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Ruth McNair oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Sherri Anderson.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (60 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (37 p.)
Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida oral history project
Interview conducted November 4, 2005.
Oral history interview with West Tampa neighborhood leader Ruth McNair, the president of the West Riverfront Crime Watch Association. McNair was born in Marianna, Florida, in 1931 and was raised by her great-grandmother. As a child, she was a sharecropper on a cotton farm and left school after fifth grade. She moved to Tampa when she was sixteen and worked as a maid. She and her husband, the late Joe McNair, were married after he returned from the Korean War; they had three daughters and were married for fifty-three years. The family moved into their house in West Tampa in 1958, and McNair continues to live there. She frequented many of the businesses in West Tampa and occasionally went to Central Avenue, the primary African American business district. In this interview, McNair discusses the changes to West Tampa over the years that she has lived there, as well as her involvement with the Crime Watch Association.
x Social life and customs.
West Tampa (Fla.)
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida oral history project
y CLICK HERE TO ACCESS DIGITAL AUDIO AND TRANSCRIPT
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Sherri Anderson: So Im sitting here with Mrs. Ruth McNair at her home and again, its November 4, 2005. Â And here we are in West Tampa. Â So, lets just start out by you stating your name, where you were born and when you were born, basic information.
Ruth McNair: All right. Â My name is Ruth McNair. Â I was born in Marianna, Florida, which is Jackson County, on April 3, 1931. I live at
SA: You go and have breakfast with her?
RM: I go to watch her and feed her breakfast. Â Shes ninety-six years old, and so then you have to feed her. Â But shes sweet, I love her, and I go just about every day to see her.
SA: Well, shes very lucky to have you go and see her, and Im sure that she loves having your company.
RM: Yeah, shes in a nice place its the Home Association that she lives in, and its a historic place and its a very nice place. Â I like it very much. Â And shes been there nine years.
SA: And what did your dad and your stepmom do for a living?
RM: My stepmom, she done maid work for families. Â And my father worked in I.W. Phillips, a hardware company. Â Thats where he worked until he retired.
SA: Okay. Â And your great-grandmother, who raised you, what did she do?
RM: She farmed.
SA: She farmed. Â And she farmedthat was here in Florida, you said, in?
RM: In Marianna, Florida.
RM: No, he passed away December 28 .
SA: Just recently?
SA: Im sorry, I think
RM: Yeah, he just passed away.
SA: Id love to see a picture.
RM: Yeah, he just passed away, on December 28.
SA: My goodness, Im sorry. Â I thought that he passed away a little while ago.
SA: Hes so handsome.
RM: Thank you.
SA: Elder Joe Nathan McNair, West Haven Memorial Park Cemetery. Â Thats beautiful. Â This is beautiful.
RM: Yes, thank you.
SA: Thats very nice. Â Im going to read it after.
RM: He was a sweet, loving husband and father and grandfather.
SA: Did he go peacefully?
RM: Yes. Â Yes. Â I had just left the hospital to go to the nursing home, because I had a meeting here with the care nurses, and my daughter had went there and she said, You can go. Â So I left and told him I was going. Â So by the time I had got home, my daughter then called me and I need to get back to the hospital. Â And they wouldnt tell me that he already gone. Â So he had gonewhen I got off the elevator, my daughter Anne told me that he had passed. Â We miss him so bad.
RM: I miss him.
SA: Wow, fifty-three years. Â Thats incredible. Â I hope that Im that lucky, that I can find a lifetime
RM: You dont hardly find them too many, in these days and time. Â But hes kind of a one out of a million, because people dontthey dont stay together long these days. Â Even all my three daughters, all three of them separated from their mates.
SA: Well, lets talk about, then, your children that you and Mr. McNair had. Â So how many children do you have and what are their names?
RM: Okay. Â I have three daughters, and the oldest one is named Elizabeth Ann Waters, and my second daughter is Deborah Calhoun, and my third daughter is Linda Patrice Hernandez.
SA: Yes. Â And how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren do you have?
RM: I have four grandchildren, and five great-grands and one great-great-grand.
SA: Congratulations. Â Thats pretty incredible.
RM: I have five generations of families.
SA: Lets just talk about whatokay, two questions. Â One, how far did you go in school? Â Like when
RM: Not much.
SA: Okay, cause
RM: About five, because I had to work.
SA: Up to grade five?
RM: Yeah, because I worked in the field. Â If I went to school two days out of the week, that was good. Â If I went three, that was a bonus. Â I had to wash clothes on Friday, couldnt go to school on a Friday. Â So most of the time I had to work, so I couldnt go to school. Â So, about to fifth grade.
SA: And thatsright. Â So when you came back towhen you came to Tampa when you were sixteen then, you didnt come back and go to school. Â You must have come here and worked?
RM: I did.
SA: So maybe tell me a little bit about what you did through the years for your work?
RM: Um, I worked on Davis Island for a private family for that period of time. Â Then later on, I worked for doctors and lawyers, doing ironing and work like that. Â And then, before I retired, I was working eleven years for the state for food and nutrition.
SA: Yes, yes.
RM: I worked with families that had children.
SA: You did home visits, right?
SA: So you were like a nutritional educator.
RM: Yes, with the families that had children. Â It was for the University of Florida.
SA: Thats the University of South Florida?
RM: No, University ofin Gainesville.
SA: Oh, okay.
RM: That was our headquarters.
RM: But our office was out on 579 (inaudible). Â But our headquarters was out in Gainesville. Â So thats where I was hired, through there. Â And I worked eleven years part-time.
SA: You were proud of that position?
RM: Cause I like people, and so thats how I was able to get that job. Â The Lord blessed me with that, and I wasit wasI enjoyed it.
SA: Youwe watch a movie in this course, Black Women in America, at the university, and theres this one movie called Freedom Bags, and it talks about African American women who were domestics.
Freedom Bags, directed and produced by Stanley Nelson in 1990.
You know, who worked as maids, and what that was like and the rough parts about it, and also the good parts when people started not living in the homes but living on their own, you know, outside of the homes. Â And then they had more autonomy and could be themselves more. Â So anyways, that must have been
RM: Yeah, it wasI really enjoyed what I done; it was better than working in the field with cotton sacks on my back. Â And thats what gave me, probably, a bad back, from dragging cotton sacks on my back.
SA: How aboutso you didnt attend high school, then, right?
SA: Just grade five. Â Okay. Â Lets talk aboutlets talk about your family. Â So, when you came to Tampa, you were sixteen, and you meet Mr. McNair six years later. Â What are you doing for that six years? Â And then, tell me about starting your family.
RM: You mean six years he was gone?
SA: Yeah, the six years before you met him. Â So, say
RM: Before I met him?
SA: Right. Â So, say from the time youre sixteen until youre, what, twenty-two?
RM: Well, I had already met him, but he was in the service.
SA: Oh, thats right, and then he came back six years later. Â So what were you doing, then, for those six years?
RM: Just working and going to church.
SA: Working, just working. Â And so when he came back then and you got married and then you had children
RM: Well, I had my oldest daughter; I had had her before he came back. Â I had her while he was in the service, but we didnt get married until he came back.
SA: Okay. Â And where were you living at that time?
RM: When she was born?
SA: Yeah, were you at this house or
RM: When the oldest girl was born? Â I was in Hyde Park.
SA: You were in Hyde Park?
RM: Yes, on Orleans [Avenue].
SA: Okay, so
RM: So we lived in Hyde Park. Â I lived there with my father in Hyde Park, and my stepmom.
SA: Okay. Â Where did they
RM: Remember, I told you that I came back to live with them. Â So thats where we were living, in Hyde Park.
RM: On Orleans.
SA: So when did you move to West Tampa, which was then called
RM: Forty-seven .
SA: In 1947. Â And that was called Roberts City then?
RM: No, when I moved to West Tampa I movedwe moved to 1145 Union Street. Â There was the North Boulevard housing project.
SA: Okay, okay.
RM: Thats when we moved to, my daddy and my stepmom and my oldest daughter. Â That was 19 Chestnut Street. Â So when he came from the service and we got married, then I went to Roberts City at 1714 Garcia Street [Avenue]. Â So that was about two years, orno, that was about 1955 that we moved to Roberts City.
SA: Nineteen fifty-five. Â So you moved to Roberts City, and then when did you move to Nassau?
RM: I moved to Nassau in fifty-eight .
SA: In fifty-eight . Â So, what was it like to raise a family here in West Tampa?
RM: Well, uh
SA: The good and the bad?
RM: It was good, and it wasyou know, you had to goback in those days, it waswe called it the good ol days. Â You could get along better than what you can now, because things has changed so much; theyre not nothing like what it was when my children was growing up, because my children could walk through the (inaudible) at night to the Armory (inaudible). Â You cant do that now. Â Its just different. Â And then when we lived in the project, everybody kept their place nice and clean. Â I mean, they dont do that now; its different.
SA: So why do you think things started changing?
RM: I wish I had the answer for that. Â I would like to know, because weve taken pride in where we live. Â Where we lived, we justit was home. Â So, I dont know whats wrong with the generation of people, I really dont. Â I wish I had the answer. Â My children were raised different. Â You were taught to, you know, clean, be clean, pick up the paper, dont throw paper on the ground, and all that. Â So I dont understand why people are like they are.
SA: Again, I dont think theres one answer. Â I think that its a very layeredyou know, theres layered answers. Â I think its really complicated.
RM: I really dont know, becauselike, I have to go even on the streets right here and pick up trash and paper every day. Â And you know, when we came along, it was not like that. Â We were just different.
Thats my daughters phone. Â I dont answer hers. Â My phone line is different from hers.
SA: So what was it like to be a neighbor, then, growing up here in West Tampa? Â The projects here?
RM: We were nice, we was kind, we always spoke to our neighbors. Â Anything that we could do for a neighbor, we was there. Â If a neighbor needed something, we were there.
RM: We was friendly, we got along fine. Â It was just the good ol days, good ol days.
SA: So how were the businesses on Main Street, when it waswhat was it like when it was hopping?
RM: Well, it was good, becauseI remember right on Main Street, thats where I used to go buy my groceries; its called Philip Grocery Store on Main. Â And I had ten dollars, thats what I had to go buy groceries with, and I had a lot of groceries with ten dollars. Â And the boy would deliver my groceries on a bicycle.
SA: On a bicycle?
RM: Yes, cause we had no car, so we walked to the store and ordered the groceries and then he would deliver it on a bicycle, even right here. Â He delivered groceries when I lived in Roberts City, and then when I moved here, and also on Chestnut Street. Â He delivered the groceries on a bicycle, and he owned a bicycle.
SA: And would you ever go down to Central Avenue? Â And what would you go down there for?
RM: Oh, to the singing, gospel singing.
RM: Yes, to the Odd Fellows Hall.
SA: The Odd Fellows Hall?
RM: Yeah, it was a building there called Odd Fellows Hall, where they would have all kinds of entertainment. Â But this one that I would go to is to gospel. Â And the moderator used to be named Goldie Thomas and I remember him so well, but he passed on many years ago. Â But he used to give all kinds of gospel singing, come to right there. Â And thats why I liked it, cause I wasnt a person that went to nightclubs and bars and things; that was not my lifestyle.
SA: So you didnt do, like, the jazz clubs?
RM: No, no, no, no, no!
SA: Only strict church?
RM: Only gospel did I attend.
SA: So what church, then, did youwhen you were a young woman and up until now, what churches have you attended and what congregations have you been in?
RM: Oh, I wasyears ago, before IIm Pentecostal. Â Ive been a Pentecostal ever since my baby girl was like eighteen months old, and shes forty-seven. Â I was a Baptist when I was like twelve years old. Â When I was twelve years old I was a Baptist up untillets see, I was Baptist until, I guess, forty-seven, about forty-six years or so ago. Â And she was like eighteen months when I got to be Pentecostal.
SA: So what brought about that change for you?
SA: What brought about that change for you?
RM: You mean in church?
SA: Yeah, like why did youwhy did you change from
RM: Baptist to Pentecostal?
SA: Or convert?
RM: I had a deep urging that I needed more than what I had.
SA: Spirituality. Â So
RM: See, the Lord would talk to me and tell me what Ijust like Im talking to you. Â A lot of people might not believe that, but he would talk to me and tell me what I need and what I should do. Â Thats why I made the change.
SA: And what congregation are you with now?
RM: Pentecostal Church of God.
SA: This one right here? Â And is this here? Â Is this here right in West Tampa?
RM: No. Â Its in South Tampa.
SA: Oh, okay.
RM: Its in South Tampa. Â We werethe church was down on Kennedy [Boulevard] and Oregon [Avenue], which isI dont know if they call that West Tampa or not. Â But thats where our church was, where the Wendys is down there. Â But we moved and they (inaudible) it. Â But were in South Tampa, close to Bay to Bay Boulevard.
SA: Okay. Â Lets see. Â So, what was it like on Main Street on a Saturday, then? Â Say, lets go back to the fifties [1950s]. Â Saturdays and Sundays, maybe, what was life like for you down here?
RM: Well, it was quiet for me. Â On Main StreetI mean, everything on Main is much different from what it was then, because on this side of Main was just nothing but a lot of rows of houses and businesses. Â And right on the corner ofthis is Willow [Avenue] right here. Â On the corner of Main and Willow was Molinas drugstore.
RM: You remember that?
SA: Um, Dr. [Cheryl] Rodriguez talked about that in her essay. Â She used to go to Molinas.
RM: We went to Molinas all the time, because it was rightcause we lived on Union Street, which is on the same block. Â And it was a neighborhood pharmacy that youd just go to, and then they had other stores all along Main Street. Â Like I said, the one that I traded to was called Philip Grocery Store, and then they had the Floridan Grocery Store. Â They had a lot of stores there, and then they hadin between, there was houses all along.
SA: And of course, this was during Jim Crow. Â Were still in segregation until, like, the like the late fifties [1950s], I mean, and beyond that.
RM: Yeah, it was bad because we couldntjust imagine you walking up to a fountain and it says colored and white. Â You have to drink water out of the one that says colored. Â And then the bathroom, you go to the one said colored. Â Those were things that I experienced. Â And I also experienced taking my two girls, cause the older one wasntshe was olderto the pediatrician and was told I needed to go to the back door. Â I was told this, right here in Tampa.
SA: Ive heard a lot of those stories, yeah.
RM: I have to pay the same amount of money, now, but yet its stillI was not supposed to come in the front door. Â So I was going to take my childrensI was going to ask for my record to take them from here. But they sent me my records and said my kids was no longerget me another doctor. Â Now, how do you think I felt?
SA: Lets talk about the Clara Frye Hospital, right, cause
RM: Well, thats the only hospital we could go to.
SA: Right, cause I remember you talking about how you had given birth there.
RM: I gave birth to my last baby, the one thats forty-seven years old. Â She was born April 16, right there at Clara Frye Hospital, which is the only hospital that we was allowed to go to at that time.
SA: And what was it like at the hospital? Â Like, what were the facilities like? Â Of course
RM: They was notyou know, they a long ways from being up to par. Â But thats all we had. Â We had to accept what we had. Â Because my oldest daughter was born at a maternity home, where the midwife, you know, delivered your baby. Â And my second daughter was born at the Lily White Hospital. Â Now, they had a Lily White Hospital that only black people wasthat was a black hospital onI think it was on 29th [Street]. Â They probably tore that one down years ago, but thats where the second girl was born. Â But the Clara Frye Hospital is all we had.
RM: Couldnt go nowhere else.
SA: And how did you feel when they tore it down? Â And why did they tear it down?
RM: I guess it waskind of old, you know, it had gotit was old and outdated. Â And it was torn down way beforethere was nothing there since they built Blake [High School], but that was years later.
Blake High School was built at its current location on North Boulevard in 1997. Â This is the former site of the Clara Frye Hospital. Before then, Blake was on Spruce Street, where Stewart Middle School and Just Elementary School are now located.
I think Blake was built inbut you know, thats history to me, because as I look at Blake School every time I go by there, I think about, This is the place where my baby was born. Â Even thought I dont see the hospital, I can remember in my mind what the hospital looks like, and it means a lot to me.
SA: And whatthe schools that your children went to? Â They went to Carver?
RM: My twomy last two girls went to Carver Elementary School. Â My oldest daughter went to Dunbar; thats right up there on Main, off of Main and Union. Â So they all went to school in West Tampa.
SA: And Carver might be torn down, right? Â Is that what we were talking about?
RM: Yes, its going to be torn down.
This refers to the previous location of the Carver school, now called Carver Exceptional Center, where it was opened in 1909 at Laurel Street and Willow Avenue. This building was torn down in 2006 to widen Interstate 275, and the school moved to a new building at 2934 E. Hillsborough Avenue.
SA: Lets talk about
RM: I got to take a picture before they tear it down.
RM: Kids went to school there.
SA: Right, so your kids went to school at Carver, and Ill have to go down and check out the streets and see where they are.
RM: Carver is on Laurel.
RM: And Dunbar is on Union Street.
SA: And Dunbar on Union. Â So with the expansion of [Interstate] 275 right now, is the Carver school thenis that threatened because the highway is going to be wideningis that near?
RM: Say that again?
SA: With the highway thats going to be widening, is that going to affect Carver School?
RM: Carvers going to be torn down; wont be no more Carver.
RM: Theyre tearing that down. Â The principal there said now they have to be out there by the end of the year. Â Just going to tear that school down. Â And thats when I will cry.
SA: Right, you said that.
RM: Thats history to me, because my children allthey went to school there and to see it torn down is just going to be hurting. Â Im going to take a picture, but its going to hurt.
SA: Especially since youve been in this neighborhood for almost fifty years now.
SA: So when did these changes start happening? Â Like this development, you know, coming through the neighborhood, when did that start?
RM: You talking about the first?
SA: I think the first freeway.
RM: When they first built it? Â Oh, I dont know. Â I guess late fifties [1950s] or sixties [1960s], I guess, when it started. Â I guess.
SA: And how did it change the neighborhood, whenever that first came through here?
RM: Well, it didnt do a whole lot on this side. Â I think way down farther, thats when a lot of people were destroyed, because none of the people up here had to move. Â This is the only one that has really affected everybody, this last one; all the people had to move. Â Imagine all of the houses have to go off a whole street. Â Thats the one that was really affected.
RM: But now the noise that comes from the interstate, because the people, especially the closesteven I can hear the noise from here, where I live. Â And just thinking about the people that the streets right there byit affects them more.
SA: And theyre thinkingtheyre going to expand that several more lanes.
RM: I think its going to be worse, because its already noisy now. Â You can hear the cars and things go by there now, and Im down here. Â So thats going to be the thing.
SA: Right, and you said that youve beenthat youve been making some phone calls to
RM: The DOT.
SA: To the Department of Transportation to try and get some answers
SA: as to how your community is going to be, I guess, compensated. Â You know, howwhat are they going to do for the community?
SA: You know, when they put this through, and youve said that
RM: Particular noise and beautifying and history.
SA: And history. Â So what would you like to seetell me about history in this neighborhood and how you would like it preserved. Â What does history mean to you here?
RM: Well, history is very important to everybody, and we would like to see as much history preserved as we possibly could, because Im sure everybody loves their history. Â And when its destroyed, we dont have it anymore. Â So I would love to see the things that we could look back, you know, years later and see is this acause some of it weve already lost and forgotten.
SA: Right. Â And would you
RM: And as we get older we dont remember everything, but if we had something that we could see, it brings back all your memories.
SA: So what would youif you could haveif you had to choose, of course, between, you know, a museum or a historic site, which would you prefer? Â You know, if you could preserveI guess that question answers itself. Â If you could preserve the Carver School and make it a historical site, you would do that in a heartbeat.
RM: Oh, yes.
SA: And all the institutions like that, like Blake High School and maybe even the Clara Frye Hospital.
RM: Clara Frye Hospital.
SA: Even though, I mean, the conditions were so bad; but that was because the city didnt put in any money into it.
RM: Exactly, exactly.
SA: Because it was a black hospital, African American. Â So, yeah, historic sites.
RM: Would have loved to see Clara Frye and Carver both preserved.
SA: So when they tore down Blake High School
RM: They havent torn down Blake High.
SA: Remember the original Blake High School? Â Or did they just make that into a junior school?
RM: Junior school, middle school, Stewart Middle School.
SA: Okay. Â And so when they built the new Blake High School over here, what did you think about that?
RM: Im happy for it, because at least it preserved some memories of history, because its Blake, and we had a Blake, you know, already over here. Â And so I felt good about it.
SA: Right. Â Okay, thats for the community so that students can, you know, go there.
RM: So I like the school, and like I say, it says it brings double memories to me, for the school as well as Clara Frye Hospital. Â Because every time I go by and look at it, I alwaysI see the school, but I think about this is where my baby was born. Â This is where Clara Frye Hospital was.
SA: So it was right where Blakethe new Blakeis now?
SA: I didnt know that.
SA: Thats exactly where it was?
RM: Right. Â And so it brings memories to me, you know, every time I go by, and I go by there so many times. Â And I look at it and it brings all the memories back to me: this is where my baby was born. Â I see the school, but also see that this is where the hospital was. Â You wonder why I dont see the hospital.
SA: It would be very different the buildings would have been preserved and, you know, you have that sense of history that you can connect with the new generations.
RM: I would love to do that. Â I would loveI did have a picture of that hospital, and Im hoping that maybe I can find it somewhere stuck in a trunk or somewhere, Im not sure. Â But once upon a time it came out in the paper about the hospital and I had a picture of it.
SA: Right, there are actually a couple pictures. Â I can show you one.
RM: You do?
SA: Yeah, there was
RM: Of Clara Frye?
RM: You do?
SA: It was just the inside of one of the rooms; it was in, like, a history of Tampa or something, and they had from the thirties [1930s], I think. Â It was a picture of itnot the actual outside, but the inside.
RM: I had the picture of the outside. Â I dont know what I done with it. Â Cause it came in the newspaper, you know, they ran an article about it for some reason. Â Im sure somebody must have to have this picture somewhere.
SA: Yeah, Ill bringI think I have like one picture. Â Ill bring it by; Ill bring it by.
RM: Somebody should have this whole picture. Â It was ran in the newspaper, cause I got it out of the newspaper.
SA: Out of the Florida Sentinel?
RM: I think it was in the [Tampa] Tribune, thats what I was taking at the time.
SA: The Tribune?
RM: I think so.
SA: Okay, well, Ill see if I can find something. Â Lets see. Â What are some of your best memories living here in West Tampa?
RM: Best memories. Â You mean good or bad?
RM: Good memories?
SA: If you have some bad memoriesI mean, thats history, too. Â You know, thats important, too.
RM: Well, the good memories is that I just liked the location where I live. Â And everybody seemsyou know, in my neighborhood gets along fine and everything. Â So those are good memories. Â You know that you live in a neighborhood that everybody gets along.
SA: Its a community, right?
RM: Its a community.
SA: Its where you belong?
RM: Right. Â And we bond together as a neighborhoodyou know, the members meet together and everything. Â So, its just a good feeling that you have neighbors that bond together and care for each other.
SA: And just to go back for a second, when you were a young woman and coming up with your familycause West Tampa wasnt just African American, but also Italians and Hispanics.
RM: A lot of them used to live in those big houses, on, you know, the rows of houses all the way down that way. Â Huge houses, cause they had large families, so they lived all mixed with people.
SA: Did you everwere you ever able to mix with them?
RM: No, I didnt ever go mix with them.
SA: Was itit was separated then? Â Was it Howard whereDr. Rodriguez said her world ended at Howard.
RM: Probably so. Â (laughs)
SA: Which was the main African-American
RM: Yeah. Â And they moved out fast, too, eventually after the thing ended, segregation ended.
(knock at the door)
Pause in recording
SA: Just the last thing that you said, and its taping now
RM: Now, which one was it?
SA: But the last thing that you said about your great-grandma and why your great-grandma had brought you toyour great-grandma Haddie had brought you to her place, but you had tobut you had to work, you know, for your money. Â Just that sentence, you know, that you had said, cause thats important.
RM: Okay, my Grandmamma Haddie wanted some children to work in the field, and so Grandmamma Mathis was old and she wasnt able to take care of us, and so she sent word for Grandmamma Haddie to come and get us. Â So Grandmamma Haddie came and got us, and we had to take care of ourselves because she said she was old, and we had to work and get money in order to help buy clothes and take care of ourselves.
SA: And this is when you were seven until you were?
RM: Seven years old, till I was fifteen.
SA: Oh, goodness.
RM: I had to work in the field, because we didnt have very much. Â We didnt have nothing and my father did not send us anything, and so we had towhat little we got, she would buy me three dresses to wear. Â All I had was three dresses to wear to school. Â I couldnt havedidnt have but three. Â And now I have more clothes then I can even get into my closet.
SA: Thats very different now.
RM: Yes. Â But it waswe lived through some hard times by not having parents that really cared for us.
SA: Right. Â What were somewhat are some of your best memories? Â Looking back then, when you were
RM: Looking back, my best memories is that I met my husband and he was good to me and made things much better for me. Â And now Im happy, because I wasnt at the time because I didnt have anybody seemed that cared. Â But after I metthe Lord gave me a good husband and children and family, and those are my best days.
SA: Those are your best days, right?
RM: All of them, my best days, because I love my children and my children love me, and my husband loved me. Â And so these are my good days.
SA: Absolutely. Â Just forget abouttalking about, you know, life, your later life in West Tampa, but what you went through as a child, you know, with your parents and then going to your great-grandma Haddies and working the fields and then working as a maid. Â So you were a domestic for decades.
SA: And what thats like here in the South and being African American, you know, and all thatall of that, I mean, that is some serious history.
SA: You know, right there.
RM: Exactly, cause I remember doing the domestic work I think it was like for five dollars a day. Â That was not much, either. Â Now you get five dollars an hour, right?
SA: Probably about $6.85.
RM: Well, I had to work all day long to get the five dollars.
SA: Right. Â So what were some of yoursome not so good memories that you had about domestic work? Â Like, for example, did youwell, I mean, that can be kind of a personal question. Â But just reflecting, just going back to whenever you worked as a maid, what were some of the difficult things, difficult times that you had encountered? Â Like, depending on the families, I guess, you worked for.
RM: Oh, I worked for some good families.
SA: And did you live inyou didnt live in? Â You were just
RM: Just go there. Â I only did, like, probably three days out of the week or something like that, part-time. Â I never really went full-time because I had the children, so usually I would like to be with the children, cause I stayed with the children anyway when they were little, real little. Â So after they grew up and I put them in nursery, then they were bigger children. Â But I always was fortunate enough to be with some good people.
SA: Thats great. Â What nursery did the kids go to?
RM: Um, they went tolets see, what is it? Â Lets see. Â Ms. Geraldine; her little nursery was up on Main Street.
SA: The Helping Hand?
RM: No, it wasnt the Helping Hand, it wasI think she headed the FairyI got some papers when it was Fairy. Â I know the name; the teacher was named Ms. Geraldine Hall. Â Because her little nursery was right upyou know where the barbecue place is on Main? Â Well, her nursery was on Main Street just before you get to Howard. Â Thats wherethey went to nursery there.
SA: Well have to find out the name of that, and Ill tell youif I come across it, Ill
RM: Yeah, it was on Main. Â I think it was Fairy something. Â But I knew the teacher. Â Ms. Geraldine Hall was their teacher. Â And shes a (inaudible) now because she moved; when she moved from over there, she went overhad a little daycare on 30th Street.
SA: On 30th?
RM: Right across, by the railroad tracks. Â But I dontI think shes retired now, of course, because thats a long time.
RM: Thats a long time. Â And lets see, my granddaughterno, my baby daughter, she went to Ms.she graduated from Ms. [Marie Haynes] Wimberlys kindergarten. Â You know Ms. Wimberly? Â Shes passed on, but she was a hundred years old, or close to a hundred. Â Wimberlys Preschool right there on Albany [Avenue] right there. Â Theres a library [Dr. Walter L. Smith Library] round the corner on Albany, not too far from the library. Â Right off of Cypress.
SA: Is it still there, the nursery? Â The preschool is still there?
RM: Cause shes got other people that are carrying it on, but she passed on, I think last year. Â And she was close to a hundred.
SA: So lets talk about what youre doing now, what kind of work youre active in now. Â Cause you talked aboutfor like eleven years you were an educator, like as alike, for parents and nutrition. Â And so, just tell us a little bit about what youre involved in now. Â Youre involved with the Crime Watch Association.
RM: Yes, I am the coordinator of the West Riverfront Crime Watch Association, been there since ninety-three .
SA: Thirteen, almost fourteen years now.
SA: Tell us a little bit about your work in the Crime Watch Association, what youre working right now for the association.
RM: What were working on? Â Were working on projects thatwith the developers trying to come into our neighborhood.
SA: With the developers?
SA: And tell us a little bit about whats going on right now, and what youre doing about that. Â What youre trying tois it?
RM: Its about the interstate, I think. Â (laughs)
SA: Its about the interstate, right?
SA: Like we had already talked about this?
RM: Yes, we already talked about that, because thats one of the main things thats going on now.
SA: And whenever youre contacting people, youre contacting them as the West Riverfront Crime Watch Association. Â Okay, so thats the body, like your organization thats connecting people.
RM: Yeah, we have monthly meetings every month, just had one last Thursday. Â And then every fourth Thursday we have a meeting; but our next meeting is going to be the seventeenth because Thanksgiving comes early.
SA: Okay, right. Â And how many members are in the association?
RM: Thats hard to say, because we got some members that pay dues and dont go and then you count those too, and we have what you call active membership. Â Its maybe thirty-five or forty or something like that.
SA: Thats pretty strong? Â And what is
RM: Its a very strong neighborhood, so section of the city recognize it very, very, very, very highly.
SA: Yes. Â So what isso you have people from all different backgrounds in the Crime Watch Association?
RM: Um, yes. Â Now when you say background, what do you mean by that?
SA: I guessI mean you can say race or you can say cultures? Â Like if you have whites, Hispanics?
RM: Well, the thing about this is we have one white thats on this street, and he lives in the block where my other member just passed. Â We havethis neighborhood now is getting a lot of whites coming in. Theres four houses on the street, on the next street to me right there, new houses there. Â I put flyers up, but I havent been able to get anybody to come out yet, I dont know why. Â So we were working on those. Â So were trying to find out, you know, if theyre going to want to participate with us, being a neighborhood. Â But they haventtheyve been here quite a while, but they havent been to the meeting. Â So, its open to everybody that will come.
SA: So what does it mean, now that more whites are moving into the neighborhood? Â What might that mean?
RM: Means theyre trying to get close to their jobs and they like where we live.
SA: Like where we live, so its kind of like an encroaching
RM: Its in the center location, center location of the airport, stadium, downtown, Westshore. Â Its in the center. Â Everybody wants to come here now.
SA: Right. And then
RM: And we are getting calls and people and signs that are lookingI go out and pull the Well buy your house. Â They want to come in and buy us out.
SA: Right, thats what that means.
RM: Yeah. Â So, everyone wants to come here; its the placeits the location that everybody wants to come.
SA: What are the boundaries of the Crime Association? Â What do you represent, what areas?
RM: I represent from North Boulevard to Rome [Avenue] and from the interstate to Cass. Â But shortly, a few years down the road, the city has added us all the way to Kennedy, which we was not given that when we organized. Â So most of that is businesses, and we justour boundaries, we just stop it at Cass Street.
SA: So you stop at Cass. Â So how does the city support your association? Â I mean, if the city is in part funding the expansion of the interstate
RM: Its not the city.
SA: Its the?
RM: Its the state.
SA: Its the state.
RM: State of Florida.
SA: So the State of Florida is funding the interstate, but the City of Tampa is supporting your association, right? Â Like, how does the city support your association, I guess, islike, financially or they give you the space to meet?
RM: No, no. Â They dont give us a place to meet, and they dont give us the money.
SA: What doesdoes the City of Tampa thenhow do they support the association? Â OrI dont know if they do?
RM: No, they dont. Â I dont know. Â You know, they dont support us as far financially, no. Â I guess what youre trying to say, they have something like where you go and ask for projects to be given to you, because I got a letter yesterday about that. Â If you got a project that you want them to fund, then you ask for it on this paper.
SA: Right, then you apply for grants. Â I guess the money that they would then maybe award you.
RM: Yeah, its called a CBG or something like that, because I guessI got the letter yesterday.
CDBG, or Community Development Block Grant.
SA: Community Block Grants, maybe?
RM: Community Block Grants.
SA: Community Block Grants. Â Okay, so thats how they would support you. Â I apologize; thats my not knowing the exactly the right question to ask.
RM: Yes, theyI just got the letter yesterday that they talked about that.
SA: Right. Â And how much
RM: But they want someone to volunteer, and they need several more volunteers on their committee; they have twenty-seven committees. Â And I am stretched too wide to get any more things, because I go to a lot of meetings. Â I go to our meeting, which is once a month; and I go to a planning meeting, which is the train station. Â Thats on the (inaudible) of all the neighborhoods. Â I go to that one. Â Then we have extra meetings, like town hall meetings, which we just been to. Â So usually, you can only go to so many meetings.
SA: And are thereare you seeing younger people who are also getting involved, like people in their thirties and more
RM: Well, not a lot, which I would like to, cause when we went to the neighborhood park or so on we see young people like that, and thats we would love to see here, with more young people getting involved. Â I dont know why theyre not interested in getting involved, but I would love to see that.
SA: So you went to Lakeland for a conference last week for the association. Â So, tell me a little bit about why you went there and what that was about.
RM: I went there to get other ideas from other neighbors. Â Other people come from all over Florida, and we was into workshops and things that give you ideas as to how things are being done and what they accomplish. Â So its, like I said, the young people that I saw there: it gives a lot of ideas that, you know, how we can try to see we can recruit more young people in to the Crime Watch Association. Â And lets see, what else did I? Â And to train more leaders because we do need more leaders, because, you know, maybe we cant keep on going; somebody else needs to take over. Â So we need more leaders that are willing to lead. Â Leadership training, how to train morehow to be leaders. Â So, we need more leaders, cause people, theyrethey either dont think they can do it or dont want to do it or want you to do it. Â And so, really, thats what I got out of there, too.
SA: Wow. Â Do you know the name of the conference? Â What was it called? Â Do you want to put that on?
RM: It was just Florida Conference, or Neighborhood Conference. Â Let me see if I can get a book.
SA: Sure. Â Okay. Â Oh, I see, the 9th Annual Florida Neighborhoods Conference.
RM: It was great. Â We had a ball.
SA: Oh, my. Â So they
RM: They had the red carpet out for us and they welcomed us there, and they took pictures of us when we went. Â It was great!
SA: Wow! Â I wonder who this was funded by? Â The 2005Celebrating Floridas Great Neighborhoods, Lakeland, Florida. Â Wow, this is great!
RM: It was great.
SA: Florida Neighborhoods Conference.
RM: It was great!
SA: Wow, you must be[Tampa Mayor Pam] Iorio hears worries
RM: It was great.
SA: So how do you feel about our current mayor; you feel like shes supporting?
RM: Yeah, shes pro-neighborhoods.
SA: Yeah, shes for neighborhoods and shes for history, keeping history aliveand accurate history.
RM: And shes the best one weve had so far, one of the best. Â Sandy [Mayor Sandra Freeman] was good. Â I guess all the ladies must be the best.
SA: And Mayor [Dick] Greco?
SA: Right. Â I dont know the specifics, but I heard that
RM: He had two terms; you know, he was on two terms. Â You know he was there thirty years ago, right?
SA: I think so.
RM: Yeah, he had anotherhe went away and came back after he stayed out a long time. But mercy, Lord.
RM: Mercy, Lord have mercy. Â You dont have the tape recorder on, do you?
SA: Yes, maamoh, yes, I do.
Pause in recording
SA: All right. Â And this brings our interview to a close, so I just want to say thank you so much for sitting down and answering the questions that I have.
RM: Thank you for coming, and I enjoyed it very much.
SA: Thank you, Mrs. McNair.
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