Interviewer: Anita I’m going to ask you to give your full name, including your maiden name, please.
AA: Anita Larue Golden Arnold.
Interviewer: All right, and where did you grow up in the old fairgrounds?
AA: Actually, in the old fairgrounds I didn’t grow up there so much as I sent the summers there and we lived in a duplex on Northeast 7th and Wisconsin Street
Interviewer: Northeast 7th and Wisconsin Street?
AA: Yes, they had a number of duplexes that was built both on Wisconsin and on 7th street and then they had homes it was I guess a mixed used neighborhood, sort of.
Interviewer: Yes, and in that area were there business located in where the duplex that you can remember?
AA: Yes, the one business that stands out in my mind was a grocery store and it was Sunny’s Grocery Store and we used to go around there at least ten times a day every day.
Interviewer: And get what for instance like what did they have, were they just a…?
AA: Well, they had everything.
Interviewer: Were they a full service, so to speak?
AA: Yes, yes since I was a kid the reason we made so many trips around there was because at the time you could turn in soda bottles coca cola or whatever and you would get a refund on the bottle so that was part of what we did when we wanted money for Kool-Aid or more pop we would go and find bottles and we would take them and he would always pay us for that and people you see coupons in the newspapers you know to purchase things.
Interviewer: In the regular newspaper?
AA: Yes, in the regular newspapers where you could get ten cents off on an item that you buy at the grocery store for example. Well back during the day a lot of those manufacturers like Pillsbury whoever, they would send coupons in the mail for their products, and they were worth twenty-five cents or fifteen cents or whatever and we would take these coupons and we would go over there and cash them in. We weren’t buying products.
Interviewer: Oh, you would sell the coupons.
AA: We’d sell the coupons. Well see they put a stop to that, I think they finally figured out that a bunch of kids-- probably like us, whenever we wanted some change, pocket change we would sell coupons and we would sell soda bottles.
Interviewer: Okay and do you remember the owner of that Sonny’s what was it called Sonny’s what?
AA: Sonny’s Grocery Store
Interviewer: Sonny’s Grocery Store and do you remember the name of the owner, what did you call him?
Interviewer: You all called him Sonny
AA: Everybody called him Sonny you know they would say go around to Sonny’s and get so and so. And so away we’d go there was nothing that we’d like better that going around to Sonny’s Grocery Store because we could get popsicles, we could get Eskimo pies, and we could get all kinds of things.
Interviewer: Do you think they had a meat counter?
AA: Oh, yes they had a meat counter.
Interviewer: A meat counter and everything else in it. It was a neighborhood store but you could get whatever you needed in it?
AA: That’s right, that’s right. And so that was one that was just right across the street from the fairgrounds which it was on Eastern, which is now Martin Luther King and we just stayed there most of the day every chance we got especially if we were told by our parents don’t go too far. It was an acceptable distance.
Interviewer: Acceptable distance and in that area that you lived were there a lot of children a lot of families.
AA: Yes, yes. There were lots of families, lots of children. As a matter of fact, down on 6th street there were about three apartment buildings; that was the first time I guess I had ever seen apartment buildings, and families lived in there at the time.
Interviewer: It was Northeast 6th and Wisconsin.
AA: Yes, Wisconsin on over to Eastern.
Interviewer: I think I remember that; I remember that.
AA: Yes, there were families that lived there that had children; in fact there was one large family I could call their name I don’t know if they would want me to…
Interviewer: Go ahead and call their name.
AA: It was the Littlejohn family.
Interviewer: The Littlejohns?
AA: The Littlejohns
Interviewer: Because we’re going to be mentioning them more often because they were in certain businesses too, in the Northeast areas.
AA: Right, the Littlejohns lived in one of those apartment buildings and then there was a person -- he is deceased now. But he was a little bit older than we were, but he was still around our age and his name was Maurice Frazier. He lived down there.
Interviewer: Yes, the Fraziers. That was a large family too, wasn’t it, the Fraziers?
AA: I didn’t really know anybody except Maurice.
Interviewer: They had a lot of children, there was a Frazier in virtually every grade level.
AA: Oh, is that right? Well, we’ll just do Maurice. Like I said I was basically living in the country and coming and spending the summer and so that’s how--
Interviewer: Okay I want you to focus on the fairground. Let’s go back to the fairground area now where specifically do you remember where you recall the fairgrounds being?
AA: For certain it was on Eastern, and it stretched from Northeast 10th street that was the North border all the way down to probably to 4th or 5th.
Interviewer: It was 4th street.
AA: And it was a large area everything it had you know everything that a fair has and the fair would come to town in the fall like it does now and we would be just so excited they would be putting up all the stuff and the railroad.
Interviewer: and you would get a chance to watch them?
AA: Yes, we watched them assemble the fair. They shipped in the parts of these rides and the scary house and the house of mirrors, and all of that came by train. There was a railroad track and the train would stop right there they would be unloading all this stuff for days we would watch while they would put all this together of course the first thing that we would do was find out when school kids day was so that we could plan to be there and we would go on country kids day too and so we had a big time.
AA: The best part of the fair for us who lived in the area they had they would put a lot of saw dust on the concrete, it was concrete, and they had these games where people pitched money, you know, like fifty cent pieces and you could win a prize. And well when they would unload-- I mean tear down-- the stuff you put it back on the train and leave. We would go they and find more money in the saw dust – yes, I’m telling you we were on it. And so we would find all this money and we could hardly wait for the last piece to get on the train and they would pull out so we could get over there and look for that money and then as soon as we’d gather up all the money of course we went right straight to Sonny’s and we would shop for things like lunchmeat. You asked if he had a meat counter? Yes, we would buy baloney, we would buy--
Interviewer: Would you get a chunk of baloney or a slice of baloney?
AA: We would have him slice it up.
Interviewer: And did he put it in paper, that wax paper?
AA: That’s right, that’s right, he would
Interviewer: And tape it?
AA: That’s right. We would go -- and the first thing that we would do, we would go into somebody’s house, like one of my girlfriends lived right across the street on Wisconsin, and we would make all these sandwiches because we were getting ready for the annual picnic we always had after the fair left. All of us kids would take our money and we would have this big picnic, and we’d pack all of these sandwiches, we had all these soft drinks and cookies.
Interviewer: That you would have bought with the money you found?
AA: We did, we did, that’s how we financed our picnic. We always had a picnic, you know, after the fair was gone. Yeah, everybody in the neighborhood. And we would, in the stadium -- see they had a stadium over there, and so -- in fact that was the stadium that they tore down. That was the fairgrounds’ stadium, and so we would go over there with our picnic basket and we’d climb those stairs, and we would sit up there and just feast that afternoon and thought that we had really done good.
Interviewer: Let me ask you this: Do you remember kind of the age time frame that you were in at that time? Do you remember where it might have been? How old you were?
AA: How old was I? Oh sure.
Interviewer: At the time you were coming down for the summers?
AA: Yes, I was around 10, 11, 12 years old.
Interviewer: Okay, let me ask you this -- there’s a question, because in the previous conversation someone brought it up, do you remember the midnight revue? That used to be held at the fairgrounds, were you permitted to go to that?
AA: No, I mean I heard of it; but no, we weren’t permitted to do that. We could ride the rides, go in the house of mirrors, you know, because you were always looking for the way out. You would just be looking at yourself in the mirror and then they had -- I forget what they call it, but it was a scary house, and you went in there and these things would jump out at you in one room and would scare you to death, so it was a lot of fun.
Interviewer: Let’s see, let’s focus on Blanche’s Drive-in; so now, if the fair was in that area…
AA: Blanche’s Drive-in started out down on 6th Street.
Interviewer: Is that the one you worked at?
AA: No, no; I was in junior high school when it was down there.
Interviewer: Alright, it was down on 6th, across from Dunbar Elementary School?
AA: Yes, and so a lot of us would go by sometimes, you know, like after a football game, or that was a favorite hamburger place if you will. Sometimes on the way home from school we might stop in and grab a hamburger or whatever, and then later on when they built the school down here after the fairgrounds.
Interviewer: When they built the new Douglas?
AA: The new Douglas the--
Interviewer: That was in 1955 .
AA: And Blanch--
AA: She bought a piece of property, and she opened up the drive-in right across from the school. And so that’s where I worked as a senior in High School, so that was in ‘56 and some of ‘57.
Interviewer: So, were you a senior at Douglas?
AA: Yes, I was.
Interviewer: So, you moved to the city eventually?
AA: I moved to the city when I was 13 years old. See, I was staying with my grandparents, and my sister and I were, and my grandmother died, you know, when I was 12. And I guess we stayed down there another year, and then we moved to the city. So I started Douglas High School, it was junior high and senior high over on High, north High.
Interviewer: Northeast 6th and High.
AA: That was the first school I attended, it was Douglas there, in fact I say my whole legacy is Douglas because when I lived in the country, I went to Douglas Elementary School.
Interviewer: I see.
AA: and then when I came up here--
Interviewer: Where in the country, where was?
AA: We lived--
Interviewer: What town was that?
AA: Well, the address was Tecumseh. We had everything to do with it, where they drew the lines to these townships. But I went to school at Douglas Elementary School which was considered Earlsboro. It didn’t sit in Earlsboro, but it was kind of like halfway in between where I lived and the town of Earlsboro. So, it was two miles away, so that’s where I went to elementary school. And then when I came to the city to live permanently, I went to Douglas over on High, in the 8th grade and the 9th grade. And then when they built the Douglas on Eastern we were the first sophomore class, that was the Class of 1957 senior class. And we’re getting ready to have our 50th class reunion in September this year, as a matter of fact. So, we were the first sophomore class down there and the third senior class to graduate.
Interviewer: So… and that was in 1957?
AA: That we graduated.
Interviewer: Oh, that you graduated. So it would have been 1955, when they first built the school, that you were there. And therefore, at that time the State Fair had been moved.
AA: Oh yeah. And the school was built there, right where the Oklahoma State Fair was.
Interviewer: Okay, let’s talk about Blanche’s Drive-In; when you were working there as a senior in high school, tell me a little bit about Blanche’s Drive-In back then. What was it like? I’d call it a teen hot spot because it was a place that…
AA: It was more than a teen hot spot. Teens certainly went over there, but she had a lot of adult customers; particularly guys who came over, the military who came to Tinker they would come down there. It was a place that most people went to, particularly after football games. When Douglas played, everybody went to Blanche’s Drive-In to get a hamburger, french-fries, or whatever, you know, and so there were a lot of adults who came there. It wasn’t a teen hangout, really.
AA: No, it wasn’t. But I was a car hop down there, and we were paid two dollars per day, and we had to make up the rest with tips if we were going to have anything decent to take home. We worked there, there was several of us from Douglas that worked --
Interviewer: She hired students?
AA: Yes, and so they didn’t have child labor laws then, I don’t guess. Anyway, we worked from six in the evening up to two in the morning. I had never been so sleepy during the school day as when I did my senior year, and that was because we were working these long hours, from six until two every morning.
Interviewer: You remember Blanche’s full name?
AA: At the time when she was down there on Eastern her name was Blanch Miles; she was married to a gentleman by the name of T.J. Miles. And I guess she had been around here a long time. She was related to the Hycht Family and one of her relatives -- I think it might have been a brother, an uncle, or somebody -- was a president of one of the historical black colleges back East, and so that’s who her family was.
Interviewer: Do you recall any other businesses that were in the Fairgrounds area, around where you lived? When you went to Douglas, when you moved to the city, you all still lived on 7th and Rhode Island?
AA: No, we had moved by then.
Interviewer: Did you move out of the Fairgrounds area?
AA: Yes. You know that line kept moving, the invisible line where African Americans could live. So by then we were living… we had just, my mother and stepfather had purchased their first home, which was on Northeast 10th Street, up near 10th and Vance. And so by the time I was 13 and I moved to the city my parents had bought a house on Euclid, 1733 Euclid, as a matter of fact, and so that was the house I was living in when I was in the 8th grade until I finished high school and then went away.
Interviewer: Do you recall any other businesses that were down there on Northeast 7th and…?
AA: Yes, as a matter of fact.
Interviewer: What were those businesses?
AA: Oh, there were all kinds of little businesses, I mean beauty shops were in the area. They had a--
Interviewer: Do you remember the names of any of those, any of the names come to you?
AA: Not on 6th and 7th but everybody went to the building right there on 4th street.
Interviewer: on 4th?
AA: Yes, Leore’s was someplace; Nal Phillips he had a, well she was a Butler, then she became a Phillips, she had a beauty school, and you know…
Interviewer: Where was her beauty school, was it on 4th Street?
AA: I think it was, I can’t remember exactly where it was.
Interviewer: Okay, because I know she had a beauty school.
AA: Yes, she did. And then down on Bath, on 7th and Bath, it was almost what you would call a little strip shopping center. The East Side Theater was located on Bath, and we used to go to see the movies on Saturday afternoon and Mrs. Cunningham ran that theater. She used to burn me up because I was tall for my age and she would charge me an adult fare and I was the youngest one in the bunch.
Interviewer: I think it was one of her ploys for tall children they always overcharged, the tall children.
AA: It wasn’t fair, and I was the youngest one in the bunch. And she wouldn’t believe my age.
Interviewer: You spoke earlier of Littlejohns, one of those Littlejohns was one of the counter guys at East Side Theater. And that guy would hassle me every Saturday, he would make me pay 25 cents instead of fifteen or whatever it was because I was “mature.”
AA: That’s right, that’s the way you were treated.
Interviewer: He would just give me a hassle every, every Saturday; he knew better.
AA: There was another beauty shop right there. And Nellie Terry was the name of the owner.
Interviewer: Yes, yes, I remember, that that was correct.
AA: She had a beauty shop right there, and then--
Interviewer: Do you remember the name of it?
AA: No, I don’t remember the name of it.
Interviewer: But I remember she had that shop.
AA: She had that shop.
Interviewer: What about Bill’s Cleaners?
AA: I was going to say there was a cleaner there; there was a doughnut shop there too, if I’m not mistaken. The Baniff Family, Alberta Baniff ended up with the tearoom, Alberta’s Tea Room. They started out with the doughnut shop and was right down there, if I’m correct about it, and I think I am. Let me see, what else was down there…?
Interviewer: There was something like a -- there was the record shop.
AA: Yes, yes there was.
Interviewer: I think that was the original place that Herbie’s was.
AA: Probably so.
Interviewer: But the record shop was also down in that little shopping strip that is where we bought our 45’s and I remember in that record shop this cutout -- they used to have cardboard cutouts, life-size cutouts of the artist. And I remember the one of Della Reece, looking like a movie star. Looking like a beautiful chocolate movie star.
AA: That’s right, well, we had three movie theaters at that time, we had the East Side, we had the Jewel Theater off of 4th street, and then we had Aldridge Theater on Second Street.
Interviewer: Do you ever hear anyone talk about the East Side Theater?
AA: No .
Interviewer: Never hear it mentioned, people have forgotten -- but people have forgotten that that theater even existed, and that was the theater for our area, for the Fairgrounds area, because our parents would let us walk to that.
AA: That’s right, that’s right.
Interviewer: It was close enough -- with a group of kids you would just walk to the theater.
AA: And by the time that we were grown up and coming along, the Aldridge was downhill, and so we weren’t really allowed in -- Second Street didn’t have a great reputation.
Interviewer: Right about that time
AA: About that time. And so if there was some good movie on at the Aldridge Theater, if our parents couldn’t take us in there and sit with us, I can remember my mother would drop me off. And she would say, Now you stand right here and don’t you move, and when the movie is over with I’ll come and get you, and you stand right here, in this spot. So occasionally we would go down there if there was some really good movie -- but most of the time, we went to the East Side and every so often we would go to the Jewel.
Interviewer: To the Jewel?
AA: Because it was further away from us.
Interviewer: When you got a little bit older, they would let you go to the Jewel.
AA: That’s right, that’s right.
Interviewer: They would let us go to the Jewel when we got a little bit older.
AA: But Washington Park -- the swimming pool was there, and every summer that was the highlight of our summer. Because all of the kids in the neighborhood -- they would have the pool open like maybe from 10 to 12 in the morning, close it down for the lunch hour, and they would open it back up. We had the schedule down pat, and we would go down there.
Interviewer: Did you walk all the way up to Washington Park from 7th and Rhode Island?
AA: 7th and Wisconsin.
Interviewer: 7th and Wisconsin.
AA: Absolutely, absolutely; and we would pick up kids along the way as we went, we’d knock on doors and say Can Carol go with us to swim? you know.
Interviewer: That would be a group of kids.
AA: There was always a group of kids, so we always had our activities -- swim in the morning, if our parents said we couldn’t go there in the afternoon all of us had bicycles or roller skates, and we’d ride the bicycles in the street, sometimes on the sidewalks. We had sidewalks, everybody had sidewalks that ran in front of their house. And sometimes the sidewalks were not flat because tree roots might buckle them a little bit, and it was a challenge when you had roller skates. Everybody would skate down on the sidewalks, you had to jump over the hump and keep going, so those were you know some of the things that we did, you know, when we were living there. We just, you know, that was the way we thought, we didn’t think of doing anything just really destructive, or what you would consider just really bad. No, we didn’t, because we were too busy with the swimming and with the roller skates and the bicycles, you know, picnics, and the annual picnic at the fairgrounds when the fair left and those sorts of things; but it was a lot of fun.
Interviewer: Did you ever go to Dunbar in the summer -- Dunbar Elementary School, in the summer?
AA: No, no.
Interviewer: At the time that I was coming up?
AA: The only time that I went down there… One time I was here in the city, see I still lived in the country, and I came up one time, and my best friend see lived right across the street on Wisconsin, and she went to school at Dunbar and so they had--
Interviewer: What was her name, your best friend?
AA: JoAnn Crawford. And they wrapped the May Pole and I had never heard of that before, you know, and I was all excited. She said Oh you have to come and go to school with me today, because we’re going to wrap the May Pole, it was May Day and I thought What? That’s right.
Interviewer: It was an annual event.
AA: That’s right, it was a big deal at Dunbar. And I went with her to school that day, and they wrapped the May Pole, and I thought I had seen it all.
Interviewer: It was great fun; I was there during that time. May Day was an annual activity, fun and activities day, and your parents came down to the school, you dressed up cute, yet you were still going to be having fun. But you dressed up for May Day, and you always wrapped that May Pole. Y’all, it was great fun.
AA: I only experienced that once, but I you see I still remember.
Interviewer: I went to Dunbar Elementary School from Kindergarten through Sixth Grade and we did that every year that I was ever at Dunbar.
AA: Well that’s what I found out, so that stands out in my memory. There was another thing too, but this was on 8th street. We were living on Euclid, I was in the 8th grade by then, so we would walk.
Interviewer: Euclid was an East-West street, just like a numbered street.
AA: Yes, it set between 11th and 12th.
Interviewer: It was 11th, Euclid, 12th?
AA: Right, and you know they had -- that’s where Mrs. Burnett lived, down on one end of Euclid. She and her husband, Jennings, lived down on Euclid. They were in the 1500 block, we were in the 1700 block, and we would walk to school over on Douglas on High from Euclid, and we’d walk back home and so there was a potato chip factory --
Interviewer: Yes, on 8th street.
AA: That’s right, on 8th street. And boy, I tell you, the thing to do in the evenings when you were going home was go by there and get some day-old potato chips.
Interviewer: And you paid how much for that do you remember, was it a nickel bag?
AA: Something like that.
Interviewer: You paid a nickel, and you got this big bag of mixed chips, whatever kind of chips that factory made.
AA: The leftovers.
Interviewer: And that huge bag, and I think on that building was -- Brownies, I think it was called; I seem to remember the image, a character that looked like Peter Pan but he had on brow--a brown little cap, brown little pixie clothing, I think it was called Browns or Brownies Factory, or something like that.
AA: We would go by and get those potato chips.
Interviewer: We did that for years.
AA: We ate so many potato chips that salt would have our lips almost puckered, you know.
Interviewer: And greasy.
AA: And greasy, that’s right, yes. So that was another favorite thing to do; it was a tradition, it was a tradition.
Interviewer: It was a treat.
AA: And you know there were other businesses that we frequented; Grady’s Barbeque, I mean hamburgers, he had -- it was like a little railroad car building, it was down on 8th street, it was the other way on 8th street. And we would sometimes, if we had enough money we would go down there for lunch and buy Grady’s hamburgers, we declared that those were the best hamburgers in town. And it was not too far from Douglas up there on High, and you could go in there and more than likely you would have to stand in line; everybody would squeeze in there, you know, they were just frying these hamburgers like mad. Well we thought that was just great. Then Butlers was right across the street--
Interviewer: Right across the street from the old Douglas. What was Butlers known for, do you remember?
AA: Yes, Coney Islands, that’s right
Interviewer: The bread was like -- I think you got them on a bun instead of a hotdog bun, you would get them on a hamburger bun.
AA: And it was good--
Interviewer: with chili.
AA: That’s right, y’all. So you would go over there for hot dogs and Grady’s for hamburgers.
Interviewer: Well excellent, excellent.
AA: And if all else failed you ate in the cafeteria, but that was that. And the other thing that was a tradition with some of us that went to school at Douglas around the age group that I was: Girl Scouts were really big, and so every year we would sell these cookies, these Girl Scout Cookies, and gosh I would have my list, and I would make a list about 10 or 20 folk that I was going to sell these Girl Scout cookies to. And the thing about it was these cookies were so good, they had the chocolate and the vanilla was all they had. I would eat half of the product and I would have to save my lunch money to pay for it; they were so good that I would eat up half of the product, you know, before I would even deliver it to people that I had intended to sell it to.
Interviewer: I think that happened with everybody.
AA: It probably did, but I know I ate a lot of Girl Scout cookies.
Interviewer: How long were you in Girl Scouts?
AA: Oh, just 8th and 9th grade, basically. The other thing that stands out in my memory is the YWCA which was down on south was an important part of the Girl S--
Interviewer: Northeast 4th and Stiles?
AA: Yes, it was between 4th and 2nd street, on Stiles.
Interviewer: The old YWCA?
AA: The old YWCA. It was two stories, and they had a place--
Interviewer: Up on the hill almost
AA: They had a place, the soldiers and young ladies used to dance up there, under the stars, you know, at the Y -- that’s the early history of the YWCA.
Interviewer: On top of the building?
AA: Yes, on top of the building.
Interviewer: How exciting!
AA: That was part of the YWCA history. But it was important to us as young girls growing up, because I remember Miss Mabel Barnes -- she was our girl scout leader, the Y teens, she was our Y teen leader, and we would go over there on Saturdays, and she would teach us how to make cookies. I mean we would make cookies from scratch, I mean the dough and all; they had a big oven stove and oven, and we would cook those cookies. Nothing better than sitting there waiting on those cookies to get done.
Interviewer: Smelled up the whole--
AA: And we knew we were going to have Kool-Aid and cookies, you know, when it was over with. So that was part of our Y teen meeting, you know; we would go over there on a Saturday morning, get ready to go into that kitchen. We loved that, we absolutely loved it. Sometimes she would show us how to make little sandwiches too, but it was always around food. That’s probably why so many people like to eat all the time around here, you know, you grew up doing stuff like that, it was a treat you know. So that was good.
Interviewer: I want to ask you this, because as you’re talking, I’m just thinking about the freedom that we had as young children back then, such a tremendous among of freedom. Because so many of the neighborhoods were kind of close, close-knit, and you knew they kind of overlapped. When you knew who lived where, everybody knew people, say that everybody knew everybody, people literally knew everybody.
AA: You didn’t lock your doors at night.
Interviewer: You didn’t lock your doors, you would let your children -- they had freedom, they had freedom to go to the neighbor’s house and that kind of thing. When you look back at the experiences that we just talked about and then you focus on the life that we have today. What is your thought process on that?
AA: My thought is that life is a whole lot more complicated than it was then, we were a lot more creative then because we didn’t have all of these things, we didn’t even have television. I remember when we got television, as a matter of fact; we were up on Euclid’s, you know, I was in junior high school when I saw the first television set. I mean people had radios but we had -- we played stuff like jump rope that was fun to us you know.
Interviewer: All the physical activities.
AA: That’s right.
Interviewer: The ripping, the running.
AA: We didn’t have problems with obesity like there is today among children for example. That was unheard of when we were growing up. We were actively doing something all of the time, at all times. So we were always running, jumping, skating, riding bicycles, swimming, we were always doing something like that. I mean it was unusual that we were quiet and sat down, and I mean we’d sit down on the front porch if we were being punished maybe, and you had better not go off that porch. You’d better not go off that porch and you would have to sit there and watch your friends skate by, Can you go?, No, I can’t move off the porch, see.
Interviewer: That was punishment.
AA: That was punishment, and so the thought you just didn’t have all these things, options, children did not have the options then that they have now, and so going to school was fun.
Interviewer: It was something to do.
AA: Learning was fun.
Interviewer: And you were with your friends and everybody, I guess everybody was doing it.
AA: That’s right, and you know we used to play games with strings on our hands like making Jacob’s Ladder
Interviewer: Cups and saucers.
AA: And you say something to kids now, they say Jacob’s what? You know, but we did that, and one of our favorite things to do was pick-up sticks, those sticks that came in those --
Interviewer: A game of skill.
AA: That’s right, and so we were, those were the kinds of things that we did, and children today know nothing about that. We played Ring around the Rosy, Hide and Go Seek, Mary Mary Dressed in Black, all of that kind of stuff. That’s right, we played all kinds of games and mostly --
Interviewer: But you know what I want to ask you this about all those things, do you have children?
Interviewer: You have the occasion to play any of those games that you just talked about with your children?
AA: With my Grandchildren
Interviewer: Okay, you didn’t do it with your children?
AA: I was too busy sending them to school and working.
Interviewer: Embarking on your, and providing --
AA: That’s right; they had bicycles, I saw to it that they all had bicycles, all my kids had bicycles, and they had skates. So there were some things that I provided for them, that it wasn’t too much about these string games with your hands you know.
Interviewer: We were moving into a different era.
AA: That’s right, and TV was on the horizon, it was black and white TV, it wasn’t color until later. And my children thought that they were deprived individuals because they were the only kids that they knew that had a black and white TV and they never had a color TV growing up.
Interviewer: Do you remember the original color things?
AA: You would put it you take that thing, it was like a little screen, and put it on your TV set, and it would show colors.
Interviewer: A prism.
AA: That was your color, that’s right, that was your color TV, and the -- but what happened, the reason -- I probably would have had a color TV for my kids growing up, except we were living in Forest Park by then and I guess there were three, two African American families that were living in the area when we moved over there. And so there was a doctor and his wife that lived in Forest Park and they were pretty well-known and you know wealthy people, they had some kind of an event like a PTA outing at their house at Forest Park and they lived on a large acreage and so when I was talking to the mother and she was showing me around her house they didn’t own a TV set, there was no television on in there, and I thought that’s strange because everybody had a television.
Interviewer: By that time.
AA: Yeah, so when talking to her and I asked her Why don’t you have a television set in your house? That seemed strange. And so she and her husband decided that their two boys would not have a television set growing up because it distracted from them learning and studying. And I thought you know if I had of thought of that first, I never would have bought one; so that’s why we never had a color TV, because it made sense to me what she said.
AA: And so my children were stuck with the black and white and I started telling them they were lucky to have that, as a matter of fact. But those two boys, their parents never bought a television set when they were growing up, but my children thought they were deprived because they had to watch black and white and that was the first one we got, and I declared I would never buy another one, you know.
Interviewer: I wanted to ask you this: was there anything in your growing up, in your coming up in the old Fairgrounds, coming down to visit in the summers, and working at Blanche’s Drive-in, and then going to old Douglas, and new Douglas, and I’m sure there was more, but what was that something that stayed with you and carried you through to the -- and I call you a successful Interviewer. Was there something from there that you carried with you, that you have with you today?
AA: Well, yes. Well, it goes back further than that; my Grandfather had a big influence on me, my Grandfather never finished high school, but he certainly believed in the power of education. And so that was you know kind of, like, drilled into me, sort of, when I was growing up. I mean they gave me books for me to learn how to read before I could even start school, and the living in the country, well, I mean you know was not like a whole bunch of things. The nearest neighbor was a quarter of a mile away, right? So I was doing well in school, and you know when I started school and then all the way through, I didn’t, you know, making the grade wasn’t a problem for me. When I came to the city the only thing that interrupted that was when I discovered the roller skates and all that, and the rest of the kids.
AA: I started taking piano lessons when I was in the country, and I was doing good, I was even composing some songs; but it seemed like that was just dull stuff, you know, when I moved to the city, and everybody was skating. So my mother started me with piano lessons here in Oklahoma City, and the music teacher finally told me Tell your mother to quit wasting her money because that’s what’s she’s doing. You’re not practicing, you’re not ready when you come in here, you don’t know your piano lesson, so that was the end of my piano lessons, so that had an impact. Mr. Moon was our principal.
Interviewer: Mr. F.D. Moon
AA: Mr. F.D. Moon, that’s right; he was a great person. We didn’t kind of know this, as kids growing up;
I came to understand that later. But he was forever present when we were going to school, and we knew he stood for excellence, we heard that every day every day at school. And when we moved to the new Douglas down in the Fairgrounds, we were the first 10th grade class there, so we spent three years there. When I graduated from Douglas, the school was just, like, brand new, just when we walked in there. Why? Because Mr. Moon was on that microphone every day on the PA system and he would say Students we will not scratch, make marks on our lockers, we will not write on the walls. And we did that,
I mean, it was just like brand new, you know.
Interviewer: Three years later.
AA: Three years later, it was just like you walked in there 3 years before. I mean you could not tell that we had been there. I mean there was no evidence of wear and tear at all because--
Interviewer: Were you ever in the band?
Interviewer: Do you recall, do you remember Douglas High School Band marching through the neighborhood?
AA: Of course, of course.
Interviewer: When they were having band practice.
AA: Yes, I did. As a matter of fact, the twins that lived across the street from us on Euclid, Doris and Iris Dean, were in the band; they were in the band, they were majorettes. And yes, I knew all about the practices; they would practice after school, and you know, sometimes I would watch them practice. And of course there were plenty of boys who watched the practice if they could because they thought it was marvelous to watch those girls twirl those batons and see their legs, that was about the only time you were going to get to see their legs.
Interviewer: In that day.
AA: That’s right. So that was always interesting; the marching band, the majorettes, and that whole concept was very powerful. Because they were good, they were excellent, it was an occasion and an event for the community whenever there was going to be a football game or something, and the band had a parade. There was always a parade; and the band would march, when we were on High they would march down--
Interviewer: From High?
AA: Down to 2nd Street and go up that way. And people would just line the streets to watch it, and they got the thrill of their lives. And men got the thrill of their lives when the majorettes got to the corner of 2nd and Styles and they would turn that corner, and those little dresses just popped--
Interviewer: they would kick it like that--
AA: That’s right, and then they would throw their batons up in the air and catch them, and oh boy, the crowd would just go-- it was a show, it was a show. And that’s what we grew up with, I mean, everything about Douglas was excellent, was absolutely excellent. It was, the whole educational experience was memorable to me, I’ll never forget it.
AA: You know that’s why I get very upset when seems like people want to get rid of the name F.D. Moon; if they don’t mention it, I get real upset and so I’ll call it, what you said, you didn’t call F.D. Moon’s name, what’s wrong with you? And see that’s what’s kind of upsetting to me about some of our history that’s not written down or recorded, because it’s soon forgotten…
Interviewer: The important things, very important things.
AA: The important things; and see Mr. Moon, you see, when I say he was a great man -- I was walking down the hall one day -- we respected him, and so if Mr. Moon called you to the side, we automatically thought you were in trouble, because he was just such a stern – yes, he was stern and powerful. He was a community leader because he would strategize with some of the community leaders, even in getting the school that was down there on Martin Luther, which was Eastern which became Martin Luther King, he was part of the think tank that accomplished that. But I was walking down the hall and he said Golden come here a minute I thought Oh, what have I done? You know, and so he said, I want to talk to you in my office and I thought Gee, I don’t remember doing anything, you know, so when I went in -- I was a Senior, and he said I just wanted to talk to you. They had -- that was the time they would test you for your IQ, your intelligence quota, or the IQ test and those kinds of things. He called me in to explain to me that that IQ test probably didn’t mean what I thought it was, he did not want that to be a limiting factor in my mind; he said basically it just measures you against a set of experiences that you may not have even had yet. For example I came from the country right and I was living there until I went to the 8th grade so maybe I knew farming and all the aspects of that because I had lived on the farm, my grandfather was farming. So I could tell you everything about the farm, but I may not be able to tell you about aviation or--
Interviewer: Because you had no exposure to that.
AA: No, what he was telling me was, if your IQ score comes out to be, like, 105 -- you can raise that, it’s not something that you were born with, and you can get over it, and it’s not a measure of you. See that’s what he was trying to tell me, and I was just shocked because I nobody had ever explained it like that before. But he would do things like that and so that--
Interviewer: He wanted you to be the best that you could possibly be.
AA: That’s right, that’s right.
Interviewer: And he was like that with every student.
AA: That’s right, that’s right, he was. And so that’s why I say he was such a great man; because he knew his student body, and he knew the potential of his students. And so if there was any little thing that he could do to improve or bring it up, you know, that’s what he would do, and so he called me in to discuss that IQ test. And I was glad that he did because see, I was thinking, like everybody else, that’s what you were born with, and you were limited and you couldn’t overcome that, that was your score for life.
Interviewer: You couldn’t do any better than that.
AA: That’s right, that’s right, and all that. And he explained to me about these tests they gave you, it didn’t fall from heaven, and that may not even be you, it may be your experience to that point. And so I was grateful for that, and I was very grateful for -- our class motto was “Knowledge is Power,” and boy we believed that. We really did. And so we were continually striving to be the best that we could possibly be.
Interviewer: Wouldn’t you say that you found that -- not only did you find that in your school, but you found it in your neighborhood, you found it in the places of businesses that you went to. It was the pride, you hear people say, the pride of the eastside; and it was a pride that individuals -- you, everyday individuals that you had contact with, would have that pride of excellence, that striving to be the better or best.
AA: And at that time during those days we had some great exposures, which today’s children may not have they see in on TV or whatever, but I can remember that Mariam Anderson coming to Douglas High School, I can remember that. And so national personality’s people that are far away from us now
Interviewer: Coming simply because we were, it was Douglas
AA: It was Douglas, and we were all--
Interviewer: African American.
AA: African American
Interviewer: In an African American community.
AA: That’s right, and she was coming to do -- any great artist or personality that came to Oklahoma City to perform at the Municipal Auditorium for the most part came by Douglas. And those of us that were students at the time were treated, you know--
Interviewer: To that performance.
AA: That performance, right there on the stage. And so that’s how I, you know -- I used to laugh, you know, a little bit about classical music and those operas and stuff. And that was because I didn’t understand them, really; but I came to understand it, based on our exposure student days at Douglas High School.
Interviewer: That’s just wonderful.
AA: Yeah, that’s how it happened. Because growing up in the country, I mean, all I had was Grand Ole Opry, Minnie Pearl, and all that, you understand what I’m saying. I was just like any other country person.
Interviewer: It was still a part of your life, just a part of who you were.
AA: So -- but in the country, you weren’t exposed to the Mariam Anderson’s, and those budding in the city and, you know, and you were going to Douglas, and it was such a great institution, you had those experiences then.
Interviewer: Great institution, excellent leadership.
AA: That’s right. I was telling a classmate of mine, I said Our teachers really had us buffaloed, I said, we didn’t know it but they were really preparing us for the future, they would say things to us, I said, we were really they really had us going we had no clue that they were just preparing us. They would say things to us, you know, while you’re sleeping at night other people are burning the midnight oil, and you little kids are not going to be ready when you get ready to go to college. Well when I went to college, I thought that I would really, was worried that I really wasn’t ready, so I thought golly, burning the midnight oil while we’re asleep, you know, do I stay up and burn? I was really distressed about that.
Yep, at any rate when I got to college found that we were really over-prepared, more than ready to go to college. They had us believing all the time that we had to keep striving because we were way behind, and, you know, everybody -- the rest of the world -- is leaving you.
Interviewer: But they knew something that you--
AA: They knew something that we didn’t know, and they had--
Interviewer: They prepared you.
AA: That’s right, very well.
Interviewer: So you would success above and beyond.
AA: That’s right. And see a lot of people ask me today what, I’ve never seen anything like it, what makes your class, you know, the Class of ‘57, such an outstanding group of kids. We believed that stuff that they told us, because George Wesley -- who came here from Louisiana, from Gramlin -- that he had never seen anything like it.
Interviewer: I remember George.
AA: So he said, You were in the Class of ‘57, Willa Johnson was in the Class of ‘57, Leonard Benton was in the Class of ‘57, Russell Terrier was in the Class of ‘57, James Thompson was in the Class of ‘57, Horace Stevenson was in the Class of ’57. So all these are people who are high achievers--
Interviewer: And still going strong
AA: Still going strong, and they were all in the Class of ’57. I said we believed everything they told us and so, we just, you know, it’s not just within us to fail; it’s not within us to fail, it’s within us to succeed.
Interviewer: It wasn’t an option.
AA: You’re supposed to be successful, we didn’t think any other way.
Interviewer: Well, Anita it’s just been an absolute pleasure. I’m going to have to talk with you again,
I know that, and I knew that coming in this. But I would love to have the opportunity to meet with you again; our time is winding up here. It’s just been a wonderful trip down the memory lane of your mind. Remembering some of the things, and it’s amazing, a lot of things that you remember are some of the very same things that I remember, that’s the focus of my 4th Street project, is to put those memories in writing. Like you said, some very important things get lost because it hasn’t been written down.
AA: That’s right.
Interviewer: And so I’m going to, over a period of time, talking with more people just like you and just like me who grew up down in the old fairgrounds.
AA: Oh, that’s wonderful. Thank you for having me. My pleasure.