Leslie and Minnie Lee Kimball Family

Interviewed by Leonard Monroe and Reta Cosby
July 1, 2006, at Lawrence, Kansas, Roots Reunion

The Kimball Family
LEONARD: We're going to interview some of the Kimball family who grew up here in Lawrence. They're all back here for the Roots Reunion, and it's been great so far. We want to talk to them and ask them about growing up in Lawrence, about the St. Luke AME Church, and so forth. Here we have Phyllis Kimball, Eleanor Kimball, Loweta Kimball, Wesley Kimball, and Bernard Kimball. And their wives, we'll get to them later.

ELEANOR: It's Nardie, it's not Bernard.

RETA: Come right over here, Maurice. This is Maurice Kimball and his family.

LEONARD: They're nephews of the Kimballs.

ELEANOR: That's Willie Jr. walking through the door and all their kids.

LEONARD: We going to start out by getting their full names.

PHYLLIS: Phyllis Kimball Henderson.

ELEANOR: Eleanor Kimball Kimbrough.

LOWETA: Loweta Kimball.

WESLEY: Wesley Kimball.

BERNARD: Bernard Kimball.

LEONARD: Otherwise known as Nardie, too (laughter).

RETA: Do you want to tell about the extended family that's here?

LEONARD: And their wives are all here with them. And we have:

ALYCE: Alyce Walker-Kimball.

LEONARD: Married to?

ALYCE: Bernard Kimball, 46 years.


DOROTHY: Dorothy Kimball, married to Wesley Kimball.


ALYCE: Those are friends of the Kimballs.

RETA: Would you just tell us your relationships.

KIMBALL FRIENDS: Friends of the Kimballs.

ALYCE: Very close friends, for umpteen years.

MAURICE: Maurice Kimball Jr.

CHARLENE: Charlene Kimball, married to Maurice Kimball Jr.

ALYSIA: Alysia Kimball.

AUSTIN: Austin Kimball.

RETA: I didn't hear your middle name.


RETA: Austin Ryan Kimball.

NICOL: Nicol Kimball.

KAYLA: Kayla Kimball.

ASIA: Asia Kimball.

MICHAEL: Michael Henderson, son of Phyllis Henderson.

PHYLLIS: My son.

LEONARD: I know that all you Kimballs grew up here in Lawrence, and we all played together when we were young. We all went to St. Luke when we were young. Now we just want to ask you some other things. Of course, we all went to Pinckney School. We all graduated from Liberty Memorial High School. Right?


LEONARD: What did you do after you graduated from high school? What did you do, Phyllis?

PHYLLIS: I went to Kansas University.

LEONARD: And then from there?

PHYLLIS: I went to Denver, Colorado, and then I went to school more out there.

LEONARD: As a matter of fact, you were staying at the Y.

PHYLLIS: I stayed at the Y when I first went out there.

LEONARD: You and Eleanor?

ELEANOR: Yes, I stayed at the Y.

LEONARD: And my sister, Mary.

ELEANOR: Mary Helen. I have to put that Helen in there, Mary Helen.

LEONARD: All stayed at the Y, down there off the (Five Points?) in Denver, right?



LEONARD: What did you do after you graduated from high school, Eleanor?

ELEANOR: I went to Madam C.J. Walker Cosmetic School, and I think that I was the first black to have an office or business on Massachusetts Street in Lawrence, Kansas.

RETA: What was the name of it?

ELEANOR: Kimball Beauty Operator. It was up above the drug store. You remember that? Up above with that lawyer. Yeah, upstairs. The first one to have a business on Mass. He was there and I was up there next to him in his office.

LEONARD: That was above the Round Corner?


LEONARD: That was the Round Corner Drug Store on Eighth and Mass?

ELEANOR: Yeah, Round Corner.

RETA: You went to Madam Walker's?

ELEANOR: Madam C.J. Walker in Kansas City.

RETA: I know the history of her.

ELEANOR: I went there. I lived in Kansas City and went there, and then I went to Denver and lived out in Denver.

RETA: You met her, or the school was just named after her?

ELEANOR: No. I went to school in Kansas City.

LEONARD: Did you know her personally?

ELEANOR: Oh, yes, I did meet her.

RETA: I've read about her.

ELEANOR: She wasn't as active when I was there, but I got to meet her.

RETA: Wonderful! That's exciting.

LEONARD: Loweta, what did you do after you graduated from LMHS?

LOWETA: I didn't attend high school in Lawrence, I went to Denver, Colorado, and I graduated in Denver. I got my education in high school at Patton High School in Colorado.

LEONARD: What did you do out there?

LOWETA: Well, a lot of business aid. I graduated from Colorado Women's College for undergraduate school, the University of Colorado Graduate School, and then went to Professional Business and Governmental Studies at Metropolitan College. Right now, I am a Mary Kay business person. I'm a substitute teacher in the Denver public schools and I'm a Title I reading specialist in the Denver public schools.

RETA: How did you get to Denver?

LOWETA: Nardie drove me (laughter). Drove us to Denver and took me to Eleanor's house. From there, I stayed until today.


RETA: Your brother stealing you (laughter)? It would have been an Amber Alert had it been today.

LOWETA: That's the truth (laughter).

LEONARD: That's when Eleanor and Phyllis were living out there at that time, right?

LOWETA: Phyllis was living there, and I went to be with her in Denver.

LEONARD: Because Helen was out there at the time. As a matter of fact, they were staying at the Y when they first went out there, and my sister also stayed at the Y with these girls when they were out there.

RETA: So you stayed at the Y?

PHYLLIS: I was married when Loweta went to Denver.

LOWETA: By the time I got there, she was married and was about to have a family.

PHYLLIS: She came and that was my first child.

LOWETA: And I moved with her and I stayed there. I stayed in Denver.

RETA: How old were you when Nardie?

LOWETA: When he kidnapped me (laughter)? I was fifteen. And I still live in Denver.

LEONARD: How many years have you been out there now?

LOWETA: He didn't tell me I could leave. Fifty something.

LEONARD: Close enough.


RETA: Can I ask you how old were you at the time that you kidnapped her, Nardie?

BERNARD: Nineteen.

RETA: Were you like a caretaker or overseer?


BERNARD: Loweta had hay fever and we had come up from Tisdale, and I couldn't breathe out there, and Loweta was having trouble breathing just around the house. So I said, "I can't leave her here with these people."

BERNARD: So I said, "I'm going to take her with me."

RETA: What people?

BERNARD: Brothers and sisters (laughter).


RETA: So you took her from brothers and sisters to sisters?

BERNARD: Two of my sisters.

LOWETA: Nardie took care of me a lot.

RETA: Where were your mother and father?

BERNARD: They were here.

LEONARD: They were here in Lawrence.

LOWETA: They went with us. Yes. Nardie rode up.

BERNARD: I drove her out there first, and then they came back with us later to live.

ELEANOR: But not to live. It sounded like they came to live.

LEONARD: But the Kimballs actually lived here. The mother and father still lived here, up there on California Street.

LOWETA: No, it wasn't for real like that. He drove me out to live with them.

BERNARD: But she didn't know it. She didn't know that I was going to leave her.

RETA: To live with Eleanor?

LOWETA: Yes. No kidnapping. That's just a joke they had.

LEONARD: Wesley, what did you do after you graduated from high school?

WESLEY: Well, I started on my own after I graduated. I went to college and lived with my older sister and her husband, and I started my "running" back there (laughter). I intended to come back here and get a job, but I didn't intend to stay there. I got a job and I worked. In fact, I stayed about four years and I tried to get back here. I came back to Kansas City to the exam for the post office. And when I passed, they said that they weren't hiring anybody without an identity [identification card]. He saw me for four years. They weren't hiring anybody from outside of Kansas City, so they transferred my eligibility to take the test, at that time in Fort Worth or St. Louis. About six years later, they called me at the Chicago post office, and I've been there for thirty-three and half years. I went there in 1956, and I retired from there in 1989.

RETA: What year did you graduate from Lawrence High?

WESLEY: 1951.

RETA: Do you come back to your class reunions?

WESLEY: I have come back to some. I didn't come back to the last one. In fact, we had a reunion this year, but I didn't get here. We had some emergency in the family, so I didn't come back to it.

RETA: I understand that's why this Roots Reunion was started, because they said a lot of people don't come back or the experience of some of the people is when they come back, only one or two blacks are at the reunions.

WESLEY: Right. This is for a black reunion. Ours was in April, but we had ours and we really didn't come back here. I went to a few of them, but I didn't go to this one.

LEONARD: Nardie, what did you do after graduated from LMHS?

BERNARD: I decided that I would go to Denver and live off the land. But Eleanor told me that wasn't acceptable.


BERNARD: She tried to help me. So she said, "What else do you want to do?" And I said, "I will join the Air Force, but never join the Army." So she took me down to the post office and they said, "When do you want to join?" And I got to thinking, and Eleanor said, "Yesterday."


BERNARD: So I joined the Air Force, and when I got to Germany, they said, "What did you join the Air Force for?" And I said, "I joined really to extend my football career." And they said, "Okay. We're going to get up to 245 pounds." They got me up to 245 pounds, the most I could weigh in my life, and I could not make it without (? inaudible - background noise).

BERNARD: So I decided I'd just stick around for 22 years, and then I got out of there.

RETA: Did you play football at Lawrence High School?

BERNARD: Yeah. I told them, when I was driving for (Fields? - inaudible), I would come back and then take him to pictures. Football season had already started and I'd go in and dress, and come out on the field and didn't see any play.

WESLEY: What position did you play? I don't remember that.

BERNARD: I didn't say I played a position. They really couldn't find me no position.

RETA: So, Leonard, I imagine that was after you had gone to Lawrence High?

LEONARD: Oh, it was long after I graduated. Were any of you class officers in high school?

PHYLLIS: I wasn't anything until I was president of the Pep Club.

LEONARD: That was the black Pep Club.

PHYLLIS: The black Pep Club.

LEONARD: Of course, you all went to St. Luke AME Church, right?


LEONARD: You want to give us anything special about St. Luke AME Church that you remember, Phyllis?

PHYLLIS: I always think about Mrs. Campbell, who was superintendent of Sunday School. She was a very minute lady.

ELEANOR: Very nice.

PHYLLIS: I remember Mrs. Campbell and I remember Fairy Hill. Those are the only two outstanding people that I remember, and then some of the ministers. I remember some of the ministers, and how one of them used to stand on the steps and he would have a cigar, holding it behind him. Some of the members used to tell him, "You'd better be careful before you burn a whole in your pants." But they knew. I don't know why he was putting it behind him.

RETA: What minister was that?

PHYLLIS: Oh, I know his name. I can't remember any of them.

LEONARD: Way back then, was it Garter, you think?

ELEANOR: I know who it was, it was Brookings.

LEONARD: That's another thing about St. Luke AME Church; we had five pastors go through there who ended up being bishops.

PHYLLIS: That's right.

ELEANOR: He was a bishop. He ended up being a bishop.

LEONARD: Brookings was one of them who became bishop. That's one candle light that we got at St. Luke AME is all the bishops that went through St. Luke AME.

LEONARD: How about you? What do you remember most about St. Luke?

ELEANOR: Oh, I can remember Mrs. Campbell, too. I heard a song she used to sing, "Brighten the Corner Where You Are." That was her favorite song, along with Mason Nelson. We used to sing that song and she would always laugh when Mason sang it for some reason, because Mason would act up, and that was her favorite song. And I heard it on the radio for the first time in years on my way up here the other day.

RETA: Can you sing it for us (laughter)?

PHYLLIS AND ELEANOR: (Singing) Brighten the corner where you are. Brighten the corner where you are. Someone (safe in harbor?) you may guide across the (inaudible). Brighten the corner where you are. (Laughter).

KIMBALL FAMILY: (Laughter). (Applause).

LEONARD: Now you see what I mean about growing up in St. Luke. What do you remember about St. Luke AME?

LOWETA: I remembered way back when Kay Houghton was pianist for many years, and I used to sing. She was a wonderful leader and a wonderful teacher. Sometimes she'd stand over me like a shadow. She would follow me around. She would send me out for Sunday School to gather up the materials, and I always liked to do that with her. Mary Fields—I remember her being such a wonderful leader, so that when I was eligible to be a superintendent, I was superintendent of Jordan AME Church Sunday School for about eight years.

LEONARD: In Denver?

LOWETA: In Denver. And I tried to pattern after Mrs. Fields. A few times I called her and asked her some things about Sunday School, and I gave her materials because they always had Sunday School here. I called Mrs. Fields and asked her where to get the materials, and she was able to help me. A wonderful lady. But I got my training from Mrs. Fields.

RETA: Who was the minister when you were at St. Luke?

LOWETA: When I joined St. Luke, it was Rev. Brookings, and then he went up. Mrs. Brookings taught us a lot of etiquette back then. And my favorite jewelry to this day is pearls. Mrs. Brookings always wore pearls. But she didn't just wear pearls, she would wear the pearl bracelet, pearl necklace, and pearl earrings. She told all of us that if you ever buy jewelry, good jewelry, buy pearls. And I still do that today.

ELEANOR: I'll attest to that, because she went to the second-hand store and bought some yesterday (laughter).


LOWETA: Mrs. Brookings had etiquette classes.

LEONARD: That's the difference in this generation now and the generation that we came up in, because they did those kind of things in church then. They don't do those things anymore.

LOWETA: Right. They were conducted out of church and out of Sunday School. And Mrs. Hill was the one that told us how to sit up straight in Sunday School. We were not disruptive or disrespectful in the Sunday School, and St. Luke had a very large Sunday School.

LEONARD: Even the church was full back in those days.

LOWETA: That's right.

PHYLLIS: We had great leadership. But I was under Rev. Brookings.

LEONARD: Wesley, what do you remember most about St. Luke AME?

WESLEY: Mrs. Hill is the one I remember the most, because me and her son graduated from high school together.

RETA: What was his name?

WESLEY: Johnny was his name. He had a cousin, Tommy, that was his first cousin. His name was Johnny Hill. She had two daughters, Sylvia and Nita, but they were younger. But I remember her very well. Looked like she ran everything. She ran the Sunday School and she worked in the church. She just did everything.

LOWETA: There was a lot of attitude back then. An attitude to sing and bible study. And many churches now, the same kind of classes that we took under Mrs. Hill, today called awana. But it's the same thing that Mrs. Hill taught us. We learned all the scriptures and we learned catechism.

RETA: What is catechism?

LOWETA: Catechism is where you had to meet a condition, and we had to recite the Apostle's Creed and the Lord's Prayer. We learned from that Mrs. Hill and Mamma. Mamma made us say them.

LEONARD: Also we had plays and they don't have those anymore either. We had to recite poems and get together and do different programs. That's all gone now. It's sad that we don't do that anymore.

BERNARD: Another thing that's sad is the last time I remember seeing Mrs. Hill was at Papa's funeral, and she had Alzheimer's. But she was still as spry.

WESLEY: She was very well loved, right up until the day she died.

RETA: How old were you when your father passed?

WESLEY: How old was I?

BERNARD: I can't think of how old I am now.


LOWETA: I don't know how old I am either.

WESLEY: He passed in 1991. I'm 73 now. So if you subtract 15 from 73, what is that (laughter)?

LOWETA: We'll figure it out.

RETA: I'm just trying to envision the family and what your relationship was when you were with him.

LEONARD: They were close.

WESLEY: That would make me about 58.

RETA: You weren't at home when your father passed?

WESLEY: Oh, no. I never came back here to live. I've been in Chicago since 1951.

RETA: Was anyone home when your mother and father passed?

ELEANOR: My father lived with me when he passed, in Colorado. He had come and been with me. What, five years, Loweta? Phyllis, Loweta, and I took care of him in my home out in Colorado when he passed. Our mother had passed away earlier. She passed away first, and he came and lived with me.

LOWETA: I was back here in 1981.

ELEANOR: It was almost ten years to the day.

LEONARD: That's her name in that stained glass window on the west side of St. Luke.

ELEANOR: It says Minnie Lee Kimball. That's our mother.

LEONARD: Nardie, what did you do?

BERNARD: I remember going and coming in two cars, and there wasn't enough room for everybody to get in the car coming back. So I would be bad and Gertie would say, "Get him in that first car, because we can't control him."


RETA: Your family had two cars?

BERNARD: Yeah. Wesley or somebody had to drive one and Papa would drive the other one. We all couldn't get in one and they said, "Get him in that first car, because we can't control him." I remember that and I remember going across the street where they had a store, and I'd keep some of my money so I could buy some candy. Then I decided I'm going to be smarter than that, when the plate came by, I just thump the bottom of it and the money jumped out of it (laughter). I took the offering. I was playing like I was putting more money in there than I was (laughter).

LEONARD: Those are the Kimballs. They're really something.

RETA: Leon is here with us today. He's over visiting with Margaret Williams, so we want to acknowledge him.

CHARLENE: And Maurice Sr., as well, is here. He stepped out for a minute.

LEONARD: The Kimballs all grew up here in St. Luke. As a matter fact, they were there every Sunday. That's another thing back in those days, everybody went to church on Sunday. You don't see that no more, which is also a shame. You don't hardly see that many in church anymore.

ELEANOR: That's because all the stores stay open on Sunday. They used to close on Sunday (laughter).

LEONARD: Not only that, but you got TVs and you got all kinds of reasons now.

ELEANOR: Now everybody stays open twenty-four hours a day. They're on the job trying to make a living.

PHYLLIS: And they got people going to football games.

ELEANOR: On Sunday they push sports too much.

LEONARD: Did any of you actually work in the church? I know you had all these good experiences, but were you any ushers or choir members?

ELEANOR: We used to sing. Phyllis and I traveled and sang a lot. Our trio. Remember the trio? The Kimball Sisters. We sang and traveled, a trio, all around the state. One girl, Roberta Watson, started with us, and she got married and moved. And our sister, Doris, who has passed on. She sang as a third part.

RETA: What was the name of the three sisters?

ELEANOR: Kimball Sisters.

RETA: Your first names?

ELEANOR: Eleanor, Phyllis, and Doris.

PHYLLIS: We would go to a church and they would see us in the audience, and they would sometimes ask us to sing. Sometimes we would know they were going to do it, and we would think ahead of time, "If they ask us, what are we going to sing?"

LEONARD: Was Ruth Richardson the musician then?

PHYLLIS: Yeah. Ruth really played that piano. My, she did.

LEONARD: Man, she was strict when it came to singing too.


LEONARD: If you made a mistake, she wouldn't have to say anything, she would just roll them eyes up there, and you knew what you got to do.

PHYLLIS: Yeah, I forgot about Ruth Richardson.

LEONARD: I know she had me in a few jams up there trying to sing.

PHYLLIS: I have a little antidote about Mason Nelson, if you want to hear it, at St. Luke. Mason used to always try to make us laugh in church. So we would all go to Sunday School, and we would all sit in the center. Then, when you got ready to divide and go to your different classes, you would sing Onward Christian Soldiers. We would sing it, and Mason would be marching, lifting his knees way up in the air (laughter). I remember Mrs. Campbell would be laughing behind her fan. She didn't want us to see her laughing, and she would hold the fan up to her face and laugh at things.

LEONARD: I know you all considered church a very important part of your life growing up. Since you've been grown up, it's still a very important part of your lives, right?

ELEANOR: Oh, yes.

RETA: What are the names of the churches you attend today?

LEONARD: What church do you attend today, Eleanor?

ELEANOR: I'm a member of First AME Church, Gaithersburg, Maryland, and so is my son.

PHYLLIS: I go to County Christian Church in Alva, Oklahoma.

LOWETA: Shorter AME Church in Denver, Colorado.

LEONARD: That's where Lavita always went.


LEONARD: My sister, Lavita, always went to Shorter.

LOWETA: Yeah, Lavita did.

LEONARD: I've been there a few times. Also, my Aunt Bertha, that's the church she went to.


WESLEY: I don't attend church regularly. I'm a Baptist though.

LEONARD: What church did you go to?

WESLEY: What's the name of this church?


WESLEY: I think she [his wife] goes to Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.

BERNARD: East Coast Baptist.

WESLEY: The Baptist Church.


ELEANOR: You can go. You can go every Sunday.

LEONARD: What about you, Nardie?

ELEANOR: You know Nardie going church. He would dare not go.


ELEANOR: No, he ain't going. Laying in that bed.

LOWETA: I have to call him on the phone and tell him to get up.


LEONARD: We talked about this a little bit earlier, and one of the questions is when and how did you first learn about Langston Hughes?

PHYLLIS: To tell you the truth, my memory is leaving. I don't even remember. I have no idea.

ELEANOR: Not when I was attending St. Luke. I don't remember anything.

PHYLLIS: We got to hear it in history books and not as far as St. Luke goes.


LEONARD: But you DO know all about Langston Hughes now?


LEONARD: When he went to St. Luke, that was one of his big inspirations. As a matter of fact, I think we still have some of those books down at the church about Langston Hughes. I can't remember the name of them now, but if you come to church tomorrow, I'll see if it's enough I can give you guys.

LOWETA: I first learned of Langston Hughes when I was in my undergraduate studies, because of my undergraduate literature. All of his works were required studies in black studies and in literature. You had to study his literature working in the theater.

ELEANOR: We never had no black studies. We didn't have black nothing when I was going to school. No, they wouldn't teach anything about blacks in those days.

PHYLLIS: We didn't have any studies about no blacks.

ELEANOR: Booker T. Washington.

PHYLLIS: And Washington Carver.

ELEANOR: And Carver, that's about it. I heard about him later.

PHYLLIS: Yeah. Up there we didn't.

LOWETA: When you started in theater, his plays would be introduced.

LEONARD: He got a lot of his inspiration, and he also said that in his book, that he got a lot of his inspiration when he attending St. Luke right here in Lawrence.

RETA: In The Big Sea.

LEONARD: Yeah, The Big Sea.

ELEANOR: Up there, we didn't.

LOWETA: Those were required studies for me.

RETA: Did you know he had lived in Lawrence, Kansas?

LOWETA: Yeah, now.

LEONARD: When you guys were all young, and name your own businesses too, what other black businesses do you remember being in Lawrence, Kansas?

LOWETA: Besides the Monroe Barber Shop?

LEONARD: Phyllis?

ELEANOR: The Barber Shop.

PHYLLIS: I remember there was a tailor. Upstairs there was a black guy who was a tailor and he was upstairs somewhere on Massachusetts Street, and I used to work for him, sewing buttons and things after school.

LEONARD: Do you remember his name?

PHYLLIS: Was it George Jackson? It seems like it might have been that. It's been a long time.

LEONARD: What about you, Eleanor?

ELEANOR: The only thing I remember is the Green Gable.

LEONARD: But you had a black business yourself in Lawrence, though, didn't you?

ELEANOR: I had one myself.

LEONARD: Name that again, please.

ELEANOR: It was the Kimball Beauty Shop.

LEONARD: And that was up above the Round Corner Drug Store.

ELEANOR: It was upstairs.

LEONARD: What were those years? Do you remember that?

ELEANOR: It was in the early 1950s.

LEONARD: Late 1940s or early '50s?

ELEANOR: It was about the middle '40s.

RETA: How long was your business in service?

ELEANOR: I think it was two, maybe three years, then I went to Colorado.

LEONARD: Loweta, do you remember any black businesses in Lawrence when you were growing up, before you left Lawrence?

LOWETA: Besides Monroe's Barber Shop?



LEONARD: When Bud started to learn how to cut hair, I was his first guinea pig. As a matter fact, he clipped my ear and everything else. But he got a lot of his practice, his old GP [guinea pig] was the Kimball boys.


LEONARD: They grew up with Bud cutting their air. Bud turned out going to barber college and everything, so he became quite a barber.

RETA: But he became professional on the Kimball kids (laughter).

LEONARD: Yeah, you're right.

BERNARD: He came by the house and cut our hair because there were so many to cut. Sometimes we'd be setting in the chair, and the girls would want their hair cut , and they'd be sitting over there too.

LOWETA: I remember taking our younger brother, Larry, to Bud to get his hair cut. Larry would just be squirming around and I'd have to sit in the chair with him and hold him, like this, so that Bud could cut his hair.

LEONARD: Mr. Kimball stayed with her in Denver. When Mr. Kimball was out in Denver and everybody kept wanting him to get hair cut, he'd say, "I'm not going to get no hair cut until Bud cuts my hair."


ELEANOR: And Bud came all the way to Denver and cut his hair.

BERNARD: No way.

ELEANOR: Yes, he did.

RETA: What were some of your most memorable moments at the barber shop? You said you took your son there to get his hair cut.

LOWETA: A couple of times when I was there and when Larry would sit up straight in the chair, Bud would say, "Well, since he's sitting up straight in the chair, will you sweep my floor?" So, I swept the floor.


RETA: You all probably have more memories?

WESLEY: I remember Bud's barber shop. Bud loved sports and he knew all the students who came to play for KU, black students who came as athletes, and had pictures of them on his wall. He kept up with all the athletes. A lot of the famous athletes came through. You know Wilt Chamberlain who played up there? Gale Sayers. I guess they're probably the most famous ones.

LEONARD: Jo Jo White. And all those pictures are still in the barber shop.

WESLEY: I'll always remember that. I used to just go to look at them pictures when I'd come home. This was after I'd left. Because I knew of those guys, but I never really knew them. When Wilt Chamberlain came here and played, I had left. A lot of the guys knew Wilt and they knew of Johnny Hill, now they knew Wilt.

LEONARD: We knew him because he would run around with us.

WESLEY: You would run around with Wilt Chamberlain. But I was gone. I had just left when he came to Lawrence.

RETA: I met Bud when I joined Ninth Street, and this is Leonard his brother. Leonard grew up in St. Luke, Bud grew up in Ninth Street, is that correct?


RETA: In your family, were you all able to go to separate churches?

BERNARD: We just had those two cars, and so they'd stop at that one church.


LEONARD: All the Kimballs always went to St. Luke AME.

RETA: That was hard for me to envision, how a family could go to two different churches.

BERNARD: They had more cars than we did.


BERNARD: In fact, one of them was a brand new Buick, wasn't it?

LEONARD: The Kimballs had a brand new Buick and we had a brand new Buick, and we were the best of friends, the Monroes and the Kimballs.

WESLEY: Yeah, but the Monroes was a different stroke. When I grew up, I thought they had the nicest crib [home] than everybody. But the Monroes, I thought they were the nicest people.

ELEANOR: Yeah, they were the best.

BERNARD: We could go down there at meal time, we'd go in there and sit down at the table right with them.

PHYLLIS: Yeah, they'd eat good too.

LEONARD: The Monroes and Kimballs—you didn't hardly see one without the other one. For a long time everybody thought we were all related. We weren't really, but you'd sure thought we'd been related.

RETA: What were some of the organizations that your mother and father belonged to at St. Luke? Do you remember?

LEONARD: They were officers.

ELEANOR: My father was an officer. I can't remember my mother being one. I know my father was.

RETA: Officer of what?

LEONARD: I don't know if they were stewards. They were probably both stewards at one time and trustees at one time.

RETA: Did you all belong to any of the organizations at church?

ELEANOR: No. By the time I was aged enough to do that, I was in Colorado.

LEONARD: We have another Kimball just join us, Maurice. He also grew up going to St. Luke like the rest of them did.

RETA: Do you have anything that you would like to share with us about St. Luke and you family going to St. Luke? Which car did you ride in, the first or the second?


MAURICE: I remember being baptized there.

RETA: Who baptized you?

MAURICE: I don't know. What was his name? Whatever fellow would come by (laughter). Seem like every Sunday we went there. That's about it. It seemed like good upbringing that we had.

BERNARD: Some of us were baptized in the river. I don't know who else, I know I was.

LEONARD: You just thought you were being baptized. They were trying to drown you, and it didn't happen.


RETA: He had too much air in his head, so he floated?


WESLEY: They were much younger than some of us. Bobby is four years younger than I am, so Bobby was ten years old. So you were probably eleven.

RETA: So Maurice is a year older than Bobby?


RETA: How many years are there between the family?

BERNARD: I'm the youngest of the whole group.

ELEANOR: Nice try.

LEONARD: And he's older than dirt.


RETA: If you are the youngest, she was not born yet and that lifts the amber alert. You kidnapped Loweta, remember.


LEONARD: Growing up here in Lawrence back then, the families were really close to each other. We had a lot of fun, we played together. No one ever got in trouble, and everybody went to school when they were supposed to. Then, when school was out, everybody had jobs. That's another reason why no one got in trouble. Somebody was always doing something.

RETA: Maurice, were you in any organizations or activities at church?

MAURICE: Yeah, Boy Scouts, with Maxine Newman was at Ninth Street Church.

RETA: But you went to St. Luke?

MAURICE: We went to St. Luke on Sunday, but this was during the week. Maxine Newman had what they called it BTU.

RETA: Baptist Training Union.

MAURICE: Baptist Training Union and the Boy Scouts. Everything was pretty much at Ninth Street, not at St. Luke.

RETA: Did Maxine Newman organize the Boy Scout group, or she was just a worker?

MAURICE: She was a leader, but not the one that organized it.

RETA: I know her. I know she was a faithful leader.

MAURICE: They did more things at Ninth Street than we did. And then we had summer playground through the week. Maxine Newman did that, and she let us drive her car.
RETA: Have you been to see her?

MAURICE: Not lately. About a year ago I saw her.

LEONARD: I don't know if she would even recognize you now.

BERNARD: Because I went to see her and I said, "Maxine, you know me. I was always one of your favorites." And she said, "Says who?"

LOWETA: (Laughter) And she remembered.

LEONARD: Anybody want to add anything to this reunion? Any of the wives have anything they would like tell on your old man?

KIMBALL FAMILY: How long you got? (Laughter).

ALYCE (MRS. BERNARD KIMBALL): My grandfather was a presiding elder of the AME Church. Bernard and I met in 1959. He was a very close friend to my youngest sister's husband. They were in service together and they were trying to court, and they needed to do something with Bernard, so they dumped him on me (laughter).


ALYCE: We married in 1960. I am AME, I grew up in an AME Church. And I know about Langston Hughes from the old days, but I have advantage over you guys, because I grew up in the South and we learned about all the black authors.

LEONARD: That's the thing we didn't do up here.

ALYCE: We knew about it and it was in our church often, because that's where we used to learn how to speak. You learn the speeches and the poems and what have you, and quite a bit of the works of Langston Hughes, Paul Lawrence Dunbar which was one of my favorites also. But grandfather was a Methodist AME presiding elder for some umpteen years from the Northwest Florida District. He married Bernard and I. Papa had a way of when he prayed for you, you either stayed together, or you died together, it was just that kind of thing. And Bernard and I are still together 46 years as of last Saturday.


RETA: Is your father still living? I need prayer.

ALYCE: He passed at 86 several years ago.

LEONARD: If you stayed with this clown that long, you're to be congratulated.


ALYCE: I was blessed to marry into one of the most unique families that you could have. You're right, they are family and I've been able to fit right in. I love each and every one of them. They are just wonderful. And I know the history and I know a lot of things about you all that you think I don't (laughter).


LEONARD: There's a lot of things about them we're not going to tell.


RETA: You can whisper it on tape and I'll play them later.

ALYCE: Okay and I'll whisper and tell you later (laughter).

LEONARD: No. They might use that as evidence in a courtroom one day.

ALYCE: It has been a good journey, and I'm enjoying being with the family and being a part of Lawrence, because I have been coming to Lawrence now for approximately 46 years. I've watch the city grow and I've watched your participation, and it has just been wonderful.

LEONARD: That's one thing about going to school in the South, you learn about black history. Up here we don't. The only thing we knew up here was George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington. It looked like it was stuff like that, which they finally outlawed that, but they don't teach that up here. What would you like to contribute? You've been married to a Kimball for a while.

DOROTHY KIMBALL: I met Wesley through my sister at the post office, and we hanged around like eight years, called ourself courting.


DOROTHY KIMBALL: Finally, we got a little serious. Then he asked me, would I marry him. I said, "Marry? I have two kids. I can't marry nobody." He said, "I know you got two kids. I ain't ask you nothing about no kids." So I waited a month or two months before I gave my answer, and then we planned the wedding. We went and got the blood test. I was supposed to work Friday half a day and we'd go get married. I called him around noon. He was working nights, I was working days. I said, "I think we better wait until tomorrow (laughter)."

LEONARD: You actually were stalling?

DOROTHY KIMBALL: He said, "Okay." So my sister, Grace, she's passed on. My third sister, she's passed on, and she went with us to witness that we did get married. So we've been married about 33 years now.

LEONARD: You're to be congratulated too.


RETA: How many kids to do you all have?

DOROTHY KIMBALL: We don't have any together. I have two, and I lost my daughter April the 17th this year. So it's kind of like a mourning period to me.

RETA: Oh, I'm sorry.

LEONARD: You two ladies are to be congratulated if you married these guys and you've been with them that long.

RETA: We have the second generation. Can we just get a few words from the second generation?

LEONARD: What about the second generation here? Can you say something about the Kimball family? Here, say something.

MICHAEL: I'm Michael John Henderson. I'm Phyllis Kimball Henderson's son.

RETA: What is your date of birth, Michael?

MICHAEL: I was born March 17, 1957. I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, went to Bolton College, graduated with a music degree, and then I went to California Institute of the Arts and got a master's in music. I've been doing music ever since. I'm curriculum coordinator at Sybil Friends School in Washington, D.C., and I also conduct their instrumental music program. I look forward to these reunions every two years. They're just wonderful.

RETA: Did you have the opportunity to meet your grandfather? Did you know your grandfather, your mother's father?

MICHAEL: Yes, I did. One of my fondest memories was getting on the train and going to Lawrence, Kansas, where I got to see Mamma and Papa.

RETA: Did they take you to St. Luke at any time?

MICHAEL: Yeah, we'd go to church.

LEONARD: If he was here, I guarantee you went to church.

MICHAEL: That was part of the deal, you went to church.


RETA: What was your attitude about going to church when you came to Grandpa and Grandma's?

MICHAEL: I've always loved going to church. I grew up in an AME Church, Jordan AME, and I belong to First AME, Gaithersburg, now. I never quit going to church. I'm the secretary for the Sons of Allen, which is the men's group at my church.

RETA: Sons of Allen?

MICHAEL: Sons of Allen—Richard Allen, the founder.

LEONARD: He was the founder of AME church.

MICHAEL: The men's group is called the Sons of Allen, and I'm the secretary for the men's group. I also sing in the men's choir and I'm codirector of the Share Program at our church. Once a month, we go to the warehouse. It's a national program where we get food from the warehouse, bring it back to the church, and then deliver it to people in need.

RETA: When Grandpa and Grandma brought you to St. Luke, what did you do? Were you involved in any of the activities or you were just here for a visit?

MICHAEL: I was usually just here for the visit. So we'd be here for a few days.

LOWETA: But, also, played the piano.

RETA: You played at St. Luke?

MICHAEL: I did play a few times at St. Luke. Loweta is my agent (laughter).

RETA: How old were you?

MICHAEL: Anywhere from 12 to 30.

RETA: I want to really know Charlene's experience of being married to the Kimball family. You have an interracial marriage. It's always an experience.

LEONARD: What do you think about this Kimball family?

MICHAEL: Be gentle.

RETA: And tell us about your kids. How many kids do you have?

CHARLENE (MRS. MAURICE KIMBALL JR): Maurice has four children. The age of the oldest is 13, and Kayla is 12, Austin is 11, and Alysia is 5. I'm married to Maurice Kimball Jr.

RETA: Your name and your maiden name?

CHARLENE: My name is Charlene, my maiden is Kaslaitis. My family grew up in Tonganoxie, and I started attending Lawrence public schools when I was about in fifth grade. I'm 32 and I married Maurice six years ago. And one of the main reasons I married him was for the first generation Kimballs (laughter).


CHARLENE: I love them all, and they are wonderful, I mean just the most loving family. They really truly know the meaning of family.

RETA: So you knew the family before you knew him?

CHARLENE: I knew a lot of the family, the brothers and sisters of Maurice Sr., that live around here were really the first ones I began to meet, and then they had a few reunions before we got married.

RETA: What did you think about the Kimballs before you married?

CHARLENE: Oh, I just think they're the greatest family I've ever experienced.

RETA: Because of the family bond?

CHARLENE: They all keep in touch and they all seem to enjoy each other. I love hearing stories, and I just think it's amazing that Grandma and Grandpa had so many children all in a small house. I would have loved to meet them, but I never got the chance unfortunately.

RETA: There is Nicol. Nicol, would like to say something?

LEONARD: Did you want to say something, Maurice?

MAURICE JR.: I had a lot of fond memories when I was coming up as a kid. I spent a lot of time at Grandpa and Grandma's house, Easter egg hunting and other various activities that we'd get in trouble for.

RETA: How long would you stay at your grandma and grandpa's house when you went there? Did they baby sit you or you just went to visit?

MAURICE JR.: Pretty much to visit, but once in a while we'd stay the night. They'd request that Dad would leave us there, and we were happy to stay. They had a lot of land, so we were running all over the place. But it was a great time.

RETA: Do remember any of the rituals that maybe grandpa and grandma had with their children, that maybe you don't have any more? Something that stuck out with you that your family doesn't do?

MAURICE JR.: They had so many rituals. So much food. We try to keep that up ourselves.

RETA: Before you ate?

MAURICE JR.: Prayer. They'd always pray all the time.

RETA: What about before you went to bed?

MAURICE JR.: They would ask us to say prayers, but I might do that now. Yeah, we have our kids do it. But, yeah, they were really good people.

LOWETA: Did they make you always sit down to eat? You couldn't walk around the house and eat. You had to sit down.

MAURICE JR.: Yeah. And clean your plate.

RETA: Were you raised here in Lawrence?


RETA: You went to Lawrence High School?


RETA: So you had three generations? Your father didn't go to Lawrence High, but two generations went to Lawrence High School. Your father graduated from Lawrence High.


RETA: How did that make you feel?

MAURICE JR.: Pretty good. It's nice to go through town and people that I don't know, just know me. Then I get to know them—it's extended family.

RETA: I mean going to the same school your father went to?

MAURICE JR.: I just thought about the records I could beat that any of them set (laughter). That's the main thing.


MAURICE JR.: That's all I wanted to do.

RETA: Thank you, Maurice.

LEONARD: You were talking about praying, I know that all us, that's one thing we all did. We prayed before meals, we prayed before bed and all these kind of things. You were always thankful for everything. And they also used to tell this story, actually it's kind of a joke, that this little girl was going to bed and they were trying to teach her how to pray before she'd go to bed. So she'd go to bed and she'd be down beside the bed, and she'd say, "The Lord is my shepherd," and she'd stop. The mother would say, "Well, what's wrong? Go ahead. Go on." And she said, "The Lord is my shepherd," and that's all she would ever do. Then the mother said, "Well, what are you going to do now?" She said, "The Lord is my shepherd, and that's all I need to know."


RETA: There's Nicol. We want to hear Nicol's voice, and Kayla.

LOWETA: And Larry. He's over there, he's the youngest.

NICOL: I'm twenty-one, and I go to Lincoln University in Lincoln, Nebraska. I always enjoy seeing my grandparents and hearing their experience in Lawrence.

RETA: Did you have the opportunity to know your grandmother and grandfather?

NICOL: My grandfather. My grandmother died.

RETA: So Uncle Wesley is like your grandfather?

WESLEY: She calls me Papa.

LEONARD: Yeah, they always say, "Papa." Never Dad, Father, nothing. It was always Papa.

RETA: When is your birth date, Nicol?

NICOL: February 18, 1985.

RETA: And there's Kayla. Hi, Kayla.


RETA: Can you give us your birth date and tell us who your mom and dad are? Charlene is here, and she's told us a little about your family.

KAYLA: I was born in 1994. That's my dad and that's my mom. I go to South Junior High.

RETA: South Junior High here in Lawrence?


RETA: Wonderful.

LEONARD: Aren't they tearing that down?

RETA: I'll be at Lawrence High waiting for you. And we have the friends who have traveled.

ASIA: My name is Asia.

RETA: You and Kayla both will be going to South? I was wondering if you were sisters. So you're first cousins with Kayla?

RETA: Can we just get a few remarks from the friends?

KIMBALL FRIEND: Yes, I can say I came from a large family myself, of eight kids. And, when I met the Kimballs, like Bernard and Alyce, we had another family. We're all together and we love them dearly.

RETA: You came from?

KIMBALL FRIEND: Indianapolis, Indiana.

RETA: To the Lawrence, Kansas, Roots Reunion?


RETA: Welcome.


BERNARD: This is his third.

KIMBALL FRIEND: Third or fourth time I've been here.

ALYCE: They've followed us pretty much. We met in 1975. We were neighbors, and it was like an extension of the household, except there was a home between us. Shug was at Pete's or Pete was at our home. Betty was a beautician and she took care of my hair. We're just like, as he said, the family. Somebody that you could count on any hour of the day or the night, we knew that that safety factor was there. And, to this day, that bond is still just as strong as friends. The two of them getting into it, and Betty and I hanging out together.

LEONARD: That was like the Monroes and Kimballs. They were either at our house or we were at their house.

RETA: Do we have another relative?

LOWETA: We have a nephew.

RETA: A nephew? Would just tell us your full name and your date of birth and where you were born? Who your parents are?

ANTHONY: Anthony Wesson, Kansas City, Missouri. December 1, 1959. Doris Kimball was my mom. I have three kids, Anthony Jr., he's 23, and the twins are 20. That's Andrea and Atia.

BERNARD: All in college.

ANTHONY: Yeah, everybody's in college. Anthony is going to go Arizona State this fall. He's in another college now. Tia goes to K-State, and Andrea goes to Missouri State.

RETA: Did you have the opportunity to get know your grandmother and grandfather?

ANTHONY: Oh, yeah.

RETA: Can you share some memories about them with us?

ANTHONY: Grandma used to cook a lot.


LEONARD: You got that right.

LOWETA: She had to.

LEONARD: She never had no choice there.

ANTHONY: We used to come up on Sundays, on the weekends, and I remember we used to spend every summer. Every summer we used to come up and spend a week. I can't remember if it was one week or two weeks, but we used to come up and spend a week.

RETA: Was that when Maurice Jr. wasn't there?

ANTHONY: He was running around in diapers then (laughter).


RETA: We had cousins close like that also.

ANTHONY: Michael was there, and my little brother was there.

LOWETA: Deborah was there.

ANTHONY: I think it was just boys, wasn't it?

LOWETA: Deborah was there sometimes, too.

ANTHONY: Yeah. But I thought most of the times it was just boys. Because, what's his name? Darnell? I can't remember who all was there.

RETA: Another cousin?

ANTHONY: Yeah. I just took my son today, to the hill where we used to put all that junk, them broken tricycles and bicycles and dollies together, and ride down that hill, from the top of Fifth Street all the way down to, is Michigan the next street? It's one block past the flat. That's all I know, almost Missouri. What else did we do? I remember those thousands of cats that used to be around (laughter).


RETA: Whose cats were they?

ANTHONY: I think they were everybody's cats. I don't know where them cats came from.


ANTHONY: I remember Grandpa always asking, no matter when you walked through the room, no matter what was going on, asking if you was all right. No matter what happened, he was like, "Are you all right?" "Yeah." "Everything okay?" Everything would be fine and he'd be, "Good." But I remember when I got grown, when I used to come up and see him, that's when I was dating my wife. We used to come up and listen to him tell stories about when he was kid, and I used to make it a point to come up here to listen to lots of stories about where he worked at Buick.

LEONARD: Buick garage, yeah.

ANTHONY: And he did something else. They did a lot of things., like picking up coal on the tracks. Corn had fell off the wagons.


ANTHONY: There was lots of stuff and lots of old stories when things would happen when he was a boy. It was fun listening to those stories and then watching political speeches on TV and commenting on them. I remember when Uncle Leon worked at that: Helter Skelter they had right next door. We used to come up and ride that for free all the time. We used to come up and watch Uncle Larry's football games. We practically lived in Lawrence.

RETA: Did you go to St. Luke with your grandparents?


RETA: Do you have any memories about St. Luke?

ANTHONY: Nothing that stands out, except when they dedicated that glass to my grandma, I remember that.

RETA: Was it a special ceremony or what? Can you tell us a little about that?

ANTHONY: I was just happy about the glass. I know it was a special ceremony, but I was just happy that they did that for my grandma.

LEONARD: That's when we dedicated that window to Mrs. Kimball. I'd like to say one thing about this. That's what I love about the Roots Reunion. I know it's only every two years, but every two years, I get a chance to see the Kimballs and that's what I love about it.

KIMBALL FAMILY: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Back at you, Leonard (laughter).

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