Interview of Luella Swift Gohaner and Luella Gohaner-Lyles by Lois McKenzie and Mary Gilliam of the Ridge Street Oral History Project on February 17, 1995. (Oral History)

Biographical Information
Luella Swift Gohaner is a seventy-three year old African American woman who has lived in Albemarle County, Virginia for most of her life. Luella (Pinkie) Gohaner-Lyles, her daughter, grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia. They discuss life in Albemarle County and in Charlottesville, their experiences as students at Jefferson School and Albemarle Training School, and changes they have witnessed in the Ridge Street neighborhood over the years.

Project Description
Race and Place is a project of the Virginia Center for Digital History and the Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies. The goal of the project is to chronicle the life of African-Americans in the Charlottesville, Virginia area during the period of segregation. As part of this project we have conducted a series of interviews with current residents of the Charlottesville area who were alive during that period. The project has also incorporated oral interviews conducted by other Charlottesville institutions which cover the appropriate subject area.

Notes About Our Transcription
The transcripts represent what was said in the interview to the best of our ability. It is possible that some words, particularly names, have been misspelled. Where we did not feel sure of spellings we have indicated this by the use of the term 'phonetically' in parentheses following the word in question. Places where words were unclear are noted by 'inaudible'. We have made no attempt to correct mistakes in grammar.

Q:Would you just give us your name and address just for the record
A:(Inaudible) - 803 Ridge Street, Charlottesville.
Q:Thank you. We'd very much like to talk with you about your history on Ridge Street and your family here in Charlottesville. You mentioned your maiden name was Swift.
Q:Were your parents born in this area? Were you born in this area?
A:No. I was born in Albemarle County, adjoining Joe Smith's farm. We lived there for a century of years.
Q:When were you born - will you share that date with us or is that a secret?
A:I don't mind. November 4, 1921.
A:That's right. I'm seventy-three.
Q:And your family what - what did they do in the Charlottesville area?
A:In the County?
Q:In the County. Were they farmers?
A:Mm-hm. Yes. My father ran a truck farm, he raised vegetables each year and sold here in Charlottesville and we were raised there and he inaudible everything in the morning. And my father worked on the C and O Railroad.
Q:Oh, how wonderful.
A:Yes. He was a conductor for the past fifty years until he retired. And my mother, Lillian Swift Miller (phonetically) - had sixteen children.
A:Oh my god!
A:That's right, living children.
Q:Sixteen living children.
A:That's right.
A:No. No. She had two sets of twins.
A:And we all lived happily in a home there. Big white house up on the hill - fourteen rooms.
Q:On 250 West?
A:Adjoining. Yes.
Q:On 250 East?
A:East - east.
Q:Is the house still there?
A:Oh, no. No. We had to move because of the - they were bringing the railroad they was running the tracks - C and O company bought our home and then we had to move to Charlottesville.
Q:When did they put the tracks in there?
A:Oh boy, that, that goes back a ways.
Q:(Inaudible) - yeah that's fine. I'm sorry. The tracks that go up toward Keswick?
A:Yes.The C and O.
A2:So then you moved to Charlottesville?
A:Then we moved to Charlottesville. And we bought this house on Ridge Street here. We've lived there for approximately - about ten or twelve years.
Q:This, in this house?
A:No. In the house up Ridge Street.
Q:And and - and do you remember...
A2:- who, who lived there mom?
A:My mom -
A2:Your mom came to Charlottesville from Albemarle County. How long did she live in that house - she lived there many, many years?
A:Four years - she lived there for about, uh, like about ten, twelve, fifteen years - uh-huh, yes.
A2:Further up on Ridge Street
A:That's right. On - on Ridge - yeah
A2:In this house - my grandmother lived there many years - 'cause she raised all of us there.
Q:What address was that on Ridge Street?
A:8 -
Q:So, you lived there for many years then?
A:Yes. I did.
Q:That's up near Fergesons? No.
A2:It's probably three doors up from here.
Q:Ah. Okay.
A:Mm-hm. On the same street.
A2:Now you - tell her in terms of when you moved in - you stayed there a period of time and then you got married and moved here.
A2:Talk about that.
Q:Tell us about your - your husband and - and your -
A:Well, I stayed there I think until -
A2:Were you pregnant with Joni (phonetically)?
A:No. No, indeed. I wasn't pregnant at all when I got married. (General laughter)
A2:Okay mom, thank you very much. Glad that you qualified that.
A:My - my husband - was in the service. He worked in the Navy. He made ammunitions for the Army.
A2:For the navy.
A:- yes. For the Navy. And he stayed there and worked for something like seven to eight years.
Q:In Charlottesville?
A:No. In Washington.
A2:In the navy building.
A:At the navy building.
Q:Oh of course, yeah.
A:Then he came here to find me.
Q:You met here in Charlottesville?
A:No. I met him in Washington.
Q:Oh, you met him in Washington. Did you spend the war in Washington?
A:I spent - I stayed there I think for about three years.
Q:Three years.
A:Until he resigned from the Navy. Then we got married.
Q:And came to Charlottesville.
A:And came to Charlottesville.
A2:Bought this house.
A:No. We lived with my mother for about three - for about four years. Then we built this house here.
Q:Oh, so, you built it yourself.
A:That's right. My husband and I built this house.
Q:Literally, that's wonderful.
A:Mm-hm. We worked, bought the material and we built this house, him and I. We worked during the day, he would work and come here at night and him and I would build this house.
Q:Where did he work during the day?
A:He did construction work. He worked for Allied Supplies, he worked for - mostly he worked for himself. He did construction work, built houses.
Q:Did you work outside the home as well or were you -
A:No, when I had my children I stayed home for fifteen years before I went to work. And I raised my two children. I wanted to do that myself. And we schooled them. They went to Jefferson School - Jefferson Elementary School here.
Q:Where would that have been?
A:On Fourth Street.
Q:On Fourth Street? Okay. Fourth Street South East or North East?
A:Where is it?
A2:Well it's right there on Inaudible- at the Carver Recenter
A:Right at the Carver, that's right.
A2:There was a smaller school that was somehow - you can see it in Carver Rec, they must have added to it.
A:And next to it I think it is - yes.
A2:They expanded it. Okay. So, like by Food King. Yes.
A:And that's where we went to school. And after we went to school there they graduated from there they went to Jackson P. Pearly High School. And I stayed home until they were finished school. Before I went back to work.
A2:So, tell 'em, what kind of work did you do in the home?
A:I stayed here and I did laundry. And that's mostly how I, we schooled 'em. My husband worked and I'd work the laundry and -
Q:For other people?
A:Yes. I did.
Q:You took laundry into your home.
A:Yes. I did laundry here. And I did it by hand. I didn't have no washer and dryer.
Q:Oh my goodness.
A:We just had a washing machine and we washed on the board - I washed on the board.
Q:(Inaudible) soap too?
A:Yes. I did. And I scrubbed it with these hands of mine.
Q:With those knuckles.
A:That's what I did - that's what I did for many years. That's how we schooled, until they finished high school.
A2:Now, why don't you talk about - how was life - how was life on Ridge Street in those days?
A:To tell you, this was one of the best streets in Charlottesville then. Over the past years, put all of these project houses out here and - now I think it's one of the worst.
Q:It really changed the character of the neighborhood.
A:Yes it did. It changed everything. Changed the whole entire street, and everything on it.
Q:Mm-hm, mm-hm. Were you involved in protesting the houses further -
Q:I knew Eugene Williams (phonetically) was
Q:but I just couldn't remember -
A2:(Inaudible)- instrumental.
A2:We, we protested in, in those earlier years the mere fact that low income housing was coming to the street, which basically changed the complexion of the street.
A:It did.
Q:Of course - of course it does.
A2:And that doesn't say that our family, uh, did not - was totally - was against low income families, don't misunderstand us. It's just that this basically was a, it was a residential family (Inaudible) -
A:Yeah, yeah.
Q:All the people owned their homes. It was a different kind of climate here.
A2:Well yeah, plus I think they oughtta scatter it around, personally, you know?
Q:So, when you were living - when you were living here as a family raising your two young children this was a family neighborhood basically.
A:Yes. It was.
Q:People who, people who built - owned their own homes.
A:Everybody owned their own homes way down below. On the West View Terrace, they owned their own homes.
Q:When did it start changing in the '60s or '50s?
A:I would say in the '60s.
Q:In the '60s they started putting in low income housing, of course, it was (Inaudible)
A:Nooo, I think it was before then.
A2:No. No. No. I thought, if my recollection is correct, I mean it's more like the '70s. 'Cause I - I didn't graduate - graduate from high school until '67, so at that time the street was still good. I mean when, when using the term that you're talking about it- meaning that it was a residential neighborhood still. And I would think, in the early '70s, they started having more rentals. It kind of shifted, to rental units.
A:You could see the change. A drastic change.
Q:Absentee Landlords.
Q:Was this - did this coincide with a time with - with the razing of Vinegar Hill? Was that about the same time or was that-
Q:That was earlier.
A:It was earlier.
Q:Did you shop at Vinegar - on Vinegar Hill when you were -
A2:Let's talk about Vinegar Hill.
Q:That'd be wonderful.
A:I remember they had on Vinegar Hill - down Vinegar Hill all the way down Main, it wasn't "street". They had Trolley cars, you know. I remember that. Horse and buggies - I can remember. They had a blacksmith shop there.
A2:A lot of little grocery stores - family grocery stores -
A:Yes, yes. A fish market down there and -
A2:The Bibb's. Mr. Bibb's.
A:Bibb's yes.
A2: We shopped there every day.
A:But I can remember when they had Trolley cars - I remember.
Q:The Trolley cars.
A:That's right.
Q:Now, did you shop at (Inaudible)?
A:Yes. I did.
Q:Now, without -
A:The fish store - we used to - when we was children we would walk from Chaplain(phonetically) - you know what we did - did I tell you about the farm?
Q:(Indicates, yes.) Yes.
A:We had to walk from there to Charlottesville every morning and back in the afternoon because there was no bus, there were no cars, so we did it.
Q:Did you walk to go to school?
A:Yes we did - we did it - we did it.
Q:How long did that take?
A:Oh I think until we got into about the third, fourth grade. There was a bunch of the kids that lived on and off here.
Q:How long did it take you to walk from the farm into town to go to school?
A:Well, I would say it's a - we would leave home in the morning around 7:00, 7:30, and about 9:00 or a little after 9:00, we would get here.
Q:So, anywhere from an hour and a half to a two hour walk each way?
A:Each way.
Q:Now, did you go to Jefferson School?
A:Yes. I did.
Q:That was - that was -
A:That's right.
Q:When was Jefferson School "county"?
A:Oh, boy. That was back there - yes, indeedy, 'cause all of my sisters and brothers went to Jefferson.
Q:That went up to sixth grade?
A:Yes. it did.
Q:And then you went to Burley (phonetically)?
A:That's right.
A2:You know, I can -
A:No. No. I - I didn't go to Burley. I stopped in Jefferson.
Q:You stopped at Jefferson.
A:At Jefferson.
Q:In one of the interviews -
A:It went to I think - what was it - fourth.
A:Yes. Went to the fifth grade, and from there it went to Burley.
A2:But where did you go to school? The whole time you went to school is what they're trying to focus on.
A:I went to Jefferson.
A2:You went to Jefferson School until you graduated and you graduated and it was basically -
A:Seventh grade.
A2:So, that was considered high school as well as elementary?
A:That's right.
A2:So -
A:And the eighth grade and so forth you went to Burley. I didn't go to Burley because I was -
A2:We're talking about what you did not what I did.
A:No I'm not talking about you, I'm talking about myself.
A:I didn't go to Burley. It was so many children- they stopped the county children from coming to the city school because there were a couple of children, the city children that wasn't going to school. So, they - they stopped us from going there and they transferred us from Jefferson School to the Albemarle Training School.
Q:Oh, okay.
A:You know what that is?
A:Union Ridge.
Q:Okay, yes. And - and that was a vocational school?
A:That's right.
A:And I went there until I was graduated.
Q:Now this was - this was all - all - is this all the black students?
A:That's right.
Q:The African-American students. This is what -
A:That's right.They stopped all the city - the county children from coming to the city schools because there was a couple of city children that weren't going. So, they transferred us from there to the Albemarle Training School.
Q:The Albemarle Training School.
A:That's right.
Q:How long did the Albemarle Training School last?
A:Oh, boy.
Q:Was that basically - was that strictly for African Americans students? (Inaudible) Were there white students there as well or, it was an integrated school at that time?
A:Yes. Yes, indeed. At that time. There we didn't have a school. It was one large building. And they had three grades in that one room. And Mrs. -
Q:Do you remember your teacher's name?
A:Yes indeed. Ethel Nicholas.
Q:Ethel Nicholas.
A:Mrs. Cooper. What's - what's that man's name? Chelsea Clark, was the agriculture teacher there.
Q:What did you study there? What subject did you study?
A:Oh I, I think I studied English, reading, we had French - she taught us a little French and uh, Home Economics, Math and that was about what I took, and then we would take music - I took music.
Q:Did your family go to a church in the area?
A:Oh, yes. We - we went to - our church is still in this county. Union (Inaudible) Baptist Church.
Q:So, you still go there?
A:Yes I do. Every Sunday. I sang on the choir there. I started singing when I was about five years old.
Q:How did you get there when you were married and raising your children here- did you
A:My husband had a car.
A:Yes. Mm-hm, we owned several cars. Yes indeed. And we would go here, we would go there each Sunday to service and back.
A2:When you were talking about the early years you said you started singing at the age of five?
A:Yes I did.
A2:And of course my mom was a very well known singer -
A:That's right, mm-hm.
A2:- and she would travel from church to church singing and also when she was in school received a music scholarship that she did not pursue -
A:That's right.
A2:- because she put marriage and family before that. We often talk about it (Inaudible) - it's another time now, it really is -
A:Yes, at that time many things - (Inaudible)
Q:So, you have a lovely voice then don't you?
A:Yes I do.
Q:And then you still sing today?
A:That's right.
Q:You were offered a scholarship?
Q:A scholarship to study where?
A:In - in - what is this - North Carolina? or South Carolina. (Inaudible) I don't know whether you can see it or not - but anyway, when I was singing this lady wanted to have my voice (Inaudible) - and my mom and dad didn't want me go and having it and they didn't want me to leave home. Wanted me to stay here and I started that later date, you know, to sing. Then I went to South Carolina or North Carolina, I think, which is
A2:This, this is uh the Hinds(phonetically) Studio of Gospel Music.
A2:In Cleveland, Ohio.
A:That's right, mm-hm.
A2:They gave mom a certificate and all of that because they were trying to record her, to come to the area and pursue her music career and she didn't do that. She got married.
A:No, that's right. Well you know how these husbands are - they have to do a little bit of extra time, you know! So (Laughter) that's me and I didn't do it.
Q:You've got to have a plan, right?(laughter)
A:Mm-hm, that's right.
A:But anyway I sang - yes, I did. And I still do.
Q:Do you still sing in the Choir?
A:No. I don't sing - no I don't -
Q:You sing every Sunday when you go.
A:Yes. I used to be the leader of the choir, I mean you know.
Q:The Choir Director, or the Lead Singer?
A:Yes. That's right.
Q:You were the Choir Director as well?
A:No, we had a director.
Q:Oh. But you were the lead singer?
A:Yes. And then Pastor Reverend I. E. J. Kennedy, Reverend Hughes - we've had several ministers. But Reverend Kennedy was the one that was there mostly when I was singing - he was the pastor. And we had several different choirs, you know, to sing, junior and seniors and so forth. And I would belong to the Pastor's Eight Club
Q:The what club?
A:The Past Eight Club.
A2:The Pastor's Eight.
A:The Pastor's Eight.
Q:The Pastor's?
A:Mm-hm. And there're Knights of Damons (phonetically) -
Q:Are you still active in the church or pretty much retired?
A:Well, not as much - not as much as I used to, I tell you. I do pretty much when, you know, sometimes.
A:But I was the sole provider all of my entire life, for the church. Yes I did, I worked. I loved to work in the Church. And the Sunday School and kids and so forth.
Q:It was a big part of your life?
A:Yes it was, mm-hm. The most important part of my life was to sing.
Q:It's not given to many to be able to sing.(Laughter)
A:That's right, that's right.
Q:So it really is nice. So, church and family were really the most important?
A:Oh yes. That's right. Yes, mm-hm. In fact my entire family was musical. I started as a solo-er, then I had three brothers - two brothers that were staying with us - with me - a trio - then we had a forte (phonetically) - then after that we had the whole chorus. The Union Run Baptist Jubilee Saints. That's right.
Q:So you had, there were sixteen children in your family?
A:That's right, mm-hm.
Q:And most -
A:And most of them could sing.
Q:Did you ever record anything?
A:I had some recorded but in moving from place to place they were destroyed. Most of my valuable papers were destroyed when we - when I was married - first when I got married I moved from here to Connecticut, Hartford.
Q:I used to live in Hartford.
A:You did?
Q:A long time ago, I grew up there.
A:Mm-hm, that's right. And my husband and I worked there for about four years and then that's when I got me Junior. That's right.
Q:Neither one of us would recognize Hartford today.
A:Oh, no, indeed. No, indeed. No you certainly wouldn't because they had a flood there, you know, and it washed most of everything we - I used to - my husband and I used to work at a place called the Red Robin Inn. And it was out on - it was in Lakefield (phonetically). Do you remember that? Mm-hm, that's where it was. And the lady Mrs. Valentine was one of the most precious ladies that ever was. She was the supervisor of the whole place. When I got pregnant, and I didn't know it, and -.
A2:So, it was like a resort?
A:Yes. It was a sort of like a summer resort for the millionaires.
A:That's right. And I had to take care of them and this lady - I was with (Inaudible) - so I did.
Q:How did you pickConnecticut? Did they recruit you, or-?
Q:How did they -
A:A friend of mine was there and she had been there for several years and she wrote me and she said, how would you and your husband like to come here and work? And I said I don't know, I said, it sounds good. And she said, if the lady send you a voucher would you come and I said sure. So, we did. The next morning we got on the train and we went there.
Q:Were they all year round?
A:All year round.
Q:All year round.
A:Yes, indeed. All year round. And it was one of the most beautiful places there ever was. I just loved it. And Lakefield is gorgeous.
Q:It's pretty. Did you ever get back there?
A:Never did because I think two years after that, we had this flood that washed part of the place away. Mm-hm, and she told me, she said, you just left here in time.
Q:So, then you came back to Charlottesville?
A:Then we came back to Charlottesville. I came back here because my father was ill and he wrote a letter asking me to come back here, if I didn't do any more than to stay here until he passed away, and I did. Not knowing that I would build here and stay but anyway that's what happened. I stayed til mommy and daddy, dad was eighty-eight when he passed away, and my mom was eighty-seven. And I came down here to see that they were, you know, everything was taken care of and that's the reason I'm here today.
Q:You came back here to take care of them and -
A:That's right. To take care of them and I took care of them until they passed away. And then of course I went to work, you know, again. Started to work for, in a private family - and that's when I started working for the Robertsons. And I worked for them until I think -
A2:(Inaudible) - You had a lot of families that you basically worked for and you did a lot (Inaudible) -
A:I did, yes, days work. You know, I did days work.
Q:On Ridge Street or-
A:No, here, in Charlottesville.
Q:In Charlottesville.
A:Yes. Yes. You know, Frye Springs, University, Bell Air and different places, West - Westview (phonetically), many places I did a days work. (Inaudible) I did five days a week.
Q:This is after your children had gone off to school?
A:That's right.
A2:Why don't you talk to them about grandmother, the house there -
Q:Yes. How did they get that house? That, that would be interesting. Did they build the house?
A2:How did your mother and father build the house on Ridge Street?
A:Well, I'll tell you. Roy Wheeler Realty - my father knew him well. And he was working and he asked if we were still in the country - we needed this home because we had to move - had a notice that we had to move. So, he asked him to find a place for him and he did. He said it's not a very big home, he said, but it will do for you. Because most of the children were away, you know, and that was, you know, for us while we're there. And that's the reason, how he got that, through Roy Wheeler.
Q:Roy Wheeler?
A:That's right. Realtor. And we stayed there until they passed away.
Q:How did you pay for homes back then? I don't mean just - how did anybody - how did people pay for -Inaudible Did you get mortgages?
A:Yes. We - we - we had a - we got a mortgage - mm-hm.
Q:Were your parents born in the Charlottesville area?
A:No. They were born in Albemarle County. They both were born in Albemarle County.
Q:And your husband's family as well?
A:No my husband's family - my husband's family was born in Oak Union.
Q:In Fork Union?
A2:Oak Union.
A:Oak Union.
Q:This was Barracks Road.
Q:Isn't there an Oak Union Baptist Church?
A:It is.
Q:Yeah, I've been out there. Yeah.
A:Yes. It is.
A2:I can remember that (Inaudible) - the house was, probably a few hundred yards from that church.
A:That's right, that's right. He was a member of that church.
Q:The Oak Union Baptist Church.
A:That's right. His parents lived there.
A2:Well let's go back to life in that house. One of the facts she was eluding to, was the fact that when she's come from a big huge house in Albemarle County with fourteen rooms - now that's pretty large - and she moved to Ridge Street - of course, with less people in the house -
A:That's right.
A2:In that house, let's talk about the kind of life it was, which was a whole lot different than many, than many households today. I mean first of all, with a lot of kids and then -. In grandmothers house, 'cause grandmother was an extraordinarily talented cook. An old, from-scratch kind of cook. She cooked great big meals just about every single day and bigger meals -
A:On Sundays.
A2:- on Saturdays and Sundays. And so all of the grandkids -
A:That's right.
A2:- all of her children's children - came and, I mean it was a loving household and we stayed there until the late hours of the night because she'd do all, she'd bake, you know, ice cream and all this stuff.
A:Yes. It was good.
A2:So, in that house was just nothing but (Inaudible) love.
A:That's right.
Q:Did she work outside the home also?
A:No, my mother never worked. She never worked out -. Never.
A:She was a housekeeper. She stayed home and raised, and raised the children. My father was the breadwinner. And he did.
Q:He had a good job (Inaudible).
A:Yes. Yes he did, yes he did. And then he had - he raised, you know, vegetables and so forth, raised hogs, chickens, cows -
Q:Where would he sell the vegetables?
A2:Was there like a market?
A:A market, yes. Yes.
Q:A market here in the city?
A:It was a city market, yes.
Q:Yeah, the one that was down on Water Street.
A:And he would take the vegetables and so forth there and have chickens.
Q:So, you really had a very nice life here on Ridge Street in that family home, wouldn't you say?
A:Yes I did. That's right.
A2:Well I think they had a good life in Albemarle County back then. (Inaudible) African Americans back then, they didn't get (Inaudible) - into more of an urban setting. And the life still was good.
Q:- and preserved the family lifestyle.
A:It was a loving family. That's right.
Q:When did you start seeing changes on Ridge Street. In the early '70s?
A2:In the '70s. I mean, I mean, when we talk about change, we're talking about dramatic change in that you go from a residential area into the rental units now. So, so, things are different. Different because of the way things look, different because of the individuals that are coming.
A:Oh, yes definitely.
A2:There's a difference between the mentality of a, of a person who is a homeowner versus someone who has come from somewhere else and he or she is just renting. So, maybe they don't have the same kind of stake, the same type of investment.
A2:You know, in, in the community.
Q:Do you think that could change on Ridge Street?
A:Uh-huh, yes - I certainly hope so.
Q:Yes. I think that it can go back to -
Q:Was this area on Ridge Street where you lived basically African American families?
A:More or less - yes.
A2:It was mostly - yes and I tell you, you've got to, for me growing up here, like alluding to the Updike family, who always lived here!
A:That's right, yes.
A2:And they, I mean, were like embedded in the middle of a black community. (Inaudible) good, stayed here, contributed to, to all of that and viewed this as part of their community and still do.
A:That's right.
A2:And that was - look how many years back.
Q:He, they, they were here in?
A2:They were here in the early years.
A:Yes, yes indeedy. Yes indeedy. Right there.
Q:And he's still here is he not?
A:Yes, right there.
A2:And Mrs. Updike was a nurse for Martha Jefferson Hospital.
A:Yes, that's right.
A2:And what did he do, was he in insurance or-
Q:Why'd I think he was a lawyer?
A:I think yes. He, he, he was a lawyer in the early years, early times. Mm-hm. That's right. I don't, I don't know now whether he's in a home or -
A2:Is he still there?
Q:He's still there on the (Inaudible).
A:Oh, he is? Oh, uh-huh. I never see him you know, around and about like I used to.
Q:He wasn't well this summer I understand we tried to talk with him. And he didn't want to at that point but apparently maybe now's better and has agreed to talk with us. We're also talking to the Woodfolks.
Q:So -
A:They used to live there. They used to live in a big white house -
A:No, they had a big white house right there. Before they put all these projects here. And they tore down and-.
Q:How were the projects built? City? City sponsored?
A:Yes, mm-hm.
A2:Maybe it was city sponsored -
Q:It was federal money. Now they must have federal money.
A2:My recollection, when it first started if I remember correctly they were talking about building rental units on (Inaudible) Mill Road-
A:That's right.
A2:- and the city and the residents of (Inaudible) Mill Road -
A2:circulated a petition getting individuals to sign saying we oppose that coming here. We, we attempted that on Ridge Street.
Q:Well this I wondered, yeah.
A:Yes we did. People didn't cooperate.
A2:And for some reason I don't think we had all the support of the residents and number two I think the city had their mind made up that they were going to bring low income housing into this community and it came.
A:In spite of the petition that we were drawing up. They overruled and that's where the first one they put there. I saw it built, raised, and built the first one there. Then I said boy, this is it. When they put that first one there I know the street was gone.
A2:Well, I won't - I don't want to say it's gone Mom. I think what you're saying is, that there was a dramatic change -
A:There was.
A2:- and so you're bringing in people that have come from somewhere else and they still - and they don't own, you know, and I think that's a difference there. And what's what's happening now, now, and I do see a change - I see a change not only in this community but other communities where there are people who rent who feel like they're a part of the community and can contribute to that community.
A:That's right, yes indeed.
A2:I think it's all here.
Q:Its all in the head.
Q:That's exactly where it is.
A2:Its all in the head.
Q:Yeah. Who owns most of rental units now?
A:They're - they're buying those, yeah.
A2:But uh - going back to -
A:Yes. Dramatic change.
A2:Dramatic change, and we were talking about what, what does that mean, that means we all played together, we knew each other sometimes I come to visit my mom now - often - and I don't know any of these people that are walking those streets.
A:Neither do I.
A2:That's say's a lot -
A:All of them, brand new people. I think it's one or two down there I know - like there, who down there down that I know -
Q:Who lives here that you still know?
A2:Mrs. Ross?
A:Ross, yes.
A2:Mrs. Pleasants.
A:And the Mortons.
A2:That's further up on Raymond.
A:Yeah that's on Raymond.
A2:My mother's brother, baby brother lives down the street with his wife, still.
A:And the Rosses.
A2:So the Rosses, and the Smiths, the Pleasants, Mrs. Pleasants, is uh, incapacitated to some extent, but she still resides in that house - under twenty-four hour care. I'm not - I'm not (Inaudible)
A:(Inaudible [Slaughter?])
A2:I'm talking about Fifth Street. Either they're still there or (Inaudible) - Not many people.
A:No. Not many at all.
A2:(Inaudible) individuals who reside here. But safety was a big thing. I mean we could leave our doors unlocked and go shopping.
A:Oh god, you can't do that now!
A2:And you can't do that now.
A:Uh uh, can't do it now.
A2:You know, the sense of community where - getting back to that African proverb of talking about if, if a total village raising children. That whole street raised you up. If I was doing something wrong, you know, Mrs. Dawson up Ridge Street was in a (Inaudible [pink?]) and, "You know that's wrong and you go home and I'm going to call your mother!"
A:Yes indeedy. Oh I have gone through many days.
A2:And before I got home momma knew.
A:Mm-hm, that's right.
A2:So that's different.
Q:That's what somebody told us yesterday too. And I'm not sure if it was just (Laughter)-
A:That's right.
Q:Yup, and the whole, any adult could correct you -(Inaudible)- the neighborhood, any adult could correct you.
A2:And you respected it.
Q:And you respected it, and you behaved.
A:Can't do it today. No indeedy.
A2:No, now you get sued. (Inaudible) (Laughter)
A2:And you get smacked!(General laughter)
A:Not, not only that, you'll probably get killed. You know it?
Q:You don't dare interfere with somebody else's children.
A:No indeed. You gotta be careful who you say and what you say. And who you say it too.
Q:Yes. Yes.
A2:So when you think about all those, those differences, I mean there are major differences (Inaudible) - you know, we played and we stayed out - we stayed out on the corner sometimes singing and just talking about how it's going to be twenty years from those years. And it was - it was just - it was family. You know, it was togetherness, it was cohesive.
Q:It was a community.
A2:It was a community. In the true sense. (Inaudible) it's supposed to be - and that's not the case any more.
A:No indeed.
Q:I think this changed a lot of places (Inaudible) -
A:All over.
Q:Throughout this country where you've got the decline in the cities (Inaudible)-
A2:Sure the crime has increased so, the many families that can financially afford it, go in, into suburbia - I mean, you know, I would like to stay in the city. I feel more comfortable right now being - being able to divorce myself away from the urban setting and going out into the county, I do. I'm raising a six year old so, I, you know, feel, although that doesn't say a whole lot because, you know, crime is going to find you, it's going to find you, it's going to find you. I'm just saying I'm more comfortable out away from the urban setting.
A:I just wish I had gone. My husband wanted me to move to county you know.
A2:There were advantages back then around here. You were accessible to downtown.
A:I wish I had been, you know. 'Cause today, you live in fear. You really do, you live in fear.
Q:Are you a widow, Mrs. Gohaner?
A:Yes, I am. My husband, deceased six years.
Q:Eighty-six? And you live alone here now?
A:Yes, I do. But the fact is that most everybody here knows me, you know, and I think they respect that to some extent - the older ones. But, the teenagers, it's like I said, I don't know any of them, you know. I think that you (Inaudible) do most anything-
Q:So your daughter is here and your said you had two children?
A:Yes. My son is in Mt. Holly, Virginia. And I have a grandson.
Q:Six years old.
A2:Grandson is at Rutgers, and my six year old.(Inaudible)(Laughter)-
A:Yes. Not like it used to be.
Q:And how many of your sisters and brothers are still living?
A:I have one sister and two brothers, just the four of use.
Q:Just four that are still living.
A:My sister is in Washington, and my brother lives on 250 East and I have my (Inaudible) and that's it.
Q:Where were you? Were you oldest, youngest, in the middle of the sixteen children, age wise?
A:Yes, no, I'm in the middle. My brother down there, he's the baby.
Q:The baby. The baby brother.
Q:When did they pave this part of Ridge Street? In the beginning was it a paved road, or gravel?
A:Yes. It was paved.
Q:It was paved, it was always paved?
A:Yes, it was always.
Q:But you do recollect, I though you said, now was this the lower end was that paved or was that -
A:No. No. That was gravel.
Q:That's what I wondered.
A:That was gravel.
Q:The lower end.
A:But they just recently, you know, years past, to pave all of that. Yeah I can remember when that was gravel.
Q:When you go down (Inaudible [Hartman's?]) Mill Road that was very much like country.
A:It does.
Q:I loved it. I walk it (Inaudible) with Kay Peaslee (Inaudible) and we also walk around here. And it does, when you walk down here in the early morning and it's like walking in the country. Really charming. But it is just like country. And the houses are sided like country houses.
A:That's right, mm-hm.
(Inaudible Section for a few seconds)
(Tape turned off and then on)
Q:So, basically your children were still going through public schools when they were segregated here in Charlottesville, right?
Q:And Pinkie, you went to Burley? And can you tell us a little bit about that.
A2:Well, I - I grad - I went to Burley - I entered Burley in 1964 and it was an all African American school. And I'm - I'm not sure I'm accurate about this but probably around my sophomore or junior year we started seeing Caucasian faculty coming on staff - which was interesting. And I had the option of either going Lane, especially probably those last couple of years, or remaining at Burley. My mother and father and I met about it and discussed it and we decided as a family that I would stay at Burley. I didn't have any desire to go to Lane's. Which was the white school. But there were many African American families interested in getting their children to go to school there and that was fine. I chose not - it was optional and I chose not to do that.
Q:They were interested in having the option then.
A2:Absolutely, absolutely. And that's important.
Q:That was the Williams - the Williams at(Inaudible)
Q:Who was involved in that?
A2:Eugene, Eugene Williams
Q:And the Fergusons and the - (Inaudible)
A2:(Inaudible) - but my point is that I had the option of going to Lane's but I chose not to do so and that was the key, I wanted to have the option. But also make my own mind up and our family decided that I didn't go there. And the reason why I didn't want to go there is because I still - in those years and right today I still believe there is an incredible impact between and an African American teacher teaching an African American child. And many people debate it - now, that does not say that a white person cannot teach a child I'm just saying it's an incredible chemistry there, the impact of that taking place is tremendous, and I still feel it. I still feel that. I think - I think that I've seen our public school system - uh - go down hill. Because of the experience that I had when I was in school when Alisha Lugo (phonetically) - when Alisha Lugo (phonetically) taught me -
Q:Did she - she - she teach you?
A2:She sure did. I mean there was something going on there, I mean, first of all she was energized to teach you because you were African American. It makes sense to me. I mean all of her experience and all of her knowledge she gave to us. And there's a big difference today.
Q:But she's also I think an exceptional woman.
A2:Oh she's extraordinary.
A:Oh yes indeedy. yes indeedy, that's right.-
Q:She's head and shoulders above almost any teacher that you're going to find.
A2:But I'm just saying that I did have that kind of experience.
Q:Do you think children today are having that kind of experience?
A2:No, I don't think so at all. I think children are sitting in the classroom -
A:No. I don't.
A2:I've been in the public schools in the city, in Albemarle County and I see it - I don't hear about it - I witness the children who are sitting in the classrooms with no desire to be there because we're not teaching - the curriculum we teach - it's not motivating them. First of all let's get to what motivates the kid. The kid will stay in school and learn if he's energized. (Inaudble) and he won't learn.
Q:That's if you're white or black or pink.
A:That's right, that's right.
A2:Yeah, any kid, any kid. But it's even more complex when you're African American - when you are a minority. It - it's a difference. And I have to say that's a really important part. When you - when you go back and take a historical look at life, there are some things you can't overlook. You can't overlook education, you can't overlook things like housing, you can't overlook jobs. I mean this is what makes the world go around. And there's a big difference from back then - and my mom said, I mean, when they lived in Albemarle County on 250, they lived in an extraordinarily large house, that they obviously could afford, with all these children, and they fed them.
A:Yes indeed. Never wanted for anything. We just had what we wanted (Inaudible), you know.
Q:And you were able - your parents were able to provide for all of you?
A:Yes, indeed.
Q:In those years.
A:Of course, expenses and so forth, they were nothing like it is today - but what you, we could afford, you know, what you needed.
Q:Clothing and shoes and all of that.
A:Yes, indeed.
Q:Furniture and all the other expenses.
A2:And another part of all of that, when you talk about Vinegar Hill
(End of Side A)
Q:That's incredible.
A:Lawrence Thompson (phonetically), do you know him?
A:He had - what was it, a Barber shop? A barber shop there. Yes, indeed.
A2:Well, not just him. I mean, there were so many black businesses in that time. I mean what could inspire you more is to look at your home and see that you own that.
A:That's right.
A2:But I don't see that today.
Q:So, really evident role models at that time (General agreement indicated) - so, in other words you would say then that the experience - the lifestyle for the African Americans in the Charlottesville area - was better - much better.
A:Much better, yes indeedy. Much recognized.
Q:Yeah. When they tore down Vinegar Hill was there any protest?
A2:Yeah. It was a very controversial issue but as someone said so eloquently, how do you stop progress?
A:That's right.
A2:Uh, the other thing is I don't think we were mobilized and, see, you have to be organized. I mean, what really gets things moving in any area - I don't care where it is - is organization. And if you're not organized then it doesn't matter anyway. And I don't think we were.
A:Working together. You got to work together, you know, you got to stick together.
Q:Also the whole concept of quote, "urban renewal", unquote.
Q:Well, the whole country was (Inaudible) -
Q:Everybody has learned from experience since then that that was not necessarily the best thing to do.
Q:Wasn't the best thing to do, yeah.
Q:Learned the hard way.
Q:We destroyed much of this city.
A:Sure did.
Q:- neighborhoods which - I guess that's one of the reasons for this project is trying to at least protect or see that what, what is here is still, is, remains. And - and not just remains but is remembered as well and - and validated and um, recorded.
Q:Did any of the businesses - (Inaudible)
A:You know this house here?
Q:Which house?
A:The white house on the corner here.
Q:Over there?
A:Yeah, sitting on - Mr. Carey, uh, Jesse Carey (phonetically) (Inaudible) - that house is a hundred years old.
Q:It's a wonderful house.
Q:Yeah, it's a wonderful house.
A:She taught me in school. Jesse Carey.
A2:Would Mrs. Malley (phonetically) have been her neice?
A:Yeah. That's her niece.
A2:Her niece came from New York and then she stayed there about five, six years and then she passed it on. In fact, she's a very good friend of Eugene Williams' wife.
A:That's right, mm-hm. And one of my best friends, yes, indeedy. Yes, indeedy. And that's a house of old history.
Q:Yeah, it's a wonderful old house.
A:Yes, indeed.
Q:Yeah it's wonderful.
A:Gorgeous! All antiques.
Q:(Inaudible) houses on Ridge Street.
A:That's right, one of my best friends. I knew her mother. Madeleine?
(Inaudible Section for a few seconds)
Q:What - how do you fill your days, now that your children are grown and - and you're kind of retired? From the church?
A:Oh no indeed. I work five days a week.
Q:You do?
Q:Good lord.
A:I did uh-
A2:(Inaudible) convince you to stop -(Inaudible) one day.
A:Uh-huh, yes. I'm the Assistant Activity Director at the Thomas Jefferson Adult Health Care Center.
A2:Day Care.
A:Day Care Center. 1512
Q:Well, why did I think you were retired?
A:15 - semi-retired. Not fully retired. I work with the Alzheimers - every day.
Q:So, is this your day off or -
A:I'm a C.N.N.
Q:A C.N.N.?
A2:Nurse's assistant.
A:That's right. Every day. They look forward to seeing me.
A2:Tell them why you started working. After daddy died, and you were all frustrated and then you came to me and said what? You wanted to do something.
A:I did. I stayed here I think for thr - two months, and I said Pinkie this is not going to work.
Q: Oh, (Inaudible) -
A:Yes, indeed I said this isn't going to work. I said you gotta do something. Of course, you know at my age, how was I going to get a job. So, she - she said momma, we're going to get you a job. Green Thumb, you know about that?
Q:About Green Thumb?
A:That's an organization -
A2:A federal program for (Inaudible)
A:Yeah, uh-huh, for the adults.
A2:(Inaudible) back into the workplace.
A:That's the first one I went to -
Q:Gee, I qualify.
Q:I don't.
A:And I - I worked that job - you know you're only supposed to work on those jobs for what, oh two to three years and I worked that for five. So, they wrote me a letter from North Carolina saying you must be one hell of a good worker, to stay on this program, that you don't supposed to stay on this long.
A:And I have the letter of my recommendation there, somewhere in the file somewhere at work. Now, you can work if you want to, or you can be transferred. So, I was to come home and sit down again. So when I was working down there at JABA (Jefferson Area Board for Aging), they said no indeed, we are not going to let you go home they said, so we'll just take you. So, you just come here and work.
A2:So now she's working for JABA.
A:And now, I'm working for JABA.
Q:Sounds pretty good.
Q:That's wonderful.
A:That's right. Every day. One of the best workers they have.
(Others chuckle)
Q:So, you don't really want to retire retire?
A:Oh, no. I don't think I could stand it.
A:I'm going to work -
Q:I don't think anybody can.
A:- until the bitter end, God's word. That's all it takes.
A2:Nice way to - end the legacy
A:Yes, indeed. That's right. When I get my retirement, it's going to be from this job, and I've been there for eight years. Right there.
A2:That's not a job! (Inaudible)(Laughter)
A:Teaching - no - I have more - I have more like a position now because I'm telling the girls what to do.
A:That's right. Seeing that it's done.
A2:But that's not a job anyway. I mean, they love you and you love them.
A:That's right.
A2:And if mom has a cold they all go, they get all upset and if something happens to them she does. So it's like a family thing; it just gives mom an opportunity to get away from the house and provide a service to somebody who really needs it.
A:That's right.
Q:Yup, and be with people.
A:They look forward, they look forward to seeing me each and everyday.
Q:Bet they do.
A:I have six clients, that I work with, and of course there mostly (Inaudble) - Alzheimer's, you know, is something else.
Q:There but for the grace of god go I.
Q:You've got it.
A:Yes, yes indeed. That's a disease honey, you know. Incurable.
Q:It gets worse everyday doesn't it.
Q:It does yeah.
A:And the elderly doesn't have it always.
Q:No. No, they don't.
A:We have one girl there I think, that is thirty-something.
Q:Oh, my God.
A:Of course she's demental (phonetically) now, this is her first stage. I think it's five stages you go through and when you reach the fifth stage then you (Inaudible) pass.
Q:(Inaudible) - you don't get there quick enough.
A:That's right. And it's something to watch. We have lawyers, doctors. We work with them everyday. They don't even know how they get it, who their wives are, their husbands.
Q:It just, it doesn't hit just one group.
A:No it doesn't.
Q:That's quite democratic.
A:Yes, indeed.
Q:It's very sad.
Q:It is sad. Stepdad was always convinced he had it (Inaudible)(Laughter)
Q:Well there's always that lurking in the (Inaudible) any number of people.
Q:Is that thing on?
Q:After I said I was always convinced.
Q:(Inaudible) - You're on record now Mary.
A:It's a serious disease, I'll tell ya', indeed. That's right.

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