Betty I. Pettiford
Personal narrative of Betty I. Pettiford
From: Betty Pettiford (bp)
Medium: Audio tape
Date: Thursday, April 29, 1999
Place: Home of Betty Pettiford, 1819 South Selby Street, Marion, Indiana 46953
Collected by: Tara Stevens (ts)
00:00 ts: Is it okay if I, Tara Stevens, interview you, Betty Pettiford, on the 29th day of April 1999, starting at 4:55 p.m.?
00:10 bp: Yes.
- 1 Oral History of Betty I. Pettiford
- 1.1 Teen Life in the '40s
- 1.2 Impact of War on Teens
- 1.3 Schools, Once Again
- 1.4 Segregation
- 1.5 Social Life
- 1.6 Driving
- 1.7 Courtship
- 1.8 Involvement in the Urban League
- 1.9 Hanging Out
- 1.10 Interracial Friendships
- 1.11 Impact of War on Betty's Family
- 1.12 Married Life
- 1.13 Change
Oral History of Betty I. Pettiford
Teen Life in the '40s
00:17 ts: Okay. Uhm, let’s go, let’s go ahead and get started. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about your life in the 1940s in Grant County?
00:19 bp: All right, uh, growing up in the forties, and, uh, of course, I was a teenager for a while at that time, and (clears throat) and I, uh, had a lot of friends. I was the only child in my family, and but I had a lot of girlfriends. And, uh, we used to ride bicycles and those types of things and skate and, uh, of course, we had a skating rink which is the same skating rink we have now and, uh, but we couldn’t go to that. Only on a, sometimes they would have special parties. You know, like a church would have a skating party, and then they’d have that one night. And then you could come; otherwise, you could not.
Uhm, also, uh, (clears throat) at thirteen, I think I forgot to tell you this, at thirteen I decided I wanted to work. In those days you could, uh, but at fourteen you could get a work permit and then you were allowed to work. Uh, I got a little job after school. And, uh, I worked for Mrs. Fleck, and they owned The Paris store downtown Marion. And, uh, it was, uh, Paris Store, Queen City, and Resnecks were three of the stores similar to like Elder-Beerman, their clothes you know. Anyway, I worked after school and I didn’t have to do that much but just go in and dust and run the sweeper and make up the beds and then (clears throat) they always, she always, had a pot of potatoes and I had to turn those on to boil. And, uh, they had potatoes every night. That was their main, one of their main meals. And these were Jewish people. And, uh, they were very nice to me, though; I got along well with them.
And, uh, my girlfriend worked for Mrs. Resneck who owned the other store across from Paris. And, uh, so we kinda had these little jobs so we could have, ya know, get extra things. Because, uh, my dad had a fit though when I said I wanted to work 'cause he didn’t want me to. He said that he’s the head of the family and he’d take care of me, but I said, “But, Dad, I want to work!” (laughs) So, anyway, my mother said they talked it over, and they, then they let me work.
A lot of things, we didn’t have cars to drive to high school. The, uh, elementary school, uh, the elementary school I came from was called Brownlee. And, uh, it was named after Mr. Brownlee. He used to come through our school. And, uh, (clears throat), ‘course he was an old — he was an old man then. And, uh, it was, you know where the YWCA is?
03:53 ts: Mmm-hmm.
03:54 bp: Okay, then down about a block, kinda mid-way on 8th and Adams, was our school, and it was kinda, you know how the Y is on a incline? That’s the way our school was. Had a big clock up at the top, and that clock would, uh, gong at, uh, the hour on the hour. And even on Saturdays it, ya know, chimed. And, uh, but it was a good school, and then we went to - the school I went to, which they call it junior high school after you leave sixth grade. Uh, it was first grade to sixth grade in elementary, and then in junior high school it was seventh grade to ninth grade. And, uh, I went to Martin Boots, which is where those apartments are on, uh, 3rd Street. Ya know, between 3rd and 4th at the top of the hill, that’s where our school was.
04:58 ts: (mumbles)
05:00 bp: And, uh, we had a good time at Martin Boots. And on the other side of Martin Boots was an elementary school called, uh, called Horace Mann. And then there was a little store there with penny candy and everything, so the kids from both schools used to go in that little store. It was like a mom and pop’s store. Uh, when we left high school, and I have a couple of the Cactus if you want to look at it, and show you, the, uh, high school building.
Impact of War on Teens
Uh, when the, after the war started, there were several fellas that, you know, they were drafted. And so my cousin was drafted and, uh, Mrs. Neal at the high school, she let us go to the, uh, train station to see the soldiers off. And my cousin and, uh, Harry Terry and Walter Peak and just a lot of them were going on the train and we had told her that we would just go and see the soldiers off and then we would come back to school and that’s what we did.
Uhm, (clears throat) and there was one fella who really wanted to go, but he wasn’t quite old enough, Henry Terry. And he wanted to go with his brother 'cause his brother was goin’. And he wanted to go with his brother and a bunch of the, and his friends – fellas that he ran around with. And, uh, he jumped on the train and tried to stay (laughs) on the train, and they said, “No, you, you can’t go. You have to get off.” So he, he did get off but he didn’t want to. Uh, later on he did go to the service. And, uh, so we went back to school.
At that time while the war was on, there was rationing. And, uh, they rationed tires, gas, and sugar. And, uh, you had little, uh, my mother had little stamps. Some kind of a stamp type book that you’d, that - ha — that you could get. You’d get so much sugar with it, and and now you was payin’ for the sugar. It wasn’t given to you free, but it was rationed. You could not go in, you know, just hoard up a lot of stuff.
Schools, Once Again
Uh, (clears throat) the Marion, the high school was on West Nelson Street and Martin Boots was on 4th Street and, uh, the elementary school that was, which I told you was Horace Mann. And there was, uh, a school down from an elementary school down from Brownlee, and it was called Clayton. And Mr. Young was the principal. And, uh, I don’t know whether you know anything about Mr. Young, but he just passed away not long, you know, about (pauses) not too long ago. And he, he was, I know he was about 100, but he loved to dance. He used to go down to the senior citizens to dance, the one we have now!
08:23 ts: (giggles)
08:25 bp: And, uh, he just loved to dance and he was a very nice principal. All the kids liked Mr. Young. And, uh, he, you know, had a good rapport with the children. And, uh, so, I remember him very well although I did not go to his school, but my, uh, girlfriends went to Clayton. So after I left and went to junior high school, uh, and then, uhm, well, while I was in junior high school, they tore down Brownlee. And so later they named Clayton and called it Clayton Brownlee and merged those two names together.
Uhm, in going to high school, we walked to school. I lived on Nebraska Street (clears throat). My girlfriend lived, uh, on 13th and Nebraska and she’d come by and we’d all walk to school together. And, uh, you could stay for lunch or you could come home for lunch or you could take a, you know, your lunch to school with you, pack your lunch.
And a lot of times I would come home for lunch and my mother, she didn’t work at this time, and, uh, she would have a hot lunch ready for me when I’d come home from school for lunch. That is really a treat. I mean, think of today (laughs). You get a hot lunch (laughs) - not very, not often. And, uh, but that’s, that, that was a, really a treat. You know, as I think about it, you know, knowing how children and parents, everything works today, is very different because, uhm, many of the parents worked. They were home when you came home from school. Uh, (clears throat), what else you want to know?
10:39 ts: Uhm, what was the segregation like? Like, how bad was it in the forties?
Swimming at Matter Park
10:44 bp: Well, uh, we were (inaudible) as kids. We were the (inaudible). And, uh, but you know, the adults they took care of that. Uh, like I think I told you about the swimming pool at Matter Park, and, uh, we wasn’t allowed to swim in there. Now you could go to the park. Uh you could play on anything you wanted to. You could look at the animals or buy your popcorn or anything like that, but the swimming, you, you was (inaudible), you couldn’t go in swimming.
And, uh, (clears throat) later, later on, uh, about late forties, about ’49 and ’50 and possibly ’51 and on, a group of people, the NAACP, and uh, (inaudible names) and just several people that I knew, uh, they are the Urban League and the NAACP folks - they decided that they was gonna look into this, about the kids not bein’ able to swim. And, uh, they did. And later in the, later on in the fifties, they settled that because they, uh, they are taxpayers and Matter Park was a public park, so really, it, it really was wrong - not only morally wrong, but it was legally wrong. But nobody had ever questioned it before that time. And, uh, they went to federal court, in fact, and they told ‘em they would fine them $2,000.00 a day if they did not, uh, you know, let, let us swim because we, you know, our parents were taxpayers. Okay so, anyway, that was opened up.
Testing the System at Myers
There also was a restaurant; well, it’s still here. Meyer’s was on the corner of 10th; you couldn’t go in there either and eat. And the boys, they used to, they used to run in there and stand and act like they was gonna buy somethin’. And when they’d look up and see a man there and they’d say, “What are you doin in here? You’re not allowed in here,” and they’d run ‘em out. And ‘course the boys did that on purpose. You know, I never done that, but the boys did. A lot of the boys that we knew, they used to do that comin’ home from the show. They would, you know, that was one of their little tricks (laughs), and they liked to do it. You know how kids are.
Going to the Movies
But, uh, now, you could go in a certain, there used to be a candy store next to the Indiana where I told you about the, uhm . . . the Indiana and the Paramount, we, uh, we had to sit up in the balcony.
14:21 ts: They were movie theaters?
14:22 bp: Uh-huh, movie theaters and we had to sit up in the balcony when we went. Uh, the price of your ticket wasn’t any different. So, uh, I, Aunt Grace came from Detroit. And, uh, she had taken me to the show. She wanted to go to the show. She said, “Well, Betty, I’ll take you and pay your way.” And so we went to the show, and, of course, she was an adult. I was a kid, you know. And (clears throat) when we got there, we went on in and everything. She bought popcorn and candy and everything and so, uh, she went in to the bottom floor there.
And we were sitting there and I knew the difference but I didn’t say anything 'cause, after all, in those days you didn’t tell adults what to do (laughs). You just went along with them and kept your mouth shut. And anyway, we were sitting there looking at the show, and the usher come down the aisle and had a flashlight and flashed that light in there and said, “I’m sorry but you’ll have to go upstairs.” Aunt Grace (chuckles), she really hit the ceiling you know ‘cause she said, “WHAT?” And so, we went out. She didn’t say anything and we went out and she said, “I’ll tell you what. You can give me my money back right now. I’m from Detroit Michigan,” and she said, “and in Detroit we can go and sit anywhere we please.” And so she made ‘em give her her money back.
I was sorry I had to miss the show, but then (laughs) so we went back home. But that was you know, that was embarrassing really. And, uh, I mean that was, that was one of the times that segregation really, you know, stuck with me at that time. Otherwise, you know we had our own things we was doing and friends, and really, if I look back, I had an enjoyable childhood.
Daughters of Jupiter
And, uh, teenage time, we had a lot of fun. And, uh, we’d create things for yourself. We, in fact, the group of girls that I ran around with, we, uh, decided was, was gonna have a club. So we name our club “Daughters of Jupiter” 'cause we was all takin’ Latin. You’d taken Latin in high school, or you could. Latin and Spanish, those were the two languages. And, uh, so we had a club called “Daughters of Jupiter,” and we had a good time. We gave a dance and uh, we, uh, we went to the Urban League. You could get the Urban League. And so we went out there and did all the decorating, you know, ourselves, and, uh, then we decided we wanted to invite the older guys (laughs). And so we all went to the, we invited, I think I invited Bob Tinley and somebody else invited some other guy . . . anyway, they were older than us, a year or two older and at that time I think we were sixteen, probably sixteen and some of the girls were seventeen. You know, like that. And, uh, (pauses) we had the dance out there, we’d taken pictures, and we had, uh, we wore formals. We really, oh, we really dressed up (laughs. And, uh, ‘course we had a, uh, record player for our music and then, too, at one time the Urban League had a jukebox and you could use that, too. Of course, you had to put something in it, put your money in there to play the music, but still it was a lot of fun.
Carver Community Center and Urban League
We had, before the Urban League out there, on, uh, 14th and Western, before that we had what they called Carver Community Center. And uh, at first it was on the hill of 10th Street, just a building that was up in there and you’d have to go upstairs to go into the center. We’d play Ping-Pong.
And we had, uh, May Barry. She was our Girl Scout leader at that time. And, uh, we had a Girl Scout troop. And we used to be . . . I did not get to join the Girl Scout troop. I don’t know what it was in the reading. You know you always have to sign for your kids to join those things. I don’t know what it was my mother read that she didn’t like, but she wouldn’t let me (laughs), she wouldn’t let me join the Girl Scout troop, but my girlfriends all joined. And they, I know they went on trips and went camping and all that kind of thing. I dearly wanted to go, but she wouldn’t, she wouldn’t sign the paper so I didn’t get to go.
Uh, we had, uh, basketball games, of course, to go to, and uh, a lot of school activities at that time, too. So we had fun. Uh, as I say, we had a great time growing up.
And, uh, I think I told you, when I was fourteen, my dad taught me to drive. And, uh, he taught me to drive in the driveway and, uh, I think it was a ’35 Plymouth and my dad kept it clean as a pin. It, you know, he’d wipe it off every day and dust it off, and the car really shined (laughs). And, uh, so he taught me to drive, and I learned to drive. You have to shift, push the brake, and push the clutch, and you had to use the clutch to shift between gears. And then he taught me to back up, and I backed up. And then in the back of our house, we had kind of a turnaround there. And he taught me how to turn the car around and bring it out forward out of the drive so I could drive a truck (laughs). Not a semi, but you know, like a pick-up truck and that’s because I used to drive with a shift. And uh, so it’s not just like we drive our cars now you know. It’s real easy now. But in those days you had to put it in first and then you’d start off and then you’d go to second and then you’d bring it down and that was third. And if you wanted to back up, you had to do this (Mrs. Pettiford makes a hand gesture indicated that the gears in a car are being shifted), push it and up and back your car up. And, uh . . .
22:16 ts: Once you learned to drive, did you get to drive very often?
22:19 bp: Well, not at that age. Not too much at that age because my dad always, you know, when he went to work, he took the car. And, uh, but later on after I got a little older, uh, of course, you got your permit, about like you do today. And, uh, then, you know, somebody had to begin. They were with you to drive so they let me drive . . . my grandmother lived out South Marion, and when we’d go to Grandma’s house, they’d kinda, you know, they’d let me drive to Grandma’s house. And then my grandmother had a long driveway, and Dad would let me practice in that driveway (laughs) back and forth and, uh, then ‘course that was over on McClure’s Street back over here on 33rd and McClure’s. And, uh, so I got to drive like that, and then as I got older, I got to drive the car a little bit more, not too much (laughs and sighs).
23:28 ts: Uhm, can you tell me a little bit about how you got to know you husband and how you guys met each other and things like that?
23:34 bp: Okay, uhm, I knew him long, long time ago but, you know, I didn’t pay that much attention to him (laughs). And, uh, because his family, uh, always had the Pettiford Reunion and my parents would go, uh, they wouldn’t go out to eat, but they’d go out to talk to everybody and visit and things like that.
And so one time, uh, the, uh, reunion was at his grandmother and grandfather’s house and they had a barn and, uh, so all of us kids, at least the kids when I got there, was playin’ in the barn! And I went out to the barn, too. And what they was doin’ was they’d get up in the hayloft and there was a big rope down there and the kids would take that rope and swing down to the bottom. So I did it, too! So Quentin, and Opal, his cousin, and Eva May, his cousin, and, uh, Ronnie Taylor and his brother, we all was up there swingin’ down and then we got tired of that, so we left that and just started, you know, runnin’ around playin’. So we were quite young at that time so I just, I knew of him. But then he came to, he came and, he lived out in the country, and he went to (inaudible name) School out in the country and, uh, Mr., uhm, uh, Weaver was his teacher and, of course, they had all the same grades into one room.
Anyway, he came to town when he was about twelve I think, well, maybe a little younger, maybe eleven. And, uh, when he was twelve, he came over to our church, which was the Second Baptist Church and it was on (inaudible name) Street and at that time there were, the houses were really nice houses on the street and it was a mixed neighborhood. And our church was there and the (inaudible). And then on the other side of the church was, uhm, where our janitor lived. And uh, so he joined church there when he was about twelve and I already belonged there ‘cause I joined earlier. And, uh, all of us was in junior choir together and, uh, so I knew him a long time.
And then when we left high school, since we all went to church together and, uh, went to the same church, and, uh, we were in different organizations and, uh, BTU, that was the training union (inaudible) our kids. And, uh, in that Mr. R. P. Williams, they talked on different things about the church, and we had junior deacons and, uh, junior deaconess and little things like that, that taught the kids the running of the church. And so we, we, uh, knew each other quite well.
And then when we got to high school, uh, you know kids, always we kinda runned around together. We never had boyfriends and girlfriends, nothing. We were all just friends. And so, in my senior, my senior year, uh, in our junior year everybody got a little closer and so, uh, I had a boyfriend. He was kind of a friend and then kind of a boyfriend, uh, Victor Moore. And, uh, then in my senior year Quentin asked me if I’d like to go steady, if I’d go steady with him. And I said, “Well, we’ll see, we’ll try it,” (laughs). And that’s how we really grew closer, but we were friends, you know, to start with.
Involvement in the Urban League
28:06 ts: Uhm, you’ve mentioned the Urban League a couple different times. What was that?
28:09 bp: Uh, the Urban League is, uh, an organization and, uh, they do a lot of things. And they have a national Urban League; it’s still in operation today. And, uh, we had Urban League up there on Western. Uh, it, uhm, Cleo Richardson is the director up there. And, uh, it does a lot of community things in the community, and then, uh, it, uh, they, uh, they had their meetings and different problems or, or, uh, in the community or if somebody thinks they’re being segregated against, you can check with the Urban League and the NAACP. Uh, that’s what, uh . . .
29:14 ts: Okay.
29:15 bp: But it’s a national organization, and they do have their, uh, conventions. And, in fact, at one time my husband was the board president of the Urban League, and we went to, uh, Houston, Texas, for Urban League convention and workshops. And when you’re there, they give you workshops on different subjects, and then they have things you can buy, you know, they have the Urban League name on it. It’s a national, really, a national organization.
29:58 ts: Okay. Besides going to the movies on weekends, what else did you do for fun?
30:00 bp: Uh, like I said, we rode our bikes a lot and, uh, we went to each other’s homes and, uh, my girlfriend down on the corner of 10th Street, we danced at her house. I loved, I loved to dance at that time, and we’d go down to her house and play records. And I ask her mother sometimes 'cause her mother and I go to the same church now, and I take her mother around quite a bit with me. I call her my buddy. And I often ask her, “Lena, how did you stand us young kids with all that music?” (laughs). You know, cause it would get kinda loud sometimes, not loud like the kids play the music today, but it was loud for then. And uh, we’d dance and they had a big porch and, uh, Mr. and Mrs. Wallace put a banister around this big porch and the kids all gathered there. I mean there’d be four or five of us at the time, sometimes more than that.
A====Cousin Willis's Restaurant==== And then across from their house, uh, do you know where Bethel A.M.E. is? That’s the church I belong to now. Then across the street from Bethel, which was the, uh, lot that belongs to the church now, but my cousin Willis had a restaurant there. And, uh, he sold hamburgers and hot dogs and, you know, made different dishes. He was a chef, a cook. And, uh, so he had this restaurant, and we’d all go there, too, and, uh, you know, just kinda hang out place. And ‘course we didn’t call it a hang out, but it really was 'cause we’d go in there, sit down, and have a hamburger or a pop or somethin’ and just sit there and talk and enjoy.
Sleepovers and Parties
And so, those were some of the things we did. We’d go back and forth to each others' homes and we had parties and then ‘course us girls, we had overnights, sleepovers, you know. And, uh, Harriet Hill, she lived on Branson right down from Second Baptist and we’d go . . . she had a lot of sleepovers, you know. Her mother let her have a lot of sleepovers, and we’d go to her house and stay. And we’d have fun just dancin’ and just a bunch of girls, you know, with girl talk (laughs).
32:44 ts: Uhm, did you have a lot of white friends that you ran around with?
32:46 bp: Well not, we had friends, and like I say we were friends with them at school, usually. Now, when you come to talkin’ about runnin’ around with a lot, I did not. The only time that I was with some white friends is when I went out to my grandmother’s house and these kids lived in the neighborhood and I would go over and play with them. Uh, then you know, uh, but around my home, like I said, my best girlfriends lived right on Nebraska Street, you know, so we lived, we’d go back and forth to each others' homes there. And, uh, the kids treated us nice at school, most of ‘em, and, uh, but we just, you know. I see a lot of different friends that I went to school with, sometimes even today, and we’ll stop and talk, you know. It was just kinda, but that was the only time usually unless there was some kids that were in your particular neighborhood.
Now my husband down on George Street, he runned around with some boys that he played with, that he kinda played with, and they’d get together down on George Street. And they’d get together and stay and talk to each other and were good friends. But I didn’t have too many, only at school. So we were kinda, we really wasn’t mixed up much at that time. And, uh, so but, I had friends at school and that’s where you would more or less come in contact with them.
Impact of War on Betty's Family
35:00 ts: Okay, I mean, obviously there were some big effects from World War II, you know, as in the county as a whole, but how did it apply to your family?
35:09 bp: Well, uh, I had two cousins who went to the service. One was in the air force and my cousin Chester, he was in the armed forces. Uh, (pauses), let’s see, of course my uncles was in the war before that and uh, like I say we had the rationing, we went through the rationing of the sugar and so forth. And uh, then you know, we all felt bad about the war and was concerned about it. Uh, and ‘course I wrote to, uh, several, uh, fellas’ in the service you know, friendly letters, just somethin’ that they you know, could say they had from home. And then we had like, pen pals like that, and wrote to the boys overseas.
36:24 ts: Uhm, what did you begin to do after high school?
36:27 bp: Then after high school, uh, my husband and I, we married. And that was in ’47 and which was almost directly after high school. And uh, we, uhm, I’ll tell you another thing, too. When we were planning to get married(clears throat), I thought we needed a place to live and so I looked in the paper and there was an apartment. And so I, it was over on 13th and Gallatin, and so I went over there, and I knocked on the door, you know. I asked this lady, I said, “I read in the paper you had an apartment for rent.”
And she said, “Yes,” and she was telling me about it, a little bit about it. But she said, “We don’t rent to coloreds,” (laughs).
And I said, “Oh, okay, thank you very much,” and I went on my way. So, uh, I couldn’t get that apartment. I told Quentin they didn’t rent to coloreds.
His mother said, “Well, I don’t have any rooms at my house.”
And my mother said, “You’ll probably just have to live with us for a little while until you can get your own house.”
And so we did, we lived with my mother about a year. And then, uh, we was in our bedroom and we said, “Well, we gonna build us a house.”
And so my grandfather Hornaday owned quite a bit of land and he, uh, he was older and he said, "Well, I’m gonna give each of my children a lot," so that’s what he did.
And so, in turn, he gave my brother a lot, and my mother, uh, my mother gave it to me for love and a dollar, you know. And, uhm, so that’s where we built our home out on 33rd and McClure’s Street, just a couple of blocks down from my grandfather. And so we built that house (laughs) from the ground up. And we used, uhm, they was usin’ a lot of blocks, cement blocks. And so my dad was a (inaudible) and worked in construction, and my uncle did a lot of cement work and layin’ bricks and things. And so, he taught my husband how to lay those blocks, and my dad taught me how to mix the cement (laughs) and so we mixed cement and built a block house.
And our first house had two bedrooms and a bath and a living room, and a kitchen. It was just a small place. And uh, I had a picture of it (pauses). I don’t think I took it out. But anyway, I had pictures of my husband up on the roof, laying, putting the roofing on and everything. So we built that house with our own hands (inaudible). But, uh, then at least, uh, we added to the house and put a, a patio on, and then put a place for the cars out front. It was just a covered place, not a full garage. And uhm, we lived there twenty years, raised all of our children there. It’s where we raised six children, three girls and three boys (laughs), and then we had this house built. We decided, well, we got this lot over here and, uh, we, my husband was on the police force and he was ridin' around and he passed this. There wasn’t any house or anything here. The garage that we have here was a little ol’ house that was really small house. And then that house next to it over there, that was the only thing that was out there. The rest of it was, you know, land. And he passed this, and it said “For Sale.” And he, he said, “Hey, I saw a place that we could buy there, and build a, have our home built over there.” So that’s what we did. (Mumbles). We only lived one year with my mom and moved into our house on McClure’s Street and lived there twenty years and then we built over here.
42:26 ts: After you got married, did you continue to work?
42:28 bp: No, not at first. Uhm, 'cause, uh, the next year I had my oldest daughter, Joyce, so I didn’t work. My husband didn’t want me to work at that time. And, uh, so I kinda, let’s see, for Joyce and Quentin, my two oldest, I didn’t work. And then, later, about three, four years later, after I had Carlos, my third child, I started, uhm; I wanted to work. Quentin really didn’t want me to work, but I talked him into it (laughs).
And, uh, I worked different places. I went to the hospital; I worked at the hospital for awhile. And then, uh, I went out to RCA, and I worked out to RCA for five years. And, uh, then I came home and uh; I had my younger children. And then when I went back to work, uh, I worked at the mall. It wasn’t like it is now; it was, uh, Miller’s. I worked at Miller’s Department Store and, really, it was supposed to be just a part-time and it was evenings. I would go in at five o’clock and work 'til nine, 'til close time. And, uh, I was workin’ for another woman in her place 'cause she was sick. And then, she quit the job, and there I was. I stayed.
They asked me to stay, and I was in the dress department part-time while I was there. And then a little later on, I went to the shoe department, which was not part of the clothes department store. It was another company in there that had the shoes and I sold shoes and I was, uh, uhm, an assistant manager back there in the shoe department.
And, uh, I was also when I was in the dress department for Miller’s. You had to kinda do some security work, you know, people shoplifting. I never will forget, and I’ll never forget this. Uh, when I was working in that dress department, we had to work on Sundays, too, and you had to tell ‘em you would work on Sundays. And I was working that Sunday afternoon. Uh, I saw this lady, but she was an older lady, an old lady like. And, uh, she was actin’ kinda funny so I just walked up there and asked her if I could help her. And she said, “Oh no, no.” But you know I caught that old lady trying to steal an underslip; I never will forget that. It just made me feel so bad and so funny. And that’s an experience I’ll never forget it. And she was trying to, I don’t know, trying to put it under her clothes. And I said, “Do you want to buy that ma’am?” (laughs). And she was embarrassed, and I was embarrassed for her. You know, she put the, she laid it down there.
And then another time, uh, there was a certain group that would come in and try to shoplift. And this girl, you wouldn’t believe it, tried to steal a coat ,and you know how big a coat is! And, uh, what she did was a leather coat. Leather coats was popular back about that time. And, uh, she, she walked back to the dressing area, and then ‘course, where you’d go in to try things on, you’d have to, you’d get a ticket because everything was counted, whatever you’d taken back there - like you could take four maybe three dresses, you know like that. One coat and things like that. She walked up to the front and looked in the mirror, and then she started towards the door. I flew up (laughs). I ran up there and I said, I took hold of her, I took hold of this coat, and scared her so bad, 'til she runs out of the coat and here I am standing with the coat. She’s run out of the coat, and she left her coat (laughs) back at the dressing area and she ran out of that store. I couldn’t believe these people, but anyway, it happens, it happens. But those were a couple of things I had happen to me that I was kinda doin’ security along with 'cause you had to watch your dresses and the things that you were in charge of. You had to kinda watch.
Another thing was a lot of times people would have their children come in (phone rings) and let their children (phone rings) run around the store, and so they’d tear your tickets off. They’d come in and tear your tickets off, and you’d have to find the numbers and code it. You’d have to find the tickets, pick the tickets off the floor, and find the right dresses. But I seen the people wasn’t gonna make their kids mind, and I got so when the kids started to act up, I’d say “Oh, no, don’t do that. You can’t run under the racks.” You know, they’d get under the racks, the rack and things, so I started telling them myself. I had all that extra to do. Okay.
48:51 ts: Okay, uhm, it’s been an hour now, is there anything else that stands out in your mind about the forties? Anything about Marion, the changes, anything?
49:02 bp: Oh there’s a lot of changes here. Uhm, as far as segregation you know, you can go anywhere you wanna go to that you’d like. You know, they like, I know you know (laughs), you’re flabbergasted over this 'cause, you know, you can go anywhere you want to. And, uh, in, uhm, like I say, we had cars and things to drive, and here we’s a walkin’ to school. And we did not have, now the country kids (inaudible) come in from the counties. They had buses. But the rest of us, if you lived in town, you walked to school, or else your parents seen that you got there if they had a car to take you in and, uh, things like that.
Sometimes there was one, Mr. Ward, a bunch of us would be walkin’ to school and he’d drivin’, goin' to town and he’d stop and pick us up and drop us off near the, uh, on the, uh, near Nebraska Street here at the, and you’d just walk up the hill to the high school. And you might get a ride like that or your parents take you but otherwise you’d walk to school.
This parking lot over here (motions towards the back of Marion High School) is just loaded with kids and their cars, and we didn’t have that. And if anybody did have a car to ride, uh, it was, it was out of the, it was unusual you know. Now my husband had a little Model T Ford that his grandfather gave him. And, uh, he taken the kids to school from 18th Street, you know, just in his area, the kids that we ran around with. And, uh, he would pick up both kids. At the time my girlfriend would always laugh, 'cause when Quentin got down on Nebraska Street, he didn’t have any room for his girlfriend.
51:20 ts: Okay, well we’ll go ahead and wrap things up. I’d like to thank you for letting me interview you.