Alma Ford

Citation
Alma Ford

Material Information

Title:
Alma Ford
Series Title:
Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida oral history project
Creator:
Ford, Alma
Anthony, Otis R
Black History Research Project of Tampa
University of South Florida Libraries -- Florida Studies Center. -- Oral History Program
University of South Florida -- Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publisher:
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
1 sound file (17 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
African Americans -- Florida ( lcsh )
African Americans -- History -- Florida ( lcsh )
Genre:
Oral history. ( local )
Online audio. ( local )
interview ( marcgt )
Oral history ( local )
Online audio ( local )

Notes

Summary:
Alma Ford discusses Central Avenue, Tampa's African American business district, and the social events that occurred there.
Venue:
Interview conducted September 6, 1978.
General Note:
Other interviewers for the Black History Research Project of Tampa were Fred Beaton, Joyce Dyer, Herbert Jones, and Shirley Smith.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Otis R. Anthony and members of the Black History Research Project of Tampa.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
020799738 ( ALEPH )
436228443 ( OCLC )
A31-00020 ( USFLDC DOI )
a31.20 ( USFLDC Handle )

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Format:
Audio

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This item has the following downloads:


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transcript timecoded false doi A31-00020 skipped 15 dategenerated 2015-06-10 19:24:28
segment idx 0time text length 42 Alma Ford: 3408 26th Street, zip code 305.
140 Fred Beaton: How long you been in Tampa?
254 AF: Been in Tampa since the 3rd of July in '57 [1957].
365 FB: What were the conditions of Blacks and how were they treated?
474 AF: Well, when I first came here it was all right, when I first came here.
547 FB: Can you explain what you mean by all right?
694 AF: Well, I mean I didn't have no trouble with them or anything, with the streets or anything.
760 FB: Were there, ah-did you come in contact with segregation?
87 AF: No.
956 FB: I'm talking about on buses and stuff like this here.
1010 AF: Un uh.
11140 FB: I'm talkin about-okay, what I mean by that, I mean, were the bus-did you have any problem by getting on the bus or sitting in the front?
1218 pause in recording
13170 AF: No. Fifteen years and five months and I was the only Black one working there. And I had White salesladies working under me and they never gave me no problem about it.
1484 FB: Okay, how about Central Avenue; how was Central Avenue when you first came here?
15374 AF: When I first came here, the house we were living in, I'm a tell you the truth, it was a old wooden frame house. And it didn't have no Frigidaire [brand of refrigerator]-well, I only stayed a week. They had a ice box. And the floors, you had to keep a water hose on the floors all the time and it was really bad. And the bed was full of (inaudible) [some sort of insect].
16pause in recording
17378 AF: -and everything and we didn't know what it was, and God knows if you scratch it, and it would make it worse, and it was red. And day so I told Claude, I said it's something on this bed ain't right. Man we raised that mattress up-them little hold down there and all them was around on the rails and all them little things like that, oohs, them were covered with (inaudible).
1863 FB: Were these the conditions of most of the houses on Central?
19AF: We didn't live in the one on Central; we only stayed there for a week.
2020 FB: Oh, only a week.
2141 AF: Then we moved in Moses White's house.
2258 FB: Oh, Moses White owned houses back then, in '57 [1957]?
23AF: Uh huh. He owned the apartment house right there by the yard.
2416 FB: Oh, down on?
2517 AF: On Constance.
2645 FB: On Constance, called Mango Rooming House.
27354 AF: Then we moved from there and then we got a house. Mary, Claude, Jeff and I got a house together until, you know-then Claude and I moved in. We had a big two story house. And then when they got ready to tear down on that side, then we moved back on the other side of the street in Mr. White's house. We stayed there until-we still rent from Mr. White.
2814 FB: Oh, I see.
2935 AF: Uh huh, we still rent from him.
30100 FB: Well, ah, what did most of the Blacks do on Central? Was it a meeting place for friends or what?
31122 AF: Well, I'm gonna to tell you what they mostly did, Fred. People just be up there drinking and having a ball and things.
3273 FB: So most of the activities on Central were drinking and socialization?
33252 AF: Uh huh, yeah, uh huh. You know how your mother and I, we use to be up there all the time. We ain't never had no problem with nobody up there. You know, we be in the Cotton Club, and sit up there drinking, we ain't never had no problems with nobody.
34FB: Can you name some of the business that was on Central?
35390 AF: Well, the Cotton Club, the Little Savory, the Pyramid, the LS, and ah, the Moon, and John Reeds, and Rogers Dinette, and ah, about-Mason was right across the street, the Greek Stand, and it was the-some groceries stores there before we had the rioting. There was a washerette up there on Central, a laundromat, and it was a Moon Clothing Store-oh, well, it was so many things, you know.
3666 FB: Do you remember-what do you remember most about the Elks Club?
37463 AF: Well, I use to go over there a lot of time to parties and things like that. I wasn't a member, but I knew a lot of people that was. Something like those parties they use to have over there. We use to go over there, but we were not a member, but they use to invite us to them. On top of that, my husband was working at Eckerds [drugstore chain], and like they would give a big party every year, we mostly-if we have in Tampa, we would have it over to the Elks.
3893 FB: The parties that they had, can you describe some of the things that was going on in them?
39477 AF: Well, I mean it was like-well, the one that we had from Eckerds, where we had all kind of drinks, and food, and everything. It was all free and give away prizes, and things like that, and get tickets at the door. And they have ah-the Elks would have different parties over there. When they would have different parties over there, we would be invited over there, carrying food and drinks and all that kind of stuff like that. And dance, they had bands and things like that.
4071 FB: Can you name some of the bands right offhand, can you remember any?
41151 AF: Oh, Lord. Fred, I really can't do that, cause they would have so many of them over there. And sometimes they even would have local bands from here.
4253 FB: Did they ever have Count Basie's band over there?
43142 AF: No, I don't know nothing about, I've never seen Count Basie over there. They had some nice bands, but I never seen Count Basie over there.
4497 FB: Did they take part in any type business on Central, any members of the Elks that you know of?
4550 AF: You mean was any of them in business or some-?
4659 FB: Yeah, did they have any business that you can think of?
47313 AF: I know about five or six men that was ah-and I know Rubin, she live across the street, right over there. I know she was member. Oh, five or six men that I knew, but I think most of them dead now; I don't even know their names now. But it was a lot of them, I knew ah-but you mean that had business on Central.
48227 FB: Did they take part in any type of social organization or any type of self help organization for Blacks, you know? In other words, did they-were there any organization within the Elks that set up things that can help Blacks?
4983 AF: What you mean like a Mason thing, like that? Well, you mean like Bennie Shuman?
5031 FB: Ah, yeah, you can say that.
5195 AF: Uh huh, Bennie Shuman, and God bless the dead, Mr. Lewis, yeah, all of them was in the, ah-
52FB: Can you tell us any thing about the Masons? Were they strong?
53125 AF: I don't nothing about that, cause I wasn't in-I was just being invited to the parties. So I can't say nothing about that.
54190 FB: But getting back to Central Avenue-see what we trying to do, we trying to get a good picture of how Central Avenue was when you first came down here. Were the streets constantly crowded?
55246 AF: Oh, gosh, yes! Uh huh. I mean everyday they were packed, and people were working, and they didn't have no problem getting no job, and nothing like that. My husband used to go down there at breaks and made twenty five and thirty dollars a day.
5611 FB: Really?
57113 AF: Uh huh, so did, you ask Glady, she'll tell you. Sure did. I mean like the work problem like it is now, shoot.
58FB: Uh huh.
5967 AF: The only way you weren't working is because you didn't want to.
60FB: So it was a plenty jobs for Blacks during the fifties [1950s]?
61372 AF: Sure! Sho 'nough was. 'Cause Paulette was worked for about, almost two years, Paulette was working two jobs working at the First National Bank at night and working at Eckerds in the day time. No, you didn't have no problem getting no job. Naw, it wasn't no problem with no job; like I say, only reason why you didn't get one was because you didn't really want to work.
62FB: Were most of the Blacks confined to being janitors, waiters, waitress, and cooks or something like this during this time?
631370 AF: Any type of work you was qualified for, you could get it. Cause, just like when I first started working at Russells in Britton Plaza, and I started working there in '58 [1958] and I use to wonder how they dress some mannequins and put the pants and things on them. I didn't know nothing about that, and Altamese, my friend, she was supposed to go and her baby was sick and she couldn't go. So she asked me to go and I went there that morning, and so Mrs. B.-Mrs. Burnhouser, we called her Mrs. B. Anyway, so, she came out and so she ask me what I know about working in a store. I told her nothing, she say you never worked in a store before, and you came here looking for a job. I say, "I didn't come looking for none; you called Altamese [Brown], my friend, last night and she couldn't get here, so she told me to come," and so she ask me if I had Social Security card and she asked me my name, address, telephone number and I gave all that to her. And I had went to a Publix [grocery store chain] and got some groceries cause I was fixin' to go back home, so she wrote all that down. So I was fixin' to take my bag and go out. And so she told one of the other sales lady to take me back there and show me where to put my bag, and they had a big Frigidaire back there, and she ask me if I had any meat or anything to put in there, and so I started right on to work.
649 FB: Yeah?
65231 AF: Uh huh, and I did all them windows like I wanted to do, and every time they open a new store, like Clearwater and what's the other big shopping center on 7th Avenue-Everybody's Store, and I did all the decoration for the store.
6652 FB: What you. were doing there? Interior decorating?
6769 AF: Uh huh. And they open the store in Clearwater, I did all of that.
68FB: Were there any, ah, when you were working there, were you discriminated against in any way?
69649 AF: Un uh, no. When I had to go to Clearwater, we opened a store in Clearwater, I did everything just the way I wanted. And my boss-see I wasn't working under no manager, I was working for the boss. And, ah, and so they-and, like, I go picking things for the grand opening of the store. And if I picked things out, and I've three or four racks of things and if I want to change that, and then if I didn't like what I put in the window, I put whatever I want in there. Oh yeah, I did all of that. And all them that was were working in there, what I was telling them to do, and there was another Black girl and the rest of them was White but they had-
70pause in recording
71107 FB: How many people were-how many Blacks were working at the company you were working at, that you know of?
7244 AF: Where I was working? I was the only one.
7329 FB: Out of the whole company?
74AF: Oh, no-well they had a girl working at Northgate and they had one working in Clearwater after I trained them.
7532 FB: Oh, you trained all of them?
76AF: Uh huh, yeah.
77FB: So it was only three Blacks working?
7824 AF: We had three stores.
7921 FB: And three Blacks?
80254 AF: Uh huh, one working at each store, but they was just employees, and they wasn't on no training or nothing. I had to do the training to them and everything. I was-you know, I had to teach, I had to go to the different stores and teach them to do that.
8127 FB: See, this is important.
82189 AF: Uh huh, Well I did, I would have to go-see, like, they get new help in the store, and then I would have go to different stores and teach them how to do the windows and things like that.
83FB: So you were in display?
84176 AF: Huh? Well, I was in all of it. They never resented by me being over or nothing. They never resented that, none I of them. And sometimes it used to be like 11 and 12 o'clock
85469 at night when I get home. Because when we closed at Britton Plaza, I would have to go to Northgate and do the windows. No, I ain't had no problems at all. And I had customers come in that store-it was two or three ladies, they come in there and if I wasn't there they wouldn't let nobody else wait on them. Then they got where they started calling and-I mean, they were White, too-and they got where they started calling to see if I was there before they come shopping.
86614 I never had no problems. And you know what they would do, I could be sitting down reading the paper, cause see I had my own desk and I could be sitting down behind the register, and I used to do all Mrs. B.'s shopping for her house, grocery shopping, I did all that for her house too. And sometimes, she say, "Baby, a little shopping for me when you get a minute, please." And anything she want from the house she would, like she go off and leave the groceries, what Kathy be done made out for her. And I call Kathy, and asked her what she needed at home. I had it made there, but see we just went out of business.
8734 FB: Oh, they went out of business?
88169 AF: Yeah, uh huh, Mr. B.-he dead, had two strokes and then he had a heart attack-I mean that's after we closed the store. All her banking and everything, I did all that.
89FB: Well, ah-they didn't hire too many Blacks though, did they?
90AF: If they would come there for it and they were qualified to be a sales lady, sure they would hire her, uh huh.
9155 FB: Were there any in management or anything like that?
928 AF: Huh?
9328 FB: Were they in management?
94271 AF: Well, see, okay, like I had been there so long, couldn't nobody come in there and be no manager over me, but they could be a sales lady if they was qualified for it. But other than that, but they couldn't do that, unless, they would have to have my permission for it.
9546 FB: Okay, all right, see that now that wasn't-
96end of recording
unicode



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COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 2009, University of South Florida. All rights, reserved This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrig hted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fo wler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.

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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 00020 Interviewee: Alma Ford (AF) Interview by: Fred Beaton (FB) In terview date: September 6, 1978 Interview location: 3408 26th Street Tampa, Florida Transcribed by: Unknown Transcription date: Unknown Interview changes by: Kimberly Nordon Changes date: December 16, 2008 Final Edit by: Mary Beth Isaacson Final Edit date: January 22, 2009 Alma Ford : 3408 26th Street, zip code 305. Fred Beaton : How long you been in Tampa? AF: Been in Tampa since the 3rd of July in '57 [1957] FB: What were the conditions of Blacks and how were they treated? AF: Well, when I first came here it was al l right, when I first came here. FB: Can you explain what you mean by al l right? AF: Well, I mean I didn't have no trouble with them or anything, with the streets or anything. FB: W ere there ah did you come in contact with seg regation? AF: No. FB: I'm talking abou t on buses and stuff like this here. AF: Un uh. FB: I'm talkin about o kay, what I mean by that, I mean, were the bus did you have any problem by getting on the bus or sitting in the front? pause in recording AF: No. Fifteen years and five months and I was the only Black one worki ng there. And I

PAGE 3

had White sales ladies working under me and they never gave me no problem about it. FB: Okay, how about Central Avenue ; how was Central Avenue when you first came here? AF : When I first came here the house we were living in, I'm a tell you the truth, it was a old wooden frame house. And it didn't have no Frigidaire [brand of refrigerator] well I only stayed a week. T hey had a ice box. And the floors, you had to keep a wat er hose on the floors all the time and it was really bad. And the bed was full of (inaudible) [some sort of insect]. pause in recording AF: and everything and we didn't know what it was, and God knows if you scratch it, and it would make it worse, and it was red. And day so I told Claude, I said it's something on this bed ain't right. Man we raised that mattress up them little hold down there and all them was around on the rails and all them little things like that, oohs, them were covered with (inaudi ble) FB: Were these the conditions of most of the houses on Central? AF: We didn't live in the one on Central ; we only stayed there for a week. FB: Oh, only a week. AF: Then we moved in Moses White's house. FB: Oh, Moses White owned houses back then, in '57 [1957] ? AF: Uh huh. H e owned the apartment house right there by the yard. FB: Oh, down on? AF: On Constance. FB: On C onstance, called Mango Rooming H ouse. AF: Then we moved from there and then we got a house. Mary, Claude, Jeff and I got a ho use together until, you know then Claude and I moved in We had a big two story house. A nd then when they got ready to tear down on that side, then we moved back on the other side of the street in Mr. White's house W e stayed there until we still rent from Mr. White. FB: Oh, I see. AF: Uh huh, we still rent from him.

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FB: Well, ah, what did most of the Blacks do on Central? Was it a meeting place for friends or what? AF: Well, I'm gonna to tell you what they mostly did Fred. P eople just be up there drin king and having a ball and things. FB: So most of the activities on Central were drinking and socialization? AF: Uh huh, yeah, uh huh Y ou know how your mother and I, we use to be up there all the time. We ain't never had no problem with nobody up there. You know, we be in the Cotton Club, and sit up there drinking, we ain't never had no problems with nobody. FB: Can you name some of the business that was on Central? AF: Well, the Cotton Club, the L ittle Savory, the Pyramid, the LS, and ah, the Moon, an d John Reeds, and Rogers Dinette, and ah, about Mason was right across the street, the Greek Stand, and it was the some groceries stores there before we had the rioting T here was a washerette up there on Central, a laundro mat, and it was a Moon Clothing S tore oh well, it was so many things, you know. FB: Do you remember what do you remember most about the Elks Club? AF: Well, I use to go over there a lot of time to parties and things like that. I wasn't a member, but I knew a lot of people that was. Som ething like those parties they use to have over there. We use to go over there, but we were not a member, but they use to invite us to them. On top of that, my husband was working at Eck e rds [drugstore chain] and like they would give a big party every yea r, we mostly if we have in Tampa, we would have it over to the Elks. FB: The parties that they had, can you describe some of the thing s that was going on in them? AF: Well, I mean it was like well, the one that we had from Eck e rds, where we had all kind of drinks, and food, and everything. It was all free and give away prizes, and things like that, and get tickets at the door. And they have ah the Elks would have different parties over there. When they would have different parties over there, we would be invited over there, carrying food and drinks and all that kind of stuff like that. And dance, they had bands and things like that. FB: Can you name some of the bands right offhand, can you remember any? AF: Oh, Lord. Fred I really can't do that, cause t hey would have so many of them over there. And sometimes they even would have local bands from here. FB: Did they ever have Count Basie's band over there?

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AF: No, I don't know nothing about, I've never seen Count Basie over there. They had some nice ban ds, but I never seen Count Basie over there. FB: Did they take part in any type business on Central, any members of the Elks that you know of? AF: You mean was any of them in business or some ? FB: Yeah, did they have any business that you can think of ? AF: I know about five or six men that was ah and I know Rubin, she live across the street, right over there. I know she was member O h five or six men that I knew, bu t I think most of them dead now; I don't even know their names now. But it was a lot o f them, I knew ah but you mean that had business on Central. FB: Did they take part in any type of s ocial organization or any type of self help organization for Blacks, you know? In other words, did they were there any organization within the Elks that se t up things that can help Blacks? AF: What you mean like a Mason thing, like that? Well you mean like Bennie Shuman? FB: Ah yeah, you can say that. AF: Uh huh, Bennie Shuman, and God bless the dead, Mr. Lewis, ye ah, all of them was in the, ah FB: C an you tell us any thing about the Mason s? W ere they strong? AF: I don't nothing about that, cause I wasn't in I was just being invited to the parties. So I can't say nothing about that. FB: But getting back to Central Avenue see what we trying to do, we trying to get a good picture of how Central Avenue was when you first came down here. Were the streets constantly crowded? AF: Oh gosh yes! U h huh. I mean everyday they were packed, and people were working, and they didn't have no problem getting no jo b, and nothing like that. My husband used to go down there at breaks and made twenty five and thirty dollars a day. FB: Really? AF: Uh huh, so did, you ask Glady, she'll tell you. Sure did I mean like the work problem like it is now, shoot. FB: Uh huh.

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AF: The only way you weren't working is because you didn't want to. FB: So it was a plenty jobs for Blacks during the fifties [1950s] ? AF: Sure! Sho 'nough was. Ca use Paulette was worked for about, almost two years, Paulette was working two jobs worki ng at the First National Bank at night and working at Eckerds in the d ay time. No, you didn't have no problem getting no job. Naw, i t wasn't no problem with no job; like I say, only reason why you didn't get one was because you didn't really want to work. FB: Were most of the Blacks confined to being janitors, waiters, waitress, and cooks or something like this during this time? AF: Any type of work you was qualified for, you could get it. Cause, just like when I first started working at Russells in Britt on Plaza, and I started working there in '58 [1958] and I use to wonder how they dress some mannequins and put the pants and things on them. I didn't know nothing about that, and Altamese, my friend, she was supposed to go and her baby was sick and she cou ldn't go. So she asked me to go and I went there that morning, and so Mrs. B Mrs. B urnhouser, we called her Mrs. B. A nyway so she came out and so she ask me what I know about working in a store. I told her nothing, she say you never worked in a store be fore, and you came here looking for a job. I say I didn't come looking for none ; you called Altamese [Brown] my friend, last night and she couldn't get here, so she told me to come, and so she ask me if I had S ocial S ecurity card and she asked me my na me, address, telephone number and I gave all that to her. And I had went to a Publix [grocery store chain] and got some groceries cause I was fixin to go back home, so she wrote all that down. So I was fixin to take my bag and go out. And so she told one of the other sales lady to take me back there and show me where to put my bag, and they had a big Frigidaire back there, and she ask me if I had any meat or anything to put in there and so I started right on to work. FB: Yeah? AF: Uh huh, and I did all them windows like I wanted to do, and every time they open a new store, like Clearwater and what's the other big shopping center on 7th Avenue Everybody's S tore, and I did all the decoration for the store. FB: What you. were doing there? Interior decorat ing? AF: Uh huh. A nd they open the store in Clearwater, I did all of that. FB: Were there any, ah, when you were working there, were you discriminated against in any way? AF: Un uh, no. When I had to go to Clearwater, we opened a store in Clearwater I did everything jus t the way I wanted. And my boss see I wasn't working under no manager,

PAGE 7

I was working for the boss. And ah, and so they and like I go picking things for the grand opening of the store A nd if I picked things out, and I've three or four racks of things and if I want to change that, and then if I didn't like what I put in the window, I put whatever I want in there. Oh yeah, I did all of that. And all them that was were working in there what I was telling them to do, and there was another Black girl and the rest of them was White but they had pause in recording FB: How many people were how many Blacks were working at the company you were working at, that you know of? AF: Where I was working? I was the only one. FB: Out of the whole company? AF: Oh no well they had a girl working at Northgate and they had one working in Clearwater after I trained them. FB: Oh, you trained all of them? AF: Uh huh, yeah. FB: So it was only three Blacks working? AF: We had three stores. FB: And t hree Blacks? AF: Uh huh, one working at each store, but they was just employees, and they wasn't on no training or nothing. I had to do the training to them and everything. I was you know I had to teach, I had to go to the different stores and teach them to do that. FB: See this is important. AF: Uh huh, Well I did, I would have to go see like they get new help in the store, and then I would have go to different stores and teach them how to do the windows and things like that. FB: So you were in dis play? AF: Huh? Well, I was in all of it. They never resented by me being over or nothing. They never resented that, none I of them. And sometimes it used to be like 11 and 12 o'clock at night when I get home. Because when we closed at Britton Plaza, I wou ld have to go to Northgate and do the windows. No, I ain't had no problems at all. And I had customers come in that store i t was two or three ladies, they come in there and if I wasn't there

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they wouldn't let nobody else wait on them. Then they got where t hey started calling and I mean, they were White too and they got where they started calling to see if I was there before they come shopping. I never had no problems. And you know what they would do, I could be sitting down reading the paper, cause see I had my own desk and I could be sitting down behind the register, and I used to do all Mrs. B 's shopping for her house, grocery shopping, I did all that for her house too. And sometimes, she say, "B aby, a little shopping for me when you get a minute, plea se. And anything she want from the house she would, like she go off and leave the groceries, what Kathy be done made out for her. And I call Kathy, and asked her what she needed at home. I had it made there, but see we just went out of business. FB: Oh, they went out of business? AF: Yeah, uh huh, Mr. B he dead, had two strokes and then he had a heart attack I mean that's after we closed the store. All her banking and everything, I did all that. FB: Well ah they didn't hire too many Blacks though, did they? AF: If they would come there for it and they were qualified to be a sales lady, sure they would hire her, uh huh. FB: Were there any in management or anything like that? AF: Huh? FB: Were they in management? AF: Well see, okay, like I had bee n there so long, couldn't nobody come in there and be no man a ger over me, but they could be a sales lady if they was qualified for it. But other than that, but they couldn't do that, unless, they would have to have my permission for it. FB: Okay, al l righ t see that now that wasn't end of recording


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