Interview with: Florence Reed (Fr)
Conducted by: Lucas White (Lw)
Date: April 17, 2001
Lw: What were some of the things you did for fun, like games, and places you hung out at?
Jm: You went to church.
Fr: Allen Temple Church, over there 35th and Washington, but I didn’t really hang out anyplace.
Lw: Did you ever go to the movie theaters?
Fr: Yeah, there were movie theaters, about 3 of them. The Indiana.
Lw: Were those drive-in theaters or sit-in theaters?
Fr: Those what?
Lw: Were those drive-in theaters or?
Fr: Yes, they was. Yes there was, drive in theaters over there past Western Avenue.
Jm: Those theaters were inside. I hope I don’t get into this.
Fr: But there was an outside over here.
Lw: What types of music did you listen to, like the radio?
Fr: Your dad built the first radio we had, a one-tube radio with earphones. That must have been about 1920.
Lw: Did you have and records?
Fr: Oh yeah, we had records.
Lw: What were some of the people you listened to?
Fr: ? Jackson. I really don’t know the others,
Jm: Ask her if her husband used to work on TV’s.
Lw: Did your husband used to work on TV’s?
Fr: Yes, your dad died in 1970, but I would say 10 or 20 years that he repaired TV’s. Didn’t he?
Jm: Where was his shop?
Fr: In the basement.
Lw: Did it out of the basement?
Fr: Yeah, I lived across the street.
Lw: Do you remember when that was around?
Jm: Around ‘40 through ‘45. We had bout. Do you mind?
Jm: About the only television, and we had people come in when Joe Louis was fighting, and everyone come to see the fight. He actually came to Marion one time.
Lw: Joe Louis did?
Jm: That was neat, so.
Lw: What was church like back then?
Fr: Where was the church?
Lw: Uh-huh. What kind of things did you do at the church then, was it different than the churches now?
Fr: No, it wasn’t different.
Jm: That church has been over there since about 19....
Fr: 1900, that church has been there on 35th and Washington.
Jm: Tell him how Rev. Michem built the basement.
Fr: Oh, he built the basement.
Jm: Who did?
Fr: The preacher.
Jm: What was his name?
Fr: Reverend Michem.
Lw: He built the basement down there himself? Rev. Michem built the basement?
Fr: Yes, and then he repaired the house, there was a petition there, in the church, and he moved his family.
He moved his family in there.
Jm: Ask her what she did in the church?
Lw: What did you did in the church?
Fr: Well I taught Sunday school for a while. And then I belonged to the missionary for over 60 years.
Lw: What kind of things did you do there, in the missionary?
Fr: Oh we had lessons we went about.
Lw: What offices did you hold? What were the offices that you held there?
Jm: In the missionary. What were your titles?
Fr: Oh, way back in ‘36 I was president of the missionary, and then later on I was secretary for about 12 years.
Jm: And then you were treasurer.
Fr: Yeah, after that.
Lw: How long were you treasurer there?
Fr: Oh, up until 2 years ago, wasn’t it?
Lw: How was your family adapted to the depression and the world wars?
Fr: Oh, the depression was bad. Anyhow, my husband worked on, what do you call it? PWA. And they repaired Boots, the next street over, with bricks, and the repaired, uh....
Jm: Dad always had gardens, so we had plenty of vegetables and things.
Lw: So it wasn’t that bad?
Lw: Did you have any family or any body who fought in the world wars?
Jm: Your son.
Fr: Oh yes, my son went over there in the Second World War. That was after the fighting was over.
Jm: He went to Germany.
Fr: But Chester, my nephew, he was in the fighting. He was in Guam, wasn’t he? Allen Arthur, another nephew, went to Vietnam and Italy, I think.
Lw: Was there much racism and segregation in Marion?
Fr: Oh, yes.
Fr: Yes, the movie theaters, now the small ones didn’t have but one floor, but the Indiana Theater had two floors. And we had to sit upstairs.
Lw: In the balcony?
Fr: We couldn’t sit down.. .And the swimming pool, out to Matter Park, we couldn’t get in that at all.
Lw: Was there a place that you could swim at?
Jm: The young men went to creeks around here, but..
Fr: What year was it, your husband took a group and marched on the courthouse?
Jm: Oh, it had to have been.., they came around from different cities all around, and they marched from out south down Nebraska Street toward the courthouse, but through the efforts of the NAACP they went to, you know, the restaurants, you couldn’t eat in the restaurants, just sack service. Then they went to the restaurants, and they just gradually broke down the barriers, and went to the light companies and utility companies. Also, they had no black teaching in the schools at all. I think Levada Pate was the first one that, didn’t she teach disabled people. Levada Pate?
Fr: She’s still living, she’s 93. Then Katherine Bobson was next, she got to principal, at Lincoln.
Lw: Lincoln School? Did you remember what year that was around?
Jm: I don’t know, she’s in her sixties now, and it was the early ‘60’s. She’s retired from Marion Schools now. Of course, you know Otis Archey started out, he had his college degree, and he started out on maintenance, and then they gradually let him work up and he was assistance girl’s coach.
Fr: You mean, Otis Archey the sheriff now.
Jm: So there definitely has been , we’ve had black teachers, we’ve had principals, we’ve had superintendents. So there is a definite change.
Lw: Throughout your life there has probably been a lot of technological advances, like TV’s and electricity and stuff like that. What were some of the ones that probably effected your life the most?
Fr: TV’s started, over here in uh...
Jm: Started out as a radio station, radios.
Fr: Yeah, Farnsworth was radios first, and I went over there in ‘43 and worked. Then the TV place started up in ‘51 because I was 49. I worked there until I was 65, and then you had to quit.
Lw: When you were 65 you had to quit from there?
Fr: Yeah, at RCA, they called it. Yeah they made you quit at 65, at that time.
Lw: Do you remember the lynching at the courthouse.
Fr: Oh yes, 1930. We lived across the street, and we woke up and we knew something was going on. My husband worked at, they had shoe-shining parlors, and he worked down there. We saw some of the neighbor’s walking home that morning, and then...
Jm: He walked to town didn’t he?
Fr: Uh-huh, then there was a group of automobiles that come down Adams, and directly south of Felton here, there was a race track, and they drove in there, and my husband got out in the middle of the Street with a shotgun. He wouldn’t have had any chance at all if they would have come along.
Jm: He was going to protect his family.
Lw: Yes, I remember that very well. You was about 7 in 1930, Theodore was 3.
Jm: They had one of the bodies of they young men, wasn’t it on Nebraska. Didn’t they bring...
Fr: Oh yeah, back of the church was one of the boys that was lynched. In a house, back of the church. And the other one was back on fire.
Jm: They had the National Guard in. Didn’t they? I remember just being scared to death.
Fr: Yeah, you wasn’t but 3.
Jm: No, I was 7.
Fr: Oh, yes, Theodore was 3.
Jm: That was a terrible, you know, time to go through. Everybody used to think it couldn’t happen, wouldn’t happen in Marion. Marked, put us on the map forever as, you know, people used to say, “oh, you’re from that town.” It was the last lynching in the north part on the, you know, nation. I will never forget. Those trees that were there, on the north side, have all been cut down, on the courthouse.
Fr: Long, at that time, they had what they called inner-urban cars that went from town to town, cause one of them come along, while we was sitting in the car, and my sister was afraid to move. And then that inner- urban come along and threw us along the side.
Jm: Just pushed you out of the way.
Fr: Yes. They went to Hartford City when I was around, the inner-urbans. They were...
Jm: The beginning of the trains kind of, wouldn’t you say? Before we really had railroads.
Lw: You talked about the racetrack that you said was over there.
Fr: Right south of.. .this is 37th right here, and it was south of 38th, and it was a big racetrack there.
Lw: Did they run cars their or horses?
Lw: Did you ever go there, to the racetrack any?
Fr: But now they made streets on through there.
Jm: There wasn’t anything some houses, this was kind of like the beginning of Marion. Marion College was out there, you went to Marion College. At that time what was it called?
Fr: That’s what it was called.
Jm: Wasn’t it Normal. Normal College.
Fr: Yeah it was, then Marion College. I went out there for one term. $27 a term.
Lw: Twenty-seven dollars?
Fr: Yeah, but money was hard to get then, I didn’t have the money to continue.
Jm: You worked in the courthouse didn’t you.
Fr: Yeah, after I was out of high school.
Jm: Where did you work?
Fr: I typed.
Jm: Where did you work?
Fr: Where? In the courts office.
Lw: What did you do with typing? What types of things did you have to do?
Fr: Oh, somebody come in there once and got married, and I was the witness.
Jm: Just regular clerk work I guess.
Fr: Yeah, that was in 1921, because I graduated in 1920.
Lw: Did you graduate from Marion?
Lw: Well, what were the schools like then? Were the schools also segregated?
Fr: I didn’t hear that.
Lw: What were the schools like then? Were the schools also segregated?
Fr: Not too much. Only one school (DA Paine) that I knew of, over on Western Avenue. It had mixed pupils, but only white teachers. And then later on they, I was in the fifth grade, and my aunt (Bessie Cunningham-Smith) was teaching over there, and they turned it into all colored. And the white ones in that section had to come over here to the little schoolhouse over by the college that they were sent to.
Jm: Did you go to the other schools?
Fr: Oh, there was 38th Street, right on the corner, on the left side, was an old building that they called college. But I was in the 4th grade downstairs and upstairs 6th, 7th and 8th• And, over here at 36th the rest of that big building there was a school there for the 5th grade.
Jm: It was a maintenance building there across from McCulloch. The maintenance building was Marion Schools that’s where it was, it was a house.
Fr: No, it was a school building. Then there was a school building on 8th and Adams, they called...it had a big clock and they called it time clock. And we’d get on the street car and go there for sewing lessons. And then Horace Mann up there with Perkins, lived there on Nelson, we went there for cooking.
Jm: Where did you go to high school.
Fr: Well, there’s apartments there now. And that was, I went there the first year of high school, there on Nelson. And then this building was built on Nelson Street, wasn’t it? I went there three years. Then I don’t know how.., you graduated from over there on Nelson. I don’t know when they built this high school over here.
Jm: Oh, that was several years later.
Lw: You said that you worked at RCA.
Fr: I worked there for 16 years, from ‘51 to ‘66.
Lw: What kind of things did you do there?
Fr: Oh, there’s a piece that goes in the tube, in the back end of the tube, and there was glass at the end and several wires at the end. And you had kind of a guide put on over the wires, how to cut them a certain length. And I don’t remember, they had a hundred in a box, and how many boxes you had to cut in a day. I kind of got a hump from, you know, doing that all the time. And you worked in mounting, on the stem that went in the tube too.
Jm: Yeah, I worked in the section, where you had to put the picture on the end of the picture tube and slipped off, and send it down. Then I worked the white room and that was on the smaller parts. You had to where white things and gloves it was the inner things. I also worked in one section, where the hairs were fmer than the hairs on your head. And I would work after 8 hours, and I couldn’t see to read the newspaper. I had to where glasses then. But they made the tube from start to finish.
Lw: All there in RCA?
Jm: They had a patent on color, on the tubes, for I don’t know how many years. They got to the shipping, and they would stamp different things, like GE and different things. They started out...
Fr: Before that it was Farnsworth Radios, and it was during the war. That was about ‘42 and that’s the first time they let coloreds work there. That was 1942...
Lw: On the radios then. What other places did you used to work then?
Fr: That’s all, Farnsworth/RCA.
Jm: You did work in homes didn’t you. For them, you used to work for the rich people.
Jm: Grandma did. She worked at the Osborne’s. Did the cleaning for them. But she did housework for a little bit.
Fr: There were no cars then, so we rented what you called a buggy, horse and buggy, to come to Marion.
Lw: To pick him up?
Fr: Hartford City is about 20 or 30 miles from here.
Lw: So they had to bring a horse and buggy from Marion to there.
Fr: No, they had the horse and buggy at Hartford City, we had to rent it That’s the only way we could get to Marion.
Jm: died, he died in Saganoh. But, tell him...
Fr: That new house across there, see threw there, that’s where Daisy used to live. But about a year ago, it caught on fire at about 2:00 in the morning.
Jm: How many houses were here then?
Fr: Theodore’s house wasn’t there, this house wasn’t there, and the next two houses wasn’t there.
Lw: Not many houses on this street before.
Jm: No, only about 5 or 6.
Lw: Well, like that, what other types of difference are there in the town, and has it grown a lot since then?
Fr: Oh yes. I didn’t exactly hear what you said.
Lw: What are the differences in Marion now? Is it a lot bigger and what are some of things that have changed.
Fr: Oh yes. A woman and my sister, I was seventeen years, it was one of my sister, and she went, her and this woman, who’s picture was in the paper about a week ago.
Jm: Violet Jackson
Fr: My sister and her graduated in...
Jm: What was your sister’s name?
Fr: . . .in about 1935, from high school, and they were in the top ten both of them.
Jm: What was your sisters name, and her friends name?
Fr: Her friend was Violet Jackson.
Fr: Violet Burden-Jackson, and...
Jm: What was your sister’s name?
Fr: Lucille Smith. But about a week ago, this Violet Jackson’s picture was in the paper, where she came her to Marion, and gave $2 million to the library, and then there naming the library after her husband. He graduated out here. And she gave $2 million.
Lw: They were in the top teen of her class, when they graduated.
Fr: Yeah, her and my sister were in the top ten. . . They got what you call a clamous? Medal.
Jm: They both went to college, and they remained friends until when my aunt died. My aunt lived well, but needless to say the Jackson’s had more fortune. They’re going to name the thing after the Jackson’s.
Fr: The library.
Jm: The library, and the library is actually going to cost them. So, Indiana Weselyn has grew immensely since it started out. Mom, tell him about the buildings that were there, there isn’t but one building left.
Fr: Yeah, there wasn’t but 2 or 3 buildings there, to start out with.
Jm: Now it’s a beautiful university. But the schools, we’ve gotten more schools and things. The schools around Marion are..
Fr: Oh yes, over here where McCulloch is, there was a big white house. Theodore went there, so did my sister Lucille. Went to this place, and then they moved to the house across the street and built McCulloch.
Jm: I went to McCulloch.
Fr: Well Theodore is 73, and he went to McCulloch in the 2” grade.
Jm: No, I took him to McCulloch, he went to McCulloch. Well the schools have grown, and of course the population has grown. Outside the city the suburbs, the houses are beautiful. Things have improved, and needless to say, we can go... for years, but you know, we can go eat anyplace, we still got racial problems, and I think everybody is working to try and solve the situations. But things have greatly improved. When I was young, I used to ride the streetcars and things for a nickel, I would get a quarter for my day to ride the street cars and go to movie and then have a nickel. So that how prices have changed, since, you know.
Lw: Do you know the prices of anything that have changed, things now that are a lot more expensive than they were?
Fr: Oh yes, food for one thing. Because you could maybe get milk or bread for a nickel, and... oh prices have changed.
Lw: Do you remember mom, what dad used to make at the factory, do you remember what you used to make?
Fr: Oh, during the depression, we used to make about $6 a week. They didn’t used to have refrigerators or electricity or gas. For refrigerators we had a little shed on the outside, with an icebox. And the man would come along with ice once a week. And water was what you called a pump. Between the woman across the street and my house there was a pump in the middle that you had top~p water. For everything that you wanted to wash or cook, anything.
Lw: What kind of things did used to use to heat up the food and cook the food?
Fr: To start out with it was coal, a coal stove, and I don’t know how I ever used to cook pies or cakes, with nothing to adjust the temperature, I don’t know how. But that’s the way to do it then. We had the coal stove in the living room to heat up there, and a coal stove in the kitchen to do the cooking. The time we got gas.. .it started out the lights we had were lamps with kerosene in them. They had wicks that went down into the kerosene.
Lw: Do you remember when you got gas?
Jm: Probably in the ‘30’s.
Fr: Yeah it had to be sometime in the ‘30’s.
Lw: Did that make cooking and other things a lot easier then?
Fr: Oh yes, yes.
Jm: We had a little old refrigerator, for years a miniature refrigerator, it lasted for years. Do you remember that refrigerator? It was really short. Since then, tell him what you did to your house, how you expanded it.
Fr: Oh, we had four rooms. Then my husband dug a basement underneath by himself. And then my son, he had a friend and they took the roof off and built an apartment on top. It was four rooms to start with. We took the living room and kitchen, and made one room.
Jm: We had a full size apartment upstairs.
Fr: My son built this house, and his house, the next one. He never had any training or anything in architecture, only what he did in high school, then small tables and things. But he built this house, all by himself.
Lw: All this by himself?
Jm: Well, dad helped him.
Fr: Well, your dad took him around when he was 12 or 13 wiring people’s houses, so he knows everything about electricity and plumbing. He didn’t have anybody to help here, but his house, he had plastered and a fireplace.
Jm: But dad just taught himself to build radios and TVs, that way he had a TV on the side, that he could go on around and repair TVs and things. He learned that from, there was a young man, two Arthur Drusla and Sam. There were three of them who just started work together. Then Arthur Drusla he had a shop right across the alley.
Fr: Oh, he lived over there.
Jm: Yeah, but he had a shop out there too.
Fr: Oh yeah.
Jm: Didn’t he fix TV?
Fr: Your dad did.
Jm: What was that Sam, what was his name? I can’t think of his name, that lived over that way. Anyway, dad taught himself, through trial and error to fix radios and things. And he had a record, down in the basement, where he played his records. You know, Jackson, I don’t know if you ever heard of her. Oh, she had a beautiful voice, sang church songs and things. You’ll have to come by sometime, and listen to her things. Really. But Marion has changed, a lot of things have come. I think they’re working on it all the time. A lot more harmony, and working together, all of the time. But, I’m so proud of my mother, she’ll be 99 August the 2nd. She used to live across the street, and my father passed away when he was 70.
Fr: In 1970.
Jm: 1970, and she lived across the street. Was that in ‘99 or ‘98?’
Jm: I decided she had to come move here and stay with me, one of us was going to have to move. So, we live here, and my brother lives on the corner. We have a lot of help. She’s been sick, and I’ve have a couple of operations this year. So we have got people to come in and help with the house. We get a lot of meals every night, from my brother’s wife. But we are a close group. But I’m very proud of her, she has a accomplished a lot.
Fr: Yeah, she worked over at Prince Hall for 13 years, over in the office, and I cooked supper for her every night.
Jm: Yes she did. She had a hot meal ready for me when I got off of work.
Lw: Prince Hall is the apartments over there?
Jm: Right, right yeah.
Lw: Didn’t Norma used to live over there?
Jm: Prince Hall Apartments over there, it was started by the black Masons. The first ones...
Fr: In about ‘72,
Jm: I think so, and then next group was around ‘82, but they’ve expanded quite a bit. And they keep their apartments up very well, and they have a new office complex in the center, that is very nice. And that is by and by, it goes according to your...
Fr: I can remember, down here on Washington, between 32” and 33rd was a big barn, and there was wagons and horses that went to the fires. And there wasn’t many telephones there, I don’t know how they got the word. And I could remember the wagons and the horses, running out there as fast as they could.
Lw: Did they just have water trucks on the back of them?
Fr: Yeah, they had water on the wagons. Then there was city water.
Lw: Was there very much police work back then? I know that Cleo used to be in the police.
Fr: Yeah, there was Harley Burden. He was this woman who gave the $2 million, he was her father, he was a policeman.
Jm: Wasn’t there a Butler?
Fr: He was a a policeman back during the lynching was, her father.
Jm: Harley Burden?
Jm: Who else?
Fr: Was it Donald?
Jm: No, Donald Hawkins worked with Cleo. I can’t think of the other policeman’s name, at that time. That certainly has changed, now we have, from blacks just starting out slow, now we have detectives, we had an assistant chief.
Fr: But, in Hartford City, it was an al white town. We were the only one’s there.
Jm: Didn’t your Aunt Myrtle live there?
Fr: Oh, my grandfather raised his family, and then I was 9 and Daisy was 11, I had a brother that was 14 when we come to Marion, in 1911.
Jm: What did Aunt Myrtle and her husband do?
Fr: They lived in Huntington
Jm: What did they do?
Fr: I really don’t know.
Jm: Your father and grandfather had a barbershop.
Fr: Yes, and when my father come here, it was still a white barbershop. You couldn’t mix the two together he had an all white barbershop. And now you couldn’t mix the two races, at that time. He died in ‘24, but I had a brother that died when he was 30. But dad would have to wait until after hours to cut his own son’s hair, cause they didn’t mix the two colors at all.
Lw: The Weaver community, they were the first blacks in Marion. Do you know very much about them?
Jm: Didn’t your mother used to live out in a section of Weaver, it wasn’t Weaver it was another section, wasn’t it?
Fr: Yeah, I don’t know exactly where.
Jm: Did he treat his help different?
Jm: Didn’t he treat his own help, cause they were black, different?
Jm: Can you remember when you used to tell, about when they cam in they had to wash their hands and things, they weren’t...
Jm: He treated his help different than his personal family, so that was a little bit of discrimination, you know.
Lw: On his own people.
Jm: Right. But it wasn’t Weaver, it was a section of Weaver, but mom...
Fr: It was between here and Weaver. They showed me the house, but I don’t remember.
Jm: D you remember Weaver being out there? It was a regular community, right?
Fr: Yes, they had a post office and a grocery store and a school, out there at Weaver.
Jm: Didn’t the blacks own that racetrack at one time, and lost it or something?
Fr: Yeah, they had a racetrack out there at Weaver, but they just quit.