LaMerle McCoy

LaMerle McCoy

Mrs. LaMerle (Bolin) McCoy was born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1916. She has spent much of her adult life in Lawrence. She worked at KU in the Greek system and was later the first black nurses' aide at the Lawrence Visiting Nurses Association. She has received numerous awards for her volunteer work in the community—at the Ballard Center, EKAN, Hannah's House, Children's Hour Nursery and other organizations. She and her husband, Harry, were the parents of one daughter.

Mrs. McCoy has been a member of the Church of God and Christ for more than fifty years and a licensed evangelist since 1965. On May 12, 2007, she and her sister, Arlene Wilson, received honorary doctorates from the Faith Bible College in Independence, Missouri.

March 8, 2004 (the second paragraph of the biographical statement was added October 22, 2007, by Barbara Watkins)
Interviewed by Alice Fowler and Sherrie Tucker

Today is March 8, 2004. We are interviewing Mrs. LaMerle McCoy who lives at 632 Elm in Lawrence, Kansas.

Alice: Hi, Mrs. McCoy. We want to ask you first of all about where you were born and your family. We are going to get into your family. Tell us about your mom and dad, siblings, that kind of information.

MRS. McCOY: I was born in Topeka, Kansas, August 31, 1916. And my parents are O'Neal and Rebecca Bolin, both born in Topeka. I had one sister, Audry Wilson, of Lawrence. My father's parents were Montgomery and Ella Bolin of Topeka. My mother's parents were George and Ella Jackson, and they were from Topeka too.

Alice: So your whole background has been from Topeka?

MRS. McCOY: I think my mother's parent were not originally from Topeka, but all my life they lived in Topeka. My grandfather on my mother's side was from Louisiana.

Alice: Oh, yes. All right. So you grew up and went to school there? What school did you attend?

MRS. McCOY: The grade school was Washington School, and junior high, Madison Junior High, and then Topeka High.

Alice: Were these schools segregated, Mrs. McCoy?

MRS. McCOY: Yes they were. There were four, I think four. The elementary school was Buchanan, McKinley, Washington, and there's one more, but I can't think of it right now. But we were segregated.

Alice: And all your teachers and all the staff were black?

MRS. McCOY: All the staff, yes. Our principal at Washington School was Ezekiel Ridley, and they had the nurses that would come around and visit all the schools. We also had a gym teacher who traveled to all the schools. It was just so much different than it is now, because we had an opportunity to know our... what you call "elite" (laughter). We got to know them because the school was small enough that when anyone would come to visit, we would have the opportunity to talk with them, like individually. If we had a question, we could ask them and they were more in demand than they are in the mixed schools.

Alice: Yeah.

Sherrie: Who are some of the people who visited?

MRS. McCOY: I can remember George Washington Carver and, of course, one of our black entertainers was a student at Washington School, the Topeka school, and he was known as "Gate Mouth Moore." He was a blues singer, and so we went to school with "Gate Mouth Moore." And there were others that, as I said, ...they don't come to mind right now, but he was one for sure that most of the people would know, and he is still alive and he's in his 90's, and he was in Topeka a couple of years ago, because that's where he was born and raised, in Topeka, Kansas.

Alice: So did you all have a reunion then?

MRS. McCOY: There was a reunion. He was there for a friend's anniversary. And, of course, I didn't attend but my sister did and I have a picture that they sent from the celebration where he was.

Alice: From the celebration what?

MRS. McCoy: Where he attended.

Alice: Where he was?

MRS. McCoy: Uh-huh.

Alice: Can we go back a little bit and ask about your grandparents? You want to tell us a little bit about your grandparents?

MRS. McCOY: My grandparents on my mother's side had one son who was a police officer and they also had a restaurant at that time. And after he left the police force he was a Santa Fe railroad worker until his retirement.

Alice: Yes.

MRS. McCOY: And on the Bolin side, they had a truck farm and the. . . they called them hucksters, would come from town and load up their trucks so that they could go to the city selling vegetables and whatever. And, in the summer time, the children from the school, they would send this truck to the school site in the summer and pick up children that wanted to pick strawberries and pick up potatoes and work on the farm. That was kind of interesting. . . it was interesting for us because we thought we were into something when we'd get a chance to go and play with all these children that would come to work.

Alice: And so were these all black children or were they white children?

MRS. McCOY: All black children.

Sherrie: Were there many black police officers in Topeka?

MRS. McCOY: To my recollection I can remember Sam Jones, and I think there was two more, but I can't call their names. And, then my grandfather's brother, at the time that he was on police force, he was a fireman and I think there was only one fire department that had black men. There was altogether a black fire station number... I shall never forget that, number 3 fire station.

Alice: It was all black?

MRS. McCOY: Uh-huh.

Alice: And, so, did he work part-time for fire and part-time for police.

MRS. McCOY: No, no. My uncle was the fireman.

Alice: Oh, okay, that's right.

MRS. McCOY: My father's brother was the fireman.

Alice: Right, and then your grandfather was a policeman? His name was what?

MRS. McCOY: William Frazier.

Alice: William Frazier. All right, okay. Your grandmother probably stayed pretty busy with the truck gardening and things like that to help your grandfather?

MRS. McCOY: She did the cooking. They had to cook for all the men. He had his own sons and then they had to hire men to work on the farm. And I can remember along with my grandfather's six boys there were five men that were hired to help on the farm.

Alice: Hmm. Yeah.

MRS. McCOY: And, of course, my grandfather was killed by lightening.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. McCOY: We had a storm and he and one of his horses was killed at that time. I think I might have been in the seventh or eighth grade at that time, because I can remember I was still at the elementary school. We were having something and I remember Mr. Ridley coming to tell me that I needed to go home, and that is what it was.

Alice: A very sad experience for a child.

Sherrie: What was Topeka like in those days? What do you remember about Topeka?

MRS. McCOY: I, at that time ... of course, like all the rest of us thought that it was great place to live. But we didn't know any better. There wasn't anything else for us to compare it with. We had a city park, we could go to that park, and then there was another garden park that black kids would go to. We could go to the big... our great thing was every year when the fair would come to the fairground, everyone... , it was just everyone would go. See that was a time for mixing with the other race. And we had ball competitions.

Alice: Ball games?

MRS. McCOY: Ball games. And that was one of the highlights of the city, because we would get these other schools that would come and we'd have our favorite team all picked out, and it was really something too. That seemed great to us because our ball team we thought was the best because that was Washington's team. And it seemed to me that the students were larger than the children in the ... (laughter) the other elementary school and, I don't know, they were just such big boys. And we would have a lot of programs and plays, and we always had a Christmas play and it was a great thing because the auditorium would be full. And sometimes we would have it three nights so that the parents could attend, especially for Christmas.

Alice: Oh, yeah.

MRS. McCOY: We'd have that for three nights and then we would have. . . that's when we had the Maypole. That was a great thing and I don't hear of that any more. You don't hear of things like that unless I'm missing something. I haven't heard of that in years. And then we would have the assembly once a month or once every other month we would have some noted person like an attorney or someone in the community that was a teacher from some other area to come and speak to our assembly. And that was always a great thing that we kind of prided ourself for. Mr. Ridley always wanted to reach out and get other people to come in and speak to the assembly.

Alice: Yes. Were all the professional people that you dealt with black, like the doctors or dentists?

MRS. McCOY: Yes. We had a dentist and black medical doctors. And, of course, they made house calls. I have no recollection of anyone that I knew going to the hospital when I was growing up because the doctors made house calls and children were delivered in the home, not in the hospital like they are now. And, see now it's mandatory that they go. But at home they had the midwives that would help the doctors or the midwives delivered the children. And, oh, also if you had to go to the dentist it was... and I can remember there were three dentists I think, Dr. DePriest and Dr. Ransom, I can't think, but there were three black dentists. And, Dr. Ransom, the dentist, had a brother that was an MD.

Alice: A medical doctor?

MRS. McCOY: Dr. Ransom loved to eat and he was a large man. And when he would come to make a house call, please don't have anything cooking because he wanted to know what that was before he would look at the patient. If he didn't get to eat before he saw the patient, you can rest assured that if it was something he liked, he was going to eat before he left (laughter). I thought that was kind of cute.

Alice: Yes, partial payment for the bill (laughter)?

MRS. McCOY: Nine chances out of ten he wasn't going to get too much money.

Alice: That's right.

MRS. McCOY: Like if he would go to place where they were canning vegetables, his pay was subject to be a couple of jars of vegetables and maybe they would kill a chicken and...

Alice: Fix it up?

MRS. McCOY: Very little money.

Alice: That was the way at that time?

MRS. McCOY: That's right.

Alice: Pretty much for everything, the services that you needed, what about banking? Was that all-white institutions then?

MRS. McCOY: All white.

Alice: All white institutions.

MRS. McCOY: The only black people you would see at the bank was the janitor.

Alice: Okay, so you graduated high school there and then what did you do?

MRS. McCOY: When I got married I moved to Lawrence, which was just not too far from home. And I worked in Lawrence and at that time my mother-in-law worked at one of the sorority houses. When I say we--my husband and I--we would help her. We were not hired at that time, but we would help her. And later on I started cooking for the Sigma Kappa Epsilon.

Alice: The what?

MRS. McCOY: Sigma Kappa Epsilon.

Alice: Called the Sig Eps?

MRS. McCOY: Yeah, the Sig Eps. And we only worked to the end of school. Summertime we had to do the best we could.

Alice: Right.

MRS. McCOY: And they did not have any...

Alice: Any benefits?

MRS. McCOY: No benefits at that time, none whatsoever. We just faired the best we could.

Sherrie: What would you do in the summer?

MRS. McCOY: If you hadn't saved enough money, you'd try to find another job, because there was really nothing going for you. You didn't get any compensation for that three-month period.

Sherrie: What was your husband's name?

MRS. McCOY: Harry McCoy. Harry Arnold McCoy.

Alice: Was he from Lawrence?

MRS. McCOY: No, he was from Joplin, Missouri.

Alice: Joplin, Missouri?

MRS. McCOY: Uh-huh. They came here when he was a teenager, from Joplin.

Sherrie: How did you meet?

MRS. McCOY: I met him through my sister. My sister dated a young man and her friend brought my husband along with him. And I think she had birthday party or something, and that's how I met him. And four months and about two weeks later we were married in 1939.

Alice: A real love affair (laughter)?

MRS. McCOY: Evidently (laughter).

Alice: That lasted how many years?

MRS. McCOY: Fifty years.

Alice: Fifty years.

MRS. McCOY: We celebrated our 50th anniversary in May and he passed in July.

Alice: He did antiquing I believe, didn't he?

MRS. McCOY: He had an antique novelty shop. But he had worked for there Constance Construction and he was a house manager for Dr. Raymond Seymour, which was up on the hill at the university here, and when he retired he retired from the Reuter Organ Factory as a night watchman.

Alice: All right. What types of things did you do beyond working for the sorority? Kind of give us a run-down on your job experience. What other types of work did you do?

MRS. McCOY: Not too much other than working for the sorority. After I stopped working there I went to work for the Visiting Nurses.

Alice: Yeah.

MRS. McCOY: When you said what kind of work did I do, I was talking about here.

Alice: Right.

MRS. McCOY: I did nothing here other than working for the sororities and the fraternity houses and going to the Visiting Nurses. But when I was not here, I worked in other areas. We left here during the war because my husband was in service, and before he went in service, I worked in Michigan and I worked at a foundry as a... in the cafeteria. And then when I left there, I went to Los Angeles and worked at Good Year Rubber Company until he came back from overseas and we came back to Lawrence.

Sherrie: What did you do at Good Year?

MRS. McCOY: Good Year? I was a nylon painter. They called it nylon painter, and it consisted of painting the tanks that go in the airplanes, I guess the fuel tanks. And it was called a nylon painting because we had to paint this nylon type stuff on the tanks and we'd have to use different colors so that we'd be sure that we were getting all the colors on, and that would stop anything that would puncture. That nylon would ...

Alice: Stop punctures? So it would be harder for bullets and missiles?

MRS. McCOY: So that's what I was hired as, a nylon painter.

Sherrie: So you were a "Rosie the riveter?"

MRS. McCOY: Yes, I was Rosie the riveter.

Alice: You didn't do the actual riveting, but you was in that category (laughter)?

MRS. McCOY: I was in that category (laughter).

Alice: Yes, I guess during wartime many women assumed employment positions because the men were going to war?

MRS. McCOY: Absolutely. And on the floor where I worked there were not only nylon painters, and then there were women that had to turn those tanks. As one side was finished, the sides had to be turned.

Alice: Right, you turn them.

MRS. Mccoy: ... turn that and get the other side. And most of the floors where we worked... there was four or five floors, they were women. As you said, the men were gone in service, and so there were a lot of them.

Sherrie: What was Los Angeles like in those days? Did you do anything but work?

MRS. McCOY: Not too much.

Alice: Were the shifts like you work part shifts and around-the-clock shifts, rotate shifts...?

MRS. McCOY: It was similar to what they did here at the..

Alice: Sunflower?

MRS. McCOY: ...Sunflower. I worked graveyard shift, and they had shifts around the clock, of course, like they did here.

Alice: By the time you get off graveyard you're interested in sleeping?

MRS. McCOY: I would sleep. And, where I lived, I had to transfer about three or four times. But the job I had before I went to Good Year, I worked for a private family and I had to transfer five times to get to where I worked. I was that (phone ringing) far away from my job.

Alice: Okay, you were saying that you had transfer from one place where you lived five times to get work?

MRS. McCOY: I worked in this private family before I got a job working at Good Year. And that was something. It was so early in the morning that you could go to sleep and wake up and you've passed your transfer point (laughter).

Alice: (Laughter) Oh.

MRS. McCOY: Yeah, that was something. But it's interesting how now everyone has a car, there's transportation and you work from. . . and I realize there are people that commute from here to Topeka and here to Kansas City or wherever. But at that time, it seemed "Oh, my!" Because from being in Topeka, where in the world would you go that would take you that far, unless you were going out of town. (laughter)

Alice: Times have changed haven't they?

MRS. McCOY: Yes.

Alice: Yeah, with transportation being so much more rapid now, you get around quicker too.

Sherrie: Los Angeles is also spread out.

MRS. McCOY: Oh, yes!

Alice: Okay. All right.

Sherrie: So, after the war, were you in Los Angeles when the war ended? When did you come back?

MRS. McCOY: I came back just before the war ended. Because my husband was discharged when he went to Maryland to be separated from ...

Alice: Processed?

MRS. McCOY: Uh-huh, and I came here, back home.

Alice: Because, didn't all army people have go through to Maryland to be processed out of Service?

MRS. McCOY: Wherever they sent them...

Alice: Wherever they enlisted?

MRS. McCOY: Yeah, they would have to be before they permanently discharged them.

Sherrie: Which branch of the service was he in?

MRS. McCOY: He was in the Navy.

Alice: All right, when you talk about working at the sororities or fraternity, and then after that you became involved with the VNA then?

MRS. McCOY: Yes.

Alice: Visiting Nurses Association?

MRS. McCOY: Uh-huh.

Alice: Want to tell us a little bit about that and some your, any of your experiences that you can tell that are funny or otherwise that you'd like to share.

MRS. McCOY: When the Visiting Nurses was started, Lawrence felt that it was no need for that type of service. So, when we started, there was a director, registered nurse, dietician, a therapist, secretary, and aide. That was it. And I was spread out in I don't know how many areas. But, not only was the Visiting Nurses' service not well received, it was the fact that the only aide that they had was black. And that didn't peel over too well. I was rejected a lot of times. And I learned to roll with the punches, and some of my dearest friends... I acquired some of my dearest friends from working with the Visiting Nurses. Whereas, when I first went there, they did not like black people. They not want me there, and they would let me know that they didn't. And that, of course, made me feel like... But I learned that there was a way to deal with that. That was my job. I was working and I had a job to do. So I would let them know that "this why I'm here, I was sent here to do this and I will tell you what I was told to tell you. And if you want to accept it that's fine. If you don't, I will not perform what I am supposed to do and I appreciate you listening," and go on about my business. And most of the time they accepted it. But there were always some that didn't.

Alice: Right.

MRS. McCOY: But from that job, I really... I acquired quite a few friends. And even after I stopped working they'd call and I'd still visit with them, if not by phone, I would go see them. And there were some that just wanted me to be there, because they'd call and ask me, "Is it time for my visit?" (Laughter).

Alice: Yes.

MRS. McCOY: I would have to remind them, "I don't work anymore." And one little man, he would say "Mrs. McCoy, I know you don't work there anymore, but I have to know for myself.

Alice: Did you think you could make it?

MRS. McCOY: The beginning of the Visiting Nurses Association?

Alice: The beginning of the Visiting Nurses Association. How it started and how you were received? What about reception in Lawrence of other things? What about shops? You tell the story of your sister's hat.

MRS. McCOY: About her going in the store?

Alice: Right.

MRS. McCOY: She saw this hat and she went into the store and, oh, she wanted that hat, and the lady told her that... Well, she kept trying to discourage her really, because she told her the price and all this kind of stuff. And, so, my sister settled for that. So, she said "Well, when I get the money I'm going back there and buy that hat." And that's what she did. So, she waited until the lady was at the back of the store. Because when you catch the transportation, you stand there on the street waiting for your ride or your bus.

Alice: Right.

MRS. McCOY: When she looked in there and saw that she was at the back of the store, she ran in there real fast, got this hat and put it on.

Alice: Oh, no!

MRS. McCOY: She put it on and, see, that was a "no-no," because you did not try on any hats.

Alice: Because she was black?

MRS. McCOY: You know? And, so, when she found that she had this hat on, she ran up there and she says "Uh, could I help you?" She said "I want to buy this hat." She said "But you're not supposed too..." And she was just looking around, I guess for her boss, looking around to see if she was going to get fired for letting this woman try this hat on. And, so, she said "Don't worry about it, I'm going to buy this hat." And, so, of course she was relieved. But it was so funny how she ran, just ran up there to get that hat off her head. Because it was just that way, you didn't try on your hat, you didn't try on too many clothes that I know of. Now maybe there were some stores that you could, but the ones that I know about you could not. Especially a hat store, you did not try hats.

Alice: Nothing on your head?

MRS. McCOY: No way.

Alice: Now, were most of the stores downtown the same way? I mean stores in Lawrence period?

MRS. McCOY: Yes.

Alice: Pretty much the same way?

MRS. McCOY: Now, they had... What is it, "Kress?"

Alice: Kress, uh-huh.

MRS. McCOY: Five and Dime store, or wherever they would sell food, you could buy it but you couldn't sit down and eat it. And then there were some places that, if you did eat, it would be back out of sight.

Alice: Back around the kitchen?

MRS. McCOY: Most of the time you just stand there and eat, but you couldn't...

Alice: You didn't ever carry it out in a bag?

MRS. McCOY: In a bag, yes! Like the little restaurant near the track there on Massachusetts Street?

Alice: Right. Jim's Dog House?

MRS. McCOY: I don't what the name of it was, but it was a little restaurant and they had, oh, wonderful hamburgers and hot dogs. And, posted up them great big letters "NEGROS AND MEXICANS SERVED IN SACKS." You could buy it and take it out. And when it said that, that means that black people would have to take their food out in a sack, the Mexicans would have to take theirs in a sack. I can remember that very vividly, because before I moved here, we used to come down here for different things of entertainment, and we'd go there to get a hamburger and that sign was there.

Alice: Was there in '50, '51, or '52? And, speaking of '51, what about the flood, the '51 flood? Where did you live then?

MRS. McCOY: I lived at 605 North Second, across from the store. We were washed out there. I lost my home in that flood. And they had to come. . . We left there, they come to Elm Street, 644 Elm, for safety. Because it was high.

Alice: Right. Higher ground.

MRS. McCOY: And, so, we were there and they had to come from there in a boat and take us across the river. And, so, there was no place safe over here at that time. There was no safe place. Everyone that lived in North Lawrence had to be evacuated. And we could hear the loud speakers saying "Come out! Come out! Come out! And they said that until there was no hope for just regular cars or any other way to come get you. And I think the Higgins brothers was the ones that volunteered their boats because they were fishermen. They knew the river and everything, they had their boats and so they would come and get people and take them over. And they made so many trips that finally the final call came that "This is the last trip and we cannot make any more trips," it was just too dangerous. And I think there was one man that was up on top of a roof on Ninth Street, and he was up on top of that roof because he refused. He said it wasn't going to get that bad and he wasn't going. So he kept going up and so he went up stairs and, instead, he decided he'd better get out on the roof.

Alice: That right, because that water was coming in?

MRS. McCOY: It was coming up fast.

Alice: One of the Army branches came with a big old boat at one point, too. It wasn't Army but it was one of the Reservists or... whatever the...

MRS. McCOY: Was it National Guard?

Alice: ...National Guard came down?

MRS. McCOY: The National Guard boat did not get us. Topeka got National Guard.

Alice: Right. Topeka got most of them didn't they?

MRS. McCOY: I'm sure that the National Guard did help in different areas, but Higgins got so many. As a matter of fact, I don't know who else was helping, but Mr. Higgins did.

Alice: I know Mr. Higgins, too. That was a time. And, so, then you moved up here, finally after the flood you moved up here on Elm?

MRS. McCOY: The Red Cross helped a lot of people to relocate or to rebuild. We were too young for them to give us the money to totally build...

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. McCOY: So they gave us—I can remember that so well—sixteen hundred dollars worth of material to build another place. And we couldn't build back on that site, because at that time the law had been changed where you could not build on a small...

Alice: Small spot?

MRS. McCOY: Because we didn't have any space on either side, and I think that was against the building code. So that meant get another spot, and everything was taken up there. So, here, where we are now, 632, this space was just a vacant lot. And my mother-in-law was on the corner and this was vacant. So we were able to buy this place next to them and start building. But we were so poor that we could just do a little bit and stop, keep to the work a little while longer and go ahead, then stop, and finally we got the small part of this done. Then my husband... I don't know what happened to him, but he just started adding to it because he said it was too small. And, so, it became this monstrosity that it is now (laughter).

Alice: But, you know what? It served its purpose, huh?

MRS. McCOY: Yes it does.

Alice: It has served many of people.

MRS. McCOY: It has.

Sherrie: I had a question about the Visiting Nurses. Do you remember when that started? What year that was about?

Alice: Thirty-five years ago. They just had their 35th celebration, so it was about 35 years ago.

Sherrie: Okay, 1960, 1969 or 1970?

Alice: Some of things that you have been involved in, Mrs. McCoy, like the Ballard Center, riding on the school bus to help children and some of those things. Tell us about some of those things.

MRS. McCOY: Well, I didn't ride on the school bus, we furnished our van and my car to haul children back and forth from the daycare at Ballard Center. There and then at church, I would gather up children in the neighborhood, down on New Jersey Street or wherever there were children and the parents were working, and take them to church. We'd gather them up and take them. I started that and that got me interested in children, I guess. And, then through our church, we had some older women, elderly and they were blind, so I was their helper. And most of the time, every week I'd have two little blind ladies to take home with me for the day (laughter). That made me think that there was a need for people to look after older people, and that's what kind of got me started in that. That was even before I went to the Visiting Nurses. And when I brought my father here to take care of him, I didn't know what to do with sick people...

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. McCOY: ...But I brought him here, and my father-in-law who had a stroke, we had to care for him. Then my father came and I cared for him. The Visiting Nurses thing seemed like, with everything, this would give me some clue of what I'm supposed to do with sick people (laughter). Especially old people, you don't know what to do with them. Because when they hurt, well I was so sympathetic that when they hurt, I hurt, they cry, I cry. So I had to learn how to help people.

Sherrie: How did you get your training? Did you take lessons?

MRS. McCOY: We went to Manhattan. It was a pilot program, it started out as a pilot program, to see if there was really a need. And, so, we went to Manhattan College and had some basic training there.

Alice: I know we've talked about people in the community. Did Mrs. McCree ever work with the Visiting Nurses.

MRS. McCOY: She did not work with the Visiting Nurses, she worked with the Health Department.

Alice: Okay, the Health Department.

MRS. McCOY: See, the Health Department and the Visiting Nurses shared an office.

Alice: Oh, okay. I remember that.

MRS. McCOY: And it was right there on New Hampshire Street.

Alice: Seventh and New Hampshire. Yes. Okay. What about just the general activities that you took part in in the community? Things that you've done? I know you've gotten some awards for things and I know you've been involved with other people, who some you've named and some you haven't, in activities to help further the black people in the community, help them to become better integrated and self-reliant people?

MRS. McCOY: I think the first one was the Community Daycare, I was involved in that, and from there on to the Ballard Center Daycare first. And then I started having things for Seniors over there, and they played Bingo and whatnot. I was involved in that and from the daycare... And I think Jessie Miler was here, I think he had something at Ballard with the. . . I don't know whether it was Boy Scouts or what. But, anyway, he was there before we started this daycare program, and when he started that it kind of opened up people's eyes to know there was need for volunteers, but they couldn't pay, they could come and volunteer. Like in the community, they could. The parents had to, uh...

Alice: Participation?

MRS. McCOY: Participation, reading, daycare and whatnot. Maybe you had some money to pay, depending upon your income. If you had an income, you could pay "x" amount of dollars, if not you could do a little bit more work. You had more than just one week at a time to come. And I think at one point you were involved. Alice was involved in that. She was one of the parents for that activity in the community. And then from there I went into working with...

Alice: the Senior's program?

MRS. McCOY: the Senior program, where I had Hannah's House.

Alice: Oh, uh-huh.

Sherrie: And what is Hannah's House?

MRS. McCOY: Hannah's House? A house for girls that had a little problem at home or in school, and they would come from different areas. Not just Douglas County, but from other counties here to Hannah's House... Not Hannah's House... Hannah's House was for

Alice: Unwed mothers.

MRS. McCOY: Unwed mothers. I'm trying to think of what... Right over here on Tennessee Street, it's still over there?

Alice: Oh. I know what you're talking about, but I can't...

MRS. McCOY: I can't think of the place.

Alice: Isn't that something?

MRS. McCOY: That's where the girls would have problems at home and maybe at the school, and the next step after they had been maybe expelled from school and had so much problem, that's where they would send them to..., a place for girls which was a house where I think you could...(inaudible). And they had house parents. They had to qualify, and they worked on a merit system to work their way out of the program. And, then Hannah's House. I was on the Board for Hannah's House and we were, Mrs. McCree and I both were working on helping, volunteering to get people into their house.

Alice: Get tenants lined up for there?

MRS. McCOY: Yeah, we worked on that.

Alice: Did that have anything to do with the Emergency Services Council?


Alice: Okay.

MRS. McCOY: Not at all. The Emergency Services Council was a different...

Alice: Different agency?

MRS. McCOY: And this still exists to a degree. But Ballard handles all of it now. Whereas, when we first started, the Board would...

MRS. McCOY: ...However, Eckan came later, a long time ago. And, then I was involved with what was called a Multiple County Board, and it was out of Ottawa. And I was secretary, I was on the Board and I signed checks for Eckan. Eckan was not here yet. I guess it was Eckan then, but they called it the Multiple County Board I think at first and then it became Eckan. But anyway, we would have a monthly meeting and we had to go to Ottawa.

Alice: Uh-huh.

Sherrie: Hmmm.

MRS. McCOY: And it served about five or six counties to line up jobs. The Job Center arranged for all the checks to come in and I would sign the checks.

Alice: They also helped people get jobs, right?

MRS. McCOY: Of course, uh-huh.

Alice: Because I remember when they were up on Massachusetts Street.

MRS. McCOY: And they had, also in Ottawa, they also had someone working in the homes to see about the elderly. The elderly workers would go and see what they needed and, if it was needed, just some daycare service, someone to come to see about them or maybe give them medication or see that they had their medication. And then there were others that just needed some papers filled out or some assistance.

Alice: Just help?

MRS. McCOY: So, it was quite different in Ottawa, but we all came together here, about six counties or whatever, to have a meeting each month, find out what was working, your finance, what you needed today or what you needed to do to enhance the system.

Alice: Uh-huh. And what about how they brought them once...?

MRS. McCOY: During that time, there was adult education and some of the teachers in this area... I think there is one teacher now that works in this area that went to Ottawa University taking training for preschool children.

Alice: Uh-huh.

Sherrie: Hmmm.

MRS. McCOY: And I went to school there and I would drive or I would commute every week to classes.

Alice: Uh-huh.

MRS. McCOY: But it was all trying to build up daycare and the preschool programs that we have now.

Alice: Yeah.

MRS. McCOY: Because one of the ladies that I know, she has been at her job for preschool for thirty-five years.

Alice: Oh, for Pete's sake.

MRS. McCOY: But it all had to start somewhere. And, so, I remember, uh... The Second Christian pastor?

Alice: Oh, Rev. Sims?

MRS. McCOY: Rev. Sims was one of the...

Alice: Board members?

MRS. McCOY: No, one of the students...

Alice: Oh!

MRS. McCOY: Ottawa University, for preschool children.

Alice: How wonderful!

MRS. McCOY: Georgella Lyles. She was another one that worked in the community.

Alice: Yes.

MRS. McCOY: Georgella Lyles.

Alice: That's somebody we'd like to interview, too.

Sherrie: I was wondering if you could say a little bit about how the community daycare started. Were you involved in starting it?

MRS. McCOY: No, I was not.

Alice: Do you know who did?

MRS. McCOY: I'm not too sure. Like I mentioned some of those that know about this. Now just like I mentioned your name about the community...

Alice: Right.

MRS. McCOY: Then you could tell us what was started and where we were working.

Alice: Well, okay. Well, it started with Hilda Enoch wanting to have a daycare in her home for children, and she had all these books and toys and things that had been given to her for some of her children. But the Old West Neighborhood Association would not allow her to have a daycare in her home. Now, there were several... (inaudible), but they wouldn't. So, she got together, she called around and got together about 60 people in her home and said "This is the problem I'm faced with and I want to do this," and so they said "Well, we all agreed that we would help." And so we volunteered places to have it. She would load stuff up in her station wagon and take it to the location. We would charge ten cents a day if people had it, but, if not, we chipped in and bought juice and milk for kids to have. And we had it at First Regular in the basement at 416 Lincoln, we had it here at the white church on the corner—the Christian church here on the corner of 7th and Elm, we had it at the Salvation Army citadel. Those were the three places we started. Finally we proved that there was a need, and then the city people. . . the powers that be in the city, did not want us to apply for a grant under poverty or the fact that we were a poverty group. And, so, they said, "Well, there is no need because we are not." But, anyway, we disproved that and finally we got started. And Petey Cerf, who was quite a wealthy woman, she was having a fight with the school district and the city about this building. She wanted to buy a building, but they made her jump through several hoops to get it. Anyway, she bought the building and the only stipulation was it was to be used as a community center. The only stipulation is that it be named after her mother, Elizabeth Ballard. And, so, she gave that to the community and that's where we had the original Children's Hour Nursery. Before it became a national thing, we called it the Children's Hour Nursery, and then it went through some changes with the rioting and then that's when it turned from daycare.

MRS. McCOY: And then when the Visiting Nurses started, this church over here was one the areas where they would bring children to be examined.

Alice: Uh-huh, right.

MRS. McCOY: The school-age children were examined because we would have to go from one place to the other.

Alice: Site to site.

MRS. McCOY: You had asked me what did I do when we weren't on the hill. During that time is when I started dealing with the preschool children, taking them back and forth, because I was always looking for things to do, and my little girl would see the children over there, so I took her over there. And there were many, many people that donated their time. One of Alice's relatives was one that would go over and teach them games and how to play ball and that type of thing. And then Ruth Richardson, a person that lives here, she was a musician and she taught them piano...

Alice: And tap dancing.

MRS. McCOY: Yes, tap dancing. All of this was volunteer people. That's when it stems from daycare, preschool, on up to other areas.

Alice: When we first moved to Lawrence, my mother-in-law lived across the street from Ballard, and that was a black school. Lincoln School.

MRS. McCOY: And Mrs... .

Alice: Webster?

MRS. McCOY: Webster was the principal.

Alice: ...of Lincoln School. All-black school.

MRS. McCOY: Mrs. McCree was one of the teachers, and I don't remember them having another teacher there.

Alice: Flossie Newman McGaugh, one of the Newman women, she was a teacher.

MRS. McCOY: They didn't have too many. All of those children had to be under this teacher.

Alice: Uh-huh, uh-huh.

Sherrie: Wow! So, was the Ballard Center integrated when it started?

MRS. McCOY: When it first started?

Sherrie: When it first started?

MRS. McCOY: Yes.

Alice: Yes. All children, anybody who could not afford a nursery school experience were welcome to start.

MRS. McCOY: We were allowed to take the black children who were not in school, so that made it integrated. Any of the children could come to the preschool.

Alice: Lawrence had fought for a long time. There were periods where there was integration and there wasn't integration. Because there were little pocket schools, like little one-room schools that were all black years and years ago, then when segregation came in formally, they tried to make all the blacks go to Lincoln. All the blacks that had settled around here mostly went, and plus kin people that they had in other sides of town. But then there a was time when the school district wanted to close Lincoln School, and the black parents got together and said "No, because if they close the school, the black teachers and Mrs. Webster, the principal, would not be allowed to teach white children." So, then, that was when, after that point, they kept it segregated until she retired. We went to a white school right after that. And I think things began to really open up in the community then because black kids. . . the nursery school experiences. They had the Co-op. I got involved in that with Dr. Gilles. But they would take any child, but it was based on low income, and the kids had the opportunity, not just to be baby-sat but to learn through a nursery school experience.

MRS. McCOY: That's when they started the program for the Seniors. We had a class and in one of our classes our instructor asked, "What would you like to see done in your community? What would you like to do as a project?" And so, Mrs. McCree mentioned the fact that there was nothing over here in North Lawrence for Seniors, and she'd just like to see something done for them. And, of course, they figured out that Ballard Center was the place to have it and, so, they would have bingo and bingo night for Senior citizens.

Alice: Uh-huh, uh-huh. And it was wonderful. We hope we can get an interview with her, too, at some point.

MRS. McCOY: When we were talking about how I started going to work on this project with Deborah Dandridge, she was our Topeka person, and oddly enough, my family and her family were good friends in Topeka.

Alice: Oh, uh-huh. I think she's a wonderful person. She has been really very helpful.

MRS. McCOY: She still works with... ?

Alice: Still works with Spencer Research. Right now she's really busy with the Brown versus the Board of Education and this thing that's coming up in... this month or April?

Sherrie: Next week.

Alice: Next week. Oh, it's next week. Mrs. McCoy, haven't you been getting some stuff about that?

MRS. McCOY: Yeah.

Sherrie: Ooh!

Alice: Deborah will be glad you did. Okay.

MRS. McCOY: Yeah, they're having an opening at Monroe School, what used to be Monroe School.

Alice: Yes. No, that'll be in the next week's activities I believe. It's going to become a national site.

MRS. McCOY: That's right.

Sherrie: Yeah.

Alice: Yeah.

MRS. McCOY: That's one of the schools that I told you that was one of the black schools.

Alice: That's something you'd want to go to because it's your school. And tell Deb that she really needs to get in touch with Mrs. McCoy.

Sherrie: I will.

Alice: And talk to her because of her connection with the school. Can you just briefly tell us about some of the awards you got out for us to see today? I'm especially interested in that one from Ballard, but you tell us about all of them.

MRS. McCOY: Now this one is the Alice West Volunteer Award, and that was given to me in '97. I have one from Jayhawk Area Agency on Aging, and that was from October '84. The Wallace Galluzzi Award, that was 1988.

Sherrie: What's that big one?

MRS. McCOY: This one is from an appreciation for years of service in 1994. I think I stop going then because I was here in Lawrence.

Alice: What was that, from JAAA? Was that the JAAA in 1994?

MRS. McCOY: Yeah... This is '84, and this is JAAA, the '94, that's when I left.

Alice: Okay.

MRS. McCOY: And this one is in special recognition, '94, from the Citizen's Appreciation Award, Kansas African American Legislative Black Caucus.

Alice: Oh, how nice.

Sherrie: Wonderful.

Alice: And then finally...

MRS. McCOY: Finally, one from Ballard Center. I was given that in 2003.

Alice: 2003. And, is there a scholarship award that was set up in your name?

MRS. McCOY: Yes, for Board members.

Alice: For Board members. Okay.

MRS. McCOY: And I got this Ballard Center Board Member recognition award.

Alice: That's wonderful. Well, we're going to look at your deed as gift as...

Sherrie: Ask her about Madam Walker.

Alice: Oh, yes! Oh, we skipped the Madam Walker.

MRS. McCOY: Oh, yeah. Mrs. McCree and I received a Madam Walker scholarship for Adult Education at Kansas University.

Alice: Yes, yes. Do you know about what year that was? '70's, '80's?

MRS. McCOY: It was in the late '60's.

Alice: Late '60's?

MRS. McCOY: Right. It was the late '60's or early '70's, because she working for the Health Department and I was still working, so it had to be in the late '60's or early '70's because I was still working when we received that award. And it was four of us that received scholarships.

Alice: Scholarships. Scholarships. That's wonderful.

MRS. McCOY: Because we were going back to school at that late age.

Alice: At that early age (laughter)? That's wonderful. Mrs. McCoy, at some point in the future I hope we do another interview with you, because there is so much more to learn about you. But, uh...

MRS. McCOY: Well, I'm starting all over again.

Alice: Yes.

MRS. McCOY: I guess because of my grandchildren. I think I'm going backwards sometimes.

Alice: Well, you're just where you need to be for what needs to be done, and so we do appreciate it. I guess we're going to conclude the interview at this point unless you have anything else to share.

Sherrie: Thank you so much.

Alice: Yeah, we thank you.

MRS. McCOY: You're welcome. I started to say "No."

Alice: I know you did (laughter).

MRS. McCOY: I'm reluctant to try to.

Alice: Talk about yourself...

MRS. McCOY: You see, when I stand up, my thoughts sit down (laughter). Of course, I finally thought I was sitting down, my thoughts...

Alice: Rise up (laughter).

MRS. McCOY: Then I had some other things that I was really going to try to share with you, but they slipped my mind. So, I'll do it some other time.

Alice: Well, next time we're just going to come and just talk, because Mrs. McCoy has the most delicate sense of humor that you have ever encountered. She is so funny (laughter), and it would just be nice to pick up some of that.

Sherrie: Yeah.

MRS. McCOY: I was thinking in terms of OWL? I was one of the first ones who started OWL.

Alice: She was one of the founding members of the Older Women's League, served as President of that.

MRS. McCOY: Was I President? Was I ever President, or Viola was?

Alice: Oh, the only one, and so was Mrs. Vann I think at one point.

MRS. McCOY: But I was one that started it...

Alice: Okay, she was one of the founders...

MRS. McCOY: And so was Mrs. McCree.

Alice: And Mrs. McCree and Mrs. McCoy, both were founding members.

MRS. McCOY: And Hayter, he was a policeman that used to be here.

Alice: Oh, Hayter.

MRS. McCOY: Then later Newman.

Alice: Vernon Newman III

MRS. McCOY: Hayter and Smith.

Alice: Hick Smith. And those were black policemen here in Lawrence. I can't think of Mr. Hayter's name.

MRS. McCOY: Will.

Alice: Will Hayter.

MRS. McCOY: And his daughter was the one that taught over here at the school.

Alice: Thelma Hayter. And then Hick Smith was one of the policemen here. And then going way back into the ancestry, Allen Moore. There is a plaque in the train station about Allen Moore. But, during Allen Moore's time, they were policemen by district, so he was over here. And then I think in our time the things that the black policemen were allowed to do were limited to blacks. Now I don't have that in writing, but according to my recollection of how they could do anything, if there was an arrest to be made of a white person, they couldn't do it.

MRS. McCOY: I'm not sure about that.

Alice: I'm not sure. That was what was said, but I'm not positive about that. I know that they gave tickets and they patrolled up and down, and then if there were disturbances with black people, usually there was a black policeman with a white officer when they came. So, other than that, there's nothing documented on that.

back to top