyway she taught school down in Tulsa, Oklahoma and then I think she taught down in.
JS Selma.
RW Selma, Alabama, for a while. She was gone a lot. Would come home in the summer time, but Alverta stayed here and worked for the Stevensons.
MP Did she get married, Alverta?
RW No.
JS Neither one of the girls got married.
MP Did Alverta ever talk about, tell you any interesting stories about the Stevenson family?
RW No. That was a no-no.
MP Oh, is that right? That's interesting. Was there kind of a contract that she would not discuss what happened in the family.
RW No, it was a matter of being a-there were people that did that work that would do that. But if you were a loyal and a person that does what you're supposed-it was sort of an unwritten law. You don't talk about.
MP How long did she work for them? When did she stop working?
RW She probably stopped working for them around 1965 or [19]64.
MP She was working there when Adlai Stevenson ran for President, is that right?
RW Oh yes, yes. We had a picture of.
MP Oh yes, we got that picture of her.
RW Well, of her handing him a-he came through on the train campaigning, and she was at the station, and they had her to hand him a big thing of roses, I think. He was standing on the back of the train. I think that my mother put that in her. I thought it was in her scrapbook, but it wouldn't be because she passed in 1952.
JS I think that we sent that picture to Fay.
RW Maybe so.
JS Out of the paper.
RW Well, anyway, there is this picture of her handing these roses to Adlai at the train. She told him that if they don't make a good cup of coffee down in Washington, I will come down and fix it for you.
MP If he may have become president, maybe she would have gone. I think that should be in the Pantagraph some place.
RW It would be in their archives.
MP So that was around 1960?
RW [19]52. That's when he was running.
MP 1952. Yes, I will check for that.
JS Did he run twice for President? I know that he was Governor.
RW Let's see. He was-because the train came through here and mother passed in October. They voted that next month in November so my mother was still living when that was in the paper. I think that he did, but he waited so late to decide that it didn't do any good. I forget who he ran against. Was it Nixon? Well, it wasn't important.
JS I can't remember it anyway.
RW He ran against Eisenhower. I thought for sure he was a shoo-in, but...
MP Eisenhower was very popular.
RW Well, the war. He was going to bring the mothers' boys home from Korea.
JS (Unintelligible).
RW So, I don't know. My brother when he worked for the Stevensons, he never talked about them much either.
MP He was a chauffeur?
RW Yes, for Mrs. Helen-Adlai and Elizabeth's mother.
JS He only worked for about four years there.
RW I would say for about four or five years. He left their service in 1934, I believe, or [19]35, I don't remember.
End Side A
Side B
MP How many Black churches were in Normal to your knowledge?
JS I remember there was the little Methodist Church on Fell Avenue that is between Willow Avenue and across the street.
MP Yes. Yes.
JS We had a little Christian Church right down here up on the corner of Cherry and Linden.
RW Julia told me that there was a Baptist Church up on the corner of Cherry and Fell on the northeast corner.
JS You know, that might have been, too.
RW She told me that. It must have been way back there.
JS It seems like there was a great big house there, and I think that somebody said that that had been a church, and it looked like it had been split and made two homes out of it. I couldn't hardly believe it you know. So it could have very well been.
MP Are any of those building still standing?
RW No.
MP They all have been demolished?
JS And it hasn't been too long ago either had it, Reggie? 'Cause the Daniels made a home out of the Methodist Church.
RW It has been a while.
JS Now they have those apartments there. Right here on the corner of Cherry where the little Christian Church stood, they have a little ranch style home there, now. And it hasn't been too long ago.
MP When did the churches discontinue being churches?
JS That would have happened back in [19]30's.
MP Was that when most Black people started moving out in the 1930's?
MP I see, yes.
RW But the Baptist church, that must have been, I don't even remember that. But Julia Duff told me that was where it was, and I couldn't believe it.
MP Now, were your parents active in any church?
RW They used to attend this Christian Church...
MP Both of your parents?
RW They didn't belong, but they attended. We would go to Sunday School there.
JS Now when the Methodist Church was going, too, I think they would have a service in the afternoon. Maybe some evenings they would go down there in afternoons and evenings on Sundays, and then they would go down to the little Christian Church on Sunday morning.
MP So they frequented both of them than. But they never joined?
JS Now, my grandparents were Methodist.
MP Is that right? Who were your grandparents, we didn't talk about that?
JS That was my father's people, the Whittakers.
MP The Duffs?
RW No, Whittaker. The Duffs are no relation to us.
MP That's right. Now, I understand. So you father's family lived in this house?
JS Yes, they lived in this house.
MP Your grandfather? Is that right?
JS This is a family home?
MP You have probably told us that, and I didn't remember.
RW Yes, my grandfather...
MP Did your grandfather build this home?
RW No, he bought it.
JS And they lived here. Let's see, my father died when he was eighty-three.
RW Eighty-four.
JS Eighty-four years old. Well, my grandfather moved here from Baton Rouge, and Dad was eight years. He was the oldest one in the family. He brought him here when he was eight years old. He died at eighty-four.
MP Your grandfather lived in Baton Rouge, and left there when he was eight.
JS He bought my father here when he was eight years old.
MP Was your grandfather part of the slavery system to your knowledge"
RW I don't know.
JS I don't think so because I have never heard-the only one I know of that was of that slavery was Mrs. Chlora Walton who used to live over here on 408 East Cherry Street.
MP Her family...
JS Just about all of her family is expired except the Burkharts. There's some of them living up Freeport.
RW Arlene is still living in Jacksonville.
MP You mentioned that. So your father came here-your grandfather came here, bought this house. What did your grandfather do for a living?
JS Well he was like-Dad had spoke to me like they had a house-cleaning service. He also helped plant these trees and things around Normal for Jesse Fell.
MP Did you tell me that Mr. Whittaker?
RW I think I did.
MP I think that you did, also, I vaguely remember.
JS His name was Oliver Walter Whittaker.
MP He lived until he was eighty-four?
JS No, that was our father.
RW We don't know when our grandfather died.
JS I never did get to see grandfather.
MP Isn't that interesting. Then he lived her- your grandfather. He bought the house and lived here, and then your father lived here. I think that's absolutely fascinating. So this house must be how old? Do you know when it was constructed?
RW No, my mother told me that this room we're in and next room was moved out here from Bloomington and set here. I guess my grandfather did some building on to it. It has been changed so much. I think that my mother and father when they married, they bought the estate in, and they did a lot of remodeling and changing. Since then, it's been done again.
MP I imagine that you could check you deed and find out when it was constructed.
RW I don't know. I have never found the deed to this house.
MP You never found the deed to the house? It would be down at the courthouse on record there.
RW Well, yes we never had-my father never had a deed. I guess it was just a matter of he didn't want to have all of that expense of having all that work done searching for it.
MP Well, we have your grandfather's name on the tape so I can send somebody down to check it if you'd like. Would that be all right with you?
RW It's all right with me.
MP All right, because I think this is fascinating. This is a very old house.
JS I think that is the same way with the Barton house, too, down there.
RW What that it was moved out here?
JS No, it wasn't moved, but it has been there-a family home.
MP Yes, it had been there a long time. We were talking about Mr. Koos taking a photo of the interior.
RW Of the Duff house?
MP Yes. Were you going to call him?
RW Yes, I can call him.
MP Then you can set up an appointment for him to do it because he really wants to do that. I think that that is a very interesting house.
JS I think that's the one their father built, isn't it.
MP I think that is what they said.
JS And also their father built that Third Christian Church.
MP Oh, he did, is that right?
JS Peter Duff.
RW He also came here and worked for Jesse Fell.
MP Your grandfather?
RW Peter Duff.
MP It seems like there were quite a few people came here to work for Jesse Fell. There was Lucinda Posey's grandfather, who was supposed to be a full-blooded Indian, I understand, who came with Jesse Fell.
JS Now that's-Dorothy Stockstell and Lucinda Posey are first cousins and the Dabneys. Mrs. Dabney, Mr. Barton, and Lucinda's mother were brothers and sisters.
MP Yes. So Jesse Fell liked trees then?
JS Oh, he loved his trees. This used to be what you called Evergreen City. But see, they had that Elm disease-just took those gorgeous great big trees. Oh, it was beautiful, all up and down the-just made archways.
RW I think Jesse Fell owned practically all of this area.
JS I think he did.
RW The town.
JS Donated all that property to the school.
RW The town and this end north of Bloomington. I think he owned almost all of this.
MP And then, the Black people that bought property then is it likely the they bought it from him?
RW I think so. Elizabeth Ives, which would have been a great, great granddaughter of his, she said that he gave the property to the Duffs up there-he gave that to Peter. But I don't think so. I think he sold it to him.
MP So that is one way, we can check and look at the property that Jesse Fell owned and then see how many Blacks bought from him.
RW Now, my neighbor next door, she said that Jesse Fell's signature is on her deed.
MP Oh, is that right.
JS Isn't that something?
RW She-there was a young white girl that was doing a thesis on Jesse Fell over at the school. Somebody told her to go talk to our neighbor. They're white too, a little house back there. Of course, she didn't know much about the man. Anyway, I guess this girl came up with some interesting things on Jesse Fell. She said that at one time this park over here was a farmer's market. They used to pull their wagons up in there and set up their wares, the farmer's did. Their vegetables and what have you. That must be going way back.
MP Yes, that would.
RW This park is a national shrine now.
MP Oh, it is?
RW Yes, that's why these streets are all fixed up around here. And that water tower-of course, they took the steel part down, but that was the first one, I think, in the country of it's kind. It gave the-they pumped the water up in there and that would give the pressure for the town so you could have water in your house. I guess Jesse Fell brought quite a few Negroes or was the cause of them coming here to Normal to work for him.
MP We must check about that because if we find the history of his life, we certainly ought to get a lot of information about.
RW It might be that you could find out a lot about some of the [Negroes] around. It could be a possibility as to why my grandfather came here. I don't know. My father didn't talk much about his family. Like I told you before-if you'd ask him, he would tell you. He'd answer, but to just come out and start telling you, he just didn't do it. He was always reading something of that nature.
MP Did your mother talk very much about her life?
RW Yes, she did.
MP She was more talkative?
RW Yes, my dad was reserved, very quiet.
MP He was really more an academician right, a scholar?
RW Yes.
MP But a frustrated one, I suppose. He didn't have a chance to an opportunity to do what he wanted.
RW I guess. I would imagine so. I understand his-he got his degree in business administration. Back in those days, that was about as useless as a three-dollar bill to Blacks. But that is what he chose. I don't know why, but that is what he chose to do because most Blacks were doing trades then, going into trades. And even if you had a trade, you didn't work at up this way too much. But I would like to know more, too. I don't know how I could go about finding out about it. I have been intending to go down and look up their death certificates-my grandparents Whittaker. It should be in the courthouse.
MP Now, I am asking for a history student for next semester because that's the kind of thing that I want the history student to do-to go check out the death records and see what information they can get from those.
RW Yes, they a little history on those. Well they do now. I don't know about back then. I guess when my grandfather and grandmother Whittaker died, they had death certificates. You see, I don't even know when they died.
MP Were they dead before you were born?
RW Oh my goodness, yes. My grandmother died before my mother and father were even married. Then my grandfather-I think that when my mother and father had married, I think he had died.
MP I need a photograph of you, Mrs. Samuels, if you could...
JS You need a photograph of me?
MP Do you have a photo when you were a little girl?
JS I was trying to think. We used to have a lot of those pictures. Now where they are now, I don't know.
MP You people should have a lot everything because you have been in this house, and you never had a fire. So you should have all kinds of stuff here.
RW Well, we would but we have a sister, Fay. She used to would come home, and she'd start throwing stuff out.
MP Yes, is that right?
JS Well, you had a chance to look through the Duff Bible, didn't you?
MP Yes, I took a photograph of that. Yes, that was great. So she started throwing things out on you?
RW Yes, she would come home and she'd just start hauling things to the basement and throwing them in the furnace.
MP Is that right?
RW Yes, because she said that we don't need to keep all of this stuff, junk. Get rid of it.
RW She was a very particular person. She wanted everything just so. She would come home and the house wouldn't-my mother was also an excellent housekeeper, but Fay was very...
JS Kind of a fanatic about it.
RW Yes, she would want things changed. She didn't like the wallpaper. "You don't use that kind anymore." So she would instruct some of us to change it.
MP And she would just throw things out.
RW Yes, she would gather things up and take them down and burn them in the furnace.
JS I think that is what happened to a lot of those pictures.
RW Of course, that is what happened to a lot of our... Of course, my mother would go on those cleaning out rampages, too. She would start getting rid of stuff. Well. you never...
MP Sometimes you don't think about things like that. But you see the point is that with Normal, for example-there are more Black people in Bloomington, you know, who are older. But in Normal, you're just about the only ones that I can rely on for materials unless I am able to convince Mrs. Stockstell to talk.
JS I wonder why Cephas Ross wouldn't talk.
MP Do you know him very well?
JS I have know him for years, but.
RW [text omitted]
MP He likes music. He really likes music. When I first went and knocked on his door. I went and talked to him for about forty-five minutes, and he was interested in the project, and I really thought he would have.
RW He has some very-how would you say, very strange, in my opinion, strange ideas and thoughts. He has belonged to the Holiness Church for many, many years. His daughter was here. She lives in Springfield. She was here last Friday night. So I was talking to her. She is a niece of Ethel Murray. So I was talking to her Saturday morning on the phone, and I said, "Dr. Pratt was over talking to your dad."She said, "Oh, did he talk to her?" I said, "Well, she said that he did, but he didn't care to be taped or anything." And she was telling me some of the things-for one thing he wants to be known as a nice Colored man. "The people of Normal know me as a very nice Colored man." He didn't want the word 'Black" used in regards to him. He talks like that. Well, I don't like it either, but I have to go with it. (laughs)
MP Well, maybe I made an error. I should have been more careful to have used Colored or Negro.
RW Well, you had no way of knowing and I don't think-knowing him as I think I do, I don't...
MP He was very nice when I was there, you know. We talked about music because I like music, and I thought that was really interesting. He liked all kinds of music-classical music. So his daughter, is that right, is Mrs. Murray's niece?
RW Yes.
MP She is Mrs. Murray's niece.
RW Yes, because he was married to Ethel's sister.
MP Well, maybe she can talk with him?
RW Who Elaine?
MP No, Mrs. Murray, do you think?
RW Well, she is from Lincoln, Illinois.
MP No, but do you think that she would, that he would permit her to interview him?
RW No, he doesn't-that is another...
MP All right. I won't disturb that.
RW Well, like I say he is different.
MP Yes, that is right, I understand.
RW And he had hard feelings toward Ethel, but Ethel doesn't have any towards him. Why I don't know, and she doesn't either.
MP I think that it is interesting that he had a job at the post office for a long time.
RW Yes, he retired from the Normal post office. Before that he worked over at the Normal Theater, and I don't know what he did prior to that. But I haven't seen him in several years. I can almost stand out in the back yard and look across over there to his house.
MP Yes, I am sure.
RW But I just never see him. Of course, I don't go anywhere for one thing, other than work and back home.
MP I have to ask you one thing, can you to our meetings now. We have one on the sixth of December. That is on a Saturday morning.
JS I will try. I will sure try because it sound like it would be very interesting.
MP I will send you a letter because I have to send it with all the information, and I think that you would enjoy it.
RW Is Wilbur Barton coming back over for you, do you know?
MP He said that he was, and I am sending him the letter with all of the information. And I saw Mrs. Posey a couple of weeks ago, and she said that he thought that he might be able to come.
JS That's Mrs. Stockstell's brother.
MP Oh, yes.
RW Ethel was trying to get her niece's husband, Elaine-their name is Anderson, James Anderson. He worked on a similar project with what was his name Dr.-he used to be here. Howard Bell worked on that same project.
MP A history project. I just can't remember his name.
RW I think that he went to Howard.
MP It was Durham. Dr. Durham.
RW With him. They lived here in Bloomington, and of course Elaine being Cephas Ross's daughter, they lived over there in the house. She was born over there. But James worked with Dr. Durham on a project.
MP That is her husband-James Durham?
JS James Anderson.
RW Ethel was telling him. Maybe he'd be interested in coming up for a meeting. Of course, he has a business he's running down in Springfield, and it would be hard for him to get away on a Saturday.
MP But if she can come?
RW I will tell her.
MP That would be nice, real nice.
RW She would possibly come up because she is interested in that too.
MP I will call her and get the address and send them the information, do you think that would be a good idea?
RW That would be a nice idea.
MP I certainly will do that.
JS That was-Cephas's father lived there. I don't know how long they lived there. He might have born over there.
MP Mrs. Murray was born in Lincoln, right?
RW Yes.
MP I'll turn this off now. I will forget his name now. The poet. What's his name? End Side B

Transcript of video tape walking tour of Normal

Interviewer: Jack Muirhead | Date: July 23 1996

Transcript of video tape walking tour of Normal, Illinois
The African-American community in the 1920's, 30's & 40's
Transcript of video tape walking tour of Normal, Illinois
Narrator: Reginald Whittaker
Interviewer: Jack Muirhead
Date: July 23, 1996
Topic: African American community of Normal, Illinois during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s
Notes:
(`96) Indicates street address in 1996.
(CD - year) Indicate the year of the Bloomington Normal City Directory that was used for
confirmation.
Reginald Whittaker aged seventy-one has lived his entire life at 303 East Willow, Normal. We
begin at Mr. Whittaker's house heading west along Willow Street.
Tape Begins:
RW Since last summer everything has become more of a blur. I could halfway see the sidewalk back then. I'll probably push you off the sidewalk if you try to walk beside me.
JM You can't see where the grass meets the sidewalk?
RW No, not anymore. When I lead off with my right foot I'm supposed to-that's where you get the tapping from. But since I'm just trying to feel the edge of the sidewalk, I use my own system.
(`96 - 110 N. Linden)
JM This would be the corner of Willow and Linden.
RW This used to be the property of John and Clora Walton who you looked up some information on for me. This property belonged to John and Clora Walton and naturally this isn't the original house, but the man who bought the property tore the house down and salvaged all of the timbers and framed this house up that is here now. His name was Snodgrass and of course the lot to the south was an empty lot at the time which also belonged to the Walton's. They owned this corner. They also owned property on Cherry Street-400 block Cherry.
(`96 - 111 E. Willow)
RW Professor Muhl (CD `35 -115 E. Willow) over at Wesleyan. This was his home here on this corner. Beautiful corner. They've ruined it now. The house set back from the corner. They had beautiful trees and had a circular drive that went out on Linden and a wrap-around porch. Oh, it was a gorgeous place. And beautiful fireplaces, they tell me, inside. It's gone. Makes you sick.
(`96 - Baby Fold)
RW And across the street on this corner-the man who was president of Citizens Savings and Loans, Odell (CD `35 - 501 N. Linden) lived over there. They moved that house up there by the railroad on this side of the street, but its gone too. (when we went up the street we found it was still there).
(`96 - 107 E. Willow)
RW A big two-story house set here. On the east side of it was a lawn and on the west side was a pasture. They had a cow in there. And in behind it back to Locust Street was pasture that belonged to these people. And this man-his name was Newhouser, was once major of Normal and that goes back before my time. The Baby Fold bought that. On that side of Linden Street there was only four houses. That's all there would be-four lots to a block.
(`96 - 101 E. Willow)
RW And the trucks from ISSCS School and ISNU would come here and load them and would haul it over to those two institutions. That's when they heated with stokers. And people around the neighborhood back there in the thirties who-the trucks would run over, and they didn't bother to pick that stuff off the ground or throw it in the truck or nothing so the people in the neighborhood who were having problems financially would come up with little carts and what have you and rake it up and take it home. And I think the drivers would do it on purpose so they could get that, have that coal. I know my father filled our coal bin one summer because he was out of work with that. Those kind of things people had to do back then. There was a way. If you had the will there was a way. Nowadays if we had to return to those kind of days I don't think this generation could stand it.
JM [We] don't have the will to do it.
RW No. There won't be these types of things to do. No more coal. No more chickens in the back yard. No wells. Nothing like that anymore in communities like this.
JM Right at the moment we are standing just to the west of the Baby Fold.
RW That's where... I think we're standing on the siding that they'd run those coal cars in. And then they had a pit dug here, and they'd open the bottom and the coal would run down in there and one of those conveyors would bring it up into the trucks.Both institutions had their own trucks-ISU and Illinois Soldiers and Sailors School.
(`96 - Cypress Street at the railroad crossing)
RW We're at Cypress east of Fell. Well, my mother and her two sisters came up to see the Duffs. My father stayed home. And two of the Duff brothers were still at home-Walker and George. My mother and my two aunts decided it was time to go home. So they walked down to here to the railroad, and they were going to walk along the railroad to Willow Street-a shortcut. They made the turn and started down the rails here. And over in the ditch in the weeds there was a tramp-we had tramps in those days-laying there asleep. And my aunt from Virginia, Aunt Lena, she let out a scream. She was tall, and she left them. She went screaming home down to our house. Well, the Duffs-it was summertime you know, and they were out on the porch. They heard that and so here come the two boys running up. My mother and my Aunt Anna, I guess, had started back down the street to the house, the Duff house. My Aunt Lena went on home and got my father, and I think my brother John was there. They came a running, and the Duff brothers came up here. And of course the tramp was gone then. It woke him up, and he went on up the road or down I don't know which. Of course, my Aunt Lena was that way anyway. She could let out one of those screeching screams or something. What is it you call that type of person who gets excited quick? Of course, my mother and Aunt Anna didn't pay any attention. They would have just kept walking. They figured what it was. But she looked down and saw that and ran off and left them here. Every time they'd get together they'd tell that story and go to laughing.
(`96 - 103 W. Poplar)
RW A house set in there. Down a little bit. Is there a for sale sign? There are a couple of lots for sale. There was that house and the next one is a big house. It's been remodeled. There were only four houses here.
(`96 - 100 W. Poplar)
RW There was one house over here. And all the rest of that down to where the creek came across was pasture. And behind this house there was one house on Sycamore and nothing else down to Fell. All the rest of that was pasture. There were big trees. Some of them, I guess, are still there. It was kind of like being out in the country. These are all after World War II, these new houses.
JM You see an area like this and you wonder if there was something there before that they tore down.
RW No. It was all pasture. This was still pasture when Alverta Duff died in [19]67. They must have built these in the seventies. A couple of them they moved in here off of Linden Street when the Baby Fold bought them-down there farther. I know one, maybe two down there farther. We're on West Poplar at the railroad divide.
(`96 - 107 W. Poplar)
RW This is their drive-Duff's drive, isn't it?
JM Was there a drive on the east side?
RW East side. Where the coal-well, right over to the right was one of those big maple trees. They had to cut it down when I had charge of it. Wind hit it and blew part of it over into the yard. So this is the Peter Duff house. 107 West Poplar (CD `35 107 N. Poplar, Alverta and Julia Duff).
JM Do you remember when any additions were made?
RW On the back was an L-shaped empty space back there, and I said if I had this I'd tie onto it up there at the front of the house and come back and then across to the kitchen. And darn, if this guy Norris when he bought it-it must have been mental telepathy because that's what he did. This room that sticks out on the east side was Peter and Fanny's bedroom and Alverta's bedroom. And then there was another bedroom and next to it was what you call a parlor where that bigger window is.
JM I think they replaced that window.
RW Did they replace it? It wasn't a picture window. It was just a biggerwindow. And then the living room was where you go in the front door off the porch.And behind the living room is the dining room and behind that was the kitchen where you had the little cutout where you could push food through to the dining room.And they must have bought this back in what-1880 something when you and I were looking through those records.
JM Peter Duff built it?
RW I think, built most it. I don't think he built it all . I think he bought it and then put additions on it. There used to be a barn in the back because he evidently had a horse.
JM And just to the west of that?
RW That used to be an empty lot. That's what I had and sold. (some unrelated conversation)
(`96 - Northeast corner of Poplar and Fell)
RW .anyway the older house was moved from Linden Street. I was thinking there were two of them. Maybe there's just the one, but the one on the corner the man built that from the ground up because that was just an empty lot.
(`96 - 608 N. Fell)
RW ... in about the 1920s [a man] by the name of Patterson (CD `22 - 608 N. Fell, Minnie Patterson, widow of George Sr.). Ralph is still living as far I know down in Missouri. His brother George Patterson worked on the railroad as a porter. And there was another brother-he had a different name, but anyway as young boys they lived there in that house. Ralph still talks about it when he comes to town. Ralph used to do a lot of tap dancing and what have you out at Miller Park. They lived in that little house. I don't think they owned the house. They just rented it.
(`96 - 205-207 W. Gregory)
RW The Williams-John Williams's property (CD `35 - 809 N. Fell) set up there by that street. Summit is the name of it, I think. Then it was just an alley, but they've made a regular street out of it now. On the other side of that alley, as I referred to it, was a pasture again, but it is all built now. The John Williams property set not right up on it. I'd say a lot away from it. And it ran all the way back probably at least 200 feet to the west. And they had a two-story house that set up on a knoll. And I think it extended to the south about another couple of lots. I don't know what that would be in acreage - a half-acre or an acre or what, but that's where they lived for years. Caroline was his wife's name. They were Crawfords. She was a Crawford-an old family here in the Twin-Cities. And that was about all of the African-Americans that lived. They were the only ones who lived up here. On farther north were wealthy... The Eatons and people like that who had farms up on Lincoln Street, and college professors over on School and Normal Avenue and all such as that.
JM John Williams had a really large lot. Did he pasture it?
RW No. He sold it. He was a cook. He worked for one of the Mecherle boys and cooked for them. You know how cooks are. They move around. He worked down in Normal for the American Legion Post and the Carl Davis Post in Normal He worked down there cooking for them. I don't know where all he did work. Dr. Stevenson when he was living-McLean Stevenson's father-he worked for him. Just a number of people he worked for. Boy Scouts camps in the summer time. Like I said cooks move around.
JM Was that her family home?
RW That I don't know.
(`96 - 606 N. Fell)
RW This was George Rowley's sister, and her name was Maude Rowley and her mother (CD `35 - 606 N. Fell, Mrs. Julia Rowley) lived there. The last I heard Maude was still living in Chicago. I don't know about now. That's been five or six years ago-within the last ten years I heard that. He had an undertaking establishment in Bloomington. George did. It was on Gridley (CD `31 - 406 S. Gridley, George E. and Ida). If we're ever over that way I can show it to you. Nice little house. But business-there wasn't enough business. So he evidently went to Chicago and went to work for some bigger firm up there. He's been dead a long time.
(`96 - 604 N. Fell)
RW There's another little house setting next to the Rowley's that sold candy, and pop, and little things like that for school children. We used to come up here and spend our pennies. You could buy penny candy then.
JM Do you remember where you entered the little candy shop?
RW It would be to the right of one of the doors. It was to the south of the main part of the house.
JM There's a little addition.
RW I'm sure that was it if I remember correctly.
JM Where were you going to school?
RW Normal Central School.
(`96 - 116 W. Cypress) (CD `35 - same)
RW Virgil Dean and his first wife owned it. Kathryn Dean's husband. This is the house of Virgil Dean and his first wife. I can't think of her name right now-Roberta was Virgil's first wife's name. They belonged to the Third Christian Church in Bloomington on Western Avenue. I think Virgil was a Bloomingtonian. He and his wife Roberta owned this house right here. They worked at Ewing Castle and I think lived on the place. As much as I can remember, they always had somebody living in here keeping students for them. Lived in the house and then kept students. That's back when Black students had to live with Black families. Unless it was some [white] minister or somebody who wanted someone to work for them. And then they were given room and board for work. This was called the Dean House back in those days by the students. They kept girls.
(`96 - 117 W. Cypress)
RW Now while we're standing here, across the street here... That's not the same house. That house has been taken down and this one was built. Eli White, who was a policeman in Bloomington, and his family lived there (CD `31 - 115 W. Cypress) until they moved into Bloomington. Did you run across his name in any of your material?
JM I don't think so.
RW Didn't you? Well, Eli was quite a policeman. And he was a very fair skinned... He was a half brother to Frank Bright-the Bright family that lived in Bloomington. He had a daughter and son by his wife Leona. After they separated years later, she lived out here in this house and took care of students in the Dean House. From the property line of this house, I would say two lots east, Wash Thomas-that would be behind his house on Willow-he owned those lots. He had garden back there. Of course, there are houses there now. Then, east of those two lots all the way up to the railroad was pasture.
(`96 - 117 W. Cypress)
RW We're looking at the house of Eli White who was a Bloomington policeman. He did some chauffeuring, also. He worked for W. H. Roland and Mrs. Roland who owned the Roland Department Store in Bloomington. He had taken her to Florida. He ran over the white line just a little bit, and the policeman called him out of his name. Eli was hot-tempered, and he pretended like he didn't hear what he said. The policeman walked over and stuck his head in the window of the car. Eli locked his arm around his neck and slapped the devil out of him and drove off. Mrs. Roland had to send Eli back to Illinois that night. The next year my brother John was down there with Mrs. Stevenson, and they had taken him to be Eli. And he had a lot of explaining to do. But Eli was that way. He didn't take any stuff. They could send him down to the Third Ward Club to patrol around down there. He kept law and order. None of them would fool with him. He was the best shot on the police department. This would be back in the thirties. Back when I was between eight and ten.
(`96 - 118 W. Willow. (CD `35 - same)
RW This was George Thomas's brother's home, Everett Thomas, who worked with him as a blacksmith. Everett's daughter sold this to some contractor, and they built this student house here. We are standing on the driveway that was the wooden bridge from the street. Had one here and one at the house down there (points north on Fell). They had that big wide ditch here.
(`96 - 114 W. Willow). (CD `35 - same)
RW Washington Thomas's. They called him Wash. Everett's brother. This would be two lots. It went all the way through to Cypress Street. I think this establishment here must have been built somewheres in the eighties. And Everett's probably in the later part of the eighties when Loretta, his daughter, sold it. She lives in Gary, Indiana. She's still living. She sold it because she wasn't coming back to live anymore. On the lot line over there was the barn that Tripp [Willie Tripp] was talking about. Where the Cadillac was parked in there [and male college students sometimes roomed]. Beyond that was pasture again. There was one house between Wash's and the tracks. Set way back in the yard. I don't know who lived there. Now, there's a row of new houses along there.
(`96 - 113 W. Willow)
RW There used to be a house across the street. There was a Black family who lived in there. I can't recall the name right now.
(`96 - 111 W. Willow)
RW To the east of that was another one where John Caldwell (CD 109 W. Willow) lived for awhile. And we'll see his final residence later on. But all those houses are gone.
(`96 - southeast corner of Willow and Fell)
RW I would say that about along in here that ditch came under Willow Street. I think along here is where it came out. It ran on an angle back toward Locust. It ran right behind the church. And it ran at an angle, and then it turned and went under Locust. And it took off another angle over to Cherry. And this was garden space in here. I may not be up far enough, but I think I was.
(`96 - 407 N. Fell)
RW Okay. Over on the corner across the street of Willow and Fell, southwest corner, was a small house that belonged to the Simons. They rented that house to people who needed a place to live. (CD `35 - same. Fred Gaines, who was white)
(`96 - 407 N. Fell)
RW Next to it to the south was their home, the big house, a two-story house with a porch all around the front. They kept girls that I know of. They might have kept boys before my time. Two sisters lived there. Well, one lived there because the other one taught school-the one they call Katie. (CD `35 - 405 N. Fell) She taught school down South someplace. Her sister lived there. Her name was... I don't know her first name right now, but her married name was Moore. I don't know about their parents or anything. That would come before me. And they sold that corner for little or nothing. Whoever bought that got it practically for nothing. I guess there's one student apartment that goes all the length of the two lots. The lots run east and west. So there was room to put another right behind it on Willow Street. I guess there's one back there next to it to the west.
JM It's the same apartment complex.
RW Same size and everything. He bought two lots there and put them two crossways like that.
(`96 - 403 N. Fell) (CD `40 -same. Luther Anson).
RW Now that was the little building across the street was the Chat and Chew that Mrs. L. B. Anson opened up. I think they had part of that building moved from someplace and set it there for the Colored students to have some place to drink a milk shake, have a bottle of pop, a hamburger because every place else you had to take it outside in those days. Or they could sit down. They had-we called it a vendor-or jukebox. Put a nickel in, play a record. They had a little space to dance in there. Couple of booths. A little counter space. And that's the idea of the Chat and Chew-give them somewhere to go to hang out.
JM This was an area where there were a number of African American students who lived in homes.
RW The Simons there. The Thomases back there. The Dean House where we just left. They all kept students, and around the corner we'll see where the Headley house was. They kept students.
(`96 - 202 W. Locust) (CD `35 - same. Luther and Lutie Anson).
RW And Mr. Anson's house was around the corner on Locust. Not on the corner, but next to the corner.
(`96 - 200 W. Locust).
RW But he owned the corner house. I guess it's a student house now. Has it been torn down?
JM The older house on the corner is still there.
RW Okay. Have you got the camera on? Mr. Anson owned that house. He never lived in it. (CD `35 - same. J. Earl Gaines, who was white). He lived in the one to the west of it. Oscar Waddell's father and mother-and Oscar stayed there some himself. He was in service I think a lot-lived there and kept students, girls, in that house. Mr. Anson finally sold the house to one of the biggest junk dealers in the state of Illinois. Of course, he's dead. But he sold it to him. I figured it would be one of those student apartments now. They tore Mr. Anson's house down. It was a lovely house. They've got an apartment there now.
JM I don't know if it's student housing or not, but it's still standing.
RW When I use that term, I'm talking about these barrack-looking buildings.
(`96 - one lot south of Willow on the east side of Fell) (Bethel A.M.E. Church)
(CD `35 - 406 N. Fell))
RW ... the porch or steps or whatever that little front part, the vestibule, was right out here practically six inches off the sidewalk. According to what you say the Chat and Chew where I pointed and the Simon house would have been over there. I may be off a few feet.
JM Your grandfather taught Sunday School?
RW Yes. Remember the papers-those little books we found where he was keeping track of donations.
JM When did those run? In the early 1900s?
RW I don't remember. They're down there at the Historical Society. I don't remember if there were any dates on them.
(`96 - 302 N. Fell)
RW We're standing at Fell and Cherry. The northeast corner of Fell and Cherry. The original building that stood here was a Negro church. I don't know how far back, but it would have to go back into the 1800s somewhere. All I can remember that it was a house. They had cut the church in two and made a house out of it, and moved the other half to the north next door. I can't remember the proper name of the church, but it was told to me that it was a Baptist Church. But I don't think it was. [Jesse and Margaret Daniels bought the church in the early 1940s and converted it into a house]
JM What happened to the half that remained here?
RW About ten years ago it was set afire. It was empty. I think they were using it for some kind of a meeting place, and it caught fire someway. Mildred [Pratt] and Ann [Malone] tried to get the university to buy it for historical purposes. They didn't want to do that. To preserve it. The McLean County Historical Society didn't have the money either.
JM Where was your school?
RW ... School Street about two blocks away. A block up to Mulberry. And then up another half block. They made a little park out of it. (some unrelated conversation)
(`96 - 308 N. Fell)
RW A Black family lived there. John Williams' wife's people. They didn't own it. I think they were just renting, but they lived over for awhile.
(`96 - 115 W. Locust)
RW Next door to it would have been Luther Anson's nephew (CD `46 - 113 W. Locust. Theodore Anson) and his wife. They just rented. And they had to move, and they moved up the street to the third house up the street. They bought that, and then remodeled it. It was a two-story house. He lived there until he died. Ted died. And his wife sometime in the sixties or early seventies remarried, and she moved to Saint Louis. She's back here now, but the house is gone. She sold it. These people buying up all this property to build the barracks. But a lot of African Americans lived here-a number in this area, this block between Fell and the tracks.
(`96 - 116 W. Locust)
JM Once again who lived here in this small house?
RW It would be next door to this one. (the camera temporarily points to the wrong house). Alverta Duff's grandmother. Mrs. Duff's mother. What was her name? Walker I think it was. Green. Green. (CD `26 - 114 W. Locust. Anna and Fillmore Headley). There's a little four-unit apartment there, isn't there? By the ditch and next to it, which would be the third from the corner, that would be the Green's. Next to it, I guess about where we're standing. I don't know. That was a house, but they put one of those little units in it.
JM This is a big one.
RW Is it big? When we get up here. Read off some of these addresses.
JM The next one is 112. It's a four-unit building.
RW Is there a tree out front?
JM Not now.
RW I think that's where the Headley's (CD "35 - 110 W. Willow - Fillmore and Anna Headley) lived because I think between the Green house-there were two or three houses. What's that one?
JM This is 114. There's a big wide driveway.
(`96 - 110 W. Willow)
RW She was from Gary, Indiana. Didn't I show you her picture. Adamson, Drew Adamson. You'll get to see a picture of her. I don't think I've ever gotten over her.
JM And she lived with...?
RW She roomed here. Mrs. White was here keeping students. Mrs. Headley died back around 1937 or [193]8 of gangrene. She dropped a syrup bottle on her toe and didn't see about it properly, and it got away from her. They removed the toe and then the foot. They had to keep going. She didn't even get to come home. Died. So Mr. Headley stayed here. Well, he owned the place. He had Alverta down here for awhile. Then he got ahold of Mrs. White, and she did the housekeeping and tending to the girls until she moved to Champaign. She bought her a place in Champaign. He sold the place, and he went over to live with her. Something happened, and he came back here and died in a rented room over in Bloomington.
JM This house originally was a newly built house?
RW The one that was here. The house that they built is gone. They tore it out of here. I believe it was 110, too. If I remember the address. I may off a house or a lot or two. I recall those two little houses and another. There might have been another one. Would this be about three lots from the ditch?
JM I think so.
RW Okay. Then this must be it.
(`96 - 200 E. Cherry)
RW Cherry and Linden. And over on the northeast corner was where the Third Christian Church in Normal (CD `26 - Linden corner of Cherry. Second Christian Church), for the colored people in those days, set. And a new house was built there after World War II. The house that's there now. Probably in the late forties or early fifties. There's a picture of the church down at the Historical Society. We used to go there to the church in the mornings. And then down to Fell Avenue to the A.M.E. in the afternoons and evenings. Back in those days we used to have a streetcar that ran out here in the street. Linden Street.
JM Do you remember who any of your pastors were?
RW I think one of the pastor's names was Wells. You got a letter, I think, from Wyatt Wells-his father. He was one of the pastors for this church. The others I don't know. I was just a child.
(`96 - North side of E. Cherry, first two lots west of Oak))
RW It's nothing but an empty lot. The whole corner. The house caught fire. They tore it down. They still own the property. Least I haven't heard of it being sold. This was the Frank Dabney property (CD `35 - 206 E. Cherry).
JM We're not far from that pump house?
RW That was part of their property. They built it on their property. Paid them for it. I think the well went dry and reverted back to them , I think. I could be wrong. But this whole corner was theirs. He had a barbershop on Beaufort Street in Normal.
JM Did he ever cut any hair at home?
RW Just the boys, his sons. At one time he had two other barbers in there with him. He only cut white people's hair. No Blacks. He looked white himself-Frank.
(`96 - South side of 300 block of E. Cherry)
RW- And he was superintendent of the waterworks. And a house behind him on the opposite corner where the town hall is. All the rest of that was empty. Corn fields. They grew corn over there.
(`96 - 304 E. Cherry)
JM Is this 314?
RW No. This should be 304. Ours is 303. This is the Barton residence (CD `35 - same). Wilbur's the last one.
JM His parents were Cynthia and.?
RW - Right now I can't tell you his name. I know it. His grandfather was Milton Barton, and his father was Carey.
(`96 - 406 E. Cherry)
RW This was the home of Mrs. Clora Walton. (CD `32 - same) I have a picture of her. Her great granddaughter is still living?
JM Was that the Burkhart? Did you say she wasn't too well?
RW Name is Shirley now. I talked to her about a year ago. She has emphysema. I hope she hasn't passed. Is this a catalpa tree?
JM This is a sugar maple. It grows pretty fast.
RW Are we in front of the house?
JM We're just past the Walton house.
RW There used to be a catalpa tree. We called them Indian cigars in those days. That was her house. It hasn't been changed, other than siding put on it... There might have been an addition put on the back. Small addition. This is where I used to come.She always called my dad "Cousin"- Cousin Walter. Cousin Bud. Now, she came from Louisiana. If they were cousins I don't know. They could have been. They had several children. Had a son John Walton, after his dad who worked for the post office in Chicago. He had a son named Raymond. He's dead now I understand. He was so big. His dad bought Buicks, and they cut the steering wheel in half so he could get behind it and drive. So Raymond could. Looked like an airline steering wheel. Mrs. Walton had the son John, and she had some daughters. One was named Sophie. I can't remember the others.
[text omitted]
RW I used to stay here. My mother worked out at the school. Josephine would bring me here in the morning, leave me, and she'd go on to school-Normal Central. I was talking one day-said something about my brother. You know how old people are. Mrs. Walton was old. I hadn't started school yet. She died in [19]31 or [19]32 . I said something about Fay and John my brother. She said, "They're not your brother and sister."I said, "Yes, they are." So I questioned my mother about it. She said, "Yes. They're your brother and sister, but their father passed away. You have the same mother, but not the same father." That ended my staying there. She made arrangements for me to stay with Mrs. Caldwell. Her name wasn't Caldwell then. Lewis. Her name was Lewis because she hadn't married Mr. Caldwell yet. Because he lived down on Willow I told you. Right across from a house. But I still would come over here. But I never stayed here again all day. Then, when her great granddaughter was here, Josephine would come over. She'd come and stay the school months with her so there be somebody to stay with her in the house, I guess. We played together. She was a little older than me a couple or three years. But we played together. So that ended that. I know my mother had some words with her for that. My mother was one of those who didn't take anything. She didn't bother no body, but don't bother her.
(`96 - 410 E. Cherry)
RW Then Mrs. Lewis became Caldwell (CD `35 - 410 E. Cherry. John and Lutie Caldwell). She just loved children. She had one child and he died. And we used to go there. I did and another couple of girls, Geraldine, and Josephine-she was a little older than all of us. She would bake pies and cakes. She was one of the best cooks. She was just a sweetheart. She would bake birthday cakes for me up until I was around seventeen years old. And I looked forward to it. Oh, she was so wonderful, and her husband was the sweetest person. He worked on the Chicago-Alton railroad. Oh, he was a man. He was over six foot. Weighed around 240. He was all man. You'd grab his arm like that. It was like a tree trunk. They tell me it was nothing for him to pick up a railroad tie and throw it aside. He could pick a rail up. Not the whole rail. Pick up the end of a rail and lift it aside.
(`96 - 405 E. Locust)
RW The Ross family lived here (CD `35 - 405 E. Locust. Alonzo and Eva Ross). I think his son Cephus bought it for taxes and kicked his dad out.
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