Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Audrey Louise Grevious, April 16, 1993

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:17 - Introduction and family history

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Partial Transcript: My name is Audrey Louise Ross Grevious. I was born September the 3rd, 1930 - was born in Lexington, Kentucky

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about her family history. She discusses her family's views on education as a family legacy.

Keywords: African American teachers; Critical thinking; East End Neighborhood (Lexington, Kentucky); Farmers; Monticello, Kentucky; Reading

Subjects: African Americans--Education (Higher)

00:02:16 - Race Street area, East End Neighborhood, Lexington KY - racetrack fire in 1930s

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Partial Transcript: I remember Race Street as a small child

Segment Synopsis: Grevious describes living around the Kentucky Association racetrack in the 1930s

Keywords: racetrack fire; shotgun houses

Subjects: African Americans - Kentucky - Lexington - racetrack; Kentucky Association racetrack; Thoroughbred racing

00:04:02 - Race Street area - housing and amenities

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Partial Transcript: We always wondered what they were going to do with it [the abandoned racetrack]... and discovered later that they were going to build a federal housing project in that area that was supposed to be for the poor families... most of the houses on that street were straight-back houses...

Segment Synopsis: Grevious 1930s housing in the East End Neighborhood area of Lexington; describes her brother's role in the household; games; community building in African-American neighborhoods; she argues for the advantages of single-parent families in close-knit neighborhoods; neighbor was like her grandmother; domestic labor (taking in laundry); expectations for the children to "speak" to the neighbors out of respect

Subjects: Lexington - Kentucky - East End Neighborhood; coal-burning stoves; games; laundry; neighborhoods--Kentucky--Lexington; outhouses; shotgun houses; urban infrastructure

00:13:29 - Deweese Street 1940s - neighborhood vigilance

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Partial Transcript: I did not know until much, much later how extended our family was ...

Segment Synopsis: Grevious tells about being out at night as a teenager in the East End neighborhood and adults watching out for teen safety; had to show her report card to extended families; local pride in newspaper list of honor roll students

Keywords: African American schools; Newspapers--Colored Notes; curfew; urban teenagers

Subjects: African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Social conditions; African Americans--Segregation; teen violence

00:20:19 - Self-help Activism in Black Neighborhood

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Partial Transcript: ... another thing during that time is you had your churches [in response to question about whether or not there were neighborhood associations at this time]

Segment Synopsis: Grevious describes self-help activities undertaken in her neighborhood, including anonymous donations to help with the rent or second-hand clothing; her mother's lesson about accepting help when you need it but only take what you need; her feelings about the newly constructed Bluegrass-Aspendale Housing Project and who moved in (not many from her area - mostly those from other parts of town or rural areas)

Keywords: Bluegrass-Aspendale Housing Project; Casablanca Inn; Charley Grevious; Starlight Inn; pride; welfare

Subjects: Neighborhoods--Kentucky--Lexington; Public welfare--Kentucky; Welfare recipients--United States; self-help; volunteerism

00:30:50 - Mix of housing in East End Neighborhood and black-white relations

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Partial Transcript: Where were all the professionals living...

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about the variety of types of housing in her neighborhood and the whites who lived nearby - not unfriendly but did not socialize; segregated schools and teachers in black schools instilling pride and dedication - setting an example; going from Constitution Elementary School then to Dunbar Junior High School; could not remember ever getting a new book in school - teachers taught their students to look beyond the racist scrawls in the second-hand textbooks; knew that she never felt the need to go to the public library - not sure if it was segregated - even though she loved to read, and only used her school library or books at home

Keywords: "separate but equal"; Constitution Elementary School; Dixon Hotel; Dunbar Graduates of '48; Dunbar Junior High School; Greystone Hotel; Johnston School; Lexington Public Library; Russell School; rooming house

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Social conditions; Dunbar High School (Lexington, Ky.); Racism--Kentucky--Lexington

00:42:23 - Coal Energy by the Bushel

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Partial Transcript: Do you remember a coal man coming?

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about the use of coal for heating and cooking; children gathering wood for kindling - from the racetrack ruins - also a way to make money

Keywords: gaslines in Lexington vs. coal deliveries

Subjects: Coal and wood kindling for heating and cooking stoves

00:47:34 - We never thought of ourselves as poor

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Partial Transcript: even at the time we did not really realize we were poor, I guess because we were so rich in other things...

Segment Synopsis: Grevious expands on her worldview as a member of an impoverished neighborhood - lack of materialism; never remembers being hungry; mothering her brothers; quality rather than quantity; puzzles and other games; paper dolls; radio shows; the love of neighborly talk

Keywords: Amos and Andy; Moll Perkins; Pick-Up-Stix; Sears & Roebuck catalog; The Shadow; card games; paper dolls; puzzles; resilience theory; slang

Subjects: Games; Materialism; Poverty--Lexington, Kentucky; Radio

00:55:02 - Language Use, Love of Learning and Black Respectability

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Partial Transcript: We listened to "Amos and Andy" but we became rather concerned because we didn't talk like that

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about her love of learning coming from her mother's encouragement for using English properly (you would not know that her mother did not finish high school - "she was a reader too" - she was a "baby nurse"); Grevious knew she was going to be a teacher from when she was in first grade and would play school on her home's front porch; Robert was getting bored in school because she had already taught it to him;

Keywords: slang

Subjects: Literacy.

00:58:52 - Women's work

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Partial Transcript: in all families, there were very few households...

Segment Synopsis: Grevious gives an overview of women's work in her neighborhood - mostly maids, some factory work during the war, most did not take welfare due to pride; no sidewalks, back yards often too poor for gardening and no money for fertilizer, not much room between the houses for lawns; no one felt they were ashamed of where they were living; her mother's pride in keeping the house clean; children's parties in front bedroom

Keywords: dance parties; household labor; maids; mothers; sidewalks; urban gardening

Subjects: Gardening--urban; Urban African-American women, 1930s-40s

01:05:48 - House parties and cars - youth "walking the chalkline" and setting goals

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Partial Transcript: we had parties in our houses...

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about parties in her home cardplaying or dancing with wind-up recordplayer and 78s; slowdancing to the blues until her mother would come into the room; couldn't go to restaurants; she tells a story about driving a car for a disabled man and being out too late past curfew - her mother's anger and her brother taking her side; sex education and peer support in groups to maintain protection ("the adults thought we were doing more than we were")

Keywords: automobiles; blues; cardplaying; peer support; recordplayer; segregation in restaurants; sexual behavior; sexual mores; skating

Subjects: Dance parties; Discrimination in restaurants; peer pressure; sexuality

01:14:17 - Segregated Areas within a Black Neighborhood

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Partial Transcript: ... the section that we're talking about in that

Segment Synopsis: Grevious reminds that there were parts of Limestone Street and part of 6th and 7th Streets which were "whites only"; cliques even among neighbors could fragment a former friendship by a certain age; fears behind "white flight" unfounded since blacks took pride in their houses but poor whites moving into formerly all-black neighborhoods not the same; helping whites to clean up their homes in a neighborhood

Keywords: cliques; exclusion

01:19:45 - Privacy in a Straightback House

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Partial Transcript: What did you do when you were growing up in a straightback house for privacy?

Segment Synopsis: Grevious describes how a large family could live together respectfully in a small house; accommodating others' needs and sharing; openness about physical differences and what not to do; "education was the way out" of working as a domestic servant and there was no way to get education "with a baby on your hip"; neighborhood vigilance

Keywords: bathing; pride in abstinence; sex education; teen pregnancy

Subjects: Privacy; Shotgun house

01:25:57 - Street quality in north-side neighborhoods

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Partial Transcript: were the streets gravel or paved?

Segment Synopsis: Grevious remembers the quality of the streets in her neighborhood; sidewalks unevenly distributed, some bricked by individual homeowners; most living by the racetrack rented their homes

Keywords: brick sidewalks; pavement

Subjects: 419 Race Street; gravel; sidewalks

01:30:38 - Outhouses and running watter

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Partial Transcript: you said it had an outhouse

Segment Synopsis: Grevious describes the outhouse at her home on Race Street and running water in the home

Subjects: outhouses; plumbing; toilets

01:32:25 - Restaurants, Gardens and Groceries in the Race Street area

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Partial Transcript: you talked about there being a lot of restaurants

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about the restaurants in the East End neighborhood in the 1930s - one of her first jobs was working at the Casablanca Inn on Race Street; weeds in the backyard not many gardens; today's neighborhood groceries are not as clean or accommodating; white owners but even still they took pride in keeping up the store or participating in neighborhood activities

Keywords: Casablanca Inn; Cottrell's Supermarket; backyard gardening

Subjects: Gardening; Groceries; Restaurants--Kentucky

01:41:57 - Johnson Elementary School and integration; definitions of "neighborhood"

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Partial Transcript: I look at the complexion...

Segment Synopsis: Grevious on school integration and Johnson Elementary School; no smoking; sense of community at Johnson but still not a neighborhood school as in the old days; children from Bluegrass-Aspendale at one time were attending as many as 10 different schools; not enough black teachers to handle the need if returned to neighborhood schools; missing the local pride in local school; children from families without homes; Constitution Square has replaced the closed school that was there - this is "a sore spot"; one-sided policy of "separate but equal"; housing development plans are racialized and school funding does not show fairness esp. when ignoring older neighborhoods; definition of neighborhood "I think of the village" not just one or two streets in a specific geographical area; feelings of affiliation with specific parts of a neighborhood association and its boundaries; walking vs. driving through a part of town; a "sense of belonging to each other" - the people "you have to answer to"

Keywords: Homelessness; Racial segregation; busing; choice in schools; smoking bans

Subjects: African Americans--Education; Busing for school integration; Constitution Elementary School; Johnson Elementary School

01:58:48 - Sense of Different Territories in Lexington, early- to mid-20th century

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Partial Transcript: Were there certain places where you wouldn't go through...

Segment Synopsis: Grevious describes the different "ends" of Lexington and the false sense of boundaries of north, south, east and west; "we didn't know anything about buses" walking from Aspendale to Dunbar; snowball fights at the old Shiloh Baptist Church and the unspoken rules - with tally taken at whites-only Duncan Park; not remembering what was there [Morton House] and describes racialized boundaries;

Keywords: Bluegrass Aspendale Housing Project; Duncan Park; Lyric Foundation; Shiloh Baptist Church; interracial couples; mobile homes

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation--Kentucky--Lexington

02:15:24 - Latent stereotyping and subtle racism - "old habits are hard to break"

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Partial Transcript: ... so I don't know what their relationship is

Segment Synopsis: Grevious tackles the difficult subject of latent stereotyping and vestiges of segregation through subtle racism not recognized by our youth today; "this was my main reason for getting involved - I did not want my 2 nephews to grow up with the same restrictions that I did"

Keywords: Racism; awareness of today's social restrictions and limitations based on historic legacies of racism

Subjects: Racism--Kentucky--Lexington; Segregation--Kentucky--Fayette County

02:19:29 - Origins of Grevious as Civil Rights Activist

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Partial Transcript: ... this was my main reason for getting involved in Lexington

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about her growing awareness of racism and segregation as a professional educator; [NAACP] picketing the local MRS store leads to her discussion with superintendent; arrest at the whites-only Strand Theatre protest; the principal refers to "that Grevious woman" meant "I gave him my nasty look"; describes her meeting with the superintendent; phases in the integration of KY Village and no fear of losing her job; difference in risks between working class and professional workers on a picket line; spitting;

Keywords: Kentucky Village Reformatory School; Strand Theatre; violence on picket line; vocational education

Subjects: African American women civil rights workers; African Americans--Civil rights--Kentucky; Education, Higher--Kentucky--Lexington; Women civil rights workers--Interviews

02:33:33 - Hurricane Club, the VFW, Bob Miller's House and the Lyric Theater

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Partial Transcript: tell me about the Club Hurricane...

Segment Synopsis: Grevious discusses local entertainment spots in the East End; without the Lyric, many African-American films would not have been seen; people from surrounding towns came for the big shows; why the Lyric closed down - "weren't able to get the type of movies we wanted to see";

Keywords: Lyric Foundation; Lyric Theater

Subjects: Business enterprises--Kentucky--Lexington; Entertainment--Kentucky--Lexington; Restaurants--Kentucky--Lexington

02:45:30 - Pathways through the neighborhoods and recreational activities

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Partial Transcript: when you were talking about stopping at Shiloh on your way to school

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about getting around Lexington in the 1930s and 1940s as a youth; describes the Charles Young Center resources and activities and "Miss Green" who worked there; YMCA and YWCA; Girl Scouts troop at St. Paul AME Church couldn't use the campgrounds so used the old Chandler Normal School instead;

Keywords: Chandler Normal School; Charles Young Park; Dunbar High School dances; Duncan Park; Girl Scouts and segregation

Subjects: Charles Young Community Center (Lexington, Ky.); Douglass Park (Lexington, Ky.); Girl Scouts--Kentucky--Lexington; Recreation--Kentucky--Lexington; YWCA; bus; streetcars

02:55:59 - Child Development Opportunities Today Compared to Yesteryear

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Partial Transcript: ...it's too good a program to not become

Segment Synopsis: Grevious worries that children today do not have the same kinds of opportunities to learn empathy and family values due to isolation and lack of good local youth programming; favorite foods during family meals: spaghetti, corn pudding, rice pudding. "I would eat Robert's spinach and he would drink my milk and mother never knew." family life with pets;

Keywords: family values

Subjects: Child rearing--Kentucky--Lexington

03:05:34 - Urban farming - chickens, rabbits

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Partial Transcript: did people raise chickens

Segment Synopsis: Grevious describes why many residents (who moved in from the rural areas) chose not to raise chickens in town; moral development being raised during times of need

Keywords: animal husbandry; fencing; urban gardening

Subjects: Subsistence farming