Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Ruth Thomas, December 20, 1991

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:10 - Overview of family and early life

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Partial Transcript: --the 20th of December, 1991. I'm Kristina Minister, director of the Midway African American Oral History Project and this afternoon, uh, Ruth Thomas has invited me to her home--

Segment Synopsis: Thomas was born in Midway, Kentucky. There was a railroad that used to run in the neighborhood. Her maiden name was Edwards. Her parents had always lived in Midway. Her father worked in mining phosphate. Her mother did crafts, including crochet, and cared for children. Thomas went to school at Midway Elementary as well as in Versailles.

Keywords: African American families; African American students; African Americans; Arts and crafts; Black families; Black people; Black students; Caretakers; Childcarers; Childminders; Children; Crocheting; Education; Families; Fathers; Mining; Mothers; Nurserymaids; Parents; Passenger trains; Railroad trains; Railroads; Schools; Trains

Subjects: African American history; African American neighborhoods; Babysitting; Day care aides; Families, Black; Governesses; Guardian and ward.; Kentucky--History.; Midway (Ky.); Mineral industries; Mines and mineral resources.; Mining engineering.; Nannies; Occupations; Phosphate industry; Phosphate mines and mining; Schools; Students, Black; Versailles (Ky.); Work.

00:04:47 - African American school and businesses

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Partial Transcript: Well, let's start back. What do you remember as a, as a child around town?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas talks about the first Black school in Midway, which started as a church. The first school bus and garbage truck was run by Lenore. The parents paid him for the bus. Most of the Black-owned businesses were downtown, including a shoe shop, barbershops, tabernacle lodge, relief lodge, restaurants, a plumbing shop, grocery stores. The indoor skating rink was owned by the Second Christian Church. She mentions watching a blind man who was a janitor and carpenter as a child. She also mentions watching the derby train going to Louisville.

Keywords: African American businesses; African American students; African American-owned businesses; African Americans; Barbershops; Black businesses; Black people; Black students; Black-owned businesses; Buses; Businesses; Carpenters; Carpentry; Dollhouses; Education; Garbage trucks; Grocery stores; Grocery trade; Hardware stores; Minorities; People with visual impairments; Plumbing; Restaurants; School buses; Schools; Shoe stores; Skating rinks; Visually impaired

Subjects: African American business enterprises.; African American history; African Americans--Segregation; Blind people; Blind--Employment; Blindness.; Business enterprises, Black; Business enterprises.; Christianity.; Church buildings.; Disabilities.; Discrimination in education.; Entrepreneurship.; Kentucky Derby.; Kentucky--History.; Midway (Ky.); Minority business enterprises.; Passenger trains.; People with disabilities; Racism.; Railroad trains.; Refuse collection vehicles; Religion.; Segregation in education.; Segregation.; Students, Black

00:12:06 - State of education for Black students

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Partial Transcript: --kids, we would skate to Cross Road. Do you know where Cross Road is?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas says as kids they would skate in a particular area. She talks about activities they would do while courting. They had to have a chaperone with them. They discuss Ruth Hill, who had enough education to teach high school, but was the only teacher, so the school didn't work out. They discuss the situation of the Black students attending a high school. She went into Versailles for high school. Simmons School was the school for Black children. She mentions teachers who taught caning, crochet, and embroidery. The teachers owned homes.

Keywords: African American students; African Americans; Black people; Black students; Buses; Caning; Chair caning; Chair design; Chaperones; Chaperoning; Couples; Crocheting; Education; Embroidery; High schools; Hiking; Minorities; Roller skating; School buses; Schools; Secondary education; Skating; Teachers; Teaching

Subjects: African American history; African Americans--Segregation; Courtship.; Dates (Social engagements); Dating (Social customs); Discrimination in education.; Education, Secondary.; Friendship.; Hobbies; Housing.; Interpersonal relations; Kentucky--History.; Leisure.; Lifestyles.; Manners and customs; Midway (Ky.); Racism.; Recreation.; Segregation in education.; Segregation.; Students, Black; Versailles (Ky.)

00:21:37 - Education and music

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Partial Transcript: So she would have--I think Rose Irene would have programs to bring in money from the music teacher.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas says the school system didn't support a music program. The music teacher's name was Huggins. She would come once a week. Rose Irene would hold music programs to raise money for the music teacher that consisted of singing, literary readings, and sometimes debate. There was a female orchestra that traveled around Kentucky playing things you could find in the kitchen, directed by Katherine Johnson. They would sometimes sing spirituals.

Keywords: African American musicians; African American singers; African American women musicians; African American women singers; African American women teachers; African Americans; Black musicians; Black people; Black singers; Black women musicians; Black women singers; Black women teachers; Female orchestras; Greyhound buses; Kitchen orchestras; Music education; Music teachers; Travel; Women folk musicians; Women music teachers; Women musicians; Women singers

Subjects: African American history; Buses.; Concert tours.; Concerts.; Education, Secondary.; Ensemble playing; Essays.; Folk music.; Folk musicians; High schools; Instrumentalists; Kentucky--History.; Kitchens.; Midway (Ky.); Music--Instruction and study.; Music--Performance.; Music.; Musical instruments.; Musicians, Black; Musicians.; Orchestra.; Percussion.; Poetry.; Practicing (Music); Singers.; Singing.; Songs.; Spirituals (Songs); Spoons.; Teachers.; Teaching.; Women musicians, Black

00:33:48 - Childhood games, chores, and food

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Partial Transcript: What, what did you do in your spare time as kids? Did you--what do, what do you remember was the most fun when you were a child?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas mentions playing hopscotch, ring around the rosie, spin the bottle, drop the handkerchief, London bridge is falling down, croquet, and rolling hoops and tires. She says her chore as a child was dealing with the outhouses. She discusses how they got water and how they did laundry. They took baths once a week in a big tub in the kitchen, but throughout the week they would use a washpan. She discusses her mom's cooking, including cabbage, greens, and gingerbread. They ate a lot of pork and raised their own chickens and ducks. They bought milk and butter from a woman who went around selling it.

Keywords: Baths; Butter; Buttermilk; Cabbage; Chickens; Clotheslines; Drop the Handkerchief (Game); Drop the Hanky (Game); Ducks; Games; Greens (Food); Hopscotch (Game); Hot water; London Bridge is Falling Down (Game); Milk; Music; Playing; Pork; Ring Around the Rosie (Game); Rolling hoops (Game); Soap; Songs; Spin the Bottle (Game)

Subjects: African American history; Amusements.; Baking.; Bathing customs; Bathtubs; Calcium hydroxide; Children's songs.; Chores; Cooking.; Croquet; Edible greens; Food habits.; Games with music.; Gingerbread; Group games.; Hobbies; Kentucky--History.; Laundry.; Leisure.; Lime.; Midway (Ky.); Nursery rhymes.; Outhouses.; Plumbing.; Recreation.; Tires.; Water.

00:46:15 - Funeral rites

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Partial Transcript: Well, how did you, uh, wind up with him? How did that happen?

Segment Synopsis: Thomas says that when she met her husband he was in college and they fell in love, got married, and lived in Midway. They discuss the undertaker, funerals, and wakes. At that time, the wakes would be held at home. The body would be moved to the church for the funeral service.

Keywords: African American families; African Americans; Black families; Black people; Couples; Customs; Dating; Dead; Death; Death customs; Death rites; Death rituals; Funeral customs; Funeral rites; Funeral rituals; Husbands; Love; Rites; Rituals

Subjects: African American history; Burial.; Courtship.; Dates (Social engagements); Dating (Social customs); Friendship.; Funeral rites and ceremonies; Funeral service.; Interpersonal relations; Kentucky--History.; Lifestyles.; Manners and customs; Marriage.; Midway (Ky.); Mourning customs.; Undertakers and undertaking; Wake services

00:50:46 - Thoughts on the Black community in Midway

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Partial Transcript: Well, there was, um, a pretty large Black community.

Segment Synopsis: Thomas discusses the African American community in general, saying many Black people were self supporting. Thomas says the young people left Midway and didn't come back. She mentions people who she thought were important in the community. Some people would send coal, wood, and food to people who were down on their luck, either as neighbors or through the church. She came back to Midway because she fell in love.

Keywords: African American businesses; African American community; African American families; African American-owned businesses; African Americans; Black businesses; Black businesses owners; Black community; Black families; Black people; Black-owned businesses; Business owners; Businesses; Communities.; Low income; Moving away; Moving out; Poor Black people; Poor families; Retail stores; Social aid; Social services

Subjects: African American history; African American neighborhoods; Business enterprises.; Christianity.; Church.; Community-based social services.; Families, Black; Food.; Kentucky--History.; Midway (Ky.); Minority business enterprises.; Moving, Household.; Neighborhoods.; Poverty.; Religion.; Religious; Stores, Retail