Alice Fowler with syblings.

Alice Fowler

Alice (Moore) Fowler was born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1934 and moved to Lawrence when she was three months old. Her grandparents on her father's side grew up in slavery. Her great-grandparents on her mother's side were instrumental in founding Lawrence's Progressive Educational Association. Alice grew up in North Lawrence at 412 Locust, where she still lives. She attended the segregated elementary Lincoln School, and then mixed-race junior and senior high schools. After graduating from Liberty Memorial High School in 1952, she attended KU. She married in 1955 and is the mother of five children, four of whom are still living. She has been a life-long member of the First Regular Missionary Baptist Church. Alice has worked at the Lawrence Fire Department and Senior Center and served as a member of the USD 497 School Board. She has been widely honored for her volunteer and leadership positions in the Lawrence community.

Alice Fowler's grandmother Ethel Moore, was interviewed in 1977.

January 13, 2003
Interviewed by Sherrie Tucker and Deborah Dandridge

It's January 13, 2003, and this is the oral history of Alice Fowler. This is the first oral history that's done by the African American Oral History Project here in Lawrence, Kansas. Alice Fowler has been one of the people starting the Oral History Project and she is going to be the first oral history interview for the project.

Sherrie: Alice, you want to tell us a little bit about why you started the project, and we go into actually doing the oral history.

ALICE: Yes. For several years or many years African Americans in Lawrence have mentioned the fact that our history is not preserved in books or anything, and not a correct history. And, so, this has just gone on over the years. Well, early on I've done a few things, like interviewing some seniors in the black community for Senior Citizen time for my church, but nothing very extensive. During the event of Langston Hughes Symposium, I had a chance to talk with Mrs. LaMerle McCoy who shared my views. And we also, at that time, were talking and Barbara Watkins and Maryemma Graham came up and so we were sharing that with them. And they said, "Well, its time to do something about it. There is an Oral History Seminar that takes place at KU that's been going on for several years." And so they invited us to come that. We went to that, and then from there we decided we needed to get started. So I called a few people and Barbara Watkins, Maryemma Graham, people that I knew and that they knew and we called them together to see if we could get started on an African American Oral History Project.

Sherrie: And, some of the questions that we will be using in this oral history were developed by the group.

ALICE: By the group, yes, yes. We tried to get representatives from the black community period. When we went through the black churches there were about ten African American Churches here in town and we wrote letters to those churches asking them to send representatives if they were interested in participating in this project. And we did have some that have come and not been able to continue, and then some we do have a representative from one of the churches that is now working on the committee.

Sherrie: Okay, great! Well let's now start with your oral history. So why don't we start with the first question. Tell us about when and where you were born, and just a little bit of what we know about your family history.

ALICE: All right. I was born in Topeka, Kansas, but was moved here at a very early age. I was an enfant when my folks moved here back to Lawrence. My dad had previously been a member of CCC Camp, which was a Civil Engineer Corp, and they built Lone Star Lake. And that was how he came to this area and met my mother. Subsequently then I came along. So, anyway, I knew a lot… quite a bit about my mother's history. I don't know very much about my father's history because my father's father was one of eight boys who were slaves, and at the event of freedom they all left and went to different states. Unfortunately they could write their name, but they didn't read and write and they didn't keep in touch with each other. So, my father never knew any of his uncles and I never knew anything of their history, except that my grandmother on my father's side came from West Virginia and my grandfather came from Alabama. And that's about as much as I know. My father was one of twelve children, six boys and six girls, and they traveled from the south and they ended up settling in Emporia, Kansas. And that's where my grandparents raised the twelve children and then, of course, they dispersed from there. My mother's family came from… on her side… on her mother's side, they came from Missouri. But on her father's side they came from Ft. Smith, Arkansas, and other places in the south, I don't know where. Ft. Smith, Arkansas, was where they left from before some of the family members, the twins that were born into that family, were born. They were born on the way from Ft. Smith, Arkansas, to this area. They were part of the Exoduster's Movement. And, as you may or may not know, that movement came from the south, people looking for free land, and then they dropped off at different places for different reasons, and ended up… the largest group of them, ended up in Nicodemus, Kansas. But my mother's people settled here. My great grandfather was Samuel Henry Johnson and my great-grandmother was Lula Belle Carr. And they, as I said, they settled here, and they were instrumental in being part of something called the Progressive Club and they help teach different things to ex-slaves as they migrated, things that they needed in order to sustain life or help improve life as they moved on through the country.

Sherrie: What are some examples of what they would be teaching?

ALICE: Well, they taught things like philosophy and they taught things like… my great-grandmother taught like cooking skills and household things that you would need to know, things to keep house because many of the ex-slaves, I guess most of them worked in fields or in kitchens, but I guess this was a different aspect of how you would take care of your own home. I don't know what all. But they taught math and reading, I'm sure they taught those. And one of the things is that where they taught was… there is a building located at 416 Lincoln, and that's not the original building, it's First Regular Missionary Baptist Church. There was another building that either they outgrew or was destroyed by fire, and then they built the one that now exists. But they taught classes in that building and my grandmother went to kindergarten in that building. So that building has… I don't know the exact date that that was built, but that's what that building was used for years ago, one of the two buildings that existed, either the original or the one that's there now.

Sherrie: That's really interesting. I'm wondering if you know anything about what years this would be taking place then?

ALICE: I know that my grandmother was born in 1889. My grandmother lived to be 94 years old, and my great-grandmother also lived to be 94. So, if you take 94 from 1959, that's when my great-grandmother was born. I have dates and things at home, but I don't have them with me and… like my mother's people, grandparents, parents, I have their birth dates and their death dates, but I don't have that with me right now.

Sherrie: What did your grandparents… your maternal grandparents do for a living?

ALICE: Well, my grandfather did many things, I guess, but he ended up working for the Lawrence Paper Company, paper mill. They produced paper at the area which is now called River Front Mall, that area. There used to be a bakery on the corner, right there on the corner, and then Pigmill's behind that one down on New Hampshire Street, and my grandfather worked there. My grandmother did what you call working out, and so she did maid work for people. And that was primarily how they raised their children, 'cause he worked there until he retired. And then she worked until she… well, well beyond retirement because she would help with their parties and things like that. But that was the type of work that they had. Now her father and her mother… her mother had taught… They didn't have to have more than a ninth grade education, so she taught a little bit, the great-grandmother, Lula Carr-Johnson-Iriving. And my great grandfather was employed by the City of Lawrence for a while and he was an engineer. And, in fact, my grandmother was born over on Second Street, over where the water works, there was a little building there for water works, and that's where my great grandparents lived and that's where my grandmother was born, then they moved to North Lawrence shortly after that. But he worked here as a city water engineer, and it's different from the kinds of engineers that they have now. But he was responsible for keeping track of water and how much water was used during fires and things like that, until he was called to Indiana to work there. And, he had a natural gift for machinery and being able to put machinery together and develop different kinds of machinery. And, so, he was in Indiana until he died.

Sherrie: So, what neighborhood did you grow up in, and did you live near your grandparents?

ALICE: Yes. I grew up at 412 Locust mostly and my grandparents lived at 519 Elm, which is really a block apart with an alley between. And, so, must of the time I was up and down the alley to my grandparent's house or at their home at 412 Locust, which is where I live now. That was quite handy.

Sherrie: Was there other family around?

ALICE: Well, my mom had five brothers and a sister, and I have a brother and a sister. My mother, my father, my brother, sister and I, and an auntie lived with us for a while until my mother died, and then she moved over with my great-grandmother and my grandmother who lived over on Connecticut by that time. But the five brothers didn't marry until they were in their 30's I guess. So, I had uncles a lot around me and we had family gatherings quite frequently. All of the uncles I think played baseball at some time or another and, so… baseball and basketball, so my grandfather saw to it that we got to go to the… ride to the basketball and the baseball games. He'd load his truck up with neighborhood kids and take us to the games and things. And, at that time blacks could only play in what they called Lincoln Park, which is over in the 300 black or 200 block of Main, right down from the hospital, and it is now called Woody Park. It was named after Elgin Woody who was the coach for baseball for years and years and years.

Sherrie: What was your neighborhood like when you were growing up?

ALICE: Well, in the neighborhood that I lived in we were the only black family in that neighborhood and in my grandmother's neighborhood there were only two black families in that neighborhood. But when we moved, we had lived with an auntie on Maple Street and, when the war came, we had begun renting on Locust Street. My folks tried to buy the house and the man didn't want to sell it, and then, during the war, one of the neighbors that occupied 412 with us wanted to sell their house and build a new one. And, so, my mom spoke up and got that house, she and my grandfather because women at that time could not own property, married women couldn't own property without a man's signature on it. So, anyway, my grandfather signed and then when my dad got out of the Army he transferred it into my father's name. So, I grew up there, my children have grown up there, some of my grandchildren and some of my great grandchildren have grown up in that house.

Sherrie: So, when you talk about the war, you're talking about World War II?


Sherrie: And you were… I don't think you said what year you were born?

ALICE: I was born in 1934.

Sherrie: 1934?

ALICE: Yeah.

Sherrie: This would be around 1941, '42?

ALICE: Right, right.

Sherrie: Okay, so you were about eight?

ALICE: Seven or eight years old, somewhere around in there.

Sherrie: Okay. Let's back up a little bit and talk about your early childhood and your schooling, your playing… what you did you do? What do you remember about your early childhood?

ALICE: Well, I remember that it was just very, very comfortable. If it wasn't with my family, it was with my grandparents and neighbors. People seemed to take care of the kids in the neighborhood, even if it was getting after you. They would correct you. You didn't want your family to know that you had been corrected by a neighbor, because then you got in trouble at home. But it was very comfortable. And when I was very small I lived on Maple Street with this auntie that I was telling you about. And the thing that I remember about Maple Street is that it was not paved and in was summer time the dust would just squeeze up between your toes. It would be so hot and you would walk on it, but the dust would just squeeze up between your toes and, when cars drove down that street, the dust would just roll right behind it. And, of course, adults didn't like that. I thought it was fascinating and I like to get out in the dirt. But that was growing up. I grew up with a family that canned and my grandfather grew vegetables and we canned vegetables, we raised chickens. Just a lot of things that now, I guess, a lot of people don't do, some people still do. But it was just a way of life. You didn't think about raising vegetables. And I can remember as a very young child there was a special… well, I don't know how special it was… there was a grocery store over in the 1000 block of Massachusetts, and my grandfather sold shelled peas and lima beans. He would bring them out of the garden and my auntie and I, my grandmother and anybody else that they could commandeer would help shell these peas or these lima beans and my grandfather would walk them over while they were fresh. And people paid a lot more for shelled beans than they did if you had them in the shell and sold them and so he did that. One of things I remember is the smell of sauerkraut being made (laughter) and how smelly it was, but how good it was when you ate it. They made jellies, jams. They did everything necessary to preserve life and limb. And, as always, it was easier for black women to get work than it was for black men, because black women could work out in homes, cleaning and cooking and like that. I remember being at my grandmother's a lot because, before we were… even when we were in school, but before we were in school all day and my mom had to work, we would be at my grandmother's. I remember going with her to her different clubs. She belonged Double Twelve Club, a self-improvement club, a garden club, things like that, plus her regular church organizations.

Sherrie: What is Double Twelve Club?

ALICE: I really don't know what that is and I gave some information to Deborah Dandridge in with my grandmother's things, and in there was a Double Twelve Club. I don't know a lot about the history of the black women clubs that took place in Kansas, but I remember the names because after I got to be older, I was in high school and I used to type up their yearly programs for my grandmother, and so that's why I remember some of the names of them. But they… I think for the most part they were self-improvement clubs. Some of them did reading and just discuss the literature. I remember the garden club was all about gardening and they did that. But I think for the most part they were considered clubs to help improve the quality of life that they had to live at that time.

Sherrie: You described your neighborhood that you grew up in as being very close, but also you mentioned that you were the only black family in the neighborhood that you grew up in. I wondered what the interracial relationships were like within the neighborhood?

ALICE: Well, it was mixed because there were some people they fought against my mother for her to get that house. At that time some of the people in the neighborhood didn't want any black families in the neighborhood. So, the family right behind us were very close to us. He was a fisherman, he worked for a company called Green Brother's, a hardware store, and he and his wife were very… their name were Bill and Florence Cain and they were very kind to us and then there were some people on down the block. But as they got to know us, we had lived in the block as renters in the house next door, and the House's, Leonard and his wife, I can't think of his wife's name, Leonard House and his wife, they were very kind to us. We didn't do any social interaction as such, but we were kids and mom and dad worked all the time. And, of course, the Houses worked and the Cain's worked, but if there was ever anything that was needed, if anybody needed anything, they would let you know. And, my brother ended up working for Bill Cain, he sold minnows. He had a big old tank in his back yard and he sold minnows as bait for fishing, and that was my brother's first job I think, other than peddling vegetables with a man named Mr. Ball who hired him to go along with his wagon and sell vegetables in the summer time.

Sherrie: Were there other children in the neighborhood?

ALICE: Not really. Most of the children, like the families that we associated with, their children were grown. And then the families that had children didn't want to be bothered with us and, so, we didn't bother with them. And they had children approximately our age, one or two, and I think there were three families that had one or two children. But most of the people we associated with had grown children or they were in college at the time, both the Houses and the Cain's. So, we didn't have any interaction. If it came to playing primarily as we grew up, we played at home. As we got older and we had friends in junior high school or from the church that we might be allowed to go to their house and play at some point and they could come and play at our house, but not necessarily. We didn't do a whole lot of playing in each other's homes and we didn't spend nights. It was unheard of to go spend the night some place unless you were at your grandma or grandpa's.

Sherrie: Was this specifically across race or would that be true with black children?

ALICE: Well, this was with black children because we didn't have any interaction with white children at the time. Now that was when I was growing up. Now when my children grew up it was entirely different. They had done away with the segregated school here in North Lawrence and my children went to Woodlawn, which was integrated. And, of course, they had friends of all races and, so, my grandmother used to say my yard looked like the United Nations because there was some of everything in it. But the kids grew up which was a better way to grow up.

Sherrie: Do you remember how you learned the social rules of who you could play with… or how did your parents explain to you… or what kind of training did you get that helped you understand?

ALICE: I think primarily… mostly… I'm using primarily a lot. But, basically, we were taught as we were growing up, that as a race, we weren't liked, not because of anything we did but don't be surprised if people don't like you and don't be surprised if they call you names. It's out of their own ignorance and don't feel badly about it. You get angry about it, but it's not… it doesn't take anything away from you and whatever you want to be, you have to work hard and try to be that. But, I think one of things that helped you learn very sharply and abruptly is the fact that you were called names quite frequently. And, if you weren't called names directly, you heard people talking about you and using a slur… a racial slur. And, so, you developed a self-protection thing. Of course, as a kid you called names back. As you grew you learned that some people… of course, some people still have deep wounds from… because it has not gone away… racism has not gone away, its just become more refined and more subtle. But you don't have the name calling as such and… well, I can't say that either because I have grandchildren who have gone through a period of racial slurs in their growing up years. In fact, I was talking to someone about my great-grandmother and on down, so that's about how many generations, great-grandmother to now… to great grandchildren? And it hasn't changed so much that there's no name-calling or that this has gone away completely and, so, you wonder how long, how long.

Sherrie: I wonder if you can maybe recall some specific ways that the people around you helped you in learning what to do or learning how to deal with that information, because that's a lot of information to take in.

ALICE: Yeah.

Sherrie: Was it your family, were the schools involved? Who taught you… what was helpful?

ALICE: Well, basically it was the family because my family was pretty close family. My parents, my grandparents, they were all there and they were very protective in that they didn't want you hurt. I went to an all-black elementary school and so we learned there. And we learned first of all to be proud of who you are. Just a strong sense of pride and don't let anyone take that away from you. And sometimes the way that you deal with it is ignore it. Basically don't do anything unless someone puts their hands on you first, but it's not worth fighting over. It's their loss that they don't get to know you as a person and feel that it's all right just to eliminate you from anything just because of your color. Just different techniques like that. Many days you go home crying or mad because someone's called you a name or maybe got in a fight. You didn't want your folks to know you had a fight. But the school principal would call from the white school and call the school principal from the black school who called your parent and let them know that you had had a fight with another student. And, you just dealt with it. You supported each other. If you saw a black child that was walking by their self and some white children were maybe gathering, you would hurry up and get close to them so that they would feel protected and people wouldn't try to harm them in any way.

Sherrie: Where would you learn how to do that? Would that be something you would be told by your family?

ALICE: Yes, at home or just… sometimes-older kids. If you're having trouble and there are older kids coming along and they'll say, "Oh…" or they might stop somebody from hitting you or stop a fight, or they'll say, "Come on and go with us and they won't bother you," and maybe they'd walk you part of the way home or walk you all the way home. In school the teachers tried to teach you not to get into fights and try to ignore situations like that, get some help from somebody if people were bothering you, try to identify a house or home that you could go to and ask for help if you need it, or call your family from that home. So, I think primarily it was just family and, like I said, I had five uncles and, of course, they were older than I but, when they were around, they would be very protective and tell you the kind of things that you should do or shouldn't do. That's where I got my information anyway.

Sherrie: Okay. Tell us about your elementary school experiences.

ALICE: All right. First of all, I went to elementary school, to the Lincoln School, which was an all-black elementary school with all black teachers and I began at four in a preschool setting. And, I can remember going before kindergarten to a preschool where all you learned… I thought it was kindergarten myself. But, at any rate, it's a precursor to a kindergarten. And, it was divided up into three classrooms the building was. When you're in kindergarten you're in a room, kindergarten to maybe first, and then as you progressed, by the time you get to third grade that's the end of the second room, then you go fourth, fifth and sixth in the last room. And, the principal was our teacher for fourth, fifth and sixth and her name was Lillian Webster. And she taught there… she taught my mother and then she taught my brother, sister and I. And it was really a great experience to me because we did a lot of neat things. We had programs and we learned about African American history. Whenever we had a program we… they enlisted our parents to make some type of treat and I can remember my mom always saying, "Alice, I don't make all the cakes and cookies in the world, so quit volunteering me for everything (laughter)." So… We had lunches there. I can remember the cook there was… at one time that I can remember, was a Mrs. Terry and she cooked and we went down to the basement to have lunch in the little lunchroom kitchen. It was really a… to me, it was really a neat experience now that I look back on it. As a child, I don't think I really appreciated the people and what they taught. I can remember that the only white people that we saw at the time would be the school nurse, Elect Kindlesberger, music teachers from KU, a Mrs. Klingpeel was one of the music teachers. We also had a music teacher who was a black man named… I think his name was Mr. Foster, and he taught… he was a student teacher and he taught us and then he left… and I think he went to New York. He had a beautiful voice. Those were primarily the only people, other than the teachers that were assigned there that taught there that I ever came in contact with, and the janitor who was a Mr. Salisbury, and he was… they were all just like family people to you… I mean, they… if you had some problem, they were there. Of course, they contact your parents, but it was just like… you didn't feel uncomfortable at all as compared to the tension that you felt when you left there and went to a mixed school. Because I left there and then went to the junior high school, which was three buildings, located at the corners of Ninth and Kentucky. There was Central, Manual and Old High. And, that was quite a change in how you were treated too, because there was still racism at that level. I can remember in a homeroom that I was in, we were going to do a play and, so, I wanted to be the leading lady (laughter) and, so, I said, "Well I'm trying out for the leading lady part," and the teach said, "Well, no, you will only be a maid in life and, so, the leading lady has to be someone else." And, so, I said, "Well, if that's the only part I can play, I'm not playing." So, she said, "Well, if you don't take part, you'll have to sit out in study hall." So, I sat out in study hall while they did practice the play for weeks and then gave the play. But, I was determined that I wasn't going to just settle for maid just because somebody told me that was all I could do. So, there was a difference in the elementary school that I came from where you were encouraged to do whatever you wanted to do. And we had to learn and one of the things that some of the teachers had… remarks they had made when kids left Lincoln School and got to the schools… the three junior high schools… I mean the junior high school settings in the three buildings, they said they could always tell whether we were Webster students because they were above average, they were above the seventh grade level. So, it was just a whole difference. The principal didn't mind telling you about hygiene and things like that. Not part of the academic courses necessarily, but as you got in the sixth grade… sixth grade level… fifth and sixth grade level, there were things that you learned that you heard at home anyway, but they were reinforced at school.

Sherrie: What kind of programs did you do at Lincoln School?

ALICE: Oh, anything that they observed in any of the other schools. I can remember… I wasn't there, but my sister talking about my brother when they went to school, they were going to do a program on Armistice Day. And, so, they were practicing and somebody was supposed to say "Armistice Day! Armistice Day! What does it mean?" And my brother was supposed to tell what Armistice Day meant, and he said, "Parade." So the teacher was not very happy about that. But there were things like Armistice Day, I think that we observed Columbus Day, Christmas. We even did Easter things I think and whatever things that the regular school system… because even though we were segregated, we had to follow the same curriculum that was given to all the other schools in Lawrence.

Sherrie: Yet you got African American history, so it sounds like?

ALICE: Yeah, they taught that. She was very big on teaching about African Americans, that they had made contributions and, of course, you learned at home too. But it wasn't a written thing, it was just what they developed and taught you so that you had some sense of your own history.

Sherrie: You remember what you were taught about African American history in school.

ALICE: I think mostly I was taught about people like Booker T. Washington and also Langston Hughes. I have a book… I'm not positive… I think the title is The First Book of Negroes by Langston Hughes. We were taught about people who had made great contributions at that level at that time, whatever they knew they taught us and… we just had different… it wasn't like a printed course on African American history, it was just that they taught us things throughout the years about African Americans and the contributions that they had made, and let us know that we made some very significant contributions to the building of America. And the most things that you saw in history books were the fact that we had been slaves and we came over and we'd been caught and then we did this manual work. But never anything about the inventions or the great contributions that we had made to the building of America.

Sherrie: So then you would go from that education to junior high and high school, where there probably wasn't where there was nothing but white history. Was it possible to add information (laughter) as a student or did you just sort of have too…?

ALICE: No. I really just… I didn't because I remember a lot of the teachers… not a lot… Some of the teachers that I had had very negative attitudes and, so, you just wanted to… because the courses were mandatory, you wanted to take it and get out. I had a teacher who didn't believe that an African American descendent could make anything better than a "D" and she taught my mother and she taught me as well. And, so, guess what I got for the course? A "D" and my mother did too. But I didn't volunteer information, what I knew I knew, but I didn't. We shared information with people sometimes, but not in the classroom setting. So, I can remember… I forget what year I was in high school, but I looked in a history book and Ralph Bunch was in there and I was so surprised that he was in… He had gotten, … what is it? The high award for peace, what is that?

Sherrie: Nobel?

ALICE: Nobel Peace Prize… The Nobel Peace Prize. And he was in there and I was very surprised at that. But mostly what you found were things about slavery and that was about it.

Sherrie: What role did the church play in your childhood?

ALICE: A very important role in my life. My father… my grandparents too, but my father and my mother were both Christians and my father was a Deacon in the church. And, of course, we grew up at home learning about the Christian ethics and the Christian principles, about God and his Son and the Holy Ghost. And, so, my folks were very particular that we applied those principles to our everyday life. I went to Sunday School and I went to church service, I sang in the choir, I worked as an usher, I taught Sunday School some. We went to a class called BTU, which was Baptist Training Union, and just very important. And, to this day I am very involved in my church and very involved in my beliefs. My belief system is very strongly rooted and I try to walk what my belief is… what I speak, I try to live that way. So, the church as people see it may not be as important as what the church means… what it stands for. What the Bible stands for is an important part of my life.

Sherrie: And, I understand that and I may ask a question that will sound like I don't (laughter).

ALICE: (Laughter) That's all right.

Sherrie: What church was it that you belonged to when you were growing up or what church did you…?

ALICE: I still belong… I belong to First Regular Missionary Baptist Church and that's the church I was telling you about earlier, where my great grandparents taught some of the ex-slaves. Its name has been First Missionary or First Baptist Church, First Missionary Baptist Church… because they met the first and third Sundays only. They had a circuit preacher years ago and met first and third, and then when they finally got a full-time preacher, they changed the name to First Regular Missionary Baptist Church, meaning that they met regularly every Sunday. And… this is very important. There is one pastor that was there 30 years. He came when I was eight years old and he died when I was 38, and that was longest pastor that has ever been at First Regular I believe. We're now at 1646 Vermont Street and a growing church. We don't have a great large congregation but we're growing. And, we're very involved things for young people in the community. The church had a garage sale and the pastor that we have now says that if we do any money raising efforts, it can't be for the church's use, it has to be going to the community. So, the Youth group wanted to do a garage sale, cookout and carwash, so they done it for two years and I don't know how much they earned this year, but the first year they earned about $500 that they gave to the open shelter for the homeless. So, that's…

Sherrie: You grew up during two very important historical events… I mean more than that, but the '30's and we're talking about the Great Depression. I wonder how aware you were of the Great Depression, and then World War II? I interested in what your observations as a young, eight to twelve or thirteen years old were like. What kind of changes that you saw? First all, were you aware of the Great Depression?

ALICE: I really don't think I was. As people talk about, I remember… things I remember… I can remember my mom having to go to the grocery store and she gave me a quarter and I got enough hamburger to make a meatloaf for our family. I can remember that bread I think was about a nickel a loaf and… But I thought I was rich, I really did. I mean, I didn't think of myself as wealthy but I thought I was rich because we always had food and we had a family and we had love. And, in the summertime you hated it because you washed quart jars and pint jars, getting ready for the canning and the preserving. But in the wintertime you really liked it when you had applesauce and jellies and things that were… hot biscuits, and you could grab that stuff out of the basement and use it. So, I really wasn't aware of the fact that we were struggling. I knew Mom went to work and Dad went to work. Later on I realized my dad made $7 a week cooking, a whole week, eight hours a day cooking. He made a dollar a day. And my mother could make more money cleaning house although I don't think she made that much more. But she made more money cleaning houses and serving dinner parties than my dad made cooking all week. I really can't say that anything stood out that made me know that it was really the Depression. But I think it was basically because everyone around us had the same problems. They all were going through the same thing and people all put up food. My grandfather raised gardens on three lots I believe and, so, anybody that needed food had food. And I'm sure there were other people that did the same. Although we put up a lot of food between the two families, anybody that needed anything out of the garden were welcome to it.

Sherrie: So, World War II…

ALICE: Yeah.

Sherrie: What happened to Lawrence and what do you remember about it?

ALICE: I can remember things like a Victory garden. I can remember, at Lincoln School, right in the corner of the property there was a flagpole… I don't if it's still there or not. And, we used to bring scrap iron, scrap metal, and I can remember… somewhere I have a picture I think still… some snapshot if its not all faded… of a big pile scrap that was used… collected, and it was taken and melted down to make more army tanks and guns and things for our boys so they could fight World War II. I remember flags and things in the windows. Because all of my mother's brothers… My father was in the Army and all my mother's brothers, except one, were in the Army. The one brother was in the Navy and he was a mechanic for the Navy and he was down in Memphis, Tennessee, I believe. But, my dad was in the Army. He went to France. I know one of my uncles went to England. I think some of the other uncles were just here in the United States serving on different army posts. But, I can remember… it was sad… it was a sad time and happy when you see them come home and sad when you saw them go and how many tears there were and how everybody, even though you didn't know Hitler, you'd throw darts at his face and you hated him because he was killing our people. It was just a real tense time. One of the things I remember that my grandmother did is she said, "We're going to do a round robin letter." And, a round robin letter was that she started the letter, she gave it to my mom, my mom would send it to one of the brothers and he would have to add something, send it to another brother and they did this. And, you would have to add a page if you ran out of pages and they would glue the pages and then it would have to come back ultimately to my grandmother, and then we'd all get to read it. And, we did several of those I guess… they did several of them. I can remember writing with a little scratchy something on there. They let all the kids add to it if they wanted to, and how glad my uncles were for those letters. And, how my mother wrote every one of her brothers. Every week she wrote a letter as well as to my dad. And, I can remember her sitting at the table at nights writing to my father and my brothers during the war. Other than that… just off the top of my head I don't remember… I remember when everybody came home and how glad we were…, how happy we were to have everyone back.

Sherrie: Did anybody talk about the way that black soldiers were treated?

ALICE: Yes. My uncle that went to England… he was walking down the street with one of his friends and some women came up behind them and were hollering to the soldiers, "Soldier, we want to see your tail." And they just kind of walked on. So, then they made it very plain that they were talking to the black soldiers. And, so, they stopped and said, "Well, what do mean you want to see our tails?" Because tails to them was not something that you would bear in public and, so, they said, "No, your monkey tail." And they were told that black people had tails like monkeys that were coiled up in their pants and that they should not associate with them. And, so, he said, "No that's not true…," he told her that wasn't true, but that was one of the things. All my family served in black troops. The Navy guy was not overseas so I don't know what the makeup was. But, my dad was a cook in the Army and I remember he sent a picture. He made his own stove out of great big square lard cans that they had sent over and he drew a picture of the stove that he made and he cooked on this while they were out in France on… bivouac I guess, or whatever they called it. I don't remember a lot. I remember my dad told about some firings and shootings and that it was nighttime and it was raining and they were passing under some barbwire fence, and a flash of light showed a snake. And, he said he was definitely afraid of snakes. And, they had said that there were snakes and they had to be aware. And he had said that he asked God, "If you just deliver me from any snakes I'll serve you the rest of my life." And, the lightening flashed; he saw the snake and was able to get out of the path of it. So, he kept his promise. He kept his promise. I don't know a lot about any of the others being overseas or what they did when they were overseas. I know that my uncle was in England and I know that they saw… I don't know what his battalion was or anything, but I know that they were not on the battle line during the worst of the battle but I know that they were in the war zone… in the fighting zone just about the time the war ended.

Sherrie: Was there defense work in Lawrence?


Sherrie: What do you remember about the war?

ALICE: You mean post war? I'm six years older than my brother and four years older than my sister, and I don't remember a lot specifically of things that they did because I was hanging out with my auntie and other kids in her age group when we did a lot of things, although we were doing it at my grandmother's house or my mom's house. I don't remember a lot of their remembrances or the war. I'm sorry about that. I'd have talk to them in order to know the kinds of things they were dealing with and experiencing.

Sherrie: What kinds of activities did you do and who were your friends in junior high and high school?

ALICE: Well, I… Three of the people that I went to kindergarten with were… two of the people… LaJean McKissack… her name is King now and Peggy Howard-Thompson, Charles Newman, James Barnes. Those were all kids that went to Lincoln School with me. And, I hope I'm not leaving out anybody because there were several… I mean there were people older but these were people in my class. And, we went from kindergarten… Stanley Shepard… We went from kindergarten through elementary school together. And, then, of course, when I got to junior high school… 'cause all the other elementary schools were integrated and Lincoln was the only one that was not. So, I met other black students from the different schools, from Cordley, Pinckney, from New York and, so, I made friends or acquaintances with a lot of them. And, the kind of activities I took part in, I think I was in Leaders' Club in junior high in the ninth grade and then all through high school I was in Leaders' Club, and that was a phys ed type activity. I was in Y Teen, I was treasurer for Y-Teens in high school. I belonged to… of course, in high school… Wayne R. Nelson, who is still in town and who played for our 50th class reunion back in October, was my teacher and I was really quite impressed because we used to listen to (Fred Waring?) orchestra on the radio, and he was a member of the (Fred Waring?) orchestra at one time. And, he came here and he taught music at Lawrence High. Those were about the only activities I really took part in. There wasn't much else really. I didn't belong to any of the other clubs that were in high school. I worked when I was in high school, I worked after school, I worked for the Hixson studio and I worked at a studio, I cleaned in the studio. I also worked in the apartment… the apartment which was directly over the studio. So, then I did other things, I baby sat and I worked in people's homes. I did everything after school, so I didn't have a lot of time for any extracurricular activities.

Sherrie: I don't think we that we specified which schools you went to. So, the junior high was?

ALICE: There was only one junior high, but there were three buildings at that time.

Sherrie: Okay. And what were they called.

ALICE: It was called Manuel, Central and Old High. And, Old High was really the high school building at one time before the Liberty Memorial High School building was built. But at the time I went, it was becoming so rickety they blocked off one of the levels so that you couldn't get up, I think to the third floor, you could only go to the second floor because the building was in such bad shape. But, I went to those three buildings for my junior high experience and, then, when I got out of the ninth grade I went to Liberty Memorial High School tenth grade through twelfth.

Sherrie: In those two schools were there activities that African American students could not participate in? Were there certain kinds of activities that only the white students…?

ALICE: Well, during my time, I don't think it was that clearly delineated, but you just couldn't take part in some of the things because no one before you did it and then you didn't do it. But in the previous generation, they had a basketball team that was all black that was called Promoters, because they were not allowed to play basketball with white students. But, black kids could play football with white students. The promoters had their own cheerleaders. Black people wanted a course of their own, it was called the Cameron White Course because they couldn't sit with white students and, so, they just had a whole kind of regimen of their own things that they could do. And, for the sports things, they did the same things as white students, like having the cheerleaders and you saw that the black people of the community supported the promoters and the Cameron White Course. Other than that I don't know about other activities. I may be missing something, but I don't know of other activities, those are the two that my mother and her brothers belonged to or took part in and, so, that's why I know about them. I know when we did our Liberty Memorial 75th Anniversary, I believe it was two or three years back, and one of the things that we found when they were doing this, they were looking up people that were the first graduates of Liberty Memorial and all they had were white students. And I was on that committee and I kept thinking something is wrong with this picture, I know that there were black kids that went to that school. And, so, anyway, because there were two… when you looked in the history of that building being built, I found two black ministers' names. And, so, they probably helped raise money or something to help get that building built because their names were on the list of supporters. And, so, I found it hard to believe that there weren't black students. And, finally, they found the black students were listed at the back of the annual magazine at that time and they were all put there together. And, there was one man… he's deceased now, but his name was Salisbury… and although they had already published all the graduates in the paper, they did a special interview with him. And he was so pleased that anybody had contacted him because I had called him and told him we wanted to do this and he wasn't sure that he'd do the interview, but he did. And, he subsequently donated a musical instrument to Central Junior High that belonged to his father that was awarded to his father, and he made that donation to them before he died.

Sherrie: Do you remember any instances of African Americans students doing something that hadn't been done before by African American students? Were there ever any black students in student government?

ALICE: I don't know. I don't know the answer to that. I don't know the answer.

Sherrie: I'm thinking of something that I remember talking to you about during our pre-interview with Deborah Dandridge about someone who was…

ALICE: About the guy that was elected Class President?

Sherrie: Yes, yes!

ALCIE: Okay. When I was in high school, I think I was in my first year… Not ninth grade, tenth grade… first year in the building… This black student was elected… voted Class President but was not allowed to be President because he was black. But, he was very popular and he was an athlete and he was voted President by the class… by the peers white and black, and was not allowed to be that.

Sherrie: Who stopped him? Was it the school?

ALICE: Well, I would say that the school officials had to be the ones… I mean, who has more authority than the student body? And, at that time, even though we went to school together, we were not really… We were in classes together, we played sports together, but we were not really that integrated. There was no social contact other than, I guess the basketball guys if they were out on a trip they were together. But there wasn't a lot of social interaction at that time. As an example, I went to a Y-Teen Summer Camp and it was integrated and, when I came back, the '51' flood had hit and we went out on a train but we came back on buses. The bus let us off at the Eldridge Hotel and one of my fellow students' mother was to pick us and our luggage up there, so the girls decided they were going to get a coke and, so, I said, "Well, I can't go in." And, they said, "Well, yeah you can go in. Don't you have enough money? We got plenty money for everybody." And I said, "No, I just can't go in there." And, so, they were really curious. So, I finally said, "Well, I can't be served in there. They don't allow blacks to go in the Eldridge and be served." And, so, we were part of the Y-Teen Group and, so, that was what I remember about as close as I can come to anything that I've been in where there was a negative thing. But, I went to a Y-Teen convention in Johnson County and was the only black person there and I was treated very well. I was treated very well, so.

Sherrie: How did you get involved in Y-Teens?

ALICE: I guess because it was a Young Women's Christian group and it was just natural that I joined it. Because I was Christian and I wanted to be involved in something. And, so, I just decided… And we had that on class time, too, I believe. I didn't have to stay after school to do that, it was part of the homeroom time I think was given to the Y Teens.

Sherrie: What kinds of activities did you do?

ALCIE: Oh, we… First of all, we did projects to raise money to give to, I think, probably feeding groups overseas and things like that. And, then, we went to summer camp, you had an opportunity to go to summer camp and to the conferences and learn things that would help young Christian women. In our meetings we learned different songs to sing and different activities. The one thing I remember about the group was that the scriptures had to be picked out and you couldn't go through the Bible to pick out the scripture… Excuse me, the scriptures had to be picked out and read by certain Christian groups because we weren't allowed to search the scriptures. And, so, whenever someone was chosen to read scripture, it was already printed for them to read. So, I remember… I'm trying to think of the teacher's name that was one of our sponsors. She was a biology teacher and I can't think… Oh, Pearl Carpenter. And she was quite lively and wanted us to be very lively Christian women. So it was a fun group to belong to. I can't think of anything that we did out in the community as such, but we did a few little projects to send money overseas, I think, or to some group. Whether it was overseas or not, it was some group that we helped because the food supply was not great.

Sherrie: What years were you in high school.

ALICE: I was in high school from '49 to '52.

Sherrie: Okay.

ALICE: If you count tenth grade, '48 to '52 if you count ninth grade because that's the first year of high school really.

Sherrie: So, after the war, you had… your father was in the army and your uncles, and you talked about how nice it was when people came back. Then I'm wondering what the men in your family who were in the service did when they returned? They did they all come back to Lawrence?

ALICE: Well, yeah, they came back home at first and then… Well, my, my… all of the… my father and my uncles all came back to Lawrence at first to get adjusted and get back on their feet, and my father stayed. He went to work at KU as a custodian. My youngest uncle didn't go into service until World War II was over and, so, he was stationed at Ft. Leonard Woods and he was there until he finished his commitment. Two of my uncles moved to Topeka and worked at Veterans' Hospital and, then, my oldest uncle and the baby boy, when he got out of Ft. (Leonard Woods?), they moved to Colorado and they lived in Colorado until he died. Most of them lived in Colorado until they died. I had one uncle living with my mother and one brother, his name is William Moore who lives in Topeka, Kansas, and he's retired. He worked for, not only the VA, but he also worked for Menninger's. And, so, he's retired from there now and he's enjoying his elder years.

Sherrie: What about dating? Did you date in junior high like they do today (laughter)? Did they date in high school? What was that like?

ALICE: Well, I think that probably they had girlfriends and boyfriends. I don't know that dated. Now days I hear that kids are dating… I mean really dating, going out with… not group dating but having individual dates at a very early age, and I don't think that a lot of that was going on. I know there were boyfriends and girlfriends and all that, but I think that a lot of the dating was like eighth, ninth grade and on through high school. I didn't do a lot of dating. I think my dating started at the senior level of high school, one date for the prom and then dating was after I got out of high school. But, generally speaking, I think kids were dating in high school.

Sherrie: You know what they did or the places that you heard about that they went?

ALICE: Yeah, they went to shows and… Well, I guess whatever, but I don't really know what the white population did because we didn't interact with them. But I know that they could swim and we couldn't at the time, there were no public swimming facilities and parents were very anxious to keep the kids out of the one place that black people went to swim, which was called The Cut which claimed a life every year, every summer. And, so, I don't know a whole lot about the activities, but I'm sure that whatever activities the parents were involved in the kids did it. They belonged to country clubs or things like that, they swam, they played tennis and things like that as they dated. But, I don't know a lot. Ours went to shows, black kids went to shows and baseball games and things like that and there were dances. I know when I was out of high school there used to be a night club or a country… not a country club, a night club in Topeka where main people like Lula Reed and the Drifters and people like that came at that time, and that was a big kick to go and be able to dance to the music there, so that was fun if you could get to do that.

Sherrie: So, you graduated from high school in '50…?

ALICE: '52.

Sherrie: '52. What did you do?

ALICE: Well, my folks wanted me to go to college. I graduated in '52 and I enrolled in KU that summer, that winter, fall and spring '52-'53, went one year and didn't like it and I quit and I went to work in a sorority house, substituting for a cook who did salads, a salad cook, and ended doing dishes for someone. And, then, I kind of knocked around. That was '52, '53-'54. I met my husband and married in '55, so then I became a housewife. Then I went back to college twelve years later. And, then, twelve years after that… (laughter) college still awaits me (laughter)… part of it.

Sherrie: What didn't you like about KU in 1952?

ALICE: I just didn't like the whole atmosphere. I … The second semester I was in a situation where I really didn't like. I was in a class that was really far above my head, but I had been advised to take this class during this first year and, so, I was in a class with some upper classmen who were taking this test and they were cheating and they had told me already that if I didn't cheat I wasn't going to make it, I wasn't going to pass that class, and I kept saying, "Oh, yeah, I'll pass the class." I made an 85 and that was a failing grade. And, so, I thought… Well, I had the "F" so I had to wait a semester. If you flunked a course or if you flunked, if your grades were failing then you had to lay out for a while in order to go back. So, I did, I laid out twelve years, then I went back. The last time I went to class I made an "A" in Communications, so I thought that justified anything I did in the previous years.

Sherrie: What was you first plan? What was your major going to be?

ALICE: I was going to become a nurse. Because I just felt… I had lost an uncle at quite an early age and I just had the driving desire to be a nurse. And, then, somewhere along the way I decided I didn't want to be a nurse. Another alternative was to be a teacher or a counselor, and I just never did… I worked towards probably counseling, but I never did complete that. But, I just… I didn't like the whole setup of KU. It was just being integrated, the dorms were just being integrated the year before I got there and I just didn't like the whole atmosphere of it.

Sherrie: What were the effects of integration at KU?

ALICE: Well, the thing that I saw mostly was that black kids could stay in the dorms, because up until '50 when they integrated, if you were a black student you had to find housing in the residents with the residents of Lawrence. And, at that time, around Mississippi and Tennessee, the 1700's on up like that, you'd find rooming houses that were owned by African American people and they rented rooms to students, and the students just kind of became part of the families and that was their home away from home literally. Then the change was when they integrated the dorms.

Sherrie: Did some students continue to live in rooming houses or did that end at that time?

ALICE: I'm sure that those that were there probably stayed there. They had probably been there long enough that a lot of them that… The ones that had been there the longest probably stayed there. Maybe some of the newer students might have moved on into the dorms and I'm sure that they had a real increase in black students when they opened it up that year, because that way it was probably advertised that they could live in the dorms, so they probably had a lot of students. And there was also a black fraternity here at that time, fraternity house, and some of the students lived there in a black sorority at that time, in '52-'53. And, so, a lot of the students would pledge and I guess lived in those dorms, in those houses.

Sherrie: Was there an effect on the black community in Lawrence when the students… when more students were living on campus? I'm wondering if there was more separation between black students and white students.

ALICE: I really don't know, because I think some of the, from what I heard, some of the students who lived with families, those were long-term relationships and stayed in touch until those people died out. And some of them still, I think many have contact with some of the children. I'm not positive about that but I know that many of them did stay in touch with the people that lived with because they were just like family. So, I think that if there was any kind of change during the integration of the dorms, I don't that it was disconnected. There has always been separation between KU and town, whether real or imagined. The 'town and gown' thing, they don't come together very well and there are a lot of efforts to do things that bring KU and the town together, but it always seems to separate and people at KU don't get to know a lot about the people in town and the people in town don't get to know a lot about people at KU because they don't associate very much.

Sherrie: As somebody who grew up in Lawrence, was this something that you had grown up knowing about before you went to KU, or was it a surprise once you got there?

ALICE: Well, it wasn't much of a surprise. I think maybe one of the things I think, and this may be overstated, but I think there was a feeling that if you went to KU, you thought you were better than the people in the town and you separated yourself from them because that was a lower level of living than if you were educated, which is an untrue thought. But, if that was people's perception or is people's perception, it's just as deadly or disastrous as it is if it were the truth. So, that may be… it may still be that, I don't know. But I know that there is not that much integration between people who come to KU and people who live in Lawrence.

Sherrie: Have other family members… you mentioned your grandmother had gone to KU?

ALICE: My great-grandmother.

Sherrie: Your great-grandmother!

ALICE: My great-grandmother.

Sherrie: What do you know about her experiences at KU?

ALICE: My great-grandmother went to KU when you had to climb wooden steps to get to the top of the building and she was unable… My great-grandmother was about four foot eleven and as long as I knew here, she had a very large goiter on her neck and I don't know if that was what kept her from going to school, but she developed some type of illness and had to quit. But I've never researched the years that she was there, but she went to school up there for at least a year or two years at KU. And, then I've had various cousins and I had an auntie, one of my grandmother's sisters graduated KU, and I've had several cousins that have gone up there and have completed their studies there at KU. Because my great grandfather was a very strong supporter of Booker T. Washington and Tuskegee Institute, one of my cousins graduated from there, from KU, and went on to become a professor of biology at Tuskegee until his death. So, there's that connection. My great grandfather wanted all of children to go to Tuskegee where Booker T. Washington was. But none of his children went, but he had a grandson that went and became a professor.

Sherrie: When you had that year at KU and you didn't like, did you experience attitudes among students that match what you described about being superior to people in town? Was that one of the things that bothered you or was it more than…(inaudible)?

ALICE: Well, when it was students that didn't really bother because I just kind of ignored them. What they thought didn't carry a lot of weight with me… the people that made negative remarks. I had some friends that went to school there before I did that I valued and I really put importance on what they told me. Unfortunately, I didn't give it enough weight to override what my counselor, or whatever that person was that was supposed to be guiding me through my courses at KU, had told me because I followed what this counselor told me rather than what my friend…(inaudible). But, I think just the general atmosphere… As you can tell, I'm not really a person to meet strangers or not be able to handle myself with strangers, so it couldn't be that it was strange people, it was just that there was something about the atmosphere and, like I said, I could remember going to a party one time for freshmen and I remember this person, this guy saying to someone that I was very immature and unsophisticated. And, I thought "Well, you know, what difference does that make." I could care less what he thought, but that was someone from my own culture that had said that, so I figured, "Oh, well, what does he know. I'm here to get an education, not be sophisticated or to impress him." So, it wasn't so much attitudes of people, and then I didn't have a lot of interaction, person interaction with white students. I was in class with them, but I didn't have any… It's just whatever was going on in the classroom and that was it. So, it couldn't have been that, it's just that I just didn't like it. I did not like the attitude, I was unhappy because my grades were not what they should have been, unhappy that I had been misled in what to take, and… Well, I wasn't really that interested in going to KU in the first place, but because my folks thought it well that I go and, so, I just decided, "Well, I'll just have to wait and go…" , wait out a semester and then I'll apply again.

Sherrie: 1952 was a tough year as I recall. Was that the year that your uncle died?

ALICE: Yes, and my grandfather.

Sherrie: And your grandfather?

ALICE: Yeah.

Sherrie: You want to talk a little bit about that period for your family?

ALICE: Well, this uncle was next to the youngest boy of my mother's family. He was 26 years old and he was the one that had been in the Navy and then came out and went to work at the VA in Topeka. And, I can remember that it was in the summer, in July, and I had been working down at Sunflower in a summer job so I could get ready to go to KU, to earn money and they had some part-time jobs and I took a job in the cafeteria down there. And I can remember coming in from the cafeteria and finding out that my uncle had been hospitalized that morning. So we went to Topeka, because he was working in the VA hospital, we went there and he was in a coma and he had had a massive cerebral hemorrhage from which he did not regain consciousness. Because they said if he lived 24 hours, he'd probably be totally paralyzed but he would live. And, so, before the 24 hours was up he died. That was about mid July and then, in December, about two weeks before Christmas my grandfather took ill and he was hospitalized for about five or seven days I think, and then he passed. And, so, it was just really kind of a bum year for the Moores and their descendants. And I can remember my grandmother was a lady who was very nervousness. She was easily frightened… I mean if you made a loud noise she would jump, that type of nervousness. But I can remember how sad it was for her that year and for my mother. And really for the whole family because they were so close, my mother being the oldest child and then the five boys in the middle and then a baby sister. And I could remember how we just tried to bolster each other up and this was kind of a sad time. But our faith helped us to get through it.

Sherrie: Uh-huh.

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