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1 Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida Oral History Project Oral History Program Florida Studies Center University of South Florida, Tampa Library Digital Object Identifier: A31 00009 Interviewee: John Wesley Brown (JB) Interview by: Herbert Jones (HJ) Interview date: Unknown  Interview location: Unknown Transcribed by: Unknown Transcription date: Unknown Interview changes by: Kimberly Nordon Changes date: December 11, 2008 Final Edit by: Mary Beth Isaacson Final Edit date: Jan uary 22, 2009 John Wesley Brown : My full name is John Wesley Brown. Herbert Jones : Mr. John Wesley Brown. And could you tell us your age? JB: Seventy eight. HJ: Seventy eight, as of today. A little bit about your place of birth. Where was you born? I k now you just told me. JB: Well, Magtelly [possibly Micanopy or Martel] Florida. HJ: And about where is that? JB: That 's between Ocala twenty one miles on the other side of Ocala and twenty one miles this side of Gainesville. HJ: And did you go to sch ool up there? JB: Well, I went to little school. Little school. I didn't go to school much up there. And after (inaudible) ran away from my dad in 1914 so I didn't go to school any more. HJ: So where What year did you come to Tampa? JB: Twenty four [19 24] HJ: 1924 ? JB: 1924
2 HJ: 1924 Did you come straight from home to Tampa? JB: No. No. Come from Ft. My HJ: Tell us how What led you to get here? JB : Come from Ft. Myers here. HJ: Uh huh. J B: I n 1924. HJ: Had you been livin' down there long? JB: Well, somethin' about a year and a little better. HJ: So what made you decide to leave Ft. Myers and come to Tampa? JB: Well, I'll tell you, it could be a long story, but I'll make it sho rt. At night some boys there, t wo black boys, the Langston, he had been goin' in them canals with them girl you know? And well them "crackers" would see 'em and one another b ut this particu lar time some of them old "down hearted 'crackers'" seen em. You know what I mean? HJ: Right. (inaudible) JB: Yea h. And the La ngston boys. So p eople was sellin' the i r home s And busload after busload I wasn't gonna leave, y ou know, for I workin' at Franklin F ranklin owned a hotel you know washin' dishes. I was gettin' along all right. And sellin' their home, leavin' and about tw o bus loads a week leavin' there goin' different places o n them (inaudible). Okeechobee, Belle Glade, Everglades, all that down that Miami coast, by the busloads. And so they're leavin' so fast but I said, yeah, I expect I'd better. (laughs) I had, about two weeks ago had got a l etter from my sister, was l ivin' here in Tampa, and I got l etter had do ne got a l etter from her. And I said I got to studyin' and I said, sure I'd better pull up stakes now. (laughs) So I left. HJ: So at that time how old were yo u? JB: Well, I wouldn't know then at that time. I wouldn't know how old I was. HJ: But you was born in What year was you born? JB: Well, I see I just got see, we had our age down in the B ible way back there and a i t got burnt up, you know. And so in forty three [19 43 ] and I was here, I was workin' o n the dock and you had to have a
3 HJ: Birth certificate. J B: b irth certificate if you worked dynamite. And so I went there o n the corner of Estelle and Cass [there] was a Notary Republican there. And I saw him and I gave my h e writ me up somethin' (inaudible) me for my birth certificate. Come back, I was born in 1900. HJ: Okay. So you say about twenty five years old. A young (inaudible) man. JB: When? HJ: When you came here JB: Yeah. Yeah. Something like that. HJ: T o Tampa. When you left Ft. Myers. JB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It was somethin' like that. HJ: So were you on your own when your own when you came here? J B: Yeah, I've been o n my own ever since 1914, when I left home. HJ: What type of job di d you get as soon as you got here? JB: Well when always before, when I left home a I was a jobs that I a o f course, when I left home I was farmin', you know. And then when I left home I went to Clearwater and I worked a little around in caddy you know, gr ounds caddy tote you r [golf] bag. Then I worked o n a little farm there, out from Ft. Myers. Then, after that I mostly worked in them cafes washin' dishes, h otels around, you know. HJ: And that was at Ft. Myers? JB: No, that would have been Clearwater, when I first left home. HJ: Okay, so when you Oh that was before you made it to Ft. Myers. JB: Yeah. Yeah. Way before I went to HJ: See now JB That's along when I first left. See, when I first left home I was wearin' knees shor t knee pants? And them old (inaudible) and a pair of slippers. (laughs) HJ: You just ran away.
4 JB: Yeah, man, I was a small kid. But, bo y, I mean, I had a man look and (inaudible) you know. Yeah. Because, when I went to Ft. Myers there wasn't nothin' there but a package store I t was wet you know. Good old store. You get a half a pint of booze there for thirty five cents. Thirty to thirty five. Half a pint. And I'd go in the place and get my own liquor. Buy it, you know. HJ : (inaudible) How many years before you came back her e to Tampa? After you left Clearwater and you went to Ft. Myers JB: No. No. I left Clearwater I When I first left Clearwater I went out there on Indian Rocks Beach, you know, and worked out there around them hotels. Then I come back into Clearwater. So I left Clearwater for good I left Clearwater and went round o n a road camp. HJ: Yeah. JB: You know, man was buildin' p uttin' down curbin' HJ: Right. J B: o n the main drag. So another guy was comin' o n back laying bricks out of Oldsmar, you know, into C learwater. I worked with this man a good while, 'bout five or six months goin' there. HJ: Okay. So when you first w hen you left Ft. M yers and came to Tampa you was on your own JB: Yeah. HJ: where'd you go from there? JB: When I left Ft. Myers and com e down to Tampa? HJ: Right. JB : Now, of course, I had been o n my own w hen I left Ft. Myers and I was o n my o wn when I got here to Tampa in well, let's see, round here got a job the first job I got was workin' with my brother in law, workin' a Tampa Gas. HJ: So your brother in law was already livin' JB: Yeah. Yeah He and my sister was stayin' on 802 Carson, in front of the (inaudible) HJ: How was there any barbershops, black stores JB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
5 HJ: S omethin' near there? JB: Yeah, barber shops up and down Central black barber shop. HJ: Can you remember any of 'em? JB: Well, there's a one fell a he stayed here in Tampa. His name [was] Henry I forgot his name but h e cut my hair when I was along when I first came here (inaudible) 1924. HJ: So he had his own shop. JB: Well, I don't (inaudible) but was barberin' in there. I don't know whether that was his shop or not, you know. HJ: So your first job was what now once you got here? J B: Oh, workin' a Tampa Gas Company. Layin' p uttin' down piping, you know. HJ: Did they treat you all right? J B: Yeah. HJ: How'd the white people treat you? JB: Yeah. My brother in law had been workin' out there and got me a job out there. Really we got along all right. White foreman, you know. They had a l ot of blacks out there. You know, had to dig the ditches. See, I think they was puttin' those pipes down about that deep in the ground. Gas pipe, you know. HJ: Do you remember World War I? JB: Well, I know when they goin' to that's when I was HJ: You w asn't of age then. JB: Huh? Well, that's when I was in Clearwater. During World War I down in Clearwater I hadn't give it a thought. Wasn't thinkin' about no war. HJ: They didn't come get you? JB: No. No, wait a minute. HJ: Hmmm JB: And so 1918 I wo rkin' out from n o, wait a minute I'm ahead of my story. I was
6 around Bartow. I, you know, followed them construction job s You know, they would build bridges with this same man. When I got out from Clearwater. And so I got a letter from my sister, she wan ted me to come home because she was gonna get married, you know. That was in 1918. I wasn't figurin' o n goin' home yet, y ou know. So I went on home. And the guy was o n the east coast he never did marry because he stood her up. You know what I mean. He wa s on the east coast and s aid, [I'm] C omin' home sa id to sister, now he never did s how up. HJ: Never did. JB: Yeah. So I went home around there. Run from home to Gainesville and back and forth. So I had two brothers to go to the number one war. And since the lengths of ti me they was registerin' from eighteen to forty five And my daddy had got a job down here o n the Manatee River, a place called Palmetto. Out from Palmetto, a place called Ellenton. He got a job down there, was workin' for a fellow that ow ned a farm, a white fellow. And so I raced home and at eighteen and come o n down to Ellenton. And so I was waitin' o n my draft card, you know, questionnaire. So after a while my questionnaire come. This fellow I was workin' for, Brown, he had a big hardwar e store there, groceries and everything. That's where I was workin' for him. So he filled it out and s ent it back. So I was waitin' o n my draft card. Peace declared 1919 HJ: Peace? JB: Yeah. HJ: The war was over? Huh? JB: Yeah. Yeah. 1919 HJ: Well, did you ever come over to Tampa when you was livin' in Clearwater? JB: No. No. HJ: You never did? JB: No. Oh, wait. I might have come to Tampa. When we come to a place they call Cross Bayou and we had a long bridge to build. And when we got to [St.] Pe tersburg we built him a little cover there. And this here was the next stop. And we done been there and then build a right of way, you know, for 'em to detour, you know. And there's a fel low in Bartow they called Light nin'. He wa s a white fellow a nd he wa s over there H e was ashphaltin' them roads through there. So he had quit. And s e nt for my man to come over and take that job. Wasn't for that. I was right here in Tampa, you know, right here. And see Oldsmar. HJ: Oldsmar.
7 JB: Yeah, Oldsmar, Florida. Ju st little Oldsmar. That's right at Tampa. (laughs) HJ: Yeah. JB: Yeah. At that time, you know. And so we had to go over there to Bartow. HJ: Yeah. So what ot her kinds of jobs was there in twenty five [19 25 ] 1925 when you came? I know you s aid you was h andling the pipes. JB: Well, when I left there they puttin' down that pipe job, as far as I can remember I think I got another job down there o n Tampa Street. S tova ll Building They was puttin' another two story up o n that S t o va ll Building. HJ: Right. JB: And o n Nebraska [Avenue] See how that floor is, go beyond this outside the road? HJ: Uh huh. JB: That's what i n other words, that's the kind of floor they was puttin' up there. And so where t was rough, you know how rough concrete HJ: Right. JB: and so they had them big machines. HJ: Umm JB: Yeah. Yeah. HJ: A (inaudible). JB: Yeah. Yeah. So that was my job. Carryin' down that mud and bringin' up stuff to thi s fellow runnin' that machine, y ou know. And gettin' up that mud. Some elevator. Way up there. I think about seven or eight stories high. Them last two stories better than eight stor i es. And I do that job till you know, until it finished. And then the Florida Hotel. And then the Temple Terrace Hotel. The next job I got, the Temple Terrac e Hotel. I worked there abou t HJ: About what year was that? JB: Huh? HJ: About what year was that you worked at Temple Terrace Hotel? JB: The same year.
8 HJ: The same year, twenty five [19 25 ] JB: Yeah. No, in twenty five [19 25 ] So I worked there at that job. Only got about two days and I taken sick. I had to knock off. And I went home and stayed about two weeks and a half before I got well. And a n ow I got well enough to go back to work. And [if] I ain't mistaken then I think I went to work with my brother in law. H e had a 'little truck of his own and plumbin', you know, runnin' around fixin' pipin' and you want stoppin' the leaks. I worked with him a good while. HJ: So he had his own little service goin'? JB: Yeah. Yeah. HJ: What was his name? JB: Well, he was for a company, you know, for another man, but he was yeah, you know, for a company. Yeah. HJ: Okay Any of your friends Did you have any friends? What type of work was they doin'? You know, the other type of jobs, you know, not just the j obs JB: Wel l HJ: What other kinds of jobs was black men doin'? J B: They HJ: Where else was they workin'? JB: Well HJ: What kind of places? JB: Well, you see, durin' that time there was a lot of this construction work go ing on, buildin' houses, poundin' mortar, m akin' mortar. You know. And them old blo cks. A lot of block work goin' on along in there. And that was some of my friends was doin' that kind of work. HJ: What about the shipyards? [Was] a nybody workin' down there? JB: Well, that a ll th at was over when I come down. See that sh ipyard was around twenty two  and twenty three . I didn't get here until 1924. HJ: Yeah, but were no blacks workin' down there?
9 JB: Well, you see, I wasn't here then, I wouldn't know. HJ: I'm sayin' w hen you got here. JB: It wasn't runnin'. HJ: Oh. JB: I t was over with. Wasn't no ship buildin', nothin' goin' when I come out. That w as all over. HJ: There wasn't no dock work? JB: Yeah, a little dock work. Yeah. HJ: Any blacks was out there o n the d ocks? JB: Well I'll tell you about the docks. I never did know about the docks until way later years HJ: Afterwards JB: A fter I taken sick them two weeks, nearly three, I got up and walked around. I didn't know where I was goin'. And I walked up dow n there around that place, corner of Franklin Street, called the mail line. And a guy I walked in beckoned for me to come there I t was o n a platform. He had a twelve by twelve he was st andin' about this high, about twenty foot long, wanted me to help pus h it. (laughs) O n that dock I said, "Man, man I you can cussin' jumpin' up I walked away, like, laughin'. (laughs) Yeah, sure. HJ: So you've been here since 1925. Okay. JB: Twenty four  HJ: Twenty four . Well, what'd you do from twenty seven [19 27 ]? About 1927 where was you workin'? JB: Well, the you know HJ: Highway JB: t ype jobs. HJ: Yeah. J B : Yeah.
10 HJ: So you stayed with them? J B: Yeah. Till the jobs come, you know. You'd stay o n a job until it come and then you'd probably get another job. HJ: Yeah. Anything else you can tell me about where was you know, where would you gather? Where was you all gathering at? You know. JB: You mean HJ: Where was all you know, after work and everything, where was everybody gather what was the gathering spot? JB: Yeah, I un derstand. There was a place up o n Houghton and Central [Avenue] Them were the street you know. Up and down Central. Cass Street b oom, you know, everybody s happy. Different types of places, you know. Y ou'd go in an d get a beer or drink of pop or somethin' you know. And (inaudible) the same way. Goin' and comin'. HJ: All right. Can you tel l me about the streetcars? You rode the street cars? J B: Well yeah. During that time I didn't learn too much about street cars. B ut they was runnin' around here a long time before they took 'em off, the street cars. HJ: What about schools? Was there any schools here? JB: Oh, yeah, there were schools here but I didn't know too much about any schools. HJ: Okay. Do you remember an ything about land (inaudible) ? JB: No. HJ: Okay, what about housing? Where did most of the blacks l ive? Did they live in houses JB: Yeah. Yeah. HJ: Or was they rentin' or J B: Yeah. Well, they lived off HJ: They were mostly rentin'. JB: Yeah. We lived in houses. You'd rent 'em, you know. But a
11 HJ: Some blacks, did they own? Did w as that JB: Some of 'em did. HJ: Some did? JB: Some of did. Some of 'em rented. HJ: Along about twenty five [19 25 ] to thirty five [19 35 ], was there any really po pular and powerful black men or women around? JB: Well, I imagine there was but you know, I never HJ: You hadn't re ally gotten to know too many JB: No. No. No. HJ: Could you just tel l me about f rom whene ver you want to start talkin' JB: Well HJ: Y ou can go as far back as you can remember, just about Tampa, just tel l me whatever. JB: Yeah, well, there wasn't too much about Tampa that I know because I never did get about much over Tampa, you know, when I was (inaudible). Just bein' around I wasn't HJ: Was the police bad? JB: Oh yeah. HJ: Run you down in the street? Did you have to be off the street at a certain time? JB: Well, no. But what I mean they they were strict, you know. HJ: What would they do? JB: Well, they used them old stick s, y ou know. Rough you up. HJ: What would you have to do for them to rough you up? JB Well, you know, be cussin' and g oin' on. (inaudible) And arguments o n the streets, you know. HJ: But if you was just walkin' with your wife, maybe walkin' to church or som ewhere
12 they wouldn't bother you? JB No. No. No. Wasn't nothin' like that. HJ: And what was it there wasn't no lynching goin' o n was there? JB: No. No. HJ: B ecause I remember it was goin' o n in Ft. Myers you said. JB: Yeah. HJ: None of that was goi n' o n here though? JB: No. No. HJ: So, basically, most of the black people was all right. You know. JB: Yeah. Yeah. HJ: I mean i t was pretty safe. JB: Yeah. Yeah. HJ: Nobo dy come runnin' in the house JB: No. No. No. HJ: pullin' you out of your h ouse or nothin? JB: No. No. No. And then down there to Ft. Myers it wasn't like that. They didn't come 'round I mean grabbin' up any kid or something like that, you know, carryin' him HJ: Only if you did something wrong. JB: Well, I mean, they didn't bother nobody but if them two boys you know, what I mean, in this couple, just them two boys. Well, now one of the boys they got that night, they got him out the jail house, that first one. He was in the jail. Now, see they had changed sheriffs. See, wh en I first went down there, the s heriff down there t hey called Sheriff Tipton. See, when I first went down there in 1921. So when I went back during that summer o n the river we went back down there in 1922. Yeah, so There wasn't them... During the time them boys why, they changed sheriffs and the sheriff there they called Albritton. (inaudible) And that's when they had the boy in jail. They went there and took the boy out the jail f rom under the jail. Yeah. Took the boy out the jail from under the
13 jail. That 's right. That's what I was told. And then brought him up there in the colored part and you could see four fork s you know, of the street. And you could see some b urnt wood and stuff w here they put him up there and o n the four forks, in the middle of that r oad, and tried to burn him. HJ: Yeah. JB: So he couldn't get down. The fellow there before, Rich Barker, had an old stove porch; they hung him up o n the head. So I don't know how they had him hangin' up. But later o n they cut him down, they lay him down there by the thing. And some of them, got a sheet from some of the colored people and put over him. HJ: Okay. Well, let me ask you another question. Now, about how much money was you makin' ? How m uch was they payin' you about JB: Well, I was gettin' my salary would always be... HJ: in the twenties [19 20 s ] and the thirties [19 30 s ] ? JB: Yeah. Down around Ft. Myers? HJ: No. Here. Once you got here, not in Ft. Myers JB: Oh yeah? HJ: ...just once you got to Tampa. JB: When I first come down to Tam pa I was makin' I was gettin' around about oh, o n the average $2 dollars and somethin' an hour. About $2.20 or somethin' an hour or somethin' an hour and like that. You know around that workin' for the Tampa Gas Company diggin' them ditches. HJ: Say wh at was that pay again? JB: Oh, about $2.20 somethin' an hour. From $2.20 to $2.30 or somethin' like that. HJ: And that was in the twenties [19 20 s ] ? JB: Yeah. HJ: Okay, can you tell me about were you [here] in the forties [19 40 s ] ? Were you here in Tam pa in the forties [19 40 s ] the 1940s? JB: Yeah. HJ: Do you remember the Tampa riot? The riot they had?
14 JB: In 19 HJ: About 1947 or forty five [19 45 ] ? Or was there a riot? Can you recollect? JB: No, I don't remember no riot that I know that you're thinking about. HJ: You know, a lot the a ll the black people start fighting white people and everything. JB: Not as I remember. HJ: Not during the forties [19 40 s ] ? JB: No, see during let's see HJ: About World War II time, a bout during the war or af ter the war, World War II. JB: I know. I know what you mean (inaudible) thing to say. There might have been a little scuffle which he Ma cDill Field. You heard talk of it? HJ: Yeah. JB: Well, then during that time, you know, them soldiers was in and ou t of town out there. Well, I think they had a little scuffle among the police and them soldiers a n d civilians durin' that time, but I don't think [it] amounted to too much. You know, it wasn't too much. HJ: Just low key? JB: Yeah. HJ: Okay. Well, can you tell me anything about the churches? Say, after World War I, say from the thirties [19 30 s ] and forties [19 40 s ] what about did we have a lot of churches of our own? JB: Well, I was "out there" durin' the time. You know what I mean about "out there"? HJ: Yeah. JB: So I couldn' t tell you too much about the HJ: You weren't goin' to too many, right? JB: (laughs) I couldn't tel l you too much about them churches. Now, you take from a let's see now what year now from 1952 o n up till now I could tell you about them churches.
15 HJ: Okay, well no t yet, unless you know, because Okay When you came in the twenties [19 20s ] and thirties [19 30s ], was there certain places that you couldn't go? You know, that we couldn't go? JB: Yeah, I understand. Yeah. Well, b ut now let's see HJ: Well, what type of places was there? Was there any places in general? JB: And down and oh Let's see Well, I'll tell you I didn't do too much travelin' around an my own in the white sections. HJ: But it was understood to stay in our section JB: Yeah. Yeah. HJ: if you didn't want to get murdered? JB: No. No. HJ: Or was it free for us to walk around JB: Yeah. Yeah. HJ: in the white section? JB Yeah. Yeah. HJ: You know, or it was drive through. JB: Well, I mean, you could f ree to go anywhere you want to go. You know. Of course, now, there were plenty of places open that the black had for their own, you know what I mean? Now, say for instance, down o n Franklin or them other streets, I never did know blacks hung around there goin' in them N n ever did nobod y g oin' in those places down there, you know. HJ: So that's where t hat's another thing I really want to know. What places was there around that you went to? What was the names of these places and what streets was they on? JB : Well, I try to tell you the names of the places, eve n the streets. But, anyway HJ: Well, you don't have to go way back, just maybe from the forties [19 40s ] JB: Yeah.
16 HJ: Maybe from 1940s. JB: Well, there was [19 40s ] 1 940s HJ: Yeah, 1940s. JB: Ye ah. HJ: Let's forget about twenty five [19 25 ] thirty [193 0 ] Let's World War II time. JB: Yeah. HJ: That's where we re at. JB: Yeah. HJ: World War II. JB: Well, I can remember I 'd always go out different places, you know, and go in I would drink at t he different bars that was around. HJ: Any one particular bar? JB: No. Any HJ: You know, in the 1940s? You know JB: Well, now let's see HJ: Somebody you knew owned it? JB: Little Savoy was runnin' a bar. HJ : (inaudible) was that? JB: Down o n Scott [Street] and Central. HJ: Scott and Central. JB: Off of Central on right o n the corner of Scott and Central. HJ: What was the na m e of that bar? JB: Little Savoy. HJ: Little Savoy.
17 JB: Yeah. HJ: What was it like? JB: It's a nice bar. H J: Was it crowded? JB: Nice y eah, i t be crowded. And then they had in there some rooms, you know, and they had waiters and, like, you and a friend or two couples or four couples would go in there and they places cut off with rooms. Then the waiters, they can go in there and take your order and come go back and get it and carry it back in there to HJ: Any bolita goin' o n in these places? JB: Yeah, it but nothin' n o. Not that kind of place. That was just a place where you could go and have your fun and dr ink liquor. HJ: That was basically the only thing JB: Yeah. HJ: that you was doin' there. JB: Yeah. And then another boy had another place g oin' across Nebraska o n Scott Street the sa m e way. Yeah. HJ: Okay. Well, do you know a Clara Frye? JB: Yeah. HJ: Who was that? JB: Hospital (inaudible). HJ: That was a hospital. Was it in JB: Clara Frye Hospital. HJ: Uh huh. Was it open JB: Yeah, during my time. HJ: During your time.
18 JB: Yeah. HJ: Was it open when you first came here? JB: No. HJ: Did you go there? JB: Yeah. HJ: Did you utilize it? JB: Yeah. HJ: How was it? J B: Let me see HJ: About how many nurses there and JB: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I didn't know too much about it. They say it was nice pretty good hospital. I'm tr ying to think of the year. But, anyway, I had a chance to go there in that hospital for a hernia operation. HJ: When was that? JB: Huh? HJ: When was that? About when did you go in the hospital? JB: To Clara Frye Hospital. HJ: About year? JB: That's w hat I'm tryin' to think now. Let's see forty [19 40 ] or Side 1 ends; side2 begins. JB: a nd then they had some men there they called the orderly boys. HJ: So, who di d that operation o n you? JB: Well, a doctor called Dr. Smoke. HJ: Was he black?
19 JB: Huh? White. HJ: Uh huh. JB: And o n Tampa Street, over that same buildin' I think the Citizens Building on the seven th floor. Dr. Smoke. HJ: Okay, anything else about the forties [19 40s ] ? JB: No. That HJ: Before the war? After the war? A lot of bla cks came back? JB: Oh, yeah. HJ: How was it then? JB: Well, my brother never came back from the war. He never did go overseas. He got stationed at Tampa and he stayed. HJ: Was there a lot of jobs after the war? JB: Well, there [were] smarter jobs afte r the war, I imagine. After I stayed down there, after the wa r down to Ellenton, there, and worked down there a good while. My first goin' to Ft. Myers was 1921. HJ: Now, World War II, now, in the forties [19 40s ] forty five [19 45 ] JB: Yeah. HJ: What a bout World War II? JB: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. HJ: We left World War I. JB: Yeah. HJ: What about after World War II JB: Yeah. Yeah. HJ: and everybody comin' back from the war? JB: Oh yeah.
20 HJ: Well, were there a lot of jobs after World War II? JB: Yeah. HJ: Where was we workin' then? J B: Out o n the waterfront. HJ: Out o n the waterfront. JB: Right. I worked the waterfront from 1932 to 19 I mean, nearly thirty years, I'd say. I worked the waterfront. HJ: What were you doi n' out there? JB: Well, different jobs. You know. HJ: Like what? JB: Workin' in the o n the ships most of my time. And then a lot of times I'd land out there, you know, o n the docks. HJ: Was there a lot of us workin' out there? JB: Oh, there was HJ: A lot of blacks workin'? JB: All that was worki n' there was blacks. Black work men, black headers, black pullers, all the housemen was black. Everything was black. Got along dandy. HJ: Didn't have no problems with the white workers? JB: No. No. Go o n ov er here we established a u nion. We had a little problem then gettin' that Union established back in the thirties [193 0s ] HJ: What about that? JB: Thirty one [19 31 ] and thirty two [193 2 ] HJ: What'd y a ll do then? JB: Uh? HJ: What'd you all do to ge t the union started?
21 JB: They struck. Struck. Wouldn't go to work. HJ: Who was gettin' JB: President. HJ: everything together? JB: President. HJ: Who was that? JB: Perry Harvey [Senior] He's dead now but his boy's [Perry Harvey, Jr.] got it ru nnin' right on. HJ: But he was the head man. JB: Yeah, Perry Harvey, he [was] head of the union. Yeah. HJ: Uh huh. JB: And a HJ: Up till before you didn't have a union. T hen during that time you all's tryin' to get it started Was he the head man JB: Yeah. HJ: gettin' it started? JB: Yeah. No. No. I'm ahead of myself. They had another fellow. HJ: What was his name? JB: Johnny LaBelle. He's supposed to have been the h e was the president and he was supposed to, you know, get this union up. H J: What happened to him? JB: He chickened out. HJ: Did he? JB: Yeah. Partly sellin' out to the "crackers HJ: Huh?
22 JB: Partly sellin' out to the "crackers." You know what I mean? HJ: Uh huh. JB: And then Perry Harvey got to be the president and th e n he HJ: So did he get run out of town or what? JB: Well, yeah he got goin'. HJ: Did he leave o n his own? JB: Must have. (laughs) HJ: Or did you all run him out? JB: No. No. I don't think that happened, 'bout we run him out. He just chickened out and lef t on his own I think. Of course, I didn't know too much about it. HJ: But he was one of the leaders until then. JB: Yeah. Yeah. He was the first one tryin' to get it started, you know. HJ: He was the first? JB: Yeah. And so after this other fe llow got to be president, why HJ: What was his name again, Johnny JB: LaBelle, Johnny LaBelle. And this second one was named Perry Harvey. And who we had the little strike and everything. They tried to go in down there like they had the scuffle up. In oth er words, they tryin' to bring un union men down there in trucks, you know, the workers. And so they had a lot of blacks down there tryin' to get a union, you know, you got a little scufflin' up down there. Didn't amount to too much. They all got t he y went o n back. And so, finally, we got it settled and got a raise. I bet you can't guess how much we went back o n a raise (laughs) HJ: Yeah, tell me about that. JB: Three cents. (laughs) HJ: That was all you got. And then what was you makin' before? JB : I think around thirty cents.
23 HJ: So you were makin' thirty three with your raise. JB: Yeah. HJ: That was a n hour? J B: On the hour, yeah. And then after then, you know, every time well strike again. We had a strike. Oh, we didn't strike no more. You pause in recording JB: ne gotiating go to a meeting. Go to these meetings, you know, and fight for a raise. You know, what I mean? HJ: Yeah. JB: The not him t he whole Jacksonville, Miami and Pensacola and all them, you know, So uthern states, you know And you all go to a meetin', man. Yeah. That president come back, he never got us a raise when we wanted somethin' if it ain't but a nickel. HJ: So who was that? JB: The president. HJ: That was Harvey? JB: Yeah. For our union. HJ: That was Perry Harvey? JB: Yeah. Yeah. HJ: He d do all the negotiating. JB: Yeah. Yeah. And now, I don't know exactly, bu t if I ain't mistaken now that eight hour pay t his eight hours of pay time, I think it was around I'm rough guessin' now around $75 or $80 dollars for eight hours. HJ: Then? JB: Huh? HJ: When was that? Then? JB: Now!
24 HJ: Now. JB: Yeah. Now! Now! Seventy five or eighty dollars for eight hours work. HJ: (w histle s ) JB: Yeah, I'm rough guessin' now ; it might not be that much. Because I've been left from down there since twenty seven [19 27 ] r etired. HJ: So you work ed down at the docks for about thirty years. JB: Yeah, a little better. Yeah. HJ: From 1930 JB: Yeah. HJ: to about sixty [19 60 ] ? JB: Till um me I mean, seventy two [19 72 ] I me an, fifty seven [19 57 ] and fifty [19 50 ] HJ: Fifty seven  or fifty eight [19 58 ] JB: Yeah. HJ: Well, could you tell me anything else about the docks? J B: Well, no. About all I can think about the docks. HJ: All right. Well, one more question. L et me see okay. D uring the forties [19 40s ] and the fifties [19 50s ] what about was Clara Frye Hospital still the only place you could go if you was sick? JB: No. HJ: Where else did you go? JB: No. Well, you see I don't know what year that you HJ: Fort ies [1940s] JB: I know. I know. You're HJ: After the war.
25 JB: You're talkin' about in the forties [19 40s ] and then after Clara Frye HJ: In the fifties [19 50s ] JB: Yeah. And then I wouldn't know what year Tampa General opened up. I don't [know] wha t year that was. But I know See, now, I had that hernia operation in the forties [19 40s ] I think it was, down there to Clara Frye. And then I had another one you know, a seco nd one. I had the second one oh about my wife passed in sixty nine [19 69 ]. I gue ss, rough guess, about three months after [she died in] sixty nine [19 69 ] I had the second operation, hernia operation. I went to Tampa General Hospital then. HJ: So, one more thing, could you tell me about back to the shipyards when Mr. La Belle was the f irst president, right? JB: Yeah. HJ: Okay JB: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. The Longshoreman s [Union] I ain't got nothin' to do with the shipyards. HJ: Longshoreman's f i rst president of the Longshoreme n. About him leavin', could you tell me any more specifics other than he sold out? What made him leave? JB: Well, I don't know exactly how it was, but I just assumed. HJ: Just in general. JB: I can say that these two things; you can "chicken out" or you can "sell out" "chicken out" or "sold out". H J: One of the two. JB: Yeah. HJ: Yeah, I just thought there maybe was something in yo u know JB: No. No. HJ: o r said that might lead me to go forward. JB: Well, you see I don't know what happened but he left HJ: Okay, anything else you want to tel l me about after the forties [19 40s ] about Tampa coverin' ?
26 JB: No. No. I not recently. About all I know. HJ: Okay. Well, Mr. Brown, then that about ends our JB: Okay. HJ: in terview JB: Yeah. HJ: unless you want to add somethin'. JB: No. Ain't nothin' I can add. Leave the tape for 'em. (laughs) HJ: Okay, well, I thank you. I can cut it off right here. end of interview
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Brown, John Wesley,
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Otis R. Anthony and members of the Black History Research Project of Tampa.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (43 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida oral history project
Other interviewers for the Black History Research Project of Tampa were Fred Beaton, Joyce Dyer, Herbert Jones, and Shirley Smith.
Interview conducted in 1978, month and day unknown.
John Brown discusses the longshoremen's union and some of his other jobs.
Brown, John Wesley,
International Longshoremen's Association.
Anthony, Otis R.
Black History Research Project of Tampa
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS