Leslie and Minnie Kimball

The Kimballs were married in 1922. Both were born in Douglas County. Mr. Kimball's father came here from Mississippi. Both of their families farmed. His father also worked as a well-digger and was killed when a well caved in. His family moved to Lawrence after the 1903 flood. Mr. Kimball went to a mixed-race school in Eudora and then attended Pinckney School, which had grades 1-4 for "colored" students. Mrs. Kimball attended an all-black school. They discuss segregated theaters and restaurants. A Kimball daughter worked at the Sunflower Ammunition plant in World War II. A daughter also helped start Ballard Center in Lawrence.

Leslie Kimball
Minnie Kimball
June 1, 1977
527 California
Lawrence, KS

Interview by Curtis Nether

MR. NETHER: Mr. and Mrs. Kimball, what we are trying to do here is to formulate an oral history, oral black history of Lawrence, and in order to do this we are conducting interviews. And we will need a response from you so that we will be within our rights to have what you say here published at a later date because that's our objective. That's the objective of these interviews. And I will start off here now. I have a few questions. But for the reporter's sake?they are going to seem kind of irrelevant, but I am still going to ask you your names again so then you can tell me your names one at a time so that the reporter will have them for the record. OK. Mrs. Kimball?

MRS. KIMBALL: Minnie Kimball

MR. KIMBALL: Leslie Kimball

MR. NETHER: And you are married, of course?

MR. KIMBALL: Yes, married.

MR. NETHER: How many children do you have?


MR. NETHER: Fifteen?


MRS. KIMBALL: The youngest is twenty-six. The oldest is fifty-three.

MR. NETHER: What were your parents' names?

MRS. KIMBALL: My mother was Bethel Clayborne, and William Clayborne.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Kimball?

MR. KIMBALL: George Kimball and Mattie Kimball.

MR. NETHER: Mrs. Kimball, where were your parents born?

MRS. KIMBALL: My mother was born in North Carolina, but I really don't know where my father was born.

MR. NETHER: Do you know what part of North Carolina?

MRS. KIMBALL: No, I don't.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Kimball?

MR. KIMBALL: My father was in Mississippi. He came from Mississippi. And my mother was born here in Eudora, Kansas. He passed when I was ten years old, and so I didn't know much about where he came from in Mississippi. All I know, he came from Mississippi, but I don't know just exactly the place.

MR. NETHER: OK. You both were born here in Douglas County?



MR. NETHER: Do you recall how your families both got here? First, Mrs. Kimball?

MRS. KIMBALL: No, I don't.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Kimball?

MR. KIMBALL: No, I don't know how he got here. All I know, he said it was much better here. He was glad to get away from where he was at. I heard him say that.

MR. NETHER: I can understand that. Mississippi to here.


MR. NETHER: Do you have any relatives here in Lawrence or Douglas County that were born here also, say first cousins or?

MRS. KIMBALL: I have a sister and she has several children.

MR. NETHER: That were born here?

MR. KIMBALL: I had a brother here and I had five of us was born around here, but all of them passed except me.

MR. NETHER: When you were just growing up, when you were very young, as far back as you can remember now, what was it like here in Douglas County? Can you just kind of give me a general overall picture, what you can remember?

MRS. KIMBALL: Everything was very quiet in our home. We lived about nine miles out in the country and were farmers, and we did it the old-fashioned way mostly, with the hoes and tools because we didn't have machinery in those days.

MR. NETHER: OK. What kind of old-fashioned tools did you have?

MRS. KIMBALL: Oh, the little plow that you push by hand and the hoes. Mainly the hoe is what we had to use.

MR. NETHER: I am curious about that because I have never really been on a farm.

MRS. KIMBALL: We had a hoe and you can keep the fields clean of weeds with a hoe.

MR. NETHER: Was it hard?

MRS. KIMBALL: It was very hard. We had horses but someone would come in and use the horses for us to plow the heavy work and then we had to take it from there.

MR. NETHER: How large of a farm, can you remember?

MRS. KIMBALL: Oh, I would say it was about almost a hundred acres.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Kimball, what can you remember just growing up?

MR. KIMBALL: Growing up, in our early days there, during when I was a kid in 1903, my father had a little farm, little bit down toward Eudora. Flood washed him out, and from that day he was a well digger from then on.

MR. NETHER: He gave up farming after that?

MR. KIMBALL: He gave up farming.

MRS. KIMBALL: He was killed in a well.


MR. NETHER: Do you remember anything at all about what the flood did? What was it like for blacks, people that you might have known around or have heard about at that time? What did the flood cause?
MR. KIMBALL: I don't remember. I don't know. It didn't cause too much. Only them that lived down in the lower part there, they had to all get out of there and get up on the higher ground then. And then they had to take up something else. Ground during that time, they couldn't do anything with it. Isn't like it is now with the tractors, they can turn under and everything. Had to take up different things. Lot of them moved out of there. So many came to Lawrence there. That's the reason my folks came up to Lawrence here at the time. Got out of there and came up to Lawrence when I was ten years old.

MR. NETHER: How did people help one another when the flood came, they lost their homes, lost their land, tools?

MR. KIMBALL: They worked together pretty good, helping each other and providing different things amongst themselves there. In that settlement, they all worked pretty good together.

MR. NETHER: That's something we don't have now.

MR. KIMBALL: Uh-huh.

MR. NETHER: At least here in the city. I was telling about Mrs. Harvey, how a lot of the farmers came out and helped her.


MR. NETHER: That's great. I wish it could be like that everywhere.


MR. NETHER: How did white people and the black people relate to each other? This, again, is general and just what can you remember about it, your very first involvement maybe with Jim Crowism?

MR. KIMBALL: I don't know. I was always treated pretty good, but you had a certain line, how far to go and everything now. It wasn't like it is today.

MRS. KIMBALL: There were certain places we just didn't go.

MR. KIMBALL: No, just didn't go.

MR. NETHER: OK. Did you want to go there?

MR. KIMBALL: No, I didn't care much about going. I wasn't interested in going.

MRS. KIMBALL: One thing that I would have liked to have had, we couldn't go to restaurants or anything. It would be pretty hard when you couldn't go into restaurants, things like that.

MR. NETHER: What other things couldn't you go to?

MR. KIMBALL: Theaters had a certain little section to sit in when we went to theaters in the early days, and certain little corner to?

MR. NETHER: Is this here in Lawrence?

MR. KIMBALL: Here in Lawrence. Provided for us, yes, when it first started here in Lawrence.

MR. NETHER: Did most black people resent it or did they just kind of take it in stride?

MR. KIMBALL: Lot of them went, I guess, and didn't mind. They minded, but I guess they just accepted it and just went on.

MR. NETHER: Was it an equal section? I remember Plesy v. Ferguson was a court case in 1896 that said it's legal to have separate facilities, like it's legal to put blacks here and whites here, but they have to be equal. Were those facilities equal?

MR. KIMBALL: No, it's all up in the balcony. Never was down on the ground floor at that time. It was up in the balcony.

MRS. KIMBALL: The one thing that I didn't like when I went was we were sitting there, the first show I went to, we went as a school group, and when the show was over the man stood guard and we had to all stay and wait until the others got out.

MR. NETHER: How did you feel about that?

MRS. KIMBALL: It made me so angry I didn't go back anymore. I didn't go to very many shows. I just didn't care for it.

MR. NETHER: So we have shows, restaurants. What about parks? Could you go?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes, you could go to the parks.

MR. NETHER: Any park? Say if you went to a park, did you have whites and blacks playing together, participating?


MR. KIMBALL: Pretty much.

MRS. KIMBALL: Of course, the blacks would take over the swing section and everything, then the whites would go to another one.

MR. NETHER: Did you have any close white friends?

MRS. KIMBALL: In the community where I lived I didn't because they didn't go to our school. We had the only all-black county school in the county at that time, and so I didn't have any close friends.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Kimball, did you?

MR. KIMBALL: Not real close, but they all treated me OK. Most of them associated around treated me alright but I never tried to be no bosom friend with them or nothing, but they treated me OK.

MRS. KIMBALL: I know very few white people personally except until I started working, and then I got to know them.

MR. NETHER: OK. Now, what I want to do is to kind of get some facts from you regarding certain periods in history and some of them go pretty far back and I know you weren't there.


MR. NETHER: But maybe you have heard something about it, and if you haven't, just say, I don't know. Start with Mrs. Kimball here. Ladies always first.

Mrs. Kimball, can you remember anything about Lawrence or Douglas County during the Civil War? What was it like during that period?

MRS. KIMBALL: I only heard very little about it.

MR. NETHER: Can you recall any of the?

MRS. KIMBALL: During the Civil War my people were not here then. The only thing I really know anything about is Quantrill's Raid.

MR. NETHER: Just what you have read then?


MR. NETHER: After the Civil War, there's a period called Reconstruction. It was a time in history when blacks were at least legally equal to whites, just like supposedly we are today. And Reconstruction was a failure. After Reconstruction turned over, many blacks were back in the hands of the white slave owners, and then you had a mass migration. First major migration came in Kansas. Can you recall anything that you might have heard about some of the first blacks that migrated here to Douglas County right after the Reconstruction? Can you recall anything of that nature?


MRS. KIMBALL: The only group I remember was the Simpson family that came in from Missouri, and that was one of the main groups that settled out near Bloomington. I think that was the largest settlement?it was the largest black settlement in Douglas County. It was quite a large family and at least five of the children had farms just adjoining one another.

MR. NETHER: That means you're kind of prosperous, doesn't it, when you have that much land?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes. And then they grew up, the children got spread out little bigger and bigger, and they owned a lot of land in Bloomington.

MR. NETHER: Do you know where they are now, some of their descendents right now, maybe?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes, a few of them.

MR. NETHER: OK. After this interview I guess I will ask you for some names of them.


MR. NETHER: OK. What about World War I, which was about 50 years later after Reconstruction? Can you remember what it was like? My own accounts of it, many people in the United States were rushing off to go to war. During the war everybody was tickled to death to go fight, and here in Kansas the farmers were the only ones that could be deferred from the draft because they needed to grow food and so forth. You were here during this time.

Mrs. Kimball, could you tall me anything about World War I that you can recall?

MRS. KIMBALL: All I can remember, we were on the farm and we had to produce as much food as we could, try to conserve it, and a few boys from our area went to the service. I noticed in that book that all three of them came back.

MR. NETHER: How did they feel about going generally?

MRS. KIMBALL: I think they felt it was their duty and they were going. No objections to their going. And we would come in and cheer them off as they went on the train.

MR. NETHER: You were kind of proud?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes, very proud.

MR. NETHER: That's something. World War I is the most interesting war of all time because they had segregated units.

MRS. KIMBALL: That was just Bloomington. There were far more from Lawrence here.

MR. NETHER: They did serve in their own little segregated units, all black units?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes, they did.

MR. NETHER: OK. Mr. Kimball, can you remember anything about World War I?

MR. KIMBALL: Yes, I remember I was put in Class 4A. And I didn't have to go. The reason I was put in Class 4A, on account of my mother being blind and I took care of her. And then I was placed in 4A, but they didn't call it during the war. Didn't call 4A. I was pretty close to going there, but the war was over before they called 4A.

MR. NETHER: Did you want to go?

MR. KIMBALL: No, I didn't want to go. No, sir. I would rather stay here. But I would have went if I had to, but I didn't care about going.

MR. NETHER: Did you think about things like here you couldn't go and sit anywhere you wanted to in a movie house and you couldn't eat at all the restaurants and here now they were telling you to go fight for democracy?

MR. KIMBALL: Un-huh.

MR. NETHER: How did you feel about that?

MR. KIMBALL: I don't know. I didn't feel bad about it all there. Tell you the truth about during those times, it didn't bother me so much because I didn't care about eating in those places anyway. I just wouldn't go to the theater. I just didn't go back to those different places and didn't worry me any. Only thing I didn't like at the time, I didn't want my children to face those kind of problems all the time, but it didn't bother me as they grew up.

MR. NETHER: The war was over and many people come back. Everybody is happy. Then you had a period of time when they said the country was prosperous. Everybody but the farmers were prosperous, and laborers weren't prosperous. Big businessmen were prosperous. This is the Roaring 20s period. What do you recall about the 20s? How did you socialize? Did you go out? This is when you were young.

MRS. KIMBALL: We didn't have too much money to go out and we just stayed at home mostly. Our main enjoyment was riding out in the car, taking a car ride. We always had a car.

MR. NETHER: What kind of car can you remember that you had?

MRS. KIMBALL: We had an old Buick, wasn't it? We first had that old Maxwell.

MR. KIMBALL: Yes, we had a Maxwell first.

MRS. KIMBALL: Then he started working for Buick in '26 and he kept Buicks most of the time. He worked at the Buick garage.

MR. NETHER: What year were you two married?


MR. NETHER: Right after the war. Most of the things you did for fun was go out, ride in the car, so on. Did you go to any dances at all?

MRS. KIMBALL: No, I never did learn to dance. We would visit friends when we would go out.

MR. KIMBALL: Didn't go to no dances or anything.

MRS. KIMBALL: Sometimes we went as far as Topeka, but we never did go as far as Kansas City in those days.

MR. NETHER: Did you hear of anyone that went out of town, say, to socialize?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes, lots of people did.

MR. NETHER: Where did they mostly go?

MRS. KIMBALL: Mostly, I think, Kansas City or Topeka.

MR. NETHER: Was it anyplace here where you could actually go out, black people, actually go out and say have fun?

MRS. KIMBALL: Different people would have affairs. They would have picnics to sell things, and what they call those other things, chicken frys.

MR. KIMBALL: Yeah, chicken frys.

MRS. KIMBALL: We never did go to any, but lots of friends did. Used to in the summertime there would be one almost every weekend.

MR. NETHER: One point again I want to make here, you were a farmer and you didn't have a lot of money at this time?


MR. NETHER: Because prices were low you had surpluses and so on after the war. From the 1920s in 1929 you had a stock market crash which led into the Depression and the people were jumping out of windows, rich people, because they were losing all their money. Did this affect you at all, the Depression? If you are not doing real good in the 1920s, then the '30s get worse.

MR. KIMBALL: Wasn't doing too good but I had a job all the time, to keep me from suffering. I could make it because I kept a little job all the time. I was working for Buick Company.

MRS. KIMBALL: We just had to learn to economize.

MR. NETHER: That was an asset?


MR. NETHER: If there was ever an asset of black people, it was learning to economize when they had to and this is what got black people through the Depression, because they weren't used to doing with a lot. They weren't used to having a big steak in the refrigerator so it really didn't bother them.

Mr. Kimball, you worked for the Buick Company. Did they have a Buick company here in Douglas County?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes, they had one here in Lawrence near where the old Post Office used to be, catty-cornered across there.

MR. NETHER: What did they make?

MRS. KIMBALL: They sold Buicks.

MR. KIMBALL: They sold Buicks and Cadillacs.

MRS. KIMBALL: It was a garage.

MR. KIMBALL: A garage.

MR. NETHER: Were you a salesman?

MR. KIMBALL: No. First, when I first started there I started washing cars, and then later on I started porcelainizing cars and then as the time went on there, I went putting on the seat cover work, and of course, I was there 35 years. I did different things. I was a mechanic too then and then last five years I ran the filling station.

MR. NETHER: Did many people buy cars during the 1930s?

MR. KIMBALL: Yes, quite a few folks. Farmers are the most people that bought cars around there, a few town folks here.

MR. NETHER: What was the general price range of these cars?

MR. KIMBALL: I can't remember just what the price was, to be just exact there. I can't exactly tell you now, it's been so long.


MR. KIMBALL: And they change so many times there.

MR. NETHER: Wasn't like today, around $8,000, was it?

MR. KIMBALL: No, nothing like they are now. Nothing like that.

MR. NETHER: Outrageous now.

MR. KIMBALL: Let me see. I don't know what the cost. Seems to me like around $500 or $600.

MR. NETHER: Brand new, or used?

MR. KIMBALL: Brand new.

MR. NETHER: I would have two.

MR. KIMBALL: Yes, sir. The first ones had them old side curtains around most of them there, and then they went to making them a little?first they had curtains you could put on there and take off and then you could throw the top back there.

MR. NETHER: Good for a Sunday drive?

MR. KIMBALL: Yes, Sunday drive.

MR. NETHER: OK. Do you remember many people leave Lawrence during the Depression? I think they were having dust storms in western Kansas. This is eastern Kansas. But did people leave, many farmers?

MR. KIMBALL: No, I don't think so. Not as I know of. Most of them now I know of, they couldn't go nowhere, to tell the truth about it. They had to stay.

MR. NETHER: Alright. Couple more here, then I'm going to ask you something that relates back to that. World War II is said to be the cause that got us out of the Depression. It's debated. Some say Roosevelt, some say World War II. Can you recall anything now? What was it like during World War II or even compare World War I with World War II? Mrs. Kimball, what were you doing back here at home?

MRS. KIMBALL: In World War II?

MR. NETHER: Uh-huh.

MRS. KIMBALL: I was home, but my children were old enough then that I could go out and start to work and they worked too, the older ones. We had two daughters that worked at the Sunflower. And it was quite different money-wise. We got far more money.

MR. NETHER: Work was plentiful?

MRS. KIMBALL: Work was plentiful.

MR. NETHER: Money was good?


MR. NETHER: That's the way it was almost all over the country.

MR. KIMBALL: Yes, doing much better during that time.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Kimball, what were you doing?

MR. KIMBALL: I was working for Buick.

MR. NETHER: Same thing?

MR. KIMBALL: Pay people from the plant there, they was making money, and we were doing good then. Had lots of sales. Sell lots of tires and car work there, keeping the cars in shape.

MR. NETHER: Did you have a lot of people, black people, come to Lawrence at any particular time?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes, lots of them.

MR. NETHER: What time? Can you remember the most just came here to Douglas County or Lawrence?

MRS. KIMBALL: It must have been in the early 1940s or after the war started, I guess.

MR. NETHER: OK. Do you know where they mostly came from?

MRS. KIMBALL: They had one large group that came from Jamaica.

MR. NETHER: Jamaica?

MRS. KIMBALL: Uh-huh. They were here under contract from England. They had to go back after the war was over. Had to go back. They couldn't stay.

MR. NETHER: How were the Jamaicans treated?

MRS. KIMBALL: They raised quite a bit of racket. Every bit of segregation, they noticed it.

MR. NETHER: How did whites react to the Jamaicans?

MRS. KIMBALL: They were treated pretty good, I think, except they would go in, see the segregation, they didn't like it.

MR. NETHER: How did blacks treat the Jamaicans?

MRS. KIMBALL: They treated them fine. My daughter married one of them.


MRS. KIMBALL: He was a tailor by trade, but they wouldn't give him tailor's salary. Let him do the work, but wouldn't pay him the salary.

MR. NETHER: Did your daughter go back to Jamaica with him?

MRS. KIMBALL: Just to visit a short while. Just to visit for a short while.

MR. NETHER: That's great. I wish I could meet a girl from Jamaica.

MRS. KIMBALL: They had some trouble here. Being segregated, they didn't go for it. The things we ignored, they made a big thing about it.

MR. NETHER: OK. Lot of work during World War II. Did any of your sons go to World War II?

MRS. KIMBALL: I don't think they were old enough. They went to the next one?Korea.

MR. NETHER: How would you have felt if your son had went to fight in World War II? Would you have been proud, happy?

MRS. KIMBALL: I would have been happy, proud, for him to go. Our oldest boy died in '41, September before the war started, and he was excited. I don't think we could have kept him back.

MR. NETHER: Why did they mostly want to go?

MRS. KIMBALL: I really don't know. I guess because their friends was talking about it.

MR. NETHER: Was it the adventure or the money? You get a little financial security.

MRS. KIMBALL: I think they were trying to be patriotic, really.

MR. NETHER: That's something. It's something I think about a lot of times. Here you have a period of history where you really weren't American as far as the way we viewed it now, but still they were willing to go out and fight for the country, so that's good, despite the animosity.

MRS. KIMBALL: I think it's pride because I can remember my son, he was so proud of everything, the protection we had, the Army, and everything. He was constantly talking about how powerful our country was, and I think they thought they were part of it.

MR. NETHER: And we were powerful too. How did you react when Franklin Roosevelt was elected?

MRS. KIMBALL: I was happy as I could be. I made quite a few people angry by telling them about it. I was happy as I could be. I voted for him every time.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Kimball, how did you feel?

MRS. KIMBALL: I felt good. Felt fine. Felt it was a new breath of fresh air.

MR. KIMBALL: Yes. When he first went in and closed all the banks and started over again there, yes sir, started things rolling again.

MRS. KIMBALL: Another thing, when President Roosevelt got in office and Les was working at the Buick, he made the rules. The rules that applied to him was that he had to work only so many hours, and the boss decided to call him?instead of assistant mechanic, he was roustabout one week so he could do all the odd things and stay over hours. Those were the men that were working with him, they had to exchange so one would be a roustabout all the time. They had to keep one there to do the extra work. It didn't really help him as much as it should have because they had a way getting around doing what they should have done.

MR. NETHER: I tell you, that's why Roosevelt was said to be the most-loved and most-hated President in history, because the businessmen hated him. Today, they hate what Roosevelt did, they blame the problems today on Roosevelt, but if you were a farmer, laborer, they love him because he did do a lot of good things. He set up a lot of programs too?AAA, TVA, CCC, and so on. Did any of these programs affect you? I will mention some, see if you can recall. And I don't expect you to remember all of them because there were so many that he had passed. But can you remember anything about TVA, Tennessee Valley Authority?

MRS. KIMBALL: Only what I read in the papers.

MR. NETHER: That was one where they tried to plan regions to stop floods. Then do you remember CCC?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes. They had CCC here. They made Lone Star Lake.

MR. NETHER: Did they have many blacks in the CCC camps?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes, they went out there, local boys at home.

MR. NETHER: This is something they looked forward to going into?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes, they did. It was a good job for them.

MR. NETHER: Because jobs weren't plentiful here in the '30s.

MRS. KIMBALL: No, it didn't have anything to do until the camp was opened up out there.

MR. NETHER: What about Social Security, when he passed this? Can you remember when he passed Social Security?

MR. KIMBALL: Yes. Was it in '39 or '38? Yes, I remember when it first started. It was '34 or '36, I think.

MRS. KIMBALL: '36, I think, I am not sure.

MR. KIMBALL: Yes, I joined as soon as it started.

MR. NETHER: Are you getting money from Social Security?


MR. NETHER: The money that you put in, you are getting back?

MR. KIMBALL: Yes, getting it back now.

MR. NETHER: How did you feel about this when it was first passed and you were a young man and they say that you weren't going to get money until years later and here you had to pay it now? How did you react to it?

MR. KIMBALL: I was glad then to join it, because it stayed on my mind, wondering what I was going to do in my later years, how I was ever going to do when I got old, when I saw so many old folks struggling trying to make it after they got too old to do anything, trying to make a living, so I was glad to join anything that I thought might help me in the future.

MR. NETHER: Good. And I feel the same way now. They want to do away with it now, but?

MR. KIMBALL: Yes, anything to help in the future.

MRS. KIMBALL: Before the Social Security, we tried to carry insurance, different agents would come around and tell us, and in a little while that company, wouldn't hear of them anymore. So Social Security was really something you could depend on.

MR. NETHER: Did you vote for Roosevelt all four times?

MRS. KIMBALL: Every time.

MR. NETHER: Every time?

MRS. KIMBALL: I tried to make it a little better by getting there a little early to vote too. I thought maybe earliest possible.

MR. NETHER: How did other people here in Douglas County react to Roosevelt?

MRS. KIMBALL: I think most of the blacks voted for him, but some of them didn't talk about it because of their jobs. I know a few that lost their jobs.

MR. NETHER: Can you remember when Alf Landon ran against Roosevelt?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes, I remember.

MR. NETHER: And Landon, I don't think, even carried Kansas.

MR. KIMBALL: No, didn't carry Kansas. I don't doubt it.

MR. NETHER: Let's move from Roosevelt. I told you about Plesy v. Ferguson in 1896 that said you can be separate as long as you are equal. In 1954 now they had right over here in Topeka the Brown v. Topeka, which said that's illegal. You must allow blacks to go anyplace they want. Jim Crow facilities were against the law. How did you react when this was first passed, Mrs. Kimball?

MRS. KIMBALL: I was very happy because my children were older by that time and I noticed they began to resent some of the things that they had to put up with. I think my second daughter?I had never heard of sit-ins before?she was the first one to sit-in and didn't tell me about, here in Lawrence. It was at a restaurant, kind of a little restaurant place to eat across from the school. She and her friends went over to eat. The first day they went in they wouldn't serve them. They went back the next day and ordered their food, then they sat down with their food. The manager told them they had to go out and they couldn't sit down and eat it. He went out and got the policeman on the corner. And she was the first. I never heard of a sit-in before.

MR. NETHER: What year was that?

MRS. KIMBALL: She was born in '27 and she was in high school. She must have been about 17. She graduated when she was 17, so? I'm trying to think. My mother was born in 1875 and she was 28 when I was born. She was 17 when she graduated.

MR. NETHER: Most of the major sit-ins didn't occur until the late '50s, so she possibly could have been the first.

MRS. KIMBALL: She wasn't alone. There was about 4 or 5 other girls with her.

MR. NETHER: If she did it before 1955?

MRS. KIMBALL: I know it was before '55 because Margaret graduated in '55. She was lots older than Margaret. They had friends that?I thought maybe they told them, had ideas from them or something. I don't know. I thought they did.

MR. NETHER: What was your daughter's name?

MRS. KIMBALL: Elenora Kimball, at that time.

MR. NETHER: What's her name now?

MRS. KIMBALL: Kimbrough. Her name is Kimbrough now, K-i-m-b-r-o-u-g-h.

MR. NETHER: Where does she live now?


MR. NETHER: How did most blacks feel now? Did most of them do like Elenora did, go down and try to facilitate or go to these places they were forbid to go?

MRS. KIMBALL: I tell you the truth, I believe KU started doing that before. I'm not sure. But they did it shortly after.

MR. NETHER: And how did whites react when blacks started wanting to be equal?

MRS. KIMBALL: Some of them were just very angry, saying we were ruining all they did for us.

MR. NETHER: They did for us?

MRS. KIMBALL: We didn't appreciate it. The ministers?some of the white ministers were really nice. They got up and spoke and some of them were asked to leave the churches. Congregational Church. I'm trying to think what his name was. He was a minister of the Congregational Church, and they said, "Go somewhere else and tell your little stories." He was really outspoken. He did a lot. And the next minister they had came in was more outspoken than he was, and the same way, he was really good and he did more than the first one did.

MR. NETHER: Were there any major movements here in Douglas County in the early 1950s, can you remember, for black rights, civil rights facilities?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes. I think the main ones were started on the Hill though.


MRS. KIMBALL: That I heard of.

MR. NETHER: Did they have a lot of blacks going up to KU during that time?

MRS. KIMBALL: Had quite a few.

MR. NETHER: OK. That's something. What happens here in town relates to KU. What happens at KU relates to?

MRS. KIMBALL: We had a black fraternity and black sorority. We had a black fraternity, I know, and black sorority. I don't know how many were in any of them.

MR. NETHER: Do you know the name of the fraternity?

MRS. KIMBALL: I had it at home. They named me mother of the year one year.

MR. NETHER: I will mention it to you. Was it Alpha Phi Alpha?

MRS. KIMBALL: What's the other one? I think it was Alpha Phi Alpha.

MR. NETHER: Alpha Phi Alpha is one of the largest black fraternities they have up there now.

MRS. KIMBALL: I think that was the one.

MR. NETHER: And they were one of the first fraternities to start a movement?

MRS. KIMBALL: I meant this as students on the Hill, not particularly?when I mentioned fraternities and sororities, I meant we had many children up on the Hill. I don't know which children?I know Reverend Sim's sons were involved in it.

MR. NETHER: They had to change. A lot of mass movements, freedom rights and so on took place in the 1950s. Martin Luther King came in 1955. What's your earliest accounts of Martin Luther King that you can remember? The earliest possible? He started in 1958 in Montgomery and he died in 1968 in Memphis.

MRS. KIMBALL: I would read about him or hear him in television and I was very proud to think that he was willing to take that stand, to be the leader, and I was glad that we had a nonviolent leader. That's the main thing I liked about it, the fact that he was a nonviolent leader.

MR. NETHER: That's a good point too. Lot of people didn't like him because he was nonviolent. Mr. Kimball, can you remember anything about Martin Luther King?

MR. KIMBALL: Trying to think. Can't remember too much about it. No, sir.

MR. NETHER: OK. Can you remember much about in the 1960s, the Vietnam war? And unlike World War I, World War II, we talked about, seemed like nobody wanted to go to Vietnam.


MR. NETHER: What was it like here in Lawrence during the Vietnam era, if you can remember, Mrs. Kimball?

MRS. KIMBALL: I know I was sick to think that even though my boy was so young, our youngest one, they said it would be going until he got there too, he would be going, and I was so sick to think he would be the age. Each day it was getting worse all the time.

MR. NETHER: Did you know any blacks that were going over to Vietnam to fight?


MR. NETHER: How did they feel?

MRS. KIMBALL: I knew a few Marines. My daughter married a Marine. He seemed to not mind it. But the other boys, they didn't like it at all.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Kimball, can you remember anything about the young men that were going?

MR. KIMBALL: No, I can't. I didn't hear much out of them that went. Looked like they wasn't discharged or anything. Like they were pleased in going.

MRS. KIMBALL: It seems like when something was going on and on we weren't winning and it was going to last too long.

MR. NETHER: What about now? When they did have a riot here, a racial conflict here in Lawrence? What were your reactions to this?

MRS. KIMBALL: I want to say I was sick through the whole thing.

MR. NETHER: Did you feel they were justified? That they were going about it the right way?

MRS. KIMBALL: I think they were going about the only way they could. They has talked. I think they had done everything else before and thought it was?

MR. NETHER: OK. What were some of the demands? Can any of you remember? What did blacks want here in Douglas County?

MRS. KIMBALL: I have never been very active, but I did hear them say, keep asking us what we want, and we want the same things they want. Said the very fact they asked us, we want the same thing they want and didn't want to be any differences.

MR. NETHER: What were schools like here in Douglas County? I am going to ask you a little later on about early schools, but now I am jumping ahead. What were some of the schools like around the mid-1960s up to the early '70s?

MRS. KIMBALL: Now, my children were having it pretty good about that time. They were having it pretty good because they could pay their way. I really don't know much about the problems that were going on at that time. Mine were getting along pretty well.

MR. NETHER: What was your early school life like, Mrs. Kimball?

MRS. KIMBALL: The one in the country?


MRS. KIMBALL: It was wonderful. It was just us. We had everything. We did just as we wanted to. Planned things. The teachers seemed to really care for us. But when I moved here, I just felt like I was in an almost different world. Didn't get any attention. They ignored us if you held your hand up, and I just thought it was terrible. That wasn't all the teachers. That was some of them.

MR. NETHER: Your early school life, it was an all-black school?


MR. NETHER: All black teachers?

MRS. KIMBALL: That's right.

MR. NETHER: No whites? If they wanted to go to that school, could they?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes, they could have gone. They paid to go to the other school and then when the other school said?Clinton said they had too many even if you could pay, they brought them from Bloomington to Lawrence.

MR. NETHER: They bussed children?

MRS. KIMBALL: No, their families brought them here rather than to leave them to go to our school.

MR. NETHER: Do you know why?

MRS. KIMBALL: They just were not going to mix because that had been a mixed school and then they got so many blacks in the school there would be just a few white ones, so they tried to send their children out of the district, but they couldn't send them out there to the other district because those districts were crowded so they just brought them all the way to Lawrence.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Kimball, what was your early school life like?

MR. KIMBALL: When I first started down in Eudora bottom there, school's alright. Mixed school. And had a man teacher. And I came to Lawrence here when I was ten years old and then went to Pinckney School and had one room there with all colored in it up to the fourth grade, and Mrs. Dillard took it up to the fourth grade. After you got past the fourth, you could go out and all mixed from the fourth on, but up to the fourth there, Mrs. Dillard had the room and all of them from the first up to the fourth, all colored.

MR. NETHER: Where did the whites go from first to the fourth grade? Did they have their own little room there?

MR. KIMBALL: They had their own rooms. Mrs. Dillard just taught all the colored up to the fourth, but the whites had another fourth room and different rooms they went in. They had one room with this colored teacher and she taught all colored up to the fourth grade.

MR. NETHER: Then after that?

MR. KIMBALL: After that just went on with all the other children around there, you know, after you got too old for the fourth grade.

MR. NETHER: What was it like after children got to high school? Maybe you can remember about some of your children. They went to Lawrence High. Could they participate in sports if they wanted?


MR. NETHER: Were the sports integrated? Did whites and blacks play football together?


MR. NETHER: Did they play basketball together?

MRS. KIMBALL: I suppose they did. I didn't have any basketball. Yes. They did.

MR. KIMBALL: They had a couple good football players. Played football.

MR. NETHER: Did any of them make a name for themselves? Can you remember?

MR. KIMBALL: Yes, I think he's in the book, one of them there is on the school level, I guess.

MRS. KIMBALL: Not any farther than that. He got a scholarship to go to college.

MR. NETHER: What's some of your earliest recollections about Ballard Center?

MRS. KIMBALL: I had a daughter that helped to start it. I mean she was helping them when they started it and it was quite a help for some of the underprivileged children.

MR. NETHER: OK. And it was for all black?it was built for all black children?

MRS. KIMBALL: I thought all children?I thought the white children went there too. I'm not sure. I couldn't say for sure. I thought there were white children too. Miss Simpson helped to start it. I'm not sure, but I'm almost sure that there were whites too.

MR. NETHER: So generally school life was segregated up to the fourth grade if you were here in Lawrence?


MR. NETHER: And after that time, kids were mixed together, integrated together, on through high school and so on. Did they have black cheerleaders, black coaches, black teachers in Lawrence High, black administrators?

MRS. KIMBALL: They had black cheerleaders. My daughter was a cheerleader. They have had black cheerleaders for some time. I don't know that they had any black coaches when my children went there. Now at North Lawrence, the grade schools being segregated, that was another problem when those children came across to this side to start junior high, then that was a problem.


MRS. KIMBALL: All black at that school, then when they came across when I was in school with them, it made quite a difference.

MR. NETHER: What has been some of the major changes here that you can recall in Douglas County, Mrs. Kimball?

MRS. KIMBALL: One of the main changes that I think is the equal rights for everybody. I think people are trying to carry that out. I really think they are, as far as I know. I am not out in public life much, but I think that's a big step forward, and everybody can apply for a job or expect to go anywhere they want to go.

MR. NETHER: OK. Good. At least we hope so.


MR. NETHER: Mr. Kimball?

MR. KIMBALL: Jobs and housing is the main problems, I think. Improved things.

MR. NETHER: Before, earlier in our history, you couldn't buy a house.

MR. KIMBALL: No, you couldn't live anywhere, like you can this day.

MRS. KIMBALL: They wouldn't show you some of the houses.

MR. NETHER: You mentioned some of your children had moved to Denver, for instance.


MR. NETHER: Would you want your children to live here? If your grandchildren came back to live here in Lawrence or Douglas County, would you want them to live here?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes, I would.


MRS. KIMBALL: Some of mine went away to get jobs though, the mothers, parents did, but now things are better here than they were when they left.

MR. NETHER: Now, this accounts for the Depression. Any period in our history, did you know people that were on welfare?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes, we knew quite a few that were on welfare.

MR. NETHER: Do you know why most of these people are on welfare?

MRS. KIMBALL: They couldn't get work. Except for the sick ones that didn't have anything laid up, didn't have any Social Security or anything, and?

MR. NETHER: OK. How did they react? Did they like being on welfare?

MRS. KIMBALL: No. They didn't even want to tell it. Sometimes it leaked out and they were hurt.

MR. NETHER: Really?


MR. NETHER: Ashamed?


MR. NETHER: Did you know any whites that were on welfare at the time?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes, we did, too.

MR. NETHER: Were they also kind of ashamed? I know you didn't know?

MRS. KIMBALL: I didn't know that much about it, they didn't brag about it or anything.

MR. NETHER: I was telling you yesterday that many conceptions people have of welfare that people want to be on it, people can't wait to get on welfare. Were you ever in any period of your life poor enough whereas you could have went down and applied for welfare?

MRS. KIMBALL: I think I could have. I think so. With that big family we had, I think we could have, but we didn't want to.

MR. NETHER: You didn't want to.

MRS. KIMBALL: No. Stayed working. Find more jobs for the children. One of my daughters started working when she was 12 years old, staying in a farm home working.

MR. NETHER: That's good. Could you relate to the people that you did know on welfare? Could you converse with them openly or?

MRS. KIMBALL: They didn't want to talk to me much about it because they knew I wasn't on it. I think if I could have been on it, we could have had a good conversation, but one lady was talking about it one day and she mentioned the word "commodity" and I didn't know what the word commodity meant. I said, "What do you mean?" She knew by that I didn't know. She just clammed up. Wouldn't say a word.

MR. NETHER: Were there any class distinctions? Good blacks? Bad blacks? Good coloreds? Bad coloreds? High-class blacks?

MRS. KIMBALL: there were a few that tried to be high class, but they weren't much better off.

MR. NETHER: How did most people relate to blacks that were light-complected? Were they favored any better than the ones that were dark-complected?

MRS. KIMBALL: I don't think so. I don't know that they were.

MR. NETHER: OK. Do you attend church now?


MR. NETHER: What church do you attend?

MR. KIMBALL: St. Luke.

MRS. KIMBALL: I have been going to the Presbyterian Church for 20 years, but I have been working there for 20 years.

MR. NETHER: How long have you been going?

MRS. KIMBALL: I am a Methodist. I joined there in 1921.

MR. KIMBALL: Let me see. When did I?


MR. KIMBALL: Yeah, 41.

MR. NETHER: OK. Do you see any changes, basic changes, in the church since you have been in it, be it people or anything at all that's just changed?

MR. KIMBALL: I don't know. I think most churches, I don't think they are run today quite like I thought they were at first. Seems like they are more run on more of a society basis now than real Christianity, more on a society basis. Seems to me like. I don't know.

MRS. KIMBALL: Our church in particular?the fact that they don't have new members, don't have the new members, makes them have to worry too much about money because we don't have the membership we should have.

MR. NETHER: You are saying, Mr. Kimball, you are having to worry about other things, you don't really get involved in teaching religion or practicing.

MR. KIMBALL: No. Kind of got away from that mostly now.

MR. NETHER: Do you think the churches played any major part to help blacks here in Douglas County?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes. I think they played a big part in it.


MR. NETHER: Mrs. Kimball, in what way did the church help?

MR. KIMBALL: They have reached out to help get ones that were in need and?to a certain extent. And it's a place for them to go when they had no other places to go, and they have had different things for entertainment.

MR. NETHER: Social activities?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes, social activities.

MR. NETHER: That's good because I remember I asked you about what you did for fun. You said well, picnics, little gatherings. Most of those things are related to church.


MR. NETHER: Mr. Kimball, did you ever own a business?

MR. KIMBALL: No, I never owned anything.

MR. NETHER: OK. Were you both raised on a farm?

MRS. KIMBALL: I was until I was 14.

MR. KIMBALL: We had to come off when I was very young. I wasn't on the farm very long because we had to leave it when I was ten years old.

MR. NETHER: Because of the flood?


MR. NETHER: How did your parents get their farm, Mrs. Kimball, if you can recall?

MRS. KIMBALL: They raised the down payment and gradually paid on it until they got through paying it.

MR. NETHER: Did they eventually sell the farm?


MR. NETHER: Why did they sell?

MRS. KIMBALL: My father died and then my mother sold it and worked here.

MR. NETHER: Who did she sell it to?

MRS. KIMBALL: I think their name was Petefish.

MR. NETHER: Just anybody that had the money?

MRS. KIMBALL: That's right. Whoever had the money.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Kimball, if you recall, how did your parents get their farm?

MR. KIMBALL: He came here with a little money to make a little payment when he came here. I heard him say that, when he came from Mississippi. But I don't think he had it clear at the time. When he came here, they sold him a little farm there. Of course, him being new here, flooded in that area, but I don't think he really knew it when he first came here. That's the reason they were very anxious to let him have that, and he was farming pretty good there for a while until that 1903 flood come and that washed him out. Of course, he didn't have nothing to build up on from then on, and he had to leave it and go into something else.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Kimball, when it first went down to this little town below Eudora named Weaver there where it's at, man that owned about all of it and they named it after him, Weaver. Man's name was John Weaver. So they named the little place Weaver, Kansas. Yes, that's a few miles down below Eudora there.

MR. NETHER: Is that in Douglas County?

MR. KIMBALL: Yes, in Douglas County. Flooded in that area.

MR. NETHER: OK. Can you remember anybody that was born here in Douglas County that went on to make a name for themselves in say sports, entertainment, science, anything at all?

MRS. KIMBALL: I didn't really know this William Walker minstrel team, but he was a Lawrence man. Mr. Walker was a Lawrence man, but I just knew his mother.

MR. NETHER: Did you know Langston Hughes when he was here for a while?

MRS. KIMBALL: No, I didn't. I knew his aunt. She was our Sunday School superintendent. She talked about him quite often.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Kimball, can you remember anyone that went out and made a name for themselves?

MR. KIMBALL: No, I don't, right off hand. I can't think of anyone right off hand that made a name for himself here.

MR. NETHER: What about, did you know Langston Hughes?

MR. KIMBALL: No, I didn't know him. Heard of him but I didn't know him.

MR. NETHER: Do you have any questions? I am about done. I have taken up your time for quite a while now.

MRS. KIMBALL: I don't think I do.

MR. NETHER: Have any that you would like to ask?

MR. KIMBALL: I was assistant chef in KU when we first got married, when it was a frame building.

MR. NETHER: Can you remember when KU started expanding? When did KU really expand, really get large as it is now? Do you remember that?

MRS. KIMBALL: I really don't know exactly. I know when Chancellor Wescoe was here, they made so many of the dormitories.

MR. NETHER: Could blacks live in the dormitories up there? Can you recall?

MRS. KIMBALL: Earliest ones, I really don't know. My children, they were home when they went up there. They lived at home. I have only had one that stayed in a dormitory.

MR. NETHER: Is there anything that maybe I didn't ask you that you think maybe we can use? Mrs. Kimball, you said you didn't know what you could tell. I have got at least 150 years from you right here. Stuff that I never know about.

MRS. KIMBALL: Talking about those farms out there, I lived there and I saw it. That was an area where it's always flooding. I think that's one of the reasons why the people out in the Bloomington area had to leave. They could farm but they weren't going to get too far when every now and then the flood would take everything. That little book I had tells about being in the low area.

MR. NETHER: That's when most people moved here to Lawrence?

MRS. KIMBALL: I think so, after so many years of that. They saw they weren't getting anywhere. They were getting older. Children began to get away from home. They just couldn't stay there.

MR. NETHER: Could I ask, when did you and your husband first meet?

MRS. KIMBALL: Let me see. I guess we met about 1921 when my sister lived next to his sister.

MR. NETHER: Makes it convenient.

MR. KIMBALL: That's right. We happened to meet.

MR. NETHER: I know I asked my mother and father when they met. Said "I didn't meet him."

MRS. KIMBALL: And my sister's husband went to Topeka to work and she didn't want to stay alone. She asked me to stay with her, so then I went out there to stay with her.

MR. NETHER: Turned out great. Fifteen children.

MRS. KIMBALL: My sister's husband had to come all the way from Topeka to help build this high school, junior high now. Was high school.

MR. NETHER: Central?

MRS. KIMBALL: Yes. He came from Topeka to get a job here. Then when it was finished, he went back.

MR. NETHER: OK. I am done then. And thank you.

back to top