Mae Hammons Memoir
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University of Illinois at Springfield Norris L Brookens Library Archives/Special Collections Mae Hammons Memoir H185. Hammons, Mae d. 1983 Interview and memoir 2 tapes, 175 mins., 50 pp. BLACK COMMUNITY PROJECT Hammons, first African American teacher hired in the Springfield, school system, discusses segregation and discrimination, her teaching career, teaching at Iles School, tutoring mentally handicapped children, and black teachers entering the school system. She also mentions Springfield neighborhoods and businesses, and teaching challenges during WWII. Interview by Reverend N.L. McPherson, 1974 OPEN See collateral file Archives/Special Collections LIB 144 University of Illinois at Springfield One University Plaza, MS BRK 140 Springfield IL 62703-5407 © 1974 University of Illinois Board of Trustees Preface This n:IUIUscript is the product of a tape recorded interview conducted by Reverend N. L. MCPherson for the Oral History Office on May 23, 1974. Paula Bergsclmeider transcribed the tapes and Chester Rhodes edited the tapes. In this neooir Mae Hammns discusses entering the school systan as a Black teacher, her teaching years at Iles School in Springfield, Illinois and discrimination over the years. Readers of the oral history mem>ir should bear in mind that it is a transcript of the spoken v.urd, and that the interviewer, narrator and editor sought to preserve the info~l, conversational style that is inherent in such historical sources. Sangamon State University is not responsible for the factual accuracy of the mem>ir, nor for views expressed therein; these are for the reader to judge. The rmnuscript may be read, quoted and cited freely. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part by any means, electronic or mechanical, without pennission in writing fran the Oral History Office, Sangamm State University, Springfield, Illinois, 62708. Mae Hammons, Springfield, Illinois, May 23, 1974. Reverend MCPherson, Interviewer. Q: Now, Mrs. Hammns, I UOO.erstand that you were the first black teacher to be hired in this systan. A: Yes, that' s true, Reverend McPherson. Q: \\hen was this? A: I carne into the system in 1955. Q: Vbere did you caiE fran? A: Previous to this, I taught in Ou11paign. I went there in 1934 and I stayed unt i 1 1942. I was llllrried in 1941 so my husbaD:i was enployed by the State Architects office here in Springfield and we moved here. Q: How long was it when you CBIIE here before you got this position? A: \\ell, I didn't work for av.hile because we were expecting a baby. Unfortunately, we lost the first one. Then a friend of mine whose husband was mployed in the State Architecta office--we knew each other casually at the State Normal--and she had this friend that had a brain danaged child, and they wanted saneone to tutor him. I said, "Oh no, I'm not interested." Harriet kept after rm, and finally my roother talked rm into it. She said, "I think that would be a fine experience. You want to work, you' 11 be llllking rooney." They paid well, and I accepted it. Before long I was working all day tutoring children. It was through these children that I met the psychologist for the Springfield District 186, and she wanted to cane and observe the children, the children not knowing that she was here. So, she did and she was amazed at the change that had taken place. About this time, the Junior League was about ready to sponsor a class for the trainable children. They are the group under the E.M.H. [Educable Mmtally Handicapped]. She recanrended me because I had been working with these children and 1 had done quite well. So, the Junior League sponsored this project, rut it was under the leadership of District 186, Special Education. In 1953 to 1955 I worked with the group. At the end of the two years they were retested. \\ell, they were too high to be retained in the class so the class seaningly was going to fold up. In the meantime, the superintendent of District 186 called and asked me if I would consider caning into the systsn as a public school teacher. well, that was our little joke. I told him I would think it over. And I would let him know. Then jokingly he always said, "I couldn't fire you, Mrs. Hamoons, because I asked you (chuckles) to cane into the systan." And I did, I started work here in 1955 and I have been enployed regularly ever since. Q: Now before we get into this erployrmnt, these children that you were teaching • • • did they care to your bane? A: Yes, I taught. Now the class was not here. \\hen I tutored, I tutored here in my hare. I did that just one child at a tine. They can't take groups. It's usually six or eight about all they can stand. lhen when I went over to this class that was S.(X>nsored by the Junior League of Springfield, we held our classes over in the kindergarten roans of the church on Walnut and ••• \\estminister Presbyterian Omrch. \\e had a beautiful roan there and we had the freedan of the building. I enjoyed working there. Q: \\ere sane of these children fran the district? A: They were fran Springfield. <:ne 1it tle boy canE in fran Pleasant Plains. At first the parents had to pay. So naturally, we drew on the better livers, you know. In the class I had two children whose fathers were cousins, and I worked with three doctors' children. Of course they had all of the social anEni ties because they had been brought up in that type atmosphere. They were lovely to work with. I enjoyed it. Then in the meantbne, the university of Illinois, under the leadership of the Head of Special Education there, was teaching a class in Training. W:'l net in Chicago IIJ)st of the tiiiE, each Saturday, and we worked. Then, the following summer the University of Illinois rented the Lincoln Cbllege for wamn over there. And we stayed in Lincoln because we had the children to work with, do you see? lhat was quite a rooving experience too. Ch, we had, I imagine around sixty-five or seventy people enrolled in this special class. we were given university credit for it. Q: Did the district have a class similar to this? A: No, this trainable group was the first that we have had. But, we do. Now this Little Red Schoolhouse is an outgrowth of that DJJVenEnt that we have now. First we had just a class when I had it. As I said, the I1Uili>er was kept snall, because it rwst be. Then, you know, how large it is now. It's grown to quite a big DJJVenEnt. But the Junior Leagues paid all expense. The board at that t iiiE, they weren' t too anxious about taking this over. Phyllis Gray, who is an attorney in her own right, she said, "Well, if you won't go along with it, we' 11 talk to our husbands. We have husbands and friends that are on the Board of Education. Yk' ll just go over your head." well, that's what tmney does, you know. (chuckles) They didn't have to do that. It worked out. But they had the right people. The Junior League is made up of girls that are wealthy, usually that don't work, you know. They worked with ne. I had several that worked with IIE at the school. They were highly educated, all college graduates. But they hadn't worked because they got mrried. You know how they do. They were lovely to work with. I had one girl that had worked with kindergarten people in schools. She had taken that so she was quite an asset. I was fully in control of the class at all tbnes. But the girls were lovely to work with. ----------------------------------· Q: About how many, at one given time, helpers did you have? A: Well , let's see. I would have to think about that. I think during the week I usually had four or five. We just had a class in the IIX>rning when we went to \\estminister Omrch. Now the classes are all day, but we didn't at that thne. Q: Wben you went for this class in training, were there other blacks in this? A: Yes, there were other blacks there. They came fran Olicago. They were borrowed fran the public school system. They had been working with the EMH group, see, that's a little bit higher than the trainables. They borrowed thEm to stay with the project as long as we were in training. Then there was one girl fran Rockford and one fran Qlicago, as I rEJilelliler. There was the two. Then the class during that s\1111Er, we had several Negroes there. I have forgotten how many, tut there was several of us that were there . Q: Did you encounter nuch problem or difficulty? A: None at all. Anything that I wanted, I could have for the asking. It was a wonderful setup. No, no. Not at all. The parents were so helpful and anything that I suggested, they picked it right up. They -were so pleased with the children, the result of the children. And I just had no problEmS at all. Q: I take it that these were all white children? A: They were. They were all white children. Q: Now, in 1955 when you got hired, into the district, which school did you ••• A: I went to Ilea where I am n<JN. I could have asked to have leave and to be transferred, but I always enjoyed working at Ilea. I thought that the children needed a Negro teacher there. Of course, I was placed there and Mr. Bowan who was the superintendent at that titre asked IIE about going and I said, "Yes, I think I would enjoy working there." And I have, I have enjoyed working there. Q: \\hat was 1ife like being the only Negro teacher? A: Very, very, very cordial. I believe you're supposed to be professional at all times which rmant I didn't hang arotmd and gossip. I was, or I tried to conduct myself always as a professional wamn. And I think I succeeded fairly well. No, I didn't have any trouble over there at all. No trouble with the parents. Mr. Hornbrook was the principal there at that time. And he kept caning up that first day of school and, you see, I had had experience because I had been a teacher and a principal, although I was very young, in Oumpaign before I cane here. I finally said to him, "Well, Mr. Hornbrook, what goes? Now you know that I can take care of my roan." He laughed ani he said, ''Well, I had a fwmy conversation with one of my parents last night. He and his wife cmte over and they wanted to krl<7N if their little girl could be transferred out of your roan. And I wanted to know why. And they said, ''Well, we live in North carolina and we're going h~." And they just wouldn't accept us, with my child in the roan with a Negro teacher. He asked thEm how far it was, and they thought they had really "nade a hit." So he said, "well, I suggest you had better get going back to North carolina because there will be no transferring as long as I'm principal of this school, 11 rreaning the children. The little girl took a special liking to n:e which was really very enbarrassing. If her ODther would cam by and pick her up, she would always run back and kiss me goodbye. (chuckles) we had this animal fair there, and the father went out in the COWltry and got us a little pet DDnkey to display in our roan, you know. That's the kind of help that I got fran the parents. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I have had no trouble with the parents since I have been there. lV.8ny t iiiEs they will ask if they can be in my roan, you know. Q: well, did these parents finally settle down? A: Oh, yes. They came here and this bell that we have here, he helped my husband install it. They are living here. The little girl is now working for the Illinois Bell Telephone Cmpany. She was my little shadow. But that was so wmsual that she would fall so hard for me, with her parents. But, they didn't oppose IIE because they knew nothing about me. It was just the fact that I was a Negro. This other teacher had retired. It was in the paper, and that I had been hired. we are still friends. If we run across each other, we always stop and visit. I think Iles is really a nice place to work. Now, when I went there though, the class of people, it's changed considerably. OJ.t in the east where they used to 1ive, you know, when they began to tear those hams down, the people DDVed out our way. When I first went there, it was DDstly, well, it was the better nmbers of the Negro race. Like Mrs. Grace White, and I can't think of a lot of others, whose children have graduated and have done real, real well. But they 1ived out in that vicinity at that time, because you couldn't go anyplace else except where Negroes lived. That's why Dr. Lee had to buy up all of that land out there, you know, and sell it as lots because he couldn't get anyplace to blild. Just because he was a Negro. A lot of those people were Italians and they had been there fran way back. It was less than a third of the children were colored when I first went out there. I just had that first year, three or four colored children in my roan. But now, it's changed. Q: About what's the percentage nrNJ? A: I really wouldn't want to say because I'm not sure. Q: It is ODre than fifty-fifty, though? A; Oh, it is now. (h, yes. Oh, yes. Of course you have a lot of caning and going, blt I was surprised, the other day I counted because they asked on sane report, sanething about how many blacks you have. You have to tell how I1IU1Y blacks, and how lllUJY whites, and how rmn;y orientals Mae Hammns that you have. I was looking where I had figured this out in the fall of the year to give the information to the office, and I had quite a few IOOre mites. lbt they had m:wed, see. They're migrant mrkers, sane of than are. And they RDVe on. They cam and go. But it's changed quite a bit. Q: I knOW' that you said that you did your work in a professional way. That you just didn't, well, when you went to the teacher's lounge for instance, were you ••• A: \\ell, I used to go there quite a bit. Very friendly, they invited rre to play bridge. They were going to organize a bridge club. I wasn't interested in playing bridge because I was mrried. M>st of them weren't, do you see what I mean? Then I had a little girl and I felt as if I had to be bane. I was invited to the parties, I still liD. Sanetimes I go. I mean the people that I used to work with that have transferred, you knOW', to other wildings. 'lhey have coffees and what-not and they ask me to cam. Oh, about two years ago I was invited to becam a meniJer of the Board of Directors for the Teacher's Credit Union and I feel sure that that ct~~e about because of tV«> teachers that had fol'llerly taught with me at Ilea School. Ole is at lbtler now and the other girl has retired. She did remedial teaching, you know, traveling to different schools. I'm sure that it cane fran thEm, that I was invited to becane a merri:>er. Q: well, did you accept it? A: Yes, I did and I have been y.urking for thEm, oh, it1 s going into my third year. Q: \\hat does this Teacher's Credit Union do? A: well, we loan ID)ney to any teacher in Sangmwn Cbunty and we also pay you a high interest for your nnney. \\e have t\\U things we do. \\e loan nnney and we take in mney. Q: Nbw is this for teachers of Sangamon County or just for District 186? A: No, it's Sangarmn County. This is Springfield, rut we loan rmney to any teacher and any teacher can becane a IDEIIi>er. First you IDlSt becane a meniJer. It's only five dollars that you pay, nmilership fee, and if you want to draw it out and leave right away or you can just keep it. You kn<M, IIBIJY places you can't do that. I think it's one percent now that we charge nmi>ers on borrowed DDney, which i sn' t very Dllch. You can borrOW" up to several lumdred dollars with no co-signer. If you get several thousand, of course, you have to get a co-signer. Ye've loaned as IDlch as four, five, or six thousand to one person. But it's quite an o~anization. It's very nice for people who need money. Q: \\hat kind of asset does this organization have? A: \\ell, people that cane in to borrow DDney, they have to becane a meotler first. Then they naturally invest too. I have been investing quite a bit of my DDney in it because they pay 6% interest and the others do, too. Sam people though that don't belong have invested several thousand dollars. Q: '!hat's good. That's very good. A: \\e neet at the Horace Mann building each school nx>nth and then during the Sllllller -we rmet at each other's hares. Q: ()Ice a nx>nth? A: cnce a month. In fact, I have this •.. (pause) This is an old copy that I have. Q: And this is your by-laws, or just information? A: No, no, just infol'Diltion. That was an old copy that I had put up in restroom to get people to join. I think most of the teachers at Ilea School belong. Because there's no place they can get rooney that cheaply. Q: lb you have shares, and all that? A: Yes, yes. See, twenty-five cents ths. t 1 s not very IDlch. Q: Now this one percent, you can't beat one percent. A: But see it's only for teachers, no one else can borrow rooney. We've had a lot of people that have bought hanes that couldn't have done it if it hadn't been for this organization. This is a very strong organization, because we have millions of dollars. Q: You mean in your chapter or within ••• is this affiliated ••• A: A make-up of all the DDnies. lhe bank pays us too, you see, for our money. We 'IM>Uld loan it to them. That' s the way -we OBke lll)ney, in addition to the shares. Q: Well, that's very interesting. A: But it's interesting I think to know that. (pause) Q: Now, what about your principals Wlder whan you have worked? A: \\ell, I have only had two. Mr. Hornbrook, they transferred him out to Hazel Dell and he has since retired. He was in retiremmt about five or six years. He was a wonderful principal • He made no difference, and he could have Ollde it very unpleasant for IIE. He happened to have been a very popular principal. Very strict, that was very strictly a professional wilding when he was there. Everybody was Mr. and Miss and now everybody calls each other by their first rumes and you hear the kids imitating you. (cl'nlckle) But we didn't have anything like that, because he never called anyone by their first nane. He never accepted any dinner engagenents with any meobers of his faculty. Just to prevent any gossip that might start because he and his wife were separated for a time, so he was strictly professional. Q: Ml>. Snith was your second? A: Yes, he cane after Mr. Hornbrook left. I think he will perhaps make it this tUne, don't you? (laughter) Q: (laughter) I'm hoping so, since his interest in the .•. A: That's what everyone says, since he wants to do it they hope that he will IIBke it. Q: Is there a reason why you chose lles? A: He offered me the job. No, they don't ask you where you want to teach. He asked me if I would be interested in becaning a teacher in the public school systan, do you see? Because at the tbne, I was being hired by the JWlior League. But, I IDlst add this. The JWlior League put me on the same salary schedule that I would have been with the district. Because they intended to IDlke this a part of the school system, and they did. They have a trainable class, right nCM. I think they rmet at the Douglas School , and they wanted to not have any difficulty with the salary business. So they paid rre just what I \WJ\lld have gotten if I had been enployed by the school systan. Q: What about fringe benefits and so forth? A: \\ell, I don't have those. You see, I was under contract when he approached rre and if they \WJ\lldn't release IIB, then I couldn't have left. This dear friend of mine, that was one of my helpers--her husband was an attorney--and she talked to him about it. He said, "Well, Mrs. HEmOOns can always say that she's thinking about her retirEment and you don't put your teachers under a pension," at that particular tbne, do you see? They may be now. So that's the way I got out. And I was, I was interested in my pension because eventually that tine rolls around believe it or not. 'lhey thought that was a very good excuse. Sane of them still didn't want me to, but the majority was willing, so I was released. Every once in a mile, I used to go back and visit, you lmON, when it was over where the Senior Citizens Building is. My little Susan would go around and get the kids that I had in the class when I taught. And if they didn't reomi>er me, she'd bop than. (laughter) She was a little M:>ngoloid. You lmow, they get real fat and she was quite a little character, yes.. \\hen her roother and father used to drop by to visit with me, we used to have a little lunch at school. \\hen she was going to Mrs. Hanm:>ns, her roother would always have to fix her a lwtch and when she came in, she would go right to the kitchen table, and sit down and eat her sandwich. That was what we always did at school, see. Only we didn't have sandwiches. we just had juice and crackers. But Susan v.ould bring that. Q: She was your first student? A: She was one of the first in the class. You'd be surprised how many professional people--of course, retardation has no monopoly on any particular group. And if you get a good whole child, you should be so thankful. Because these parents were highly trained--as I say, I had two doctors' children and these children were cousins. That's where it had struck twice, and that's pretty bad. One doctor tells me now that his little girl still talks about me, but I told hhn that's hqpossible. She couldn't remeober me because I haven't seen her in ten or fifteen years. Now, Dr. Wise's daughter, whenever she canes in town--she flies in--she goes to school up near Chicago--and she calls. She's learned how to telephone. Her nnther thinks she bothers me, rut Susan just wants to say hello. still keeps in contact with me. Several of rrw parents still send me <llristmas cards, that I had in the class, which was very unusual. She Q: Since you have been at Iles, have you had the opportunity to m:we to same other school? A: Well, yes. I had a couple of friends that left and they told me that their principal would be interested in talking to me, rut I didn't want to move. I was situated and when you roove, you've got to rmke another set of friends. You've got to became professionally known. And since I had gotten along so well at Iles, I didn't see any point in moving. I'm sure that I could have if I had wanted to. Because they have placed Negro teachers all around, I knew S<IIle of the principals. I knew a couple of than pretty well. Q: Is there a reason why you have not sought a principalship? A: Well, I didn't want to be. I had been a principal in Chanpaign. I didn't apply for that. The superintendent asked Ire if I would try it. didn't want to at first, rut it was so snall. \\e just had the regular grades, one through five, and it was snall. But I was a teaching principal , too. All schools where they just had five or six teachers, you taught part of the thne at least. I JUSt wasn't interested in being a principal because I have a horne. I have a husband. And I had ITW daughter. Nope, I wouldn't be the principal at Ilea School, not the way things are over there, now, for two thousand dollars a nnnth. And I'm not kidding. (chuckles) Q: Well, it oust be S<Jilething. A: Now, what I rean is--Mr. Snith gets along real well--I don't rean that. But I don' t hink a wamn could handle Iles shcool , because I don' t think the kids would pay attention to her. Because Mr. Snith gets real tough with those boys. You know now they pop the teacher back in different places, so I've been told. That's what I heard. One little girl carne to visit Ire, a little Negro girl yesterday. I'll never say 'black' because I don't like it. I'm like Judge Parsons, I just got colored and Negro straightened out, and now they pull this. But she was telling Ire that a boy struck one of the teachers at Washington. Now whether that's true or not, she said that all the white kids went horne because it had gotten out that they were going to have a riot there. Now, whether that's true, or not, I don't know. But Mr. Snith has to get very firm with sane of those kids. Because, oh, they are corkers, I'm telling you. Same of than had just as soon hit you as not. Mr. cartwright told Ire, he says, "If you knew what that boy called Ire, your blood would chill." Now that's the P.E. teacher and they got mad, you see. But these children now days, Reverend McPherson, I feel sorry for than. Really, they are unsupervised. M:>st of the parents in my roan that mrk, they work at the hospital. Nurses aides, and they go on that 3:00 shift and they v.ork until 11:00, do you see, at night. And the kids are just out in the streets and they do Whatever they want to. And sex, oh, it is a problem. They are so bold with it. Q: You nean at that level? A: (11, yes. I mean, one third grade teacher was telling l1E yesterday what a filthy picture that she had forcefully taken away fran this child. I had sane very filthy notes that I took away fran the girls in my roan. They are well inforom. They know exactly what they are doing and it's pitiful. You have to have supervision, don't you? M:>st of these kids, why their parents can't do anything with them. I carm out of PTA here a few years ago and I saw this roother--she had a child in my roan--way down at the northern part of the tuilding. I went down, I could tell she was in trouble. I asked her what was wrong. She says, "Well, Larry w:>n' t go ham." I says, "Larry won't do what?" He was in kindergarten. "He won't go bane." I said, "Boy, if you don't get out of here and go on .• • • " (clap) He struck out like a streak of 1ightning. She said he didn't stop till he got bane because he thought I was going to spank him I guess. Q: Kindergarten? A: Kindergarten, I'm telling you the truth! That's pitiful, now. I have a couple of boys in my roan that I wouldn't try to apprehend tut I wouldn't let thEm know it, you see. Because I think they would probably tangle with m. So I just don't antagonize thEm, tut I bluff thEm. But, they must mind. They just must, that's all. There are certain things you don't say to me or any other grown person. And the way they talked to Mr. finith, behind his back I man. They probably do l1E the same way. Because they have no respect. we were at Withrow School yesterday for a concert and this teacher told me--l had inherited this little boy that she had had--that his rmther was a swinger. Said that she either had a baby in her ann or she was expecting one, not married. What can you expect fran children 1ike that? Q: well, it's JUSt one of those things that we, the parents, the teachers, and the churches just have to keep trying. A: You do, you just have to keep trying. And if a child has a parent who really cares, they are really blessed. Because a lot of these children aren't wanted. cne roother told me that she kept this little friend that lived down the street. The rmther v.orked at night. She said that he slept on her davenport every night until 11:00. She said that she just felt sorry for him. Then between 11:00 and 12:00 the roother would cam in and drag him along. She expected her to take care of him, I guess. Q: Where did you do your college v.ork? A: I had two years at the State Nonna.l at Nonna.l, and then I transferred to the University of Illinois. I have a bachelor of science fran the University of Illinois. I have also taken several graduate courses. was going to do my rmsters, tut you only have five years to do it, at that time, and my mother and father becane so that it was necessary that I had to go hare so nuch and with that I just gave up. Every once in a while now I go back to school. I took a course a couple of years ago. I haven't had an;y since, because I don't think I will be working nuch longer. I don't like the way they run the schools now, Reverend M::Pherson. N<MT we have a little girl that's aspiring to be a head teacher, which canes before principal. And the kids in her roan pull out the screens. They sit up in the windows. They kick the walls. If they want to wallow on the floor ••• Now, I just couldn't take that. They get out and they yell at people fran the windows in her roan, now, yes. Yesterday over at the school, I had to send for her, she was over there gossiping. 'lllese tV«> kids were having a big fist fight. That little Korean boy and that little colored girl. NOw who started it, I don't know. But I mean, I thought that they were really going to give each other a bloody nose. Because he was working on her and she was working on him, and she was holding on pretty well. Nowadays if they want to do sanething they do it. And rrost of the teachers --1 'm telling you the truth--they can't do anything with their kids. If you don't start out being strict, you're a goner. They just don't pay an;y attention to anything you say. I think that 011ybe this is true of all wildings. Of course, I'm not there, and I can't speak for them, but I think that there are just a lot of teachers that are just Y«>rking for their paycheck. I think we have got them at Iles too. Q: I would imagine that in ODst professions you have this sort situation. A: But the kids are hard to work with nowadays. It' s so Imch difference in the kind of child that I used to have, even at Iles. And I've told you why. Q: Now have you heard anyone say or do you know, why is it that they have not hired Negro teachers before 1955 in the district? A: ~11, they didn't want the Negro teacher to teach white children. I think that was it, 8\IIIIEd. up everyplace why they didn't. Previous to going to Olmpaign, I had Y«>rked with kindergarten children just for a brief while. Then I went to that school in Chicago. Now I was there when I got the job in Olampaign. I think that's the reason. 'llley just didn't want you to. (pause) Look at the housing situation. roost Negroes lived in a certain section, and over in Ou11paign there were colored children that we had in that building, because there was no white children in that vicinity. They were all blacks. Sam of them had very nice hams there. It was out in the north end. Dr. Ellis, 'Mlo belonged here in Springfield, he had gone there to practice medicine and he was very Imch interested in this type of thing. And he worked very hard. They said, "Well, we don't like the teachers that you are putting in our schools." They would start the yo~ inexperienced teachers over there and then when they got experience, they would DDVe them. Dr. Ellis picked that up, and the fought it. They said that they would rather have a good well-prepared Negro teacher than have these whites. I don't know whether that was the thing to do or not but Dr. Ellis had a vision. He said that this is all going to change. They've got to see that our teachers are just as capable as the others. And it did change. And they have several colored principals there in Olanpaign now. Oh, and another thing I enjoyed when I was there, I was also cooperative teacher at the university. That DEant that the seniors cmre and did their practice teaching with DE. I had them around the clock and I enjoyed that. But that took a lot of work and I stayed late every night and if I had been married, no man would have IUt up with that at the time. I'm this kind of a person, I give everything I have to whatever I do. I don't do anything I don't believe in. M.Y IDJther was a teacher, my grandfather was a teacher, my aunts, --I had several aunts--this one aunt that died here last year, she never missed a year in going to school and never missed a day in thirty-five or forty years. Very healthy. (chuckles) Q: The housing pattern, you think that it had santhing to do with why they didn't hire a teacher before or was it black? A: Well, they said they weren't going to have any black teachers. That was their attitude, see what I DEan. They just weren't going to have any. \\hat the people started M>rking on, that's why I was so surprised that they didn't p.tt DE in Lincoln. That was predaninately, [Negro]. It's always been, you see. But they didn't. Then over at PalDEr, see that's largely Negro too. I really couldn't give you the answers. This is only what I believe as an individual. They were very, very, very possessed with this idea. We don't want any Negroes teaching our children. But it's changed, Reverend McPherson. Your wife can verify that. Now Nancy's very popular and they like her, so it isn't. It's just getting to know you. DJn' t you think that's right? A: Were there Negro parents who didn't want Negro teachers? Or have you heard that? A: Yell, I'm sure there were. There always have been. Isn't that true? You always have a group that don't. Now I think that the situation is altogether different. I think that there were a lot of parents that thought the white teacher was superior to the Negro teacher, just because they were Ybite. But I think we've outgro.vn that, don't you? Q: I think so, I think so. A: But you will agree that it was a theory at one time? Q: Yes, I heard that because the late Dr. Wilson cmre to Springfield in about 1945 or 1946 and at the time when he Cmie here, that they did not have any and sam of his parishioners said that they didn't want any. A: Yes, yes. That's true. I know theywere going to make quite a big issue out of this. San Osby, you know him, A: ••• and he did that. He said to make a big spread now about hiring a Negro teacher and putting her picture on the front page. Says, "I just don't wy that." I didn't either. I didn't buy that either, not at all. End of Side One, Tape One Mae Hammns Q: But your experience for these years you have been teaching here, you would say it was one that was pleasant? A: <h yes, very pleasant. The children are becaning harder to handle everyplace. There is an unrestness in this world, isn't it? Q: Very IDlCh so. A: They are reflecting the attitudes that they cane in contact with at home and it's really a very trying thing to be a child. It's very difficult for thEm as well as parents. I don't know what it's caning to. I think I have survived by the faith that I have in God. I know that I have had things that would have been problems to cane up and I would ask God to guide ne, and how to handle them, and it just seemed 1ike a bright idea would strike me all at one time. So I'm very sure that He has been very close to me all these years. Q: NOw, you finished shcool and you were teaching before you got rm.rried? A: Yes, I was in Qumpaign when I was rm.rried. I was Dllrried secretly and, well, I did tell the superintendent. At that time, you couldn't get rm.rried and teach. This is just at the outbreak of \\brld war I I. You couldn't anyplace. They didn't have any rm.rried teachers. Yes, that dates ne, rut that's the truth. I think I was about the only one. There was one white teacher there in Oumpaign, and Mr. Nickel gave us--(clmckles) I had already gotten mrried and he let me teach the year out. But you were supposed to stop, discontiiRle when you got rm.rried. But see the war ems on and they needed teachers and they couldn't get enough umarried so they were tickled to get the married ones. Q: About when did this change? A: Ybat do you mean? Q: Them accepting mrried teachers. A: lliring the war, they had to, see. IUring the war, they began to mploy than. They had no one to teach. I didn't work then, because my little girl was born in 1945. After I was married, I taught the rest of that year. \\e were DRrried in Decmi>er and I v.urked until June and then I cane here to live. ~husband got a position in the State Architeet's office and he was there until he decided he would retire in the fall. Thirty-two years. Q: \\here did you meet him? A: \\e grew up in Decatur. He lived about eight blocks fran my house. So I've known hbn since I was a little girl. He's older than I an. He had finished high school before I went there. But we lived in the same vicinity and we've known each other since we were youngsters. He used to play with my brother. (c1:D.lckles) Q: Did you go • • • no. A: No, he was ahead of me in school • \\hen I got to high school , he had already graduated. He was in Millikin at the time. Q: \\hat did he take up at Millikin? A: He took bookkeeping. He was head of the bookkeeping and the insurance department of the State Architects office. They gave hlin quite a nice party. He didn't want anything, but they did. He is very proud of that. Q: Now, this is a certificate of appreciation. And this was last year. A: Yes, in August. He just decided to do it. Oh, they didn't like that. But he says he's just ••• well, he wanted me to discontinue last year too, rut I decided that I had to go another year. They gave him a lovely radio. Until Ogilvie became governor, that office had been strictly professional, architects and engineers, all college graduates. Then they got this youngster there that, oh, he didn't know anything. The people just started retiring because they just couldn't take it. Because it was so different to what it had been, the way it had been run, they just couldn't take it. So roost of thEm have left. Q: Now, what does he do, he's just retired? A: well, he's the housekeeper. (laughter) We're going to travel. He's just telling me about this trip to the Holy Land, that he got a brochure on today. We intend to travel, we' 11 keep the house, of course, but we won't be around too ImCh. Q: Is he a good cook? A: Well, he does very well. (laughter) Now, when I cane bane, he has cleaned up and everything. I like for hlin to be hane. He's done the washing. Of course, he doesn't have to do anything but take it out of the IIBChine and throw it into the dryer. Q: That's a help anyway. A: Yes, and I'm not as strong as he is, so he bears the infi:nnatives of the weak. (laughter) He is really a good husband. Many times the lmsband du:xps all the work when you are having children on the wife, but he always would cane hane and help. If he couldn't, he would see that I had scme help. He's been a pretty good lmsband. Q: Well, how long did you stay in O:lm:paign after you were rmrried? A: I just stayed the rest of the year, rEmEIIi>er, because you couldn't stay. We got IIBrried the 29th of DecEIIi:ler in 1941, and I left in June of 1942. That was at the end of the school year. But you knCJN sanething happened. I had taken a Civil Service Ex:an. My husband didn't know that I had taken it. I had met quite a few of the judges because I was principal of the school and sane of the children were in court, and I was way at the top of the 1 i st. I called and thanked hlin for inviting me to cane back and work there, but I couldn' t cane because I was i 11 • So he sent DB a telegrsn saying he would wait. So I thought that was quite a nice carpliment, that he would be willing to wait, so my husband said, "Did you tell him what was wrong?" I said, "No, I did.n' t tell him. I'm just going to drop it." (laughter) Q: Well , did he want you to cane back to teaching? A: No, this wasn't teaching. This was working as a social worker. My problEm would have been working with these children who were in the court and out of the court. But, I just took the job for fun. I knew that I wasn't going to do it, because I knew he wouldn't let liB go. CAJ.r marriage would have perhaps dissolved if I had. Q: Because you would have to be over there. A: Yes, I could.n' t camute. It was too nuch. My husband was situated here. He was happy with his work so naturally I figured it was my job to stay here. If the Amly had taken him, he was scheduled to go, and his stamch started acting up and he had this ulcer. But the ulcer has healed long, long ago and he hasn't had any trouble with it. The food that they serve in the AI1IIY, he just couldn't last. Anyone that had any inclinations toward stanach trouble, they just wouldn't take them. So that saved him. Q: I:b you have just one child? A: Yes. We had a son that was older than she, a year older, and we lost him. My daughter now, she won a fellowship last year. She's at Southern University. They live there. She was a credential analyst there in the admittance office. Then she got this fellowship. She stays at hane which rmkes it nice and I think her fellowship is $255 each roonth. So you see, that's quite nice, isn't it? A: Very nruch so. Is she in tusiness? A: No, she isn't in business. She's majoring in psychology and counseling. She's interning now at one of the correctional institutions there close by. I think they nnved their office into Carbondale. She said that's been roost interesting and fascinating. The different types of people, that she--how highly educated they are, to think that they have just ended up in prison the way it is. Q: You know that they say that in prison you have sane of the roost educated people. A: You do. That's why they are there. They got caught. \\hat do you think about the President? Isn't that a mess? (chuckles) I:b you feel sorry for him, Reverend McPherson? Honestly? Q: The IIW1 needs to be pitied rut he's the type of fell<M" that ••• A: He doesn't learn, does he? He doesn't tell the truth, does he? He's been caught in too mmy Wltruths. I don't think he's capable of telling the truth. I feel for him and I ask God to guide him, rut I don't think he'd let God do anything good for him. He's awful. Q: You said you grew up in Decatur. That's your hane. That's where you were born? A: No, I wasn' t born there. I was born in Tennessee but we rooved. there when I was a snall child. No, my parents were fran Tennessee. My IIDther went to school in Naslwille. I never got there. But we came away when we were all snall and we grew up there. We've lived in this house, our bane place ever since we were little kids. The neighborhood has changed so. It used to be such a nice street, and they started with big houses along there. Because IIDst of the people that lived out there had children, three or four bedroans. The neighborhood has changed so. These big houses attract these people onAOC. <h, Reverend~Pherson, it's terrible. The shooting and, well ,--we never saw a police car cam down this sreet, and they patrol it constantly. Q: Now, when you care to Springfield, where did you live? A: Oh, it was terrible here. It was terrible here. I'd go and make the contact, and the house was for sale. Y.e had the IIDney to pay for it when we mme to Springfield. \\ben they found. out who we were, that ended it. Cll yes, the attitude, everything. They becare unfriendly, not interested. My lmsba.nd looked at this house first, when I was in Oumpaign finishing the year out. He told Ire, he said, "But you wouldn't like the house." We stayed at Mr.-s. Taburn' s--Mrs. Taburn, you raneni>er her, don't you?--well, her IIDther was ill at the tilm and actually it was like having the house to ourselves, because she stayed there with the IIDther. I clllle over and I told my lrusband, I said, "Fran what we have to pick, I really think this house is the best." We had it done all over. Hay Edwards at that tilm, supposedly was one of the better schools and we were expecting our son • • . no, we weren't expecting him then. No, we were just getting a house. Because he didn't cam until the next year. But we couldn't get anything. You couldn't get a drink of water downtown, and my little girl used to cry just for a glass of water. We would be paying bills, we were in the dimestore and she just boo-hooed, and she was perspiring and oh, it was terrible. This lady says, "Well, I'll give this child a drink of water. I can't stand to see a child crying for water." We went to the theatre one night and ••• Q: \\hat store was this now? A: Now, this was downtown, \\bolworths Dime Store. We went in to see Mr.-s. Minerva. That was one of the current pictures about \\brld War I I. we sat down on the main floor. We lmrried and got there. We knew we weren't supposed to be there. This little bold upstart kept caning back dEmanding that we cane to the office and get our IIDney. My lrusband said, "Now, listen. If you cane back here again, I'm going to throw you down toose steps." And he would have, too. That boy let us alone. The usher, they had pushed him to do it. Q: Ybich rmvie was this? Mle Harmxms A: Mr-s. Minerva. Did you ever hear of it? It was a Wlrld War II movie. It was there next door to the Bootery Shoe Store. Oh, you couldn't get anything. You'd go down to the Orpheun Theatre--that was a very nice theatre at the time--and they would put you up in the last raN. Oh~ it was terrible. Springfield was awful. \'tell, Decatur was and I was in Chanpaign Y«>rking with the university group there. We would go to different places. Dr. Ellis Y«>uld go with us and order food to eat. Do you know that when we got through eating~ that they Y«>Uld break the dishes right in our faces? Q: \\here? In Ounyaign? A: Yes. Yes, because of the university, we thought that was a better place to work. Oh, it was terrible. Then if I went with a white group, I was accepted. Do you see what I mean? But it was the teachers organziation and we had rented the whole dining roan, so therefore I was welcane. But the next day, I couldn't even go in and get a drink of water. They put different things in your drinks. By drinks, I rooan 1E!IDnade • • • Q: Yes, your beverage • A: Yes. Then we had a colored fellow there that was majoring in chemistry. He gave us little bottles to take a little of this beverage home and give it to him so he could test it. It wasn't anything that would hurt us, but it was just samething that would liilke you sick. Now, wasn't that awful? Q: \\ell, did you ever or did he ever find anything in it? A: There was samthing in it, but I have forgotten what it was. It's been so long. It didn't kill us, rut it Illlde us sick, upset our stanach. They'd do that to keep you fran caning back. I knaN we went to the drive-in there and they let you sit. One night I know the young man I was with, he finally went over and said, "NaN we're lmngry. Look, you serve us, you bring us sane food!" He brought it and brought it in paper plates. You know what the fellCM did? Took that tray back and said, "We don't eat off of paper plates. Yk are accustaned to using china plates."Oh, it was terrible. Q: Did they bring it back in plates? A: \'te walked on out. \\e just left it. They had all of this food we had ordered and put it on paper plates, and everybody around us had the regular dishes that they used. You know, they do use heavy dinnerware. They have to, though. Oh, it was terrible. Anyplace was terrible, Reverend 1\'k!Pherson. I went to school in Normal. \\e couldn't eat anyplace there, no place! \\e had to cook ourselves. Yk didn't have a cafeteria there. In Chaopaign they had one, and then it only served a noon rmal. Then when the Student Union, I was there when it opened .•. But that didn't reach the Negroes because they • . • I couldn't have afforded to eat there unless I had been working. You know, dinner was $2.50, well. • • who could pay that every day? So the colored students sti 11 weren't helped, do you see? Q: Now did you go into any other store in Springfield where they would not serve you? A: Yes, I went to a lot of them and sat down, and they just let you sit. Ybuldn't say anything, just let you sit. Then they started this pattern. They would be nice to you one time • • . Q: The first time. A: Yes, and if you went back, no. They v.uuld just make you wait and wait and wait. That's the way they handled that. Q: .1)) you have the name of sane of these? A: Well, that Thmpson place there between Q: That's a restaurant. A: Yes. It was between M>nroe and Adans. It was right in there on the alley. And it was a big cafeteria. They had nice food. I didn't know too ouch about it because I didn't get served, (chuckles) very many ti..riEs. <l1 yes, they did that. And the sane way in your car, when you --I took a bunch of kids over there. Patti had sane girls visiting and I took than over to the Steak and Shake, and do you know that girl--I think she did it deliberately, rut I can't say--she turned the Illllts all over on me and I had on a new coat. I told her, I said, "Now, listen. You are going to pay for this, because if you don't, you're going to be sorry." So I went in and talked to the IIIlll8ger and I was really angry. I could hardly control myself, I was so angry. He told me to take my coat to any cleaners that I wanted to and if it couldn't be cleaned successfully, that they would :PflY the dm:lage. \\ell, they did. They cleaned it, so I dido' t have to. Then I went back there several t i..riEs. And they just let you sit. You know how 1ittle kids are, they like ha:Iilurgers and cokes. They just let you sit. Then the children, they'd get mad. And they'd say, ''Why don't you wait on us?" talking to those girls and boys. Then I told them, I said, ".l))n't blame these waiters and waitresses because they have been given orders and they have to do what they have been told or lose their jobs." And that's the way it was. But it was pitiful, Reverend 1\t!Pherson. You should be so thankful that your children were never subjected to this type of treatment. Supposed to be all these churches in Springfield, and you'd expect to have a lot of good Olristians, here wouldn't you? Q: Well, it's not the churches. It's going to take sanething 100re than the churches. A: Oh, it really is. I'm just saying that it's the people that make the churches. Q: :Now, is there any other nxwie theatre that you • . . A: No, later on it let up a little bit because I know there were a couple of other friends of mine. \\e used to go to a nxwie. W!'d go in the afternoon and as I rEIIJelliler they didn't bother us. But there weren't Mae Hanm:ms many people there, do you see? It wasn't this same theatre, it was a different one. I used to go regularly because I wasn't doing anything. We would go each week, when there was a decent picture on and they didn't sea:n to bother us. But at the Orpheun and that place over next to the Bootery, they were still ••• as long as they stayed there, I think they still clung to that old belief. Mrs. Findley can tell you about this IIDVBDEmt of eating downtown because she had the same experience. You see. she was working and she was there every day. And I think she got sarne of the same treabnent that I did. Q: Back to this house n<M'. When the realtor refused to • • • A: They wouldn't give you any reason. Just we've decided not to sell, mybe they would infer that. They would act like they wouldn't see you. I know we had a house that we had SI.X>tted over here on Spring Street. And there was a colored contractor, Mr. Rinehart, here at that tirre. And Edgar had him to go over and look it over and see what he thought about it. W9 were going to have him to do sam repair work before we IIXWed in. No doing, but we got help and we had a lot of work done in this house. It was just like wilding a new house. But it's canfortable and we like it. W9 think that this is a pretty good location. So we're not interested in wilding a new house or buying a new house. \\e are interested in doing other things. So it's just whatever you want, isn't it? I suppose one of the reasons that we are not is because we put so nuch rroney in this house. It was in a very bad cond.ition when we bought it. So it' s just like a new one, because we have changed the walls and everything. The walls were pretty bad. \\e were sure we were going to find bed bugs and everything else. But we didn't, no bed rugs, no water bugs, or anything. But the lady had about seven or eight coats of paper on the walls. She was trying to sell it. And if it would get dirty, she would mess it up and have sane rrore put on. W9 had it all pulled off. I guess it could have been worse. I kn<M' n<M it does my heart good to ride around and see where the Negroes are living. But the pitiful part-now I don't know about Springfield --b.lt in Decatur, they are in sam real, real nice hanes, but you can SI.X>t where they live, Reverend ~Pherson. They do not take care of their property. Decatur is way ahead of Springfield because many of the nice streets over there are Colored. Yes, brick hams and they are all m:wed in. You wouldn't believe that sam of tha:n in the better neighborhoods. They do keep their property up. These middle neighborhoods, I guess you would call them. I think the reason that they don't do it is that. that after they make this big payment, they can't afford it. Q: Then sanetimes they have to have two and three jobs. A: Yes, they do. Q: You see, whereas for many whites living in that neighborhood, either the wife doesn't have to work as the husband gets a canfortable salary to take care of it. A: That's right because these particular neighborhoods that I'm talking about, in Decatur, they have rm.ids and always have. MaeHammns Q: And that wife is v.urking and that husband is 11Dst likely on two jobs. And she gets ham and she's tired. And he gets ham and he doesn't have thne to, so there are a lot of factors. There are same Who are striving to do better in the upkeep of than. So the lady fran whan you bought this house ... A: She was colored. She had inherited the house fran her brother. And he at one tine had owned these houses along here. She wanted to sell because she needed the 11Dney. And we paid her cash for the house and went on. \\e had it fixed up before we DDVed in downstairs. The other was done after we nxwed in because we were expecting our son then. See, we had been in Springfield a year then. \\e stayed at Mrs. Tarurn's a year and then we decided we v.uuld take this. \\e are not sorry, we like it. we have two bedroans upstairs and one down. When we had the house renovated, we kept the porch because my husband likes to sit out there. (chuckles) The closed-in porch. It kind of dates it, but he liked it. I said, "Well, if you like it, let's just leave it." Q: Well, that's nice. It really doesn't take anything away fran it. A: But this problem of getting a hane was certainly sanething. You see, you couldn't stay at a hotel or a IIDtel or anything around here. These Colored people made a lot of their extra IIDney keeping roamrs. Q: Even the representatives and senators. A: Yes, yes. Mrs. Taburn kept them and so did Mr. Singleton. we11 , a lot of than kept than. And they would have to get their neals with than because they didn't have any place to eat either. All of that has changed. They said the deep South--my daughter and her husband went on a Oiribbean trip last year and they were in Florida and Pat said she was flabbergasted, at the way they were received. She just couldn't believe it. Just as cordial, all they wanted was the IIDney. That's the way it should be, if you can afford to do it, then that's your business. we have traveled extensively, but we have stayed away fran the South because of the 1iving conditions. My husband says that it is so different. He taught school there for a While, and he says that he just can't quite concieve the idea of how decent they act, you kn<:m, down in the South now. But everyone says it's true. Q: Oh, yes. You know, I've spent seven and a half years in the South; six years in Nashville, and a year and a half in Atlanta. Oh, things have changed ruM so trenendously that you w:>uldn't believe it. In fact, you see one of the things now that you do --before my wife's IIDther died, we w:>uld go dCMll every year to North Oirolina. we stopped in Nashville, samtines we w:>uld go around and stop in Atlanta. Things have c~ed and I would advise anyone to, if they really want to go, travel down South and see l1llllY of the changes that have taken place. A: we're going to. We're going to go. \'then I 'm not working, we' re going to go and spend a lot of t irm in the winter in the South, because I think we would enjoy it. I have friends that are in different places but you don't want to inpose on friends. You want to be free to go to public places. Q: \\ell, 'What you do in such a case, Holiday Inn has 'What they call a central-X number. A: Telephone ahead. Q: Telephone ahead. And Holdiday Inn, Travel Lodge, \\estern, Ramada, a.ny one of these, you stay and they'll IIBke a reservation for you. A: They certainly will. And they will never turn you down. Wlen we stopped in \\ashington, D. C. during the \\brld' s Fair, this last one, and we called to try to make reservations ahead and they said, ''We are filled. \\\!will be filled for several weeks but we'll get you a place." And sure enough they did, a very nice IIDtel. But they never will turn you down. That's nice, I appreciate that. You knCM, Pat and John went to J8111iica. They just loved it. They said they are going to go back. They flew down but they rented a car. Pat said they could find the cutest places, you know hid in sane little nook and they just loved it. \\ell, they are still on their honeynDOOn, so to speak, although they have been IIBrried about five years. Q: As long as they can stay in that, that's good. (laughter) That's wonderful Because it is just good to travel. A: Yes, it is. Q: Now, did your husband encounter nuch discrimination on the job? A: Well, let's see. (pause) \\ell, in a way, I suppose that he did. I don' t know, I don' t ranamer him lOOking any big issue out of it. He got several pramtions in the office. MY lmsband, the fact that he had two college degrees made it easy for him because he was their equal in his own field. Q: And superior in many. A: Yes. He had fonned sane very strong contacts there, they are scattered all out. He hears fran then at Olristimsti.rm. He had several typists in his office and those girls write to him at Olristmastime. They write to both of us, but I don't know than. I've just ~ret than. You can just tell what a wonderful relationship that they had had. A very nice office to work in. Edgar said at first--see, he was the first Negro in that office and the only one unti1 they hired these two O>lored fell<Ms within the last few years--Fdgar said one thing that he renmi>ered so well was, this applicant had sent down--he was an architect--this beautiful printing, superior work in every way. They told him to cam down. They said, "The position is yours. We just want to Ireet you." And Edgar said they expected with this training, a white IIRil. He said they like to of died, (chuckles) when he showed up. Edgar said that they never heard one thing about it. Q: He never heard any IIDre about it? A: Nope. After they fowld he was a Negro, that was it. Edgar took Civil Service Exams. He always did well. He was at the top of the list. But do you know what they do, Reverend ~Pherson? Tiley find out what your salary was and offer you less IIDney. N<M, no fool is going to take less IIDney, are they? And that's the way they got rid of them, now I kn<M that is true. I'm sure, thinking it over now, I'm sure that there was prejudice because that's an exal11?le right there. It's a true exanple. Q: And of course, they didn't have these organizations to which you could appeal to like they do now, because they did have the FEPC rut it wasn't as strong then. A: And Edgar's superior didn't have the education that he had rut he was white. But they got to be real good friends and I guess that if he had been opposed to Edgar, he wouldn't have been praooted, you know. Now, that it's all over, I think IIDst of the tilm though, there are happy ~DB~Dries for him. They used to be so nice to Pat too, when she was little. Aixl when she was born they bought her gifts and they would care to see her. They still, the one's that are still around, we see them. That is the first thing they want to know, how she is. So they were friendly. Q: NcM, \\hen you cane to Springfield, was this your first time to Springfield? A: Oh, no. See, I was brought up in Decatur and we used to care back and forth. I'm speaking of when we got going out with coopany. They would have nice parties here and they would invite us. Yk would have parties over there and we would invite them, you know, the people in our group over there. I don' t kn<M, it seEmS as if I 've been caning here so long. See, I've lived here for about thirty years. Q: \\hen you first cmm here then, that neighborhood down there where Mrs. Tarurn is, that was a pretty good neighborhood? A: Yes, there was just the two colored families, the ClEm3 on the corner and Mrs. Tarurn. Q: The ClEmB? A: Yes, they live right north of Mrs. Tarurn. That was all that was there. I don't think the neighborhood is bad, now, do you? Q: \\ell, not fran what I know about it. A: I don't think so. I think it's a pretty nice neighborhood. Mrs. Taburn was a lovely person. Q: Did they do InlCh interaction, these Negro families with the whites in the neighborhood? A: I don't remEmber having any contact with them at all. There was a vacant lot between Mrs. Tarurn and the next house. And she worked for the state and she was gone all day. Her contacts were with Negroes although she was very friendly with sare of the people that worked in her office because they would cane by and she \\UUld take sanething that she cooked and vice-versa. So I would say that they were. Now they were very cordial in theis neighborhood because we had sane of the neighbors to cam and call on us when we IOOVed in. But Negroes had always lived in this bouse, so that made a difference too. Q: N(JN, away fran the discrimination and the housing by the realtors and so forth, how would you assess Springfield at that time when you cane here? Was it a place that seemed to be where Black people could succeed? A: well, I don't kn(JN. If I had picked it, I don't think I would have chosen Springfield, I don't believe that I would have if I had had a choice of going saneplace else. But that time, jobs were so hard to get. If you got one, you were very fortWlB.te. Colored people just couldn't walk off fran their jobs because there was no replacEment--for them, I rrean. Q: And of course, your husband got this job here. A: Well, he got that through Civil Service. First he was appointed politically, and then as soon as he got over here, he got Civil Service status so that he wouldn't be bothered with whatever they wanted to do. If you didn't go along with them, they'd get rid of you. Q: Yes, as soon as the aclninistration changed. A: Yes, yes. He didn't have that to bother with. They \\Uuld make you cam home and work in politics if they had given you a political job. They always give one or two political jobs, so they could always talk about that one person. Q: Well, I guess since you were teaching and your housework, you didn't involve yourself too nuch in politics. A: My :tusband? Q: You. A: Oh, no. No, I didn't. I don't believe that's mixed nuch in the schools. I don't know of anyone. Mr. &ni th is the first person that I've ever seen so wrapped up (chuckles) or heard of, isn't he? How about you, have you? I don't know of anyone else, do you? Q: I keep thinking that things are changing IlON because Mr. Lover at Lanphier is a coach and teacher. And he has always been sam kind of a cannittee man, and he and Mr. Snith run against each other. But I htink if this is where he wants to go, he ought to. I hope he goes so that • • A: Mr. Snith is a very nice person. I don't suppose there is any--of course, he is a very poor man. He thinks he's upper middle class now. But he said he hadn't quite made it. (laughter) But he grew up out in that neighborhood, and the people knew him. <he thing that I like about him is he doesn't look down his nose on his acquaintances and friends. He's very friendly with them, and I think he knows that he's been lucky. But he was white, Reverend McPherson, so that made a difference too, didn't it? Q: Very 011ch so. Very 011ch so. A: I really think he tries to be friendly and treat people alike. I think he's about as fair as they came. I really do. But you know, the thing of it is now, all of thEm go out of their way to bring a Black person in it, don't they, if they possibly can? And it used to be that they did everything that they could to keep us out of the picture. But if you're not in it now, the picture is just incmplete. Q: That's right. And sanetimes you wonder about it. A: You do. You just feel they have been pushed there, even advertisarents, everything has got to have • • • Q: Well, it's this Affinnative Action Progran that's going all over now where they cannot deny a person the right of enployrrent and all of these things. A: That's the way it should be, that's the way it should be. Q: If we really hold onto the truths of the American systEIIl that all mm are created equal, and we say that they have inalienable rights, then we shouldn't have to have all this legislation to give people their right if they do have these rights. A: That's the truth. It's yours, so why would they have to legislate so IIBIIY laws? No, I think that's an excuse. Q: JlJ.ring these early days in Springfield, did you have a grocery store in your neighborhood? A: Yes. Mrs. Tabum had known Edgar ever since he was a little boy. They belonged to the sane conference. She was quite a church worker and so was my husband' s parents. So they had known each other for years, that's why we happened to land over there. She would tell us about certain things and certain people and helped us. She recam:ended an attorney when we got ready to buy the house. Mr. Eckstein, he's dead now, but he was a very fine person. We could always depend on her reccmnendation. End of Side Two, Tape One Q: You said you would always take her recam:endation. A: Yes, because you llllke mistakes when you don't. Since my husband knew her and she was well-established in the camunity. And she was very nice about that • • • Q: So, you said that there was this Piggly-Wiggly store that you . • • A: Now, she didn't go to the Piggly-Wiggly. She went to Sharf's Market right here. You kn<M, College Street runs right into that market? It Mae Hanm:>ns was there and it was a very prosperous place. They had very good food. They were nuch higher than Pig' s. There were sare things we would buy there and sane things we v«>uld ruy up there. We especially liked their rreats. Other things that were cheaper, naturally we went to Pig's. But if you didn't have the nxmey, you couldn't do it. They ran accounts, you see, for people. Q: Ch, Sharf's did. Was it a full-line grocery store? A: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Very well-stocked. They had a large following, too, of the better class of people. M>st of the poor people went to Pig's because it was cheaper unless they couldn1 t manage the ODney, do you see? Q: Vbere was the Piggly-Wiggly located? A: It was located on the corner of Spring and Allen, right where the U-Rental place is now. It wasn't as big as that. They have enlarged that place but it was a pretty gooo size store. This was another nice neighborhood because you could walk in town in case of a strike or sanething. And when we cmm here the bus service was very good. We had the State bus that still rwts here. Then the Allen Street rus that used to cane along Allen. We were in between the two, and you could get a bus about every fifteen mirrutes. Then you could buy a ticket for the week. $1.25, a pass they called it. And I would use the pass in the evening or whenever I was going saneplace. And then Pat used to use it when she got so that she was old enough to go. That really saved rmney. Rather than paying them for each trip. But those are the days that are gone. You didn't have to fool with parking your car. 1\\Y husband would get right off in front of where he worked, which DBde it nice. Q: Now, what about church activities? Have you been irwolved? A: Well, we aren't active JKMT, but we were active when we both taught Sunday School. ~husband was very active in politics and everything in Decatur. < when we came over here, we were having our children and he couldn't be as active as he had been, because he would have to care hare and help me, don't you see? But, here in Springfield, we were very active in our church. We went to Sunday School. We had a club that was made up of yoWJg DBrried people here at time that we worked in. And we went to church regularly. I guess those two things were the DBin things that we worked in this club and then Sunday School. And that was about all you could do and work. Q: Now what church was this that you went to? A: St. Paul. We still belo.rlt there. We attend service. We always have unless there was sickness, you know, regularly. We paid our dues, and we take care of our obligations in church, let's put it that way. St. Paul has IOOVed. It was over on Mason Street when we mme here and then the building was condEIJiled. And then we ruilt just the basemmt, thinking later we would add the auditorium and other roans. But the church began to seep water in the basemmt. And we had to do sarething else about it. So we had p~t several thousand dollars into that basanent. So we bought this church, it was available. And we've spent an awful lot of rooney. Have you been there recently? Q: No, not since they renovated it. A: You should see it. It's beautiful. Q: Yes, I heard about it. I'll be stopping by there sanetime. A: Your c:trurch is very nice, too. Q: When you first came to Springfield, did you encounter discrimination in the hospitals? A: Yes! Yes! They had a ward out to St. Jolm' s. I went out there as an energency patient one night. Arxl the doctor kept rm. Arxl they put rm behind this wall, and nothing rut Colored people back there. Ch, I didn't like it. lVtY husband didn't like it either. They pretended like they didn't ---we have always had a private roan. I was just very mi Idly putting it. They said they didn't have any, and when I was walking around, I saw sane private roans. And then I was in OB a couple of tines. We IIBde arrangenents ahead of time. My hu.sbarxl had one saved, so we got a private roan then. But they IIBde a difference, they really made a difference. Dr. English's wife had the sarre roan I had. Everybody that I went to see in OB had that same private roan. They saved it for Negroes. Now, I'm sure they v.uuld rent it to whites too, in between, rut that's the roan they gave you. And I went there two years right in succession, in the OB depar'bmnt, and I was in that sarre roan. (clruckles) They claimed that we were too aootional. We made too nuch noise. Well, sam of us do rmke a lot of noise rut then that is not true of all Negroes. Finally this wall was torn down. Then they gave rm a pint of blood out there that I wasn't supposed to have. I had had major surgery and the reason we happened to know it, my doctor walked in and he grabbed the needle. I had gotten all the blood so he might as well of left it there. He says, "I didn't order this transfusion for you." Edgar came right behind and picked the paper up on the tray. It had another wamn's name up on the other floor. And they had given me the blood. I had a very violent reaction. The only thing I think that saved my life, it was the type of blood that I could use. But I didn't need it, do you see? It was too nuch. I had had one transfusion right after surgery, rut that was the practice then. It would pep you up. But, yes, that was terrible! My baby was out there with pneuoonia and you weren't supposed to go see them. But I went. I always had an excuse to take her samthing. They didn't cam her hair. So I thought maybe they didn't cam her because-all you had to do was brush it--because they didn't want to use the same cam and bursh that they use on other children. But I didn't want them to use it, so I took hers out there. They still didn't comb it. And I waited for the sister, the head sister. They said that she wouldn't be available for several hours or something like that. I said, "I'm not in a lrurry. I'm going to wait." I was so angry I was just trE!lbling. Because that was the third or fourth day they hadn't done anything to Pat's hair. But they had everybody elses, do you see? And I'd take things out there for her to play with, and they'd give thE!Il to the other kids. The doctor told me not to go, bJt as I say I went every single day. And I told the sister when she cllll! out, I said, "You bring IIE my baby. I will canb her hair. She's never gone like this." And she brought ne Il\Y baby, because I was goi~ to go get her, Reverend M!Pherson. (clUJ.ckles) Yes, I was. :Now would you like it if everybody's child had been taken care of but yours, and I'm payirg the sanE rmney that they are? Well, it was embed the next day. And I told Dr. Martini. He was the Imdical man then, that I would never take her back to St. John's anyJrore. \\ell, I did have to take her back rut it changed. But I still think that there was a little prejudice in both hospitals. W'lat do you think about it? Q: Did the same thing happen at M:morial or have you heard? This sort of discrimination? A: Ch, they didn't have any wall. '!hat was a very snall hospital then. Q: What, Memorial? A: Yes, Dl.lch snaller than it is now. It was very well knONil about the stand that St. John's would take. The only people that would defend St. John's were Catholic. Ole lady said, "If you pay your bill, you can have a private roan." I was in the audience and I said--1 jmped. up--"I beg to differ. I was a patient there. I paid Il\Y bill in full. If you wiSh to investigate, you have my permission." And they do discriminate against you. And they did. I told the truth. Q: \\hat group was this? A: Yell, Mrs. • . • what was their names? They were Calthol ic people, Mr. Lavene. They used to live over here on Willimn. You have heard of thEIIl. It was Mrs. Lavene. They were staunch Catholics so they were protectillf the Catholics. But oh, I knew better than that. But as I say, I still think that, and I knON, Reverend, that they still make a little difference. I think all white people make a little difference. I don't think they treat us equally in every way. I don't think they ever will. Q: Well, roost or sane of them try. A: They try bJt they fail. Q: Yes, roost of them don't. A: They're hypocrites. Q: M>st of them don't. A: I've got three real good friends, white teachers here. Little things that slip out, you kn.ON what I IIEan, that work out when you are with thEm a lot. Q: Yes, well, if it's in it's going to came out sometime. A: Mlybe the next generation will get rid of this prejudice. I don't knCM. Q: I don't know. It's going to be something. So, since your children were in this area here, where would they do their playing? A: \\ell, Pat played in her own yard because we didn't want than to get struck by a car, so we started out just playing in our own yard. She didn't leave the yard unless I gave her pennission. We had the driveway here, she could ride her bike and her trike and we had a playhouse out in the back she could keep her things in. But we never did just allON her to run up and down the neighborhood. Q: Did she go to \\Ushington Park sanetimes since it is so close? A: Well, she didn't go by herself because it's still quite a ways fran us. You knON, they had quite a ruckus over there. They had this little wading pond over there, a pool. Dr. English's little girl was going in and they said, ''No, you can't go in. She doesn't have a bathing suit." So Dr. English told us about it. That was our doctor at the time. And he had his wife rush down and buy her a swimning suit • And then they still wouldn't let her go in. A little baby now, Tona was only about two at the time. She was as clean as they could possibly be, but they didn't want her in that pool and they didn't let her go in that pool. Now, I've worked on this cannittee with Mrs. Ebert Walker. She was doing part-time work for theY, the YW at that titm. We were working on this llllking the pool available to Negroes. I rBDEITber this one white lady that was on this canni t tee had came in fran another town. I think she was fran northern Illinois. She said if the people would only know, they are not going to be flooded with Negro children when you open the pool. Because she said that' s one thing that they haven't grown up with. In Rockford is where she was fran. And she said, "In Rockford we had only one or two Negroes cane in and use the pool." They thought that they were just going to take over, the sane way here. I tried. I took Pat to the Y when she was a little girl and there were two or three other O>lored children there. And yet we had v.urked so hard to get this Y open, do you see? The children said, "Well, no, we don't want to go in that water, because our hair will be all rmssed up." And they wouldn't go in. NON I think O>lored children are participating in the swinming nuch 100re than they used to. I see quite a few of the boys going in the YM and caning out. Sane of the girls tell rm that they swim at school. Q: Now are you a lllEIIber of the Y nCNI! A: No, I don't even belong to theY now. I'm going to join it though because I think it's good. I just couldn't keep on belonging to a lot of things that I couldn't go to, Reverend. I didn't see any point in just putting my mmey in if I couldn't do anything. Now when I don't work, I'm going to do sane volunteer v«>rk. Wlen I 1m hane. Q: Now have you run up with nuch discrimination at theY itself? Mae Hanm>ns A: No, I haven't because I didn't swim. The reason I didn't swim is that I couldn't take any lessons when I was growing up. Although my mother \\Urked at the Y, she was advisor to two Colored clubs there. They told mother and Mrs. Dansby that their children could go rut not the others. MOther says, "If it isn't available to other Negro girls, ~ girls don't go! I don't knCMT what Ml"s. Dansby is going to do but my girls will not be going." So they wouldn't •.• I don't appreciate that type thing. Q: That's correct. A: So MOther didn't allow us, and Mrs. Dansby didn't let hers go either. So we didn't go. Q: Mrs. who? A: Dansby. Have you heard of this Mr. <ll.eeks here. I don' t know whether he's still in town or not. He was working in the ElOPloyrrent office in sane capacity here. Maybe he' s not here, I don' t knON, I ' 11 have to ask. Anyway he'd camute back and forth to Decatur and he mrried Mrs. Dansby's daughter, that's why. Q: Yes, I have heard of him. A: Now, they said that a long time ago that these funeral directors would not accept Colored bodies, rut I think that was proven to be untrue. Because one lady told rre about a friend of hers, this has been a couple of years ago, well mybe three or four, I don't kno.v. They had a friend that had died and they weren't speaking to either one of the colored [IJ)rticians, (laughter) so they had to have one because they were going to bury her out here. They called one of the white ones and told the funeral director that they were Negro, and would they accept the body. He says, "Why yes, we don't object. It's you Negroes that object." That was a roundabout, wasn't it? And this was the truth. They did. They accepted the body. I know when the Clem gir 1 passed • • • you rEmel'lber them? She was over here at Bisch's because I went in to see her. I think we have segregated ourselves because I don't know what, we feel better seemingly if we • • • don't you think so? Samthing is wrong. They do. Q: I think so. But it's interesting to note that Decatur does not have a Negro mortician. A: You know why we don't? Q: No. A: Marann, who was the leading mortician there for years and years, he's right on the corner of water and El Dorado streets, that brick wilding. The Colored went to him an asked him, "\\buld you refuse to take Colored bodies, to help than?" He says, "No sir, my father told rre that I'd bury them free before I would do it." And he almost did that for sane, and he did for one or two I know of. He says never to turn down a Negro or anyone else, because you can make it up on a rich person. And they said that Marann' s never buried anybody in Potter's Field. Now there was a Q:>lored fellow that play the pipe organ, and worked there for years. He passed. And he said that if they didn't have a flower there that --the corpse--an hour before the fWleral or two, there was a big florist down on the corner. They 'IM>Uld send out and get a spray. Now wasn't that lovely? And IUt on the casket. Now they didn't turn any away. They wanted the Negro trade. They still do. Although the Negroes are using other directors there. They said they dropped one because overnight--! heard rey father talk about it--they had found out [the Negroes] that he belonged to the KKK group. And it got around anong the <l:>lored people there in Decatur, and overnight they clanped him down. They wouldn't go near this 100rtician. They're JUSt getting so they have gone back. But the old heads have passed and it's a younger generation. 'That's interesting, isn't it? And that's the truth. And nnrticians ••• now, Mr. Oteeks tried to make a go of it. But the <l:>lored go to Marann' s. They've gone to him all their lives, so they still go. Then there was another 100ri tican that cane in <l:>lored, and he couldn't stay because Marann's wouldn't help them. But Marann's, he's very nice to the Q:>lored people and his philosphy is, "If I lose here, IIllke up on the rich." That's the way it should be. Q: In these years that you've been teaching, do you have a set pattern for your teaching or do you make it out for a week or a 100nth? A: \\ell, we have to make up lesson plans and we're supposed to have than on our desk at least three days in advance. That's in case you becare ill, because you do becane ill sanetimes when you don't plan to be ill. Many teachers have gone over in the 100rning and got their lesson plans together so that a substitute could take over. Now, Mr. S:nith was very finn about that. You have to be in a big school like lles, because especially in the winter, we got maybe seven or eight or nine substitutes in the wilding. You know when the flu is prevalent there, during that real bad weather. ()}, yes, a lot of sickness. \\ell, I got sick at school, too, I rman that does happen. But luckl ily I have had rey plans, and if I hadn't, I don't knCNI what would have happened to you. Because Mr. Smith couldn't go around and look and see what you were doing, it was inpossible. I think that's one thing that he perhaps 'IM>Uldn' t tolerate, would be not attending to that part of your job. If you have taught for a long time you have --I have a general picture I' 11 say of what I am going to do, and that overall picture gives rm about everything I'm going to cover. But I have different ways of doing it. I am a person that gets inspired on the job, right on the spot. I think that's God answering prayers. With the retarded children--when I used to work with them--I would have problems. I know one day I had a lot of bigshots there fran the State. They had cane over fran the university and they were observing rm, and I wondered how I was going to do this. I wasn't quite satisfied with what I csne up with. But I got a spark right on the spot. I don't know, inspiration. But I think God helps people who help themselves, and if you aren't generally prepared, then I don't think this other would be forthcaning. Just like musekeeping, if you don' t have sane general plan, you don' t do ID.lch --and the sam way with teaching. It 'IM>Uld be very ineffective. lli you go along with that? Q: Definitely, definitely. A: So I think you have to have plans. Another pet peeve in our building, and I'm sure that your wife would bear it out--now Nancy is very professional herself. She's like m. She's always rusy. And if you're gossiping and running around all over the wilding, sanething is lacking. And we have it. There's one girl that I protected up there. And I've just about gotten to the place where I've decided that I'm not going to do any IJJ)re of it. She sits down and gossips, and these kids cane up like mad. Why they' 11 just knock you over if you don't get out of their way. My kids are going to be decent because I'm out there. And her class would too if she were there. But she isn't. 1.\bst of the tiim that Mr. &nith makes his little talks, why they act like they don't hear him. I know many tiiiJ3s, ten or fifteen miiRltes after the bell has rung--now you know that's not right --the children are being cheated. She' 11 walk into your roan and start talking to you when you are teaching. Q: Isn't she supposed to be in her roan teaching? A: Yes, she's supposed to be doing what I'm doing--teaching. See now, when Colored people do these things, even now we've cane a long way, but it still is hard on us. \\e would feel it quicker than anyone else. Other people, they're white too ••• This girl is fran the deep South-you would think she would be different, wouldn't you? She isn't. I've never seen anybody any bolder than she is. (laughter) Q: Now the superintendent of schools, does he make a difference in teachers' attitudes? Naw, I'm not talking about the principal. A: I don't think he knows IJJ)St people, see. Q: I'm not even talking about this present one. A: No, I know. Just generally. Q: For instance, not this last one rut the past one. Now, he seemed to have been a little IJJ)re strict. A: They say he went around--I think you need to--they said he checked lesson plans. I said, "Well, he never checked mine." Because I had a certain way that I would put mine in my desk, and I didn't lock it, and he didn't touch mine. I don't' believe he did. I think Patton had too nuch to do to go around and look in people's ••• 'Ihe first place your plan is DDre or less for you and it would be maningless to another person. But all of us would write very good plans when we knew we were going to be off. Anybody would. But Mr. Smith contended they should be, so that other people could follow. And that's true. You're cheating the children. And if you're a substitute, you haven't got tiiiJ3 to run all over the building because you've got to get familiar with what you're supposed to be doing. I was gone for al(JJ)st three weeks this year and I had a IOOst excellent substitute. She was fran Riverton, rut she was really good. She left Im proof of everything she had done, and really she was marvelous. But you don't find lllUly like that. But see the catch to her is she wants to get her a regular job. She just OXJVed in, you see. Now how she would be after getting a regular position, I don't know. But she was tops. Q: Now do you think this answering service has helped for a teacher going to be away? A: \\ell , it's helped rm. I'm not absent very nuch and I 1 ike the way that you can contact then individually. It used to be that Mr. Smith would have to call these substitutes. Q: You as a teacher v.uuld have to call Mr. Smith. A: Yes, yes. And then he'd say that sam of than would wait until 7:30 or later and call him and he couldn't get a sub, and it was just unfair. That was all. But now I have to release~ subsitute and if I don't, I liD the one who loses the pay, do you see. Otherwise they would be very loose about that. But when I know I'm caning back, I'm supposed to call directly to the answering service. \\hen I was having so mch sadness in my fllllily, I could call directly fran Decatur and talk to the answering service. I like that. Now, Mr. Smith, IIBl1Y tinEs he wasn't even ham. I couldn't get in touch with him, you see, rut at the answering service, there is always samone there. I liked that. Now, I don 1 t know how other people feel about it, rut they've been very nice to rm there. Q: Have you had any student teachers over there since you've been at Iles? A: Yes, I had--no, she wasn't really a student teacher--but I've had saiE girls in high school. It was a club that was trying to sell the idea of becaning a teacher, do you see? Oh, they had a name. I can't think of what it is. I've had two or three of then. But I could have had a practice teacher, but I didn't want one. As I said, I had all the responsibility that I thought I could handle, you know, because my 1ittle girl was 1ittle and I didn't want one. Mr. Hornbrook used to try to get l1E to take practice teachers. But I worked with these two girls and it took a lot of tirm even there. They would cam each day and w:>rk in the roan for • • • I don't know how long they would stay because Janet would stay longer, she w:>uld get interested. And she didn't have to go back to school--practically the afternoon and it was w:>rk even with her. When I had thEm in Cha:q>aign, I really worked. I really worked. Because I had to check their plans, and then regularly one of the professors would cane fran the University and they would check the plans and see if the girls and they insisted they follow thEm. The rule was there, if you didn't hand in lesson plans, and I would have to have thEm by Tlrursday or Friday for the next week so I could go over then and then we discussed thEm. And that meant a conference every day. So it really takes a lot of til.lE if you do a good job. The girls that I had as practice teachers over there, they all landed good jobs. I had sam of the people that they were serving under to write and tell ne what good teachers that they were and how well prepared they were so that made me feel good. But it's work. Now this student teaching. I don't like the system that Macatb bas. western [western Illinois University at Macatb, Illinois] has that they send into Springfield. They had a young lady that cane here and it really was not good. The only thing I thought about that was I couldn't figure out--now, I'm just being honest about it, maybe I'm wrong--but I couldn't figure out, Reverend 1\k:Pherson, how we would lmow what kind of work the girl did if we weren't ••• N<M, I taught two years in \\bite County, a very snail town. But at that time no one would take you unless you had had experience. ~IOOther made Ire go. She said that I needed the experience and I wa.sn' t going to get it unless I took same. It was kind of providential that I got that. A clasfllllte of mine that was teaching down there, heard about this vacancy and said that it isn't ID.lCh but at least you' 11 get experience. I took it am sure enough I got in Ou11pa.ign. And I wouldn't have made it if I hadn't had the experience. Q: Now what county was this? A: \\hi te O>unty. Q: \\here is \\bite County located? What city? A: Down in the southeastern section of Illinois. It's the little town • Q: Right below Mattoon? A: No, it's farther south. Let's see, have you ever heard of Eff inghan? Q: Oh, yes. I go up through Effinghan all the titre. A: It's not very far fran Effingtum. I was there for two years. But that was just a strictly little country town. But I don't lmow, I thought I was going to hate it. But I had the best time. I think I was the only ymmg person there and I didn't have to buy any food. They invited Ire to eat, "That child will not cook for herself," they'd say. So I didn't pay any DDney for food. I think that the lady had a nice hare and I think she charged me $2.50 for roan rent. Q: N<M, that's $2.50 per week? A: Yes. That wasn't anything. She'd do the laW1dry. She'd do my things, too. I've been lucky about having nice places to stay. But I tmught I would die when I first went dCMil there, but I got so I liked it. Q: About how many students did you have? A: Oh, I just had a few, just a few. All the Negroes had m:wed away except a few families. They would not let these colored children go to the white school. They'd pay a Negro teacher rather than do that, you see. It was like having a private school, it was just a family affair. I did get the experience and I organized a PI'A there. They never heard of one. Wlites didn't even have one. The parents supported me. Q: About how many teachers Yt~ere there? A: I was the only one. Just one teacher. Now, they have done what they were supposed to have done. They have abolished that thing. Q: Yes, mrged the school. So you taught there for two years? A: Yes. I had to to get the experience. Q: NCJN what kind of salary did they pay? A: They paid pretty good. See, they always had a good teacher there, because they would say, "Your teacher is just as well-trained as our teacher." They wouldn't take just anybody and everybody. They said they always had good Negro teachers there. But just the one is all they ever had because there was only a few fanil ies there. This was first, then I went to <luopaign and then I cmre here. Q: How did you get to Qumpaign? After you taught down in \\hi te County? A: Well, I heard about this opening. Q: Ch, you heard about the opening. A: I was teaching a kindergarten there for the city in Decatur, and they had a special course at the National College of Education. That used to be considered part of Northwestern. [Northwestern University, E.\ranston, Illinois]. I had gone to school that Sl.IIIDer, and while I was there, I heard about this vacancy. Now I called my mother and told her about it, and she said, "Well, instead of writing a letter of application, why don't you ju:rp on the train and go down and talk to the superintendent?" Well, I did. And when I got there, there were about three hwldred people ahead of DE. But he said the fact that I would take the time, a young person, to cam down to the the town and talk to him, changed everything as far as the other applicants Yt~ere concerned. Then when he nailed than down to twenty-five--he said I was a part of it--and then ten, and finally three. I was one of the three and I got the job. Q: And they had that IJBilY applicants for just that? A: Ch yes, that's because things Yt~ere so tight then. You couldn't get a school, and people that had a school hung onto it. That was the first Negro teacher is why I got in on that in Chmpaign. Yes, the first Negro teacher. Q: You Yt~ere making a record for the first one in Ol.Bq?S.ign and the first one in Springfield. A: That's 'Mly I happened--they had pushed the cause ••• The colored had pushed them so. They wanted a Negro teacher out in this predaninantly Negro section. That' s what I was talking about this Dr. Ellis that I was talking about that was such a civic worker there. Although he was Wllllrried, he was very n11ch interested in the progress of the Negro children. He wanted than to have the best. That's what happened. Then two other MaeHamoons girls were hired in another year. The janitor got into acme troublet he'd molested one of the children theret and he was sent to the pen. Then the colored people, they almost had a riot there because of this child that he had mistreated. They said that they wanted all Negro teachers in the school. See, it was wh.i te, and I was the only colored in Qumpaign. Q: was that a white janitor? A: Yes, yes. It was a white janitor. Q: \\hat was it that d<Mn in the \\hite County Where it was just a little town so that . • • A: Just a little dinky town. They should have let the few colored children go to that but rather than mix thEm, they would pay. Q: Now, when you got into Oumpaign, What was the exprerience 1ike for . . . A: \\911 , I had been brought up in Decatur remen'ber, and I hadn' t been accustcmed to little towns. Decatur was a nice town and wonderful schools there and I had always gone to school there so I suppose ... Q: Now, I'm talking about your going into this class situation with about how many students was your first class? A: It was a regular school only with just colored children in the school. Q: In Cllanpaign. A: Yes. Q: How many students do you recall you had the ••• A: Well, I had the first year about forty kids. Because the load was nuch heavier than it is now; I had the first grade. That's a trEmendous load. I rEIDEIIiler my superintendent caning to visit and he said, "You have the attention of every child and you held it except one When I was teaching." I never will forget that. That's the situation there. Everybody had big roans. They just didn't have snail roans like we have now. All of that was true of all the schools. They had big classes. Now these kids think that if they have twenty-one, it's big, you know. Q: (chuckles) Well, of course ••• A: Ibwn in Hazelw:>od, close to St. Louis, did you hear about those teachers striki~ They want more money, shorter hours, less students, and they want their lunch free. I said, "Of all things, now, that's going too far." (laughter) Now that's going too far. Whoever heard of the school board buying lunch? (laughter) For all the teachers? They don't want rmch, do they? You know you used to never hear of teachers striking, that was very WJprofessional. But they do now. Q: They do n<Ml. A: 'lbat's the only way you can get attention. Q: \\hat was it last year or two years ago, Decatur had this long • . • A: 'lbat was a drawn out affair over there, oh yes. Q: I guess teachers like everybody else, I rman have to go through a whole lot. A: Decatur had one Negro principal, and she was formerly a Springfield girl. You rEIIlBIDer Reverend Davis, that old generation? No, I guess maybe he had gone to Decatur, I believe, when you came here. He was a very old man. Well, it's his daughter. She was the first colored principal over there in Decatur. They did sanething that was very nice there, they put her in one of the better schools, better neighborhoods. Tiley were experimenting and it worked out beautifully. She got fine cooperation. I don't suppose those children had ever gone to school with Negroes either. But the neighborhoods had changed. So rnmy colored people had m:wed in and at one tirm that school was predaninately white, rut Negroes had m:wed into the neighborhood. Q: Now, did you have pretty good cooperation with your teachers that first t irm there in Charrpaign? A: Yes, oh, very much so. The principal, I renanber her so well. There are two of than that stand out. Yes, they were very nice to work with, very nice. They didn't mind at all. Q: You taught there fran 1934 on? End of Side One, Tape Two Q: You said nc:M, you rEIIlBii>ered it was right at the ending of the depression years that you began in Charpaign then? A: Yes, about then. J.l.bst people were on WPA, and people were living very poorly because they didn't have work. I think I started out at about a hundred dollars and the WPA was only paying fifty-five or sanething like that. So you see what a big difference. And those people had children to feed and to clothe, and yet that's what they were getting. You know, they had than out working on different projects and what not. But then the war cane along. \\hen WJrld \\ar II developed, of course, that autanatically opened up jobs and the positions for the people and they began to live again. That's what was happening when I left Chan:paign. They were just beginning to be real prosperous again. They had gone through this awful depression. The Depression broke just as I was caning out of school. We didn't feel it in our family because if you had a paycheck, that's all Negroes have ever had, so to speak. ~ father was enployed at Staley's. He mde good IIDiley, so we didn't feel it. I was working and my brother was working, so the Depression really didn't affect • • • Ma.eHamoons Q: You, per se. A: But then, that's not true of many people. Q: That's right. To have any nnney, there are people who had nnney rut couldn't get things to ruy. A: That's right, that's right. People were killing themselves. They just couldn't take the situation. Q: Now what work did you say your father ••. A: My father was Employed at Staley's. He was a weight rmster out there. Q: I see. Now did you have brothers and sisters? A: Yes, I had twin sisters, one that lives in Decatur and one that lives in Cll.icago. l\1Y brother died about twenty years ago. Q: Three of you in the family? A: Yes, three of us. I lost my nnther and father. Q: \\hat work did your brother do? A: ~brother had an orchestra and he worked as a rmchanic in a garage. He wasn't professional. Q: That's a good trade. See what we are looking for naN, if we could find sambody, sam good rmchanic, we could even try to set thEm up in business. Because we just can't find a good rmchanic. A: No, I spent so IWCh ID)ney on my car. They don' t know what they're doing. Q: No, no. \\hat did your sisters do? A: My sister in Decatur is just a housewife, she's never worked. The one in Olicago is a nurse. Q: \\here does she work? \\bat hospital? A: She's working in a Jewish hospital there. She's WJrking with (pause) psychiatric nurse. Q: well, is your sister living in, of course, a home? A: She has her own ham. Her husband has a very nice job at Staley's and she's never worked. She wasn't interested in being I think she is doing just what she likes to do, keep house. Q: How many children does she have? Mael:lanm>ns A: She has one son and a 11 t t1 e grandbaby that she worships. lhey 1ive in California. Q: If that's what she wants to do, that's fine. Wlat are sane of your hobbies when you are not thinking about teaching? A: Yell, traveling is going to head the list. We're going to do just whatever we want to, whenever we want to do it. That's going to be really ••. Q: The order of the day. A: Yes, it's going to be sanething that we are really looking fmward to. Q: Are your planning on going abroad? A: Yes, oh, definitely. We are going to the Holy Land. \\e are going to do Europe. ve hope to even get to Japan. we are going to go visit the Caribbean countries, too. Pat's going to go back and we perhaps will go together. I hope so. Q: It's too bad that you didn't go with Reverend Schoell 's trip. A: Have they gone? Q: No, they are going in June. A: Sanebody said that they were going to Africa now. Did they change? Q: No, they are going to J8IDlica. A: That's what we thought. \\ell, we can't go this June. I got to get settled and decide exactly what I'm goir~ to do. But, I have never wanted to stop work. I 'm beginning to want to now. Q: Well 1111ybe after you stop a while, you 1111y travel awhile • • • A: No, I think when I leave, that will be it. And I don't want to subsitute. Q: Cll, you don't want to substitute? A: No, I'm not going to substitute. I would never want to do that because you have so many different situations, and you're put in situations for which you haven't been trained. lhey call you and they just want saneone to go. I wouldn't like that. I was trained in upper grade work and in high school and I didn't like it. I 1111jored in History. I didn't like it because I just couldn't cope with that age level. I 1 ike the littie children. So I went back and took lower grade work and I loved it. But I couldn't take the other. And now the way these high school kids act, oh no, I wouldn't be interested at all. I have a friend that teaches and her son has been doing substitute work. He was at Washington School, and the kids talked to Tan. So he had been brought up very properly, and they talked to him so, they abused him. Then she said that Tan said the assistant principal canE in and told thEm that no one could hit them or do anything. I said you didn't have to spell all this out to the kids because they knCM that anyway. Then they really perfo:rm. But he just refused to cane back. Now that's bad. No respect. I've heard so IIIll1Y nice things about him. He's a 011.rvelous teacher, a young fellow right out of school. He really has a lot to offer but he said that if he didn't have anything to eat, he wouldn't go back to Washington School. (laughter) Q: well, the situation is sort of settling down same, but it's •••• A: I)) you think that Mr. Washington is able to handle it or what? What is the trouble? Q: I tell you, he has done a tranendous job since he took over. A: That's what I thought. NON everybody's not going to appreciate you, and sanebody was just saying yesterday that they thought Dllybe he was partially to blame. I said, well, I don't know anything about the situation. I don't work there. I don't have any children. Q: The ham is to be blamed. Because the teachers have a kind of situation now where they can't touch the children. A: See, that bears out what this young IIBll. said. Q: They can't touch the children. Children will cane to school and if they want to listen they listen, and if they don't want to ••• it's just a difficult situation. A: ~11, you know, that would be all right if it didn't interfere with the other children. Q: That's correct. But as soon as sanebody starts to act up ••• A: They laugh and give thEm support. Q: Yes, give support and it distracts everybody, and before you know it, once it gets going, it's like a snow ball rolling down a mountain side. The mre it goes down, the faster it goes, the bigger it gets, and this is the smm way children act when they are in a situation like that. A: That's true. \\hen they know you can't do anything, your hands are really tied. I can't teach in a situation like that. I have to have children that at least are going to pretend that they are there with me. Q: Well, you see the ham has to stand sane of the fault. It's not all the teacher and the principal alone is not going to do it. A: Well , my daughter never brought anything hane, because we would tell her right away that we were going to take the teachers word for it. And Mae Hamoons she lmew it. so ~ never had any problEillS at school. If these other Jll)thers would take the sarre attitude --nobody' s going to stand up and I: mistreat your child without any cause. There's sane reason there why you don't get along with the teacher. Q: NOw there's one question I would like to ask: Is there a particular reason why you chose teaching as a profession? A: I've always wanted to do it. My mother taught. I admired her and I admired my aunts. M:>ther said, when I was little, I used to teach my dolls. (clnlckles) I'd line thEm up and teach thEm. It's always been in my blood. And I've always enjoyed doing it. And I have been fairly successful, I'd say. Q: SO actually it's been in your family. Teaching has been in your family. A: Yes, yes. Teaching has been in the family for a long, long time. My grandfather was a teacher and a minister, too. You lmow, in the olden days, they did both. He would have a class at night and teach the people how to pay for their property and what to do. You lmow, the procedures and what not. The white people becane so angry that they threatened to kill my grandfather. These colored mm that he had cam to him to teach, they would take and guard his house at night. They would sit out there with guns. Q: \\here was this? A: This was in Tennessee. Q: wnere in Tennessee? A: \\e11, it was out in the rural , it was in Hayward County. They just appreciated what he had done for thEm just that nuch. And they didn't bother him but they did a lot of people. Q: ~re these the Klans people? A: No, they ~ren't. They ~re just the townspeople. Q: They resented the fact that he was training these people. A: Yes. You didn't need to lma.v those things, you see. If you train thEm, then ~ won't be able to handle thEm. That was the essence of it. But the colored people have always gone to school in sane fashion. They've always had that desire to acquire lmowledge. M:>ther used to talk about how they would make provisions to send their kids to college even though they weren' t able to do it. They wanted than to have a better life than they had. It's always been--1 mean the better people you lmow, whether they were educated or not, and those that weren't educated, it seans as if they would work harder to eduate their kids than the others, because they knew what they were missing. Education does so nuch for oneself. MaeHammns Q: And even those who didn't have any education, many of then wanted their children to have an education? A: Yes, absolutely, because they lmow what they had missed. Q: And not only that , rmny of those people who did not have the opportunity, they tui1 t liDre schools and cln.trches than people are doing today. It' s really amazing what they were able to do. Now about how old were you when you left Tennessee? A: well, I was a small child when I left. Q: But you do remeniler sane of the things? A: No, I don't remeniler too 1111ch about it. I went back to visit once, just once before I was gr<Mll. MY granctoother used to cane to see us, but I don't think 11\Y grandfather ever came. But we just went back once. I went back when I was teaching in Olmpaign, that Olristmas. Then 11\Y aunt, they Vt.Ould cam to Decatur and visit, so we knew then pretty well. But actually I have been south IOOre since I have been grown than ever before. 1've been to so J:IJ:J.ey fnnerals down there. So it isn't far, we just ride d<Mn and cane back. \\e've had an awful time. \\\'! didn't have a death in our family for about fifty years. No deaths, I mean close. Then when they started, oh, they just went. ~ father, there were nine children, and there's one brother left. The first one was in his fifties when they had a death in their fanily, my gra.rrloother. That's a lot of children to have and rear then all up, ian' t it? Q: That's right. That's right. So there hasn't been 1111ch sickness or disease in your fmnily. A: No, we've been lucky about that. MY father died, and he was ninety-three. But you wouldn't believe it. They didn't believe it in the hospital, because he could easily have passed for sixty. He was spry and he took care of his garden unt i 1 just two years ago, that he didn't have one. He was measured and laid out beautifully. He would eat anything he wanted, aqy time of night. That's going same, isn't it? (laughter) I can't even do that. (laughter) My father was only sick for a week. But liDther had this awful stroke, llllssive stroke, and she was unconscious for about five IIDnths. .But she didn't feel it, thank goodness. She was unconscious and she didn't lmCMr anything about it. So I think that the Lord has been real good to us. I think he's been real good. Q: Well, we just have to thank Him day by day for being so good. A: That's right. Now Mrs. Norma Anderson was the second black teacher here. Let's see now, where was she? (pause) I think she was in Lincoln School, I'm not sure. Mrs. Roundtree was the third one. I don't kn<M who the others are in succession. I Vt.Ould have to think a long time about that. Q: \\hen I cane here in 1962, they had about ten or sanething. A: \\ell, you see I had cane in 1955. Q: I think saneone told rre, rut I'm not sure if there were that II8IIy either. It may not have been that many. A: well, it seemed as if in the last eight or ten years, they've got so many. I've never seen a place that had so II8IIy Southern • • . Q: wen, you see, I think it was when Dr. Patton cam here. A: He's the one that got so II8lly. Q: He was really responsible for it because A: That's why they didn't like them. Q: The old situation was so ironic, here you are in and the Land of Lincoln and this is supposed to be a place of freedom for a lot of people. Aixl yet you have eight or ten percent of the black population here, and you had just ten teachers or sanething like that. So he put people in position and he actively recruited. A: Yes. He used to cane d<Mil around through the wildings on the day-well, you see the wilding is open two weeks previous to the opening of school. And that's where I rret him. I was mad when I rret him, I didn't know who he was. I said, "I)J you know that sareone has taken my fan? Imagine saneone stealing my fan right under my nose." (laughter) That just tickled him. He pretended like he was s-ynpathetic. He said, "I'm going to help you find it." The way he was dressed, I never dreamed he was the superintendent of schools. "Are you sure you're going to bringit back to rre if you find it? Or will you keep it for yourself?" He said, "No, I promise I'll bring it back." (laughter) And when I found out who he was, he never forgot rre. No, every t irre he'd see me, he'd start laughing. Oh, I was really angry. I was trying to get my roan in order and it was so hot up there. It nnst have been a lnmdred in the shade that day. Just before school opens it is. Q: Are you on the third floor? A: I'm on the second: basement, main floor and upstairs. See, they closed sam of those windows up and we only have four and you can only open them so wide. And when that afternoon sum beams on you all afternoon, you've had it. Q: Did he get the fan on you? A: He didn't get it but I don't know how that turned out, but I got my fan. I don't know whether he got it for ne or what, rut I finally got myfan. Q: Well, he was the person to tell, he's the superintendent. He ought to be able to get you a fan. 42 A: I just didn't think that they treated hlin right. They didn't treat him right. Q: Are you a IDelli>er of this teacher's caucus? A: No, sir. I don't belong to either one of them. I don't do it on purpose. Th.e reason I don't belong is because they really aren't doing anything for my age bracket. Wly put your nnney in sa:rething that you're not getting anything out of? I used to belong to everything, national, state and local. I didn't join the SEA and I didn't join the Federation. I used to belong to that rut I stopped because I decided I wasn't going to beat aeybody and I wasn't going to need anyone to go my bond or anything. No, I don't belong to anything and that's the reason. M>st of the older teachers don't and for that reason. They aren't doing anything for them. Q: \\hat do they do for the younger ones? A: Well, they get nnre raises. You go by steps, see what I n:ean. We have gotten up to our limit. \\ell, they should do sanething else. Now I went to school year before last, and I didn' t get any credit for that and we were supposed to have. I worked hard to get a B+ out of that. It was drugs. I always take whatever is current to keep up with it. Another teacher and I went. Q: \\here did you go? A: \\e went to an extension here fran the University of Illinois. ~t at Lanphier. They had a big class and we enjoyed it. This guy fran Illinois, their teachers are vecy good, very good. See Illinois, it's llllde its reputation. It doesn't have to work for it. It's an old established school. 'lhe credits is respected any place, so I stuck to Illinois. \\e were supposed to get paid for this. Well, we didn't. 1\W book cost me--now, let n:e show you this textbook that we had. Now this is • • • Q: Oh, is that a textbook? A: And look what I paid for it! Nobody v.uuldn' t believe it. Now I thought I was going to be reinb.Irsed. We all did. None of us got paid. They were going around collecting data, and I said that I'm not going to give thEID any because they are not going to do anything with it anyway. And they didn't, you know. And then we paid gas to go out there. They don't do it anywhere, Reverend. They aren't doing it anyplace. Q: Ib you think the financial situation in which your school finds itself may have contributed to that? A: No, I don't think so. I really don't to tell the truth. The financial situation is acute here, there's no doubt about that, we know that. And I don't think they're going to pass this next bond issue. Because the people don't have the mney to pay it. I know over there in Decatur, they kept voting it down CNer there. They said they had reared their children and they weren't going to rear anybody elses. You know these people that don't own any property, they're the ones that do the voting, and "Yes, we want this, we want this." It always passes out in sections where they aren't paying any taxes. They don't care. Don't you think that's right? Q: \\ell, to a large extent. A: well, generally speaking • • . Now don't put that in there please. Q: \tlat? A: A lot of this I'm just talking. It's the truth but I wouldn't want to be responsible for spreading it, you kn<M". (laughter) Q: By the time this canes out, it will have been passed and gone by. Do you think that this organization is worthwhile for teachers to belong to? A: \\ell, n<M" I think SE'A has helped us. I think it's very valuable to have organizations. You have to have their help. Individuals can't do anything by themselves, but collectively speaking you can. So I believe that it is necessary for us. I thirik Mr. Brent has done real well. He used to be my neighbor, right around the corner. But he bull t a house out there. Q: Now, who was he? A: Brent was the head of the SE'A. Q: Wlo Brent? A: Howard Brent , I thirik his rume is. His tenn expires this year and we will have a new one. But he did real, real well. Then the teachers really stuck together. I got up and went out there to vote at 5: 00 in the IOOrning. (c:tru.ckles) Q: Is that right? A: Yes, I went out and my husband went with me. I was going to go out and vote. I do my share when I thirik it's t :ime. I was with than. The place was packed with teachers. But we decided not to go on a strike, rut that was the mrning that we were to take the count to see whether we were going to or not, but it didn't cane to that. I'm glad that it didn't. we kn<M" that we can't expect anythingn<M", because we don't have the mney. Maybe when things ease up a little, maybe they will be better, I don' t kn<M". Cq!: Ib you think that we need to change the systan, the law as it relates to how a teacher gets to a certain level? A: Yes, I think so. I think it should be because I think if you're able to work, and if you're not, I thirik they should ask you to step down. think maybe this wear and tear will eliminate people thEmselves, I really do. Because I kn<M" several teachers that have retired and they tore up their certificates. Because they said they were through, they were through. I would hate to feel that way about it. That's what I call being too bitter. I'm glad that my teaching hasn't affected me like that. Mae Hamoons Q: \\hat do you think made those teachers react 1ike that? What were they bitter about? A: \\ell, they were just bitter in general about teaching, do you see? They were sick of it. They were tired of it. Since they had enough ooney saved, they didn't have to work and they just didn't. I think if you don' t have to work and you don't want to, then why work? Q: we11 , you shouldn' t. DJ you think that there is any value to the Black teachers that are in the systen nfNI! DJ you think that they should have a separate organization? A: No, I don't. I told Nancy, you are now treading on dangerous ground. Because that isn't the thing to do. You know we say one thing and then do another. Now we wouldn' t want the white teachers to organize in a group, would we? But we do it. Q: Now this SEA group, they have Black teachers who are ambers, yet they have never endorsed a black candidate for the school board. A: No, rut see, that's what I'm talking about. \\ell, that's true and I don't they're going to very soon, do you? Q: \Yell, shouldn't the Black teachers put pressure on then to . . . A: Well, if they could. Could they? A: \Yell, this is one of things, I don't know all of the facts behind then having this caucus. But this in itself would say to then that if they as teachers are putting rooney into the organization, then the organization ought to help their people. Well, I think that they thought they were going to help Mr. Lacca rut they didn't. NCM he was very well prepared and I thought he should be elected. I voted for him and I tried to influence everyone that I could. They said they voted for him but all of then didn't or he would have gotten in. (chuckles) Isn't that right? Q: That's right. But the thing is this. The SEA has never endorsed a Black candidate. A: No, and I think they have got to change and get rid of sane of those people that 1s on that board. \\hen their t i.Jre is up, don't reelect then if they haven' t done anything. Q: ~is going to do the speaking out on this? DJ you think that the Black teachers are going to do it? Or do you think it is going to take both same black and white? A: I think that it's going to take both, don't you? We've got to have the whites because they've got the IIDney. Q: Yes, this is what I'm saying, that we should rut will they speak up for this organization, because this organization is a pretty influential organization to the school board. See they endorsed three candidates this past tirre, and all three of thEm won. A: Maybe the next time it goes arOW1d, maybe the people will have arrived at the conclusion that "We'd better do sanathing about it." Q: That's right. Sanebody is going to have to put the pressure on thEm. A: Yes, yes. Am. maybe this would be a good t irre for the colored teachers to do it. Because there's nothing to lose. If you're on tenure, they can't fire you. (chuckles) I think that's very necessary. I would like to see another person or two on the board. Now when Dr. Lee was there, things were different. Q: Yes. Oh, yes, definitely. A: \\e felt his influence there. I think that we should always have a Negro, at least one on the board, and one can't do too m1ch. If you get two there you see . . • Q: Having one there would be better than nothing at all. A: Yes, that's true. But if you got two--what I IIEan is now if I get up and I defend sanething and nobody helps roo, it's not going to carry any weight. But if I got another person ••• isn't that true? Q: 'Ihat' s correct. Because even a IIX)tfon, you might make a IIX)tfon but you have to have sarebody to second that IIX)t ion. A: Yes, that's right. I was always so proud of Dr. Lee. He made such a nice presentation. I was sorry when he stepped down because he did such a brilliant job while he was there. Q: I think his reasoning was good, that he had served two terms and he thought that would • • • A: I think so. I think that you can stay too lor~. I think we ought to leave when we are rather popular, don't you think so? Rather than wanting to push you out. Yes, I think his timing was very good. For IIX)St people, I think two tenns is about it, don't you? Q: I would think so. I just don't like these people that are on these things perennially, you see • A: I don't either. Q: It doesn't help. A: Scmething about, what was I going to say ••• (pause) I think that the white teachers realize that we got enough Negro teachers here now to bring pressure on certain things and I think that's going to be very beneficial. I think they know that now. I really do. Mae Hammns Q: For the population, they still are bel<M" par so far as the black teachers are concerned, because A: They are most places. Q: Yes, because with all the teachers, the last time I heard, they had about seventy-four teachers and admdnistrators and other staff persons. Everybody included you see. At least if you have 1,100 teachers a tenth of that wouldn't be a bad idea for this district. The thing is so situated that we may have to have even more than that. A: And most of these Negro teachers are Southerners, aren't they? Q: Yes. A: We11 , I guess it' s because no others apply. Q: For IDli1:Y years, they did more of their recruiting down South instead of going to Illinois schools. A: They went South. Velma told me. N<M, how did she say it? (pause) I' 11 have to think through that before I say it, it my not be right. Excuse ~m. I better not say that because I'm not sure of my figures there. Oh, samthing else. She told me another thing that when she graduated fran college, she didn't hear fran any superintendent but the one here in Springfield. You kn<M", where she's fran. Q: Yes, M>bile. She's fran M>bile, Alabama. A: Yes, I guess it is. Ole place is the only place she ever heard fran and that was here. I asked her what wind blew her up here, because if I were single I wouldn't want to cam to Springfield. At that time there were no yoWlg men here. Now there are a few, I guess. Q: But one of the prob1Em3 that our ymmg trained Black wcmm run into is that they really C8IU10t find in Springfield and many places, young men comparable to their training. A: That's true. That's very true. Q: This makes it very, very hard for than. A: lbes Velma cane to church very nnch? Q: No, she has been to our clmrch once. A: I haven't seen her at our clDJ.rch at all. She said she was caning but I don't know. I don' t go every SUnday. Q: Well, it1 s unfortWlB.te. These young people cane in and they start working. And before you kn<M" it, they just drop out of the clmrch. Mmy of thEm do that. A: Yes, they do and that's too bad. D:> you think that llX>St Negroes when they becare very prosperous, they lost interest in the church? Q: well, it's not only Negroes, it's people in general. A: I say Negroes because those are the ones that I knCNI the best. Q: B.lt they have that tendency to do that. Em of Side Two, Tape Two
|Title||Hammons, Mae - Interview and Memoir|
World War, 1939-1945--Homefront
|Description||Hammons, first African American teacher hired in the Springfield, school system, discusses segregation and discrimination, her teaching career, teaching at Iles School, tutoring mentally handicapped children, and black teachers entering the school system. She also mentions Springfield neighborhoods and businesses, and teaching challenges during WWII.|
|Creator||Hammons, Mae d. 1983|
|Contributing Institution||Oral History Collection, Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield|
|Contributors||McPherson, Reverend Negil L. [interviewer]|
|Digital Format||PDF; MP3|
|Relation||BLACK COMMUNITY PROJECT|
|Rights||© Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. For permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this material, please contact: Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield, One University Plaza, MS BRK 140, Springfield IL 62703-5407. Phone: (217) 206-6520. http://library.uis.edu/archives/index.html|
|Title||Mae Hammons Memoir|
|Source||Mae Hammons Memoir.pdf|
|Rights||© Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. For permission to reproduce, distribute, or otherwise use this material, please contact: Archives/Special Collections, University of Illinois at Springfield, One University Plaza, MS BRK 140, Springfield IL 62703-5407. Phone: (217) 206-6520. http://library.uis.edu/archives/index.html|
University of Illinois at Springfield
Norris L Brookens Library
Mae Hammons Memoir
H185. Hammons, Mae d. 1983 Interview and memoir 2 tapes, 175 mins., 50 pp.
BLACK COMMUNITY PROJECT
Hammons, first African American teacher hired in the Springfield, school system, discusses segregation and discrimination, her teaching career, teaching at Iles School, tutoring mentally handicapped children, and black teachers entering the school system. She also mentions Springfield neighborhoods and businesses, and teaching challenges during WWII.
Interview by Reverend N.L. McPherson, 1974 OPEN See collateral file
Archives/Special Collections LIB 144
University of Illinois at Springfield
One University Plaza, MS BRK 140
Springfield IL 62703-5407
© 1974 University of Illinois Board of Trustees
This n:IUIUscript is the product of a tape recorded interview conducted by Reverend N. L. MCPherson for the Oral History Office on May 23, 1974. Paula Bergsclmeider transcribed the tapes and Chester Rhodes edited the
In this neooir Mae Hammns discusses entering the school systan as a Black teacher, her teaching years at Iles School in Springfield, Illinois and discrimination over the years.
Readers of the oral history mem>ir should bear in mind that it is a
transcript of the spoken v.urd, and that the interviewer, narrator and editor sought to preserve the info~l, conversational style that is
inherent in such historical sources. Sangamon State University is not responsible for the factual accuracy of the mem>ir, nor for views expressed therein; these are for the reader to judge.
The rmnuscript may be read, quoted and cited freely. It may not be reproduced in whole or in part by any means, electronic or mechanical, without pennission in writing fran the Oral History Office, Sangamm State University, Springfield, Illinois, 62708.
Mae Hammons, Springfield, Illinois, May 23, 1974.
Reverend MCPherson, Interviewer.
Q: Now, Mrs. Hammns, I UOO.erstand that you were the first black teacher to be hired in this systan.
A: Yes, that' s true, Reverend McPherson.
Q: \\hen was this?
A: I carne into the system in 1955.
Q: Vbere did you caiE fran?
A: Previous to this, I taught in Ou11paign. I went there in 1934 and I stayed unt i 1 1942. I was llllrried in 1941 so my husbaD:i was enployed by the State Architects office here in Springfield and we moved here.
Q: How long was it when you CBIIE here before you got this position?
A: \\ell, I didn't work for av.hile because we were expecting a baby. Unfortunately, we lost the first one. Then a friend of mine whose husband was mployed in the State Architecta office--we knew each other casually at the State Normal--and she had this friend that had a brain danaged child, and they wanted saneone to tutor him. I said, "Oh no, I'm not interested." Harriet kept after rm, and finally my roother talked rm into it. She said, "I think that would be a fine experience. You want to work, you' 11 be llllking rooney." They paid well, and I accepted it.
Before long I was working all day tutoring children. It was through these children that I met the psychologist for the Springfield District 186, and she wanted to cane and observe the children, the children not knowing that she was here. So, she did and she was amazed at the change that had taken place. About this time, the Junior League was about ready to sponsor a class for the trainable children. They are the group under the E.M.H. [Educable Mmtally Handicapped]. She recanrended me because I had been working with these children and 1 had done quite well. So, the Junior League sponsored this project, rut it was under the leadership of District 186, Special Education. In 1953 to 1955 I worked with the group. At the end of the two years they were retested. \\ell, they were too high to be retained in the class so the class seaningly was going to fold up.
In the meantime, the superintendent of District 186 called and asked me if I would consider caning into the systsn as a public school teacher. well, that was our little joke. I told him I would think it over. And I would let him know. Then jokingly he always said, "I couldn't fire you, Mrs. Hamoons, because I asked you (chuckles) to cane into the systan."
And I did, I started work here in 1955 and I have been enployed regularly ever since.
Q: Now before we get into this erployrmnt, these children that you were teaching • • • did they care to your bane?
A: Yes, I taught. Now the class was not here. \\hen I tutored, I tutored here in my hare. I did that just one child at a tine. They can't take groups. It's usually six or eight about all they can stand. lhen when I went over to this class that was S.(X>nsored by the Junior League of Springfield, we held our classes over in the kindergarten roans of the church on Walnut and ••• \\estminister Presbyterian Omrch. \\e had a beautiful roan there and we had the freedan of the building. I enjoyed working there.
Q: \\ere sane of these children fran the district?
A: They were fran Springfield. <:ne 1it tle boy canE in fran Pleasant Plains. At first the parents had to pay. So naturally, we drew on the better livers, you know. In the class I had two children whose fathers were cousins, and I worked with three doctors' children. Of course they had all of the social anEni ties because they had been brought up in that type atmosphere. They were lovely to work with. I enjoyed it. Then in the meantbne, the university of Illinois, under the leadership of the Head of Special Education there, was teaching a class in Training. W:'l net in Chicago IIJ)st of the tiiiE, each Saturday, and we worked. Then, the following summer the University of Illinois rented the Lincoln Cbllege for wamn over there. And we stayed in Lincoln because we had the children to work with, do you see? lhat was quite a rooving experience too. Ch, we had, I imagine around sixty-five or seventy people enrolled in this special class. we were given university credit for it.
Q: Did the district have a class similar to this?
A: No, this trainable group was the first that we have had. But, we do. Now this Little Red Schoolhouse is an outgrowth of that DJJVenEnt that we have now. First we had just a class when I had it. As I said, the I1Uili>er was kept snall, because it rwst be. Then, you know, how large it is now. It's grown to quite a big DJJVenEnt. But the Junior Leagues paid all expense. The board at that t iiiE, they weren' t too anxious about taking this over. Phyllis Gray, who is an attorney in her own right, she said, "Well, if you won't go along with it, we' 11 talk to our husbands. We have husbands and friends that are on the Board of Education. Yk' ll just go over your head." well, that's what tmney does, you know. (chuckles) They didn't have to do that. It worked out. But they had the right people.
The Junior League is made up of girls that are wealthy, usually that don't work, you know. They worked with ne. I had several that worked with IIE at the school. They were highly educated, all college graduates. But they hadn't worked because they got mrried. You know how they do. They were lovely to work with. I had one girl that had worked with kindergarten people in schools. She had taken that so she was quite an asset. I was fully in control of the class at all tbnes. But the girls
were lovely to work with.
Q: About how many, at one given time, helpers did you have?
A: Well , let's see. I would have to think about that. I think during the week I usually had four or five. We just had a class in the IIX>rning when we went to \\estminister Omrch. Now the classes are all day, but we didn't at that thne.
Q: Wben you went for this class in training, were there other blacks in this?
A: Yes, there were other blacks there. They came fran Olicago. They were borrowed fran the public school system. They had been working with the EMH group, see, that's a little bit higher than the trainables. They borrowed thEm to stay with the project as long as we were in training. Then there was one girl fran Rockford and one fran Qlicago, as I rEJilelliler. There was the two. Then the class during that s\1111Er, we had several Negroes there. I have forgotten how many, tut there was several of us that were there .
Q: Did you encounter nuch problem or difficulty?
A: None at all. Anything that I wanted, I could have for the asking. It was a wonderful setup. No, no. Not at all. The parents were so helpful and anything that I suggested, they picked it right up. They -were so pleased with the children, the result of the children. And I just had no problEmS at all.
Q: I take it that these were all white children?
A: They were. They were all white children.
Q: Now, in 1955 when you got hired, into the district, which school did you •••
A: I went to Ilea where I am n