Edwin Davis Sr. Interview
Date: May 7th, 2011 Place: Home of Kevin Davis, 1612 W. 32nd St. Marion, Indiana 46953 Collected by: Kevin Davis
KD: Hello fellow classmates, this is Kevin Davis speaking and today I am presenting my grandfather, Mr. Edwin Davis Sr. and he is going to tell about some history of Marion High School and what Marion was like back in the day.
KD: So Grandpa what area of Marion did you grow up in?
ED: Center Marion
KD: What was it like growing up in center Marion?
ED: It was well liked and the people got along together because it was an integrated neighborhood. We all played ball together and there was no violence going on in the neighborhood.
KD: So, how was your household? How many brothers and sisters did you have and what did they do?
ED: Well, I had one brother living and one brother deceased. I had three sisters, two worked outside the home and one worked at home.
KD: How old were you when your brother died?
ED: Well, my youngest brother that died Curtis Allen and was about one or two when he passed away.
KD: What was your typical day at home?
ED: Well, my father left instructions for my other brother and I to have done before he got home and there were certain activities that we had to do. We had to take care of the rabbits, chickens, and the turkeys, make sure they were fed and watered two times a day.
KD: What other animals did you have?
ED: I had one dog that lived to be about 20 years old. We were a well loved and well shaped family during outings My father took us to the State Fair in Indianapolis, Muncie, Kokomo and Anderson because he loved to watch the horse races. We got to go to the Carnivals here in Marion and we had a joyful time. One thing about it, on Sunday mornings, we were all in Church.
KD: That’s good, that’s good. So, now I am going to ask you a couple of questions about school. What year did you graduate from Marion High School?
KD: What kind of stars graduated with you that is famous now?
ED: Well, we had Otis Archey, if anybody remembers that name. He and I were on the Track Team in 1952. Most people find it hard to believe that I used to beat Otis Archey in the 100 yard dash, 220, and the half mile relay team. I had one businessman here in Marion, could not believe when Archey was the Sheriff in Marion so he got on his cell phone and called the city. He was doing some work in my neighborhood and he came out and we introduced ourselves to each other. And he wanted to know if I knew Oatis Archey, the Sheriff. I told him yes I do, a good friend of mine and we went to school together and one thing that people do not believe that I used to beat him on the track team at Marion High School.
KD: Could you beat him now?
ED: Well, I am 75 years old and then young days are gone. My mind says yes some days but the body says no. So I don’t know. I may get a good jump on him if I had a good start.
KD: So, running track with the Sheriff of Marion, how do you feel about that?
ED: Well, I thought it was a very good thing for the track team. I used to run the low Hurdles and I was glad to see Oatis come because that was his event. He and I got along, we ran together and we raised our families together. Our sons all played together and had a good time and good relationship. When Oatis became Sheriff of Marion, it was a good thing because we needed a change over.
KD: So, what was an average day like for you to go to school?
ED: Well, it was getting up, taking care of the chores and start walking to Marion High School which was up on Hill Street.
KD: How far a walk was that?
ED: I tell you it was a rough walk. Started at maybe from 21st street, down to Nebraska, and then to Hill Street up behind Marion General Hospital on Hill Street.
KD: How bad was it in the winter time to walk that far?
ED: It was tough, through the snow and the wind, we had a tough time. Sometimes you did not have the right clothes to walk that far but in those days it was tough going.
KD: What did you do in your spare time in High School?
ED: In High School we had intramural basketball that we played in the girl’s gym. Some classes had to go to the Coliseum to participate in their gym class because the high school was not big enough but everybody had something to do. Participating on the Cactus Club and other clubs that they ran and participated in getting things ready. We had different projects at that time that they don’t do today. Carnival like things that we did at that time.
KD: So why couldn’t you play regular basketball and you had to play intramural instead of playing for the high school.
ED: Well, back in those days there were some, it was or segregated. I mean like this if you wasn’t top ball player you played intramural. We had teams on the intramural squad that could put the Marion Giants to shame at that time. Our teams consist of all African American and we played ball to the tops. We even challenged the Marion Giants coach Woody Weir to let us scrimmage with the Marion Giants and it was a protest and we never did get to do.
KD: So, is that, do you feel that is one of your great accomplishments in High School like what are your most proudest moment of your High School career and where do they come from.
ED: Well, I feel like my most proudest time, we were #2 in the State of Indiana for the half mile relay team. We were on our way and had one more tourney to run in and one of the boys dropped the baton and that turned us back and most of the guys were sad.
KD: So, who was the guy who dropped the baton?
ED: Well, I rather not call his name because he lives right here in Marion today and we still are good friends.
KD: That’s good, that’s good. So tell me about your like your High School friends and what you guys do.
ED: There are about 4 or 5 that I know today that we started out at grade school at Thomas Jefferson School and they are still around here in Marion. We went all the way from Thomas Jefferson, McCulloch to Marion High School together and we are still good friends.
KD: Who are some of those good friends?
ED: Well, Jackie Burns, he lives over on Pennsylvania Ave., his dad ran a filling station there. Some of the old folks probably remember. Burns ran for Mayor here in Marion back in the 50’s and also Joe Huffman, a good friend of mine and Cedric Johnson, he lives in Indianapolis and he is a Neurosurgeon a great man. He talked to my wife when she was having her cancer troubles and other troubles he encouraged her to press the way, Trust in the Lord and the Lord will bring her through these problems.
KD: Wow!!! That’s amazing. Uh, so how did you meet grandma, like how did you meet her? Was she your High School Sweetheart or did you just come across her one day?
ED: No, I met grandma through her brother; I did not know her because they lived in a different community than we lived in. But, one evening we were in one of the little night clubs here in Marion and he brought her in and I was with one of my friends and we made eye contact and the next thing you know we were going together. And after, going on 55 years we are still together and we’re not making no changes.
KD: Wow, that’s a long time.
ED: I may throw this in to that I go to Church to the Christ Temple Apostolic Church on 1401 South Adams Street. And me and her are the same denomination and we have a great relationship with the Lord at that church since we met there.
KD: So you originally met at the night club, but you ended up in church.
ED: That’s right.
KD: So it all turned out well.
KD: So how many extracurricular activities did you participate in High School?
ED: Well most of my time was spent in the shop doing work; like woodwork in the shop. Always participating you had ... our coach who was Ray Sears and he always had you doing some type of activities year round. Walking or working out at the coliseum different activities. Also I was in the art club and you could always go to the art room and work on your projects. I had two paintings sent to New York. And one painting received honorable mention which was an abstract ... one was a still life. So my accomplishments probably could have been better in art, but different things took place. You had to work; you had to find a job and I went to work just soon as I got out of school and graduated from Marion High school. I went to work there and worked 55 years and one week. And I’m not saddened over having to retire, but I think I can still go there and do the same work today. KD: So going back to school before you went to work who were your favorite teachers?
ED: Well Mr. Miller my art teacher and Ray Sears; well one thing I liked about Ray Sears was this ... if you didn’t think you could accomplish your event during practice session. Ray would go in there and put his short and shoes on and come out there and show you how to run that event. Then if you still didn’t learn he would run the event with you and show you your mistakes.
KD: How many times did you beat the coach?
ED: The coach and I would run side by side.
KD: You ran side by side.
ED: Side by side.
KD: What type of things did he help you out with ... did he run with you?
ED: Well he showed you how to judge your speed; not to burn yourself out in the first 25 yards of the event but gauge yourself. I use to look at a lot of studies on Jesse Owens and see how he ran how ... how he gauged his speed before putting on the full power.
KD: Was he considered one of your role models in high school?
ED: Yes, Jesse Owens was a great track man. If you looked at him and what he done a lot of the college track coaches have modeled their track practices and their running style after Jesse Owens.
KD: Back to the classroom.
KD: Tell me two things about your least favorite class?
ED: My least favorite class, well I didn’t really have a least favorite class. I just really fit right in. The main thing is being obedient and listening to what the teacher is trying to teach you. Keeping your mind elevated to what they have ... to the subjects they have prepared for you in the classroom. I didn’t have a bad teacher and I didn’t have a bad study. I just tried to program myself to do what they had prepared for us to study.
KD: So you were a grade “A” student and you liked school and was school a place for you to get away from it all ... like tell me about how you felt about school?
ED: Well I enjoyed school; I don’t consider myself a grade “A” student, but I consider myself a student who was able to comprehend what the teachers were saying. And the lack of financial means my parents weren’t able to send me to college. That’s the reason I went into the factory just as soon as I got out of school. Most of the guys in our area went to the RCA, Dana, General Motors, and places like that ... but they made good of what they went into.
KD: Can you tell me about the segregation at Marion High school? Like how did you cope with that? How was that?
ED: Well we really didn’t have any segregation that I can remember. Only thing that we could see was segregated was the ball teams. As far as the basketball; you had to be tops, you had to be on grade. The football team and the baseball team were open to anybody. Basketball was something different.
KD: Who was the coach of the basketball team that made it like that?
ED: Well his name was Woody Weir, but I think he got his instructions from higher up from affiliation of businessmen here in Marion.
KD: Okay so basically it was political?
ED: Politically run, where you lived at in Marion. If you lived in Shady Hills, Northwood places like that. And the big businessmen made sure their sons were on the Marion Giant basketball team or else there was something said or done about it.
KD: So was that like a big deal to be on the basketball team or was it better to be on the football team or the track team?
ED: Well the basketball team had the priority of all the teams here in Marion. Because that was tops..! If you were on the basketball team you could figure yourself to be on the top grade. Football ... Baseball ... the Tennis ... it didn’t matter.
KD: So what would you have changed in high school to make it more enjoyable?
ED: Well I would change ... well there wasn’t anything that I can think of grandson that I would change. All the students that I graduated with we all got along together.
KD: What was the size of the class you graduated with? Was it big or small?
ED: At that time for our city it was about the same as Anderson, Muncie, Kokomo, Logansport, and Richmond. They all had about the same attendance at graduating time.
KD: What would you consider your most significant accomplishment in life?
ED: Well I would say being A Child of the Good Lord ... His Servant..! When you change your life around and put your hand in the Good Lord. Your life changes you don’t see things as other people see that are not saved.
KD: When did you start having kids?
ED: After we got married ... (with a big smile)
KD: What year did you get married?
ED: Where did we get married?
ED: We got married at Second Baptist church at 1824 south Branson St. The church still stands there; the Rev J.R. Bradley was the preacher that married my wife and me. And maybe about two or three years after we got married we start raising a family.
KD: So grandpa I heard you say the high school wasn’t segregated, but what about other areas of Marion ... were they segregated?
ED: Yes, they were you would go to different eateries here in town and you could get food, but you couldn’t go in and sit at a table.
KD: So you would have to get the food from the back or..?
ED: No, they would bring it out to you; but they would bring it out in a sack. So you would either have to leave or take it as they would bring it out to you. Meyer’s drive-in would serve you but you would have to get like they brought it to you. Most of the other restaurants were the same way. The only reason that we got to sit down in the different restaurants here in Marion and the cafeterias was because we were a member of the track team.
KD: So could you go or what public places were segregated besides the restaurants?
ED: The theatres were segregated you had a certain area at the Paramount, the Indiana, and the Leary that you sit in. If you wanted to go to a show and you went there. If you wanted to go to a show and you went there that’s where you sat ... or you didn’t go to the show.
KD: Any other places?
ED: Well most like I say; even at your drug stores at the soda fountain ... you couldn’t even go in and sit down and order a ice cream soda or a sundae. You had to take it off like they brought it to yeah in an ice cream pail. Tompkins ice cream cafeteria, if we were going to the show and we wanted a hamburger to take with us to the show ... they would put it in a sack and we would go on to the show like that.
KD: So did you have to deal with it like when you went to place like we have like the YMCA. Also, when you went swimming and stuff?
ED: Well the only way that we could get into the Y to go swimming is you had to be a member of a group. Like the gray Y which was sponsored by the Y in the summer time; that’s the only way we got into the pool at the Y. Otherwise the Community Center, that was sponsored by the negro group here in Marion they had a committee or a group and we had to go all the way to Anderson during the summer to find a place to swim. Or, if you was liked us young boys we would have to go to deer creek, lake whana, these places that didn’t have safety on our own to swim. We weren’t allowed in the park, matter park pool. Although my Uncle Curtis years ago; he was a business man here in Marion and he supplied a lot of the parts swings and things to matter park through the park that he had where I grew up at. He had a small park there in our community where the whites and blacks all come together. And he had a pool there and we swam in and we knew one another. There wasn’t a fight or if there was a fight there wasn’t any killings and the next day the boys or girls or whoever was back together playing together. And he showed movies Wednesday and Friday nights at his park. His name was Curtis Green. Some of you may know his grandson Earl Green who was a postmaster here in Marion for several years. Also had kind of like a flight school for training young men that wanted to learn about flying airplanes at the Westside airport. Right where the General Motors plant now stands.
KD: Was that segregated also?
ED: No, that wasn’t segregated. He tried to get me to be a Cub Scout flyer, but I didn’t take to that learning at thirteen years old in a two winged airplane. That’s something you young guys you young people don’t know about.
KD: Well there you have it folks Mr. Edwin L Davis Sr. my grandfather, and a great historian of Marion. Thank you ... this is Kevin Davis reporting..!