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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 00034 Interviewee s : Francisco Frank Lopez (FL 1 ) and Ferm a n Lopez (FL2) 1 Interview ers : Susan Greenbaum (SG) and Cheryl Rodriguez (CR) Interview date: May 3,1994 Interview location: Unknown Transcribed by: MB 2 Transcription date: July 13, 1994 Interview changes by: Kimberly Nordon Changes date: December 29, 2008 Final Edit by: Mary Beth Isaacson Final Edit date: February 3, 2009 F rancisco "F rank Lopez : The way I understand th at part of history in Tampa was that at first, the Anglo s, the b lacks and La tin s had control of all, you know, like the bolita and all that stuff like that. But then if you remember some of the movies that were coming out about the m afia, like Lucky Luciano, from that era on up, they were coming into power, they wanted part of what was going on, and that's why we had so many killings her e in Tampa during that time up to about 1957. Susan Greenbaum : I've seen a lot of references to that, but what were the specifics of it, do you know? Who was trying to take over what? Ferman Lopez: Well, the man is dead now, we can talk about him. But th ere was Trafficante, Santo Trafficante's father was the real kingpin, and then his son took over for his father. From there came a lot of jealously dealing with the number racket, where these guys wanted to govern this part of town and part of the next tow n, and these other guys were already here, and that's what created a lot of killings. Like, for instance, Charlie Wall, you've heard of him? The area, I don't know if the house is still there FL1: Yeah, it's still there. FL2: But we used to go by that h ouse, and it was so dreary looking that we were afraid of the area. So, as you probably read in the paper, when he went in, he went into a garage and there was I forgot what you call it, it was bulletproof or whatever and he went in and closed behind him, and the only people that knew the insides of the house was people 1 Note: Research indicated that both interviewees have the same initials (FGL). To avoid confusion, Frank Lopez will be referred to as FL1, Ferman Lopez as FL2. 2 This is an unidentified member of the USF D epartment of Anthropology African Americans in Florida research project.
2 that he allowed to go in there. FL1: There was Scarf ace John. SG: Now is Charlie Wall or Charlie Moon? FL1: Charlie Wall. SG: Charlie Wall, okay. FL2: So the person that killed Charlie Wall was in the family, you know, because the dog he had a huge dog and nobody could have gotten to Charlie Wa ll unless he knew that dog. So it's speculated, like you say, Scarface Charlie, Scarface Johnny. FL1: Scarface Johnny. Anyway, he used to own th e bar on Twenty Seco nd [Street] and Columbus Drive. FL2: It's an open lot now. FL1: And another guy got killed during that time, because we were coming from Middleton. I was in high school then and that's when (inaudible) got killed. But somebody had tak en a shot at him on Nebraska [Avenue] and Columbus Drive but they missed, but eventually they got him. And he was sitting at the bar. SG: So these were guys from Ybor City who were moving into Central Avenue and FL1: They wanted to take over. FL2: Not necessarily Central Avenue. Ybor City, West Tampa. SG: So Ybor City itself, West Tampa. FL2: It was just a notorious group of people. If they saw that you had a good volume of business, they wanted to put a piccolo in there, they wanted to put a pinball machine, a music box, a piccolo you know, they called them back then. These other people that already were there for years, that created a friction. So, therefore, that's where you get your killings and whatnot. SG: So Charlie Moon was there before him? So they were moving in on him and he was resisting? FL1: All the b lack businesses that were on Central, Charlie Moon had put all those people in business. SG: How about your uncle? Was your uncle associated with Charlie Moon?
3 FL2: I don't think he was h elped. I mean, I have the papers at home where my uncle brought the Chick's Lounge that you have seen there on Scott [Street] and Central. What was in the building when he brought it, and it was just prior to him going into the war, so SG: So this would have been the early forties [19 40s ] ? FL2: Yes, ma'am, somewhere therea bouts. FL1: Yeah, the Chick Lounge, but then the other one was FL2: No, no, he said he b ought it in thirty eight [19 38 ], because I was born in thirty eight [19 38 ] So it was thirty eight [19 38 ] and then soon afterwards he went into the war you know, the service. But with the little bit of furnishings and stuff that he had in the business, he was able to sell a little wine, a little beer. He couldn't get the hard liquor license until later. FL1: There was a lot of bootlegging going on, riding by FL2: In one of those pictures you can see the inside of that place and you could see the wine that they used to have in there. But in 1951 I'm moving ahead, I don't know too much in betwee n there but in 1951 they were really making the business, the bolita business. I don't know who their backer was, who they were selling for, but they weren't backing their own businesses. My father was the bartender, and my uncle that's living now, that I' m helping to take care of every evening, he was the big bolita man. And they had a room in the back with a counter, it was round like that, and the people would come in through the back door, pick their numbers, you know. And they had codes that they would talk on the phone. Like if they wanted to talk about a spider, the number for spider was thirty five and the number 1, I think, was diamonds you know ; they had I have it at home all the numbers and what they mean. So if you dreamed of a number, if you d ream of something, you look on this thing, and my uncle knows it by heart. SG: Wasn't that supposed to be the essential skill of the numbers person was to be able remember them all because if you wrote them down that was ? FL2: Yes, and he was good at th at. When he would get on the phone, he would conduct a conversation talking about the spiders, an elephant, or whatever, and the policemen didn't know what they were talking about. Because in the first place, they had to get a Latin person to listen in, an d they had to know what the numbers meant that they were talking about. So that's how they got away with it for years. FL1: And back then the sheriff was Colbert, right? And that's another amazing story, because when one of them retired, or either di dn't get elected, then the prot g would come after it. It bounced from Colbert to Blackburn, from Blackburn to Bear, and then to Walter Hendrich, and now Henderson. And if you chased that chain of command you would. see that some kind of a way they were connec ted.
4 Cheryl Rodriguez : I remember my father talking about how the cops would stop somebody if they saw him with these little pads of paper in the car. And he would say, he was telling me about one of his clients that would tell the police officer, "Oh, yo u don't want me to carry this, I'll just tear it up. Al l right boss, I 'll tear up the paper ; you don't want me to carry this." FL2: There was a gentlemen, his name was Metchie do you remember Metchie? Who used to come and sell to Awilla, my grandmother. H e would have one of those parasols, you know, an umbrella? He would dress in a tie and a coat and he would come to your house, [asking] what number you want? He would actually write it on these little tablets you were speaking about, but that was before th ey got smart to that and then they had to memorize. FL1: Do you remember hearing about Lamear? Jimmy Lamear? He was killed in the estuary, around where the big oil rigs FL2: Nineteenth Street and Adamo Drive. CR: I don't remember that. FL1: Anyway, I was going to play a number for my grandmother that Saturday morning and I remember I never did get to Anester s. Anester was a bar on Twelf th Avenue and Nineteen th Street. And this gentleme n happened to be shot on Nineteen th Street, but way below Adamo Dr ive, and before I could turn in the alley to go up there to number, everybody was rushing out and driving towards that area, and then later on I found out that's what it was. FL2: Another incident that was real keen also in remembering it was on Sixteen th Street and Seven th Avenue. When they killed a policemen by the name of Lopez. The gunman was down in the drainage ditch, you know. FL1: The water going to the drainage. FL2: That's where the man was hiding. So as the policemen walked his beat, that's wh ere he got him. And now you are hearing about these, what do you call it tunnels this is in conjunction with that FL1: And the tunnels are only a block a way. FL2: See, that's how that man got down there in that drainage ditch. CR: Wow, that's amusing. FL1: And see, later on they closed Fifteen th Street, but Sixteen th Street was an open street, because Casino what was the name of that theater? Casino right?
5 FL2: Yeah, Ritz Theater. FL1: No, no, the other one, the u h FL2: Oh Casino, where the big gambling house is? FL1: No, no, the big theater. FL2: On Sixteen th Street, but in front is where that, ah Centro FL1: No, in front of the Casino is that pizza place, and then there's a little Mexican place there now... FL2: But the big building right next to it is where they had the gambling, you know, where they played dominos, and then behind was the Casino. FL1: But the point I'm trying to make, that was an open street, Sixteenth Street. FL2: Oh yeah, Sixteen th Street was open. FL1: That was a t heater, you know Mario Lanza had been there when we were little. CR: What was happening on Central as far as bolita was concerned? FL2: There was my uncle that was selling, there was Little Savory, there was Kid Mason Baby Fararugga had the 400 Club. FL1: His wife still owns that building on Nebraska off Henderson [Avenue] You know that little corner there and she's a beautician. FL2: The Bossa Nova. FL1: Yeah, Bossa Nova. SG: The Vegas were Cuban, right? FL2: That was right next to my uncle's p lace on Columbus Drive. FL2: They were descendants of Cubans, these two brothers FL1: Lorenzo and I forget his real name. FL2: Lorenzo Vega. FL1: They used to live on 6th Avenue.
6 FL2: But their parents, li ke our parents, came from Cuba, but the peop le that were mostly of Spanish decent that were on Central were raised either in West Tampa or Ybor City. FL1: There was another supermarket that was Pularo, but I worked with his nephew or something. You ever seen a grocery store there? Pularo? Now you'v e heard of Goldie Thompson? SG: Now, is this Central right here? FL1: Yeah, this is Central and this Harrison [Street] but Harrison couldn't go right here, because the Lincoln Theater was there and then Johnny Gray, and then a beautician, but then you make that turn, and then you make another turn to go on Harrison into the. project. Which is see that's Harrison, then it was another street here. Yeah, here it is right here, see. When you come from Harrison over there, then you have to come around, then turn in here and that would be the extent of Harrison. SG: And what is this? FL1: That's the Puritan H otel. That hotel was built by the same man that built Plant P lant University, the University of Tampa Y ou know, the same man that built that at the Un iversity of Tampa, H.B. [Henry B.] Plant, he built that. SG: I had no idea that it was so large. CR: It's like a whole block long. FL2: My father splurged one year in 1947 and he let us go to New York. My mother, my sister, my brother and I. FL1: And L ee Davis, when he moved from Central, that's the way it use to look, on Twenty Secon d Street by the projects now, in Belmont Heights. But there was another guy that used to sell bolita he was a slim barber shop. There was a man with a little arm he had a half of a arm, and he would do like that and write them numbers, you remember that? CR: You were getting ready to say something about Thompson? FL1: Oh yeah, this is very significant. You know that grocery store there? Goldie was the first guy there tha t I remember that had a lack radio show. CR: Yes. I use to listen to that, Goldie Thompson. FL1: And that's where he used to broadcast from, that grocery store right there, because that was his sponsor.
7 CR: Did he do I remember him doing a Sunday show FL1: A g ospel. CR: A gospel. My grandmother would listen to that every Sunday. FL1: But then through the week he also was on the radio. SG: Was that Pularo's grocery store? FL1: Yeah, you could see it right there. Doesn't it say that? Pularo? I c an't see what CR: Pularo was Joe Pularo Joe Pularo's Supermarket. And Goldie Thompson would broadcast from here? FL1: And then you see right here on Harrison, around the corner here, was where the bench was for all the longshoremen ; they'd sit down an d wait for jobs and stuff. CR: Okay, Harrison was when you turn the corner. FL1: And then old recreation center, where we use go to dance, across the street. FL2: That's Jenkins. FL1: Right, Miss Jenkins, Miss Hamilton. FL1: That's a lady that shou ld be mentioned and she's not mentioned. Miss Jenkins, she was instrumental for us kids, you know, teenagers. CR: Yes. She was still around when I was growing FL1: Her son is still living ; her son just retired from the school system in Fort Lauderdale CR: Oh, okay. FL1: Purcell Houston, and he was a good athlete and he's a good speaker, man, he's a good speaker. FL2: He's here in Tampa? FL1: I think he retired in Fort Lauderdale or either Palm Beach, somewhere down there. But he is good. I saw hi m when Abraham Brown retired. Yeah, I think it was Abraham Brown, and he was the speaker. He is good. FL2: During our era, nobody was rich. I mean, if a guy had a car like Mr. Carrington
8 was one of the people that had cars, and Mr. Jenkins used to live ri ght behind them. Herbert Carrington lived on Bass [Street] CR: I know Carrington My mom was good friends with their I'm trying to think, maybe it was his daughter. He had FL2: Martha? CR: Martha, yeah. Martha, yes. FL1: Martha is in Miami now. CR: In fact, I think Martha was one of my teachers, if I recall correctly. FL1: She probably was when she first got out of school. Now she's teaching in Miami. She's got grandkids now. CR: Oh, listen, yeah, my mother keeps in touch with her. FL2: In fact, I just came from Tallahassee this weekend and I went to see Herbie's son graduate and he was outstanding in Military. He had a 4.0 [grade point average] FL1: Herbert's son? FL1: Yeah. CR: And so they had something on Central? FL1: No, not the Carring tons. CR: Not the Carringtons. FL1: No. CR: Oh, you were saying that he had a car. FL2: Yeah, he was one of the people that had a car, and the rest of us walked. CR: And Goldie Thompson had a car? FL1: I know Goldie had one, and the s enior Blythe And rews, I know they always had a car. My uncle always had a car. CR: What happen to Goldie Thompson? FL1: I don't k now. See I left here in fifty eight  or fifty nine [19 59 ] My, brother
9 left also in A lot of stuff happen when I was away. I didn't eve n see the tearing down of Ybor City. I had some stuff in the drawer there I had an Elvis Presley program, I had a menu with Columbia Restaurant, when they celebrated their fiftieth anniversary, and it was all in gold lettering. You know, my mom and them L illy said they was just throwing things out the window. But I had a lot of things and stuff. I had a program with the Harlem Globetrotters with Goose Tatum 3 and everybody thinks that the Globetrotters started with Me a dowlark 4 The Globetrotters started w it h Goose Tatum. Sam Cook. The Apollo upstairs, they use to come every Easter. The Easter program. It was like a gospel program. That's where everybody used to put on them hats and dress real nice. On Sunday, it was for a gospel. All through the week, it'd b e rambling and rolling there. FL2: It was really different than what it is today. FL1: Remember when we drove from Washington? SG: Describe it How did it look on a Saturday afternoon down on Central Avenue. Or whenever the time is that things were re ally FL2: On Saturday, the b lack folks, that's where they had to go. You know, back then, we were called Negroes. FL1: From Cass Street to Kay Street that was it, and there was something going on in every place. FL2: And believe it or not, we had a li brary. They elaborate so much about College Hill getting a library; we had a library on Central. FL1: Right next to the [ Florida ] Sentinel next to Dupree Press. FL2: And Central Avenue, Friday night, Saturday night, that's where everybody went. Sunday w as tamed down a little bit. There wasn't no rioting, there wasn't no fighting the re were fights in the bars, you know. We couldn't go in the bars. FL1: But even teenagers were allowed to have a good time, because around the corner from Central on Kay Stre et was the YWCA and they would give little dances for teenagers. And then you had the North Boulevard Homes on Main Street, they also utilized their administration building for teenagers to have a dance, and then of, course, the recreation center on Harris on. So teenagers, even though the adults had their thing going, we had our little things going on. FL2: That one little lady, Miss Jenkins, she controlled the recreation center there and we were all mannerable. 3 Reece "Goose" Tatum, 1921 1967. 4 Meadowlark Lemon, b. 1932.
10 FL1: She didn't allow more than three peopl e to be in that bathroom. If she found there to be about five or six, she would come in there and break it up. CR: Yeah, I remember her when I was a little girl. Because I remember going to Kid Mason to dance, so she was still around. FL1: You had to be respectful, even when you walked in that front door. CR: It wasn't Kid Mason then? FL2: It was just the recreation center. FL1: Well, Kid Mason was on the other end, by Scott, which almost directly across the street from the Little Savory. Then you had MacA r th u r Studio, you know. FL2: He had a sign on his menu there that said he sold everything from hardware to ice cream. FL1: To me, he had what 7 Eleven's got now. But Kid Mason had the original 7 Eleven, and Johnny Gray. Johnny Gray used to have a so da fountain and you couldn't even move in there, you know, like I say twenty people come in there. I doubt if twenty people could move freely in there, but he had a soda fountain, he even sold some meals ; he had women s stockings, things that ladies needed like cosmetics, pow d er, all that stuff. FL2: He had the picture here that he loaned out with these four policemen. There was the Lincoln Theater, and next door was Johnny Gray. That's another man that sold everything in there, plus he had a lit tle kitche n where he sold food. I don't know how all that was in that one little store A nd they sold records. FL1: And like, you know, when those guys used to come to town, that's where they used to go and have breakfast, and, then Charlie Green, also across from the Savory on Scott. But I have seen the teenagers in Johnny Gray's place, and you know, they use to wear those black stockings and keep their hair neat. I seen those guys in there, I seen Little Willie John, a lot of prominent guys that later on made it b ig and like me and my brother drove all the way from the lady that I'm married to now, from Marshall, Florida, just to come back home to see Ray Charles. You remember that? Because we knew we could get in free because my uncle was on the door. FL2: We wer e crossing the street over there when Johnny Ace you all ever heard of Johnny Ace? He sang "The C lock on the W all. 5 FL1: Man, I wish I could play it for you, I got it. CR: How long was the Lincoln there? I remember the Lincoln, but people have trouble, people have different stories about the theaters that were on Central. 5 This song is actually called "The Clock;" Ferman is quoting the lyrics.
11 FL2: That was Central Theater. CR: And that was on Central? FL1: Right across the street from the Cotton Club. CR: Okay, right across from the Cotton Club. FL1: That was the Ce ntral Theater. FL2: Next door to the 400 Club, you had the bar and then you had a movie theater, and the Central Theater was really bad, because it was not as well kept as the Lincoln Theater. The Lincoln Theater was the newest one. FL1: I think the Linc oln T heater came around the late '40 s, right ? It had to be, because I remember Jackie Robinson and Don Newcomb being there. FL2: But I didn't go to the Central Theater that much, but I do remember that the seating wasn't that elaborate, you looked like yo u were sitting on wooden benches. FL1: And it was kind of run down, because you could even see But I used to go movies for $.14. Five cents to the Central, I go over there and see some series, then I walk back to the Lincoln for $.9, that was $.14. CR: See now, I remember the Lincoln. I remember going to the Lincoln. I was born in 19 52 and I remember being in the eigh th grade and going to the Lincoln Theater. I remember the Lincoln and I remember the Carver across town, in West Tampa. FL1: See that was around fifty eight [19 58 ] Right on the corner of Main [Street] and North Boulevard. CR: Right. Right where you right where Main ends and you would have to turn. FL1: Right, you had to turn, because see, it was two bridges. You had the North Boulevard b ridge and then you turned and made that little turn and go up to the Garcia bridge. FL2: The main thing is to get in the middle of the thing and turn it so the boat could get out. CR: Right, yeah. I used to be scared to walk across that bridge when I wa s a kid. But I remember the Carver Theater being there. But I guess the main thing is the Lincoln Theater which was right there at Harrison and Central. So that was there that had been there for what?
12 FL1: I think it was probably built in the late fortie s [19 40s ], don't you? Because I know that Jack ie was in the major leagues in forty seven [19 47 ] and I remember seeing him. It could have been forty nine [19 49 ] or fifty [19 50 ] something like that. FL2: It was the most elaborate thing they had on Central. CR: The Lincoln was? FL1: Right. CR: And who owned it ? FL1: I don't know who owned it, but I do know that Oscar Lee Foster, his mother used to be the manager. FL1: And then Bernice Mahoney used to be the ticket person. I'll tell you, you know where L ake Avenue and Belmont Heights, by the projects Miss Williams across the street, that would be Twenty Sixth [Street], Twenty Six th and Lake [Avenue] the first two houses there it's right on the corner, and then there's one next to it. I don't know if Miss Williams is still living, but those two families were part of the Lincoln Theater Because, I think her husband used to be the manager, the projector, clean up everything. FL2: See, we're committing everything that we're telling you, because we have it up here. It's memory, you know. But this is a good thing, what we need to do is record the things that we know. FL1: Just like last night, I was at a meeting with Robert Saunders from the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] H e got it up there, too. CR: Well, we think it's really important to get this down and to document it, put it on paper, write books, put programs on. Because a lot of people really don't have what you had. I mean my children know nothing about this. SG: A nd when you go there you can't tell that anything was there. I mean they just obliterated it for all purposes. FL1: So you know, when you come off the you know when you make a right on Florida Avenue, on Scott. Let's say you are on the interstate and you see Central and Scott and you come down that ramp and that used to be the Florida Health Department, right there, on Tampa. I remember getting off right there and walking straight into the building and getting shots. My mom use to take us. But coming on d own, that's Scott Street. And then that Tyler Temple Church used to be right there where that bail bondman and all that is right now. And then across the street, that was the Little Savory, Greek Stand, and then. the Palace Drug store, DuP ree Press, in that corner right there, Scott and Central.
13 FL 2 : I wonder how much history does... FL1: Now, Mr. Du P ree should have something and he is still living. SG: Mr. DuP ree actually donated the contents from his press to the [USF Tampa] l ibrary. 6 FL1: But no pictu res of it. SG: There were no pictures and a lot of it was very recent. I mean, he didn't have stuff going back. We want to ask him to be interviewed, but was, he's taking care of his FL2: His mother. FL1: How about Evelyn Jones and Goosby Jones? They m ay have some history too? FL2: I met with them the other day. FL1: I mean Evelyn Wilson, Goosby Jones' sister, Evelyn Wilson. That's Charles Wilson, the judge's mother. She should have some records of some form of history because they had a business on C entral Avenue. Goosby Jones's Little Sundry in fact, it was in the Sentinel the other day. Did you see that old picture? He used to have like a little soda corner right across the stree t from the projects. The other part north of Main S treet was nothing bu t businesses back then. Joe Blandhouse Bar, and then Goosby Jones, of course I don't kn ow the places. Anthony's Drive I n further down on Oregon and Main. CR: Yeah, I remember them on Main, Anthony's Drive I n. FL1: That was a nice little business. FL2 : They used to make all the money. CR: What about the yeah, they had good barbecue. FL2: We use to buy it from them. CR: What about the professional people? The doctors on Central? FL1: What was the doctor right there by the library? Wasn't that docto r the doctor that I remember mostly was Norton. You know where Allen Temple is on Scott? Across the street was Dr. Norton 's office and then there was another business, I forget what it was, but then on this side was a cleaners, across the street from St. P eter Claver [Catholic School] was a dry cleaners, and then Mr. Johnson's little grocery store ; remember Mr. Johnson? 6 The DuPree Press Collection is part of Speci al Collections, and consists of publications printed for many of Tampa's black organizations between 1958 and 1992.
14 CR: Wasn't there a couple of dentists on Central? FL2: Dr. Howard, I don't know where he was. Dr. Irving was on top of the l ibrary. FL1 : Yeah, that's right. But there. was another one though, I forgot. Some of these people are still living the Jordan family is still living, the people that use to run the Greek Stand. In fact, the grandson runs a lot of little businesses now, these little beer joints on Twenty Ninth [Street]; a lot of winos. FL2: I'm gonna have to split. I have to I'm on the clock. I have to stop here. SG: Well, I really appreciate you coming by. FL2: No, I wish that we could really reminisce one day and possibly we cou ld do it again, and my sister would be very likely she knows a lot too. While Frank is talking and he won't let me talk, I thought about it, I thought of a lot of stuff that I wanted to say, then I forget. CR: We would like to talk to you again. We have t o go to graduation today, so our time is limited too. SG: So we're on a short time too. FL2: You said you copied the pictures from that book? What did you, you put them in booklets like this or ? SG: No. I ah the book that you gave me, I just made a X erox of that so I would have a copy. But we did I don't know if you have seen this 7 ? FL2: No, ma'am, I haven't. SG: This was something I did at oh it's been a long time ago now, eighty six [19 86 ] about [Sociedad La Union] Mart Maceo and I got a lot of photographs from your father.. FL2: I think that's Diana Bla nco ? SG: Yeah that's who it is. And that's Evelia Mallea 's mother right there, and there are some of the Blanco kids. FL2: Could we possibly get a copy of this? SG: That's for you. 7 They are discussing Greenbaum's pamphlet Afro Cubans in Ybor City: A Centennial History copies of which are available in the USF Tampa Li brary.
15 FL1: Wha t do you want to borrow from me? S G: We made a thousand of those and we're down to four. There are a lot of them around somewhere. CR: And people want those. I have to hold on to mine like crazy. SG: We should reprint them, because CR: Every time some body sees my book, they want it and I have to say no. FL1: And you know, this morning I called Simon Studio to see what Simon had from Central and Ruth, his wife, said she can't recall because they way they do it see a lot of these pictures that I had do ne over, like somebody want a copy, all they got to do is say, C an you give me a copy from Frank Lopez whatever. Because she has them down. CR: Oh really? S o we could go to her and get so that way we don't have to take this? FL1: Like all that stuff I h ad redone, I had that redone there I had this redone. CR: So in other words, they made a negative? Is that what you mean? FL1: Right, she has a negative but I have like a little file in my name. And even St. Peter Claver's picture you know the original picture to St. Peter Claver? CR: So we could go there and get pictures? FL2: And when did this come out? SG: Eighty six  it came out ; it was the centennial year FL2: Yeah eighty six [198 6 ] I see. Now, you know it says So tero, courtesy of S o te ro Gonzalez. That's Robert Gonzalez's father. So I guess he wanted to put something in the name of his father. SG: No, he wasn't S o tero, that's FL2: He got run over right there at FL1: So tero at Fourteen th [Street] and Seventh FL2: No, Fourteen th a nd Eigh th. FL1: Oh, 8th Avenue. FL2: Outside of there.
16 FL1: See that that's around 1920 something ; that's my dad my uncle, my aunt, my aunt's husband. And that was his first car. And see this right here I was at the Tropicana one morning, and this guy was just drawing by memory. That used to be the old fire house on Ninth Avenue and Eighteen th Street. We used to play with the firemen and that used to be like home base and we had a game W e 'd call out one two three click, click. And we had to bust in there, you know like a jail, then if we could crash that, then we'd start the game over. You see, this was like houses it was a road, a group of homes all the way to the corner, where Fallo Pizza is now, and they were all in white. L i cata grocer y was acro ss the street, Tony Li cata. SG: But if you got all of these on file at a photo studio, it would be easier and less risky. FL1: But see the way Ruth was explaining it to me, because I said, "Well, do you have anything on Central Avenue?" She said, "No, w e wouldn't have it by Central Avenue. When we make pictures, we make pictures like yours and anything you have ever had done here, it's in your name." I don't know. But it's worthwhile going to her and saying do you have any names like Lee Davis, Betty Jor dach e Summer Wilson, or whoever, you know. SG: So that's how she has her negative s filed? Under the names of the person that ? FL1: I'm not saying that she has these names, but it's a calculated risk. Maybe you can go there and say do you have anything? Maybe this person had this person had something done here. SG: Where is her studio? FL2: On Benjamin Road. It's way out there by the airport, off of Hillsborough Avenue. SG: And her name is? FL1: Simon Studio. FL2: That guy there is still hanging aro und ; he was in church a couple of Sundays ago. FL1: But she told me to go to the Tampa Library. SG: Yeah, we've been there. A lot of the photos down there were real s ort of public photographs, you know. Here a building or here's a parade, but they don't have things like this. Where you've got people doing things and a lot of the things that we are interested in they just don't have photographs of. FL1: I forgot what I did with the little picture of my brother coming down Central Avenue in the parade. Do I have it in there? And see, that's another thing I wanted to show you, my un cle was the first guy to bring b lack college football to this town.
17 FL2: He brought [Mary McLeod] Bethune. FL1: So it used to be called the Tilt of the Maroon and Gold. SG: So was he the originator of that Classic? The Tilt is different from the Classic right? FL1: Right. FL2: Right, my brother's got the letter there that Bethune wrote to my uncle, thanking him. CR: Yeah, that was read at that program. FL1: And now you see this here man right ; he must have published this in the early '40s or something. But he made one mistake, he didn't put a date, can you imagine that? Look at al l the old names, these are all b lack businesses. His name was King. CR: Oh, this would be S G: Yeah. FL1: Where is his picture? Well that's Kid Mason there Robert s City Hotel. That's another man that could tell you about my uncle. CR: We could enlarge these and put them as part of our FL1: And see these peo ple were a part of our community S ilver Bar Ale, Tropical Ale. That's him right there, Mr. King. CR: Can I see that? FL2: See, this gentlem an here could tell you about my uncle, the ball player. SG: I haven't seen him in a while. (inaudible) is getting up there. FL2: I haven't either. FL1: See that's David right there. CR: You remember Molina s? FL 1 : Yeah, Molina's, yeah. You remember Molina's? CR: I remember that.
18 FL1: I can't find that piece of paper. See right there, this had to be around the forties [19 40s ] I mean thirty nine [19 39 ] or forty [19 40 ] Now see what it says? FL2: That's the man that could really talk. SG: This title "Mayor of Central" CR: That's what a lot of people FL1: See every three years there was SG: Was there an actual election? FL1: I don't kn ow how they did it, but they actually all the businesses, they had enough guys that were in business and every two years they would alternat e. And my uncle happened to be m ayor in thirty nine [19 39 ] and forty [19 40 ] SG: So is this part of the C h amber of Commerce? FL1: Yeah. FL2: They had a receipt, they called it you called the clinic if you got sick, you would go to the clinic and they would pay for it. FL1: Now see, this book is from 1940 and this is from 1939. The Tilt in Maroon and Gold, see? SG: Is that the first year, thirty nine [19 39 ] ? FL1: Somewhere along in there. And see, these are all the originals of b lack businesses. CR: Thank you so much. FL2: I would like to do this more better. SG: And if you wouldn't mind, we would like to come ba ck or work out a FL2: Certainly, it would be a pleasure, because there's a lot of things that, you know, I'm just partly talking about without really getting into something. Real stuff, you know, you stop to think about it if you have time. FL1: See thi s right here? This was before the Sentinel took over the Tampa Bulletin It was two separate [newspapers] Tampa Bulletin and Florida Sentinel but these were all the businesses, see, and th ey united together to put this, you know. And I would like to also mention that back then we didn't have guys with master s degrees, B S degrees, Ph.D.s, but they had more unity. To have businesses together without animosity, division.
19 They had a vision. N ow we got these guys with Ph.D. s, cum laudes can't even get a sh oe shine stand on Seventh Avenue. I mean think about it, these guys were men, things that you could be proud of. FL2: It was a pleasure talking to you, and we'll get together at a later date. CR: Nice talking to you, and I look forward to it. FL1: Than ks for coming by. FL2: I'm off the clock. Okay, Frank, I'm going to go. CR: Thank you very much, goodbye. FL1: You know who else? Joe Bolten's family may have some stuff too. FL2: Joe Bolten works with me at the s heriff's d epartment, communications d ispatcher. SG: But we are I don't know if we ever explained what this is all about. Maybe it would be a good time to do that. We have a grant from the Humanities to do a photo exhibit and a public program. And we are going to do like a walking tour of Cen tral Park, where everything used to be and we're going to put up placards and. we're going to have somebody that can tell everybody what used to be there and we're going to come around the corner into Kid Mason Center. There's going to be a photo exhibit i n Kid Manson Center and then there's going to be a program of some sort. We are not sure exactly what it will be. It's going to be in October, so we've got some time to do this. FL1: How about Big Jim? Did you ever get in touch with him? CR: Big Jim wh o used to be the coach? FL2: James Williams. He used to be the coach. SG: Oh no, we haven't. FL1: Because I heard the other day that he borrowed some pictures from the guy that used to own the Tampa Bulletin James Jackson, and he passed away and thi s guy that goes to church with us, Big Jim borrowed a lot of the pictures that were in James Jackson's house. And what happen here you won't believe this what happen here is this young man moved into his house Y ou know how young people, they want to thro w away everything and start from scratch ? And he didn't realize the value of those pictures. Can you believe that man? I wanted to go through the floor. SG: Oh, I heard so many stories like that when we were interviewing FL1: Well he was able to save s ome, and this man used to own the Bulletin Man, can
20 you imagine how many pictures he had ? Oh man, I could have gone through the floor. FL2: We had a similar incident to this. We had two uncles to pass right behind the other, two days apart, right? Well, we have a couple of aunts that they are half sisters, so there's a lot of mixture in our family. Well, these two girls are on the other side and she went into my uncle s room and she tore up a lot of these pictures like this. Because she didn't want to b e seen with the b lack folks. SG: Oh no, this is terrible. FL1: These are our two aunts. FL2: See, my grandmother, when she married the first time, there were five children and my mother was included. I'm not casting no stone, this family that is gone an d forgotten, but what I'm trying to say is that then in need of necessity, for necessity's reasons she got along with this gentlemen from Spain, who was from (inaudible) and they had two daughters, they are on the other side. Right now FL1: But this was my grandmother's first husband, Infamio (inaudible), and he died at the age of thirty two and left five kids. And the way he got sick was going back and forth to Havana. He was in the movement, whatever they were doing then, and he would take money back, c ome back, make some more money, go back. And he used to work at the factory the wooden factory on what used to be Ten th Avenue and now it's Palm [Avenue] that's where he used to work. FL2: Palm and Nineteen th. CR: Now, when he died, that's when she marr ied the man from Spain? FL2: Right. FL1: And had those other two girls, my aunts. CR: They didn't want to be associated with ? FL1: They don't want to be associated well see, they married guys that I guess they didn't want them to know about us. They moved away. FL2: Bailey wasn't like that. One of the aunts, her husband Julio was really a kind person. But there is this other guy who lives they live right now in Hollywood, Florida . Side 1 ends; Side 2 begins. FL1: . .and by her playing piano and when new sisters used to come to town, they practice for her.
21 FL2: She was our music teacher and taught second grade at St. Peter Claver. FL1: Taught me in fourth grade, taught me how to play ; she was good. And she wasn't a Catholic but she still taught religion just like she was a Catholic S he was good and strict right along with the nuns, she was good. But we appreciated all that, you know. By being a good person FL2: See this is the uncle that's still living. He's in the back tending to the bolita now. And he's the only one that's still living. SG: How old is he? FL1: He's 88. FL1: Going on eighty nine right? SG: How does he feel? FL2: Well he's the old stock, they don't really believe that they're sick. The only thing that's failed hi m is his legs. I have to help him get up. FL2: He's the guy that knows all the numbers from 1 to100. CR: Oh, that's the one that you take care of? FL2: Right. SG: Do you think we could get together, all of us? FL1: You may want to talk to him. You kn ow why, because he could name you some of those projects. Because I asked him to give me the names of all the businesses from where the new TECO [Tampa Electric Company] building in Ybor City to I went to Nebraska, and he named them all. All the way down. This baker was here, this person was here. FL2: Have you ever ate at Don Qu i x ot e? Upstairs in the old cigar factory? Ybor Square. SG: No, I don't think so. CR: Oh, yeah, sure. SG: Oh, yeah. FL2: There's a picture there that shows this area that he's t alking about from about Nin th Street all the way towards Nebraska.
2 2 FL1: I don't think that's in that picture. Right up there at the restaurant? FL2: Yeah. FL1: Yeah, I got to check it out. FL2: Because it shows where Nebraska dead ends. SG: But he wo uld remember a lot further back. FL1: His mind is good. Because he see, when we first move to Ybor City there were actually a few of us that if we know anything, so I went to (inaudible) and said, "H ey, tell me everything that was from Nebraska all the w ay to Twelfth," and he could name all these businesses by name and where they were. Where there was a bakery, where there was that, I couldn't believe it. FL2: See this is when they moved from Scott to Constance and that was their grand opening. You see the flower in the background, that's my father there. FL1: Yeah, these are the two aunts we were talking about right here. FL2: See this guy here, they accidentally got his picture in the back there, because we couldn't get a picture of him in the front. FL1: See these are the tw o aunts we're talking about; they were young then. That's me, this is my brother and this is my sister, my mom, my grandmother. So we had segregation within our family that's tough, you know. SG: I've encountered a lot of cases or stories like that among the Cubans. Like Evelia has cousins who are Chinese, her father was half Chinese. FL1: You know Chino who used to live on Seven th Avenue man and she still looks good for her age. Man, I couldn't believe it, you seen Chino? An d there's another cousin they tell me FL2: They're really oriental looking, their eyes and everything. FL1: I don't know true this is, but Summer Wilson and Clarence Wilson, some kind of way they are related to the Boza Funeral Home people. CR: Oh rea lly? A.P. Boza? FL1: I don't know how, bu t some kind of way. Their great grandmother Wilson on the grandmother's side not the father's side. I know when they used to live on Buffalo [Drive] well it was a dirt road back then ; you know anything on the oth er side of Twenty Nin th [Street] was dirt.
23 FL2: You know, I keep listening and I want to stay but I have to go to now, so I'll talk to you all later. CR: All right, thank you. FL1: Thanks for coming, you hear? It's so interesting. You know, I wish that it's like a puzzle, you try to fi gure out how to put it together; you know it s a headache really. I didn't want to say this in front of my brother because I don't want to hurt his feeling s but like a lot of times when we were small and they would take him and leave me And when you are a little kid, you don't realize what's going on, but then when you grow up and you say I wonder why they always left me and took him. But now I realize why, you know but I don't hold it against my brother, I hold it again st them for doing it, because we were brothers. CR: Did you the week after we had that program at the Museum that I saw you [at] a week later there was a film that was shown. It was called A Question of Color and it talks about the film is very well done and it tal ks about color prejudice among b lack people and it talks about what you were talking about there, where we punish each other because of li ght ness FL1: In fact, my son had to make a report like that at Tuskegee [University] The color of your s kin or something like that. And luckily I had some Ebony Magazine and in fact, if I search I'm pretty sure it's there. CR: Well anyway, this b lack woman who's very, very, fair made this documentary. It's very good and it stems from her own personal feelin gs, the kinds of things that she grew up with. FL1: Well that's what my wife I'm laughing because my wife reminds me of this. She says "Y ou got too much hate in you, you ought to let it out. I say "B aby, I'm all right. But it does come into place som etimes. CR: Well, you kn ow, the healthy thing to do is to talk about it but I know that growing up in an Afro Cuban family, particularly where there are all these different colors of people I mean it is difficult sometimes. FL1: And then even when we w ere going to school we caught it from both worlds. Even the other kids in school used to tease us because we were light and you come home and you catch it because you were darker. It was rough, that was rough, but we lived through it. SG: The thing that I've always been interested in is how the Cubans in Ybor City and the folks on Central Avenue got along with each other, particularly the Afro Cubans. Was t here a lot of interaction there; did people go to Central Avenue?
24 FL1: Oh yeah, we all used to go to Central Avenue. In fact, you see how my brother looks but yeah, it was like an understood type of thing. Like her grandfather, he was fair but he was still classified as a colored person. But it was like a "U" in the center, it's understood. SG: So th ere was this commonality, even though you had a different language and things like this. FL1: Even had a (inaudible) from the cleaners looked like a White guy, but it was understood he went to school with a certain group of people, they knew he was one of them. And even it was so many of us, like Yolanda God Yolanda was a beautiful girl, just one of those things I guess. (inaudible) CR: Well, you think that, so what you're saying, the question that you are really asking is did Afro Cubans were they as a c tive on Central as other b lack people? SG: W ere they more likely to stay in Ybor City? Both to (inaudible) and also to patronize? FL1: Yeah, the majority of the Spanish speaking people they live in Ybor City but you had a few that still lived in Belmont Height. West Tampa was just like Ybor City. SG: But Mart Maceo was down on Six th Avenue and it was fairly close to, or at least in the direction of Central Avenue. FL1: Where St. Peter Claver is now, right in there, you know. Yeah, the majority of the Spanish people that are living now, that we are children of some of the originals, that's where we all lived, in Ybor C ity. Seco nd Avenue, Thi rd Avenue, Fourth Avenue, Eighth Avenue, Ten th Avenue and then you r e safe on Twenty Fourth Street to Nebraska. O n the other side of Nebraska, there was another set of fol ks, but they were still Spanish. B ut within that parameter there, it was mostly the Afro Cubans. CR: And just like you and your brother and other Cuban friends, you all would go to Central Avenue? FL1: Yeah. CR: Other b lack Cubans would do the same? FL1: Oh yeah ; on the weekdays Schunda mould tell you that's the only place we had to go unless we we n When we was very little, M ama and them would go to other peoples' houses and they would have th eir own music. You ever heard of Ramon? CR: Ramon and Julia. He was married to Julia. FL1: Right, Julia. He was married to Julia, right and they had their o w n little band,
25 congas and all that, and the kids would come and the kids would go in the backyard and play while the old folks did whatever they were doing. CR: Ramon and Julia had a hotel. FL1: Right, that was on Twelf th Avenue, across the street from that dance where I was telling you about the guy got shot. He had a must have been a half a block long, you, know, like the building where Cafe Creole is now? It was (inau dible) a little bit. It was on Twelf th Avenue and Nineteen th Street. SG: So he was here in Ybor City? FL1: Ybor City. In the heart of that's what I call the heart of Ybor City. Yeah I don't know, that's the best way I can describe it. But I mean, you can get more than one opinion and the y' re going to all be different. But it was like an understood thing, you know. SG: It wasn't until I started working on this project and I don't kn ow why, because I should have that I realized that there was this closeness I mean physically there was this closeness. FL1: It was very close, it was Ybor City was a unique place. I'm not joking. Even when I was working at the Columbia it's funny now, but some days the guy really relied on us and we were working for this Italian guy, Joe Valent i but the Columbia was owned by Casa Medra and his brother. But Joe, he gambled a lot and he relied on us A nd let s say sometimes we may not feel like going to work, this guy would come over to the house and get us. And I mean that's how much I don't know if it was respect or understanding or he liked us or whatever, but we were right there. I mean, we used to handle all the liquor and we were unde r age really, so when the inspector would come by, we would act like we were working the kitchen or something like that. But we would handle all the requisitions for the bars, and at the time, the Columbia was booming, man. They had a front bar, they had a kitchen bar, they had Siboney Room, they had a bar in the patio, and then banquet rooms. We had to fill all that out, like so much bourbon, gin, rum for the bar, mixed drinks, and all like that. It was fun. Frank use to work with us. Fra nk Reynolds, David Jenkins, an d then after we left, then my brother and some of his friends took it over T hen after they left then the barber that died not so long ago, Alfonso, his son took it over and then Frank Crousea. You know Frank Crousea? That's Gomez's brother. He died about two years ago Davy Gomez. SG: I didn't know him. FL1: Do you know Martha Gomez? Gloria Gomez? Well, it's Gloria Gonzalez now. SG: I may. I know people by nicknames and I don't know what their real names are. FL1: Yeah, me too I'm like you. Then see, they used to work at the drugstore, Freddie's
26 Drug s tore on Thirteen th and Seven th Avenue, right around the corner from Pedroso's house and it was unique. I'm not, I mean man, that was y ou had to be there to believe it and see it, you know. You can close y ou r eyes and just imagine where everybody was and it was We had b lack people, we had Italian people, we had Spanish people. Like the block I lived on, we had everything in that one block. SG: You left bef ore urban renewal, you left in fifty eight [19 58 ] ? FL1: I left around fifty eight [19 58 ] fifty nine [19 59 ], and then I went to live in Sarasota. SG: When did you come back? FL1: I came back the latter part of sevety six [19 76 ] SG: So that was when Ybor City had been wiped out and Central Avenue had been wiped out. What did you think when you first saw that? Did you know it had happen ed before you got back? FL1: Well, I had read where it was happening but whenever I came home I didn't even bother about going anywhere. I just come home to see my mom go back. And then we may stop in my wife's home in Archer, spend two or three days with her, then we go back home. We did that about ten or eleven years. The only things that was of interest was coming back home and seeing Mom, I wasn't SG: So the othe r stuff had been torn down? FL1: Yeah, I guess. I never did venture out to see, I just stayed over with Mom. SG: Let s talk about which photographs we might be able to use. FL1: Yeah, okay ; well, you are welcome to them really. SG: I'm going to turn t his off now, I want to ask. . end of interview
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Lopez, Francisco G.
Francisco Lopez, Ferman Lopez
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Susan Greenbaum and Cheryl Rodriguez.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (62 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida oral history project
Interview conducted May 3, 1994.
Francisco "Frank" Lopez and his brother, Ferman Lopez, discuss Central Avenue, Tampa's African American business and entertainment district, and describe some of the businesses and events there. Their uncle, Ferman "Chick" Mirabel, was a well-known businessman who owned a bar called Chick's Lounge.
Lopez, Francisco G.
Lopez, Ferman G.
African American business enterprises
Greenbaum, Susan D.
Rodriguez, Cheryl Rene,
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS