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Allen, Lydia Lopez.
Lydia Lopez Allen
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Susan Greenbaum.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (72 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida oral history project
Interview conducted July 9, 1994.
Lydia Lopez Allen describes some of the businesses on Central Avenue, and discusses how the Afro-Cubans fit into the black community. Allen's uncle, Ferman "Chick" Mirabel, owned a popular bar called Chick's Lounge.
Allen, Lydia Lopez.
African American business enterprises
Greenbaum, Susan D.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS
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.
! Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida O ral H istory P roject Oral History Program Florida Studies Center University of South Florida, Tampa Library Digital Object Identifier: A31 00070 Interviewee: Lydia Lopez Allen (LA) Interviewer: Susan Greenbaum (SG) Interview date: July 9, 1994 Interview location: Tampa, Florida Transcribed by : Arlen Bensen Transcription date: March 20, 2009 Audit Edit by: Mary Beth Isaacson Audit Edit date: April 22 23 2009 Final Edit by: Christine Toth Final Edit date: May 7, 2009 [Transcriber's n ote: Lydia Lopez Allen's brothers Frank Lopez (FL1) and Ferman Lopez (FL2) are present during part o f the interview ] Susan Greenbaum: This is an interview with Lydia Lopez Allen. It's July 9 1994. Could you tell me a little bit about Chick s Lounge and El Chico and your uncle a nd how the business got started? Lydia Lopez Allen: When my uncle and his two brothers, Clemente and Frank, my uncle I should say my uncle's name was Fe rman Mirabel bu t everybody knew him as Chick. And so, in the middle of the thirtie s [1930s] they went to work for Charles Vanderhorst better known as Charlie Moon and they we nt to work there at his place, The Moon, that was right there on Central Avenue and what is that street? Where the SG: Where the Kid Mason Hall is? LA: Uh huh. SG: Is that Harrison [Street] ? LA: Harrison. The corner of Harrison and Central Avenue. And they worked for him until let me see if that one has the correct year to the late thirties [1930s] they worked for Charlie Moon. And then, in the late thirties they bought Chick Lounge ; that was on the corner of Scott it was on Scott Street 1007 Scott Street, almost to Central Avenue. And then the war started World War II started, and he got drafted. And SG: So, Chick got drafted in World War II? LA: In two. In two. Mm hm.
! # SG: Do you know if they owned the building itself and the property ? O r was it just LA: Yeah. They owned SG: the business. LA: No. He owned the building. See o ver here, this wonderful let's see yeah (inaudible ). Rogers was the owner of that see, this Moses White wanted to take control of everything. But they didn't come he re til l the middle forties [1940s] SG: The White s didn't? LA: Mm h m. I didn't want him to get credit for everything, so that's why I wrote this article on my uncle It's a very interesting letter (inaudible) it brought many memories, and he wanted to take credit for it. I put when my uncle, he started the Tilt of the Maroon and Gold in 1939. 1 And, um SG: So this was before the war LA: And he was SG: t hat he had started that. LA: Yes. Uh huh. SG: So he was already LA: In business. SG: grown and in business and doing things when he got drafted LA: He bought the building. He bought the building and SG: What happened when he went to war ? How long was he gone? LA: W ell, he serve d overseas three and a half years in Okinawa and Saipan SG: Did his brother run the business for him LA: While he was gone. Yes. SG: while he was gone? !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 The Tilt of the Maroon and Gold was an annual football game in Tampa, which was played by Bethune Cookman and other black colleges.
! $ LA: While he was gone, his brother was running the business. I said that in here, too. SG: I we are we're working a little bit with the [ Florida ] Sentinel Bulletin and we have access to all of their back issues, so I don't need to pause in recording SG: S o I took the date and let me see what page it was on just to make it easier to find. Page eleven. So we can go and we possibly can get that did I say e leven? (laughs) LA: Eleven. See this paper was (inaudible) during that time. SG: Oh, really? LA: Mm hm Mm hm Mm SG: But that's a nice photograph of him, especially in his uniform. LA: I have a photo of that of him. SG: Better to be looked th an overlooked. This is from the business card, Chick s Lounge : B eer wine and liquor at big savings, all kinds LA: (inaudible) SG: of sandwiches, short orders LA: He was the owner of that. SG: And he bought the property from Charlie Moon. LA: No I do n't know who he bought it off. I don't know. He was working for Charlie Moon so then SG: I see. So he was working for Charlie Moon but Charlie Moon didn't own that beforehand. LA: No. I don't know who were the owners. My uncle can tell you. SG: Did they when did they stop working for Charlie Moon? Did they stop because he died, or LA: They started working Charlie Moon they didn't work for him very long. Se e, they started working for Charlie Moon, I think about maybe I don't know, in the early thirt ies [1930s]
! % SG: The thirties [1930s] LA: And then they bought the place in 1936 I think it's 1936 when they bought the place. I don't know. My uncle can tell you the exact dates. SG: I'll save some of this for him. LA: Mm hm SG: Uh, who do you remember about it? Did you go there, ever, when you were young, or LA: No we didn't. See, t he Spanish people, they're very protective of their women, you know, and we weren't allowed to go in there. SG: Did you ever see the inside of it, or LA: Just when he first bought it but to go there and uh uh. We weren't even allowed my father didn't even want me to pass on Central Avenue. SG: (laughs) Oh, really? LA: Everything was crowded and there were all kinds of people. Oh no. SG: Was it something tha t was more the Cuban families? Or was that a general thing where there were LA: ( i naudible) SG: fewer women than men. LA: The Cubans i t was Daddy who said anything. But we just went there to the movies but we'd better make sure to come back home beca use not to wait for the bus or anything on Central Avenue cause I mean, it was roaring with people all the time. SG: So, it's really crowded. LA: And drinking. And cursing. And that's why we weren't allowed to go there. SG: There were other businesses there though. There was the drugstore LA: Oh, yes. Now, when we went to the movies SG: the cleaners and
! & LA: we were allowed to go to the Palace Drug s tore, my cousin and I and a lot of my friends B ut no, I never been allowed in a place like SG: Never in the lounge. LA: that No, no never. SG: When you got older, could you go there for the music that was there? Did you could you go there with LA: Not ever I wasn't allowed to. At least, my father didn't allow it. SG: How about after you got married? (laughs) LA: Well, after I got married I remember that, in that dilapidated auditorium off Collier, Pole Auditorium. It was on top of T he M oon. M y husband, he liked Big Joe Turner; he was a big fan. S o we went over there and we I told him "M y father never allowed me to go there. (inaudible) it's so dilapidated, and I'm pregnant, and everything A nd so, my father was working for Clarence Prev ette a t that time ; he was the manager of the wholesale place that Clarence Prevette was right there on the bottom of the hotel S o we went there to see my dad first. And we told him, and my father said "I really don't like it. She's never been to the Pole Auditorium." My husband said, "She's with me; nothing 's going happen. He said, "Yo u better not let nothing happen to her!" And so we went to see Big Joe Turner. ( Door opens ) I was telling him about (laughs) I never go into that auditorium, th e Pole A uditorium, cause P apa wouldn't allow it. Frank Lopez : (inaudible) LA: Yeah, you were boys, but him? FL 1 : Yeah, more or less teenagers. LA : ( laughs) FL1: I was just stepping over there. I'm sorry. LA: I showed her this book about FL 1 : Cause she has a lot of history, you know, from my grandmother
! LA: Yes. And I 'll never forget that time that Big Joe Turner came here and I was pregnant with Wayne, cause we went over there when Papa was working for Prevette at that time and we went and I told him. I said, [husband], we'd better not go." And he said, "What? You are married now. You don't have to do what your father used to tell you." And so we went over there and Papa said, "What are you all doing around here at this time?" [Husband] said, "We're going to go see Big Joe Turner." And he said, "Man, are you crazy? And she's preg nant?" and everything. He said, "You think (inaudible) we're just going to go over there FL 1 : You know when y'all was moving out of Ybor City, a guy was looking at the chest of drawers that I had. I had all those programs, Big Joe Turner, the Globetrotters, Elvis Presley I even had Elvis Presley And then Nat King Cole SG: Elvis Presley played on Central Avenue? FL 1 : No, it was at the Armory on Howard and that was in f ifty four  or f ifty five  and I went to see him, and uh, it was interesting SG: I 'll identify you on the tape. Frank Lopez has just joined the interview. So when they hear your voice they'll know whose it is. (laughs) And we are on tape. You were telling me about t he T ilt and how that got started. LA: Okay. FL 1 : The Tilt of the Maroon and Gold. LA: Okay. The first T ilt FL 1 : It was in t hirty nine , wasn't it? LA: I t took place on November 25 1939 starting with a g ay p arade and many social dances and parties. Th is first T ilt of the Maroon and Gold was made possible by many of our old timers of our city, one being Tampa's best known and oldest businessman of long standing, Mr. Ferman G. Mi r a bel who is better known as Chick. He was also the f irst mayor of Central Avenue in 1939. 2 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 2 Allen is reading from a letter she wrote to the Florida Sentinel Bulletin which was printed on page 11 of that newspaper on July 24, 1971. In the letter, she discusses her uncle Chick and the Tilt of the Maroon and Gold.
! ( SG: I saw that on one of the ads. FL 1 : (inaudible) LA: Mm hm SG: What how d id he get to be mayor? What did that mean? LA: They just started the businessmen said that they wanted to start it. FL 1 : Right. What I think it was well I don't know if it's in that book, but they had their own Chamber of Commerce and everything I know at that time Hargrett's father was the president of the SG: So that was the organization that he started or that he was we had an interview with him FL 1 : I t was a group of black businessmen that had their own Chamber of Commerce and then, I guess they decided to say, W ell, every two years we'll be mayor or we'll elect the mayor. SG: I see. So it was within the organization You told me that before, I think. LA: Mm hm FL 1 : Right. Cause I know Kid Mason was the mayor at one time and SG: I think Watts Sanders on was, too. FL 1 : Right. Watts Sanders on right. LA: But he was the first one. FL 1 : Did you ever get to talk to Robert and his brother SG : We are. Cheryl Rodriguez has been in touch with FL 1 : I know the one that's the psychologist, he's very interested in that cause he always mentioned that somewhere, wherever he is, he mentioned that about the old Central Avenue H e feels like I do that it still should exist but I still say we would still laugh ( l aughs). SG: Well, that's one of the questions that I have, in terms of how the thing W hat were the steps leading up to the destruction of Central Avenue and how much opportunity di d peo ple have to object to that?
! ) FL 1 : Yeah. See I didn't I wasn't here at the time but in fact we were talking about this about a week ago. I'll have to talk to you about that off SG: Okay. ( l aughs) FL 1 : off the tape. SG: Okay. (l aughs) Want me to turn it off? pause in recording SG : (i naudible) from what street? Jefferson [Street] ? FL 1 : T he street behind Central which is what, Jefferson or Morgan [Street] ? I think it's Jefferson. The first street after Central, I've forgotten what it was. LA: Jefferson. FL 1 : Yeah, Jefferson. LA: Je fferson. A nd across the street from the funeral home was a bungalow that was the first Clara Frye the first Negro SG: That was across from Pughsley [Funeral Home] ? LA: Uh huh. It was a bungalow and that was the first Negro hospital T hey had taken him already over there, but you had to go over to Tampa General to go get the blood and the what's that? The intravenous you know? So my uncle took he was passing by and he saw where he had been shot and everything, and he stopped, you know. He was going up the stairs to his new home S o then they took him over there to that bungalow which was Clara Frye's first hospital and so then they said, "We need blood to save him and we need the IV and everything. So my uncle took off in his car. And the policeman stopped him and so he said what he was doing. So they led him on. And see, the people at Tampa General knew Mr. Pughsley, because he had gone there to pick up so many bodies. So he said he just got shot and he said, "W ell, just follow us ," and so my uncle just followed and that's what brought everything back to them but they couldn't save him. FL 1 : But I thought he was refused from there. LA: No! FL 1 : I always heard he was refused from there.
! LA : No, no, no, no. He went over there to get the equipment that they needed over there at that bungalow where it was a hospital. SG: Who shot Mr. Pughsley ? Was that Pearl [McAden] ? FL 1 : That's Pearl (laughs) SG: Why did he do that? Do you know? FL 1 : I don't know. I think it had something to do with power, you know like when the power structure of Tampa wante d somebody eliminated, I guess. That's what it was. SG: Was Pughsley being trouble some ? LA: No. FL 1 : I don't know cause I was too young, then, to realize, you know LA: That is one word. SG: Do you remember Pearl ? Did you ever see him? LA: (laugh s ) No. I don't want no trouble with him. FL 1 : I met him one time in my uncle's place and I was too scared to look up SG: (laughs) Well, I've heard lots of stories about him. FL 1 : Yeah. I'll never forget. He had a three piece suit and he had that gun in his hat LA: I seen it. FL 1 : Yeah. You' re right. He was a LA: As far back as 19 FL 1 : good looking man, too. LA: I saw him. SG: Was he large? Strong? FL 1 : Well, you know, I was a kid then, so he looked big to me. But he had to be over, I guess, about six feet tall. LA: (inaudible)
! "+ SG: But he killed Charlie Moon, also. LA: Mm hm FL 1 : Right. LA: And the w ay he did it was really something in that (inaudible), cause everybody knows it. T hat's where you're getting mixed up about the blood and all of that. When he killed Charlie Moon, he got in the ambulance with Charlie. And when he went to the hospital, he d ared to Clara Frye Hospital he dared those nurses to do anything for him. SG: So, he prevented him from getting any treatment. LA: He dared them. He wanted him to die. (laughs) SG: Why did they shoot Charlie Moon? LA: It was something about power, I think. FL 1 : That had to do with power, too. You know, like the b olita thing. SG: Well, and when we were talking last time I mean this is also some thing I'm interest ed to know about him LA: That is one person, in terms of SG: How black businesses got sort of squeezed out of the FL 1 : Well, see, Charlie Moon was responsible for a lot of black businessmen He had his business on Central Avenue. SG: Did he give loans to people or FL 1 : I don't know about that, but somehow he had the power to, you know, help people get in business. LA: And he buried a l ot of people, my uncle told me cause people didn't have money to pay insurance, you know? SG: Mm hm So Charlie Moon was a generous man was that his reputation? LA: Well he helped a lot of the poor people, the black I know that he would give them when there wasn't any welfare or nothing like that, he would give them food and stuff. I mean, he would make the food at his place. And my uncle my uncle Frank he
! "" told me that h e would make a big pot of soup y ou know, give them bowls, the whole thing and he would give them you know SG: Mm hm LA: That's what my uncle would tell me. SG: Do you know, or can you recall, any how did the Cubans get along with the Americans on Central Avenue, your uncle being a Cuban businessman? Did that have any, uh ? LA: Well, see, he was by my uncle being born and reared here in Tampa, you know, and then he started working for Charlie Moon with three others ; they worked for Charlie Moon. Se e, my uncle's stepfather was he raped her. He was a white Spaniard and he was a banker. He was a b olita banker. That's not being recorded, is it? SG: Oh, it is. (l aughs) If you don't want it to be, I'll stop pause in recording LA: He bought it. He bought it. It was his El Chico u h, I mean FL 1 : (inaudible) LA: No, Chick's Lounge. No, Chick's Lounge. FL 1 : No, Chick's Lounge. LA: Chick's Lounge. You (inaudible)? FL 1 : See, Chick's Lounge was the one, you know, where the beginn in g of the projects LA: Yeah, that's FL 1 : and part of th at land yeah, I got one of those A nd part of that land was taken for the projects, so he had to relocate onto Central Avenue. That's how he bought the El Chico B ut the original was on Scott Street. LA: Yeah. Mm h m. He was selling right as they changed the name. SG: But it is interesting because I mean, my first thought, and it was wrong, was that it had started as El Chico's and it Americanized to Chick's, but it actually went the opposite direction.
! "# FL 1 : And, y ou know, it was interesting, but, uh you know Mr. Rodriguez was in the audience at the African Museum B ut it shows you that you got to keep up with the history because Blythe Andrews' s daughter was thinking that that was Moses White's place. I said, "No, no. That was my uncle's place. Moses White was across the street." SG: It was Palm Dinette FL 1 : Right. So I had to straighten that out right there. LA: Mm hm That's right. And, you know, with the big riots that happened SG: Sixty seven.  LA: when Central got burned. Uh huh. My two brothers were the ones that they [the rioters] thought that my uncles were white, you know, that they weren't black and they were going to burn it And we said, "Man, no Don't you do that They said, That's Frank and Ferman's uncles! No, no, man! Don't burn that place! SG: So, did they not burn it, then? LA: No, they didn't SG: Oh, really? LA: B ut we were (inaudible) SG: One of the thin gs that I've heard LA: (inaudible) SG: was that there was a real avoidance of doing damage to black owned businesses. LA: Uh huh. Yeah. Uh huh SG: So some of the businesses that were damaged that people thought were black owned were actually LA: T he riots. That riot that man that they called Mona Lisa. He died already, Mona. Mona Lisa was the one that was the head of everything. FL 1 : Of the riot? LA: Of the riot, mm hm. FL 1 : You see, I wasn't there. I was I was in the other riot.
! "$ SG: (laughs) There were a lot of them to be found in that time period. LA: They were they had big, uh, horns you know? SG : Mm hm FL 1 : Bullhorns. LA: Bullhorns A nd they would they were saying on the bullhorns, "Don't you all do that, man That's Ferman and Frank's uncle' s SG: Was that the White H ats that were doing that, or LA: Yeah, the W hite H ats. They the ones. See, they thought they were white. SG: Well, that's interesting. LA: Mm hm They were (inaudible). SG: After the riot was over, how much damage was actually done on Central Avenu e? Do you recall? LA: Oh, a lot, yes. Especially the Palace Drugstore; it was really bad. That's the only place I was allowed to go. Spanish people would not I never did go in Chick's Lounge. My mother didn't even his two sisters didn't even they had a thing about the women do not go in. The first fella that took me out for to go to the movies and anyth ing was Eugene White who, when we first came to Tampa, he was a he married a friend of mine H is brother marr ied a friend of mine So I went to the wedding and met the White family. That's why they came here during the middle SG: This was Moses White? LA: Yeah. One of them is married to my friend Carmen Valdez And so, I met the whole family there. Eugene was the baby brother and he went to Don Thompson and I was at Middleton. FL 1 : You know, they used to live around the corner from us on Tenth Avenue. LA: Yeah, but during that time, they didn't. FL 1 : Oh, really? LA: That time when Eugene, he was
! "% FL 1 : W hat, they were living in West Tampa? LA: No. They were living in the projects They all were project people. All of them Whites were project people from the projects So then my father had Mr. and Mrs. White to come to my house because he said, "I want to know your parents before I'll let my daughter go out with you, and all that like the Spanish people used to do. (laughs) SG: What did your father do? Where was he LA: He was a cigar maker. SG: So he was still making cigars. LA: Yeah. And then, later on, he started working for my uncle y ou know, and that was SG: Is that after the cigar industry went down ? LA: No. It was coming down, you know. I had an aunt she's a little bit senile, but she worked for Perfecto Garcia since she was nineteen ye ars old until the embargo and FL 1 : P apa didn't want to learn how to make cigars but he started making them. LA: Yeah, his father made them when he was twelve years old she's been starting at the (inaudible). You know those two cigar factories? FL 1 : On Twenty S econd [Street] as you're going towards the bridge? LA: No, he didn' t. And so, he always disliked the cigar factories, but that was a way of living then. SG: Did he dislike it because he wanted to do something different from what LA: Yes. Yeah. SG: his parents had done, or FL 1 : I wish we had some of the things that he'd done, but (inaudible) messed all that up. LA: Mm hm FL 1 : But he was really his thing was really LA: Making making FL 1 : wood, like, uh, carpentry.
! "& LA: but maki ng furniture. Making furniture. FL 1 : He was very and furniture. LA: Mostly furniture. And, uh a nd so he FL 1 : We had that swing set that P apa made for (inaudible). He made LA: Yeah. Yeah. He made a swing set. FL 1 : He made a swing set, you know, like the, the swing se ts that he made em out of broom sticks. LA: Uh huh. And he made his playpens out of FL 1 : And it had the platform and everything, the two seats and then there was Lee Lily there was ours and there was my cousin's, so it went on down that same swing LA: And his playpen was made out of broomsticks, too. SG: Was there a broom factory that he was able to get those from? LA: No. He just collect ed em. Just kept asking different neighbors and everything to give him the brooms and then he bought some himself, too, and cut them (laugh s ) and cut em up And so, finishing that story about Eugene White which was Moses White's baby brother, my father told him, he said, "Listen. It's al l right for her to go to the movies with you You say it's going to be once a week B ut I want to meet your parents before we go into this." So that poor lady, she was "I heard your papa." Moses White's mother was real fat and she went up those stairs, cause we lived on the upstairs house, since we had FL 1 : Two story. LA: two stories, she had to go up the stairs A nd s o then, he told him another thing : "Uh, okay, I met your parents. We've got an agreement but if anything happens to you, you're responsible for her and all that. He talked all (laughs) that kind of stuff. So then he said, "And another thing, when you get out of the movies, I don't want no waiting for the bus in front of that Johnny Gray's. I want you to go to Cass [Street] and Central and wait for it." That's how they were about things Spanish people ; they didn't allow none of their people to be on Central Avenue, none of their ladies. Mm mm [no] SG: What about Ybor City, though? Could you do things on Ybor City that you would not be allowed to do on Central Avenue?
! "' LA: The Cuban Pa tio was a beautiful place. Oh, the Cuban Patio you should see how nice it was. We had dances there FL1: That should have been a landmark, now. LA: Oh, it was so beautiful. My daddy used to get off of Central Avenue, once he was working for my uncle, and then he used to park over there and go upstairs and he was playing dominoes and things with them He was a member of the Cuban H all Mart SG: Mart Maceo 3 O ne of the things that I wondered about during the fifties [1950s] and forties [1940s] there was a lot of Cuban influence on American music. Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Fuentes had come over. Was that did that show up on Central Avenue at all, or was that all in Mart Maceo where the Cubans LA: No, it was Mart Mace o. Only in the Cuban FL1: But not entirely because Leon Claxton had a Cuban background, you know LA: Oh, no. But that was in the band FL1: in his show, Harlem in Havana This was a midway show Leon Claxton had and I know in his show you know, it was like a variety show and some part in there he would always have the girls dressed like Spanish dancers (inaudible) SG: Did he have any Cuban music ians that worked for him? FL1: I don't I can't recall. LA: One. But he wasn't altogether Cuban. His fa ther was Cuban Yolanda s brother, Frank (inaudible) and Conchita Pinon's brother also. FL1: Oh, okay. That's Yoland a her stepsister LA: Um, not but he wasn't really Cuban, you know FL1: and Yoland a, her son (inaudible). LA: and then his he married a Cuban girl but she wasn't ( Door opens ) FL1: Come in !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 3 Sociedad la Unin Mart Maceo, the club for the Afro Cubans.
! "( F e rman Lopez : Hello, everybody. How y'all doing today? FL1: Careful when you st e p right there. It's a cord. SG: I don't want to trip you. FL2: Oh, I'm sorry. You all were recording. SG: No, please join us. I'm just about to introduce you to the tape recorder. Uh, F e rman Lopez has just joined the interview. FL1: Yeah, we were talking about different things you know, Central, Mart Maceo Ybor City. FL2: Y'all didn't go (inaudible)? FL1: No. No. (laughs) LA: But in this book it says something about Tampa, Florida too SG: I'm going to look that book 4 up. I will find a copy of it. If I can't find it, I'll come back and ask you to borrow it. LA: I have tried to get a copy ever sin ce my uncle let me read it. When my uncle I tell you he was so crazy about this book because nobody has this book. And he told me, he says, "You have to read it in one weekend and bring it back to me." And I did. (laugh s ) I gave it back to him. SG: Well, we may have trouble tracking it down but at the library they can put out a call to all the other libraries. So, if it's anywhere, we can find it and they'll send it to us. FL1: You know, i t's ironic that a book like that exists because a story sim ilar to that happened in Sarasota, Dr. Chestnut. LA: But, see, the I understand why he couldn't sell this story to the movies. It would do injustice to the (inaudible) of the d octor. FL1: Oh, yeah. Back then, you know LA: No, now They wanted to buy the story from him. FL1: Oh, even now? !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 According to Greenbaum's notes from her interview with the Lopezes and their uncle Clemente Mirabel, which was also conducted on July 9, 1994, the book in question is Ruby McCollum: Woman in the Suwannee Jail by William Brad ford Huie, which tells the story of a black woman who killed her white lover.
! ") LA: Now. And he wouldn't and he was all almost to sell it the son and then he backed out. That's why. FL2: Are there any of them still living? LA: Yeah. Has to be. W hat about this little girl, she's already as old as Wade Loretta 5 No. She's older. She was born FL1: No. She's older than Wade. LA: Yeah. She's older. FL2: So, what else is going on? FL1: You want go there and check em out first before we bring (laugh s) Clemente FL2: Yeah. We could do that. LA: Meet him. FL2: Yeah. You know, if he's not up we'll have to help him out of bed and carry him out. SG: Would it be easier to go over there, or LA: He couldn't walk over here, no We'll have to go over there. FL2: So, if you'll just stand by, we'll go and get him up. SG: Okay. Okay. FL1: We're not taking too much of your time ? SG: Oh, no. I have all afternoon. I tell you, I'm going to take more of your time (laughs) than you' re going to take of my time, so don't worry. FL2: All right. LA: I can't find that, but it says something about (inaudible) FL2: Well, let me go ahead on and take this ice over there. I bought some ice at the store. LA: and it talks about the (inaudible). !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 Loretta was the daughter of Ruby McCollum and her lover C. Leroy Adams.
! "* SG: Mm hm Now this is something turn it pause in recording LA: My grandfather came in 1905, by himself, and got the job, and he found a job at Corina Cigar Factory on Twenty S econd Street and he bought a home on Marconi [Street], right close to the cigar factor y which was i n Palmetto Beach And so, w hen he brought his family in 1906 here, he had already joined the Centro Asturiano as a founder of the Centro Asturiano Hospital and Club, and then he because of the Jim Crow laws, hi s wife could not belong to the Centro Asturiano but at least he had hospitalization. He was already a n old man so he was grateful that he had hospitalization. So then in 1926 Dr (inaudible) came from Cuba and founded (inaudible) and she joined there with her children. SG: Was she ever associated with Mart Ma ceo at all? LA: No. No, she was always t he Spanish ladies, they were just for the house ; that's why she never learned how speak English, be cause she was always in the house. But her children learned how to speak English. They came here as children but my aunt who was just a year and a half, she knew how to speak English fluently, better than my father and my uncle. But they knew how to defend themselves pretty good without English. (laugh s ) And so, they worked they all learned how to make cigars at Corina Cigar Factory where their father worked all three of the children including our older aunt also. W hen my grandfather first encountered the Jim Crow laws was one day that my grandmother and him got on the trolley the electric t rolley that they used to have and she was told that she he was told that he was sitting in the wrong place cause he was sitting in the back with his wife, and he didn't pay attention to the sign that says that whites sit from the front to the back and blacks sit from the back to the front. So there was a lady in the trolley that knew how to speak English and Spanish and she said what the trolley conductor was saying, that he couldn't sit back there. H e says, "Well, what, what is h e answered in Spanish "What is wrong with me sitting back here? I like to sit in the back and this is my wife sitting next to me." And s he says, "Well, you're not supposed she can sit back there but you have to come to the front." S o, he pulled the string that you pull to get off and he says, "Let me off right here on this corner. I will never get on a trolley again." And he didn't. SG: ( laughs )
! #+ LA: So, when my father and his brother were teenagers, he bought them a Model T Ford and that's how they traveled from Palmetto Beach to Ybor City T hey like d the atmosphere in Ybor City very much A nd then they were advised that, because they were a mixed couple and they didn't have that sort of thing here at that time, it w ould be best if they could move to Ybor City. So then they came to live in Ybor Ybor Street Ybor City be tween Twenty F irst [Street] and Nineteenth Avenue. And they left their home that was theirs to rent. And they lived in Ybor City, also. SG: So, they c ould live in Ybor City without anybody bothering them LA: Bothering them. SG: But if they were in other parts of Tampa they were running a risk LA: Because all the couples it was all the couples like them, you know. SG: In Ybor City. LA: Mm hm There was mixed, you know, that they had come from Cuba because in Cuba that's nothing for a black man to marry, or a white man to marry a black woman and all that you know. You would have seen couples like t hat, but not in Palmetto Beach. In fact, the K Ks [Ku Klux Klan] used to meet at De sota Park. That's where their meetings were. SG: What and Desot a Park, is that in Palmetto Beach? LA: Yes, in Palmetto Beach right before you get to Twenty Second to the Causeway. SG: Didn't they bother Cubans white Cubans and cigar makers too, though? KKK? LA: Yes, they did bother them but see they stayed, like I said, here in Ybor City SG: They'd be okay. LA: It would be okay for them They went in a lot of the areas to live but Sulphur Springs or places like that they, uh uh. That was a no no. Mm hm [no] SG: Was your family members of Mart Maceo ? Your father was? LA: My father was. Uh huh. My father was. SG: So he had that hospital ization. LA: Yes. He had that hospital uh huh. The patients would go to G onzales' home.
! #" SG: One of the things that I've been interested in and this is kind of off to the side but Mart Ma ceo had this insurance plan, basically, that was very beneficial for if you got sick it would not only pay your medicine and hospital but al so give you some money to tide you over. LA: Yes. It's most it was drawn just like the (inaudible). I'm going to bring you the booklets from (inaudible). pause in recording LA: (inaudible) pause in recording LA: The father's name and the mother's (inaudible) SG: Right. Francisco Lopez Garcia was your grandfather and he was one of the founders of Centro Asturiano. There's a photograph of him here at he's a (inaudible). That's very interesting. I didn't realize that they had done a history. I should see if I can find it LA: This is a picture of him. You see my grandmother and the two aunts. This is 1927, Noche Bueno [Christmas Eve]. That's before my mother and my father got m arried. They got married in 1930 This is my father and there's my mother and there's his sister and there's her husband and that's my two aunts that I tell you that they went for white. And that's (inaudible). SG: Was this just inside of your house in Ybor City? LA: My grandmother's house. This grandmother my grandmother on my mother's side. And that's her husband, the one that she married after she became a widow. And then, that's my uncle my daddy's brother, and this she is my grandmother's daughter from her first marriage. And t hat's my U ncle Chick. And that's a friend of theirs. And that's my Uncle Frank. SG: It's not Frank that which uncle have we interviewed? LA: Uh Clemente and he's not here. SG: So he's not in there. LA: Somebody had to (inaudible), so he's not here SG: Let me go back, if I could no let me finish with this one thing before I forget it altogether. In the American community and the b lack American community, there were burial societies or (inaudible) The Grand Union was one, I think, and the Lily Whit e
! ## LA: The pallbearers union. Right. SG: Do you remember or did you know anything about them and do you know how they compared to Mart Maceo in a way the family didn't belong to any of those? LA: (inaudible) See, see how the integration works? Now th is is Wholesome Bakery. Now, they all of these are employees, and their wives, of the Wholesome Bakery. Okay, they had an affair for Christmas This was Christmas of 1954. They had this big affair that the black employees couldn't go to. SG: Could not go? LA: Mm mm [no] To the thing. SG: I thought maybe they were just sitting in a separate place LA: No. Uh uh. SG: but they couldn't go at all? LA: No. He rented this auditorium for this which was at the YMCA or somewhere that's small but, see, that's (inaudible) the employees. And that is a big thing. SG: So who was the one who rented the hall for the separate one? LA: The owner of Wholesome Bakeries In 1954. SG: Did somebody in your family work for Wholesome ? Is that it? LA: Ye s. Uh huh. Yeah. M y godson's parents. And I have a lot of my friends here this lady; s he died already Violet (inaudible) her father (inaudible) SG: (inaudible) LA: (inaudible) daughter. Mm hm. SG: I interviewed her right before she died. LA: Uh huh. ( i naudible)'s daughter. And that's her husband, here. And this girl, I know her, too. And that's her husband. This girl this lady, they just had her funeral two weeks ago Ruby Reece That's her husband ; h e worked there. See? This is how ridiculous ( i naudible) Now, he had to spend money for this auditorium and then for this one That is so SG: Were there white people who came to Central Avenue? Were there white people who came to Chick's Lounge, do you know? Or was it
! #$ LA: Well, you know who wou ld go to the like when Harlem in Havana had a show at the movie theatre, they would go. SG: So, they would go to those kinds of things. Did they go to see B.B. King down there? Or Ray Charles, or LA: V ery few. V ery few. SG: So, it was mostly black people who went to the entertainment down there. LA: Mm hm. SG: The uh tell me again about the Tilt Would you describe what that was like, the day of the parade, and LA: Oh, it was a gala affair. It was really, really (inaudible). Uh, it started, you know, in the morning. It was a n all day affair. T he football game with the it ended with the football, at the Phillips Field which was right there on Cass and North Boulevard where the Riverfront Park is now, on the corner that corner was Phillips Field, and all the football games were held there. And then they would have dances right there on Central ; some would be at the Cuban Patio, and that's the one I would (inaudible) I went a lot. SG: So, the Cuban Patio also participated LA: Oh, yes. Uh huh. SG: Actually, the Cuban Patio then, wa sn't that far away from Central. LA: Oh, yes it was far away. SG: But it was well, it was a few blocks away. LA: A ll the black clubs and societies they all participated SG: So, there were parades with floats and LA: Yes. Uh huh. SG: and things like that? Was there a queen, or LA: Yes. T hey would have a queen. Yes. Uh huh. Queen of the Tilt of the Maroon and Gold, and then there was the q uee n of the s chool. She would always come, too, and the queen from the opposite team. But they would always play black schools ; always black school s that I recall.
! #% SG: Do you remember the Greek Stand? Did you ever go to the Greek Stand, the place they called the Greek Stand? LA: Yes, but I SG: Cause I haven't quite figured out why? LA: Well, the owners, they were Greek s SG: They were Greek people. So that's why they called it the Greek Stand. LA: The Greek Stand, and they were very fam ous for the sandwiches, especially their Greek salad. SG: So the food was good there. LA: Yeah. T he black people couldn't go anywhere else (inaudible). There was no McDonald's or nothing like that. SG: Or just a window in the back or something like that where they could get in, in other restaurants. LA: In other restaurants, a little window. Like (inaudible) and the Columbia Restaurant SG: Were the Greeks who owned it were they friendly people? Did they were they liked by people on Central Avenue LA: Yeah. Yeah. SG: by people who worked there? LA: Yes, they were very much liked. In fact there was two brothers, the Solomon b rothers his wife still lives ; she lives not too far away from here. They worked for them. They were brothers and they (inaudible). SG : What tell me his name again, because LA: Solomon. SG: Solomon. Okay. LA: Maybe one of em is still living. I know one of em died already the one named Johnny Solomon and I don't know what the other one's first name was. But his wife of Johnny still lives around here, and she could tell you more about the Greek Stand than anybody, cause they worked there, those two brothers the Solomon Brothers
! #& SG: That's a good suggestion That's another one of the places we're going to show and we don't know very much about it, so LA: Ruby is her name and she lives she don't live far from here. So she could probably tell you a lot about it SG: She's Ruby Solomon. LA: Solomon, uh huh. SG: So, Johnny is dead but Ruby is still alive. L A: Alive. I know where she lives and everything SG: Think she's listed in the phone book? LA: I believe so. Mm hm. SG: Oh, don't get up. I'll check it. If I can't find it I'll call you back about it for more information. (laughs) LA: (laughs) That's okay. SG: But, uh, I think we would like to contact her because LA: See, this is another good book SG: Right. We have that, in fact. Otis Anthony is, uh LA: You see, this not that one. ( i naudible) This article that came in this book tells you more about the Greek Stand. See? That's exactly how it is. SG: Th e Cubans and have you seen the little book that I wrote on Mart Ma ceo and Afro Cubans here in Tampa? LA: No. SG: Afro Cubans in Ybor City ? I gave Frank one. LA: Oh. SG: I di dn't bring one with me but you might find it interesting. The re are a lot of photographs and LA: That book tells exactly ( i naudible)
! #' SG: In fact, tomorrow morning on television, on Channel 13 do you ever watch the Denise White show? LA: Oh, yes. SG: I'm going to be on there tomorrow. Juan Majella do you know Juan Ma j ella ? LA: Juan Maj ella yeah. SG: He's on, too, and some other people, Chloe Cabrera and two other Cubans that I didn' t know before B ut it's all about Afro Cubans, and uh LA: ( i na udible) it's the Hispanic people see this is the part that I like the most See, Hispanics do es have a strong African heritage t he experience of b lack Americans in the United States. Many Hispanics (inaudible) have not accepted who they are and who can pass for whites are ignored um, ignorant. (l aughs) Ignored, I wanted to say. They ignore the fact that they have African in them, of the fact deny it, or aren't willing to accept it. That's the truth. SG: That was not so necessar y in Ybor City, though, was it, because of Mart Ma ceo and because there were a lot of people here who were Afro Cuban and who LA: You know what I have? I looked into it was a time when things were were better, you know, but as time passes the other generations came to be you know, they thought different B ecause I reme mber the Fuentes Renee Fuentes, who used to have a band his family live d next door to my grandmother on my daddy's side and we were just like a family, you know. They went for white s, but we were very close, you know. SG: Then it got less so. LA: Yes SG: That's I mean, you think about things getting better rather than worse but that's kind of the opposite direction. Do you think that as, uh LA: We used to be like a family, you know. Um, it looks like mostly this neighborhood was mostly Italians, you know. Now, the Italian old people still treat me the same and everything but you see, the grandchildren, when they come there to visit they don't want to be bothered, you know. The y don't SG: So, you think as they became more American they became more prejudiced? LA: Uh huh. I believe so. Something happened, because they don't treat me the same way as when I was a child, you know.
! #( SG: Let me ask you just two more things about Central Avenue, and this may be hard because you didn't spend as much time there as Frank. Do you there were not just Cubans and Americans but there were also some Jamaicans and some Bahamians and some people from other parts of the Caribbean. Did you kno w any of those people, or LA: My grandmother's people, you know my mother's side, they my grandmother used to that's my great grandmother up there. SG: She's very beautiful. LA: She was from Nassau, her mother. So that's why I have a lot of people in my family that are t hey're from the islands and Nassau. And my grandmother, she didn't know how to speak Spanish when she married my grandfather. T hat was my grandmother on this side, and that was my mother's parents ; that's my mother's parents. See, he di ed when he was just thirty two and my mother was just seven years old. So that's why my grandmother remarried this white Spaniard But s he used to say, "That's the only reason I married him, because he raised my children," cause the re was no welfare, no n othing to help. But you know what I find out, that this generation now they're not like they were when I was a child; we were just like a family. I see a lot of the grandchildren the mother still speaks to you and everything but the grandchildren they don't want to. SG: I think I've asked you all the questions ( laughs ) But let's talk a little more about Ybor City and about what it was like growing up there. LA: You see, this is the thing that we gave my grandmother, Olivia (inaudible); she was my gre at g randmother and she was the founder of St. James Episcopal Church the black woman there, she was one of the founders. SG: So she was an American. LA: Yes. A nd she married when she came from Nassau to Cu ba, my great grandmother, and there she had four girls which were (inaudible) sisters of my grandmother. They were from the i slands, mostly. And so when she came from Key West, she met my grandfather who was a Cuban Indian and she married him and she had three more daughters and which was my grandmo ther B ut, Olivia, she never spoke Spanish. She was from SG: So she came here and she lived here LA: In Tampa. SG: but she didn't speak Spanish. LA: No.
! #) SG: So she was part of the b lack American community LA: Mm hm. Yeah. SG: eventually. LA: She went to St. James Episcopal, and the American people mingled with her, the black SG: Were there other West Indians in the St. James Episcopal Church ? LA: Oh, yes. Uh huh. SG: Was that part of the reason she joined that church? LA: Yes, but that ch urch is mostly of that (inaudible). St. James Episcopal Church it explains to you that it the story of this church is that that's another person that preaches (inaudible) Herman Monroe He has a mostly he's trying to get photos and everything of the first Episcopal church but he hasn't been so successful to get it because this church was started wit h a mixture of people from the i slands and Cubans and everything. The Episcopal Church SG: Where was that located? LA: Now it's located on North Boulevard but I thought it was in the story here of when it started. A nd this is a n interesting tidbit. This is the project (inaudible) how it was burnt and everything. SG: They were, uh they had their hundredth anniversary in either this year or ninety three  and they were writing a history. I don't know if it's been finished. Eighteen ninety four was their 1893 ; late 1893 was when they began. But you know, there's very little that has ever been written about West Indians in the early part of Tamp a. There's more knowledge about that now, but LA: Mm hm. But Herman Monroe can give you a portion of it. SG: Herman Monroe is the pastor at LA: No, he's the histori an at the church. He gathers all the histories and things of the church. I have given him a lot of my family's pictures. My grand mother's niece married there in um, 1913. It's the first Episcopal Church within West Tampa (inaudible) and that's where she married. And I was able to give him that and he took all of that into consideration. H e was a good friend with the history. But it was mostly people from the i slands and people from Cuba that went to that church.
! #* SG: So, Protestants who went were from Cuba LA: Uh huh. Yeah. Of course, it's very see, most of these the y were Cubans from Key West, you know, because that's where the problem comes in. Mostly all the Cubans are Catholic, but when they came to Key West some of em they couldn't find a Catholic church so they joined the Episcopal church. Those are similar to the Catholic. But, my grandmother, she was from the i slands and she always went from the you know. SG: There was in some of the interviews that I've read, the guy who founded the longshoremen's u nion, originally, in Tampa, was Jamaican. This was before Perry Harvey this is before your time, so you may not remember or know anything about that LA: But Herman is a good one for you to in with about people from the i slands. SG: I was wondering if maybe there were more West Indians who were longshoremen. That was something that was a connection, anyway. LA: No. SG: Cause the longshoremen the l ongshoremen's u nion was down there on Central Avenue and Perry Harvey became the president of the longshoremen's u nion. His son is still the president. And that was something else that we were trying to find something about. LA: I don't know. But I know that Herman could probably give you a good thing about it. SG: Herman what was his last name again? LA: Herman Monroe. His mother was Hispanic and they've been all they were very well versed on the history of the people that belonged to St James wa s a mixture of people from the i slands and Cubans you know. SG: That's very interesting. Let me go back a little bit to Ybor City and to growing up in Ybor City and bei ng a Cuban and when you started you've been out with Americans. You went out with Moses White's brother and married an American, did you not? LA: Yeah, I married one of the Allens (inaudible). SG: How did your family feel about you going out with Amer icans? LA: Well, they came to accept it better later on but at the beginning, mm mm [no] SG: So, they did have some objections.
! $+ LA: Oh, y es. SG: Most of the Cuban families that I've heard of LA: But they wasn't but there weren't too many b lack Cubans, you know, that had funds available and all of that, so that' s when we decided we'd be, like, "Fine SG: So, this was in the forties [1940s] that you're talking about. So LA: U h huh. Yeah. Like Carmen White Carmen Valdez, the Valdez family now t hat's a good family to talk to. Her father her grandfather, Francisco Valdez, was a real founder o f the Labor Temple in Ybor City and they when he died, they laid his body at the Labor Temple. And for the sake of it, have you ever met (inaudible)? SG: Oh yeah. LA: He knows a lot, too SG: He's still down at the Labor Temple. LA: Mm hm Yeah. SG: There were lots of Cubans left Ybor City in the thirties [1930s] LA: Oh, yeah. There were SG: The size of the population really dropped. LA: That's where the problem came in. While we the Spanish families accepted a lot of Americans fellows into the family and things like that and vice versa, the American girls because a lot of these people had moved to New York, so SG: So, it's harder to find LA : New York and Chicago, because of the relief funds you know, they were given relief funds cause thi ngs were really bad during the D epression, and they left. SG: Do you remember Sylvia G ri n and Jose G r i n when they had the Pan American Club in the Mar t Maceo? Do you know them? LA: Mm hm Yeah. I participated in one of those plays. I've got the thing here. SG: You don't oh, my. LA: They were really good starting that club, because of that. W e were g ett ing away from our heritage, you know.
! $" SG: So, this was a way as Sylvia has explained it I knew her very well, and she had talked about that. She was saying that it was a way to keep kids in the club, in the Mart Ma ceo, but still to come to terms with the fact that there had to be interaction with Am ericans because it would otherwise they'd lose em altogether. Was that a sense that and did you know that, or feel that, at the time ? LA: Yes, to keep us together, yes, mm hm. We were losing out, both sides, to keep our heritage. I have some cousins, my aunt's daughter s ; they don't speak Spanish or anything. My two boys, they got the American name, Allen, and they speak Spanish fluently; but my brother's children, they speak English. The y got the Lopez name. SG: But they don't speak they're Lopez and they don't speak Spanish and yours are All en and they do speak Spanish. (l aughs) LA: That's cause my mother kept my children, you know. I always worked. I'm still working. I'm trying to get out of the stop working. I'm almost ready to retire but that Me dicare, you know if you don't have good hospitalization, what am I gonna do? SG: Yeah, I know. I hope they get this healthcare reform done in time to do some of us good. LA: See, I don't this year I'm going to be sixty four but you can't get Medicare until you 'r e sixty five. SG: We have to keep working on it. LA: I work for the Health Department, so they but uh, Sylvia was right. Sylvia really tried to keep us together SG: Were you aware of the conflict that she and Jose had with Juan Garcia? Did you know Juan Garcia? LA: Yes. (i naudible) SG: Cause that was what really killed it, eve ntually, was that they had an argument. He was the treasurer. LA: Yes, uh huh. SG: Um, I often wondered and you may not know this LA: It's too much (inaudible). You know, last time I pause in recording
! $# LA: at the club s, he just paid his dues and he just kept himself home because he said he don't like controversy and they have too much controversy over there. SG: What was the controversy about? LA: Mostly money. SG: Was there any politics in it? That was getting to the time of the revolution in Cuba and I know that there were some people in the club who were support ers of Batista and there were some people in the club who w ere supporters of Castro. LA: ( i naudible) but my father, he you see, when they sold the building, a lot of em didn't want to because that would've been a historical place. They could've built around it. They could've built around that place, but no they wanted the money SG: Do you remember when that got torn down the old Mart Ma ceo? LA: It was, um, a lot of SG: It was s ixty five  was when it happened, but LA: That's when my father died, yeah My father stopped going cause my father did not agree with it. Cause they wanted to sell it. SG: But they had I mean, I know a little bit about that. They had gotten LA: Now, that they look at that place they ha ve. D o you think that, with the money that they got from this th at it compensates for that little building they burned? SG: Nope. I'd say you're pause in recording LA: with Mr. M the late Mr. Martin ez is the only Martinez (inaudible) and he told him, he said, "I'm not going back. I don't like what they're doing and so I'm going to let them do whatever they want to do." SG: ( i naudible) was the one who wanted to close it down. And then there was LA: Mm m. Mm hm. Oh, yeah, cause he was so old and h e didn't care A nd Aurelio Fernandez had a very good idea cause he met with us. He wanted to turn it the old building, he wanted it to turn it into a nightclub, you know, where we could make money "Oh, no, no. No, no, no. (inaudible) No, no, no." Cause that would've been good, had a swanky nightclub in the bottom wit h dancing upstairs, the Patio; they talk about some. . e nd of interview