Leonard Monroe

Leonard Monroe

The Leonard Monroe FamilyLeonard Monroe was born in 1931 in Lawrence. He attended the integrated Pinckney School; junior high at Old High, Manual, and Central; and graduated from Liberty Memorial High School in 1950. An outstanding athlete, he was the second fastest quarter miler in Kansas. When the KU track coach refused to let him join the University track team, he dropped out of KU and joined the Air Force. After serving initially in Okinawa, where he worked as an electrician and took extension university courses, he later was stationed at other sites in the United States, Europe, and Viet Nam. He married his wife, Jackie, while stationed in New Mexico. After leaving the Air Force, they later returned to Lawrence, where he was employed as the manager of the city garage until he retired in 2000. The Monroes have six children.

For more information on Leonard Monroe, read "The Great Divide," by Jayson Jenks in the University Daily Kansan, January 27, 2011.

April 22, 2003
Interviewed by Alice Fowler

Sept18-2004 Sesquicentennial-OralHistory celebration in South Park.
Leonard Moore, Sept. 18, 2004
Sesquicentennial-OralHistory celebration
in South Park

Today's date is April 22, 2003. We are at First Regular Missionary Baptist Church, located at 1646 Vermont Street in Lawrence, Kansas. It is approximately 3:30 in the afternoon, and we're going to be interviewing Leonard Monroe, who is a long-time resident of the City of Lawrence. I am Alice Fowler and I am one of the coordinators for the African-American Oral History Project.

Alice: Mr. Monroe let's begin by asking you about all your information. I would like to know when you were born, where you were born, beginning there and then we'll go on from there.

MR. MONROE: I was born the 6th of September, 1931, on 400 Wisconsin Street here in Lawrence. And, first school, I went to Pinckney School. I even remember my kindergarten teacher was Mrs. Nash. I will never forget Mrs. Nash. So, all my elementary schooling was at Pinckney School.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And, then junior high, which at that time was on 9th and Kentucky. There was three buildings that we went to, they was called Old High, Manuel and Central. And, that was three years, then went to high school at 14th and Mass, and at that time it was called LMHS, Liberty Memorial High School. And, I graduated from there in 1950.

Alice: Okay, now, before we go on with your education, let's go back and pick some information about your family. I'd like to know your mother and father's name and, if you had siblings, give us their names and begin there please.

MR. MONROE: Okay. My mom was Elizabeth Monroe and she married Walter Monroe. Her name was Watts when she married my dad, it was Monroe. They got married in the early '20's...

Alice: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: ...and there were, from that unit they had six children. I'm the youngest, but she had two children when she married my dad.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: So that made a total of eight of us. But, we never really had it all that bad because Dad got a chance to work the year round although times was very hard back then. But he worked at Constant Construction and he got to work the year round because he not only was a brick layer and cement finisher and things like that, but he was also a carpenter, so he got to work inside in the winter time. So, we lived pretty good for that time and plus at our place we had huge gardens back in those days and we had a lot of things out in the yard. We had pear trees, peach trees and walnut trees...

Alice: Yeah.

MR. MONROE: We even had grapes. We raised chickens and ducks and we had business right around... I don't know just where they came from? So, we had a good time out there.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: A good time growing up out there. Me and my, uh... I had a total of four sisters and there was four boys. So that's what made up the eight and I was the youngest of the group.

Alice: You were the youngest of all of them?

MR. MONROE: Yes, I was what they called the baby (laughter).

Alice: The baby of the family. All right. Were your mother and father from here originally or where did they come from when they came to Lawrence?

MR. MONROE: I know that Mom and her family, her mother and sisters and brothers, came here from Lincoln County Kansas in 1914 and they lived down highway 40 west of town about six miles... at that time, six miles outside of town.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And, then Mother Ruby, she moved into Lawrence and she has property there. She ended up with Fourth and Wisconsin, and that's where I was born. Before that they lived at 416 in the next house, which was also hers, and then her mother, they also moved into town, so they owned nearly all that block at that time.

Alice: What about your dad, where did he come from?

MR. MONROE: He lived upon California, 500 block of California, which is two streets West. He lived up there and then, of course, he met Mom and then, from what I understand, he used to bring tomatoes a lot down there. They told me that was an excuse to see her I guess (laughter). Anyway, they finally got together and they got married. But he lived up on the 500 block of California Street.

Alice: Uh-huh. What are some of the experiences that you had growing up as an African American here in Lawrence beginning in the primary grades... You know, elementary and then continuing on through your high school or college, whatever?

MR. MONROE: All of us went to Pinckney School and there weren't any problems there. We was integrated at Pinckney School. I do remember... I don't know if I was in the fourth or fifth grade or something like that, that they tried to get all the blacks to go to North Lawrence to Lincoln School, which was a black elementary school over there. But, my dad and some of the others, Mr. Campbell, Mr. Hill and different ones that lived in West Lawrence there, they said "No, our kids are not going to go across that river to go no school." They said "We're going to keep going to Pinckney School just like they doing now." I guess you might say that was one of the first... What do you want to call it, Boycott? Whatever (laughter). And,so, we never did go to Lincoln School. We all just went all the way through Pinckney and played together. We had a lot of fun. Clinton Park was right across there, we'd play out in the school yard. We played ball, softball, kickball, and things there at Pinckney, then I'd just go out and we'd go and play in Clinton Park, the swings and merry-go-rounds and all that stuff. And, of course, we played a lot of marbles there at Pinckney School too (laughter).

Alice: Yes. A popular game. So, as you were in the elementary school you didn't have any problems with any kind of racial problems. But, what about in junior high, when you got to the junior high schools?

MR. MONROE: I really can't say that I had racial problems in junior high either really. Of course, I wasn't a bad kid or trying to be the wise guy or nothing like that, and I don't remember none of my brothers and sisters even having a hard times at Pinckney. We go to class, and I must say that none of us was really dumb so to speak, we was all pretty sharp. As a matter of fact, I had won an honor in junior high. They had back at that time what they called traffic patrol. They'd go out and hold up the sign to stop traffic when the kids cross because they had three coroners that we had to cross to those three different schools and actually the second year I made captain of the traffic patrol. I felt real good about that (laughter).

Alice: Quite an honor. And that was based on the fact that you had good grades and good deportment, your behavior was good and that's how you got chosen?

MR. MONROE: I believe so. And, I was real good in gym, was...(inaudible) and I was kind of acrobatic I guess you might say.

Alice: Uh-huh. So, now on to high school. We finished with the junior high school, no problems there, and the different things that you were involved in...

MR. MONROE: High school was really, I think, the first time I ran into segregation in the schools. For some reason we could play football and we could run track, but we couldn't play basketball. We had our own basketball team in Lawrence at Liberty Memorial, called the Promoters, and we were actually pretty good. We won a couple of championships in the league and had a lot of fun, and they didn't integrate the basketball team until 1950. As a matter of fact, I was one of the first ones to be on the Lawrence Lions, the first black to be on the Lawrence Lions. But that year during the Fall, during football season, I had a cartilage knocked loose in my knee, so I had to have a knee operation to take the cartilage out. Dr. Zimmer, I never will forget that. And, so, after that I went back to go back out for basketball, but the thing is that was the first year, like I say, it was integrated. But I just couldn't start and stop or cut and so forth with my knee and I wanted to get it in shape for track because I was pretty decent in track. And, so, they had back then what they called a city league, so we had us a basketball team called the Wolverines. That was the name of the team that we had. So, I played basketball to try to get my knee back in shape and keep my body in shape for track. We was trying to be pretty successful I guess, we won the championship in that city league basketball. And, then the time track season rolled around, I was... I don't know if I was at my best or not, but turned out to be pretty good. I think I ended being like the second fastest quarter miler in the state of Kansas.

Alice: That's great. That's quite an honor, quite an achievement.

MR. MONROE: And, I know that Mr. Woody, William Woody... As a matter fact, Woody Park used to be Lincoln Park, but now it's Woody Park, named after him. He timed me one night at the Haskell night relays on a quarter mile and I ran 49.8, and that was on a cinder track, so, this day and age that was....

Alice: And that's a great time?

MR. MONROE: That was outstanding time for that time, especially on a cinder track, it's nothing like the tracks they have now.

Alice: Uh-huh, they're a different composition now?

MR. MONROE: Uh-huh.

Alice: Yes. Well, that's great. So, then you played basketball and football in high school?

MR. MONROE: Well, I didn't get to play much football, but...

Alice: But some?

MR. MONROE: Basketball and track. Promoters was the first of the year then, like I said. But, the senior year I got my cartilage knocked loose, so I couldn't really play on the varsity. But I got myself back in shape for track season.

Alice: All right. And, then did you go on to further schooling?

MR. MONROE: Yes, I was going to go to KU. As a matter fact, I had already... You would have had to took college courses, I was all set to enter without taking them old exams and I was going to be in the School of Fine Arts. As a matter of fact, when I was in high school, for some reason, I don't know why, they thought I was going to be a teacher I guess, 'cause they sent me to a group teacher's conference back then up at KU. I don't know where they got that idea from, but I had no idea of being a teacher (laughter). But, I was going to up there, I was going to be in the School of Fine Arts. Art was always one of my favorite subjects. And, so, my senior year coaches asked me where I was going, I said "I'm going to go to KU." So, they kept telling me, said "Well, why don't you go to K-State or Washburn?" I said "Nah, I want to go to KU, because they got the best track team at KU." He said "Well, we'll just wait and see what happens." And, I had a lot of scholarships, but they were all from black colleges. Byron State, which is now right on eastern shore, Morgan State, North Carolina A&T, and one of my uncles was a professor down at Pine Bluff and he wanted me to go to school down there, but I told him "I'm going to go to KU." So I started KU in 1950. So it come time for track season, so I go down to the stadium and I wanted to go out for track. I went down there alright, but Bill Eason at that time was the track coach, as a matter fact, I guess... Suppose he was one of the best track coaches in the nation. But he says "You'll never run for me." He wouldn't even give me a uniform.

Alice: Uh.

MR. MONROE: So, that was the biggest heart break I ever had in my life. I just couldn't understand... At that time, I said I knew that things was prejudice because growing up here, a lot of places we couldn't go eat. Now, the ice cream parlor and...(inaudible), you could go in there and buy all the ice cream you wanted, but you couldn't stay in there and eat it. You couldn't sit down. So, I grew up kind of used to that, but never had been stopped literally from going out for sports.

Alice: Right.

MR. MONROE: And, I just... Boy, that really hurt. That really hurt and by that time, of course, all my scholarships for the black colleges... And, I still didn't want to go to K-State or Washburn. And, so, at that time the Korean War had broken out and some of my buddies was gone to military, so I just dropped out of KU and joined the Air Force (laughter). So, that kind of stopped my education there for a while. As a matter of fact, one of my first assignments in the Air Force was Okinawa. I'll never forget those experiences because after I joined the Air Force, we went over there on a ship... A cruise ship. Almost had two Christmases because we had to cross the international date line. It took 13 days going and 14 come back or vice versa. But, I'd just missed having Christmas by one day, two Christmases by one day. And, so, when I was in Okinawa I took some more college courses because they had extension courses from the University of California and the professor was right there, so I took English and Economics. It gave me some more college credits. So, I was over there for two years. So, then I came back to the states after my two-year assignment and I got stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, Shreveport, Louisiana.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: So, I got down there... Because I was still planning on going back to school when I got out of the Air Force. So, I went down there to the extension center, signed up for some courses, and it was LSU.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: So, I signed up for courses for LSU and, so, it come time to start class, so I went down to the education center, I said "Okay...." Because I paid a tuition, we only had to pay so much and the government paid the rest. And, he said "Where you going?" I said "LSU." He said "Oh, no," he said "you can't go to LSU." I said "What do you mean? They didn't say that when I was signing up for all this stuff." He said "No, but... That's all good, but you what have to do now, if you can find 19 other blacks that want to further their education, we'll be sure to get you a bus, then you all go over to... It was Minden or something like that... I don't know just where it was at now... And I looked at that woman, I said "You must be crazy. I have to go out here and find 19 other blacks who want to further education where we can get a bus to go somewhere to go to school." And, so that stopped my education again. And, during this time in the Air force, I had gone to several schools, so I went on and got out and, so, I used my GI bill... I got in April 1955 and... As a matter fact, April 20. I joined on the 21st of April and I was discharge on the 20th April. That was a couple of days ago wasn't it?

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: But, anyway... So, I got a GI bill, I went to school... It was an electrical school in Kansas City, because I was an electrician, front line electrician, launching B47's and things like that when I was in the Air Force. So, I had no trouble going through electronics and everything that was using electrical. But, then, after you got back and with all the schools I had in the service and the electrical school in Kansas City, which is a nine month school, came back, started looking for a job, no jobs. I couldn't get a job. I tried to get one at KP&L, telephone company, no place like that was hiring any blacks. So, stayed around here about a year, then I went to Denver and stayed for about a year with my sister out there and then I came back and I worked for Mr. Fred Johnson for about a year. So, I was telling him, I said "Well, it's really no future in this and I can't get a decent job..." Outside of construction or something like that, and I figured that with the training I'd had and schools I'd been to... And all this time, believe or not, the Air Force kept trying to get me to come back in. So, in 1958... That was 1955 when I first got discharged, so in 1958 I ended up going back in the Air Force.

Alice: Uh-huh. And, right there at that point, I want to go back to the Air Force. When you first went into the Air Force, was that one of the armed forces branches that readily accepted blacks or...?

MR. MONROE: Well, I didn't have no trouble getting in the Air Force. My first choice might have been Navy, because my brother, he was in the Navy and he told us so many stories about the Navy. But the Navy was full at that time and so the Air Force was a fairly new, separate branch. The Air Force became a separate branch in the 1947 Social Security Act under President Truman, so it became a separate branch of the service. So, it was the Air Force and I didn't have much trouble getting in the Air Force.

Alice: And how was advancement? I understand that in some of the other branches blacks couldn't advance beyond a certain rank very easily.

MR. MONROE: Well, they couldn't. As a matter of fact, even when I went in the first time and the second time, the first time especially most of your blacks was still cooks, motor pool transportation, air police and things like that. But, on my way to Fort, there was something wrong with my test scores or something, because actually, believe or not, I got maintenance and my first Tech School was in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and went out there and the first Tech School and that's where I learned to climb telephone poles, work on generators and transformers, the whole nine yards. But, when I went to Okinawa on my first assignment, I was running diesel generators for power at AC&W, Aircraft Patrol and Warning Squadron.

Alice: Say that again.

MR. MONROE: Aircraft Patrol and Warning Squadron. That's what the AC&W stood for.

Alice: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And we went upon what we called the hill to operate the diesel at night to keep the power going. But, then after about six months I got transferred down at Maha, Okinawa, and there I worked in the ADCC, Air Defense Control Center. I run the generator to power the Air Defense Control Center, and the reason they had to have us generate power, over there you have these typhoons and they'd knock out everything (laughter) sometime.

Alice: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And while I was in Okinawa, I went to Japan for...(inaudible) school which was nice. I did real good there. And, also, I went out for track again over there. And, we had seven guys on the track time from everywhere. As a matter of fact, one of our distance runners was from Notre Dame and we had the other guys who run dashes, 220's, 440's, and everything else. And, so, during that career with track over there, I ran the hurdles, which I ran hurdles in high school too. I set records on that and seven of us was going to Okinawa, just seven of us going to Okinawa... I mean to Japan for what they called a FEA track meet. FEA is F-E-A, Far Eastern Air Forces. And there was just seven of us and we was flying over there. So, we asked the coach... I'll never forget his name, his name Lawrence and he used to be a track coach at Wichita State. So, we was kidding and going on and we said "What if we win this track meet coach?" He said "If you guys win this track, we'll stay over there for a week." Of course, nobody ever had no dream we were going to win the track meet, but the seven of us did win the track meet (laughter), and we stayed for a week.

Alice: Great! That's wonderful! So, you, originally just getting in, you got in and then you experienced a lot of different classes of schools while you were in service?

MR. MONROE: Oh, yeah. When, I went back in '58, went to what they call car service training. There was some guys from all of the different branches and so, as it turned out, I got back in my same field. When I was in the first time, it was called the Brown Power, but when I was in it this time they said "We'll have to get your field." I said I wanted to get in Brown Power. The guy looked, said "Brown Power, we don't have nothing like Brown Power." But I described what it was. He said "Oh, okay. You talking about AGE." I said "What's AGE?" He said "Aerospace and Ground Equipment." They called it Age (laughter). So got back in actually the same field I was in before...

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And, so, that was kind of my first assignment when I was there and when I went back in was West Palm Beach, Florida. I stayed in there for a while, in the mean time my sister and her husband had gone to Germany. I had told Mary, I said "I'll be over there before you get back." Anyway, so I went to West Palm Beach, Florida, and I did put in for Germany while I was down there and, low and behold, I got it (laughter). So, I had my first trip to Europe, we went to Vicks Burg Air Force Base. I stayed there three years and came back, went to McConnell as a matter of fact. I came back to McConnell Air Force Base in Salina, and everything was great there. I was coming home on weekends, we were flying down here, and... We were flying down in a car I mean, not a plane, and we had some great times. And, so they had to close Schilling Air Force Base, and that was in about '64-65, they started talking about closing it. And, so, I said to myself "Huh!" I started to join... tried to get in with the Blue Angels...

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: I mean the Thunderbirds. Blue Angels is the name, but I worked with Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds. Because I had worked with Thunderbirds quite a bit, I said I just might get in with the Thunderbirds.

Alice: Can you describe... What did the Thunderbirds do?

MR. MONROE: They were an aerial demonstration team. They flew all over the world putting on aerial demonstration shows. And I would work with them a lot on different bases I was on when they'd come. As a matter of fact, I worked with them up there at Schilling when they came in.

Alice: Hmm.

MR. MONROE: They put on a show up there. We have in Air Force... Once we had what they called an open house and we'd be out there, anyone is welcomed to come on the base, look at all the equipment and look at the planes and all that stuff. And, as a matter of fact, I felt good up there because my job up there during that open house was to describe all the equipment that we had in our shop. Our MD3 generators and I'd write test standards and things like. Of course, my mom and dad came up for that, so I described it to them where they would know just exactly the kind of stuff that I did. And, so, I demonstrated all that stuff. So, it was great time, I had a lot of fun. So, anyway, I was going to say "Well, I think I'll just put back in for overseas, because I was still single so I was going to go back overseas. But then, some wheels came up from Walker Air Force Base in Roswell, New Mexico, and their objective up there was to pick out certain people to go down to Walker Air Force Base and they picked seven out of my shop, and I was one of the seven they picked (laughter), so I wasn't looking forward to going down there, but if you get orders you go. So, that's how I ended up in Roswell, New Mexico and that's where I met my wife at.

Alice: And you were still doing the same type of job?

MR. MONROE: Yes, as a matter of fact, I had been a OJT instructor too. I did a lot of instructing while I was in Schilling. And, when I went down there, I did some instructing for a little while, but then they put me in charge. Our branch... AGE was also a branch. They have different branches in field maintenance and we had the only supply and everything. When I worked in...(inaudible), I applied for Schilling, so they put in charge of supplies inside the shop.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And, uh... That was okay. Then I'd get all greasy like I used to (laughter), working on those generators.

Alice: Like a real mechanic, huh?

MR. MONROE: Yeah, so...

Alice: You said you met your wife there?

MR. MONROE: Yes, uh...

Alice: While you were in New Mexico?

MR. MONROE: Uh-huh.

Alice: What's your wife's name.

MR. MONROE: Jacqueline.

Alice: Jacqueline?

MR. MONROE: Jacqueline Thelma... Was Kilmore, now its Monroe.

Alice: Jacqueline Thelma...?

MR. MONROE: Kilmore, that was...

Alice: Kilmore-Monroe.

MR. MONROE: And, the reason I met her... Anywhere I go, the first thing I look for, when I be assigned some place, was a church to go to. So, I find this little Methodist Church downtown, so I started going to the Methodist Church... AME... African Methodist Episcopal Church... And, I was there a couple of Sundays, then I tried to join the choir. I always did like to sing in church choirs.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And, uh... So, I was going to... I asked the pianist, I said "Is it okay if I try to get a choir together?" She said "Sure!" So I got three or four of my Air Force buddies and there was three or four of us, so we got this little choir. And, this lady... June Pee was her name, she was a pianist. And, so, we got a pretty good choir going. Boy, we was having a great time. Then, one Sunday, June said "Man, I got this real nice young lady, you got to meet her." I said "Oh, yeah? Where is she from?" She said "She come up here with her mother from New Orleans and she's staying with me. She's working in Social Security." I said "Oh, yeah?" I said "Well, okay. I'll be by to meet her." Well, that went on for at least a month I guess. I never did get by (laughter). So, one Sunday she said "Are you coming by after church, because I'm going to have dinner and you're going to meet this young lady." I said "Okay." I said "I'll go to the base and change clothes and be..." "No, you're not going to go out to the base this time, you're going straight from church to my house." And, so I did. That's how I met her. And, it was in Roswell. I wasn't real wild, just stayed in sports. I played a lot of ball and different things, I played softball.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: So, I met her and, so, June said "Why don't you take her to the NCO club?" So, I took her to the NCO club one night. Then I took her out to a couple of ball games. Well, there in Roswell, me and three of my buddies, we'd usually go down Juarez on paydays. Down around the other side of El Paso, Texas, and we'd always bring back different things. So, June would say "Why don't you take Jackie down there with you?" I said "What?" I said "There's no way I'm going to take her down (laughter) there." Plus, at that time for somebody in Social Security... I don't know what the problem was, but they had to work long days and also had to work a half a day Saturdays, and we always left early on Saturday morning to go down there.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: Well, to make a long story short... I took her down there and, uh... So, I got to dating her and... I mean, and everything. She was real nice... About the best thing, as far as I'm concerned, that was in Roswell, New Mexico, anyway, so... Started dating for a while, so... Decided to get married. And, my folks didn't even believe me when I told them I was going to get married. But, they all came down to the wedding, from here.

Alice: To Roswell?

MR. MONROE: To Roswell, New Mexico. My mom, my dad, and my sister from Denver. Even my Best Man. My buddy was arguing about who was going to be the Best Man... The one I ran around with.... And, so, he asked... I said "Oh, I already got that settled." I said "One of my buddies from home is going to be my Best Man." That was Vernon Newman. So, he came down, we had a great time while we was down there, and had the wedding. It was what you called a High Mass Wedding... Catholic High Mass Wedding. And, then being Protestant and her being Catholic, had to go to all these training sessions. All that stuff... Raising kids Catholic... Don't eat meat on Fridays... And, just all that kind of stuff. And, I was getting tired of going to those sessions anyway.

So, with this one session, it was getting close to the end and that priest asked, he said "Do you mind eating fish on Fridays?" I looked at him... I just got tired of these things. So, I said "I'll eat it on Monday if she'll cook it (laughter)." And he didn't really appreciate that, but... (laughter). Anyway, we got married, it was a High Mass wedding and that... When you go to a High Mass Catholic wedding, when you are over it, you are definitely married. I haven't been up and down off of my knees so much in all my life... Bells ringing... And, one thing about it, the altar boys... They had altar boys. Oh, now, they was ringing they bells and they were fanning the guests. And, I'd been studying up some on the ceremony and all of it... Anyway, Jackie's sister was her Bride's Maid, and Newman was my Best Man. So, we started going through the ceremony and I stopped...Just quit keeping up and that was when I was starting to get... Punch me in the ribs... When the bells ring we kneel down, you hear some more bells ring, we get back up... Up and down, up and down... And, during this time, I noticed at certain times the priest would take the chalice and take a sip of wine and then he'd give Jackie a sip of wine and give Brenda a sip of wine. Brenda was Jackie's sister... Didn't know there'd be no wine? Anyway, that kept up, then we finally got the wedding over, then I finally asked him, I said "Are we married?" He said "Yes. You can come up here and sign this paper (laughter)." I'm telling you, that was long and it was... But it was real beautiful... A beautiful wedding.

Alice: Uh-huh. Worth it, too?

MR. MONROE: Yeah, we had a great time.

Alice: What does she do now? What does Jackie do now?

MR. MONROE: She's a teacher. Matter of fact, She was in Social Security and went to school I believe in Education. She graduated from LSUNO, in New Orleans... That's Louisiana State at New Orleans... So, we got married June 11, '66, and everywhere I'd ever been in the Service before, I could have always taken a family. As soon as I got married, my first assignment was Viet Nam. So I couldn't take her to Viet Nam (laughter).

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And, after I was in Viet Nam, I had a son that was born... Mike, he's my first one. He was six months old before I ever saw him.

Alice: Yeah.

MR. MONROE: So, I came back from Viet Nam and I stopped through... Thirty-day leave and with a current assignment to Germany. That's how I went to the Air Force base. So, I took Jackie and Mike with me, stayed out on the economy... Had a real nice landlord out there... And, when I was in Germany, had two girls... Lynette was the first one, then a year later Linda. Both of them born in July, a year apart. So, then I had three kids over there... I mean a total of three kids over there. It was nice though and... You didn't get out to do a whole lot... I didn't really get to take Jackie all the places I wanted to take her, but we did get down to the Black Forest. We did get a hold to Garmish and different places like that.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And, we went down to, uh... I'm trying to think of the place down there at the Black Forest... I can't think of it off the top of my head right now, but that's where the Oktober Fest starts at. When the burgomaster, which is the mayor, when he takes that first sip of beer, then that starts the whole...

Alice: Festivities?

July 23, 2004
Interviewed by: Alice Fowler and Sherrie Tucker

This the second part of Leonard Monroe's oral history interview. We're going to take up where we left off on the first tape.

Alice: Mr. Monroe give us a little bit of background, go back just a little bit before you were leaving for Germany the second time.

MR. MONROE: Well, I had been in Viet Nam, and I was home on a thirty-day leave. And the first time I had seen one of my sons, Michael, he was six months old when I first saw him. When I went to Germany, of course, I spent thirty days here and took my wife, Jackie, and my son, Michael, and went to Germany. I went to Rhine Mainz... Rhine Mainz Air Force Base. And when we got there, there was no housing available at the time, but we found this real nice place in a city called Moerfelden, which wasn't too far from the base. When we moved out there... As a matter of fact, when housing did come open on base, we enjoyed it so much out there, we never moved in the housing, we just stayed right there in Moerfelden. Very very nice landlord. And the house was two stories and it had two entrances, one for downstairs and one for upstairs. We were downstairs, and the landlord and his family lived upstairs, and it was real real nice. We just loved it out there. And one thing about Germans, they keep things so clean. They sweep the sidewalks and everything. And, as far as their garbage and things that they had, most of them only one garbage can and, of course, we as Americans, we would have so much waste all the times, we had two garbage cans (laughter), and then sometimes I would take some of our trash out to the base even. But it was really nice. But the way the Germans do it, like when they're going to eat, they only eat what they actually want and put the rest away, where we mess up a lot of things, so we throw ours out. But it was really interesting, the difference. Now, they also had a basement which they... Germans are real good at this, where they would have gardens and in the basement they have potatoes, onions, wine, you name it. And, of course, we were always told that we were welcomed to any of it.

Alice: Uhh.

MR. MONROE: It was real real nice. And, matter of fact, while we were over there in Germany, Jackie's mother came over, and she had a real blast over there. We really enjoyed her.

Alice: What is Jackie's mother name?

MR. MONROE: Naomi.

Alice: Naomi?

MR. MONROE: One of my daughter's, her middle name is Naomi after Jackie's mother.

Alice: What was Naomi's last name?

MR. MONROE: Kilgore.

Alice: Kilgore?

MR. MONROE: Uh-huh.

Alice: Naomi Kilgore?

MR. MONROE: Uh-huh. And she's gone now, she passed. She had cancer. So, anyway, we went to Germany and after we got settled down in the house and everything, I was in... Aerospace and Ground Equipment was my field, and the shop wasn't being run all that well apparently. They had two master sergeants running it. One of them was a kind of alcoholic and the other one was just... Well, you might say he wasn't up to par so to speak, and I was running the PM section... That's Preventive Maintenance section. And this one day... Well, when I first got there also, they had a big parade, I got a medal... An accommodation medal from Viet Nam. They put me up for a bronze star, but the accommodation went through first, so I got the accommodation medal instead of the bronze star medal. But anyway...

Sherrie: Now say that again.

MR. MONROE: They had put me in for a bronze star...

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: But the accommodation medal went through first....

Alice: Oh, uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: So I got the accommodation medal instead of the bronze star medal. But anyway, all of a sudden Keith Frizette, he was the man in charge of all the maintenance and everything. He was actually a main supervisor of the squadron. He actually fired those two master sergeants, and made me the Brass Chief. I was only a tech sergeant at the time (laughter), and the major thing was I took over the branch. Now you're supposed to have two years in gurney to make master sergeant.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: When I was running the branch, all of a sudden it came down one day I got this phone call, and the chief told me... Frizette told me to come into the maintenance office. And I went up to the maintenance office. I remember this because it was kind of a big surprise to me. And as soon as I got up there, Chief Frizette said, "What in the world went on on that flight line last night?" I said, "What do you mean what went on on the flight line last night?" "What happened out there last night? Something happened." I said, "I have no idea of anything going on on the flight line." So I called over to my PM section, and so I said, "Anything go on on that flight line last night?" The reason they call it PM is because for twenty-four hours a day we got to have equipment out there on the flight line. They said, "Nothing, Sarge," said, "Nothing happened out here last night." I said, "You got to be kidding. The chief said something happened out there." "No really, Sarge, nothing happened on the flight line last night."

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And, so, I went on up there and Frizette said, "Well, you find out what happened on the flight line?" I said, "No, sir, as far I know didn't nothing happen on the flight line last night." He said, "Well, come on in, the major wants to see you." And he was chief of maintenance, the major was. So we came out of his office, started down the hallway, and out popped the major. I said, "Now I wonder what in the world is going on." Anyway, we got up to the major, he stuck out his hand and shook my hand, and said, "Congratulations, Sergeant, you made Master Sergeant." Boy, that was the biggest surprise, because you have to two years in grade to make Master Sergeant and I only had eighteen months at the time. I couldn't hardly believe it, I about fell out. They said, "Congratulations and blah, blah, blah," and he gave me seven Master Sergeant stripes. But I didn't have the time and I couldn't put them on then. But, about two months later, I still didn't have two years in grade, but Frizette called and said, "Monroe, gone and put them stripes on." So, I put my stripes on. So that was... Talk about a surprise, that was a surprise. But, anyway, I ran that branch for three years. It's two or three years when you got your family over there, and the first time I was over there, it was three years and we were single. I was at Bitburg the first time I was in Germany for three years, and now I'm at Rhine Mainz for three years. And that's when, also, that U2 got shot down with Gary Powers, and...

Alice: The spy plane?

MR. MONROE: Uh-huh. And those pilots, they have a cyanide pill they was supposed to take and never supposed to be captured. Of course, he didn't take his, as you well know.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: But it seems kind of ironic, because he was a helicopter... traffic helicopter in California and never did crash, and get killed in a helicopter. So it might be poetic justice, I don't know it what you would call it. But we had a go of it for three years there, and then went Black Force. We were always at the Eagle's Nest, that was where the hangout was. But we did get to see all that. It was an enjoyable tour, and when we left... And also we had a baseball team in the shop, and I used to play a lot of fast-pitch softball. But so many guys wanted to play, so I stopped playing and started coaching. We had a real good team. But, anyway, we left Germany in July 1970, and went to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. That's where we went to after that, and went down there. And come to find out later on, that myself and most of the guys that were either Brass Chiefs or high in their field, come to find out later on, we were all assigned, we were all hand-picked to go to that squadron. We were setting up a squadron, really what we called 02 bird dog, an aircraft, it was a spotter aircraft. And we got that squadron set up in a year, then we all accommodation medals and we all shipped back out again. We were just there to set up that...

Alice: Just to set it up.

MR. MONROE: Just to set up that squadron. And, as soon as it became combat ready, we all shipped out, and I went to Taiwan then. And I couldn't take my family then, because I was, what you call out-of-state tour. And I went to Taiwan and I was on a PM section there on the base, and it was good tour, except I was away from my family again. And, during that tour while I was in Germany, we had two more kids. LeAnette was born in '68, and Linda was born in '69. So, both of them were born in Germany, so now I got three kids. So, I go to Shaw Air Force Base, set up a squadron, ship out again to Taiwan, and Jackie was pregnant when I left. So that's when, before we got back, we had Darrell. And it was about eight or nine months before I ever saw him.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And, after I came back from Taiwan, I was assigned to McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita.

Sherrie: How long were you in Taiwan?

MR. MONROE: Uh, about fourteen months. And I got to McConnell Air Force Base, and I was Assistant Brass Chief, because we had a Chief Master Sergeant running that. And, low and behold, I had actually been there maybe a year, year and a half, they relieved that Chief Master Sergeant, and put me in charge of the branch. I almost (laughter) died. And it wasn't long after that I made Senior Master Sergeant and ADA. So, I ran that branch down there, and I'd come home on weekends. I went off and seen my dad, and my mother, and my brother at times. And, so, I'd come up on weekends, and I'd see Dad on weekends, and go back to Wichita. And one weekend I was up here, and my buddy, Vernon Newman, he was saying, "When you gone retire?" I'd say, "When I get a job." And he said... One weekend he said, "Well, they looking for a superintendent." I said, " A superintendent for what?" He said, "Well, they gone build a new city garage, and they're looking for a superintendent to run it." So, I went down to City Hall and got an application, filled it out, and went on back to the base. It was a couple of weeks after that, I heard that Dave closed out on the job, and I got a call. George Williams wanted to know if I would come back up for another interview. I said, "Sure!" So, I came back up for another interview, then seen Dad, and went back to Wichita again. Then, about a week later, I got a call from George again, and he wanted to know if him and the personnel director could come down and check out my operation at the base.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: I said, "Sure!" So, we set up a time and I said, "I'll meet you at the gate and escort you in." They came down and went down to the shop. Of course, now the city at that time I don't think even had computers yet.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: But, see, the Air Force had computers for a long time. And, so, they came down and checked out my operation. I had a nice office. I had gained this place here for myself, and my assistant, and my clerk. And on the walls we had our computer printouts. The budget and different things... Different things we hung on the wall.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And, of course, the floors were always immaculate and clean. Because, after every day, in your stall you'd have to wipe and clean it up, dry mop it, put your tool box, everything up. It was just neat as a pin, and that's the way it always was, as far as I'm concerned, in the Air Force. And they came down, and they were really impressed with my operation. And, I didn't know it at that time, but they'd already talked to my maintenance officer and people. So, they left. And, about a week after that, the City Manager called me and said the job was mine if I wanted it. I said, "Wow!" So, I said, "Yes, sir, I'll take it." And he told me what the salary would be and everything. I said, "Yes, sir," I said, "I'll take it." He said, "Can you be on the job the first of September?" I said, "Yes, sir." Actually, there was no way I could retire that quick, but I had ninety days leave coming.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: So I took sixty days terminal leave and, as soon as I hung up the phone, I told my assistant, I said "I'm going to Personnel and sign my retirement papers." He said, "What?" I said, (laughter) "Yeah (laughter)." To make a long story short, I went over there, and, in the service, as a Branch Chief, I go to Personnel most of the year to check on different guys, their records and everything, make sure everything okay. So I knew some of the people over there. This one lady was real nice and, so, I told her what the situation was. She said, "Don't worry Sgt. Monroe," said, "We'll go on and start forwarding all the papers to Randolph." Randolph Air Force Base in Texas is where they would send terminal papers and everything. And, so, I said, "Okay." So, I went back to the shop, then I went down and told my squadron commander, Col. Jett. And, so, they came in, and I put in for sixty days terminal leave. Which, of course, I got it.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: So I was on the Job, One September...

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: ...But I was still in the Air Force. So, I was in the Air Force for two months when I was working for the city.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And one interesting thing that happened when I was stationed at... Two special things happened when I was stationed at McConnell. I don't know if you ever heard it or not... they call it 'Freedom train'?

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And all kind of stuff on that freedom train. And, so, they wanted me to supply the lighting... The lighting for it. Which I did, and got another commendation for that. Because it was a magnificent train, it had all kinds of stuff on it.

Sherrie: Can you tell us more about the freedom train?

MR. MONROE: Well, it just had a lot of history on it. It had history. It even had different things from, like Abraham Lincoln and different presidents, and it had a lot of different sports figures on there. Gale Sayers was one of them that was on the train. Just different pictures and figurines and stuff like that. And it was really, really interesting. And it cost to go through it. Of course, we didn't have to pay anything, because I was there on the train anyway.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: But I did take my family down there and they got to go through it, too. It was really an interesting thing. And, another interesting thing that happened when I was at McConnell, President Ford was coming to Wichita... To give a speech or what ever?

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And the Civil Engineers were supposed to have the equipment to take care of Air Force One, but they screwed up, and they came and got me to take care of it. And, so, Secret Service came out a couple of weeks in advance, so I had to start picking out the equipment I was going to use to support Air Force one, which I did. And, so, once the Secret Service came out, we inspected all the equipment again. I had to set all that equipment aside, we couldn't even use, couldn't even touch it ourselves.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And, so, it was about three days I think it was before the President came, the Secret Service came back again and inspected the equipment, made sure nobody slipped anything into it. And everything was fine, it was all roped off and everything anyway. Anyway, so the night the President was coming in, the Secret Service came in that day and got the equipment. Took it down, put it into position where we knew Air Force One would be sitting. And, they've got special baggage that be on the flight line.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: So, it was just me and my assistant, and one of my sharpest mechanics was down there down. So if anything would happen to the equipment, we would have been right there to take care of it or put another unit in its place. But everything went smooth as silk, thank goodness. But, anyway, when Air Force One came in and it landed, Secret Service wanted us to stand in a certain place where they would know exactly where we at. So we were standing there, and they had a red carpet coming out from the terminal, and it was roped off, and while we were on this side of this rope. So, when the President got off the plane and come up... Now, he was supposed to go up to this...

Alice: The red carpet?

MR. MONROE: To this red carpet to the terminal, and meet all the wheels and all this kind of stuff... And representatives were there for him. And he got up there, in stead of going up into it, he just came around. I looked up, I said, "Hey, Gene?" That was my assistant. I said, "He's coming straight for us." Gene said, "Yeeeah, yeah, he is." Gene got, oh, real nervous and everything. But I'd talked to Generals and stuff before, so I really wasn't all that nervous. And he got up until he got about, maybe ten feet away, and I popped a salute. And he came up and he just stuck out his hand, and said, "Good evening, Sergeant." I said, "Good evening, Mr. President." "Kind of a drizzly evening, isn't it?" I said, "Yes, sir," said, "You have a good flight?" "Oh, yeah, the flight was fine." I said, "Very good, sir." I said, "I hope you enjoy your stay here in Wichita." Then he took over and spoke to Gene. I don't think Gene ever said anything, (laughter) just stuck out his hand (laughter), he was so shook up (laughter). So, that's how I got to meet and talk to the President. And the next morning... We always had a maintenance meeting every morning. So I went down to the maintenance meeting. The first thing Col. Jett said, he said, "I understand the President gave you a pen?" I said, "Yes, sir, but..." I said, "The President didn't, but the Secret Service gave me this pen," and I said, "I'll have it in, uh..." Then Col. Jett said, "That sure would look nice in the squadron trophy case." I said, "It would look a lot better in my trophy case, sir (laughter)." So, that's the pen. I still have it, and it's a gold pen with Gerald Ford on it.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: So, it was interesting. But I didn't get home in time to see it on the news, and I knew that Channel 13 out of Hutchison was there, and I always meant to go out there and get a copy of that film...

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: But I never did. I probably still could if I really wanted to. But, right after I got this job and everything, then I came up, and started working for the city. And a lot of guys would say if they were going to retire? They would just tell personnel to send them their retirement papers. They wouldn't do that. They insisted I go back down for a retirement ceremony. And, of course, in Maintenance you hardly ever wear your blues, your dress blues. But I had to wear them, so... My blouse wouldn't fit, so I had to get a new blouse (laughter). So, I went down there and it was beautiful. They really had quite a deal there. You know, I'd gone to school where we did this at? Because I knew a lot of people there on the base and everything, and it was really, really nice. They had a 'big' cake, with an MV3 on the icing. MV3 is one of our main equipments that we use on the aircrafts all the time. So it was real, real nice. And, so, I retired, and I came back and started working for the city. And, the garage wasn't even built, it wasn't finished. And, so, in the mean time, I just started ordering all the equipment I would need to run the city garage. Including the tables. I had to set up some files, bins, vices, special tools, and all these kind of things, where I'd have it on there when we could. But, when I ordered it... And ordered it all from Meyers Brothers, because in the city, where you have to have get bids on different things and Meyers Brothers gave me the best deals. So, I had all this equipment ordered from Meyers Brothers, and after the garage opened... We opened on the 2nd of January, '77. It was One September, '76, when I got the job. We opened it. It was a snow storm that day, but we still had it open and everything. And, so, I called Chuck Meyers, and told him to please start setting all the equipment up and everything, and all the tools that were in Kansas City. So we finally got the garage up and running and everything. Of course, there was still a lot to do. We had to put all the tables together, the maintenance tables and everything else, get the equipment set up, offices set up, supplies set up, and all the stuff in the supply. It was quite a job. So, it would have been maybe three or four months, and Chuck Meyers came down again and he said, "Hey, you know what, Monroe?" I said, "What's that, Chuck?" He said, "I have a brother in the Air Force." I said, "You do?" He said, "Yeah!" I said, "Where's he at?" He told me where he was at and everything. He was a Captain, and that was in '76. And, so, in the long run, to make a story short, that's how I got to know General Meyers, because I kept up with him ever since '76.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And I hadn't really met him, but I kept up with him through Chuck. And, so... Oh, it was two years before my retirement from the city. And, of course, during this time General Meyers done got all these big positions. He's Commander of PAC Air Force - Pacific Air Forces, he is in charge of the mountain in Colorado, and different things like that.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And, so, one day Chuck called me, he said, uh, "Hey, Monroe, what are you doing for lunch today?" I said, "Nothing special. Why?" He said, "Well, we'll be up." I said, "Okay." He said, "Figure out where you want to eat at." I said, "Okay." Then after I hung up, I said, "He said we?" And I got to thinking, I said, "I wonder if the General is there?" And, so, at that time he wasn't the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he was the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And, we ate down at the Brewery, there on Mass... And he came in and... Of course, I knew Chuck...

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And, so, I figured the guy with him had to be his brother. So I met him, and that was. It was General Meyers. He was a four-star General, but he was an assistant and a Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And we had a great time. And, he is so prominent to be a guy in his position, he had on a cowboy hat... Him and Chuck, both, graduated from K-State. Oh, we got a kick out of that. And he had a cowboy hat, shirt, jeans, and boots... Cowboy boots and everything. We said we had a great time. And, so, that was the first time I actually met him. That must have been '97 or '98, I guess, sometime around there. And, he's quite a guy. But, anyway, I met him... Then in 2000, that's when I retired from the city, and I'd always been trying to get a flag from down there, because they had my numbers of my division, the Maintenance Division, but all the Sanitation Divisions, Street Division. We was all down there in the same area, and Park & Rec was also next to me. And, so, I needed to get this flag. So, it was getting close to retirement and I said, "George, why come I never got no flag? I thought I was going to get a flag." He said, "Don't worry, we're getting a flag down there before you retire." And, so, the day that I retired, I did get a little action for putting up a pole and all that stuff. I just figure... You know, finally getting a flag over there?"

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: So, the day I retired, they had this big field, and they was all over there at the flag pole. And they dedicated it to me, in honor of me.

Alice: Oooh!

MR. MONROE: And there's a plaque on it now in honor, for them to know the Garage Superintendent from '76 to 2000. So I was really... I was just swept off my feet really. I mean, the whole thing was for me. And I go by there sometime, the old flag's still flying (laughter). And it's got a light so it's flying. It flies twenty-four hours a day.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: So, that's most of my military career. One thing, I got to go to a lot of places during my career. Okinawa was my first assignment. And, as a matter of fact, when we was on Okinawa, I started playing baseball, and then it come up they was going to have a track team, so I went out for track.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And there was only about seven of us, but we were from different places. We had the middle distance running from Notre Dame, some guys from different colleges and everything. We had a pretty good track team. So, we were trying to go to Japan for FEAF's track meet. FEAF, that's Far Eastern Air Forces.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: So, we was going over there in a... Oh, 124 cargo plane. We were going over there, just getting around, and the coaches name was Lawrence. He was track coach for Wichita at one time. And, he said, "What happens if we win the track meet? What are we going to do if we win the track meet?" Of course, he had no idea in the world we'd ever win that track meet with Far Eastern Air Forces. He said, "If you guys win the track meet, we'll stay over here for a week." And, to make a long story short, we won the thing. And we did stay. It was in the port of Japan. We did stay for a week. We had a blast over there. And, uh, that was one of the big deals over there, on my first assignment. Then I got out in '55. I think that's the year, because I couldn't get a job or nothing like that for a year. So I went back in the Air Force.

Alice: Right.

MR. MONROE: I went back in the Air Force in '58 and stayed. I retired in '76. So, I started working for the city in '76, then retired from the city in 2000.

Alice: How many years were you in the Air Force.

MR. MONROE: Twenty-three years.

Alice: Twenty-three?

MR. MONROE: And I worked for the city for twenty...

Alice: For twenty?

MR. MONROE: Twenty-three years and seven months (laughter).

Alice: Just a little longer than the Air force?

MR. MONROE: Yes. Uh-huh.

Alice: Seven months longer.

MR. MONROE: And it really is a fact that, when I retired from the Air Force, I was working for the city, we had two more kids. Talking about surprises (laughter)... We had Doria and Maria.

Alice: Bonus babies?


Alice: So, after you retired from the city, what have you been doing?

MR. MONROE: More or less just doing my 'honey-do' list (laughter).

Alice: That's a good thing (laughter). You have forty-something years to make up for.

MR. MONROE: Yeah. And, also, when I was working for the city, it was Ethan Smith... You remember Ethan Smith, I'm sure?

Alice: Oh, yeah, very well.

MR. MONROE: Well, he was on the board of the Ballard Center. So he finally caught me to get on the board, so I was on the board over at the Ballard Center... Oh, four or five years, I was on that board over there.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: So I was on the board there, then, since I've been out, of course, I've been on different projects, meetings, and things like that. So, everything has been... The main thing was just getting all those kids through school.

Alice: Which one is in school now?

MR. MONROE: Maria.

Alice: That's the baby?

MR. MONROE: That's my youngest.

Alice: Oh, yeah. She graduates?

MR. MONROE: She'll be a Senior this year at Notre Dame.

Alice: This year?

MR. MONROE: And, about two or three weeks ago, we got a letter in the mail , and she was selected to the National Dean's List.

Alice: How wonderful.

MR. MONROE: So she's doing real well.

Alice: Smart kids. They must take that from their mother?

MR. MONROE: Everybody always say that (laughter)? They get their looks and everything from their mother. They say, "They must get the brains from the mother. I say, "Yeah, I get the brains from the mother, but I gave them the initiative to use them, so..."

Alice: Okay! Alright, aright! (Laughter) That'll work. That'll work Sherrie, did you have some questions that you want to ask?

Sherrie: Well, I had one question that I thought, that kind of takes us back. Maybe it's just a quick question, and that is, you would were away from Lawrence for a long time and then coming back, I was wondering if you saw a lot of changes?

MR. MONROE: Oh, I couldn't believe Lawrence when I came back. I mean, it had grown. I mean, I think when I left... Well, I know they was building a turnpike in '58, that's when I went back in the service, because my dad and my brother worked on the turnpike, building the turnpike. So, I was back in. But I couldn't believe all those houses in West Lawrence. When I say West Lawrence, I'm talking about past Iowa and all those streets because those were the city limits when I was growing up?. And California was city limits, then it moved out to Iowa and it was the city limits, and now I'm not sure where it is...

Alice: Topeka?

MR. MONROE: Wakarusa, I guess (laughter). Lawrence has really, really changed. You better believe it.

Alice: How has it changed as far as racial situations? Like, at KU, they didn't allow you to run track? How have you seen differences? Have you seen differences?

MR. MONROE: Oh, yes. Because my brother, Bud, he had a barber shop, and he worked at KU for years. He retired as a Police Lieutenant, and then he still worked up there in security through all the athletic offices and everything. So he was always getting these pictures from the athletes... Black athletes, and he had had these for years. I mean, the first one he had was Wilt. He got Wilt's picture first, he was out there on the wall dunking a basketball. But, he's got all these pictures out there, and a lot of them are track stars...

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: Football. I think my son is the only baseball player in there, and he was on an all-time hit team when he was going to KU. And he led them to their first ever College World Series in '93. But in Lawrence, jobs, everything have changed. I mean, blacks could get jobs in different places, which none of that stuff was possible when I was out, because I couldn't get a job no where... Not a decent job. You could always go to construction, but I went back in the Air Force, because I'd have to do all the cooking and things like that, or a houseman at one of the sororities or fraternities and things like that. But, a lot of it has really changed now, and the Police Department, Sheriff's Department... But I don't think the Sheriff still doesn't have any black deputies, I don't think. My brother worked for the Sheriff's Department for quite a while, but then he went to KU. He was on the KU Police Department. And, when he retired... Right after he had passed really, after that they got a new Police Command Center at the stadium. It's on the southeast corner of the stadium, underneath there. They got a new Police Command Center, and they dedicated that to my brother.

Alice: Hmmm!

MR. MONROE: So, it's the Waldo "Bud" Monroe Police Command Center.

Alice: Oooh!

MR. MONROE: And I think it was Coach Roy Williams and Athletic Director Bob Frederick, they're they ones that suggested it, because they knew Bud so well. So they did, they named it after him.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: It was quite a deal. So he's got a memorial at KU, and I got a flag pole down there at the river.

Alice: Uh-huh.

Sherrie: Do you want to say something about Bud's barber shop? I know that's a pretty special place?

MR. MONROE: Oh, yeah, it was. It was really a special place. It turned out, a lot of people called it a domino shop, because they played a lot dominoes and checkers and all that stuff out there. And, it's a shame to say now, but mostly all of them are gone now. I think Fishy Moore was the first one....

Alice: Uh-huh, who died?

MR. MONROE: To go. But they used to have a great time out there, of course. And, all the athletes come out there and get their hair cut. The black athletes come and get their hair cut out there. So the whole wall is just line with all these KU athletes. And, not just athletes, he's got the Crimson Girls, and different things like that. And the lady basketball players, the Lady Jayhawks. They on the wall out there. It's just quite a place. It is quite a place.

Alice: Is it still open as a shop?

MR. MONROE: No. I thought one of his grandsons was going to take it over, but he never did. But the shop is still there and all the pictures are still on the wall.

Alice: How can you get in to see it now?

MR. MONROE: Well, you'd have to get with my niece, Walda, that was Bud's daughter. She lives right behind the house where Bud and them lived.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: You'd have to go to her to see. As a matter of fact, a lot of guys asked me to take pictures and so, I'm going to be getting with Walda about that.

Alice: It would be nice if we could video it.

MR. MONROE: Yeah, Al Brow is one of them.

Alice: Who?

MR. MONROE: You know, Al Brow? He played basketball at KU. He's an attorney here in Lawrence now.

Alice: Oh, uh-huh. Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And he wants some pictures of it. But I'll get with Walda, and maybe we can video it one day.

Alice: That would be nice.

Sherrie: It should be a museum.

MR. MONROE: Right. Or, it should be an archive or something.

Alice: Yeah. Because it stayed and it's still the same.

MR. MONROE: It's a shame they never changed anything on the inside.

Sherrie: A historical landmark or something.

Alice: Yeah.

MR. MONROE: It was quite a deal.

Alice: I don't when that opened, but...

MR. MONROE: We built that when I was out of the Air Force, so it was built between '55 and '58. My dad, brother, an uncle, and myself, and we had some other help, too. And we actually built that barber shop there...

Alice: You built the barber shop?

MR. MONROE: I'm not sure if opened in '56 or '57. It opened sometime around that time.

Alice: Because I know a lady who used to live there by the name of Mrs. Climber, right in that area where that barber shop was, there was an old two-story house and a Mrs. Climber used to live there. She was a member of our church.

MR. MONROE: I remember that name.

Alice: Climber, uh-huh. A very sweet little lady.

MR. MONROE: And the Perkins lived right next to the barber shop.

Alice: Right, right. The Perkins did.

MR. MONROE: And, I think Cap White lived on the other side of the barber shop.

Alice: Right, right, sure did. They sure did. Yeah, I think that would be really... I don't know if it could be put up for a historical site or not, but it should be something so that it's never changed or...

MR. MONROE: All those pictures in there are just as famous or would be more famous probably than anything you'd have in any your museums in Kansas.

Alice: Oh, well yeah.

MR. MONROE: Well, I'd say starting all the way back to Wilt Chamberlain and on up. So...

Alice: Well, and just the way it was... Because I know just going in to watch it... I went in when my uncle died, when Fishy Moore died. I'd never seen this before, they sent the most beautiful bouquet, but there was a whole set of dominoes mixed in with the bouquet on stems they had put on there, and then that became their signature after any of the domino players died, they sent that bouquet with dominoes in it like that. And, I had gone in to thank them, because we had sent out thank you's, but I just wanted to do a personal thank you, and it was so much fun. They were in playing dominoes then and I had my cousin or my niece one stop me over there, and I went in. And, of course, Mr. Shepard... Mr. Charles Shepard, he's such a sweet man. And, so, I'd always give him a hug and a kiss. And, so, I gave him a hug and a kiss, and somebody said, "Well, where's mine?" And he says, "Oh, no, it's only for me (laughter)." It was so funny. But, they were still playing dominoes and they were very close.

MR. MONROE: He really had it... It was really, really neat the way they did it, too. I mean, the same guys would come out almost every day and they'd be playing dominoes. And, Bud, he would still be working.

Alice: He'd be cutting hair.

MR. MONROE: He'd be cutting hair then, but if he had to go to work at KU on the police department... The barber shop was never locked, and they'd just come in there and play dominoes whether he was there or not.

Alice: And he'd be gone to work?

MR. MONROE: Uh-huh. It was pretty neat. It was pretty neat.

Alice: There's a lady that worked down at the Dillons on Massachusetts Street, I don't know her name, but she used to go play dominoes with them. That's the only woman that ever played dominoes with them, she said. I can't think of her name. A little tiny, short woman worked in the meat department.

MR. MONROE: I would have known her. Because I was probably in the service when she was playing with them I guess.

Alice: Probably. Probably. I never did know that lady's name, but she was... Because, when Gene found out he had cancer, we had seen her at the store and she was talking to him about dominoes and stuff, and then talked to him about his health. And, then, after that I had seen her, and she said, "Oh, yeah," she said, " I used to go play dominoes with them. I was about the only woman that ever played dominoes with them, because I could just play as hard as they could (laughter)."

MR. MONROE: Yeah, they were something else. They'd get loud...

Alice: Oooh, Lord.

MR. MONROE: You remember Big Red? He would be the loudest one I think. Oh, they just had a wonderful time up there.

Alice: They sure did. Now that was a good... Young kids now days should have seen that.

MR. MONROE: Uh-huh. Well, you know how those kids have grown up, because Bud cut their hair when they were just little kids...

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And they've all grown up now.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR.MONROE: And they remember him.

Alice: Oh, yeah. They remember that barber shop and him, too. So, what are you doing now? I think I asked you that. Are you working on any committees now, other than the Oral History committee?

MR. MONROE: Not really, except...

Alice: Down at the church?

MR. MONROE: Church.

Alice: Yeah.

MR. MONROE: Choir and things.

Alice: Now you sing in the choir?

MR. MONROE: Yeah. We went up to Atchison just this past Sunday afternoon, they had a men's deal up there with all these different men choirs...

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: And, as a matter of fact, we got a lot of comments. Some of them even thought we were professionals. But, you know (laughter)? But they really enjoyed it. Well, we enjoyed it, too.

Alice: They do a good job with it. You all have been at our church and the men did a beautiful job.

Sherrie: And what is your church?

MR. MONROE: My church is St. Luke AME, 9th and New York.

Alice: That's the one he says is part of the underground railroad sites.

MR. MONROE: And, of course, the NAACP meets there also on the second Thursday. We meet there, and then we have a boy scout troop that meets there on Tuesdays. So, we're still with the community.

Alice: Uh-huh. Still involved?

MR. MONROE: Uh-huh.

Alice: Is there anything special you'd like to share with us at this point?

MR. MONROE: Not that I could really think of. I could probably think of some different things that happened when I was in the service or the city. But everything has turned out really good as far as I'm concerned. I had two good careers, raised all six kids, got them all through college, but Maria. She'll be the last one this year. And, whether she goes to grad school or not, we don't know yet.

Alice: That's on her own, huh?

MR. MONROE: Uh-huh.

Alice: Well, you and Jackie have done a wonderful job.

MR. MONROE: Well, thank you. Actually I give her a lot of credit, because she's the type where she is a teacher. And she believes in education and doing all that kind of stuff the way it should be done. So all the kids, I think, are real fortunate to have parents like we were.

Alice: That's true.

Sherrie: Yeah.

MR. MONROE: Because, the biggest thing is you've got to follow your kids...

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: Keep up with them. You've got to know what they are doing, back them on their programs and things like that. I think that's one of the problems, a lot of parents don't seem to care much what their kids are doing, as long as they're not bothering them I guess. But we always backed them up, went to all their functions and things like this. Because we used to go to the schools when they would have their teacher-student orientation. Sometime it may not be even a half a dozen parents at some of those things.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: But we always went to back our kids and things like that. They've all been real, real good. All the kids... One thing I'm real proud to say, all the kids were honor students. All of them went to St. John's Elementary, and then all of them went to West, then all of them went to Lawrence High, all but Maria, because where we live at, they got Free State built, so she went to Free State.

Alice: She had to go to Free State then?

MR. MONROE: But all of them have been honor students, all the way through elementary school, junior high school, high school, and college. They were all honor students. And when Darrell graduated from KU, he was a scholar at the end of the year when he graduated from KU. We're real proud of them.

Alice: I bet so. Okay. Unless, Sherrie, if you have nothing else.

Sherrie: A wonderful interview. Thank you.

MR. MONROE: Thank you.

Alice: Wonderful.

MR. MONROE: Yeah, I enjoyed it. Like I said, one thing about military, I got to go... I've seen those things... I've been around the world twice and I've saw everything once. And it was just a real interesting career, and the city was an interesting career really, because, like I said, from 1958, when you couldn't even get a job, and then come back all those years later and be a superintendent...

Alice: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: That was nice. So that's a good example of how much the city has changed.

Alice: And one of things about Lawrence is that all of the young black people that wanted to get away and could get away, had to leave in order to use their education. If you stayed here and got an education, you couldn't stay and use it.

MR. MONROE: You couldn't use it here.

Alice: There was nothing... No place to go, no advancement, nothing except cooking, cleaning...

MR. MONROE: Right.

Alice: Construction.

MR. MONROE: And, now, things have changed. They do have a couple of black teachers in Lawrence schools and, of course, you got professionals at KU now, and things have changed with the times.

Alice: See, that's that roots.... Lawrence Roots Reunion... Back to your roots. A lot of these are people that have grown up here, didn't have an opportunity here, left here, made their lives...

MR. MONROE: Uh-huh, right.

Alice: They've done different things. I think about Steven Shephard, how he owns a construction company out in Colorado, I believe it is, or some place out that way. Because they kept saying he could never... I mean, he wasn't... He couldn't even get the kind of job he wanted in the building field, and when he went out there, he just started out with what he knew how to do. And the next thing you know, just hard work and opportunities opened up, and now he owns a big construction company.

MR. MONROE: That's right.

Alice: That's the bad thing about Lawrence, is there's no place, there's no opportunity for young black people to grow and to... I mean, even if you got your education here, you couldn't use it here in Lawrence, you'd have to leave. And to hear some of the stories!... That's why I say, "Oh, it would be so nice if we could have an opportunity to set up and let people share their stories, how they came." You know, in brief? Not everything, but just in brief how they grew up in Lawrence and what things, a few of the things they went through. How they had to leave, where they went, and then come back to share what happened with them. That would be so interesting. Because everybody, I guarantee you, you'd have an interesting story from every one of them.

MR. MONROE: Oh, yeah, very interesting stories from them.

Alice: Very talented people.

MR. MONROE: Uh-huh.

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