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Interview with Freddie and Christine Sanders

Sanders, Freddie
Sanders, Christine
Metzger, Mary
Date of Interview: 
Sanders, Freddie, 1931-; Sanders, Christine; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; Myers Street School (Charlotte, N.C.); Second Ward High School (Charlotte, N.C.); Tenner’s Restaurant (Charlotte, N.C.); Quail Hollow Country Club (Charlotte, N.C.); Topeka (Kan.). Board of Education; African American teachers; African American students; African American neighborhoods; Busing for school integration; Manners and customs; Students--Social life and customs; North Carolina--Charlotte; North Carolina--Charlotte--Second Ward; Interviews (Sound recordings); Oral histories
Freddie and Christine Sanders reflect on what it was like to be students at Second Ward High School in Charlotte’s “Brooklyn” neighborhood during segregation in the early 1950s. Mr. Sanders also reminisces about growing up in “Brooklyn,” and about his various jobs working in local restaurants and the Quail Hollow Country Club. Mr. and Mrs. Sanders briefly discuss the Brown vs. Board of education Supreme Court case and how integration affected their children’s education, in particular focusing on problems associated with bussing. During the interview the Sanders also examine and discuss photographs from their time at Second Ward High School.
North Carolina--Charlotte; circa 1940 - 2005
Interview Setting: 
Home of Freddie Sanders, North Carolina--Charlotte
Before Brown Collection
Collection Description: 
These interviews were conducted in conjunction with the Levine Museum of the New South’s award winning exhibit, "Courage: The Carolina Story That Changed America,” which was originally mounted in 2004. The interviews focus on the educational experiences of members of the African American community of Charlotte during the era of segregation.
Interview Audio: 
MM: 2005 I'm Mary Metzger I'm at the home of Freddie Sanders in Charlotte, North Carolina. And Freddie if you would tell us what address we are.
FS: You're at 3624 Lynchfield Road Charlotte, North Carolina. Freddie Sanders is my name.
MM: And Mr. Sanders before we turned on the tape recording machine you were telling me about your neighborhood that was called Brooklyn.
FS: Right.
MM: And you were born there in 1931.
FS: That's right.
MM: Can you tell me if you were the oldest child in your family?
FS: No I have one sister she's about 4 years older than I. And we lived in a little shack right down in the middle of Charlotte.
MM: What was your address?
FS: My address?
MM: Yeah.
FS: 60-no not 60-1610--.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: Fourth Street Alley.
MM: And at your house you had your mom and your dad.
FS: Yes.
MM: And did they both work?
FS: They both worked ye
ah. MM: Uh-huh.
FS: Yeah my mother worked at a poultry and my father I've forgotten exactly what he did its been so long he's been dead quite a while but I've forgotten what job he had but he did work.
MM: Uh-huh. And can you remember who lived in your neighborhood who were the children that you played with who were your age?
FS: Oh I played with-there were a lot of children there but I played mostly with the guy who lived next door to me his name was Elijah Chapelle. But he's been dead now about 15 or 20 years. But we grew up together and we were pretty much the same age we went to school together we were in the same class together.
MM: And what did you guys like to do when you were playing?
FS: We liked to play out-climb that Chinaberry tree. [Laughter
] MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And there was a big tree right beside our house and a Chinaberry tree we'd climb that big tree-we were trying to climb the Chinaberry tree to get on top of the houses. The houses were so close together we'd run from one house we was on the top we'd run and jump across to the next house. And we had our fun doing that. And I don't-yes we did have a big, big open field close to our home where we could go and play baseball and just do any kind of childish thing that we wanted to do.
MM: Now did you get in trouble for running across the roofs of the houses?
FS: No I didn't get in trouble for that but I've only gotten in trouble one time in my life and that was because I went with some fellows younger-I was probably about 12 or 14 I went off and didn't tell my mother where I was going and I stayed gone a long, long time and when I got back I was in big, big trouble. That was the only time I've ever gotten a whipping in my life. [Laughter]
MM: The one and only.
FS: The only time.
MM: [Laughter] Well when you were small what were your-what did you think school would be like before you went?
FS: Before I went?
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: I was real, real nervous. I went toMyers Street School when I first started.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And my sister my older sister took me to school the first day and I remember not wanting to go in and I think I did cry when she left but I went on in and after that I was alright. So I left Myers Street School and went to Second Ward High.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And I had good times at Second Ward and I had some real fine teachers. We had-well we respected all of our teachers but the one that we were kinda I don't say feared or afraid of but the one that we knew we had to do exactly right was a lady named Mrs. Rudisill.
MM: Rudisill. Ok.
FS: And the man's name was Levi.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: So Levi taught Chemistry and Physics
. MM: Yup.
FS: And that was good for me because I kinda knew I had to do what I was going to do and I made all As in his chemistry class and all Bs in his physics class. But the rest of the classes I barely passed.
MM: Why?
FS: I don't know. [Laughter] I knew I had to study for him but I didn't study for the other teachers for some reason.
MM: What and did Mrs. Rudisill teach a subject also?
FS: Yes I've forgotten what she taught but I-she was my seventh grade teacher but I forgot what she did teach but I know that she would give you a spanking if you come in there and do it wrong and you know didn't do what she said you were supposed to do.
MM: And this could be-this spanking could happen in front of everybody else?
FS: Oh yes right there in the classroom she would spank. I didn't get one but you know I've seen other kids get them and she would get on you. They all respected her very much so.
MM: When you were at Myers Park are there some teachers from those years-
FS: Myers Street School?
MM: Oh yes Myers Street?
FS: [Laughter] Uh-huh were there some--?
MM: Were there some teachers from Myers Street that you remember in particular?
FS: No, no I don't. I don't remember one of them. I can't remember her name but there is one-but I don't remember much about those days at Myers Street.
MM: Yeah.
FS: Yeah.
MM: Was that first through eighth grade at Myers Street?
FS: No it was first through sixth.
MM: First through sixth OK. And then Second Ward was seventh--.
FS: Was-yeah uh-huh.
MM: Seventh through twelfth.
FS: Uh-huh.
MM: Do you remember what the Myers Street School looked like?
FS: Yes it was not nearly as big as Second Ward but it was a brick building.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And it was a big square building that's about all you can say for it.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: Right there in the heart of Brooklyn.
MM: At school did everybody bring their own lunch?
FS: At Myers Street they did.
MM: Yeah.
FS: But at Second Ward they had a cafeteria.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And I mostly took my lunch to Second Ward you could bring it or buy or go to the cafeteria whichever you wanted.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: But I mostly would bring my own there wasn't any money.
MM: Yeah, yeah.
FS: Coming up I would have little part time jobs after school I would do different things and make a little bit of money enough to you know kind of tie me over.
MM: When did you start working part time?
FS: I started working part time when I was about 7 years old.
MM: Really?
FS: Just like I said there was people living in the neighborhood up across from me.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And I would go to their houses and find out if they wanted me to do anything like did they want me to go to the store or anything like that.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: So I did that type of thing for about three years. When I was about nine I wanted to work at the corner grocery store of the neighborhood.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And I worked there until I was about fourteen but when I was at this grocery store I would deliver wood or groceries.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: If I wasn't delivering I would work behind the counter-the candy counter
. MM: Uh-huh.
FS: I mean waiting on the children you know-taking care of the children.
MM: Right.
FS: Uh-huh they'd buy candies and cookies from me but the groceries came from people that owned the store. So I had a good job there and they liked me very much they'd take me on trips with them.
MM: Oh wow so was it owned by a family?
FS: It was owned by a family yeah and they were white people but they were very, very sweet and they were from Harrisburg I think North Carolina.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And they would take me up there to their farm you know that's where all the wood came off from their farm that they sold.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: So they took me up there and showed me how it was cut down and how it was stacked and you know everything about it.
MM: When folks came into the store to buy wood was it for wood burning stoves?
FS: Yes, yes.
MM: Ok.
FS: All of the people in my neighborhood had wood burning stoves I'm talking about the kitchen stove that they cooked on.
MM: Right.
FS: And they used it in their fireplaces also some of them had little small potbellied stoves. But they used-I delivered wood and coal from that store but we had a big old wagon that I pushed.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: That I carried the wood in.
MM: So you started working at the grocery store when you were about nine.
FS: Nine. Uh-huh.
MM: Right? And then you could-you took on the heavier jobs--.
FS: Yeah.
MM: As you got older?
FS: Right.
MM: Ok.
FS: Yeah and I guess I was about fourteen years old I went to work downtown at a restaurant.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: I'd be doing cafe and restaurant and club work from then on until I retired.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: Uh-huh.
MM: Let's see you were born in '31 do you remember when World War II-what it felt like at your house when World War II began?
FS: No I was only about ten or eleven years old at that time I think I was eleven.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: But no I don't remember anything about it. They didn't discuss it in my neighborhood so I didn't know anything about it.
MM: So your dad wasn't drafted?
FS: No he was too old to go in he was a real old man. Even when I was born he was old.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: But anyway he didn't have to go there he didn't go to the war.
MM: Did people seem to have more money to spend after the war began? I wonder if more people were able to find work once the war started and there were so many more jobs that needed doing.
FS: No I left that neighborhood when I was about 18 years old.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: That was-when I left there the Korean War was going on.
MM: Yeah.
FS: And people did have a little more money at that time they had quite a bit more money by that time.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: But during the period of the war no they didn't-after the war yes they might have. Some of them did alright because they started having cars you know the people started having cars and other nice things.
MM: Yeah exactly. When you were at Second Ward do you remember going with your old friend Elijah did the two of you walk together to Second Ward School?
FS: Oh yes, yes we walked to school together every day uh-huh.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: Yeah and well most of the kids on my block walked to school together and we'd play with-stop by this great big locus tree you know where the locus tree is?
MM: Yeah with the big pods.
FS: And the big and the big long locus. We'd stop and pick up some and wipe it on our pants and eat it right there all the way to school.
MM: [Laughter]
FS: That was good I remember those days very well.
MM: And I'm assuming that each year the classes got a little tougher.
FS: Oh yes.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: They got a little tougher I didn't learn much as I played it I didn't learn much but I made it through that's about it. [Laughter]
MM: Did you play a sport when you were in school?
FS: No I never did get interested in any sport at all.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And I worked on the golf course for forty years and I never did get interested in golf.
MM: [Laughter]
FS: No I didn't-I'd rather work and I'd bring my money home and I've give it to my mother and she'd tell me to take what I wanted you know because she needed the money to help you know to buy food or whatever.
MM: Yeah.
FS: And I'd just give it to her and I'd keep out just a little bit to buy little things that I might want.
MM: Uh-huh. Did you have-were you in any plays at your school or did you get involved in drama?
FS: No but each morning we would-before classes start I think this was in-yes this was in high school we'd have what we called a devotional period.
MM: Yeah.
FS: And some of us would get up and might tell a tale or something and I would get up and try to sing. [Laughter]
MM: You did?
FS: A solo and I'll never forget the one that I liked so much was-the song that I used to try to sing mostly was "The Old Lamp Lighter there was a song called "The Old Lamp Lighter.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: I loved that song and I still think about it quite often nowadays.
MM: Did people-were kids just delighted to--.
CS: Hello.
MM: Hi.
FS: That's my wife Christine come on in Chris.
MM: We're going to continue I'm at the home of Freddie and Christine Sanders and its February 1, 2005. Do you remember what Second Ward looked like?
FS: Yes Second Ward was in my eyesight it was a big, big school.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: It's not as big as some of the ones we have nowadays but it was sitting right on the corner and it took up the whole entire block and we had a very big playground it was fenced in and the gates were locked after the kids got in school but a lot of us would climb over the fence and go to the store or do what we wanted do. But we would come back to the school but we did climb the fence. It was fun days though.
MM: Do you remember the principal at Second Ward in the four years you were there?
FS: Yes his name was Grigsby.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: Yeah
. MM: He apparently I've heard from many people was a very good administrator.
FS: He was, he was, he was very good and he was very likeable everybody just thought the world of him.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And he was there after I left I don't remember how long it was before he passed on but he was very good.
MM: Do you remember taking a foreign language?
FS: We didn't have that when we were in school.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: No no foreign language no.
MM: Do you remember thinking "Now when I finish high school I'm going to do a particular thing." Did you have a post-high school goal in mind?
FS: No because the-at that when I was in high school I didn't think of anything like that so as soon as I got out of high school I went on into the army.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: That was during the Korean War and I stayed there two years in the army two years but I didn't have any goals or anything in particular that I wanted to do.
MM: Uh-huh. So what propelled toward the work that you did do?
FS: Well let me see-what propelled me was I found this job downtown working in a restaurant.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And I learned to do some cooking.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And I started out washing dishes and pots and pans and all that kind of stuff but I did work up to be a cook.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And after that restaurant I went to the club-the country club and started working.
MM: Would you tell me the name of that restaurant? Do you remember?
FS: Tenners.
MM: Tenners.
FS: Not Tanners there was a Tanners downtown. MM: Uh-huh.
FS: But this was Tenners.
MM: Tenner.
FS: T-E-N-N-E-R Tenner's Restaurant.
MM: Ok and it burned?
FS: It burned down completely.
MM: And then you found another restaurant?
FS: No I went to the country club I found the country club.
MM: Oh right.
FS: Because the manager at the restaurant went to the country club to be a manager.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: So I followed him there and worked there with him for a long, long time. I worked in the kitchen when I first started out when I worked at the country club I was working in the kitchen washing pots and pans again.
MM: Right.
FS: Because they had you know chefs and all that stuff.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: But I did work myself up to being a cook again at the country club
. MM: Uh-huh.
FS: So after I got tired of working at that one so long I went over to the country club-Quail Hollow Country Club I didn't do any cooking there I did start working in the locker room in the men's locker room.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And there in the locker room I would shine shoes or fix side balls or coca colas you know just do anything that the locker-that the men golfers might want.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: So I enjoyed it
. MM: You must've gotten to know so many people.
FS: Oh yes, yes, yes and then after while I was at Quail Hollow they used to have this big tournament one they called the Camper open. And I would get to know all the pros that would come and it was so much fun listening to them they would tell so many tales.
MM: [Laughter]
FS: Yeah so after the campers left they had the Senior tournament that's what its called the Senior's Tournament and I met some more good guys so I've been around golfers all of my life-most of my life anyway.
MM: And how did you meet Christine?
FS: Christine lived in the--what was called the Greertown area
. MM: Yeah.
FS: But I was still I was living in the Double Oaks area at that time.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: So I came I wanted to move from Double Oaks so I came to move into a street right down from where she lived where Christine lived.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And that's how I met her we started talking and eventually we got married. [Laughter]
MM: Yeah what year did you both marry
? FS: I don't remember the year but we've been married now about 46 about 47 years or something like that.
MM: Congratulations.
FS: Thank you.
CS: You don't remember what?
FS: The year.
MM: The year you all got married.
CS: Oh I'll look it up.
MM: [Laughter]
FS: [Laughter] Oh you got some pictures.
MM: Got some pictures.
FS: Oh that's a picture of the school she was at nearby.
MM: Now here is the Second Ward class of 1953.
CS: And this is school I was in ( Prepatory ).
FS: Uh-huh.
CS: And that's Mr. Bird.
MM: And there he is.
CS: Uh-huh.
MM: Can you name the other folks who were there then? Who was assistant principal?
CS: Mr. Mollar.
MM: Mr.--.
CS: Mollar.
MM: Got it. And the secretary was Sara Stewart?
CS: Uh-huh.
MM: And the faculty.
FS: I'm glad you got this I didn't know you had that.
MM: Yeah and is Mr. Levi here? Yeah there he is.
FS: [Laughter]
MM: Mr. Louis Levi he taught physics and chemistry that's right. And Mr. Kenneth Diamond was there too.
FS: Yeah.
MM: And he taught French. We interviewed Vermelle Ely.
CS: Vermelle.
FS: Oh you did?
MM: Yes we did yeah.
FS: I know you got some interesting things from her because she's up on that with all of this about Second Ward.
MM: That's right.
FS: She's very versed on it.
CS: Wonder what class she was in.
FS: Who Vermelle? She was in my class.
MM: Class of 1950?
FS: Uh-huh.
MM: Yeah. And this was the history of the school--.
CS: Yeah.
MM: That was done by the Second Ward High School Alumni Association.
CS: Uh-huh.
FS: Maybe you'd like to-why don't you-could she borrow some and copy it and bring it back or send it back?
MM: We're going to pause for just a minute. I'm continuing on talking with Mr. Freddie Sanders at his home its February 1, 2005 and I wanted to ask you Mr. Sanders what your own ideas and thoughts were for school when your children began to go off themselves even though you weren't the person who knew all the assignments every day you still I'm sure passed on some expectations.
FS: You mean when they were going to elementary school?
MM: Uh-huh and on to high school.
FS: Oh well I guess I just felt quite proud of them.
MM: Yeah.
FS: But I didn't hear any bad reports on them during their school years.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And as they grew older they all played sports.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And they would play football basketball and all those other things. And I was working I didn't get a chance to go to any of the games and didn't want to go if I had chance. [Laughter] But their mother went to all the games every one of them she knows just as much about sports as the next person and she still does but I never did get involved in any of their sports. But all-they got scholarships some of them got scholarships from playing sports and they made me very happy about them.
MM: And did they all-tell me who went to which high school? The oldest is Reginald.
FS: Right.
MM: And what high school did he attend?
CS: East Mecklenburg all of them went to East Mecklenburg.
MM: All to East Meck. And they got-two of them or three of them got scholarships?
CS: Reginald got a scholarship for football to Johnson C. Smith.
MM: Uh-huh.
CS: Malcolm got a scholarship for football and track at Appalachian, Jerome got a scholarship at Winston Salem State for football.
MM: Uh-huh. Well that's quite a record.
FS: Even my daughter she loves sports too she was a cheerleader. Our youngest son he played basketball I don't think-but he didn't play football I don't think but they all played sports and they still love it.
MM: Well in the years after you graduated of course the Charlotte system slowly started to integrate the school system and it didn't happen over night.
FS: Uh-huh.
MM: When the Supreme Court issued the Brown versus Board of Ed decision did you think it would change the Charlotte schools?
FS: I didn't know much about that during that time because I just didn't get involved in it so I don't much about--I knew when it was going on when it was changing and you know all that.
MM: Right.
FS: But I didn't get into the politics of it so I don't know exactly how it was going one way or the other.
CS: We took the kids out of Billingsville and put them in Cotswold.
MM: And was that a school that had been all white?
CS: Yeah.
MM: OK do you remember what year that was?
CS: I don't remember what year it might have been first or second grade.
FS: But I know they didn't have any problems doing the district changing of going from one school to the other.
MM: Ok.
FS: So they all did fine.
MM: That's interesting because some of the other folks who have been interviewed for this project reported the same thing at some of the schools they went to that at some schools the whole process was very smooth.
FS: Uh-huh.
MM: And it sounds like the same thing happened when your children went to Cotswold.
CS: Yeah.
FS: Yeah it did.
MM: When they went to Cotswold did you need to drive them there or did they go on a bus?
CS: Did we have to take them?
FS: Yeah we had to take them but it was walking distance really.
MM: Ok.
FS: But we had to take them because we were just like see we were living in the Brooklyn area that's real near Cotswold.
CS: No we were living on Billingsville Road.
FS: Well-oh I said Brooklyn didn't I I'm sorry.
CS: Uh-huh.
FS: I'm sorry it was on Billingsville Road oh that's right.
CS: And then after that they went to Randolph.
MM: Uh-huh.
CS: And then over here Freddie Jr. went to Oakhurst.
MM: Oh yes right. Some of the folks we talked to reported that at some schools the teaching the faculty was integrated and then the students were and I'm not sure if that was true at Cotswold maybe it happened at the same time.
FS: She would know about that.
CS: I thought-Cotswold I don't think they had any black teachers there.
MM: Yeah it seems to have varied depending upon what year we're talking.
CS: I can't remember what year
. FS: They did when Freddie Jr. went to Cotswold.
CS: Freddie Jr. didn't go to Cotswold. Freddie Jr. went to Oakhurst.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: Oh ok Malcolm and--.
CS: And-Malcolm, Karen and Jerome went to--.
FS: They might not have had them when they first went there but they did have them before they finished.
MM: Right. What do you think are some of the challenges that the school system still has? I always like to ask that especially of folks who have lived in Charlotte a long time because they usually have you know a pretty good idea of what the challenges are and what one might be able to-well maybe what we should be doing.
FS: Do you know anything about that Chris I don't.
CS: I would say you know a lot of people don't want their kids to be bused
. MM: Uh-huh.
CS: And they're putting them in private schools.
MM: Uh-huh.
CS: And see most black people cannot afford to put their kids in private schools.
MM: Uh-huh.
CS: So they don't have no choice but to go to the school they're assigned to but some of these kids are on the bus too long.
MM: Uh-huh.
CS: I mean they're gone all day long just like my grandkids they would catch the bus at what 8 o'clock in the morning doesn't get to school-school takes up at 9:15.
MM: Uh-huh.
CS: They get there just in time for school.
MM: Uh-huh.
CS: They catch the bus in the afternoon they get out of school at 3:15 they don't get home until 5:30.
MM: It's a much longer ride home.
CS: That's a long, that's a long day.
MM: Yeah.
CS: And see Denae she's only in pre-K.
MM: Aww.
CS: But they take them everyday so they won't have to ride the bus.
MM: Uh-huh.
CS: But that's a long day I mean for any child black or white
. MM: Yeah some schools are getting awfully crowded.
CS: Yeah.
MM: Right and I know that there have been efforts lately to renovate some of the older schools and that certainly ought to keep going if they promised to put money in a lot of folks in those neighborhoods want to make sure that that's completed.
CS: That's right. See my grandkids are just lucky that their father can take them in the morning.
MM: Uh-huh.
CS: Because he has to be at work at 9 o'clock which is right near the school where they're going.
MM: Uh-huh.
CS: So they don't have to-they have to ride the bus some days but not a lot
. MM: Uh-huh.
CS: And then he picks them up in the afternoon and takes them to his job or takes them and brings them out to eat.
MM: OK yeah. Yeah there are lots of challenges. Choice is one of the options when busing ended choice was instituted and I know that explains some of the long bus rides.
CS: Because when I had to go to Second Ward I lived on Billingsville Road and I had to-you know where the fire department is on Seventh Street?
MM: Right.
CS: I had to walk way up there to catch the bus to go to school.
MM: How long of a walk did-how long did that walk take you?
CS: It took a long time I don't remember how long.
MM: Really?
CS: But that's the only way we had to get to school we had to ride the bus.
MM: But the bus didn't pick you up near your house.
CS: No, no I lived on Billingsville Road and I had to walk up on Seventh Street that was the nearest bus stop.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: Was that the city bus or the school bus?
CS: City bus.
MM: Yeah right.
CS: We didn't have no school buses to take us to school.
MM: Were there any school buses in the year you graduated in '53? Were there school buses then that you could ride?
CS: I don't know if there was a school bus.
CS: Well now J.H. Gunn I went to J.H. Gunn well it was Clear Creek then I went there for two years and they had a bus that would pick us up.
MM: Uh-huh.
CS: And they had buses out that way.
MM: Uh-huh.
CS: But for Second Ward and that way you did not have a bus.
FS: Well that was kind of in the county at that time though. They didn't have an inner city.
MM: Do you remember what happened to some of the children who graduated from Second Ward the same year you did? Did they stay in the area?
FS: Most of them did now quite a few of them-well some of them left some of them went to California.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And we still have family-I mean not family reunions but class reunions.
MM: Uh-huh
. FS: And some of them come from California and New York and a lot of different places and they have done very well some of them-one particular fellow is in the movies. He's in making pictures.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And one of them is a minister and we just had quite a few of them that did a lot of different things that was really worth while.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: But we still have that reunion.
CS: Yeah and we just had our 50th.
FS: 50th reunion.
MM: Right.
CS: Our 50th reunion last year.
MM: Right. Uh-huh. A lot of people were very concerned that when Second Ward was pulled down.
FS: Uh-huh.
CS: I hate that they tore that school down.
MM: Yeah.
CS: But they left the gym.
MM: Right they did.
CS: And see Second Ward and West Charlotte we had something called the-what's the football game we used to have? The Queens City Classic.
FS: Yeah.
MM: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
CS: Second Ward and West Charlotte would play against each other.
MM: Right.
CS: And oh that was-now that was the game of the year.
MM: [Laughter]
FS: And every game after every game there was a big, big fight.
CS: They would fight.
MM: [Laughter]
FS: They would look forward to that night.
CS: Nobody wanted to lose.
FS: Nobody wanted to lose.
MM: [Laughter]
FS: But they were real rivals. Second Ward and West Charlotte.
MM: And on that same weekend was there a dance?
CS: Yeah they would have a dance.
MM: Uh-huh.
CS: And that weekend that was a big weekend.
FS: Oh yeah.
MM: So it must've been a Friday night football game and a Saturday night dance. And so when you all went to the dances did people dress up formally
? CS: They would dress up.
FS: No, no well they didn't dress up formally because most of them were poor folks just like I was I would just dress casual-like casual.
MM: Uh-huh, uh-huh
. CS: Put your best on if you had it
. MM: That's right.
FS: Yeah. It sure was fun.
MM: Was there a band
? CS: Yes.
MM: And do you remember some of the dance steps?
CS: No [Laughter]
FS: None but the jitterbug. That was when the jitterbug was real popular.
MM: Yeah.
FS: And a little bit of the waltz but that's mostly what it was.
MM: Uh-huh. And the students in the band at the dance were they also the pep band for the football games? Was it the same group of people?
CS: Yes.
MM: So for them the fall of the year was probably one of the best times of the year
. FS: They are the best times yes.
CS: That's the marching band right there.
MM: There they are. Now for the record we are looking at a picture of the marching band and it is a lot of students it looks like close to 80. 80 students and in the photograph there are cheerleaders in the front and all the drums and cymbals in the percussion section and then they work their way up and at the top there is a fellow with a tuba and people with trombones and trumpets. And that is a nice looking gym.
CS: This is kindergarten.
MM: Yeah. In our book of photographs that we're looking at there is a page that shows the Sophisticated Debs and Mrs. Sanders is in this picture and there are about a dozen girls who are pictured on an Oak leaf and there are officers and members. And there's also a picture for homecoming and it says Miss Homecoming that particular year was-nope I've got it wrong-Rosa Jones. Now do you remember how you became a Sophisticated Deb?
CS: No I don't [Laughter]
MM: Because I wonder if you needed to be nominated?
CS: I think so because there wasn't many-you see how many was in the club.
MM: Right it was a small group.
CS: Yes uh-huh.
MM: Now in this picture we're also looking at majorettes and I'm looking to see if there's anyone here who's already been interviewed for the Before Brown project I don't see anyone yet. We have Barbara Kindle, Caroline Tillman, Rosetta Smith, Alice Gaither-we may have interviewed Alice Gaither's husband. I know we have interviewed someone whose last name is Gaither. Ernestine Stewart. The leading majorette is Athella Davidson and there are also pictured Nadine Stewart and Doretta Birch. Yeah there's also a picture of the band council and they had a governing body of the band.
CS: Uh-huh.
MM: Oh and there was a dance orchestra. So if we looked at all of the photographs and names carefully we'd probably find some of the same students in marching band and the dance orchestra but the dance orchestra is much smaller and the photograph we're looking at there are maybe 15 all together and there's one young woman standing she must have played the piano. I wonder if she played the piano or sang.
CS: We have Kenneth Diamond.
MM: Yeah Kenneth Diamond is in the picture. And just below the picture of in the book we're looking at just below the photograph of the dance orchestra there are letter girls.
CS: Uh-huh.
MM: And each one has a sweater that has a letter on it and it spells out "Second Ward". Now I notice in this book that has the photographs in it there are a lot of pictures that say--that identify a group of people as "Y". I wonder what the Y means?
CS: I don't know what that was.
MM: Yeah there's Y teens and Y club.
CS: Uh-huh.
MM: Now Mrs. Sanders do you remember particular teachers from Second Ward that influenced you a lot?
CS: Mrs. Blackwitch was my-I took Home Ec under her I loved her and Mr. Mollar I liked him.
MM: Uh-huh.
CS: In fact I liked all my teachers.
MM: Uh-huh and did you like some subjects better than others
? CS: Well I liked Math and English and I liked Home Ec.
MM: Uh-huh. And neither one of you knew each other in high school?
FS: No.
CS: No I didn't know him and he didn't know me
. FS: I knew some of the people in her-she was three years behind me I knew a lot of the people that were in her class but I never did know her.
MM: [Laughter]
FS: No.
MM: That's right you would've known some people in Christine's class because you were a senior--.
FS: Yes.
MM: The year Christine's class started right?
FS: Was it 3 years or 4 years after? You came out 3 or 4 years it must've been 3 years after I came out.
MM: Uh-huh. Yeah.
CS: I came out '53 you came out '50.
FS: Right OK yeah.
MM: And had your sister already finished Second Ward well before?
FS: Yes she finished before I even started my sister finished Second Ward.
MM: Uh-huh. And did she--do you feel that you knew an awful lot about what to expect because of what your sister told you about Second Ward?
FS: Oh yes, yes, yes.
MM: Yeah.
FS: I didn't have any problems because just like you said yeah I knew what to expect.
MM: Some of the same teachers were probably still there.
FS: Oh yes.
MM: Yeah with the same expectations. Now many of the schools many of the high schools are quite a bit bigger than maybe Second Ward was--
. FS: Yeah.
MM: Even in the 60s. There are some--North Meck for instance has over 2 thousand students so it's a very different environment. When you were at Second Ward did it feel like a place where you knew everyone or quite a few?
FS: Yes I knew all of the seniors I mean all the people in my class.
MM: In your class.
FS: Whatever grade it was I knew all of them.
MM: Right.
FS: And I knew a few other people in the upper grades--.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: Because of what they did you know sports wise or whatever.
MM: Uh-huh.
FS: And some of them stood out and naturally you wouldn't know them all but I guess I did know a lot, a lot, a lot of it and I got to be friends with most of them.
MM: Uh-huh. Well I want to tell both of you it's been a pleasure to come out here and think about high school days and Second Ward in particular
. FS: Well I'm glad you came out too because it did bring back a lot of memories that I hadn't thought about in years and years so I'm glad you did come out. And I'm glad Christine come in and help us out here. [Laughter] Because I got lost on some of that stuff.
CS: Yeah see this was the basketball team.
MM: Oh yeah Mrs. Sanders has in the book we're looking at has got a photograph of the girls' basketball team and Christine what position did you play?
CS: Guard.
MM: Yeah and that was your coach wasn't it?
CS: Uh-huh.
MM: The lady in the middle do you remember her name? Your coach?
CS: Mrs. Blackwitch.
MM: Oh and she was your Home Ec teacher and she also coached basketball this is a pretty talented group.
CS: And that's my homeroom.
MM: The 10-2 homeroom and Christine's maiden name was Barber.
CS: And Mr. Diamond was our homeroom teacher.
MM: And this was 10-2 so was this tenth grade? Is that what it means?
CS: Tenth grade.
MM: Tenth grade OK. What always strikes me from photographs of high school students anywhere in the United States from the 50s is that everyone is very formally dressed.
CS: [Laughter] I guess we knew that day we were taking pictures.
MM: [Laughter]
CS: They have neckties and everything I guess they told us that day we'd be taking pictures.
MM: Yeah for the record the boys all have on jackets and ties and the girls have on their anklets now I don't see any nylons.
CS: I guess back then they couldn't afford nylons.
MM: Yeah nylons weren't all that common.
CS: No.
MM: So most young women still wore socks. And I see some saddle shoes--
. CS: Yeah.
MM: In this picture which almost no one wears anymore.
CS: No.
MM: Its February 1, 2005 and I'm concluding my interview over at the Sanders' house and what we're looking at now is a booklet that was put together not too long ago called "The Brooklyn Story by the Afro American cultural and service center and in it there is a picture in the back and it says "In memory of Mrs. Perry Dixon Grigsby and Mr. Jefferson E. Grigsby" and Mr. Diamond is pictured here who taught for many, many years at the Second Ward School and his wife is pictured Mrs. Sara Hampton Diamond and if I remember right and there's a picture of Vermelle and I want to say Homecoming. We're looking at pictures of Second Ward faculty and administration that was taken in a variety of years. Class pictures going from the 20s up through the 40s and the 50s. There are some of the-looks like 50s pictures I'd say of the boys and girls basketball team and a picture that's been reproduced several times in other places that shows Vermelle Ely-Vermelle Diamond Ely and she was the Queen of the Queen City Classic and that was in 1952 and she was presented by Mr. Clinton Blake who was principal then at West Charlotte and on her right to the other way around is Mr. Jefferson Grigsby who was principal at Second Ward. So we'll conclude our interview here and I want to thank Mr. and Mrs. Sanders so much for having me out here and it was a pleasure talking about Second Ward and the schools in the 50s. And thank you very much.
FS: And we thank you for coming.
CS: Thank you.