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Veverly Campbell Oral History Interview, January 31, 2020

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RUTH KORNBERG: Well, let's start out with you telling us a little bit about the history of your childhood, start out with, tell us a little bit about the history of your family first, because I know you've got a long history in Portland.

VEVERLY CAMPBELL: I do. Okay, well, I was born and raised here in Portland, Oregon. My parents migrated up here from St. Louis, Missouri. I wasn't even born yet. They came up here to work in the shipyards. They came up in 1943, so I was born 2 years later, 1945. Growing up, we lived in St. John's Woods, which is where they had, I guess it was an old Army barracks out there. So, I guess after the Army left they opened it up so people were able to live in those houses. I grew up there. I had so much fun, all the Pier Park, all the trees. It was just 00:01:00beautiful. I went to Sitton Grade School. I think I was in kindergarten, and I went there and one of the most significant things that I can remember is we used to do the Maypole, and I wish they still did that. They don't do it anymore, and it was so wonderful. My mom bought me this beautiful white dress which had all of these flurry things on it. I had the white socks with the little ruffles around it, the black patent leather shoes. I thought that was so cute, and my hair was in Shirley Temple curls. It was really a wonderful time in doing the Maypole dancing. Just growing up and I had my first cousin and I, we both grew up together. I was just like a year, 18 months older than her. We grew up together. Played a lot. Had lots of fun.


Our parents, they would send us, I remember they would send us to church on Sunday. They would send us to church on the apostolic faith bus. It would come around in the neighborhood and pick up children or parents, whoever wanted to go. They would send us to church, and then they would go to Henry Winery. The only reason why we knew that they had went to Henry Winery is because when they came back they would have these big jugs of wine. Henry Winery was somewhere, I guess it was out quite a ways. I'm not sure. I don't remember because I was young. I just knew it was a fun time for them. We always had a lot of fun. There was always a lot of dancing, wrestling with uncles, and just a fun time for all 00:03:00of us. Growing up was, it was really a lot of fun for me and my family. There were some other things that went on, but for the most part it was pretty good.

RK: Tell us a little bit about the other things that went on.

VC: Yeah [laughs]. That's true.

RK: Just paint a complete, realistic picture.

VC: Yeah.

RK: What were some of those things?

VC: Well, some things happened. My grandmother, granny, her name was Willa May, and that was my father's mother. So, I always wanted to stay with them because my grandmother's hair was like yours, but hers was all the way down to her bottom. I was about 5, I remember this specifically because I would love, I would ask her could I just brush her hair or either comb it. She would just sit there and I would just comb it and brush it for maybe, it seemed like a long 00:04:00time. It probably was only 15, 20 minutes, if it was that long, but it seemed like a really long time to me, but I really loved her. She was really just a neat lady. She had fruit trees in her yard, and she stayed right at, her home was right across the street from Boise-Eliot School. She lived on Borthwick and Fremont, and so she had, and she, her garden was always so beautiful, all kinds of flowers and she would let me help. I thought I was helping. I probably was not helping that much, I was only 5. I remember being out in the garden with her, and then going in the other side, the front yard was where all the flowers were. Then on the side of the house, that's where her pear trees were. She had the best pears. I can just still remember them now. They were so juicy and so 00:05:00sweet and I only, because she told me I could only have one or two, no more than that because they were juicy and then sometimes you eat too much sweet stuff like that it'd make your stomach hurt. I would just-oh, my gosh, the memories I have of that. She was a really, really cool lady. Granny was sweet.

My other grandmother, my mom's mom, she was traumatized when she was a young girl. She saw some devastating things that we didn't find out until I was an adult. All of us, we didn't know that my grandmother, my mother's mom, that she had saw her dad, one of her brothers, and an uncle, they were hung where they were at. We always thought that my grandmother, my mother's mother, that she was from St. Louis, Missouri, but she was not. She was born in Mississippi, the really, I guess, Deep South. So, she saw this, but then she probably had PTSD, 00:06:00but they didn't know anything about that back then. My grandmother was really different, my mother's mom, really different and she had-we knew something was wrong because she was kind of mean. I really didn't like her that much. I had to stay with her when my mom had married again and she lived up in Bridal Veil, Oregon. My mother was a professional cook and a professional baker. My brother and I, we lived with my grandmother. There were some different things, like I said, that went on. I don't know exactly what it was, but it kind of shaped me as I became older because my grandmother was, she was pretty tough, and like I said, pretty mean. As we got older, though, she kind of mellowed out. But 00:07:00basically, in the summer my brother and I we'd get to go to Bridal Veil, Oregon, where my mother and my stepdad was at. They worked on a mink farm. It was just so cool because for the whole summer we got to stay up there and we would get in the boat because where they lived at in that particular place, the people had, I guess it was a man-made lake, so they had boats, the little paddle boats, they had those on.

So, I remember this, I was 9 and my brother was 7, and we went out, the little boy, his name was David, I remember him. He was Caucasian. So, we went, he took me out in the paddle boat and he said, that was my first kiss from a boy. He says, you give me a kiss. I'm not going to take you back, because I couldn't swim. I'm not going to take you back, so I did. We just did this little lip thing or whatever. That was a lot of fun. That was my, some of my favorite times 00:08:00was going up there in the summer and just being with my mom and stepdad. That was really good. Basically, I guess for some people, I mean some of the things did happen. I guess it wasn't all that good, but I think it really helped and shaped me to become the person that I am now. My childhood was, I guess, basically a mixture of everything, you know-some things that were helpful, some things that were not, and basically good.

RK: Can you tell us a little bit more about those things that were not so helpful and things that happened that were-

VC: There were some things that happened to me sexually that were not okay. So, it gave me, because I was really young, so it just gave me a different perspective about men and how they're really supposed to treat you. I didn't feel, at that time, that anybody was there to protect me, so I felt like I had 00:09:00been abandoned when this happened to me. Something happened when I was about 5. I was almost 6. So, it just, like I said, it shaped who I was going to become as a teenager, an adult.

RK: In what ways?

VC: Well, it changed my thinking about men. For me, as I grew up as, you know, a young adult, got married really early, and I chose the wrong kind of guys to be with. So, I liked these bad boy type, and I really did. I loved the bad boy type. That kind of thing. So, I ended up with my first husband, I ended up with somebody, he was violent. I didn't know this because we grew up together as kids 00:10:00when we lived in St. John's. So, he was just a kid. The next time, because we finally moved from out there. When we moved, and then I'll get back to the unhealthy thing, but when we moved I didn't see him for some years. I didn't see him-we moved when I was about 8 because I ended up going to Immaculate Heart Catholic School there. My mother wanted me in a parochial school, somewhere where she thought I would learn better. During that time, you had to take all these IQ tests before you could get into the Catholic school, especially if you didn't have the money available to pay. I passed all of their tests that they put me through, so my mom was able to get the scholarship for me to go to Immaculate Heart. That was good because the nuns really helped me. Back then, even though I must have been only about 8, I had a really bad mouth. I mean, people say potty mouth. My mouth was probably worse than potty, but that was 00:11:00because, I really figured out later that it was because of things that had happened to me, so I had a lot of anger inside that I really didn't know how to deal with. That shaped me, too. But the nuns were, they were kind of mean. They were, I shouldn't say kind of-they were mean. They would take you by your ear and take you in the bathroom and put that, ugh, nasty, like boric soap was going to help me not cuss. That wasn't going to do anything, so I would spit it everywhere. It was interesting at the Immaculate Heart School.

Then back, like I said, the thing that happened to me when I was a little over 5 years old it really shaped the way I dealt with men, women. I didn't have a lot of women friends as I got older. I didn't because I really didn't trust them, 00:12:00and I don't know if it was because I felt like I was untrustworthy or what. I had all these different emotions, and I all stemmed it back to what happened to me as a child, and it happened more than once. It happened twice. Once, with this person that when I was about 5-I can't remember the person's face. I just, for some reason, it just won't come up in my brain. I don't know. Maybe it's a blessing that I don't know. The second time that it actually happened it was my mom's boyfriend, and it just almost ruined my insides. The doctors told my mom that I would never be able to have children-ha! Ha! Would you like to see me now? Eight pregnancies, but you know, all of those different things shaped me and helped me to really start looking inside of myself and thinking about what do you want to do with your life? I started asking myself questions, because I 00:13:00had, after the first marriage, like I said, it only lasted for about 10 years on paper but for 5 years we kind of lived together but there was always this fighting and all this, because he, my first husband, he went through a lot, too. His dad had told him when we got married, just keep her barefoot and pregnant. I just said, after 3 babies, I said I'm not having any more kids by this man because I'm always fighting for my life. It got to the point where he became a heroin addict. That just started everything going downhill. I mean, it wasn't that good anyway, but it just, it went all downhill. He was so smart. He was such a smart young man. He had so much potential. He got caught up back in the, I guess it was a, what, late '60s, early '70s Robitussin came in. A lot of, I 00:14:00don't know about, you know, Caucasian men, but a lot of Black men, they started drinking that stuff. They were selling it at the Rexall drug stores and I mean, they would be-I have an uncle, God rest his soul, I had never seen-we called it coasting. He would drink 2 or 3 bottles of that stuff. I never knew that anybody's body could bend in as many directions as his did. I mean, because it was just fun to watch him, because I had no idea, you know, that it was something that was actually hurting his body. It was just funny to watch him coast, as we said. That era-it was just really different. My first husband, we just didn't last very long. Then I ended up, I had a baby in between. I had this relationship with this guy, ended up getting pregnant, ended up having an abortion.


[Break in recording]

Okay, so, my ex-husband, really, we went through a lot of the different trials and tribulations. One of the worst experiences that I remember having with him is he had been out I think most of the night. He was doing, I think its coke and heroin, and they called it speedballing back then. I was asleep. The kids were asleep. When I woke up I had a .38 pointing right in the middle of my forehead. I'm like-oh, my God. This man has lost his mind. He wanted money. I didn't have any money. So, I had this, on the right of me, on the nightstand was a blue, one of those, the rotary dial phones, you know the old? You know they were really 00:16:00heavy. The only thing I could think of was to protect myself. If you're going to blow my brains out, he's going to have a headache, too. I just reached over and did it real quick. I hit him so hard, I know I didn't hit in the name of the Lord. I hit him in the name of something else right then, but I hit him so hard. It was enough for the gun to drop and then for me to be able to run. He was on that, so I didn't know exactly what all was going on in his mind from the gun. I just figured, okay, I don't have any money so maybe he's going to try to kill me. I need to get out of here. I couldn't take my kids. I just kind of knew in my heart that he wasn't going to really do anything to the kids, because he, for some reason he wanted to hurt me. So, I ran outside just with my bra and panties on. Thank God that's what I would sleep in, so I was able to get out of the house. I went over to a neighbor's and so they kept me in there. We had a lot of different trials with guns and that kind of stuff. I had to escape another time 00:17:00and I was staying with another friend and he came out. He was out there with a 16-gauge shotgun sitting under the tree. How he found out I was at my friend's house, I don't know. People talk and so that's probably how he found out. He waited for me. I was there for about 3 days and he waited. Finally, they did call the police. Because they were really killing a lot of us, even back then in the early '70s and that kind of thing. So, it was really bad. They didn't want to call the police on him, but they finally had to because he wasn't going to leave and that was real scary. All those different things, like I said, continued to shape me and the way I thought and the way I reacted to men and to women and other people, because basically I was so angry inside.

Another thing I found out about myself is I was real fearful because I forgot as 00:18:00we were growing up my mother used to watch a lot of scary movies. I don't like scary movies at all, anything where there's lots of blood and gore and hurting people and tearing people apart-I just didn't like that. My mom, she could watch all that kind of stuff. She watched the exorcist. I went to see the exorcist, and they said it was a true story so I don't know, but I went to see it. I wish I hadn't went to see it because all I thought about was my bed raising up and the devil being somewhere around there trying to kill-I mean, because I just have this, that's part of why I work well with children because I have this real vivid imagination of everything. I take it to levels that most people probably don't, but then how do I know? I don't know what other people are thinking in their heads. It was different. Another thing, after I went through all these different things and I finally divorced him, my first husband, he went to the 00:19:00penitentiary. I was able to divorce him for $1. This is what happened-a lot of the women, because he was really a really nice-looking, very handsome young man, very handsome. But, see, it's more than just being beautiful or handsome on the outside, if you don't have the right kind of character and you don't know how to treat people, then no matter how you look on the outside doesn't make any difference if your heart is not right. His heart just wasn't because his heart had been damaged, too, by his dad. Those are things that I didn't know at that particular time. Anyway, I divorced him and so there were some women, I mean they never said anything to me. I was also a fighter. I would fight to the death, to the end. Because I know now that it was because I was trying to protect myself and I just wasn't going to let anybody hurt me the way I had been hurt physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.


In 1973 is when I met my second husband, Arthur. Because of my past, I wasn't very nice to him in the beginning. But he was persistent that I was going to be his girlfriend, and so I just gave the poor guy the blues constantly. But he hung in there and we eventually we did, after about 5 years, we did get married and he was just who I was with until he passed away. It was, there were struggles in our marriage. But before that, let me back up a little bit. In 1980, Mount St. Helens blew up May 18. That same day, I had, well that night, I went to a birthday party. My aunt and uncle, they were 7 years younger than me, 00:21:00they were twins, Tyree and Terri, I went to their birthday party. I had a little orange Pinto. I was full of drugs and alcohol, and I lived out in north Portland off of north Alaska Street in the Tamaracks. I was on my way back home that morning, somewhere between 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. It was really dark. So, I'm trying to get home, but I'm really high. I just looked up and I just said, God, if you are really there, just help me. I will serve you for the rest of my life. Now, I didn't know that this was May 18th [laughs], the same day that Mount St. Helens blew up. I can't even tell you because I was so high. I can't even tell you how I got home. I just figured that God, the angels, or somebody just brought me on home. I parked my car. I remember something bumping, because where I lived in the Tamaracks I was on the lower level. There was this great big cement circle where they planted the trees in there. I remember the car 00:22:00hitting that and then the car kind of rolling back a little bit but it stopped. I went in the house. [inaudible], because we had just, before that we had just got married in April, April 5, 1980, and then I gave my life to the Lord May 18, 1980. After all, you know, after all this it just really changed my life, but I still had so many different issues that I had to deal with because of, even though I had given my life to the Lord it was just like, I was still kind of confused about a lot of things and I would read my Bible and I remember one particular time, and then I would drink every now and then but alcohol wasn't my drink or drug of choice. I liked drugs because it would take you out of yourself, so that's what I did. I remember I had walked up to Pay 'n' Take It, 00:23:00because we lived out in north Portland. I had walked up to Pay 'n' Take It I was reading my Bible, but I fit right, I was thirsty, but I didn't want water. So, I remember I walked up to Pay 'n' Take It and I got me a Colt 45, walked back home, I'm sitting there.

At this time, my husband, he's at work, and I didn't have to work that day. I was sitting there. I was reading the Bible and I had this 16 oz can of Colt 45, so I'm pouring it in the glass. I'm drinking and he walks in, and he's like Veverly? I thought you were a Christian. Do Christians drink? I said, I don't know. I really don't. I mean, I didn't know. I said, well, I don't know. I know it had to be the Lord, so I ended up going to the Book of Proverbs. In Proverbs, I can't even remember what chapter, but he was talking about when you drink what happens when you drink and then you feel like? I started laughing, because I 00:24:00said God really has a sense of humor because this is funny. I never even knew that this kind of language and how it was explained that this was in the Bible. I poured it out and I don't think I ever drank anymore, except for yes I did. I tried to drink some wine, tried to get my husband to drink some. He just said, no. He hadn't given his life to the Lord. He just, no. I'm not drinking any wine. I don't want any of that.

So, after that I did got back a couple of times and I did get a couple of pills, but I just felt so convicted until I just said, you know what? This is not what I want to do, and so about that time I was almost 40 years old. I met a really good friend at the church. She was just a wonderful lady, Caucasian young woman. I was about almost 13 years older than her. She was working on getting her 00:25:00degree. She had gotten her degree. She had gone to college up in Seattle. She was working, she wanted to become a Christian psychologist. I told her about some of the things that happened to me as a child, because I still have a lot of these things that I really hadn't dealt with, because I really didn't know how to deal with them, but I really credit it, part of my success that I feel is successful for me of being healed was from my second husband because he was real patient with me and he really loved and me and my best friend Carla. She was working on becoming a Christian psychologist. She just kept telling me Veverly the things that happened to you, the things that were done to you, it wasn't your fault. You were a child. You didn't initiate anything because I kept: it's my fault why somebody would hurt me or touch me in some kind of way like that. To me, it just felt like I didn't really get a chance to be the kid I wanted to 00:26:00be because somebody had interrupted my growth. She worked with me for about 2 years and finally I started believing that it wasn't my fault and from there that's when I was able to just start some of that stuff to start breaking off, but I still have a lot of fear to deal with. When we have all the different things that were going on here, you know, in Portland with Black power, all the different organizations that were popping up, NAACP-I forgot the name of them, the Black... Panthers, yeah, the Black Panthers and a lot of that. So, that was before I actually gave my life to the Lord. So, a lot of that stuff I had been involved in, you know, just trying to find out who I was, which really didn't help. But she did help me a tremendous amount. I credit her and my second 00:27:00husband for being the people that really helped me to grow and develop in a more healthier way.

RK: So, let's go back a little in terms of thinking about it as an African American with that whole situation. You did point out something about not wanting to call the police because of the police-

VC: Brutality, yeah. It was awful.

RK: Tell us a little more about the neighborhood of St. Johns and relations with others and how being an African American entered into all that picture in terms of relations with the whole racial environment around you.

VC: Okay, because we were pretty young when I was in-like I said, I went to kindergarten. When we were there I went to Sitton Grade School. I was about 5. I really didn't think too much, I didn't know a lot about what was going on and I 00:28:00kind of figured out that's why my parents and my grandmother and I think they wanted good things for us, and that's why they would send us to Sunday school. But I think that they knew a lot then, with my grandmother having like I said PTSD, which they didn't know anything about that then, but we really think that that was the cause of all the anxiety and then all the hurts that she and then seeing her dad and her uncle and stuff, seeing them killed. I think that that really shaped her life. I think a lot of my fears came not only from my mom but from my grandmother because she was afraid of everything but she was mean. It just caused a lot of problems and then she was really afraid of the police. So, this is instilled in me too, because police we have to be careful of them because they will hurt us because of the color of our skin you know and that 00:29:00kind of thing, but it's just those things that you're taught as a child. Then, some of the things that are subliminal that you get as a child.

RK: Tell us about those that you were taught and those things that were subliminal.

VC: For the things that were subliminal were the things that my grandmother would, I don't even know how to describe this but maybe secrete out of her you would feel her anxiousness sand then, or either her anxiety, because she-I remember where, when we stayed with her the house, the address, I remember it because it's where the coliseum is at now, it was 1416 Northeast Ross and she had this beautiful, her and my grandfather, he was our step grandfather. They had this beautiful older home that had the wraparound porches. I remember as kids that we could play outside. We'd play in the neighborhood. Everybody kind of knew everyone, so people would watch out for us, but if the police came in 00:30:00the neighborhood, unless you knew them... it was a little bit better, I can say that because some of the policemen used to walk, they used to call it walking the beat, is what I think it is. They knew a lot of the families, but then as it stated progressing you start getting these younger police officers that didn't know a lot of the families. A majority of them were Caucasian, and they were very vicious to a lot of our young men. That started putting a lot of fear in us, too. We cannot, we just cannot do a lot of the things that we felt we were saying doing, even in our own neighborhoods.

RK: What were some of those things?

VC: We could play outside until about 8:00 or 9:00 at night, and we could go to each other's house. My grandmother, they would leave their doors unlocked. We 00:31:00used to sleep outside on the porch. It was just real different, really, really different. Those were, even though there was turmoil sometimes within myself and even knowing that my grandmother, we didn't know that she had all these issues but we knew something was going on inside of her. But we were kids, so we didn't know because she had-I'd like to say personality changes. So, it affected me a lot maybe because I was the oldest grandchild. I'm not sure, but anyway.

RK: So, you're saying that you could sleep out on the porch.

VC: Yeah, we could sleep outside.

RK: So, then, when the police, was it you would stop doing that when those set of younger police came?

VC: Yeah. So, it wasn't the same. We were afraid of them because they were mean.


RK: What were some of the things that they actually did?

VC: Yeah. Some of the things-

RK: Some stories.

VC: Okay, some stories that I can remember, there was a young man, a young Black man. He was killed when we were kids by the police. So, that caused some uproar. We still, I still really didn't know, to this day, what he supposedly had done, but from what they had said is that he was kind of like in the wrong place at the wrong time. How can you be in the wrong place at the wrong time and you're not doing anything? You're just in your neighborhood and you're playing or whatever. Another thing, the policemen, you better not talk back to them. Period. You better not say anything. Then sometimes even if you didn't say anything you still were harassed or called names or whatever.


RK: Tell us some of the whatevers.

VC: Whatever would be like what are you doing out at this time of night? Your parents or did your mom or do you-? Even I think for some kids, do you even know where's your dad at or do you even have a dad? It was like these subtle put-downs. They would say them, but there was more meaning behind it. Those kind of things just made you feel like you weren't what you needed to be or what they thought you should be. I don't know. It was just a hard time. There were still fun times because I think that my grandmother and then also my mom they tried to make better for us as best they knew how, but it wasn't always easy. It really wasn't. I didn't really find out a lot of things until I became a parent and 00:34:00figured it out. Gosh, I mean parents they go through a lot. They have to do a lot to protect their children, to protect themselves because we live in a society right now that still puts Blacks down and makes us, tries to make us feel insignificant or less than. It's just not good. I'm sorry, are my [looks around behind camera].

RK: Can you give some examples, stories of actual things?

VC: Happening?

RK: Happening, yeah, the actual things happening that either you witness or you were told about?

VC: Yeah, I know. When we lived in the Tamaracks there was a young man, he was really good friends with my sons. I didn't even realize that I guess in north Portland that they even had gangs and that's when the gangs that kind of stuff. 00:35:00I thought it was in the '90s, but I remember that William, I think that was his name, he was killed by another kid. There were some things that were going on even in the late '70s, early '80s, because, a matter of fact, I moved from the Tamaracks in 1980s. All those three significant things: I married, I got saved - I came to know the Lord - and then we moved. We moved because I was trying to get my kids out of that area, especially when William, when he got killed, because it really affected my boys. Of course, the police were involved. My kids, two of my sons, that would be, because they are the oldest: Andre and Alander. They were really good friends with him and so they were just really, you know, just feeling bad because the police wouldn't let them. Of course, you know that's a dangerous thing when there's bullets flying and somebody has been 00:36:00killed by another kid. They have guns out. They're trying to find out who did what and they're asking kids questions very disrespectful of the kids. I didn't know this until the kids came back home and told me very disrespectful of them and almost accusatory things that they-and derogatory things that they would say to them.

RK: Give us some more examples of things.

VC: Saying things like, I guess, about who they are. Where are your parents? Why are you out here? You know? Then kind of put-downs. Don't you think you're too young to be out here? How do you know this person? I don't remember all of it, but there was just a lot of different questions because this was, like I said, end of, almost-end of about '79, because my one son was just born in '79. I don't remember exactly what the words were, but I know that they felt really, really bad about how they were treated during that time from the police and then 00:37:00from some parents, because it was just horrible having a child kid back then. I think he was only, he must have been about 13, 12 or 13 years old. It was just really sad. It really affected everyone, affected my life and my children's lives. That was one of the reasons I then wanted to move. Moved out and found a house over on Skidmore and Albina and lived there for a while, from 1980 to 1985. That's about 5 years later, 1990, that's when the, I can't think of the Crips and the Bloods started coming up here. Two of my sons were involved in the 00:38:00Crips. They got caught up in that and just so many things happened. Our house got shot in once. Then my youngest son, he got in some trouble. The police, they-and Margaret Carter is my husband's, my second husband's, she's his aunt. She was a Chief Moose back then, was part of it. My youngest son had gotten into some trouble, and so the police, they, you know those big lights that they use downtown? Those sky lights that shine up in the sky? Well, they put that on our front door just to intimidate us. That was a direct thing for us and so my husband, he just said, I'm calling Aunt Margaret. So, he called her. She called the chief of police, and that was Chief Moose at that time. He made his, the police, he made them move that and then second time something happened, they 00:39:00used a battering ram on our door, busted down the house, they just ram shacked our house. Yeah, so it wasn't really, I've had some really nasty experiences with police officers, especially with those two significant incidents. Then my son, the one that I told you that's 47, Amone, he went to jail because they did, I think it was kind of a gang sweep in the mid '90s and it was a thing that they used for people that are, organized crime is what you call it. So, they did a sweep on the Bloods and the Crips. A lot of them went to the penitentiary for 00:40:00several years. My son, Amone, I think Amone, he got 8 years.

Yeah, so, and then my younger son, after they went through with the big light and then the tearing down our doors just damaging, I mean, just they tore, the police they just tore up our house. They did it. They just did it on purpose just because they could. It made me just-I had so many different feelings, so many different emotions, so I just had no respect for them at all, because they didn't have to do that. I mean, my husband and I both worked. We never dealt drugs or did any of that. We attributed it is that they were mad because Aunt Margaret, she had talked to Chief Moose. I mean, this was my own hypothesis, so that's the way I thought of it. They were angry and so when they did get this 00:41:00warrant so that they could come into the house. But I had no idea that they were going to just ram shack our house the way they did. It took us months to try to get everything back together. I mean, they just-it was awful. You know, you have to give respect where respect is due, and a lot of them, they don't respect Black people as being anything. Like I said, my husband and I, I've always worked all my life, just I've always worked. He had always worked. We had gotten into some things. I did, when I was about early 20s, I think, I ended up going to jail for a minute because I used to shoplift. I wasn't, what do they call it, a kleptomaniac or a whatever, a kleptomaniac. I just, I would steal. So, I got all these names, Mack Rogue, Black people we can hang names. We give them all 00:42:00kinds of nicknames.

RK: What are some of the nicknames?

VC: Well, mine was Mack Rogue, because they said that I was a good shoplifter. Those kinds of things like that. When I went to jail, and the judge told me, he says, you've been here in my courtroom before. He says, this is it. He says, you're not, and I was working then. I was working at Tektronix. So, he says, you're not, this isn't going to happen again. He says, I told you if you came back in my court that I was going to send you to jail. I had just a baby. I had just had Amone, so I went to jail for about 10 days. His father and his father's mom they took care of my son. Then my mom took care of my other kids while I was incarcerated. Then that was another significant moment in my life. Do you want to continue on this route? Or what are you going to do? Because you have a job. 00:43:00You need to take care of your kids. So, that helped change my life. But then, you have to remember I was still angry about a lot of stuff, so a lot of things I was doing it was because I didn't really realize all the stuff. I knew something was going on inside of me, but a lot of times you don't know until you can get somebody, a professional or someone that knows a little bit more about things and the different traumas that have happened in your life. All those things have shaped me. But, like I said, it shaped me to become the person that I am now. I really love, respect people, even the police. I mean, because they're people, too. Some of them are just misguided. A lot of them have things that are going on inside of them that they don't even realize, that they haven't even checked so they take it out on other people. I think every once in a while we all do that, because it's part of the human nature. That's what we do. RK: 00:44:00When you're around in Portland or wherever and you see police, what's your gut response? Or gut reaction?

VC: That's interesting that you ask me that. I don't really have a lot of fear, but I am cautious. I can say that. I am cautious. I do like to drive fast, so I worked on that. I have a few speeding tickets. I haven't had any in quite a while, but yeah. Just making sure that hopefully that I'm doing the right thing so that I won't get stopped by the police. I really don't want to get stopped by them at all. I don't want that. I don't want any kind of interaction with them unless it's on a different level. We do have police officers actually at our 00:45:00church, Marcy Jackson. I'm actually, I taught her son when I was at, oh, and I forgot about that job, Lutheran Inner City Ministries. I was there for about 3 years. I taught the kindergarten and the after school program and then I became the director of the program until it ended.

RK: So, let's-so, let's just go through your education and then we'll go through your employment.

VC: Okay.

RK: As you were describing where your education up through your college, talk a 00:46:00little, tell us about some of the challenges that you were faced with being an African American, how you dealt with those or maybe there weren't so many challenges. Give us a whole idea. Let's just, we're going to quickly start with kindergarten and kind of just get us through.

VC: Okay, my kindergarten years? Or just going to school to become a-

RK: Well, starting, starting in your first schooling up until your-

VC: Until I finally went to college? Okay, so, like I said I went to Sitton when I was in kindergarten through first grade. We moved from St. Johns when I was in second grade and that's when I was able to go to Immaculate Heart. I was in second grade when we moved over here, almost 8.


RK: So, was that-

VC: From St. Johns. I went to kindergarten at Sitton Grade School, kindergarten, first grade and then second grade at Immaculate Heart. We moved from St. Johns to the northeast side.

RK: In those schools were they mainly African Americans or mixed or what?

VC: I think it was mixed. Being younger like that I really didn't pay too much attention to the color so much then. I really don't, I really can't tell you why. I don't know. But I really didn't pay too much attention because I did have friends that were Caucasian and that I played with continually. I don't really think from that aspect, I don't really think that we thought about color. We knew, I mean, I didn't know then, but the pigmentation we knew it was different but that didn't make a difference to us. Then when I went to Immaculate Heart 00:48:00when we moved over here, then I did start noticing something a little bit different. They were subtle nuances, like some of the White people-when you go to the grocery store, I remember going to the store with my mom, you go to the grocery store and some of the White people they would look at us a little bit differently like we really weren't supposed to be here. That's what I felt. The reason probably why I'm thinking this is because I'm sure that my mother said something to her friends or whatever. I'm sure she said something, so I picked up on that. These are other subtle nuances. I don't remember the exact words, but I knew something was different. Like I said, my mom, she used to watch all those scary movies and things. All this different, these subtle nuances from people looking at us a little bit differently when we go to the grocery store or 00:49:00walking in certain neighborhoods that maybe you weren't supposed to be here.

RK: When you say looking at a little bit differently, can you describe-?

VC: I don't know if I-I'm trying to describe it, but it's kind of, you know Ruth, it's kind of really hard to describe because it's just something that you feel and I remember one particular time, I think we were on Williams, either Williams Avenue... on North Williams Avenue. I was walking with my mom and this White guy was driving in his car and he said, I don't remember what he said, but there were some slurs, some words that he said to my mom. She kind of just like put me back this way, because whatever he was going to do she was going to protect me. I remember kind of like peeping around her. He was saying something 00:50:00that was probably really derogatory, because it made her, I felt her body tense up. But, like I said, I knew that she put me over to the side because she was going to protect me, whatever he was going to do. Some of the things some people would say them out, they would say them out loud and then other people you would get looks, a look or you know sometimes women, White women would be driving in their cars. They'd see a Black person and you would hear their doors. They would lock, locking their doors. So, you're like what?

RK: You're going to jump in their car?

VC: Yeah, what in the world? Nobody is thinking about you in that way. These are all things that a lot of Blacks have had to put up with for years and years and years and even now sometimes it's even worse. It's just hard to describe some of 00:51:00these nuances and little subtleties that happen.

RK: I think those are really interesting.

VC: They are, but-

RK: But can you think of more ways to describe them or remember?

VC: I don't know, sometimes it's hard to really think about them because they're so far gone now, except for when you're in certain situations then something will pop up in your heart, your brain. Oh, gosh, do we have to go through this again? Haven't we had enough of this? When you see things on TV, when you see things, and you hear things from your friends. People getting killed. Like the Ferguson thing. All the different things that have went on that always revolved around a Black and a White. Why should it have to be like this? It's because of 00:52:00human nature. We just don't know how to love one another. When you have it in your heart that you're better than somebody else, then there's something wrong. There really is something wrong. It's not the other person. Usually, it's you, and its things that you haven't really dealt with in your own heart, in your own mind. I know that's true because I had to do it for myself.

RK: Back then to your education. So, you went-so for your high school?

VC: Yeah, I went to Jefferson. I went to Jeff.

RK: And Jefferson was mainly African American?

VC: It was really African American back then. Man, we had some good track runners. Oh, man. We had really a lot of cool people that were just, they put Jefferson on the map. They really did. I think it was Leon Lincoln, he was one 00:53:00of them as far as in track. He really put Jefferson High School on, and then the Jefferson Dancers. All, the, I mean so many significant things that went on at Jefferson High School that had nothing to do with Jefferson the man that they named the high school after, nothing to do with him whatsoever. I mean, we knew that. Even back then, we knew that, but he wasn't the focal point for any of us. It was the kids that made the school great. It really was. I really can't stand it right now that so many people want to change the name from Jefferson. It's historical. But Jeff is where I graduated from there, 1964. My first husband, he graduated from there in 1963. That was really good. A little bit after, a few 00:54:00years after that, I ended up working at Tektronix. I worked there, yeah I did, I worked there from 1978 to 1990. Then that's when I actually went back to school. I started at PCC in 1992.

RK: PTC is?

VC: PCC-I'm sorry. Sometimes, PCC.

RK: What does it stand for?

VC: Portland Community College. I'm sorry, yeah. I graduated, when I started in 1992 and graduated from there in 1995 and worked for a while at Lutheran Inner City Ministries. I worked there from '95, right after I had graduated. They hired me. I worked there from '95 to '98. In between there, I went back to school. I ended up going to Warner Pacific College. I went there for like 2 00:55:00months. It just wasn't a good fit for me. So, I ended up going to, and I can't even think of it. They've changed the name of the college now. It's a college that's in Salem. I really liked it, because when I went back in '98, was looking around after I left Warner Pacific, I was looking for another Christian College and found this one. They had just started a pilot program on Hawthorne. I think it was somewhere between 60th and 62nd in Hawthorne. So, it was in a building. They were renting it. But the college, the actual college, was in Salem. Once a month we had to go down on Saturdays and do our class down there. That was really interesting and that was really good, and I did that '98, my son, youngest son, like I mentioned earlier, he was, got mixed up with the Crips with 00:56:00his other brother. He ended up getting shot 6 times and he's alive and well. It was by another rival gang, the Bloods. He was walking, he was on his way home and actually my son is a real fighter. He likes to fight instead of using guns and that kind of thing. He had beat up, 2 young men had jumped him and so he beat them, beat the mess out of both of them. To retaliate, they thought that he was at his home but he was actually, went over to one of my neighbors that lived, we lived on Cook Street, Northeast Cook Street between Cook and Williams and Rodney. He was on his way home, but he decided he was going to go up to the neighbor's house. They had hid behind this van, well, it was actually one of the guys. He had hid behind the van. As my son was going up the steps, I heard this 00:57:00pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop, because it was in September but it was really warm. Sometimes we have those warm summers. We had the windows up and I was upstairs, and so I just started praying. I said, oh, my God. Whoever that is, please don't let them die. Because we were hearing gunshots almost every night in different neighborhoods.

Come to find out, that it was my son. They thought that he was at home. They didn't know where he lived, but they thought he was going home. They shot him in his back, lower pelvic area, bullets went in and out, the police said. That was one time police, they were really nice. They were really helpful. Because I was trying to, because we had Kaiser for our insurance and so we were going to take him there. They said, no he's been shot. He has to go to a trauma hospital. He has to go. They, I finally, rescinded and let them, okay. Alright. He'll take him to Emanuel. So they took him there. He was in the hospital for a little bit, 00:58:00and he still has one bullet in him. The other 5 went out. One lodged in an area where they couldn't operate to take it out. He has to take iron and do orange juice, because he has lead in him. Didn't want to get that into his brain or anything. That was a hard one. I had a really, I had the police were really, really nice to us. I can say that. They were really helpful and just helped us a lot. I'm thankful for that, because that was a real traumatizing time in both of our lives for me and my husband and his siblings.

RK: We were-

VC: In school.

RK: In school.

VC: Yeah, so I was in school then, so I had to, after he got shot I couldn't 00:59:00finish up. I waited, this was '99, so I didn't go back to school until 2 years later, 2001. Since I had so many credits from Portland Community College and the 2 colleges, one at Pacific and from the other school, everything transferred over because I enrolled. I ended up enrolling at Portland State after I knew he was going to be fine and everything. I graduated from Portland State with my bachelor's degree, Bachelor of Science.

RK: What did you study?

VC: Child and family studies. I did that and I graduated in 2002.

RK: So, when you were going to Portland State, or any of the other colleges, were there any particular challenges you found as being an African American?

VC: No, it wasn't-I mean, because when I started at Warner Pacific I think it 01:00:00was in '98, I don't know. I had went through so many different challenges, so many different things that happened until I just wanted to go to school because I wanted to get my degree. Whatever of the challenges people had, I just, that wasn't my stuff. It was actually theirs. I really didn't pick up on a lot of different things. It could have been happening, but I really didn't see it or I wasn't aware of it. Like I said, it just wasn't a good fit for me. It wasn't anything anyone had done. I just decided after 2 months I didn't want to stay there. No one did anything to me specifically that I can think of. I ended up going to the other college that was, like I said, the pilot program from Salem, because their main school is in Salem, Oregon. That was a really, I was with a 01:01:00cohort, a group of 15 people, and so we were going to graduate together. Like I said, after my son got shot, I had to leave. So, I just couldn't go back. I just, and that's why I ended up at Portland State, finishing there.

RK: Was that a cohort of African Americans?

VC: No. It was, no. It was only, I was the only African American in that class. Yeah, in that cohort. It was 15 of us, and I was the only one. Up until about 10 years ago, I was still in touch with a lot of those, a few of the people. Not all of them but a lot of them. That was really good.

RK: Then, Portland State. How was that?

VC: Portland State, because you have so many different people of color, every nationality that you could think of. I was there to get my degree. That's, I was just there to get my degree. We discussed, at Portland State, you discuss a lot 01:02:00of things about racism and all that kind of stuff. I just wanted to get my papers done, get there and get out and that's what I did. I finished, yeah, went in 2001. Like I said, all my credits transferred so it only took me less than about a year to get finished. I was in there and out and whatever else. Then I did, I remember I took an African American class, and I did learn some things from, oh what is his name? He teaches there. He's probably retired by now. I can't think of his name, but he just, he showed us a lot of different things and a lot of different movies and I know that they were all about racism and the things that have happened to a lot of Blacks that were really hurtful for all of 01:03:00us, and especially with the Jim Crow laws and things that have, you know, and I just think that recently the Jim Crow laws went off, they just went off the books.

The thing is that the stuff that goes on, it comes out of people's hearts, so it's in there. A lot of the stuff-people are taught to hate. Because kids, like is said, when we were growing up I had friends that were white and it just, I mean we knew that the skin color probably was different, but as kids and being that young we probably, we didn't even think about that. We would hug each other and play with each other. We just did not have this. One of the things I like to say is even though there were different things that happened when I was younger, one of the things that I really appreciate about my mom is that I remember this so significantly is that she said, because you know, I don't know if I asked her 01:04:00this when I was a teenager or whatever, but she said, Veverly, you know what? God made us all alike. My mom was not religious or anything like that. She said, God made us, we're all alike. She said, each person, we all have one brain. We have two eyes. We have one mouth. She said, everybody has one nose, so even though the color of our skin might be different, she said if you turn us inside out, we're all the same color. And we are. That helped, too, a lot. Because she didn't, even though I know that my mother probably really dealt with racism and that kind of thing, and she was a hard-she did teach us the work ethic, my brother and I. No matter how bad and some of the crazy things that I did I knew that nobody, no one owed me anything. If I wanted stuff, I needed to work for it. She taught us that. She gave us a really good work ethic.

RK: Now, let's go through your jobs and let's talk about what they were and what 01:05:00you did in them.

VC: Okay.

RK: And what challenges that you faced and what worked well.

VC: Let me see. So, I know from my earliest I had forgotten about this, my brother, my mom used to, we used to work, we used to have to pick beans, strawberries and that kind of thing. That was our earliest job. We worked for Alderman Farms. They used to come, we used to have to get up at 4:00 in the morning, because we had to be standing on the corner to catch the bus in the morning and they would take us to these different farms. We picked beans, strawberries, cherries, apples, anything that was in bloom at that time, we picked. We picked it and those were our earliest jobs for my brother and I. That's part of how my mom really taught us a work ethic, because we had to do 01:06:00that in order to get our school clothes. She was a single parent, and she just-you know, she couldn't do it all on her own. We didn't mind. We were happy. We didn't like getting up that early, but that was the first job that I can remember we had. Then on from there, from I think from school, okay, high school, grade school, high school, and I had other jobs. I don't remember a lot of them, because I had several jobs. I was always getting different jobs. I went to, what is it? POIC. I went there for some training for a while and that was a program. They would pay you to go to school then, if you were just trying to get credits or whatever. That's what I did. I did that there. Then I worked for, oh 01:07:00I worked for CETA Comprehensive Employment Training Act. I worked for them and I worked, I remember I worked for Traffic Engineering in downtown Portland.

RK: So, what did you do when you were working for-?


RK: Yeah. What is Comprehensive...?

VC: Comprehensive Employment Training Act, and that started in the late '70s, yeah. I worked for them and I was a secretary. Oh, and then I forgot about, I worked for the Public Defender's Office. I worked there. I was a, what do you call it? Not a stenographer, but I would record all of the cases that came through, so I would record. I can't believe-I used to type about 85 words per minute, no mistakes. I could not believe that. I was just proficient in it and typing. Then I did go to, back then you know they wanted you to go to typing 01:08:00school if you wanted to become, you know, some kind of stenographer or you wanted to type as a profession or whatever. You'd have to go to school to get training for that, so I did that. Yeah. That was a 6 or 7-month program or something like that. I know it was less than a year. So, I did that. Then a little while after that, then I started-after I went through all that about '78 is when I started, applied at Tektronix and worked for them from 1978 up to 1990. I was able to, that's how I was able to start going to school because I really wanted to go back to school, and so it was myself-they were going to lay 01:09:00off this other guy. I wanted to go back to school, so I went up to higher management and I talked to them and asked them if they would be willing to switch and let me be laid off with all the benefits. They gave me the whole package that he was going to get. So, I was able to get the package, so that's how I was able to go to school with them.

RK: Describe to me what you did at Tektronix.

VC: I built electronic circuit boards and didn't do very well with those, so they switched me over just kind of to see how I would do with building oscilloscopes, and I did very well. After everything, after all the electronic circuit boards, after they were all done and everything, I would put these oscilloscopes together. I would build them and add all of the circuit boards. I 01:10:00did very well with that.

RK: So, did they train you?

VC: Yeah, they did. They trained me how to build them, but I just caught on really fast because, and it was something that was different and something I liked. I don't think that I really liked building the boards. It was just too tedious.

RK: When you applied for that job.

VC: For the job?

RK: What did they ask you? What kind of skill did they ask you?

VC: They didn't. They were training us because Tektronix was kind of new. I mean, it was new. They hired tons of people back then. They tried to put you in a place where they felt that you would be able to do well in. They wanted you to do well because it was, that was part of the bonuses that you got. A lot of times your bonuses were more than your paycheck. They wanted you to do well, and so they did train you. You had a trainer that trained you how to do the boards. Like I said, I just, I really didn't want to do that. When I was offered to do, 01:11:00build the electronic, the scopes, when I was offered, would I like to do this? Then I had a trainer that trained me how to build them. That worked out really well. I did that until I left there in 1990. That was my job.

RK: Did you they pay you by the number?

VC: By the units or whatever? We got our certain pay, what we were going to be paid and then I think it was every, maybe it was every 90 days they would see where you were at and then if you were doing well I think you got a small increase on your pay. But like I said, back then your bonuses were way more than your pay, because I remember when I started if I remember correctly, I think we were only making $1 and something an hour when we first started at Tek.


RK: The bonus was based on?

VC: How many, how much of the everything that we got out and it went through well, and so they made good sales and so the sales were good and so it exceeded. It had to exceed whatever it was. Our bonuses were really good. Sometimes, and even back then, $400 or $500 that was good money. It really was. I think that was part of my incentive, why I stayed so long, too. It really helped a lot. Especially I had 7 kids at that time, trying to raise kids and I also helped my husband, Arthur, I knew some people that worked for Portland Housing Authority and I helped him to get a job there. I had a couple of friends that worked there. They helped me.


RK: What was his?

VC: Portland Housing Authority-he, I think he was working with the construction crew and that's what he did there.

RK: What did he do?

VC: I don't know. They built things and I guess repaired things at the different apartment complexes and that kind of thing. That's all I know.

RK: Just in a variety of kinds of construction.

VC: Yes.

RK: While you were with Tektronix, did you have any challenges with regards to being African American?

VC: I don't think so. I had so much fun at Tek. I did. They had really cool people there. There were a lot of Caucasian people there, but they were pretty cool people. We all got along, because were all, kind of like we were workers. We all worked and we would have, I mean you had some people that had their 01:14:00little stuff, but I knew how to put people in check, so I didn't, too much, especially women, men, if they were trying to get out of hand, or say anything derogatory, you just say what you felt. That's what I would do. A lot of times if you can be as honest as you possibly can with other people and they see that you don't, like you have some people that are up down, up down, up down and constantly and not steady, so you never know how to perceive these people because you don't know what kind of action or reaction they're going to display. Basically, I've always, not always, but after I learned a few things, a lot of things from the Lord, I was probably kind of even keeled. Most of the time, I'm really, just kind of like upbeat and fun. I like to have fun. I like to laugh. I like to make people feel comfortable. I like to feed people and make sure that 01:15:00they, you know that they feel good. I think part of the, and safe. You're going to be safe with me. I'm not going to try to hurt you. I'm not going to say things to try to make you feel bad or put you down in that kind of way. I want you to have fun. I want when you leave from, when we depart from each other, I want you to say, gosh that was fun. I had fun. We had a good time.

RK: You mentioned a little bit about during the Civil Rights Movement. During that time, did you participate? What was your relation to all of the activities that were going on?

VC: I didn't really participate in a lot of those. I had too many kids. I would talk to friends and that kind of thing about different things, but as far as marching and that kind of thing, I just, I really didn't do that.


RK: What was, and what is your opinion about all of it-there are all the different groups, so you have the Blank Panthers, you have the NAACP. You have others, different churches. Can you tell us about what you knew about that or know about it and what your opinion is about all of that that was going on?

VC: I had my opinions, but you know a lot of times when you think about it, your opinions don't usually matter to certain people because if you don't line up with what they believe or whatever, it causes turmoil. Even though I said like I was a scrapper, I was a fighter, and I did have some humungous opinions. They probably weren't all that good or great or whatever, but I did have my thoughts about things. I thought that a lot of things that went on that they were wrong and I try to think are there any ways that we can help each other to be able to 01:17:00help every race? Not just the Black race or the White race. How can we just? Are there ways that we can try to help one another. It just didn't seem like it was going to happen, even with all the stuff that I saw what made me really sad is watching some of the stuff on TV of the peaceful walk with Martin Luther King and other groups, the difference between Martin Luther King and Malcom X and the different things. Both of them had significant things that they were trying to do to help. But there was such a diverse, diversity between the two men and how they felt and how both of their lives were taken way too young. They were trying to help. You know, everybody, especially Martin Luther King, but I know that Malcom X had his own, but I think from my own perspective I think that he really 01:18:00wanted to, if he could get the police or whoever the people that were hurting us, African American people, if he could get them to understand that we are people. We bleed just like you do. We bleed the same color blood. Somebody needs to understand this. It's more than just the outward appearance, but there were so many others that were just making it really hard for all of us. It's still going on, even today. Back then I just, like I said, I really didn't do any marching or any of that because I was too busy trying to take care of my children.

RK: Would you have done any of that...

VC: I don't know.

RK: ...if you didn't have.

VC: I really, I don't know, because I didn't do it. I don't know.

RK: Tell us also, okay, after Tek, we didn't get into what your work was. After 01:19:00Tektronix, I just realized, after you finished getting your degree. Now get into that part.

VC: Yes. I went to Lutheran. Right after I graduated from PCC in '95, I applied for a job at Lutheran Inner City Ministries. I saw an advertisement. I think it was either, I don't think it was on TV. I saw it someplace. It was an advertisement. They were looking for a kindergarten teacher, and an after school teacher. I applied, and I got that. I worked there, like I said, from '95 until '98. They didn't stay open very long. There were just, you know, a lot of different things going on at that time, so they didn't have really good leadership. That shut down.


Then, oh, and then I had another job. Actually I forgot about these jobs, and they were significant in my life. After I left Lutheran Inner City Ministries, I started working for Chris Dickey. She opened up a Montessori preschool in north, northeast Portland. Actually, it was only a block and a half from Lutheran Inner City Ministry. Before that, okay, so she had rented a room, a classroom from Lutheran Inner City Ministries. They had a, it was a house, and I think it was called the Rose House. I could be wrong, but I think it was Rose something. She rented that and started her Montessori preschool there. I liked that, because I had learned a lot about Maria Montessori when I was in school and how she taught children. When I knew that Lutheran, that they would be shutting down in '98, I just transitioned over and started working for Mrs. Chris, because she moved out. They closed, they shut it down, and so she bought a home on Skidmore and 01:21:00Mallory. I started-my daughter, my youngest daughter worked for her first and then I started working for her and I became like her right hand person. I worked for her for about 5 years and it was really, really a good time. I really, I just call her a really cool White lady. I'm not lying. She was really, really nice. She understood the concept, but she wanted nothing but young, younger 3-year-olds in her Montessori preschool. She wanted to teach them from 3, we taught them from 3 to 5 and graduated them to kindergarten. I worked for, like I said, I worked for her for about 5 years and best time I had, and another good way of looking at people from their hearts and not their skin color. She was really-I mean she still is. I haven't talked to Mrs. Chris in a while. I thought 01:22:00about her. I really need to call her and see how she's doing. So, she made a really neat impact on my life. She had 38 kids that graduated from her school and she set it up through her sorority that each one of those kids would get a 2-year ride at any community college that she chose. One of my grandsons was a recipient. Matter of fact, I have 5 of my grandchildren went to her school.

RK: Oh yeah?

VC: Mm-mm [nods]. They're really, really good. Then, while I was working for her, I was also working for Piedmont Peace Place afterschool program and I became the program director there.

RK: Piedmont?

VC: Piedmont Peace Place after school program. I worked there from 2001-yeah, that was before I had finished up at Portland State. I was in the midst of, I was working, actually working 2 jobs, because I was working with Mrs. Chris, 01:23:00because both of them were part-time jobs. I was working for Mrs. Chris for 3 hours. Then I would work for Piedmont Peace Place for another 3 hours, and then I was still, I was in school working on getting my degree. So, I was working and going to school, which a lot of people have done. Then trying to raise my family.

RK: And after that?

VC: After those jobs? I started working for Friends of-

RK: Well, what year were those?

VC: Those were-I worked for Mrs. Chris. She shut her school down in 2005, but I began both of those in 1998. Yeah, because I had just graduated in '95 from PCC, and so I worked from '95 to '98 for Lutheran Inner City Ministries and then Mrs. 01:24:00Chris was in there, so I worked for her from about the end of '98 until 2005. Then I started working at Piedmont Peace Place in 2001. I worked there until 2007. Then they shut down because of funding. Both of then, Lutheran Inner city, both of them shut down because of funding, but Mrs. Chris just closed her school because she was finished. She wanted to get 38 kids to go through the school because that was the funding that they had from the sorority to give to 38 kids the 2-year ride paid for. Then in 2008, I started working for Friends of the Children-8, 9, 10, 11, almost 12. I was there going into my fourth year with 01:25:00Friends of the Children.

RK: So, 2008 to two thousand-.

VC: '11. Because I was going into, I started April 8, then 9, 10, 11, almost 4 years. In between that, because then my husband was diagnosed in 2007 with the lung cancer. Then, like I said, I started working for Friends of the Children in 2008, from 2008 to '11, and then right after that is when, in '11, when I left Friends of the Children because my husband had passed away in 2009, September. I was just kind of, so I wasn't, to be honest, I just wasn't really feeling the mentorship anymore. It was because of all the emotional trauma from losing my 01:26:00husband and a lot of stuff. I just needed something that wasn't so intense because at Friends of the Children you can work anywhere from 12 to 13 hours a day. Of course, all my kids were grown, but I just, I was already traumatized from losing my husband. I just couldn't do it anymore. So, I ended up-that's when I ended up, my niece asked me to come and work for her, the SUN school program at Boise-Eliot/Humboldt. I had just left Friends of the Children. I left there August 18, 2011, and started working for SEI October, yeah, 2011.

RK: And you're still working there?

VC: Mm-hmm [nods]. Yeah I've been there, like I said, this is the 9th year.

RK: What's SEI stand for?

VC: It's a Self Enhancement Incorporated. Yeah, look it up. It's a really 01:27:00interesting program. It's for under-deserved children. I know when they first started it they were saying underprivileged, but that didn't sound very good. So, they changed it to under-deserved children, under-served. Not under-deserved. I'm sorry-under-served children. Yeah in north and northeast Portland.

RK: So, in all this work what were some of your main challenges would you say?

VC: I think the significant things were, I've had several surgeries. I had, well, actually 4 knee replacement surgeries. I'm just very thankful to even be walking. I exercise too much and I found out, well, later after, I don't know if 01:28:00you, you probably, I don't know if you exercise a lot, or if you walk, but I used to do Zumba, jazzercise, high impact aerobics, all of the step. I did all that, and so back in the late '70s, early '80s they didn't know that it was bad on your back and your knees and that especially the high impact aerobics, so I ended up, which I didn't know that my mom, she didn't tell my brother and I, I guess she had really bad knees and that kind of thing. A lot of times they didn't, when I was growing up, nobody really talked about their health or what was wrong with them. They just took a pill or whatever they did and just dealt with whatever was going on with them. So, I found out later that we had, and my 01:29:00brother has it, too. We have what they call silent arthritis. I had never heard of that. I didn't know what it was. It's hereditary in families. A lot of people need to be checked for this, and especially-I don't know if it's mainly more so in the African American community, but there is, you can exercise, and I used to exercise at least 2 hours a day almost every day until I found out you need to take a break at least take 2 days off, only if you're going to exercise 3, the 5 days. Don't do 6 days and don't do 7 because your body has to repair itself. When I finally went to the orthopedic surgeon and found out that this was something hereditary that we had the silent arthritis, it doesn't start-because you can exercise and then your knees they don't hurt at all. By the time-to make a long story short-by the time I was 40 years old I had the knees of a 60-year-old woman. I wore my knees out.


So, I ended up having the first two surgeries, oh yeah-because my husband I we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in 2005, so yeah, and that was the same year. Because in December I turned 60. So I had the surgery when I was 59, and so they, I had them do both of my knees. They wouldn't do them at the same time but they did them 6 weeks apart. I had Kaiser for it, and they were too backed up. They couldn't do it, so they sent me up to OHSU. I had both of my knees replaced. I had the right one done in June of 2005, in June, and then the left one was done in August. They were 6 weeks apart that I had them done. Then I ended up falling down my basement stairs in 2009, ruining this one. I didn't 01:31:00bust it up or anything but I messed it up, so I had to have surgery done on this one again. Then, I had a really bad fall at the Lloyd Center about almost 4 years ago. I'm still trying to get through this. But, broke the prosthesis in there in the left knee. That was in 2016. I've had this one done. Both have had-I've had 4 knee replacements. Those are some significant things in my life. Then, with my husband's cancer, that was a real significant thing in my life and then losing my mom. I lost my mom. My husband was, I forgot this part-my mom passed away in 2007. We don't know when she was diagnosed, because, like I said, they didn't talk about anything that was wrong about them. You found out after the fact when they can't hardly move anymore. They're so sick and so, didn't even know that she even had cancer. Kind of like traumatized-my mom passes away. 01:32:00My husband diagnosed in 2007, then one of my cousins, she had an aneurism. Then I had another uncle that left. Just significant things, losing and some of my, my uncle was younger than I was. He had some kind of cancer. I don't even know what he had, what kind of cancer he had. Then I lost one of my younger uncles, which was my grandmother's. My grandmother had an older set, which was my mother, my aunts, and then she had a second set with her second husband and these were younger. They're younger than I am but they're my aunts and my uncles. Then I lost my mother's other sister, Auntie LaLa. She was the funny aunt in the family. You know you have-I had two. I had Auntie Sarah and Auntie 01:33:00LaLa. Auntie LaLa, she was a character. I mean, just feisty, fun, would talk to you about anything. Anything you wanted to know about sex, men-anything you ask her. She didn't-she would just tell you. Being younger, we just thought she was really cool. And she was. So, we lost her. That was another great loss, because she was the oldest matriarch left at that time. We just lost her in 2015.

Then our uncle, the oldest uncle, Uncle Raymond, he's the oldest patriarch now. He's, I think he just turned 87 and he's dealing with cancer and PAD, some other significant things. I try to keep in touch with him. I just called him out of the blue just to let him know that I love him and I'm thinking about him, that kind of thing. He's really cool and he's always really happy. Then sometimes 01:34:00I'll just text him just to see, because he's older and then sometimes he says he'll forget to turn his phone on or turn it off. He'll turn it off and he'll forget to turn it back on and that kind of thing. I just, I'll call him or either text him and just let him know that I love him and that kind of thing. We don't talk a lot but I do try to keep in touch with him. Those are some of the poignant, sad, and significant times in my life that have just shaped me into who I am. Right now I can say that I'm really happy with where I am in life. I was in a relationship that I, for about, almost about 5 years, and the person, I just figured out, okay, this isn't going to work. I'm 74 years old, I really don't want to have to live this, you know, be with this person if it's not going 01:35:00to benefit both of us, because sometimes you can get with someone and it makes you feel not really good inside and causes you to react or do things that you're working on hard not to do anymore because this isn't you. You're not there anymore. You're not like that. It just didn't work out. I wish him well, and I do pray for him and that kind of thing, but I just knew it wasn't going to work for us. I did try. I did. I did. So, I'm happy.

RK: Tell me what are the things that you do now for recreation?

VC: I still exercise. I have what you call, right over here, a whole-body vibration because I do have knee replacement, so I just can't do that. I'm doing, right now I'm getting some chiropractic surgery, not surgery, but chiropractic, she's working on me with different tools just in my back, lower 01:36:00back. Then I have a physical therapist that I'm going to. It's really helped, because I love exercising, so I want to do it but I want to learn how to do it in a way that's going to be beneficial for me so that I don't hurt myself. I still do exercise. I go on trips and one of my younger cousins is getting married in February. Next month. Right around the corner. She's getting married. I already have my plane ticket. I'm going to fly down to Los Vegas. My brother is going to give her away. We do a lot of different family things. My oldest daughter, she has different things going on in her house. One of my granddaughters just turned 26. We just had a birthday party for her last Saturday. That was a lot of fun. Then, also, my cousin was having her bridal shower. So, I had to go to that. I went to both of those and it was just a lot 01:37:00of fun, a lot of fun. I do things with my family, friends, and not just keep myself busy but try to live life to the full.

RK: So, what is it in your life? What makes it full?

VC: It makes it full, because one, number one, I have a relationship with the Lord. He helps me spiritually, mentally, and emotionally and to know that He'll always be with me and that He'll never leave me, nor forsake me. That helps me to know that I have a foundation that I'm building on and I can help others just to think about it. Nobody's, I'm not trying to do any religious stuff, because for me, the relationship, I have a relationship with the Lord. I don't have a religious thing. I have relationship. It's between me and Him. Another one of the things that makes my life fullest, I don't try to change or make somebody 01:38:00into something that they're not, or try to control. I know about control. So, I just want people, just be you. That's who you need to be. You don't have to be like anyone else but you. That's it. Don't try to change because somebody's trying to change you because you'll never be good enough if you let people try to control you. You never will. That's one of the things that I don't-my kids, they say, oh, momma, you so hard. No, I'm not hard. I just want you to be who you are and you have to let me be who I am, because I'm not going to let you try to change me into what you think I should be, because it's not going to happen. If that's hard, then I'm hard. Living life to the fullest just means loving people where they're at and not trying to change them and not letting them change you. Be who you are and enjoy yourself. I do. I enjoy myself. I enjoy other people, so for me that's what it is, just knowing that I'm loved and that 01:39:00I can love other people without wanting something from them or trying to control them.

RK: Tell us some things about your family traditions. How do you celebrate Christmas and what holidays. Well, you can tell us about the birthdays because I know you have a lot of those.

VC: [Laughs] It's a lot. The birthdays are fun. You know, we do those. I just had, my birthday, I was born December 7, 1945, so my kids are always trying to do things for me. My son, the youngest one, Alander, him and his girlfriend, they bought me a cake. Since I'm really working on my health and that kind of thing, so I just, after they, I made sure that I took the cake someplace else where other people could enjoy it. That kind of thing. Those are, just being 01:40:00with my family and thanking God that I have all of my children with me and all of them, they're all adults, and just being able to see them and laugh with them and talk with them. It's just wonderful. So, I'm just trying to live each day the best I can as if it might be my last, because we don't ever know. I want to be able to leave a legacy of love. I guess that's what I'm saying, for myself and for my children, that they'll know that even though I might not have always agreed with my mom, she loved me. And I loved her. For me, love is really important and enjoying those holidays. Holidays of Christmas, where my kids were growing up we always opened a gift on Christmas Eve. They got to open one gift. I don't know if that's in most Black families or whatever. I know a lot of African American, I know some Caucasian people do the same things: you get to open one gift on Christmas Eve. The kids always looked forward to that, and I 01:41:00did, too, my husband I when he was alive. Those are fun times. The birthday parties, they're really significant because each one is a milestone. We just, we do a lot of celebrating in my family.

RK: Tell us, you're going to have all these birthday parties this weekend.

VC: Yeah.

RK: So, describe-you were telling me before we were recording, but describe for each birthday party what is it going to be like and what are you doing for it?

VC: I'm just showing up. I don't have to do anything, especially with my grandkids and my great grandkids, they just want me there. I don't have to do anything, just be there and love on the kids and love on them and they just say, Nana, you just come. We don't, they don't ask for birthday presents. They don't 01:42:00ask for anything. Usually, I give them money because usually you can always get what you want with money. I usually give them money and am just there.

RK: What, how are they going to celebrate?

VC: Usually, depending on the kids. Like, now the 4-year-old, Jordan, and their brother, they're going to have-I think they're going to have the theme... they had a theme last year, but I think the theme this year is, oh gosh, what is it? She said it. I think its Toy Story. They want, if you can, you don't have to, to dress up from the Toy Story characters. That's a significant thing. Then, my other, the other birthday party that I'm going to tonight. This is my girlfriend, this is her granddaughter. Her name is Fancy, and she is fancy. She likes sparkly things, so my thing is I got to go, they say no birthday presents, 01:43:00but you know, you have to, if you don't do money you kind of try to look at what they like. So, I'm going to go and see if I can find her something sparkly, either a sparkly hat, some sparkly shoes, or sparkly socks-whatever I can find, but something with sparkles on it for her. Her daughter is cooking dinner and so we don't have to bring, I don't have to bring anything, like I said, because it's all set. They said no presents. Daughter's cooking, so just show up because we want to see you, because her grandkids, they call me Auntie Veverly. So, I'm their auntie. Yeah, those two birthday parties. Then the gumbo party is this Sunday. I'm doing the gumbo.

RK: Tell me more about the gumbo party.

VC: Well, the gumbo is something I started doing some years back, and so my 01:44:00mother had taught me how to do her gumbo originally, but she didn't give me all of the ingredients. What she told me to do is to make the gumbo my own. So, I have. My friends just, they labeled me the gumbo queen. That's what I do. I love doing the gumbo. I've had to show them how to do it.

RK: Tell us how.

VC: Well, I can't. Some of my things are secret. I mean, no, really, because my mom said make the thing your own. Most people that do gumbo or whatever they'll tell you. They're not going to give you all of their stuff. They're just not. It's a, you know, just like a sequence of events. I'm here by myself. I love being here and then I think that for me, my gumbo is just made with love. I think that's what really makes it really significant and different because I love doing this for people and just look forward to serving them. Everybody's 01:45:00just having a good time. I think my gumbo is made with love. I'll say that [laughs].

RK: Describe to me how you spent your last Christmas and how you celebrated.

VC: Okay. Last year we just-I had my Christmas tree. My son, the one that's 52, he is always getting me things that I've asked him not to get me. So, he bought me this, I don't know, it's an air fryer, a gigantic air fryer, a gigantic juicer. I mean, I live in a small apartment, so I ended up giving the fryer and everything to my youngest daughter, because my oldest daughter had one. I gave all of my kids, I gave them money. I gave all of them money and then we 01:46:00celebrated. They came, some of them, my youngest son, his girlfriend and then my son that's 52 and his girlfriend they came over and they celebrated with me, because I had just broken with the guy that I had been with off and on for 5 years in September. I just called it quits. They were thinking, and which I'm not lonely, because I'm not. They just wanted to be with me. So, I celebrated with my kids. I had a really good Christmas.

RK: They just came here. It was just not a-

VC: Yes. Well, I had a couple of my...no, that was my birthday. I'm sorry. No. It was just the adults. Just the adults.

RK: What did you do to celebrate?

VC: Well, we'd drink sparkling cider. We'd sit around my table. We'd giggle, we laughed, and they talked about some of the things they did when they were 01:47:00younger, and we just had a good time just enjoying one another, and eating. I made, I did, no... that was for Thanksgiving. I did a, I think I did a ham, Cornish game hens, dressing and some other stuff for Christmas. We had that. It was just good. We just enjoyed one another.

RK: Describe more of that meal, if it's not secret.

VC: [Laughs] No, that's not secret. The meal was, I mean, I did the cooking and then I do my giblet gravy, which they love. I did that. Then we had rolls and some other stuff. Just good food and sometimes, you know, even if the food isn't good, people you know, you care about folks and so it just makes it just a wonderful time to be with each other, because you're building each other up and helping each other hopefully to become better and to love one another better. We 01:48:00just had a good time just being with one another. I think that's what made it a real special Christmas for me and for my family.

RK: Was that on Christmas day?

VC: That was Christmas day.

RK: What about Christmas Eve? What did you do?

VC: I think.... what did I do? Oh, I went over to my oldest daughter's house because I had things for the kids. I took, so on Christmas Eve because they were brought up where we would do one gift on Christmas Eve. I took all the gifts over that I had for my grandchildren, my great grandchildren. I took all of their gifts. I gave money to all of my children, but I bought gifts for the great grandchildren that are there, and my granddaughter. So, I did pajamas last year. Pajamas are always good. They're good. I did pajamas and gowns for everybody. That was really good.


RK: Then on Christmas Eve, do you have special food?

VC: Usually they do. Usually on Christmas Eve I don't have to cook because, well, I was cooking dinner for here, but my oldest daughter she usually does more like Hors d'oeuvres and just, you know, light things and that kind of thing for Christmas Eve, because they're going to have the big dinner on Christmas day. I went over to her house, like I said, took all the presents there and then so we had food and stuff there that she had made. It was like, she does a lot of chicken, fish, she does a really good fish fry. Then I think we had salad, fruit bowls, and that kind of stuff. It was really nice. It wasn't really heavy food, but it was nice. And we dance a lot in our family [laughs]. I do. I love dancing. We dance a lot. Yeah, we dance a lot.

RK: What kind of music?


VC: I really like jazz, because I've been to a lot of different jazz concerts. Oh, and another thing, my baby sister lives up in Seattle. Let me get this in first. So, my baby sister lives up in Seattle. I go up there quite often. I take the train, and so that's another, one of my outlets. We visit one another. She's into, she's not completely vegan because she eats shrimp and fish and that kind of stuff, but she has gone doing the vegetarian type of stuff. She eats veggies and fish and chicken and that kind of stuff, all the organic stuff. So, I go up there and I visit her and we just have so much fun together. She has a doggy named Cody. I love Cody. He is, that's my nephew, little Cody. He is a cute dog. I do that. Like I said, for, what is it? For Christmas Eve with my daughter, oldest daughter and her son and daughter and his girlfriend and their children. 01:51:00We did that. That was good. Christmas day, just family, you know? Talked with my, I have 2 best friends: Carla, the one I was telling you about earlier, who's Caucasian. I've known her for over 30 years. Then my other friend, Fran, I've known her for about 28 years. We keep in touch. We don't talk every day, but we do speak to each other. We giggle and laugh a lot, and we dance. When I go to her house tonight, we're going to be dancing. I'm already, I'm waiting for that. It's going to be a lot of fun.

RK: What about in your family when you have all your children and you were living with your husband and had all the children, what did you do on Christmas?

VC: We did kind of the same things. We always-I always cooked and then during that time there was a span of time when my oldest daughter and I, we were kind 01:52:00of estranged. We really didn't see each other that much. There were some different things going on with her, I think. I call it the change of life, because sometimes it can send people off and different things. I kind of had a breaking point with her during that time. I just let her do her thing and she finally went to the doctor and got some medicine, then we came back together. We were good, but when my husband and I, when he was alive, we just really went all out for our kids. He has 2 other children that they lived in Texas. We would always, when we would, whatever we bought for our kids that were here, we made sure that the kids that were in Texas, his two kids that were in Texas, they were well taken care of, too. We sent them money, clothes, toys, whatever, because we both had good jobs. So, yeah.

RK: So, did Santa Clause come?

VC: Yeah. All, the whole thing. The whole thing.


RK: Okay. Really, we just now have a closing question.

VC: Sure, okay.

RK: What, when you look back at your life, stands out most in your mind?

VC: As far as, just anything?

RK: Anything, and maybe what would have-yeah, I'll leave it at that.

VC: Well, I think mostly I think what really stands out is there's maybe, like I said, 2 or 3 things, my mom, some of the different things that she taught me, and my brother. Those are real significant and helped shape me. Also, my first husband. He really shaped, because of the way he was brought up, it really 01:54:00affected my life and then also my second husband. He was a real, he was an advocate for me. He didn't realize it then. We got to talk about it. A lot of different things before he passed away. He really helped me a lot to see death and dying in a different way-that you really don't have to be afraid and he, it was a joy, even though I was still working for Friends of the Children when he was ill before he passed away, he made such an impact on my life. I think I remember. I know I did, I didn't think. I asked him a question and I had to get-I brought him home. He died at home. So, I was talking to him about it and 01:55:00he just, I said, I just don't understand why God let you, why did you get this? Why did you have to have? Why do you have to leave me? I just, when I said why? He said, why not? Why not me? It made me think about, even though I had been thinking about life, it just made me think about life from a different perspective, that it's all how you perceive things, how you look at them. How do you, are you leaving a good legacy for your children? For your family? For your friends? What kind of impact are you making just where you're at? It can be significant or very small. He made me think about those things. My other two friends, Carla and Fran, they've been real instrumental in my life, those two 01:56:00women, to help me, that you can tell people things and they'll keep your secrets and really they're not secrets but they'll keep your confidence is what I should say. When you tell them something, it stays with them and they can feel the same way about me, that when they tell me something that is significant in their lives it's going to stay and not go anyplace else.

RK: What would you say were the best parts and the not so good parts?

VC: Well those, that I just described, some of those were good and some of them were bad. The not so good parts, I think was when I had to watch my husband and then my mother, both of them, they both died at home. So, those were hard. Those were, they made some real deep, a real deep impact on my life. Then, I also 01:57:00watched my aunt. She died at home. She made a real impact on my life. I asked her did she know the Lord before she left. She told me yes. I know Jesus. That was really important for me. My mom also and my husband did. Those were some really significant things in my life and they've kept me going. Just thinking about them as some of the, after I got over a lot of the grief, then I was able to think about my aunt, some of the funny things she would say, some of the funny things my mom would say, some of the funny things my husband said and did. He had a, it wasn't weird, but he had a funny sense of humor. He would just say things that were just so, I mean it was more so for him and I, and then 01:58:00sometimes in public or with our friends. I'd say not in public, but with our friends. Just remembering some of those things made me just think about that things are going to be okay. They will be. And they are. They're okay.

I'm just very thankful that I've had a chance to share with you guys and thank you, you know, so much for calling me and letting me know that this is something that I could do. This is actually my second video that I've done. I did one at Jefferson High School. We talked about some of the things that happened when I was in high school, and that was really good. I got to pair with a student. He got to interview me the way you're doing. I think I'm in their archives or whatever. That was really good. But it was just talking about the impact of when 01:59:00I was at Jefferson High School and kind of like they were talking about racism also. That was really good. I'm just thankful that these things are coming into my life and so I don't know where exactly, I think you told me where it's going to be, but I don't recall it right now, but I'm glad that I was able to do this. I'm glad that you guys were able to come and hear my story.