Virginia Hamm

Virginia Hamm

Interviewed by Leonard Monroe
March 22, 2006

MR. MONROE: This is Wednesday, March 22. We're interviewing Virginia Hamm at the St. Luke AME Church. I'm Leonard Monroe. Present is Reta Cosby, Nancy Hiebert, and Charlotte Frye. Virginia, what is your full name, including your maiden name, and what is your date of birth?

MRS. HAMM: My full name is Virgina Mae Scott Hamm, and the date of birth is 1/8/37.

MR. MONROE: Where were you born?

MRS. HAMM: I was born here in Lawrence.

MR. MONROE: How long has your family lived in Lawrence? When and why did the first family members come here?

MRS. HAMM: I think the family lived here maybe 69, 70 years, something like that, and most of us came because the house burned down in Clinton. I had an uncle who already lived here and, when the house burned with a larger amount of the family still living there, we all just moved in with him, in a little tiny house.

MS. COSBY: What were your parents' names?

MRS. HAMM: My father's name was Samuel Scott. My mother's name was Mabel Simpson.

MS. COSBY: And you were saying you lived in a little house, where?

MRS. HAMM: It would be where the field house is now. Whatever address it was, I don't remember. I don't even remember that street.

MS. COSBY: The field house?

MRS. HAMM: Uh-huh. Where Allen Fieldhouse is.

MRS. FRYE: It would be on Naismith.

MRS. HAMM: No, it wasn't that far then. Maybe Missouri.

MRS. FRYE: Oh, okay. Over near where Joanne Perkins lived.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah, we were right down the street from her.

MR. MONROE: Interesting. Well, we were talking about did your family have any good storytellers, you had a story right there actually.

MRS. HAMM: (Laughter) Yeah. The one about the house burning I always thought was funny because my mother didn't like living in the country, and they said she always said she wasn't going to raise me in the country. So, when the house burned, everybody accused her of burning the house down (laughter).

AUDIENCE: (Laughter).

MR. MONROE: Well, you got out of the country.

MRS. HAMM: Yep, got out of the country.

MR. MONROE: In the family, was anyone considered a black sheep, or how did your family deal with the people, or was everybody okay?

MRS. HAMM: I think so.

MR. MONROE: What parts of Lawrence did you identify most closely with when you were young? Were any parts of town restricted to you or you were forbidden from going?

MRS. HAMM: No. I lived in West Lawrence, and that's just the part of town we stayed in mostly.

MR. MONROE: Most of us lived in West Lawrence.

MRS. HAMM: (Laughter).

MR. MONROE: I still think that's best part of Lawrence to be living in to tell you the truth.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah. I still live there (laughter).

MS. COSBY: So, let me get something straight. You said you lived close to where Allen Fieldhouse is now?

MRS. HAMM: Uh-huh.

MS. COSBY: And that was considered West Lawrence?

MRS. HAMM: That was South Lawrence.

MS. COSBY: Okay, that was South Lawrence. And then you moved to West Lawrence?

MRS. HAMM: Uh-huh.

MS. COSBY: And that's where you were raised?

MRS. HAMM: Yeah, but before we moved to West Lawrence, we lived in East Lawrence, but I was really young. But I just remember that we lived in West Lawrence.

MR. MONROE: Growing up in the best part of town though.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah. When I was old enough to go to school and do things, we were in West.

MS. COSBY: But when you moved to Lawrence, Allen Fieldhouse wasn't built yet?
MRS. HAMM: Oh, no.

MRS. FRYE: No. It was built in '55.

MR. MONROE: Were there any parts of town that you were restricted to or forbidden to go to?

MRS. HAMM: No, I don't think so.

MR. MONROE: Of course, back then I knew that people talked freely about everything. But were there any topics that were hushed up or forbidden in your family conversations, like birth or funerals or anything like that?

MRS. HAMM: No. I was raised in a household that kids should not be in family conversations. So, whatever they talked about, we weren't apart of.

MR. MONROE: Was the African-American community more self-protecting than the white community, or could you go anywhere you wanted to as far as just going:?
MRS. HAMM: I don't think so.

MR. MONROE: What was your grandmother's role when you were growing up, and what was the grandfather's role?

MRS. HAMM: My grandmother was the person who took care of the house, the children, she cooked, she cleaned. I lived in a house with my mother and my aunt, her husband and her daughter and my great grandfather and grandmother.

MS. COSBY: What was your great grandfather's name?

MRS. HAMM: Lewis Simpson.

MS. COSBY: And what was your grandmother's name?

MRS. HAMM: Lula Simpson.

MS. COSBY: And your aunt?

MRS. HAMM: Helen Southard.

MS. COSBY: And her husband?

MRS. HAMM: Arthur Southard.

MS. COSBY: And you all lived together as an extended family?

MRS. HAMM: We all lived in a tiny, tiny house. Yes. It didn't seem tiny at the time, but now when I look it, it's a little tiny house.

MS. COSBY: And your mother and father lived with this extended family?

MRS. HAMM: My mother and father weren't together, and that was the reason we ended up, we lived with my aunt and her family because it was just easier that way. My mother had somebody to look after me while she went to work and she put the money in the house. It's like she paid rent. And the younger people, like my mother and aunt and my uncle, went to work. My grandmother thought it was her place to do all the cooking and ironing and all that, and that's the reason she did it. And, of course, she was there for me and my cousin and any other of her grandchildren that needed care.

MS. COSBY: So you were an only child?

MRS. HAMM: Uh-huh. I was for twenty years, and then I had a sister (laughter).

MR. MONROE: Where did you attend elementary school?

MRS. HAMM: Pinckney.

MR. MONROE: Good old Pinckney.

MRS. HAMM: Good old Pinckney (laughter).

MR. MONROE: I know there were six grades in that school. And then from Pinckney to junior high. Was it still Old High, Central and Manual?

MRS. HAMM: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: Then old LMHS. Of course, none of the teachers were African-American in those days, it was just all white teachers, men and women.

MRS. HAMM: Uh-huh.

MS. COSBY: Did you ever have the experience of an African-American teacher?


MR. MONROE: No administrators or anything like that. During our tenure, there was none in the schools. Our younger ones, I guess there were. Jesse Milan. I don't know just when he started teaching, but that was way after we had been there. Do you belong to any clubs or organizations or teams while you were going to high school?

MRS. HAMM: Yeah. I played basketball for a little while and I was in pep club, and I played viola in the orchestra.

MS. COSBY: At what school?

MRS. HAMM: In high school.

MR. MONROE: You were in the orchestra?

MRS. HAMM: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: What did you play?

MRS. HAMM: Viola. And I cannot play it now. I was the prize picked viola in seventh, eighth, and played 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' (laughter).

MS. COSBY: That's Lawrence Liberty Memorial?

MRS. HAMM: Yeah.

MR. MONROE: That's Liberty Memorial. Did you have any interactions with any Native Americans while you were growing up? If so, what kind of interactions did you have?

MRS. HAMM: No, I didn't know any.

MS. COSBY: Were you aware of the Native American community?

MR. MONROE: Everybody knew about Haskell.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah, Haskell.

MR. MONROE: You see, Haskell wasn't a college then either, it was a high school. But there was quite a few Mexicans, in other words Spaniards what you might want to call them. They mostly all lived over here in East Lawrence back in those days.

MS. COSBY: Did they not come into your community?

MRS. HAMM: I don't think they were allowed to do anything except to go to town on certain days and back to the dorm.

MR. MONROE: You're talking about the Haskell students. You see, they were junior high and high school then, it wasn't a college.

MS. COSBY: Okay. Because you're one of several people who said they had no interactions with the Native Americans, and it just made me wonder why wasn't there any interaction, what prohibited this interaction.

MR. MONROE: Well, I don't think it was nothing like that. I think it was just the fact that we didn't. Now we interacted with them in sports. We had what we called the Haskell Night Relays back in those days, and their track team would run with our track team or any other schools that was invited to the Haskell Night Relays. Shawnee Mission, Topeka and all those schools, Ottawa.

MS. COSBY: And you had more interactions with white students than you did with Native American students?

MRS. HAMM: Uh-huh.


MS. COSBY: Did the white students have interactions with Native American students the way that they had with African-Americans?

MRS. HAMM: I have no idea.

MR. MONROE: What is your overall opinion of your educational experience in Lawrence?

MRS. HAMM: Well, I was not a very good student, so (laughter) I don't have any complaints about education.

MR. MONROE: But you did have a good time in school, right?

MRS. HAMM: Yeah, I had a good time.

MR. MONROE: And after that, I think you got married after school.

MRS. HAMM: I did. I got married and had children and got a divorce (laughter).

MS. COSBY: But you were in band and you played viola. Did you say you were a member of the pep club?

MRS. HAMM: Uh-huh.

MS. COSBY: Well, why weren't you a good student?

MRS. HAMM: You know I really don't know. I didn't apply myself, I guess.

MS. COSBY: Scholastically?

MRS. HAMM: Yeah. I liked music. I liked art and crafts. All of the things I could do with my hands and I liked to read, but I did not like math and...

MR. MONROE: You're not the only one who didn't like that I don't think.

MRS. HAMM: (Laughter).

MR. MONROE: What are your first memories of St. Luke?

MRS. HAMM: First memories of St. Luke, I think I was impressed with the choir because they said we had this huge choir and I loved to hear them sing, and that was one of the things that guided me.

MR. MONROE: And they had instruments in the choir back then too.

MS. COSBY: How old were you when you started going to St. Luke.

MRS. HAMM: I don't know. I came every now and then with my mother because she has been a member of St. Luke. I think when she passed away, they said she was a member for sixty years. I came with her sometimes, but most of the time I went to Pentecostal Church with my grandmother.

MS. COSBY: What was the name of that Pentecostal church.

MRS. HAMM: I don't remember.

MS. COSBY: Was your mother active within the organizations in the church?

MRS. HAMM: She was a Steward at one time, but I don't know if she was active any other time.

MR. MONROE: Are you actively involved in your congregation now or in the past?

MRS. HAMM: Yes. I was thinking that in the past it was kind of hard to believe, they had summer classes and I was one of the people that came down and helped with the children during summer school.

MRS. FRYE: Bible school.

MRS. HAMM: Okay, Bible school. And I was an usher back then and helped with the teas and anything else that we had.

MS. COSBY: About what year was that?

MRS. HAMM: Oh, I don't know. And now, I'm an usher and on the Steward board and financial board and do whatever I'm asked to do.

MR. MONROE: And I know you're also the unofficial/official photographer for the church.

MRS. HAMM: Oh, (laughter) yeah.

MS. COSBY: What does the Steward do?

MRS. HAMM: The Steward is responsible for looking after the Pastor. A lot of times it seems that things are...

MR. MONROE: His salary, his living quarters.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah, that kind of stuff.

MR. MONROE: The Trustees handle the building. And, of course, Sunday school and everything was always down here. Do you consider faith an important part of your life?


MR. MONROE: In what kind of ways?

MRS. HAMM: Well, I just always have faith that no matter what happens in my life, that the bad things, I always know that it's going to be all right. My oldest son has sickle cell anemia and the doctor told me he would live to be 18, and I used to just panic every time he got sick. And then as I looked more to God and my faith came in, I believe that he was going to be all right, and he is. He's an old man with grand kids now (laughter).

MS. COSBY: Did you say how long you had been a member of St. Luke?

MRS. HAMM: I joined when I was 21.

MS. COSBY: And your son, was he raised in St. Luke also?

MRS. HAMM: I brought them to church and then, like a lot of kids and like myself, they decided they wanted to try another church and they went to Ninth Street.

MS. COSBY: Your son goes to Ninth Street?

MRS. HAMM: No, when he was here, when they were teenagers they went to Ninth Street.

MS. COSBY: What was his name?

MRS. HAMM: Russell Hamm and Randal Hamm.

MR. MONROE: But the main thing is growing them up in the church, they still went to church.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah.

MR. MONROE: It may not have been the same church you went to, but they went to church.

MRS. HAMM: Right, they went to church. And they wanted to go where their friends were going.

MRS. FRYE: They had the foundation.

MRS. HAMM: Right. And now Russell lives in Oklahoma and Randal is in California, and I have a daughter, Marsha, who lives in Kansas City. So, they're just not here to go to church in Lawrence.

MR. MONROE: What role has your church played in Lawrence history?

MRS. HAMM: It's the Underground Railroad. That's the only thing I can think of. I wrote it down so I could remember, because I would forget too (laughter).

MR. MONROE: And Langston Hughes.

MRS. HAMM: And Langston Hughes.

MS. COSBY: What about the NAACP?

MRS. HAMM: What do you want to know about it?

MS. COSBY: Was your church active with the NAACP?

MRS. HAMM: I guess they were.

MR. MONROE: Yes, it was. Matter of fact, I think some of it even organized right here. They had meetings here for quite a while.

MRS. HAMM: Okay. I didn't know where they had their meetings I guess, but I knew that the NAACP had been here.

MS. COSBY: Were you active with the organization?

MRS. HAMM: I wasn't a member at that time, but I was one of the people that Jesse sent out to apply for jobs.

MS. COSBY: Jesse Milan?

MRS. HAMM: Yeah. And he sent me to JC Penny the first time he sent me out anywhere, and he said, "Oh, they probably won't hire you, but I just want to know what they say." So, I went and they didn't hire me for whatever reason, I don't remember. Jesse called back to see what it was, how the interview went and all that, and they said, "Well, I'll go down there and talk to them." So, he went and talked to them, and they called me up and offered me a job that I didn't apply for (laughter).

MS. COSBY: What job was that?

MRS. HAMM: I told them I could sew when I went down there, so they put me in the alterations room, which I had no idea how to do. But they were determined they were going to put me in some place, I think just because the NAACP was behind them. And, so, they called and offered me that job. Then I said, "I've never done anything like this." It was tailoring men's clothes. "Oh, we'll teach you, we'll teach you." So, they taught me to do alterations and I worked there for five years (laughter).

MR. MONROE: What are some of the names of African-American businesses in Lawrence that you might remember?

MRS. HAMM: Oh, I have them on my paper here. Archie's Barbecue, and I have a picture of him that my mother had. It was 500 Michigan. And Bud's Barber Shop, which is just kind of across the street I guess on 500 Michigan. Greenwood Tavern that was own by Will and Genevieve Green, and my stepfather and mother managed that place. My mother did the cooking. And Green Gables, which was also owned by Will and Genevieve and their, I think it was their cousin, Nelson and Dorothy Green managed it and then they bought it. The Shamrock Inn, which I think the Hines?

MR. MONROE: No, that was... What his name? Remember he had the accident and killed those nuns. Coleman.

MRS. HAMM: Oh, okay.

MRS. FRYE: The Hines owned it before.

MR. MONROE: No, they owned the Golden Arrow.

MRS. FRYE: Oh, okay. They did own it, Blanch Omage owned it.

MRS. HAMM: Oh, they owned the Golden, okay. Well, I had a picture of Mrs. Hines and I was just thinking they owned it.

MRS. HIEBERT: Is that Mrs. Hines that we're talking about.

MRS. HAMM: Uh-huh. And then the hairdressers was Mrs. Laury, I don't know how to spell her name. But, she was at 600 Vermont, and Helen Steen.

MR. MONROE: She was there on Eighth and Missouri.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah, I couldn't remember. Yeah, somewhere.

MS. COSBY: Steen is the last name?

MRS. HAMM: Well, was her last name Walker or was it Steen?

MRS. FRYE: I don't know.

MR. MONROE: Yeah, I think it was Walker.

MRS. HAMM: Okay, Helen Walker. And Helen Hawkins had her business over in her home on 400 Alabama for a long time, and then she moved to a business downtown.

MRS. HIEBERT: What did her business do?

MRS. HAMM: She was a hairdresser, and all these ladies were hairdressers. And Walter Logan was a glass blower at KU and, as far as I know, he was the only...

MR. MONROE: He was the only one I ever heard of that did that.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah. So, that was his business or his profession I guess you'd say.

MRS. FRYE: In fact, he taught Art into doing that. In fact, he was ready to hire him, but Art went to the post office. He already had an application at the post office. But Logan was trying to get Art to be a glass blower like he was.

MRS. HAMM: Oh, that would have been so neat.

MRS. FRYE: But he chose the post office.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah, probably more money.

MRS. FRYE: More money, better benefits.

MR. MONROE: I know that, but as it turned out, Arthur was first black that worked the window at the Lawrence Post Office.

MRS. FRYE: Yes, he was.


MRS. FRYE: My husband, Arthur Frye.

MR. MONROE: He was the first black to be in that window.

MS. COSBY: I wanted to ask what jobs? You said you worked at JC Penny's for five years, then where did you work? What were some of the jobs that were available that blacks didn't have to go through the NAACP or force themselves into? What were some of the employment opportunities?

MRS. HAMM: I went from there to Hallmark, and I was a machine operator at Hallmark. Then, about that time, the NAACP was still working to get people in jobs downtown. So, Verner Newman called and asked me to go to the police station and apply for a job as a meter maid. So, I did that and they turned me down, and he said, "Well, we'll make another appointment for you and I'll be on that board." And, so, then I went back and they hired me there. And I was ready to leave Hallmark because that department that I was working in shut down and they put me in one I didn't like. So, I went to the city.

MS. COSBY: How long were you at Hallmark?

MRS. HAMM: Just maybe a year. I'm not even sure it was that long.

MS. COSBY: But you did get hired on by the city?

MRS. HAMM: Uh-huh. And then I went from there to the Douglas County Court House. I worked in the Appraiser's office for four or five years or so. And then I went to Hercules. It's an army ammunitions plant, and I retired from there. I went there as a janitor because it was good pay (laughter).

MR. MONROE: Who was your physician when you were younger?

MRS. HAMM: Richard Nelson was one of them.

MR. MONROE: Was he an African-American or white?

MRS. HAMM: No, he was white.

MR. MONROE: All the professionals, they just left town, because I know we did have some black doctors and lawyers and things like that, but they never did seem to stay around here very long.

MRS. HAMM: Uh-uh.

MR. MONROE: Did you ever have any experiences in the hospital when you were younger?

MRS. HAMM: Yeah. When I had my first child.

MR. MONROE: Was it a segregated room?

MRS. HAMM: I was in the hallway. My doctor then was Dr. Frink, and he had a fit because I was in the hallway, and they moved me into a room.

MS. COSBY: Was he African-American?


MS. COSBY: He was white?

MRS. HAMM: Uh-huh. But he did not want his patients in the hallway.

MS. COSBY: Did they examine you in the hallway?

MRS. HAMM: Yeah.

MR. MONROE: You might have had the same experience then, because your doctor didn't want you in the hallway and I don't remember being in the hallway with my doctor either. Now that was Dr. Zimmer. So, maybe the doctors had the influence on getting you in there.

MRS. HAMM: That might be what had happened.

MR. MONROE: Because I've never had an experience like Charlotte talked about either.

MS. COSBY: What patients were in the hallway while you were in the hallway?

MRS. HAMM: I guess maybe they were all maternity. I don't know.

MR. MONROE: But that's why you were there though?

MRS. HAMM: That's why I was there (laughter).

MS. COSBY: So mostly women?

MRS. HAMM: Yeah. Joanne Hurst was there about the same time, and they moved her in the room with me.

MS. COSBY: African-American women?

MRS. HAMM: Yeah.

MR. MONROE: What about your movie experiences? Could you go to the movies?

MRS. HAMM: (Laughter) Oh, yeah.

MR. MONROE: Was it segregated?

MRS. HAMM: They were segregated.

MR. MONROE: Did you sit in the crow's nest?

MRS. HAMM: Sat in the crow's nest, the back of the theater, whatever (laughter).

MR. MONROE: You remember the Patee Theater? Did you ever go to the Patee Theater?

MRS. HAMM: I remember the Patee, but I don't remember going there.

MR. MONROE: I sure remember going.

MRS. HAMM: I remember passing it on the way to the Granada or the Varsity (laughter).

MR. MONROE: What about swimming pools?

MRS. HAMM: Oh, no, we could not go to the swimming pool.

MR. MONROE: I know we had to learn to swim in the river.

MRS. HAMM: (Laughter).

MS. COSBY: Did you swim?

MRS. HAMM: No. I tried to learn to swim after I was older, I just couldn't learn.

MR. MONROE: What about where some of the African-Americans were allowed to eat? Any restaurants or anything like that ?

MRS. HAMM: No. We'd just go get our food and take it out.

MR. MONROE: The Green Gable, the Greenwood Inn or Blues Bucket?

MRS. HAMM: Oh, yeah, that's where we went. That's one of the things that I remember about going shopping with my mother. We'd be downtown and she'd be buying whatever it was and then, when we got hungry, had to leave and go to Green Gables usually to get something to eat because those were her friends and so that's where we'd go. It was just like a special thing to go down there anyway and eat.

MR. MONROE: Have we already had a conversation you want to talk about or anything that has happened?

MRS. HAMM: No (laughter).

MR. MONROE: How did you feel about living in the Lawrence actually? Were you happy? Was your life good?

MRS. HAMM: I was always trying to get out of Lawrence, but I never made it (laughter).

MR. MONROE: For what reasons though? Just to live somewhere else?

MRS. HAMM: Well, because there wasn't really anything to do. I can't think of anything there was to do at the time. You couldn't go to a nice theater, or just nothing (laughter).

MR. MONROE: Well, did you go to Kansas City? I know they had the Gem Theater down there, but that was a black theater. Did you ever go there?

MRS. HAMM: No. I went in my later years. We went down to Kansas City to some of those theaters. I can't even remember where it was now. But that was seldom.

MR. MONROE: But the clubs down there, they were segregated just like they were in Lawrence though. The Blue Room and all those places.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah, we went to the Blue Room. But that's just another thing I guess, you had to go out of town to go to those places like that.

MR. MONROE: But they just had nightclubs with nice things you could do and have fun though.

MRS. HAMM: Right.

MS. COSBY: One thing I find interesting, and I'm from Oklahoma, but if you went to church, you did not go to nightclubs or you didn't clubs or establishments where they served beer. Did you all have those things?

MR. MONROE: No, we could go to clubs. We could go to the Green Gable or especially out to the Golden Arrow on Saturdays.

MRS. HAMM: And come to church.

MR. MONROE: But we was sure in church on Sundays. I mean because there was no crime in going to those places I don't think. We never got in trouble or got drunk, at least I didn't, or things like that. But you could dance, you could have fun, but you were always in church on Sunday.

MRS. HAMM: Uh-huh.

MRS. HIEBERT: When you grew up, did you hear much about Langston Hughes or anything?

MRS. HAMM: No. I didn't hear about Langston Hughes until just a few years ago.

MRS. HIEBERT: One of the things that's real interesting me is his grandfather lived here quite a while and died here. When he died, there was a piece in the paper that was really big. When Langston Hughes died, it was like that because I think his grandfather was here in some ways at a better time and a more open time. And Langston Hughes also had some times where he got caught up to some extent in some of the witch hunts they were doing, and nationally with actors and writers and things. So, I don't know if that's what it took to get some more recognition for him in the general press.

MR. MONROE: See, once Langston Hughes became famous, so to speak, then that's when we started really hearing about him. But when we were growing up in St. Luke, people here were really professionals. The Clarks, Gertrude Clark.

MRS. FRYE: Yeah, her husband was a judge.

MR. MONROE: Yeah, her husband was a judge and so we had some famous, I mean educated people right here in Lawrence, Kansas. Charlie Shepard, he was a professor. We've had some neat people.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah.

MS. COSBY: That was my question. Were there any people that you grew up with who became famous?

MRS. HAMM: They never became famous I guess, but they were here. I think one of the reasons why we didn't know a lot about Langston Hughes and other people is because we weren't taught about black history when I was going to school.

MRS. FRYE: That's exactly right.

MRS. HAMM: And we have the Black National Anthem. Never heard it until, what? Twenty years ago maybe if that.

MR. MONROE: That's one thing about it, they never did teach black history is none of these schools. And I believe the people would really shocked, as a matter of fact, they're shocked at just some of the things they see on our oral history panels. But there were a lot of famous black inventors and none of the whites knew about that.


MRS. HIEBERT: And they usually didn't get the credit, somebody else got it.

MR. MONROE: Right. And a lot of things that were invented was all for necessity when they were slaves and so forth, and never got credit for that either. The only ones they really taught about was George Washington Carver.

MRS. FRYE: That's about it.

MRS. HAMM: That's all we ever heard about when we went to school.

MR. MONROE: There were a lot of famous blacks.

MRS. HIEBERT: In those 1977 interviews that we were talking about a little while ago, if you read between the lines a bit, I haven't read all of the interviews, but it really, I think, is clear that there wasn't any opportunity in school to learn black history anyway. And its pretty apparent, I think, why people didn't hear much about Langston Hughes because of that exactly.

MR. MONROE: And the jobs, there were good jobs, but if you were male, there was no good jobs.

MRS. HAMM: No, there wasn't.

MR. MONROE: Regardless of your qualifications, you couldn't get it. Matter of fact, I probably made a little history myself being the first black superintendent of the City of Lawrence.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah, you did.

MR. MONROE: But other than that, they just weren't there.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah. And that's one of the reasons I think a lot of women especially didn't care about getting an education. We knew we couldn't do anything with it. We had to leave town in order to even be a secretary.

MR. MONROE: That's why there's not that many professional blacks around here now, because there was no place for them.

MRS. FRYE: In high school, a good example was Pearl Carpenter, I'll go back to her, and who's that other lady, kept Barbara Spearman and James Simms off the honor roll. They were both 'A' students.

MRS. HAMM: Oh, yeah.

MR. MONROE: Right.

MRS. FRYE: Because of them being black. That is a known fact.

MR. MONROE: I know that when I had biology with old lady Carpenter.

MRS. FRYE: I had her a time or two.

MR. MONROE: I was an expert, so to speak, at drawing. Art was my forte anyway. And this one girl, I liked of course, she was a white girl. You know how you like kids in school. And she couldn't draw. Well, we had this assignment where we had to draw these bugs and different things. So, I drew her bugs for her. Of course, I drew my bugs too. Old lady Carpenter caught that. So, she gave Marilyn an 'A' and gave me a 'C-' although she knew that I did work.

MRS. FRYE: Yeah, that's her.

MR. MONROE: That was her though. And she was going to make me stay after class because of that and, at that time, I was pretty good in track and told Doc Watson I would be late going to track practice because old lady Carpenter was going to make me stay after school. He went down there and raised cane with her, it didn't do a bit of good. That's just the way she was.

MRS. HAMM: Yes, I remember her. She was a tough old buzzard (laughter).

MS. COSBY: (Laughter) She was a what?

MRS. HAMM: Tough old buzzard (laughter).

MRS. FRYE: (Laughter) She was that.

MR. MONROE: Sure was.

MRS. HAMM: My brother-in-law was an 'A' student all through school.

MS. COSBY: What was his name?

MRS. HAMM: James Hamm.

MRS. FRYE: He was a brain.

MRS. HAMM: And he got to KU, and his grade—I don't who it was or what class it was, but he got an 'A-' and he protested. He went and talked to the professor or whoever he was about why he got an 'A-' when he knew he should have gotten an 'A'. And he said, "There's no way that any black person in his class would ever get an 'A'.

MR. MONROE: That's the way it was.

MRS. HIEBERT: That's about what happened to Leonard though when he went for track.

MR. MONROE: I know after I joined the air force, like I said, art was my forte. I was about to be map drawing or something like that when I joined the air force. Old Bill Wherry wrote me a letter of recommendation and he said in his letter, "A 'B+' student." I had designed the baccalaureate program for graduation, and being a senior, I also was involved in printing the baccalaureate program and all that kind of stuff. Because I won the contest on the designing of it. It didn't do a bit of good, of course, because it was just a big different deal. They wanted me to be a maintenance man, but I wasn't.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah. Isn't that something.

MS. COSBY: Well, do you look back and wonder how these experiences have hindered you in what you have done, so that your children wouldn't be hindered by the same experiences that you've experienced?

MRS. HAMM: I don't think about it as pertaining to my children because they all knew that they had to leave in order to do anything. So, they left here as soon as they were old enough, like 18. One of them just went to California. He went because he was following a girl really (laughter).

MS. COSBY: Well, there were more opportunities for your children.

MRS. HAMM: Right.

MR. MONROE: Oh, yeah.

MRS. HAMM: And they got married, but that's where he went. And then the youngest boy went to the marines and then when he got out, he stayed in California. My daughter just went to Kansas City because there was more opportunity for her in Kansas City than there was in Lawrence. She worked at KU Med and she started out as a housekeeper or something. I don't know what they call the people who clean in the hospitals, but she started doing that. And there was a lady who lived here who knew my mother, Zelphia Payne, something like that. Her name was Payne, but I can't really remember her first name. But anyway, she was a supervisor in a department at KU Med and she was talking to my mother, and my mother said her granddaughter worked there and she asked her if she liked her job. She said, "No." And she, "Well, tell her to come and see me." And she went to her and she hired her for her department and then they taught her what to do, so she's a medical clerk there at KU for like, she said she'd been there all her life, 18 years or so. And she then got a job over at St. Luke's. So, she works there full time and she still works at KU part time.

MR. MONROE: Yeah, a lot of things have really changed.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah. She would never have been able to do that here. Although one of the people who worked... She worked in the Cancer Center, and one of the people who worked there now has come to Lawrence and they have either set up a department there and they're going to, and he wanted her to come and work for him. But she would have had to move back to Lawrence, and she said, "No."

MS. COSBY: Do you feel that blacks who move into Lawrence have better opportunities than those who were raised here? You're shaking your head, Mrs. Frye, why do you think so?

MRS. FRYE: Well, I just think that in this day in time they have better chances when they move in here than we did growing up here.

MRS. HAMM: They have better jobs, better housing.

MR. MONROE: Just like her nephew, McAnderson, he's even assistant coach.

MRS. FRYE: You mean my grandson.

MR. MONROE: Your grandson. Sorry about that, youngster (laughter).

MRS. FRYE: Devin.

MR. MONROE: Yeah. And, of course, his brother is an outstanding football player at KU. Things have just changed.

MRS. HAMM: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: Now, like when I started KU, I couldn't even go out for track. But, when my son started KU, he was on a full athletic scholarship. He won the athletic scholarship, but he was a med student. And, also, he was the number one pick to play baseball at KU. And he starred all four years, freshman, sophomore, junior and senior year. When he graduated, he was the star athlete of the year. That's how things have changed from when we were growing up.

MS. COSBY: Well, I look at people like Rod Bremby, who was assistant city manager. Was he raised here?

MRS. FRYE: No, from Leavenworth. He was a best friend of my son-in-law, and they grew up together in Leavenworth, Kansas.

MR. MONROE: He was assistant city manager during the time when I working for the city. An outstanding gentleman.

MRS. FRYE: He was the city manager in Texas before he came back to Lawrence.

MS. COSBY: And now he's the Secretary of Health.

MR. MONROE: Yeah, he works for the state.

MS. COSBY: And Kevin Johnson, who works for the Probation.

MRS. FRYE: Yeah.

MS. COSBY: Was he raised here?

MRS. FRYE: Raised here, but I don't think he was born here in Lawrence. He went to school with my son. I don't think he was born here, but he was raised here.

MS. COSBY: And that's what I was talking about, is how has your educational experience or life experiences hindered you? Hindered someone who was raised and knew the city and educated here, why didn't they have the opportunity?

MR. MONROE: Just because I couldn't go out for track, so I drop out of KU and joined the air force. But my kids went all the way through school here, all of them are doing quite well. They went all the way through school here. Of course, they all started out at St. John's, West Junior High, Lawrence High. I had three of them went to KU, one to Notre Dame, but they all got their education. But things have changed a lot from when we were growing up.

MRS. FRYE: Yes, they have changed. They seem to have changed.

MS. COSBY: So the kids have better opportunities today of staying here and getting professional careers?

MRS. FRYE: Yeah.

MR. MONROE: Well, when you staying here, a lot of the opportunities are not here in a lot of cases. The opportunity is just not here for what they want to do. That's one reason why they're leaving Lawrence.

MRS. FRYE: Right. I think my grandson, Devin, really has come as far as he has because of his football coach, because he thinks a lot of Devin and he thought a lot of Brandon, and he helped both of them.

MR. MONROE: And hopefully her grandson will be at Lawrence High a long time and keep moving on up the ladder.

MRS. FRYE: That's what we want him to do.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah, it works like that if you have somebody who supports you and someone who can do things for you.

MRS. FRYE: Right.

MR. MONROE: But you got to raise your kids where they can see that too.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah.

MR. MONROE: They're good kids, very good kids. Now her grandsons are just simply outstanding kids. But that's another thing, a lot of things you can't blame on the white man because it's just the fact that opportunity now is a lot better than what it was, but you've got to take advantage of that opportunity.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah, but like you were saying when you were going to KU, there were things that they wouldn't let you do and you left because you couldn't do it, and you were a good kid.

MR. MONROE: That's the way it was then, but now it's change and now they can have these opportunities that I didn't have. Even my kids had the opportunities I didn't.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah. I think still you've got to have somebody to help you along though in some cases.

MRS. FRYE: Yeah.

MR. MONROE: And you got to use your brain. Just like Charlotte's husband getting on the post office job. He had to be sharp and intelligent in order to get that job he got at the post office.

MRS. FRYE: Well, there were many people that told, "Oh, I wouldn't go down there because you're not going to get it," when he applied. And I kept saying, "Well, go on apply. All they can do is tell you no." And he applied and they hired him. But many people told him, "They're not going to hire you. I wouldn't even go."

MRS. HIEBERT: What did he do before that?

MRS. FRYE: He was in the air force for four years and then he got out and moved back to Lawrence, and he was a bartender at the Lawrence Country Club. And then he decided well maybe he would try to go down to the post office and take the test and get on there, which he did.

MS. COSBY: Do you know what the test consisted of?


MR. MONROE: It was the Civil Service test.

MRS. FRYE: The Civil Service test, they were pretty hard I remember.

MR. MONROE: Yeah, they were back then.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah, I took that once and I passed the test, but I didn't know that when they sent you that card, you had to keep filling out the card and send it back every year. So I didn't send it back, so then I would have had to go back and take the test again in order to be considered for a job, and I didn't want to do that.

MS. COSBY: Where did you take the Civil Service test?

MRS. HAMM: At the post office.

MRS. FRYE: It used to be at the post office. It still is.

MR. MONROE: They ended up hiring quite a few blacks actually as it turned out after Art got on. Matter fact, we even a black superintendent at the post office. Didn't we?

MRS. FRYE: Yeah.

MR. MONROE: Stanfield?

MRS. FRYE: Yeah. Jerry.

MS. COSBY: As letter carriers?

MR. MONROE: Jerry Stanfield was a superintendent.

MRS. FRYE: Supervisor.

MR. MONROE: Supervisor. And, also, before that they had Bill Hayes as a mail carrier.

MRS. FRYE: He was wonderful. He was well thought of. And all the people loved him as well.


MR. MONROE: He lived right there across street, in that house right across the street.

MRS. FRYE: But my son lived there before that.

MS. COSBY: He lived across from St. Luke?

MRS. FRYE: Right here. It's quite different now. But anyway, also, there were a lot of carriers after Art got hired.

MR. MONROE: Peterson?

MRS. FRYE: Yeah, Peterson.

MR. MONROE: There were a lot of carriers after Art got to that window.

MRS. FRYE: But then, after all them retired, there wasn't any.

MR. MONROE: They never applied as far as I know.

MRS. FRYE: Oh, there were some that applied.

MR. MONROE: Oh, really?

MRS. FRYE: Uh-huh.

MR. MONROE: Nobody that I know.

MRS. FRYE: There were some that applied.

MRS. HAMM: There was that one black carrier, but I don't know who he is.

MRS. FRYE: Well, there are two now, but they didn't come from Lawrence. They came in from Topeka I think or Kansas City.

MRS. HAMM: I thought he might have been from out of town.

MRS. FRYE: We have a black carrier on our route.

MR. MONROE: But anyone from Lawrence applied?

MRS. FRYE: Well, yeah, my son was one. He applied and he passed the test, but he never got on there. But a lot of the people that Art worked with, their children worked their, but they never hired mine.

MR. MONROE: But that's what we mean when we say the city has got a long way to go. Things look good in certain areas, but they could always be a lot better.

MRS. FRYE: There still a lots to improve.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah, and I think a lot of times, too, it depends on who you talk to. Some people do real well and other people don't. I heard of a case where a man was denied an apartment for no reason that they could see. He had the money for the apartment, he had a job, and the only thing that they could think of was they just did not say, "Well, we're not going to put you in this apartment because you're black." And I've heard of a lot of cases like that.

MR. MONROE: But there's a law against that if you fight for it.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah.

MRS. FRYE: It was in the Journal World, remember, not long ago about this black man, and his girlfriend was white. They had a lawsuit. He would not rent that town home to them.

MRS. HAMM: I don't take the paper, but I did hear about that.

MRS. FRYE: That was right in there. They had a lawsuit and they won it.

MRS. HAMM: And there are a lot of things that happen like that.

MR. MONROE: The law will get you on that stuff around here.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah, if you fight it.

MRS. FRYE: You have to fight it.

MR. MONROE: Which we shouldn't have to, but we do.

MRS. HAMM: I know we shouldn't, but that's the thing. We've come a long way and still have a long way to go.

MS. COSBY: Since we're talking about housing, were you able to live in any part of Lawrence that you wanted to when you were coming up?



MR. MONROE: We've always lived in the same place as we were growing up.

MS. COSBY: I know some of you lived in West Lawrence and there were some African-Americans in North Lawrence.

MRS. FRYE: Right. Well, when to go to buy homes, for a few years they would only show you homes in East Lawrence or North. But, luckily, when we bought our home, they got past that. We bought our house in South Lawrence.

MR. MONROE: And past that, I got mine out in west West Lawrence.

MS. COSBY: In what year?

MRS. FRYE: In 1970.

MRS. HAMM: My stepfather had put money down on a house just a block away from where he eventually bought a house. But he was going to buy a house in the 300 block of Illinois and they took the money, they did everything until they found out he was black, and they would not let him buy that house. And it was another few years before they built the house that he eventually bought and that was in a neighborhood where there were black people, and just a block down the street there were all white people. So he could buy that house down there.

MR. MONROE: I'm the only black where I bought my house. It's one block west of Kasold, it's just the 500 block of Abilene, and I was the only black out there, but I had no trouble at all buying the house. That was in '76.

MRS. HAMM: Yeah, things have changed. And he was trying to buy a house, let's see.

MR. MONROE: Actually it was '78 I think when I bought the house.

MRS. HAMM: It would have been about forty years ago. I think that house is that old, forty or forty-five years, something like that.

MR. MONROE: But now, if you got the money like Danny Manning, he's out there in that millionaire house.

MRS. FRYE: Yeah, he can go anywhere now.

MR. MONROE: He's out there in that million dollar housing area.

MRS. HAMM: You can buy anything you can afford.

MS. COSBY: Well, how did the church play a part in the challenges that faced African-Americans as far as housing, jobs? Was the church active?

MR. MONROE: I don't think there was that many really involved in a lot of that because they wasn't asked to be involved in a lot of it. Because, like I said, the ones that grew up and stayed here, you just lived where they lived at. Like my brother, he had a barber shop and a house behind the barber shop in the 500 block Michigan. He was very content, he didn't want to live no where else. It's just the way that was. Now the Hill's always lived there in the 400 block of Michigan, and Barbara lives in the 900 block of Maine, and she lives out on - what is it?

MRS. HAMM: Twenty-second Terrace.

MR. MONROE: Twenty-second Terrace. It's just the fact that we seemed to live where we want to live so to speak.

MS. COSBY: And you didn't bring those issues to the church?

MR. MONROE: Well, there wasn't no reason to.

MRS. FRYE: No. I think a lot of the older people, I don't know that they would have pushed it. Because they grew up in a different time than we did. They had become more or less, just let it go like it is.

MR. MONROE: Like myself, why would I want to be living in Alvamar? No way I would want to live in Alvamar anyway. Plus I wasn't even thinking about living in Alvamar. But now there's blacks out there, Barbara Ballard, and there's been a lot of people I know. The Holtz, a lot of Holtz.

MRS. FRYE: You got to be able to pay the taxes.

MRS. HAMM: Right (laughter).

MR. MONROE: If you could pay for it, you could live there. But that's not the way it was years ago. But years ago, nobody could afford to live in those places anyway. I mean using a lot of common sense back in those days so to speak, why would you want to even try to live in a place like that when you know you couldn't, because you couldn't afford it. Everybody was busy raising their families and they had jobs, fairly decent jobs.

MS. COSBY: So the role of the church, as you say, it played an important part in your faith. How did it help you? Did it help you to ignore or just to accept what was going on in your social lives?

MR. MONROE: Well, when we was raised up, it was just taken for granted so to speak. You did what you did. And we was raised up, like I said, we knew we couldn't eat in the restaurants, we knew we couldn't sit downstairs in the theaters, and that's just the way we were raised. But now, you can do anything you want to. Really, the church didn't have anything to do with that. I mean, it's just our beliefs, we just did what we wanted to do. I know that when I was in the military my faith really got me through a lot of things.

MRS. FRYE: And me also. It's just something that's there. I mean, you just have to in your life.

MR. MONROE: That's right.

MS. COSBY: What about you Mrs. Hamm.

MRS. HAMM: I forgot the question (laughter).

MR. MONROE: Well, Virginia, we really want to thank you for your time and for your interview.

MRS. HAMM: Well, you're welcome. It was fun.

MS. COSBY: It was very interesting. Thank you.

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