CHILDS:--of the family it was nine of us children; six boys and three girls.
And we were born in South Carolina. Luckily, we didn't have to sharecrop. My
father rented…and…75 acres of land. Back in those days, cotton was the
commodity that we had to make money. And a…what he had to pay in lint cotton
for the 75 acres of land was 1500 pound of lint cotton. When he paid that 1,500
pound of lint cotton, all everything else was ours. And when the cotton, we
would work, you know, when it was time to gather in the cotton, first of all we
00:01:00kids would get in the field and pick three bales of cotton weighing 500 lbs. and
take it to the gin. And when we get those 1500 pounds, Dad would put it on the
wagon and take it to the man that we rent from and his name was Andrew Stockman.
Then after we paid him those 1,500 lbs. of cotton, everything else we had then
was ours. We raised our own cows. We had five cows. And my daddy raised plenty of
pigs to have meat practically for the whole year. And we planted wheat and in
the harvest time we would gather it together and it was taken to the mills and
we would have flour. We had two or three types of flour. The first pattern was
00:02:00real white. The second was the second pattern and then we had bran off of the
wheat which was separated when we took it to the mills to be ground into flour.
And that bran was brought back home and fed to the pigs. And the two types of
flour we bailed at and that's how we had bread to eat. We also raised plenty of
corn. And when we didn't have to buy any cornmeal because we got ready, we
would take the corn to the mill and have it ground up into meal. Therefore we
lived it fairly decent. Not being sharecroppers, my Dad was able to rent. Then
my mother passed away on the 26th of May in 1914. And my brother, my oldest
brother, his wife passed away one year after my mother passed away. And they had
00:03:00one son. And he was renting too. But by him being alone with just one son, that
was the first time that he decided to leave home. My first brother was named
George Childs and he came to Philadelphia in 1914. And in coming here, he was a
widow. I think his first job that he had was at that particular time--Midvale
Steel Plant was running in full session at that time. Well, he was here a couple
of years, and then--I lived with my father, we still farmed. But Mr. Andrew
00:04:00Stockman had passed and he had a son named Jake Stockman. Well naturally, the
wealth went to the son. And we rented from him. Well, my father married again
the second time, and-- In 1916 we had a beautiful crop. I made sixteen bales of
cotton. And in 19--When we sold that, that was my first time of visiting
Philadelphia. I came here to visit my brother. In the meantime though, before I
came, I had another brother that had moved here by the name of John. And he
00:05:00lived right at 1261 N. 11th Street where the Harrison School stands now. See
that’s been torn down but the house--(??)--11th and Thompson. And the first
night I spent in Philadelphia in 1917 was the 1st Saturday night in December in 1917.
HARDY:1917 or 1916 was the year that pretty much, 1917?
CHILDS: It was 1917. See, see in 1916, I made enough cotton, I sold $1,600.00
worth of cotton at one time. And in doing that, I was able to save enough money
to make the trip in 1917 to visit my brother. But I went back. I didn't stay. I
went back. And I came, and here in--The first Saturday in September, I arrived
at the Broad Street Station. It’s torn down now. And came to 1261 N. 11th St.
00:06:00And I stayed there three months with my brother. I worked at the Midvale Steel
Plant for the three months. Then I went back home and farmed. I went back home
in 19--in March in 1918.
HARDY: You know what I’d like to do?
HARDY: Uh, we should move back into the other room now actually because the,
uh--Okay so I guess you were saying you spent three months up in the city living
with your brother and working at Midvale Steel.
HARDY: Then you headed home in March of 1918.
CHILDS: That’s right. That’s when I, that’s when you cut me off. That’s
right, yeah, I went back in March of 1918 and we farmed. But we didn't make as
00:07:00much cotton that year because the boll weevil had come in. And instead of making
sixteen bales of cotton I only made eight. So that made things kind of bad. So
in 19--20 on January the 30th, I got married. And--I farmed that year with my
father. I rented 40 acres from him for 1000 pounds of lint cotton. So when the
harvest time came, I give him the 1000 lbs. of cotton and one Saturday, I went
00:08:00to Greenwood. We were living out in the country in Greenwood County. But one
Saturday, my wife and I went to Greenwood. And, we went up there and while I was
there I knew a man by the name of Oscar Holmes. And he told me about a
gentleman and his wife by the name of Clyde Fuller. He was Jebby Warden’s
son-in-law. Jebby Warden had a clothing store or something similar to
Wanamaker's here in the city. And Mr. Warden's daughter, Florene, that was who
Mr. Fuller got married to. And she wanted a cook. So we went up to her home and
00:09:00they-- she hired my wife for a cook. We moved to Greenwood. Then a man by the
name of Bent Smith moved us up there. And it was rather funny. You couldn't walk
the streets unless you had a job. Now my wife soon removed--They had furnished a
little bungalow for us and charged us $1.75 a week for that bungalow. But they
paid her $4.75 for cooking and $1.75 of that went towards the rent. But I had to
stay in the house until I got a job because if I walked in the street like in
the middle of the day and the officer seen me, and I couldn't prove that I had a
00:10:00job, they would lock me up. So what you would have to do, you would have to pack
a lunch kettle, you know, and carry it like you was going to work pretending
like you had a job. So I went down the street one day and a lady by the name of
Miss Havvy Allen, she had a boarding house. And I went in and asked her did she
need any help. And at the time she needed a waiter. And I told her the truth.
She asked me did I know how to wait on the tables. I told her “No, I had never
waited on the table in a boarding house. I was from the country.” So she said:
“Well you look like a very nice young man.” And she hired me. And the way
they served at that particular time, you put the food on the table anyway just
00:11:00like you would have dinner here. And the people helped themselves. And in the
morning serving breakfast, whatever kind of eggs they, they would have, they
would order them and they would put them on a platter and you would take it to
the table and they would take it off. So I finally learned how to wait very
good. And--There was a hotel by the name of the Moorland Hotel. Right in the
backyard of that hotel faced our backyard. And Mr. Davis owned that hotel. So
Mrs. Davis passed away. And he got disinterested in the hotel and Mrs. Allen
taken it over. So naturally before we moved over there, it was a young lady and
myself waiting on the tables. But when we had gotten over there it had taken 2
00:12:00men. And we moved over there and it was much, quite much rather different
because we served 3 meals a day so we did open the boarding house. But I used to
have to do some extra work. But in going over to the hotel, I only waited on the
tables. And the young man, him and I, got acquainted because he was already
working over there. His name was Willie Simpkins. He's passed away now 'cause he
lived in Washington. I went to his funeral in Washington. And oh, we had a
marvelous time! When we got acquainted and everything. I enjoyed waiting on the
tables, but at that time I used to laugh because we had some boarders that ate
00:13:00in the hotel; was very prejudice for--(??)--we had to be very unique-- clean
with white coat and black bow tie on and a white towel. But even with that,
when I would set some of them up. They would take these--a napkin and wipe the
silver where I had set the table up. And then I had to give them glasses to
drink water out. I don’t-- they, they-- they wasn't ashamed to do it. But I
guess there was just that instinct in them. Quite a number of them when I would
put that glass down for them to take water, to drink--they would take the napkin
and wipe the glass where I had handled it. (Laughter) So I was wondering but if
00:14:00it was alright for me to say this. There were two girls that had came here.
Valentine girls. That’s what I was getting ready to tell you. I told my
granddaughter last evening. They were two sisters. And naturally during my
mother's lifetime, whenever we went to town from the country, if we were going
down the street… the streets are wider now because I was there in March of
this year--I went there to bury my cousin but if my mother and I was going down
the street--if a white man and his wife or whatever, whoever he was walking
with-- the street was too narrow for us to pass each other, we would have to get
down in the street till they passed. And these two girls came back home from
here to visit their mother. And they were going down the street. And they met--
I can't remember the white lady's name but they met her and they didn't get off
00:15:00the street far enough. And she was walking with a walking cane so she struck one
of them with the cane. Well naturally, that made her mad so she hit her, took
the cane from her and hit her. But the disastrous part about it; they went to
their house that evening and two white men took them out above the--to the house
they call the power house that made the power to light up the city-- and raped
them. They finally died from that ordeal they went through. And they whipped
them on top of that. So my granddaughter was telling, she said last night, she
said: “Well Daddy I would have died.” Well, “I'm glad you didn't have to
be born there.” And I said we wanted to live and that’s really we did it. We
didn't have too much trouble. I never had too much trouble. But anyway, we was
00:16:00kind of independent family. And I had three sisters. And whenever I got ready to
take them to Sunday School before they got married-- well two of them married
here. One of them married in the South. But I used to take them to Sunday School
every Sunday to our home church which was Damascus Baptist Church in Phoenix,
South Carolina. And we used to have a stack of woods to go through. And this is
really cute. But then on Sunday mornings, the surrey that we used to drive-- I
know you seen a picture of a surrey drawn with two horses?
CHILDS: Two seats? Well my baby sister would sit in the front seat with me and
my two older sisters in the back. But I'd have to have a shotgun between my
legs. And this is really cute-- driving to church to Sunday school because if I
00:17:00would go through those woods and some boys, white boys around 18 or 19 years
old, they would just come and snatch my sisters out the surrey and rape them
right before me. But if I had this gun, sometimes I would shoot it to let them
know I had it before I got in these woods and they didn't bother you.
HARDY: But you’re saying they, the white boys would actually wait in the woods
CHILDS: That’s right
HARDY: --colored women because they were going to church? This wasn't just
something that you heard but you actually…
CHILDS: This something actually happened. I know that. It happened-- Positively.
Yes indeed. A lot of, well, a lot of injustices. But I--my mother always told
me-- I was 15 years old when she passed-- and she always told me--she said:
“Son, you really have a beautiful head.” Because I used to tell her, I said:
00:18:00“Mom, I don't understand why the white people are so jealous, so envious and
still they eat out your hand.” I said: “You go and make up the dough, and
make up--” We had biscuits three times a day in the South at that particular
time. Had a lady in the hotel she was the pastry lady. That's all she did was
make up pastry and have those hot biscuits ready. Well now If I'm going
to--(??)--somebody, I don’t want to eat the way they put that dough in their
hands and make out and-- But they did. But I think it was something that they
didn't quite understand. Well they figured because, I guess, I don't know--And,
yeah--they would take advantage of you, but if you would have a gun or anything
00:19:00like that, you know, they wouldn't bother you. But that's the way I had to take
my sisters to church.
HARDY: And they would allow colored to have guns then?
CHILDS: Oh yeah, we could, you could have a shotgun because you see you would go
hunting, you know, gunning.
CHILDS: But far as a-- I mean a pocket gun, my father had one but he didn't take
it out the house. He only have it for protection around the house and
everything. But you could carry a gun anywhere you wanted to. I mean a shotgun.
And that's what I did. And when we got to church, I would put it, I would wrap
it up in a nap roll. Because in driving down the highway there would be dust.
And we used to have dusters on. And we used to have summer lap rolls to spread
over your lap to keep you from getting dusty. And then we had winter ones for
when we drove to church in the winter. Then when we get to church, I would wrap
that gun up and then push it up under the seat till we get ready to come home.
00:20:00But even with that, everything went along alright. The people that actually
rented fared better than the sharecropper. Because this was real too. I told
this to a young man at my daughter's house out on East River Falls. And she
couldn't believe it because my daughter was born here. There was a man had been,
had been working sharecrop for a gentleman. And naturally he couldn't read or
either write. And every year regardless of how much cotton he made, he would
just wring him out so he would just have just a little bit left. So he got kind
of wise. And where he would do at harvest time and in gathering the cotton, he
00:21:00would take it to the gin house and gin it, and he took-- He made six bales of
cotton that year. And he took four to town on the wagon. And his white landlord
that he was renting, that he was sharecropping with met him. And there are
cotton barrels on the street. So they sampled his cotton and that particular
time, I think, cotton was selling for $500.00 a lbs, $500.00, yeah, $500.00 a
500 bale would bring you $500.00. So anyway, when the four bales of cotton were
sold and everything and the amount of money they came to, they went to the bank.
And naturally, and sharecropping, the man that you sharecrop with, he pays for
00:22:00half and you pay for half. So when everything was over he told him, he said "You
did marvelous this year. You cleared, you cleared $350.00. But now this $350.00
got to last him until they start to farm again. So the colored fella didn't say
anything at all. But in a couple of weeks, he took two more bales of cotton to
town. (laughter) So when he met him, he called him up and told him he wanted to
see him in town. So when he met him he said: “I had an idea that you had been
cheating me but I didn't have no way of knowing' it.” He said: “Now you say
I don't owe you anything.” He says “No you paid off and you cleared
$350.00” He said, “Now when we sell I got two more bales of cotton.” So he
says “Why didn’t you tell me that at first? Now I’ve got to go over all
these figures and you might clear just a little something.” So anyway, from
00:23:00that they started an argument, you know. And this white man jumped on him and
hitched the horses to him like he was a wagon and drove him and drug him through
the street in Abbeville, South Carolina and took him down in the park and hung him.
HARDY: Good Lord!
CHILDS: Now that's just as true as I'm looking at you. But you wasn't allowed to
say anything about it. So as I was going to tell you, these two girls by the
name of Valentine girls, they came, they came up here. And they came back to
Greenwood to visit their mother. And--did I tell you about that before?
HARDY: About the Valentine girls?
HARDY: They didn’t get far enough off the street and they were…
CHILDS: They were, yeah, but I didn’t tell you what happened to them did I?
HARDY: Yes,you said they were taken up behind the power house and raped and….
CHILDS: Oh yes that’s right…
HARDY: They were raped and killed.
CHILDS: Well they died from that
HARDY: They died from that.
CHILDS: They died from that…
HARDY: Now, that was something that I wanted to ask you about-- I heard about
that once people came North, they have a hard time going back South because they
wouldn't tolerate the sorts of attitudes…
CHILDS: Well you see, they--that's one of the-- When they would come here, and
the little privileges that they had here-- they would go back--See it’s like I
said, when I, when me and my mother would go down the street, I would have to
get off. And they would resent you they figured you had come here and learned
something. But I—after I moved to town after I moved to Greenwood, rather, I
was fortunate enough to go away one summer with Jebby Warden, clothing company.
00:25:00He had a summer home in Hendersonville, North Carolina. And I cooked for them
during the summer but I went back to the hotel in the winter. I just went just
for this particular one summer. And while I was there, they loved, they thought
so much of me. In the afternoon, they showed you how well they trusted me. Now,
they had two sixteen-year-old girls. And they also had two cars. Now after I
would finish dinner and washed the dishes, I would go upstairs and get dressed
and those two girls would take me to ride to see the scenery through the
mountains. Then after I would come back, I would sit on the porch and they would
go riding. Well after the season was over, I came back and came back to the
hotel. But Mrs. Warden, they both have passed on now, but she told me, she said:
00:26:00“Oh, please stay with us.” She said “We love your cooking so well. We want
you to stay with us.” So I said “Well, I’ll go back to the hotel.” So I
had a baby sister had came here. And I loved her dearly. So she written me word
and asked me to come here. And I went and told Mrs. Warden. So she told me the
truth. She said: “Now listen, you may go North”, and I been here 63 years
and she told me the truth, she said “ You may go North and find a job,” she
said “but when they get ready to lay you off, they just lay you off without
any compensation and you out.” She said “But if you stay here and work for
me and Mr. Warden, when you get too old to work, we'll give you a little
bungalow, and put you in there and give you so much a week and you can stay
00:27:00there till you die.” And she said “As far as the privileges is concerned,”
she said “you don't have all that much privilege.” You know, and I found
that out. A privilege and respect is two different things. But they similarity.
I don't call myself having all that much privilege when I can come here and
disgrace myself in the street and the people won't do nothin' about it.
(laughter) That's no privilege. See? You come in the street, not my home where I
were born… all this vile language that you hear today… if that were used
down there, you was, you was locked up. That's right. And they don’t lie
today. That's how they get some of their work done in the street. They put you
on the street. They don't have no jail to put you but, but they put you in the
street. You have to work so many months at keeping the street clean. So,
00:28:00that’s what I’m saying that it, it's so bad to hear that the children are
using all kinds of language because they hear the grown up language. So I found
out she was true. But I do realize this. You have to have respect for yourself
to be respected. And with all that I've went through with, I don't have no
matters in my heart against anyone. Because I feel I've felt this way, they did
it because they were ignorant, didn't know any better. And I give the poor black
people credit because if they had been envious and had any knowledge of
anything, they could have killed them all because they ate right out of their
hand. They could have poisoned them all to death. (laughter) But they-- they
lived through it. And that’s-- that's a beautiful thing. But when I tell my
00:29:00grandchildren that, oh my, they just almost die. But they are living in
different times now than what we came through with. But there are some places
down in the deep hearts of the South now, still, poor black people don't know
that they are free.
CHILDS: Plenty places down in Georgia and Alabama and all around in there. They,
in fact, to tell you the truth, the state, when I was a boy, the state didn’t
even give you but three months to go to school. That’s all. Only three months.
Well you could hardly learn your alphabet in three months. And one teacher had
to teach all the children. She had 40 kids. She had five grades: 1st, 2nd, 3rd,
4th, and 5th. That's how many grades she had to teach a day. And that was hard.
So, sometimes advanced kids would help with the lower classes. But now, I think
00:30:00they, that's all done away with. I--but it was pretty, pretty tough, but--
HARDY: You know, you are the first person I’ve spoken to who really witnessed,
or really lived in a community in which there were rapes and the real brutality.
CHILDS: That’s right.
HARDY: That you, uh, that I always expect to hear about this in the South but
really haven’t run across them in people’s recollections.
CHILDS: Excuse me.
(laughter as audio adjusts)
HARDY: So in Greensville, Abbeville, Greenwood, and Eberville, things were
really were, pretty bad. Pretty bad. How did you, how did you all feel about
00:31:00that, you know, either as individually or as a family or as a whole community?
CHILDS: Well, I tell you, we didn’t feel good about it but there was nothing
you could do about it. Cuz as far as the law was concerned, you didn't have no
law to protect you. And it was--It was just like in Mr. Ballard’s book [One
More Day’s Journey]--I told you about the Phoenix riot? Well, I can tell you
HARDY: Now, yeah, how old were you when that took place? You were just a--
CHILDS: Now I--My mother related this to me, see? My mother told me this, when I
got large enough. When my mother told me this I guess I was about 10 years old.
00:32:00But this happened, you know. And here hadn't been any voting there since, oh,
since I guess I don't know how long it had been. Because slavery just hadn't
been abolished, you understand? And I don’t think it--But these 12 men, you
see, it was like I said, when you, when you don’t have the law on your side,
is very little you can do. You have to just take low. Now these, these 12 men,
they went to the courthouse and got ballots. I knew--I lived to--one of them
00:33:00lived for me to see. I lived, Yes sir. I was privileged to see one before he
passed away. His name was William Harris. One of--the other one's name is Henry
Sacks. These 12 men went to Greenwood Court House and got ballots to vote, just
on their own. They was trying to break down a barrier. Just those 12 men decided
to break a barrier down. So what happened the day of the voting? Mr. Sacks was
the first man. He marked his ballot and a white fella by the name of Booth
Ethridge was taking care of the ballot box. Well when he marked his ballot and
went to put it in the box, he told him, he called him a black S.B. He said
00:34:00“You know you're not supposed to vote here.” But that insulted the colored
fellow and he took out a .38 and killed him right at the box. But he got away.
So, couple days after the election, it started brewing and they kept allowing
tension to grow. So 75 white men got together and they went to the courthouse
and found out these other 11 men had got these ballots. And they were farmers.
And they were in the field plowing. And they went down there, took them from the
plow, and left the plow and the mule and the horse right there in the field. And
took them down to a place—I looked right at it-- a place called March Pass--
00:35:00'cause I went to bury a cousin of mine which was 93 years old--and drove them up
tree and shot 'em out. The 11th one, he was plowing, his name was William
Harris. And I--he lived for me to see him. So he was a member of the Pine Grove
Methodist Church. And they had to go right by there. I went to that church while
I was home in March and went to the cemetery and looked at funerals that I went
to when I was 15 years old. And when they got to this church, he asked them to
let him get off the horse and pray. And they drove on the church ground and
there was a big old chestnut tree there. The stump is I think rotted down to the
ground now. And he prayed, but he prayed so severely, he prayed with his eyes
closed, that when he opened his eyes, they had all had rode away. But they still
00:36:00was mad. So there was a man by the name of Tom Talbot. And he had a very close
colored friend by the name of, colored by the name of Sam Presley. And what they
had done all of back there, all of those farmers lived in frame houses. They was
very easy to burn. So they had got together and took lint cotton and made
kerosene balls and was going to burn those 12 families up just for vengeance for
that one white man getting' killed at the ballot box because they didn't catch
this man because they never did catch him. I know he's dead now. But they had
this meeting at Tom Talbot’s house. So Tom--They even shot, they even shot Tom
00:37:00Talbot for telling Sam Presley but they didn't kill him but he'd like to die.
But he told him: he said “They planning on 12:00 tomorrow night. They going
down and burning all those 12 families up.” He told him exactly where they
were going. And they went to town and bought a barbed, a wire, a barbed wire and
stretched it across the road. And nicely it was dark… and when them horses, at
the speed they was going, when they ran into the barbed wire see they ran up and
throwed some of them off. They didn’t--they was on the side of the road and
they shot into the crowd. Well that scared them so that broke it up. But they,
they, they named that the Phoenix Riot. And that was really something. And had
had no voting been there no more until Martin Luther came to march and they
00:38:00started voting. That was almost 75 years ago. That's right. And--there was no
voting nowhere in the South. You couldn't vote. No voting. Nothing. Nothing.
HARDY: Now when you were a young boy growing up and you and the rest of your
brothers and sisters there must have been stories then that your father and your
mother told you to sort of inform you about the world you were growing up in. To
give you the warnings…
CHILDS: Well they would tell us. Yeah, my mother, yes, uh, my mother told me one
time about a, I knew her, I knew her, I lived to see, too. I was telling my
granddaughter about it yesterday. She had a very, very close friend and I had a
wonderful mother. God bless her, she been dead 70 years but I love her today.
She had a friend by the name of Miss Ellis. I think her name was Minervy. I'm
00:39:00not sure but I think it was Minervy, she told me about this-- And she detested
it but she loved her so well she forgive her. Now her husband was a
sharecropper. But during the month of August and July, you lay everything by.
And sharecroppers catches are kind of hard because there's nothing much for you
to eat unless you raised something. Now see, we didn’t have that kind of
trouble because daddy, we were renting. And naturally, we could prepare for
that. We had plenty of meat to eat in August. During the month of August, all we
did was go to church. That was revival month. We went to different churches.
Well--this white man that they sharecropped with, there was a sawmill. I forget
00:40:00the name of the sawmill. But he went to work to try and make some money. Her
husband did and he had five kids at home. I think they all are dead now because
I know both, two of the sons past year, both of them very well. And the landlord
went by there one day. And she was a good-looking woman. And he found out the
condition she was in. She was hungry. The kids was hungry. And he told her said:
“if you have a relationship with me, I'll give you enough food to last you for
the month.” And unfortunately she was hungry, well that sometime, you know.
But unfortunately she got pregnant by him. And the baby was born. And she was
kind of light too because she was half white herself. And she was mother’s
good friend though. And when the baby was born, I remember mommy went to see it
00:41:00and she came back blazing mad. I forget what she called her she said: “My
God,” she said “she done had a half white baby.” And I thought so much of
her. So when she got better and was able to visit mother, I kind of
eavesdropped, you know how kids do. I was big enough to eavesdrop. So they were
in the front room and she was telling mother about it. She said, “I was so
hungry.” My mother was named Ella. She said “Ella, I was so hungry, and I
was desperate and my children was hungry.” Well, and she said “I didn’t
think I would get a baby.” And she says “I had a relationship with him”
and she said “Unfortunately I got a baby.” Cuz she said “If it hadn't been
for that, I don’t know what me and my children would have do. We would have
starved.” So mom said “Well I’ll forgive you.” She would have to forgive
00:42:00her because that was a serious time. You hungry, nothing to eat and she figured,
well, but she got a baby by it. I don’t whether the girl--I lived to see the
baby. She was a beautiful child. Last time I seen her she was living in
Washington. So, see those are some of the things that was really-- And then, my
mother told me, let me see whether my daddy or my mother, my mother used to tell
me practically all of the stories because my daddy, he worked practically all
the time, you know, in the field. Mom had nine children. But she would work
some. She would-- she was the relief worker whenever things got kind of behind.
She would come out and, and oh boy, we could--she’d take us nine kids and a
00:43:00couple of days we would have our farm all straight. And then she would hire us
out to other plantations, you know when they didn't have nobody to work. The way
she would do it, the, the first day, she would give us what we made. That was
able us to resume responsibility. And then all the rest of the week, we would
give her the money because she would feed us and take it and buy whatever we
need with it. But that very first day we made, whatever we made, each one made,
we would keep that, she would give us that. But from then on if we worked five
days…Now the first public days work I done, I worked 12 hours for 50¢.
HARDY: (laughter) And probably thought it was good money to boot! Right?
CHILDS: (laughter) Yeah! I was a big boy. I was a very big boy. Plowing a mule
00:44:00from sun to sun for 50 cents. And then when my mother passed away, my father
messed around and got in debt. The man that we rented from, he borrowed S200.00
from him I think for something and that year we didn't make quite as much as we
thought we had because the boll weevils come in. That did a lot of damage. Then
he hired me out to my, to my boss. He had a sawmill. And I was the cook at the
sawmill for $12.00 a month. Have every other Saturday off, half a day. Down in
the woods we would be. So I’d be away from home and have to sleep away in
camps you know? But people was very nice. And there were families that I met in
00:45:00the woods, you know, out on the farm, that I met had moved here and I have seen
them. A lot of them. There was a Taggart family I met them and they, and they
all have passed away here. But I met them; they lived over by Bradley’s and we
was at a sawmill over there. And one night we were going to the shack to sleep.
And their mother looked at me and said: “Son, you a nice lookin' intelligent
boy, what do you do at the saw mill?” I said “I cook.” She said, “Well
you can spend the night with us a couple of nights if you want to.” Well I
appreciated that. And I get up the next morning though and be ready to go to
that and-- You see the bread I made, you had to eat it while it was hot, because
if it got cold, you couldn't taste it because I made it with water. So what I
would do I would save it till I get a bag. And I never was ashamed, I'm still
00:46:00that way to today. If I want something, I’ll ask you for it. I saved this big
bag of bread and take it up on the farm and holler before I get to the house
because most all the farmers had dogs. And I'd get their attention whether they
was white or colored. I said: “Do you all have pigs?” They said “Yes.” I
say “Well I have a big bag of stale bread here. I’ll exchange it for you for
some milk.” And I had--and I would take a pail with me and they would give me
sometime a nice big pail of milk. Well I'd have good biscuits that night because
the milk made better biscuits than water. And I used to do that a lot of time.
And that's how I started cooking at a sawmill. Jake Stockman Saw Mill in
Greenwood, South Carolina.
HARDY: I see. Let me just adjust this a little bit--You know, you mentioned your
mother’s friend who had the relationship with the white man. Was there a color
00:47:00line within the black community? Is lighter better and the darker is worse? I
know there was in Philadelphia. And in speaking to people from other different
parts of the South, some say “No we had no color line.” You know, one touch
of black blood and you were considered black andwe--it didn’t make much difference.
CHILDS: No, no, no
HARDY: How was it where you grew up?
CHILDS: Well there, I tell you something--It wasn't altogether true. I
contribute that to ignorance, understand? Because if a young lady would come
into the community, either come to church, half white, understand-- you knew
that if the father wasn’t white the mother was white or something of that
00:48:00regard. Sometime there would be a little difference but not too often. Eh, I
must say though there was a little fractions of time that people you know-- Now
I had a second cousin, this cousin I went home to bury in March of this year.
She was funeralised on the 4th Sunday in March of this year. Now I can tell you
this. Now there was a family, I don't think it’s right to name the family,
there was a family, that a white gentleman got nine children by his maid. And he
give them his name. It was seven boys and two girls. Lovely, good looking. And
00:49:00this cousin of mine got engaged to be married to him. But they were pretty well
to do. But when they found out that he was an illegitimate child, they wouldn't
let her marry him.
HARDY: So within the black community then, it didn’t make any difference
whether you were very dark or very light?
CHILDS: That’s right. That’s right. Now, but there were some families
though, there were some families I will admit didn’t allow their children to
go with a black boy. If she would bring him home as her boyfriend, that was it.
But not too often but in some cases.
CHILDS: I wouldn't say it was like a disease, but in some cases, now I'd be
lying if I said there wasn't. But in some cases there would be. Yeah, that's
right. Now this particular family that I'm speaking about, they were like that
but they wasn't light. But they didn't like dark people. They were my, they were
a relation to me but they didn't like dark people. They didn’t like, I don't
know why, but they just didn't like dark people.
HARDY: Now 1914, war breaks out in Europe, I guess and 1916, we enter it. And in
the summer of 1916, men and women by the thousands start heading, pouring,
getting on the trains and coming North.
CHILDS: That’s right.
HARDY: What are your recollections of that first summer? What you heard about
the North, what stories were, what stories people heard of the North, why
00:51:00people were going North, you know--.
CHILDS: Well now, see, it was like I first said, in 1916, that was 1916 that was
when I think I told you my brother came here. My oldest brother. Well naturally,
he had written back to us. You know, he would write letters back to us. And was
telling us about jobs you know. Well, people had to start getting jobs of some
type, somewhere because in the south at that particular time, the only way, the
only thing that we had to make money was with cotton. That's the only commodity
we had. That's where we got our money from. But the boll weevil come in and
00:52:00that's what started people coming here. Because the farmer, he didn't have no
other place to go. And it wasn't no jobs there for him. And that's because
farm… I looked at the farm where I used to be , where I used to farm when I
went home and trees as tall as this house. There's no farmland. All of it is
grown up because, and I often said the reason why the boll weevil came, that was
God's work. He did that for a purpose because people was treating the people so
badly. And he got tired of them seeing them. So he said “I'm goin' to farm
myself as, I’m gonna send myself there as something entirely different.” And
really, when that boll would come on the cotton, that’s the first that comes,
when it blossoms, then a boll come, and the moment that boll come, that blue
bird would come and stick his bill right through that boll and puncture it. And
00:53:00the most peculiar thing you ever seen. And that’s how come they started
leaving. There was no job to be offered to them there. Anything they thought
they could here, that's why they came.
HARDY: Now, did y’all hear about the boll weevil before it hit Greenwood?
CHILDS: No it came. Listen. Just like I told you in 1916, I made 16 bales of
cotton. In 1917, it was cut in half. The next year, it was still cut in half.
And the next year was nothing. People had, who used to, who had who used to have
18 and 19 bales of cotton was lucky to get 3. So you see now, what you gonna do?
And cotton is the onliest thing you could sell, you know, I mean for livelihood.
I mean, you could sell corn, but corn wouldn't even bring you enough to buy a
00:54:00suit of clothes. That's where your money was. Well.
HARDY: What were the stories from the north?
CHILDS: The story was from the north was if you came here, you could get a job.
And then when you got here, well there was pretty good many jobs. When I came
here in 1917, and just to show you just how many people were working, the
Midvale Steel Plant, you could go there and check in and check out and they
wouldn't miss you. Didn’t even have to work. There were plenty of days,
(laughter) plenty of days, I would meet just like I meet you and I get, I get
acquainted with you and say: Listen, I don't want to work today. I’d go and
ring my card in. Take him to the rack and show him my card and I say “When you
go homering me out.” It wasn't no way in the world for the boss to miss you
00:55:00because there was too many people working. When you sign in, that was the
onliest thing they had was your card that proved that you was working. They
couldn’t prove, I made so many hours in one week and I wasn’t--they took me
to the office. They asked “how in the world was you able to make them many
hours?” I said: “Just sacrifice.” I maybe-- I lied! Yeah. (laughter) You
get a buddy, now when he wanted to stay home, I’d stay --
HARDY: And you’d check him out.
CHILDS: I’d check him out. And you see it was so dangerous. People were
getting killed just like that. It was just dangerous. Falling in those big vats
where they would cool that, cool those, uh, uh, uh, uh, ballasts to a gun. They
had an oil well. That’s what they cooled them in. They didn't cool them in
water, they cooled them in oil, you know. And sometimes you would see just a
blue light, that's where a man had done slipped and fell into one those things.
You didn't see his body no more. That's just how you died. And there were so
00:56:00many people the onliest thing you had to account for your work was your card.
When you rang in, you could go right on back out. People was going and coming.
HARDY: A lot of southern men up there?
CHILDS: Yeah, yeah! My brother worked there and quite a number of--all of them
is dead now.
HARDY: How could that work? How could they--I know that most of the men working,
black men from the South who were working at Midvale and other war industries
were just doing laboring work ,
CHILDS: That’s right.
HARDY: But there were that many of you and that few foremen that--?
CHILDS: Oh yeah there were so many telling us-- They were just like this. In
the Midvale Steel Plant they were just like that young man. Just, just like,
just like ants.
HARDY: Watch out for the microphone.
CHILDS: Ooh I’m sorry.
HARDY: It’s okay.
CHILDS: It was just like ants. You couldn't miss nobody. See, now I did have a
00:57:00boss, but he didn't see me days passed, he didn’t see me. But my card was my
boss. When I rang that in at 8 o’clock, there was another gang going out at 8.
Well when I rang in, I would go right back out with them. (laughter)
HARDY: I guess they were working around the clock.
CHILDS: Round the clock. 24 hours a day.
HARDY: What was the pay? Was it any good?
CHILDS: It was fair. It wasn't all that good. It wasn’t all that. But that's
why we had to make a whole lot of over time to make something worthwhile. The
pay wasn't all that well.
HARDY: Now, had you heard any other sorts of stories? Here’s something: Had
you been given any warnings before you came up to Philadelphia about things to
look out for in the North and the dangers that might be there you know that
might waylay a young man?
CHILDS: No. I had never heard of that. The only information I told you about was
what my boss had told me about if I had stayed there, they would give a home. I
00:58:00never got any warnings about anything. But, after I got here, I was warned that
certain sections of the city, you couldn't go in. Cuz I had a brother died,
named John, from the effects. Him and his brother went to South Philadelphia,
and in the Polish community and boy they jumped on him and they had a time. He
never did get to well over that. But they fought I tell you. They put him in the
hospital for a number of year-- oh about five or six months. Yeah, Certain
sections of the city you couldn’t go in. But I didn’t find that out until I
HARDY: Alright, what were your expectations before you came up? You were born
right off the farm, right?
CHILDS: Well I was married at the time. I married before I came here. I married
00:59:00January 30th, 1920.
HARDY: But you come up for a summer before that
CHILDS: I came up in 1917 to work. I was single then. I was single when I came
HARDY: Right, right. Well that first time when you were, when you were 16, 17
CHILDS: I was 19 years old.
HARDY: 19 years old, what did you expect to find here. Here would be a northern
city in a different part of the country--
CHILDS: Well I tell you the truth, I mostly come to visit my brother just to see
them . I had, well, at that particular time, I had three brothers here, three
brothers: George, Andrew, and Lewis. I had three brothers, so I just come to see
them. And I was satisfied to go back home. But after I went back home and, and
the boll weevil came, see, I didn't come back till, I came here in 20…22. I
01:00:00come back here permanently in 1922.
HARDY: By that time, you were working as a waiter
CHILDS: That’s right.
HARDY: Pretty steady. So it wasn't the boll weevil that drove you north?
CHILDS: No, but, my, I wanted to come then because I was in Greenwood and my
baby sister, she asked me to come. She wrote me a letter and asked me to come.
Pearl; her name was-- She ask me to come. And after I got here, I sent for my
wife. I got a place and I sent for her. My baby was born in August of 1923. My
daughter upstairs. We didn’t have any children in the South.
HARDY: What did you bring with you when you came up to Philadelphia to stay?
CHILDS: (Laughter) When I came here? All--everything I had was left at home
01:01:00except the clothes I had brought in my suitcase, that's all. I didn't bring
anything. And I came here, and moved in, I was living with my sister. I moved
with my sister. All of them is passed on now. All of them is gone. But I lived
with my sister. And when I sent for my wife, she came. I lived with my sister
until my baby was born. Then I moved out and got an apartment right on the same
street where she lived. It's all redeveloped now. It’s been, you know, all the
houses have been torn down and it’s redeveloped now. And I wanted to buy a
home but I never did get around to it. Unfortunately, I was from a poor family
and anytime anyone would get in trouble or anything like that or needed
01:02:00something, I was always there, I was always there to help out. Because I
couldn't see any of them suffer or anything like that, so I kept on that way
till I found out then I was just about to retire. (laughter) So that's it. I'm retired.
HARDY: What were your first impressions of Philadelphia?
CHILDS: Well, I tell you, when I first came here, I came with the things on my
mind that my former boss had told me about staying there. And after I got a job,
my first job I got when I came here was as a waiter out on 44th and Walnut
Street. I waited on the tables there and I was cooking at home before I left,
01:03:00but I had to go to school here to learn to do this cooking here. And there was a
boarding house, I believe or something similar to a college on Walnut Street and
you could go there and learn how to cook. And I went there three months to learn
how to cook. When I got out from there I was perfect and didn't have any
trouble. So then I was hired at a plant by the name of Dillon Collins at
Richmond and Tioga Streets right next to the UGI. They had a cafeteria there for
01:04:00the benefit of the employees. But I went there as a janitor. But during lunch
period, we would go and help serve the lunch in the cafeteria. But as the years
passed, the cook passed away. She was white. And I had been telling the boss
there that I was a good cook. And I learned, too, after I got here that there
wasn’t-- see I was told in the South that there wasn't any segregation here.
Naturally, that impressed me a good bit because I was thoroughly segregated in
the South. But I found out differently. We were segregated here. But I always
01:05:00had nerve. I went by the office one day and I think this gentleman is dead now,
but the white gentleman was my boss. I asked him, I said: “The white cook has
passed on and I'm a cook.” I says “You have that cafeteria for the benefit
of the employees,” I said “is it possible that you would hire a black
cook?” He said “Yes, yes.” I said “Well I'm eligible.” I said “I
know I'm a janitor, but I can cook.” So I taken that job and cooked for there
18 years. Then they closed. They moved to Ohio and they offered me a job out
01:06:00there but I didn't want to go because all of my family was here. So I left there
and went to Bryn Mawr, I believe, yes Bryn Mawr. And there was a lady had a
bakery, I forget her name now. But she had a bakery and I worked there for her.
Finally she sold that bakery, and then just down the street, there was a man-- a
restaurant man by the name of John Stout. He heard of me and I went there as a
dishwasher. I was a person like this. I never did put my pride above nothing. If
01:07:00I wanted a job, it was a job. I was a chef, but I would wash dishes like that. I
went there as a dishwasher and worked myself up to a cook there. And he closed
After he closed, right around on Bryn Mawr Avenue, there was an ACME store. This
man by the name of Carl Slingman opened up this beautiful restaurant. We had a,
oh, it was a marvelous place. So I didn't go there before he closed. John
closed. In fact, this restaurant practically closed us up. So I went there and I
hesitated in going. So when I went I said: “Mr. Slingman," I said "I would
01:08:00like to come, I came to seek a job. But you're open seven days a week.” He
said “Well you don’t think I would want you to work seven days do you?” I
said, “No,” I says “why I would like to be off one Sunday because I like
to go to church on Sunday.” He said “Well since you liked to go to church
that well, you can have Sunday for your day off.” Well he hired me and I
stayed there until I retired. Anyway in the meantime, it was marvelous reckon
for him. He was a beautiful boss. And I worked there until he closed. Then John,
my ex-boss took the restaurant over again. He took it over. I was thinking about
him the other day. I was wondering where he were. I hadn't seen him in a good
01:09:00while. And I stayed there till I retired. I retired in 1964. I been retired that long.
HARDY: In retrospect, how do you feel about your move north?
CHILDS: Well, I-- at the time that I moved north, I actually was satisfied for
the conditions that I was leaving in the South becaus, it wasn’t as
accommodating there then as it is now. But it's beautiful there now. If I were
younger, I would go back. I have a lot of friends that have already moved back
south. Quite a number of friends that I have known have moved back south. My
01:10:00cousin that I visited to their mother, they asked me. I said no, I'm too old to
go back there now because I only have one daughter and I live here with her and
all of my family is here and all of my great grandchildren and grandchildren are
here. It would be foolish for me to go that far away from them. But if I were
younger and the conditions of the times in the South now like it is, I could go
back and live perfectly. Because it's 100 percent different now than it was when
I left. Much different. Because I had to know the size of my shoe when I went
into a department store. Because if I tried a pair on, the factory wouldn't
allow you to try it on. You had to know your size. If I did insist on trying a
pair if they were too small, I'd have to take them just the same. But it's not
like that now. You can go there, go take your shoes off and just try on as many
shoes as you want to. It's altogether different, altogether different. Tell you
01:11:00the truth, it's better in the South now than it is in the North.
HARDY: Why is that?
HARDY: Why is that?
CHILDS: Because I do believe, I really do tell you the truth, my belief, it
don't have to be true, but I believe that the South accepted integration better
than the North did. That's my belief. Cuz I been here and I been walking around
and looking at everything. It's almost as, it’s almost just as much prejudice
here in the North as there is in the South and even more, as far as the black
folks is concerned.
HARDY: I think that's probably the case.
HARDY: I think that’s probably the case
CHILDS: Oh well that’s right see you have to face the truth
HARDY: You know one of the things that people have told me is that in the South
though, back in the old days, that although the discrimination was much, much
greater, if someone liked you as a person, they liked you. People were closer.
CHILDS: Oh, yeah! If they were for you, couldn’t nobody hurt you. But if they
was against you, brother, then you was in bad shape. (laughter)
HARDY: And then when they came to Philadelphia, though you could go more places
and you didn’t have the fear and you could do more things. At the same time,
you never had that feeling of personal closeness or respect as an individual
CHILDS: Well now, I'm going to be frank with you and tell you the truth. It’s
bad when you're not trained. See? And we had a lot of immigrants from the South
didn’t know how to read or either write. And you got to have some kind of
culture to know how to live. Understand? And they were had this instinct in them
to take vengeance out on the white man in the North for what the white man did
01:13:00to them in the South. That was one of the worst things in the world that could
have happened to them. Why should I hate you because the white man hated me in
the South? That’s be, that’s, that’s terrible. They did things that was
actually out of the ordinary-- when I came here to stay, I met a young man, he
was from my home. Now you wouldn’t believe this but this actually happened to
me. We went in a saloon. I don't go in them but he insisted on me going in with
him; he wanted to give me a glass of beer. Well, I didn't want to feel like I
was above him or anything. I'm not above anybody, but there are some people I
just don't associate with. I went in with him and he got me a beer. An officer
came in, sit just the opposite him and I and ordered a beer. And when the
01:14:00bartender put that beer on the counter. He snatched it from the officer and
busted it and throwed it over in the trough behind him. This officer said to
him, he said, “I know where you’re from.” He said “You’re from the
South and you’re ignorant.” He said “Now, I could have blowed your brains
out for what you just did and nobody would have done a thing did about it.” He
said “But by you being as ignorant as you are, that saves your life.” He
said “But I’m going to order another one and if you break that, well then I
would advise you not to touch it.” Now he was just that sympathetic to this
colored boy because he was wrong. See? Now there are times I had to go down the
01:15:00street after I get out the hotel where I waited. I wasn’t allowed to stop in
the street to talk to nobody. If I met somebody, I had to keep walking. No
doubt the same thing had happened to him, but why should I take that out on an
officer here what an officer did to me in the South?
HARDY: But I don’t understand. He was just a policeman.
CHILDS: He was a policeman.
HARDY: A white policeman?
CHILDS: A white policeman.
HARDY: And he took his glass of beer and threw…
CHILDS: …and threw it in the, busted the glass and threw it over, you know
where, behind the tray
HARDY: Now why did he do it?
CHILDS: That’s because a white officer had mistreated him in the South.
HARDY: And he thought he could get away with it up here? He would have to be
crazy. I know enough about Philadelphia policeman tha the Irish cops back
then-- he was taking his life in his hands!
CHILDS: Now see I said that to tell you this. A lot of the black people that
01:16:00came from the South, ignorant, couldn’t read and write, made it bad for
themselves. Because they didn’t know how to conduct themselves when they got
here. A-- a privilege, an opportunity, is a beautiful thing to have but it’s
bad when you don’t know how to use it. When you gonna--Anything that you have,
regardless of how essential it is for you, if you abuse it, it’s just no good.
HARDY: Can you give me some other examples of how they made things bad for
themselves or how their ignorance showed in the city?
CHILDS: Oh yes. And in many instances they--well in first place, you take in
going in the store, even shopping. I especially have seen this happen in the
01:17:00supermarket. They didn't have too many when I first came, but they had
good-sized stores. You get your groceries and naturally you had wait to get
ready for the people to check you out. I've seen them get mad and want to fight
the cashier. “Why don’t you hurry up?” When you are working for a living,
you got to be particular because I assume any mistake you make on that cash
register, you have to make it up. Yes sir, I've seen that happen. And then-- we
have some class of black folks they are sensitive about nothing. They just feel
like they've been isolated and it's very little you can do for them. The kinder
01:18:00you are to them the ignoranter they get and the worse they get. I know because
I've served the public all of my life. I really have. I still do it. I’ve been
the president of the usher board of my church for 37 years. That’s right! And
I won't be able to tell you the trouble I’ve have, but it’s just one of
those things. So, until, of course it’s better now. And did you know we had a
lot-- I remember there was a family came here right from my home in Greenwood,
South Carolina. They practically kill all, I mean their acquaintance I knew that
came here. A lot of them just got foolish and shot and killed each other.
HARDY: Why would, why would they do that?
CHILDS: Though I don’t know--Ignorant! Ignorant! That’s all. Just plain pure ignorant.
HARDY: Were they that sort of people in the South?
CHILDS: They-they were that way in the South but they couldn't get it out. And
it came out here.
HARDY: So in the South because of all those restraints on them, and all under
the thumb, they couldn't --
CHILDS: They couldn’t do it.
HARDY: They couldn’t do these things. And in the North, it all opens up there
and there is a lot more latitude, mor freedom, and they not having had
experience with that freedom…
CHILDS: …They didn’t know how to appreciate it and they just abused it. See?
I don’t care how much freedom you have, if you are going to abuse it it’s
not going to help you any. You got to know how to appreciate things.
HARDY: And you got to know how to live when you’re your own boss.
CHILDS: Now see, since I was here, I have never had very little trouble. Very
little trouble. I have met up with some people that was, you know, kind of
nasty, but I knew just how to cope with them. I just knew how to cope with them
01:20:00because, eh, sometimes you can let ignorance--Ignorance is a bad thing. It will
destroy you. And one thing that I love about my mother, she’s passed on but
the last thing she told me as an advice, and I see it today-- I didn’t see it
then but I see it today and it helps me every day of my life. She called me in
the kitchen one day she said “Son, and I know you heard it, whatever you use,
as long as you can be the master of it, it won’t harm you. But when it starts
using you, you leave it alone. Anything that you use when you take, uh, take
start using you its best to leave it alone. Don’t bother with it because it
will destroy you.” And I noticed that today, it don’t have to be one thing,
01:21:00it can be so many different things. But one of the things that I noticed that
really is bad is alcohol and dope that has almost ruined so many hundreds of
thousands of our people.
HARDY: Was alcohol a problem when you first came up?
CHILDS: No, no. I don’t know why is it so bad now. But it wasn’t then.
HARDY: Yeah cuz I can see something else that in the, once you come north, you
have the greater wages you have the free time and I could see drink could become…
CHILDS: …Yes. But now, I don’t understand why it got like that. I really don’t.
HARDY: Now, when you came up then in--you say back in the early twenties, one of
the things that characterized a number of people coming up was the-- lacking the
education, the culture, they didn’t know how to behave themselves in the city,
01:22:00and I’ve heard that one of the complaints was being loud on the streets, they
didn’t know how to dress properly…
CHILDS: …and then the language they used, that was degrading. You see, those
kinds of things will destroy you. All right. I had a friend that had a son. He
give him everything that he wanted. And I often, I used to caution him I said
“Don’t do that. Give him what you think he needs. Dress him properly--”
“Oh, my son is alright . He won't--” I said “Don't say what your son won't
do.” Cause a child or a young man when they are in their teen age, they are
just like a dog in a certain extent, so long as you got him on the leash, you
01:23:00got him under control. But when you turn him loose and he turn the corner, you
don’t know what he gonna do. So I kept telling him. He's passed on now, but he
didn’t like me from then on in a way, but I didn't mind it. His son got in
trouble. And he came to me and asked me to go down. Now this is something too,
as a character witness. When he came to my door, he said: “Childs, I want you
to go down and act as a character witness for my son.” I said: “Your son
don't have no character. What you want you want me to go down there and tell a
lie for him?” I said “I'm not going to do it.” I said “Cuz I was warning
you and telling you and you said he was alright.” So I said “You see.”
01:24:00What this city ministry should do is they allow man-- See don’t ever forget, I
don’t care how dirty you are or what you do, right away when you go down
there before the jury or in the court, right away they want to know what
religion you are. Huh?
HARDY: I don’t think so do they?
CHILDS: Oh boy, yeah, oh yes they do and they want to know what kind of
character you have. Well you don’t have none when you go. No need to search
you for that? [Someone enters] Is that for me mother?
CHILDS: Okay. You don’t have no character when you go they don’t have to do
a thing but sentence you, you don’t have no character. I don’t call that no
privilege in a city where you can disgrace yourself in the street. That’s
nothing. That’s no privilege. I call a privilege when you can respect others
and go anywhere that you want to go and not be asked out.
HARDY: Now when you came up there were great differences between Greenwood and Philadelphia.
CHILDS: Oh yes!
HARDY: What was it that the North offered you?
CHILDS: The only difference that was between at that particular time; I could
get on any transportation and sit where I wanted to. There I couldn't.
HARDY: That was the only difference?
CHILDS: That was the only difference.
HARDY: So you didn't feel a sense of liberation or a dropping of the fear that--?
CHILDS: No. No. There was no dropping of no fear because I was afraid after I
got here and I was warned that certain sections of the city that I couldn't go
into and I didn't even go. Onliest thing that I knew I could get on the bus and
sit down wherever I wanted sit down. That's all. But I couldn't go into a home
and sit anywhere. There were certain places I had to sit. When I went to the
restroom, I was pointed to a sign that said: “For Coloreds Only.”
HARDY: Did you vote when you came up to Philadelphia?
CHILDS: Yeah, as soon as I got here.
HARDY: That must’ve been quite--
CHILDS: That was a beautiful experience that I liked too because I hadn't voted
in my life.
HARDY: Can you tell me about that and your feelings or attitudes about voting
for the first time.
CHILDS: Oh yeah the first time I had the privilege to vote I felt very, very
fine about it and at the see, and at the, let me see, the 20’s, who was
that…that was Roosevelt I believe back in that time.
HARDY: Oh well he comes in 32.
CHILDS: In 32. Well in 1920 I forget who was president.
HARDY: Let’s see, you came north, you came to Philadelphia in 19….
CHILDS: To live.
HARDY: Okay, to live, so….
CHILDS: Who was president then? But I didn’t vote till the next stint.
HARDY: Uh, right, Warren G. Harding was president and Hampy [J. Hampton] Moore
was mayor so the first mayor election you would have been able to vote would be
Mayor Kendrick against somebody.
CHILDS: That’s right. Then I voted from then on, been voting ever since.
HARDY: Republican back when you first arrived?
CHILDS: No, I voted Democrat.
HARDY: You voted Democrat?
CHILDS: I did.
HARDY: Back during the twenties?
CHILDS: I voted Democrat because I was independent, I didn’t have to put out--
But I had a sister, that shows you now--I watched all those things-- her
husband died in that time. And I voted Democrat. See, I didn’t have nothing to
lose. But her husband passed and they had what they called Mother's Assistance.
And she changed and voted Democrat and when her visitor came and found out,
they wouldn't give her a dime ti she went and voted Republican. (laughter)
HARDY: Oh yeah. The city was run lock, stock, and barrel--
CHILDS: By Republicans. That’s right.
HARDY: Do you remember any--do you remember how voting worked back then in the
area you lived in? Was there the 50¢ or the drink in the back alley?
CHILDS: Well they--I worked on the polls several times, you know. They would
01:28:00give-- But I never did bother by, I'll tell you, I never have been wanting to be
bought for nothing. I wanted to be free. I didn't want you to say that you
would give me something, you know, and if I had to give it to you, you would
have did this and you would have done the other so-- I always went
independently. I had voted Democrat ever since I been, ever since I voted. I
never voted Republican ticket in my life.
HARDY: That's amazing because when you arrived in the city, there were very,
very few black men who voted Democrat.
CHILDS: I know, but I voted Democrat. I was criticized but that didn’t matter
HARDY: Why did you vote Democratic?
CHILDS: I had a debate in school before I came about the Republicans and
Democrats. And I winned on the Democrats. It was about Abraham Lincoln and who
01:29:00was that else, that else, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. I winned on the
Democrat side. So I been voting-- I was going to college. I went to college one
year. I didn’t go to college but one year but I finished High School. And we
had a debate and I was on the Democrat side and I win and ever since then I said
when I get a little large enough to vote I was gonna vote Democrat and I voted
Democrat ever since. That's funny but I did, but the Republicans I never did
like them because they always fought with labor. And the first job I had, the
Republican president in and I didn't make but 50 cents a day and I had said as
long as I live I will never vote a Republican ticket. The first half way decent
money I made was under a Democrat president.
HARDY: That was Roosevelt.
CHILDS: Then I never will forget him. God bless him. I hope he went to heaven
when he died because he fixed it so that we older people could get a check. If I
01:30:00don’t get nothing else, I know that's coming. He was marvelous and it was a
HARDY: Was there any--when you came north was there any division in Philadelphia
between the old Philadelphia black families or black people and the Southerners
or did everybody get along? How did the Southerners and the old…
CHILDS: And the division between the people in the city--It was funny. The
people that was here in the city, the Southerners practically took-- you know a
lot of those people use to have gotten rooms with the people that came from the
South. That was a funny thing. Yeah.
HARDY: How's that?
CHILDS: A lot of those people, I know my brother rented a room to a man that was
born in the city after he came here. And they got along pretty well. They got
01:31:00along pretty well because the people that was born in the city, they didn't have
much no good sense no way. They was quiet and assuming but they were very-- they
didn't have very much to say. I don't know if they thought stuff they was better
than you or not, but I guess maybe I didn't have sense enough to notice it
because I didn’t pay that no mind.
HARDY: Yeah. What was the difference between the Philadelphians and Southerners?
CHILDS: Well I think at that particular time-- now you can't tell the difference
now because people are educated. You see, the onliest difference you could tell
at that particular time when I came here between the northern black man and the
southern black man that the northern black man had a little better education
than the southern black man. Yeah, see because we didn't have in the state we
was born in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, and they didn’t give us but
01:32:00three months to go to school in Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. We
couldn't learn nothing much in three months. Very little you could learn in
three months but that’s all they gave you. But the parents used to get
together and pay the teacher out of their pockets to teach maybe a couple of
months longer on their own.
HARDY: How long after you came north before you joined a church, when you
started going to church?
CHILDS: You be surprised. The church that I remember of here now was organized
by the church that I’m a member at home, that I was a member at home. Yeah,
the church that I was a member at Greenwood. And the first Sun-- the first
Saturday in November, in December in 1917 as I stated they were just beginning
to have services up over a horse stable on 11th Street. And I got here Saturday
01:33:00evening and I went to church Sunday morning up that little church because they
told me. There was a mission by the name of Morris Chapel up the street from my
brother, and I went there to service. And I was baptized when I was 12 years
old. And I’ve been going to church for 60, and I've been a member between
these two churches-- these two churches, the mother church and the daughter
church-- for 63 years.
HARDY: Was there a minister then? Who led the service? When it was just above
the horse stable?
CHILDS: Oh yeah. It was the Reverend Gordon--named Morris Chapel.
HARDY: That’s interesting that you all didn't go to a church that was already
CHILDS: Now they-- now there was a lot of immigrants was Methodist here. And
there was a Mother Bethel at 6th and Lombard I believe. A lot of them went there
01:34:00‘cause there were Methodists in the South, but they went there. But a lot of
the Baptist people, they organized churches of their own. So they organized this
church and I'm very proud. I'm the only member living now that was a member of
the church in the South. It's at here, at 12th and Lehigh.
HARDY: But there weren't Baptist churches in the city then for the men, women,
and children from the South?
CHILDS: Oh there were Baptist churches then, but there just, they wasn't as
many. But there were Baptist churches here. But uh, but they wasn’t many.
HARDY: So the feeling was that we should organize our own rather than go to ones
CHILDS: That’s--rather than go-- rather than go to the ones already here.
HARDY: How come, you know that’s interesting?
CHILDS: Well that was because I guess maybe they when they went to another
church they didn't feel at home. Understand? Sometimes you don’t feel as
01:35:00welcome in a church as you do in your own. So they started prayer meeting in my
brother’s house. The Wells family was the name of the people and Gilrey, I
knew lot of them plus the deacon who was a deacon of mine in Norris Chapel in
Greenwood, South Carolina. And the Goodwins, all them was from there. And they
started a prayer meeting and they just went from there on. And they-- our church
was charted by the late Reverend I. W. Paris in 1917. This Sunday coming, our
service starts tomorrow, celebrating our 67th anniversary.
HARDY: Mhm, that’s a good long time.
CHILDS: Yeah, yeah.
HARDY: Did the church do anything to help or advise the people just up from the
South on how to behave or how to get jobs or find places to live?
CHILDS: Well, they did a very good job in that particular area. What they would
01:36:00do, at that particular time there was some very nice large houses here, homes
rather. My brother John rented 1261 where the Harrison School stands now, oh
that there was a huge home, and he rented it. And he was just getting ready to
buy one when he passed away. And that’s how he--that’s how Mr. Gilrey, and
Goodwin, and Wells, all of them roomed there with him. Whenever they would
arrive they would look for somebody from the South you see. And whenever they
found somebody from the South, and my brother was wise. He rented this big house
and he would rent them rooms. And they would stay there until they were able to
be situated somewhere else. And naturally there was this big long living room
and every Wednesday night they decided to have prayer meetings. And they started
01:37:00praying and having prayer meetings and so this thought came to them, since we
are all gathered here and we all from the same church we will organize us a
little church. And they rented that, rented a barn. And while the man was
preaching you could hear the horses stomping their feet. What time is it now?
HARDY: Oh, about seven of. I guess we should wrap it up so you can get on over to---
CHILDS: Yeah, well now, since you here, since you here, I’ll get you to take
those pies over there.
CHILDS: Good. That’ll be fine.
HARDY: Sure, I’ll give you a hand.
CHILDS: Now I’ll tell you, if you want to you can come back again.
HARDY: Maybe I will come back again. I would like to ask you more.
[End of interview.]