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Joy Pruitt Oral History Interview, June 28, 2018

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RUTH KORNBERG: This is an interview with Joy Pruitt on June 28, 2018. Hi, Joy, we've been having a really nice conversation before starting the interview, and I was holding back from starting to ask you about your life while we were just chatting. Now we can talk more about more interesting things than you've already told me. So, the idea of the interview is we want to get a whole history of your life and how you got to where you are now. We focus on different aspects of your life, parts that, according to some of the topics that we're interested in and just let it flow and start. Let's just start from where you were born and a little bit about your childhood and how you got to Oregon.


JOY PRUITT: I was born in Portland, Oregon. That's how I got here. I lived on northeast Shaver Street, and my family and I were in an environment of Russian and German. As far as Black Americans, there were maybe about 5 in a total of 25 blocks. We didn't have a whole lot of Blacks living with us, although they are still family friends after all these years. Went to elementary school, Sabin, where I was the only Black in my class. My sisters experienced the same thing. Of course, we, unfortunately, were subjected to a lot of negative responses, not only from the students but from the teachers. One of my teachers liked me very 00:02:00well and had me stay after school and help her. Then one day I walked in and she said, oh, here comes my cute little darkie. I went home and told my mother that. I didn't get to go back to school in her class after school. Those are the kinds of experiences that we had when you were the only Black, either in your class, or in the schools. My family and Tillman family and the Hardy family were the only families at Sabin at the time.

RK: When you, when your teacher said that and you went home and told your mother, what did your mother do? What happened specifically?

JP: My mother talked to me, because at that time all the conversation in the world would not have changed the teacher, because that was the environment. She talked to me, and she said you just don't go after school anymore and don't make 00:03:00a big issue of it because we don't have a support system. She was right. Those were the kinds of things that we were taught, just handle it quietly. Think about what your goal is, and rise about it. That's all we could do.

RK: What was your relation with the other children?

JP: Actually, it was so prejudiced at that time that when the kids would have birthday parties, they would send invitations to all the kids but me. My sisters experienced the same thing. The teachers were perfectly oblivious of that. They allowed the children to hand the invitations out in class. Well, you know how that made you feel. Again, Mother said, don't let that bother you. Think about your goal. Of course, the goal that my parents taught is you are going to go to college and get an education so you can rise above this. That's what we did. We 00:04:00got along with the kids, but it was on a superficial level in grade school.

RK: Then, after grade school, was junior high, or what?

JP: No. In those days [laughs], the early days, it was kindergarten to eighth grade in the same school.

RK: Oh, okay. That's how it was.

JP: Then they switched boundaries, so then we went to Sabin until I was in third grade, and then I went to Highland, which is down Martin Luther King School, I went there until I graduated to go to Jefferson.

RK: What was that like there?

JP: Just as bad, sometimes worse. You know, it was more the teachers than the students, but they picked it up. The kids picked it up from their parents, and then they picked it up from the teachers. An example, I had a teacher, her name was Mrs. Cowie. She taught history, and in those days they had you read from the 00:05:00book, so the teacher would say, Susie it's your turn to read. Sally, it's your turn to read. Every time she called me, in the paragraph it had to have pickaninny, or slavery, or nigger. Every time. See, that was done on purpose. Of course, you know, kids would look and giggle and laugh. It really it made you feel badly. But, again, I could hear my mother in the background say, don't let that bother you. You have a better goal in life. That's hard to handle sometimes. In my class there was one other Gladys Baker, a Black person. She's a very quiet person. We just sort of looked at each other. We knew we couldn't do anything about it. This came to the teachers, principal, and the students. So, you learned to adjust to it.

RK: Tell a bit more about how you did learn to adjust to it. It just seems-


JP: We had a very, very strong family relationship. Very strong. There are four girls, and my mother and my father. Most kids grow up, you always say momma and daddy. My folks always say education. That was the prime interest, and they told us, they said, if you get an education you won't have to go through all this. This was, we were brainwashed to believe that. When we graduated high school, we knew right then and there we were going to go on to college. We had no other alternative. It was planned that way. That kind of information was very useful, especially for me, when I went to Linfield College, because when I went to Linfield, which is in McMinnville, Oregon, the model there was the sun will never set on a darkie here. That was a model in McMinnville. I was the only 00:07:00Black in the whole town, let alone the college. So, I knew what I was going to expect. In all that teaching that our folks did really helped. We learned to ignore some of the things that happened. We focused on something else. It wasn't easy, but it paid off in the long run. Again, because we had no support system. When I went to Linfield, my freshman year, I finally got a support system. That was the Urban League of Portland. Edwin C. Berry was the executive secretary, and he was in my corner all the way through college. Sometimes it was so unbearable that first year, that all I could do to was just cry and I'd call him. He'd say, okay, it's time to come home and we'll have lunch and you tell me about it. He was such a support system. My father and mother were both support systems, but it was on a different level, a motherly kind and a family. This was 00:08:00an educated man who had experienced what I was experiencing and was able to rise above it. He gave me some good clues. He said, just keep busy.

RK: Two questions here to follow-one is how was it that you chose to go to Linfield College?

JP: [Laughs] Everybody asks me that, knowing what the model was. My folks told us that we were going to go to college, all four of us, and we were excited until they said but it has to be in Oregon. So, you know don't have much, in those days you didn't have much to choose from. There was Portland State, Lewis & Clark, Linfield College, and the teacher's college in, oh I can't remember the name of the teachers college now. I can't remember it.

[Break in recording].

RK: We were talking about why you went to Linfield College.


JP: Mm-hmm, and the reason why I went to Linfield is because my folks said we all had to go to college, but they failed to tell us that we had to do it in Oregon, where you know there are just so many colleges in Oregon at that time. So, I went to Linfield. My sister went to Lewis & Clark. The other went to Monmouth and one went to Portland State. We decided we wanted to go to all four different colleges.

RK: How come, how did you find?

JP: How did I find Linfield?

RK: Right, I mean that's-

JP: I'll tell you the truth-you know, I've always loved music. Linfield had an outstanding choir. I thought, I'll go to Linfield and sing in the choir, not realizing you had to have a background in music and all I was singing was from the ear. When they handed me a piece of paper and told me to read the notes I was totally lost. I never got in the choir. That's one reason why I went to 00:10:00Linfield. After I got there, I stayed.

RK: What were some of the other reasons?

JP: It was a good school, a good academic school. It had a good educational program, which I definitely was interested in, because I wanted to be a teacher. I knew I could live on campus. I just figured that the school would be much better than a city. I don't know why I thought that. It was better, but I still had some experiences that I would have liked to have forgotten.

RK: Do you want to remember them some of them at the moment for us?

JP: Not really. But I'll share them anyway [laughs]. When I first entered Linfield, I went into the office like everyone else, and Dean Anderson, she was the dean, would say John, Julie this is your partner. She went on telling 00:11:00everybody their partner for their room, for roommates. They got to me: this is your room. I was the only one out of the whole freshman class that had a room by myself. She made the assumption that no one wanted to room with me. Of course, I was the only Black on campus, but that still was an assumption. I just went, I took the room. Then in the long run, you know, it paid off. Sometimes, sometimes you can almost appreciate segregation, because I hadn't been in that room I would say 3 months and I had several of the girls come to me and say how much extra do you have to pay for a single room? I can't stand my roommate. It'd tickle me because they thought I was privileged because I had a single room. I never told them it was out of segregation. The next year, I got a roommate. She 00:12:00wanted to room with me badly. A lot of them fell apart, couldn't get along with their roommates, and I did realize how lucky I really was.

RK: Tell me, then, you did have a roommate. So, some of your social relations with the students, how were they? Tell me about that.

JP: Actually, you know actually when-it's amazing, and everyone knows this. Segregation, prejudice comes, is a taught thing. It's taught from the parents and the environment. When these kids had left their home and their environment, they didn't see any difference. They really didn't. It didn't take me long to acquire real close friends. One of my closest friends, my roommate, here name was Elizabeth, and she came from Missoula, Montana, had never seen a Black person in her life. We just hit it off right away. Then, she only lasted in my 00:13:00room for just one year because she fell in love. A lot of them went to school at that time just to get husbands, majority of the women did. They even mentioned it. Anyway, she fell in love with Raul Worth, and they own a lumber company in McMinnville. So, she said she wanted me to be her maid of honor. I said, fine. She said, my mom's coming next week and she'll get a chance to meet you. I said, fine. I never thought anything about it. Her mother arrived, and she said, Mom, this is my roommate Joy. She looked at me, and she said you never told me that you had a roommate that was colored! She looked at her, and she said, Mom, it didn't make any difference. Well, it does to me! She said, she is not going to be in your wedding, and if she's going to be in your wedding, I won't be there. It went on like that. She had BJ in tears. Then BJ told Raul and he said, oh, 00:14:00that's alright. He said, we'll get married here. Because they were going to go back to Missoula. We'll get married here.

We went, and then that prejudice really came out. Went to the Baptist that sponsored Linfield College. He told me, no way. He could not have me in that wedding. We went to an Episcopal church, told me the same thing. Went to a Catholic church, and he said, well you couldn't go behind the, I don't know what the gate is or something. I don't know what. It didn't make sense. To make a long story short-none of the churches would accept me. So, BJ said, well, I am not going to get married here. I'll go to Missoula. I said, well, that's going to be worse. I told her, go ahead. She cried. I said, go ahead and get married. You're only going to get married once, supposedly. I said, you want your mother 00:15:00there. It doesn't make any difference to me. Not only that, I don't have any money to go to Missoula anyway, because I was working day and night. That's what happened. She said, I'll give you one promise. She said, when I get married and have my children, I will teach them far different than what my parents taught me. She did exactly what she said. There were five children. They lived in California. She joined the Urban League. She joined the NAACP, and she regularly went to meetings. She did do some good down there. It paid off in the long run.

RK: Yeah. Yeah. You were telling about the person that was in the Urban League that gave you a lot of support.

JP: Edwin C. Berry.

RK: Tell us a little bit about the Urban League and how it was functioning in McMinnville and about that.

JP: Well, the Urban League was an organization that tried to implement 00:16:00integration in every level-schools, organizations, political aspect, all of it. Edwin C. Berry was an articulate person, and people would listen to him. He was such an asset to me. He stuck with me the whole, all four years. Anytime something got a little unbearable, and I'd call him. He'd always said, okay, it's time for lunch. I'd sit, and I'd tell him, and he'd listen. He never let me give in. You can't give in now. He was the kind of support, you know, that you need all through life if you have problems that you're by yourself and you can't handle. My parents were excellent, too, but Edwin C. Berry was on a different educational level that could understand all that.

RK: He must have been White, because there weren't any African Americans in McMinnville.

JP: Oh, no. I'd come to Portland. He was the executive secretary of the Urban 00:17:00League of Portland.

RK: Yeah that's what I thought. That's why I was a little confused.

JP: I got to know him very well because I always had a job during the summer. Every time summertime came he said, you come and work at the Urban League. He supported me all the way. He was an outstanding person.

RK: You were saying while you were going through college you were working?

JP: Oh, I had to. I think I went to college, I think with either 5 or 10 cents [laughs].

RK: What kind of jobs did you have while you were studying?

JP: Everything you could think of. In fact, that's the only time I felt that the dean was really on my side. I told her, I needed to work. I said, I want to work because my goal is to finish college. She said, well, okay. She said, these are a couple of jobs you can get-cafeteria. I worked in the cafeteria. I passed out clean sheets in dorms. I worked out in the yard in the garden. Anything you 00:18:00named, I did. That was an asset for me, and I didn't realize it at the time because it gave me a chance to really learn, to know everybody. They'd see me out there and they'd come, hi Joy. We'd sit and talk and have a good time. It was very helpful. It was. That's the way I got through college.

RK: That's right. It sounds to me that once you were there, aside from-

JP: All the...

RK:-the environment within the town, that within the...

JP: Institution itself.

RK: ...institution and the teachers and the students...

JP: It was better.

RK: It was better.

JP: Yeah, but there was still, there was still something over your head, because we had a tea for all the freshman and the tea was about the third month that we were there. They told us to go down to town, in McMinnville. It was called the Portland Hotel. I believe that's the name of it. Oregon Hotel. Sign up for your parents, the mothers to stay there, and be sure to get there in time so your 00:19:00mother can come. I stood in line, like everybody else, about 15, 20 minutes before. It came up to me, and I said I'd like to make a reservation for my mother. He said, oh, no. we can't have her stay here. I was shocked, because you know, the atmosphere was as if it was open. They're beginning to accept me. But, not in the town. I went back to the dean, thinking the dean was going to be on my side, told her what happened. She said, your mother can stay in the dorm with you, then. I said to myself, I'm not going to have my mother, the only mother stay in the dorm with me because they're segregating against her. I didn't never invited her. I decided I was going to have my mother humiliated. You know what dorms are like: screaming, and noisy, and yelling. I thought, no. My mother, to this day, never knew that we had a tea. Instead, I worked. I took everybody's 00:20:00job that couldn't be there, made a lot of money that weekend, which I needed, and I just let that go.

RK: In a sense, then, you protected your mother.

JP: Oh yeah. But you know that town was so prejudiced. They had an oriental restaurant there, a Chinese restaurant, and the people couldn't live in McMinnville. They lived in Newberg. The Chinese people had to go back and forth every day, but everybody in McMinnville ate at their restaurant, but they wouldn't allow them to live there.

RK: Let's change the subject a little bit, but getting more in your background. Tell us a little more about your parents.

JP: Well, my mother was a school teacher in St. Louis, Missouri. My father, my father was born in Mississippi but he wouldn't tell us. Mother told us about it. He had experienced some Ku Klux Klan episodes, and as a result of it, he ran 00:21:00away from home, when to St. Louis where he knew relatives were. He was 16. They said, you can't live here. You've got to go back and finish school. His own father was a college graduate, which was most unusual in those days. His father wanted to be an architect. He finished college, but nobody in Mississippi would let him take the, pass the board. He didn't have any money to go outside of Mississippi, and there weren't too many places outside of Mississippi you could go. That was his father. When he saw how his father was treated, he ended up being a carpenter, and he built a school in Mississippi. When he realized what his father was going through, he wasn't too encouraged to go back to Mississippi to finish high school. He went back. He stayed less than a year, and he ran away 00:22:00again. This time, he knew what he needed to do. He knew he needed to work.

So, he went back to St. Louis, lied about his age, and you've heard of Gandy dancers? The people who used to put nails in the railroad tracks? He lied about his age and he got a job there. He stayed. He was an avid reader, because his father was a college graduate. He read all the time. He was a very articulate and very smart man, but he refused to go back to school and go through what his father had gone through. So, he stayed in St. Louis. He worked. He saved his money. He met my mother. They started dating. It was interesting, because when they decided to get married, my mother was 20 at the time. In those days, you couldn't be married and still teach. My mother was teaching. They got married. My mother went back and lived with her father, and my dad kept working. By then, 00:23:00he was on the railroad. He said to her, we'll live this kind of life for one year, and then we'll go and leave St. Louis and find someplace where we can have a family and they will get a good education. He came to Portland first, and then he went to Los Angeles. He chose Portland. That's how, and then all of us were born here in Portland.

RK: When he came to Portland, was he working on the train then?

JP: Yes.

RK: By then, what kind of job on the trains did he have?

JP: He was a waiter then.

RK: So, he became a waiter.

JP: Mm-hmm. Then my mother came out with him. Of course, again, they wouldn't hire her. She was teaching back in St. Louis. Came to Portland, and wouldn't hire her. She was a ahead of her-as they told her, she was ahead of her time. My dad wasn't too disappointed in that because he would rather have her home. By 00:24:00then they were having children, four girls. He would rather have her home raising us and instill an education in us. That's the way it worked.

RK: How did she feel about that?

JP: She felt, well, she couldn't get a job here anyway, so... and she wanted children, so it worked fine for her.

RK: Then, so, you went into teaching.

JP: Mm-hmm.

RK: What drove you to go into teaching?

JP: I think my mother. She was a good teacher, and she was a good example. She was such a better example than all the teachers I had, because so many of them were so prejudiced. But, you know, I learned from their prejudiced. I learned that the way that they treated me and the way some of those teachers treated other children, I decide if I'm going to be a teacher, I'm not going to be that way. I learned from what not to do. I was really excited, and when I did my student teaching, in McMinnville, which was sort of scary at first, because I 00:25:00was still the only Black in the city. I thought, oh, what's going to happen when I do my student teaching in these schools? But they chose the right teacher for me. She had those kids so well-prepared, it was unbelievable. When I walked in the class, she said, this is Mrs.-I was Brock then, this is Mrs. Brock, and she will do her student teaching here. Then there's a silence, and then they said, hello Mrs. Brock. Which, shocked me to no end. I really enjoyed the class. They were well-disciplined. When I graduated, she wrote me a beautiful resume. I thought, well, I've been successful here. I think I'll try a small town in Oregon and teach. I tried. That was the year that they passed the bill that you did not need to send your picture with an application. I didn't send my picture. I didn't have to. They had no idea I was a Black person. Every time I got a 00:26:00phone call or they want to interview me, they were so excited until they saw me. I think I was interviewed maybe about 9 or 10 times. Now, it got to be 3 days before school opened, and I tried in Gladstone, just through correspondence. The man talked to me on the phone, he said, oh. We're just looking-you're exactly what we're looking for. You've got the kind of resume. You've been active in your school. He went on and on. He said, I'm going to be out of town for a day or two, he said. But you come two days before school, before the teachers come. I'll tell you what room you'll be in and you're taking the place of a teacher that's pregnant. She just let me know that she's going to retire. I said, fine. I went to Gladstone the day he told me. Nobody was there except him. I was in 00:27:00the hall, but I didn't see anyone. So, I called, I said, hello? He said, oh, I'll be right there with you. I stood in the hall. He walked out in the hall. He looked at me, he said, may I help you? I said, yes. I said, I'm Mrs. Brock. You know what he said? Are you sure? That's exactly what he said. I know what he was implementing. He was implementing that, number one, of course I've been told too many times, which is ridiculous, you didn't sound like a Black person. He said, I am so sorry, he said, but she decided not to quit. Now, how can you be not pregnant overnight? [Laughs]. Oh, that killed me. I'll never-that was one of the worst days of my life, because that was my last chance, you know? Schools were going to open up in 2 days.

Again, I called Edwin Berry and he said, come on over. So, I told him what I'd 00:28:00gone through, and he asked me how the interviews went, etc. He said, why didn't you try Portland. I said, well, I did, but I didn't hear from them because my sister, by then, was older, but she was teaching in Portland, doing a good. She teaches on the west side. At that time, they wouldn't hire any Blacks on the west side unless they thought you were outstanding. She was the only one. Her name was Ruby. I said, well, this doesn't make sense. He said, let me double check. He called Tom McCall. Tom McCall and he were very good friends, and the next day he called me. He said, okay, come and have lunch with me. I went down, and he said, we have discovered that Portland Public School have an un-written, I can't call it a law, but un-written statement that they would only hire 1 to 2, at the time negroes, negroes a year, and the two have already been hired. I 00:29:00said, I looked at him, I said, well, that means it's something we could fight. He said, no, you know why we can't fight it? Because it's an unwritten law. To get that proof, he said, that's going to be the problem. I said, oh, I said, what am I going to do? I said, school's going to start now. He said, Tom said, and I agree, you go down to Portland Public Schools, and you sign up for substituting. He said, and you do as good a job substituting as you did in McMinnville. I guarantee by the end of the year you're going to get calls from 3 or 4 principals. I couldn't get excited about that, but I did what he told me to do. He was absolutely right. By the end of the year, I got 4 calls from principals who wanted me. Then I got to thinking, 3 of the principals were from white Schools. One was an integrated school, which was Boyce at the time. Boyce Alley.


So, I chose Boyce. I really loved it. I had a good integrated group at that time. So, I taught at Boyce for a year, and then I got married. Then had to go through the same thing again in Las Vegas. My husband's in the Air Force. We were stationed at Nellis Air Base, they had a third grade opening right on Nellis Air Base. I was so excited, and I was told. I went to the commander in chief, and he said well, we have nothing to do with hiring, even though it's on the Air Base grounds. It is run by Las Vegas School System. You have to go to Las Vegas itself. I said, okay, I had no problem. Third grade, it was walking distance from where I lived. I went down, I told the men that there was an opening, and I was interested (the superintendent). I was interested in being hired. He looked at me and said, you're ahead of your time. We can't hire you 00:31:00now. But we can hire you for the Black school on the west side. I said, but I'm used to working in an integrated setting. He said, well, I've told you what's going to happen. He said, if you want to teach, you'll go to the west side. He was so mean. He wasn't even like a superintendent. He said, do you want the job or not? I said, well, I'm going to go back and talk with my husband. I went back and I talked with him. The adjutant general there said, you've got to remember he is a Mormon. He's not going to change his attitude at all, but if you want teach that's going to be your best deal, because we have nothing to do with the hiring. I did. Found out where west side was-25 miles from where I was, Nellis Air Base. Las Vegas was, most of the time, 95-105 degrees, and I'm leaving 00:32:00Oregon. I had to wear gloves when I drove there. The steering wheel was so hot. We were on the main highway, and every time I came home from west side school, I was stopped by a policeman because they're always looking for gangsters. In those days, I guess gangsters are coming and going to Las Vegas. I didn't know anything about it. They were looking to see if somebody was hiding in the card. I wasn't the only one. They stopped every time you turn around. But to sit in a car that long in 100 degrees, I thought I was going to die.

Anyway, took the class, third grade class and the ages were from 8 to 14. Totally segregated except one White child in the class, which was just reverse from what I came from. I couldn't believe it, 8-14. The teachers, oh, I couldn't believe them. They came with their hair in pin curls. Some of them had the 00:33:00anklets on. They didn't dress anything like we did here in Portland. You had to have stockings and heels and really-and they judged you on how you dressed in Portland. There was only one other teacher, and it was a Black teacher. It was Marquetta-you know, the Globe Trotters. What was his name? Anyway, his wife. It'll come to me. It was his wife. She was the only Black there. I said to her, how do you stand it? Why are they coming this way? She said, because it's so hot in Las Vegas that they get an hour and a half lunch. We got about 15 minutes in Portland. She said, and then they change clothes and they go to the strip and they gamble during that hour and a half. Then they come back. She said, we can't 00:34:00go because they discriminate against us. So, she and I stayed and did our lesson plans. The thing that really bothered me that first month I was there, the teachers were screaming and yelling at those kids like you wouldn't believe, like they were animals, except Marcia. She didn't, and so I said to her--where do you get your training? She said Oklahoma. We didn't treat kids like that. She said, but they don't care here in Las Vegas. I said, let's show them. Not only that, discipline was rubber hoses. They would beat those kids with rubber hoses. I made the mistake by going down to the superintendent again and telling him, you know they're beating those kids with rubber hoses. He said, well, they have to have discipline. He could have cared less.

To make a long story short, I said to Marquetta, you know what I'm going to do? I said, since you and I are here for an hour and a half for lunch, and everybody's gone but you and I, we are going to go in those rooms and steal those rubber hoses. She fell down laughing. She was such a good person. She 00:35:00said, what are you going to do with them? I said, I will put them in the trunk of my car, and I will take them out to Nellis Air Base and I said I'll dumb them out in the--they had big box turtles this big, I said they can play along with them. She said, okay, I'll do it with you. So, I did. Took them out and did exactly what I said. You know, no one said a word about those rubber hoses. Nobody mentioned it at all. I told her, we have to do next thing is to teach and let them see the kids can be taught without yelling at them. I said, we'll do that by keeping our door open and I told my students, I said, you read 15 minutes and then we'll go out for 10. Come back do math 15, and go out for 10. I set that kind of program to get them in the habit of disciplining and reading, because I knew the interest span was just like that, you know. It worked. Marquetta did the same thing, and we kept our doors open. I never heard any 00:36:00complaints about those rubber hoses. I never heard anything from those teachers, but they sure were quiet and watching. I felt real good that year, and I did do this. I know most kids like sports, most of them do. This big 14-year-old was twice as tall as I was. I could tell he was a gang leader of the kids. I thought, I get him on my side I won't have any problems. I told them that in the 15 we'd play prison ball. Well, I've always been good at sports. Love sports. I told him, you read, don't take your eyes off the paper and in 15 minutes I'll keep my promise. Well, of course the first 15 minutes, the kids were doing like [looks around the room] watching me all around the room. 15 minutes went by. I said, okay it's up now. They said, oh do we go outside and play prison ball? I said, no. they looked at me. I said, just a minute. I'll tell you why. I walked 00:37:00around the room, some of you were following me with your eyes. I said, which means you weren't reading. I told you if you came up on a word that you didn't understand just raise your hand quietly and I'll come and help you. I said, I didn't see any hands raised. They couldn't complain, because I told them, and now I'll give you another chance. Oh, they were relieved. The second time more of them were reading. Not all of them, but enough. Then, I told them we're playing prison ball. I want to be the leader. I said, you don't yell. I'm going to be one of the captains, and I'll choose another captain. They looked at me, one of the kids raised his hand and said, you know how to play prison ball? I said, you'll see. It was one of my favorite games.

So, then, I was a captain. I chose the smallest and the weakest child in the room, which I knew nobody would want on their team. I chose him first. They all just laughed. I said, don't laugh at anybody. I got my team ready. I already knew who I was going to get out-that big, tall boy. Went outside to play, and I 00:38:00bounced the ball-oh, I tossed it up, that's right. Whoever grabbed the ball would be the first. I tried to do everything according to scale because I didn't want the kids cheating at all. I bounced the ball a little bit. I looked at the kid over here, the little kid like I was going to hit him. Had the ball, and I looked at him, and I threw it to the big, and I got him out. The kids went wild. I'll tell ya, from then on I had no problems with them. I really missed the one. When I got ready to leave, because we were only there-I would just stay at west side school for one year because we wanted to have children before we got home. The big kid, the 14-year-old, came and hugged me, and he had tears in his eyes. It was a good experience for me. The first time I had taught in a segregated school. The first time I really learned those kids were not as the people would say dumb. They were pulled out of their homes and out of school at 2 or 3 months to work in the fields. How are you going to get an education if you're out in 00:39:00the fields 2 months out of the year in school? Two months out of the year? That's what happened, but I enjoyed it.

RK: Then, when did you come back? You came back to Oregon?

JP: Yeah, we came back to Oregon. We were in the service 3 years. We came back and my first, we had our first son born in Las Vegas. We came back and then I signed up again to teach and my mother watched my son for me. In between we had more children, and I did substituting, because I wanted to keep up my certificate. I didn't work every day, but I worked enough days to keep up my certificate.

RK: In the meantime, then, what did your husband do?

JP: He was a dentist.

RK: How did he get into dentistry?

JP: How'd he get into dentistry? He went through about the same thing I went through. He came in, and he's always wanted to be a dentist. He was debating 00:40:00being a dentist or a physician. He tried, he passed the test and everything, but the dental school wouldn't accept him because of his color. But, we had a Black legislator-I can't think of his name now-and he went to him and they got him in dental school. He said, there's no reason for them not accepting him. He passed all the papers, all the tests, and was remarkable at it. They got him in. Politics, that's what did it. So, he had a rough time, though, that first year. Of course, the dental school had a slot open automatically for the Mormons. You're from Utah, and it's been that way for years. Whenever they graduated from college, they just automatically go into dental school. It's still existing, but you don't hear too much about it, which meant that about, oh maybe around a 00:41:00fourth of the class, between a fourth and a third were Mormons. Naturally, when they got in, in the dental school, the Mormons would form the fraternities, they studied together, they excluded my husband. He learned to study by himself, which was the best thing he could do. Then, there was one Mormon, his name was Pete. He, somehow or another, took a liking to Clarence. One day he said, can we have a cup of coffee? Clarence said, well, I'll see. Clarence wasn't interested in any of them. He came home to me and told me, he said, you know there's one fella named Pete. He keeps asking me to have coffee with him. I don't know why. He says, he's a Mormon. I said, why don't you find out? Have coffee. Coffee's not going to hurt you. He said, okay. So, he did. He came home, he said, guess what he told me? He said, told me to, they had those white, long white shirts that they wore. Big pockets. He said, any time that you do your carving on your 00:42:00teeth, he said, you put it in your pocket and you go to the bathroom, the restroom, you put it in your pocket and take it with you. He said, why? He says, because one time that you left the instructor said that Mr. Pruitt has had the best carvings of any student that I've had over these years. He says, it's perfect. Of course, they didn't want to accept that. Because they didn't want him in the class anyway. What they would do, he would leave it on the table, they'd take a knife and they'd cut. They'd do something, and he'd have to do it over. He said, and I'm just telling you this, he said you don't need to tell, let her know that I told you, he said. But I would keep it with me. So, Clarence did. He started keeping it with him. He said he didn't have to do anything over. Then he knew that they really were trying to sabotage him. He had some rough 00:43:00times, but he stuck with it.

RK: Which school was this?

JP: University of Oregon Dental School. Yeah.

RK: Then he started practicing dentistry.

JP: Well, after he graduated, then he went through some more segregation, discrimination, trying to get an office downtown. Medical school said, no we don't want any Blacks. All of the schools. But, he had a friend, Paul Kunkel, and his father was a dentist, and he met Clarence, and he liked Clarence very much. Dr. Kunkel. He was in the Selling Building. He said, you mean to tell me with the grades that he was doing and the carving that he was doing that they're not going to let him be a dentist downtown. He couldn't believe that. He said, okay. He called the dentist in the Selling Building. He said, we're having a new dentist coming in next week or so. He's going to have the office right across 00:44:00from mine, and that's it. he wouldn't even let them talk about it. He said, he'll be in this building, and I don't want to hear anything else about it. Sure enough, Dr. Kunkel followed through. When Clarence, he told Clarence, I've got a room for you in the Selling Building on the 10th floor right across from me. His son was also a dentist. He and Clarence were very good friends. When he opened his dental practice that day, Dr. Kunkel had 3 patients for him that that he referred to Clarence. They were really impressed with the job that he done. Dr. Kunkel and his wife were friends for us for years. Now, his son is still friends of ours. His son is retired and has 5 children, and they're still friends.

RK: He had that support from the dentist. Were there other clients that would come in and look at your husband and say, nope. Get me a different dentist?


JP: No. He never had that. I think one reason why, at that time, a lot of them were referrals. I'm sure if they referred them to Clarence they knew that he was a Black American. They knew. Not only that, his work was quality work and that's what stood on. He was an excellent dentist.

RK: Did he attract other Black Americans to go to him in particular?

JP: Oh yeah. After he got established downtown, he didn't have any problem. He didn't have any problems at all. A lot of them were our friends and they started going to him. He had a well-integrated staff, or-

RK: I was wondering whether, okay, yeah, just friends, and he was a good dentist, so they would go to him, but whether there were other African Americans that didn't him at all, but chose to go to him because.


JP: Yeah. It was referral. They'd say, who's a good dentist, and they found out it was Clarence and he was a Black, because he was the only dentist, Black dentist there. He had no problems with that. It was good, because it was downtown, which they didn't want Blacks downtown in business period, and he held his own. He did a good job.

RK: Let's kind of move along here. Have you been active in many community activities, politics, civil rights?

JP: I was very active in the Urban League, but you know, after you have a family and you're still working on a career, you don't really have a whole lot of time to do that, but I stayed with the Urban League for years. I worked in trying to get people to understand the importance of integration and I used to have it in 00:47:00my home and I've always done that kind of thing, but politics, no. I just didn't trust the people in politics. I just didn't. So many of them are running for power for themselves, not necessarily an issue that was prevalent.

RK: In terms of in the '60s and '70s when there was so much civil rights activities going on in Portland, what were you doing in relation to those?

JP: Well, you know, I was still working, working full-time and still with a family. When you work and you got a family, you don't have time for a lot of activity. What I did, I joined every organization that were-always had membership in those organizations: Urban League, NAACP, any organizations promoting education, anything that was integration, I was involved in those 00:48:00kinds of things.

RK: As joining, then, so you become a member and give money, but did you ever have any time do any actual activities with them?

JP: Yes, I did with the Urban League Guild. I was very active in the Urban League Guild. Again, people were just not aware of the problems that were out there in race relations, and so in joining the Urban League Guild, I had a lot of people in my home for lunches and we had speakers that would come. Then I would give, we had teas in different people's homes and I tried to get homes of Caucasians that really were not aware of what was going on but had lovely homes on the southwest side. They became very good friends of mine. In that way, we were able to integrate and get speakers. Things like that, I did.


RK: Which brings me to the question, which we really don't know yet is to, so at that time where were you living?

JP: When I was married with my children?

RK: Yeah. This time that we're talking about.

JP: Oh, okay, I lived on Kelly Street Southeast, the southeast area on Kelly Street, which is between Powell Boulevard and Division.

RK: That's where my son lives, on Kelly Street.

JP: Really?

RK: Yes.

JP: What street?

RK: It's between...

JP: What's the number?

RK: Twenty-six.

JP: You're kidding.

RK: It's between 26th and 27th, right by the high school.

JP: Oh, for heaven's sakes [chuckles].

RK: Okay, that's another story.

JP: Well, he wasn't too far from us. We were on 36th and Kelly.

RK: Yeah.

JP: That was a whole different story, too. They put up a petition when they found out Blacks were going to buy the home. They put up a petition, and 00:50:00everybody on that street except two families signed the petition. When we moved in on Kelly Street, we moved in at night.

RK: What year was that?

JP: [Take a deep breath]. Let's say, that was 1950-something. I'm trying to think, about '58. No, yeah, about '56, '58. Somewhere around there. I can't remember exactly.

RK: Where did you move from?

JP: Las Vegas.

RK: Oh, so that's when you came back from Las Vegas.

JP: Uh-huh, after we came back from Las Vegas. We stayed with my parents until we could find a home, and Clarence went to-he looked for a home, but he had to do it at night. Because they knew that a Black person, and those neighbors at that time, they would not sell to us.

RK: Tell us more about that. Did they have the for sale signs, so they traced...?

JP: He had a realtor, and he was a Black realtor at the time and he found this 00:51:00house. The people that were in the house was a social worker, and the neighbors didn't like her. She had a daughter, and she was ready to move. When she found out that they did not want any Blacks, she said she was going to paint the house red. That was another stereotype and then move and leave them.

RK: Tell me about that stereotype of red. I don't know about that one.

JP: Oh, there was a stereotype, at the time that they felt that all Blacks like red. You know, and they'd have things like Aunt Jemima with the red scarf on. All those stereotype things that were ignorant. She thought, well, if they don't like her and she's going to move, she'll paint the whole house red. But she didn't do it. Anyway, she sold us the house, and we had to move in at night. We moved in at night. I wasn't afraid. Everybody said, aren't you afraid? I said, 00:52:00no. The irony of it was, on the corner across the street, a Mr. West was a Black man. He had been living there for years before the people that had the petition were living there. These were strong Catholics. Every Friday they would walk up our street to go to the church. They had church on Friday, too, and I'd be out working in the yard, because I love yard work. They'd look up and see me and roll their eyes and go on. This happened Friday after Friday after Friday, until, and I was teaching school at the time, until Clarence said, the kids wanted a swimming pool. I said, well, okay, we'll put it in the backyard. We have our three sons. He put the swimming pool up and then another couple moved across the street. They were really friendly, and we're still friends. She wasn't involved in all that because she came afterwards. She said that the neighbors called her, and said they knew that she was friends of mine. We've decided that we could use her pool on Thursday if one of us would sit there and 00:53:00watch the kids so no one gets hurt. Well, Joyce didn't know the background. She said, okay, I'm sure Joy wouldn't mine. I'll go over and tell her. She came over and told me, and I told her the whole background. Her mouth fell open. She couldn't believe it. I said, yes. They discriminated against me, and now they want to use my pool. I said, not one of them will set foot on my property, and I stuck to it, too. The only person was Joyce. Her and her son. Her son and my son were just like this.

RK: Explain a little bit more about the petition.

JP: Well, I never saw the petition, but my husband did. It was a petition that actually indicated they did not want any, I don't know what word they used, I'm just saying Negroes, probably, in their neighborhood buying a home. They said, all White neighborhood and we're going to keep it that way. That kind of thing 00:54:00was on it. I didn't want to see. I had had enough discrimination coming up. I didn't want to see it in writing.

RK: Who did they give that petition to?

JP: I don't know. I didn't follow through. It didn't do any good, because we moved in by then. What they did, they just ignored us until we got the pool [laughs].

RK: How long did you live there?

JP: I lived there up until 30 years ago when I had this home built.

RK: Tell us now about this home.

JP: Actually, Clarence was practicing dentistry and one of his patients, which was Caucasian, had bought the lot and she her husband were going to get married. Well, she and her fiancé were going to get married and build. Well, it didn't work out. She needed the money. She told Clarence, I have a lot in Lake Oswego. Are you interested in buying it? Clarence said, well, let me check with my wife. He called me. I said, Clarence that sounds Cucamonga. He laughed, well, it might 00:55:00be a good investment. I said, fine. I was always ready for investments. I said, okay. So, we bought the lot. They didn't, the neighbors around here didn't know we had, we had the lot almost 25 years before we built on it. Because we didn't build on it until I retired. I took early retirement. The reason why we even built on it, because my husband was getting sick at the time and it was difficult for him to walk up the steps. Where we lived, we had stairs all the way up in there.

RK: Yeah, it does have.

JP: Right, right. I went to the doctor, and the doctor said you know these steps are getting too hard for your husband. I said, well, I said we can build. We do have a lot to build on. He said, your husband is not going to be able to handle that. He said, do you think you will? I said, I know I can. Yes, I can build. Because I've been going to the street of dreams for years. I knew what I wanted. I wanted all on one level so he can come in the double doors, etc. because I 00:56:00retired then, and I started having this house built. I was here every day. I'm not kidding you. I was here every day. I stayed with the Fullers, because she and I lived apart from each other about 4 blocks when we were kids going to school. I stayed with her, was every day, and had the house built so Clarence was able to come in on the main floor.

RK: What is your relation with the neighbors here?

JP: They're very nice. I have no complaints about the neighbors around here. The people here, they're new, and they just built the house next door. Before I built the house, my sister, I brought my sister out here to show her the lot and told her where I was going to build and had beautiful view and the sunset. Anyway, we were standing there talking. We had just come from church. We thought 00:57:00we were looking sort of cute. Let me tell you, that was knocked out. A woman drove up in a white car. She stopped. It was a blonde woman, and she stopped, and she rolled the window down and she said, hi! I said, hello. She said, can I help you with anything? Thinking she was nice. I said, oh, no, no thank you. She said, well, what are you doing here then? She threw me. I could not believe the change in personality in a matter... Beverly stood there and looked at her. I was so mad at that woman. I said to her, it's none of your business. She said, well, I'll make it my business then and put on the gas and took off. Don't know who she was.

RK: Then what happened?

JP: Well, it's sort of a sad story, the fact that I went ahead and built. Neighbors down around the corner came and drove by and he stopped. She didn't, she says hi. I said, hello. We talked. She invited me over for tea, but she was 00:58:00a blonde woman, I thought it was the same woman. I really did. Not just once, I felt that way for a few years. He's the one that takes care of all the music in Lake Oswego and has concerts and things at the park down there. He was very friendly. She was friendly, too, but she kept inviting me over for tea. I told her no. I just didn't trust her. I just knew that was the same woman. After about 5 or 6 years I finally, he finally came by and he says my wife has been inviting you for tea for the past 5 years. He says, and you won't come. So, I said to him, come on in and I'm going to tell you why. So, I told him the story. He says, oh. He said, wasn't my wife. She's just the opposite. I said, well this has been going on... I felt this way because, number one, your wife is blonde. 00:59:00Your wife drove a white car, this woman drove a white. It was just everything, but I didn't see the woman long enough, but it's just that. I was stereotyping. I admitted. Anyway, to make a long story short-they became very good friends. Then he invited me to his picnic, and I was shocked in his yard. He had Asians and Africans and everything I believed. It was integrated, I mean well-integrated. They all knew each other. See, that's what segregation, discrimination, racial hatred will do. It sets you in a mindset, and you just don't want to be bothered with, and it really almost ruined a good relationship.

RK: Let's talk a little bit about your family that you raised and your children and how you raised them.

JP: Well, I raised them like my mother and father raised me, with a lot of love and a lot of education in the background. Mother, my mother and dad are also the 01:00:00type of person that always took somebody else in, if they want to be an extension of the family. They have done that. They had 2 or 3 people who just thought the world of it. I've done the same thing. I have taken a couple of gals in. One is Faye. She's the one that Clarence, we consider her our daughter. He taught her the dental school, because her mother died of cancer years ago. Then the other was Deborah, Deborah Brown. She had her doctorate degree, and then she decided she wanted to be a minister, so she went back to school and got her... she's now Reverend Dr. Brown. She asked me if I'd go to her graduation, which was in Chicago. I said, sure. That's what we've done. A couple people we've just 01:01:00taken in as part of our family. In fact, they are the family, consider them.

RK: How many children do you have?

JP: I consider myself having 5 children-five boys biological, and two girls.

RK: The two girls are the ones you took in?

JP: Mm-hmm.

RK: Then the three...

JP: Boys are bio-

RK: Did they all grow up, then, on Kelly Street?

JP: Oh yeah, my three boys did.

RK: What were their experiences? That's already the next generation.

JP: The next generation-we experienced some. We took them to St.-well, actually, we pulled Michael, the oldest out of school. He was going to Creston School, elementary, and the PE teacher was very prejudiced. He accused my son of doing something, which he didn't do. He tried to tell him, and they guy-he's the type that would grab people and shake, you know, and yell and scream at them. Well, Michael wasn't raised that way. So, he scared Michael to death. Michael left the 01:02:00school that day he was yelling and went on down to downtown and got his dad and told his dad what happened. Clarence finished dental, he went back up to the school, Creston, which was good because he was also doing free dental work at the Creston School, so they all knew him. He talked to the principal and told the principal what happened. Well, he found out that the man, this PE teacher had been doing that to other kids, but they didn't complain. So, to make a long story short, he lost his job.

RK: The PE teacher?

JP: Yeah, the PE teacher, he lost his job. Clarence was going to, was insistent that he not be around kids. My husband ran into him, maybe about 4 years later, and he recognized Clarence and said, you're the one that made me lose my job! Clarence, said, no I didn't. You made yourself lose the job. But my kids 01:03:00experienced some prejudice, but nothing like I did.

RK: Of course, the schools they were going to were mainly all White. By then, were there some other African Americans living there?

JP: Well, we transferred him to the episcopal school, St. Helens, you know St. Helens Hall. Well, we transferred him because it's a private school, and there, yes, there were 1, 2, 3-at least about 5 or 6 Black Americans there. That was a good school. We kept him there until he graduated and went to University of San Francisco. My middle son went to the Black college in Atlanta, Georgia. What's the Black college there?


JP: Morehouse. He went to Morehouse. Then, my youngest shocked me to no end, he chose Linfield. He didn't tell me until about maybe a week before he got ready to leave. I was really shocked. But he went and he finished. He said it was a 01:04:00good educational experience. Then, the two girls that we adopted, one finished the dental school, which my husband taught her in dental school. The other, as I said, got her doctorate and her reverend. They're all-all of them have their education.

RK: Tell us something, this is kind of a different kind of subject, tell us something about, well, what you like to do for enjoyment, aside from gardening, entertainment. What is your other part of your life, your social fun side?

JP: Well, I-fun side? Well, my friends and my relatives they all know my door is 01:05:00open anytime. I always have coffee or tea for them. I played tennis for years up until, well, up until last year. I loved it. My sister and I played it. We belonged to Marion's Tennis Club-he's the only Black person that owns a tennis club in Portland. When he first opened up, my sister and I decided that we were going to support him. We've been there ever since. This last year, I did not play tennis. Well, I played up until last year, March 31st, that was my birthday. I decided I'm going to give myself a tennis party, which I did.

RK: Wait a minute, now hold are you?

JP: How old do you think I am?

RK: Well, tell the um...

JP: Oh [laughs]. I'm 89.

RK: Well, that's... you've been playing tennis up until you were 88.

JP: 88. Uh-huh, and the only reason-

RK: That is amazing.


JP: The only reason why I really stopped it because of, well, I got vertigo. I got real dizzy and then my right knee started bothering me, but I loved it. Anyway, I played recreational. I played tennis. Ping-pong I'm really good at it [laughs]. I'm not bragging. Do you play ping-pong? I played the secretary of state, Richardson. I played him. He came to the house. I played him. Then he invited me down to Salem and we played down there. It was fun. I love sports, and I think that's what got me through school so easily, as far teaching was concerned, because most kids have all that energy. When I see them getting a little restless, I take them out and play sports with them. I didn't tell them what to do. I played with them. They loved it. I never had any discipline problems at all teaching, because sports and music were part of it.


RK: Tell us more about the music.

JP: Well, I came from a music family. My sister majored in music, my oldest sister, so she used to play in the choir at Bethel Church. I just loved. We grew up singing and harmonizing. As far as professionalism, I just played by ear. I don't know how, but I love music. I used to have, Bill Rutherford, and some of his friends come over and play from 10:00 until about 1:00 I'd fix lunch for them, and they'd play musical instruments. All of them that you see back there. I loved it. I loved it. Then he moved to Eugene.

RK: Tell us about this accumulation of, tell us what the instruments are that you have and how you got them.


JP: Well, Vibraharp, my husband was going to take Vibraharp lessons. We've always loved it. Then he got sick, and so he just sort of played by ear. Piano I play by ear. The bass-we were both going to take lessons, because we love the sound of it, but then he got sick, so I didn't follow through on that. The organ, is just like a piano, really. I play that by ear. When I was teaching school, I played the bass, ukulele. You know, it has a rich sound to it. Kids love music. If they got a little restless at all, I'd just say, let's sing a couple songs. We'd stop what we're doing and I'd play and they'd all sing. That's just, music is within me. I loved it.

RK: As you grew up, was there music in your household?

JP: Oh, yes, when we were little growing up, as poor as we were mother and dad got a piano. That's where my oldest sister started taking lessons. She had an 01:09:00ear for music. When our friends would come in, especially with teenagers, we'd come and we'd all sit around the piano and sing and then we'd dance and just had a lot of fun with music, because you know we didn't have any money to go out and go anywhere, but we always had fun with music. It's been basic for me.

RK: Your friends that you had then as a teenager, were they all African Americans or was it mixed?

JP: Yeah. They were all African Americans because there wasn't any integration, really, much. Even the ones that I went to high school with, they were friendly but then the restaurants wouldn't let us in and skating rinks wouldn't let us in. You end up with the people that you're comfortable with and you can do things with.

RK: Let's get back to our music. Then, in your household, so your sister took lessons and you sang.


JP: Yeah, we sang. We harmonized. All my sisters and I knew how to harmonize. My friends came in. They were good, too. We thought we were really good.

RK: Did the music come partly from church?

JP: Yeah. A lot of it did. Then the modern songs that were coming out. But, basically, church, because church always has such good harmony in it. You know, you'd hear the Mills Brothers, the Ink Spots, and all them sing there'd be a beautiful harmony. All my friends they had a good ear for it. We had many, many days of music that we enjoyed.

RK: Up until now, are you still getting together with people?

JP: No, Bill...Bill Rutherford decided to go to Eugene because he was a great grandfather by then. He was proud of that. He's only been down there about 3, 3 or 4 years. When he left it sort of broke up the group. I haven't had anybody 01:11:00come in since then. If you know anybody likes to play music wants to come and just-they are more than welcome.

RK: You have music and sports. What else?

JP: I like to read, too. Well, entertain. My husband and I always did entertain. We've had as many as 30 sit-down, 30 people for sit-down dinners and barbeque out in the backyard. It's just friends we've been making all along. I just had, my home's always been open. My mother was the same way. She always had her home open to all of our friends. They'd stay until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, but we knew that mother and dad were upstairs, so nothing went wrong [laughs].


RK: What kind of occasions do you entertain for?

JP: Well, I told you about the Saturday Sisters. That's on one day out of the month, and I have one of those days and the rest of them have, each one has a day out a month. I have had, for years, Christmas party with family. Also, New Year's Day party for years. That's when we get about 30 people. I usually cater the food in, as far as the meat, barbeque chicken and barbeque ribs, and then the friends would bring salads and desert stuff. That's usually January the 1st. We've done that for 30, 40 years.

RK: Let's talk a little bit about Christmas. Tell us about how your family...

JP: We meet here.


RK: ...celebrates.

JP: They still meet here, thank goodness. I usually have the tree right there. They come and they bring their kids and they're all grown now. My grandkids are all now in college, all 3 of them. Then anybody that's out that doesn't have a family, that's new in town, somebody always brings them. It's all my family.

RK: Describe it in detail like I've never seen it, if you were going to-

JP: I decorate, okay the Christmas tree goes right there, fully decorated, and all the gifts go under there. Then I have all these tables and I have Christmas decorations on the tables and Christmas music and they come and we laugh, cocktails. Then after that, we will, this is Christmas and New Year's, because I do both.

RK: Well, start with just one at a time.

JP: Okay, well the Christmas is just...

RK: Christmas.

JP: ...close family, close family. That usually is about 15, 15/16 people.


RK: So, that's, like...

JP: That's my, the close family is my 5 children and then their, my grandchildren, that's 8, then my son and his girlfriend, Roxanne. My other son and his friend and the one in Atlanta, Georgia, he does come up then. Then I have, well, my mother is another one that would sort of adopt friends. I have what we call an adopted sister. She comes. It's usually about 15 at that particular time. All the grandkids. Then, on New Year's Day, January 1st, it's just been a tradition for years, that all our friends and all of our relatives, and it usually ends up anywhere between 25 and 30 people. As I say, that's when we do the barbeque and they all bring salads and desserts and we eat. We sing. 01:15:00We play ping pong. Play cards.

RK: For Christmas, what do you eat for Christmas?

JP: Turkey. Turkey and ham, and the usual-baked potatoes, candied yams, vegetable salad, desserts.

RK: What kind of desserts?

JP: Whatever somebody brings. Cakes. Pies. That's usually it.

RK: So, you prepare, what do you prepare and what part of the means do other people, for Christmas, now.

JP: Okay, what I prepare, I prepare the caterer to bring me my barbeque chicken [laughs]. Barbeque chicken and barbeque. We have ham. I do the ham. Usually the meat and then all the other stuff that people bring.


RK: So, but you don't cook it yourself, the meat?

JP: No, I used to cook mustard greens and collard greens, but you get that many people you get tired after a while, so you spread it out. We still have it, though, and I still enjoy it. They bring their own wines, because you wouldn't believe it, all the entertainment that we've done, my husband and I, I don't drink. But if you go in there you see all those wine bottles. They bring it, and I tell them: take it home, if you'll drink it. They don't take it home. So, it's there.

RK: You have a whole case of it. On the other occasions when you invite people, is it all African Americans or do you now have some circle of friends that are both White and...?

JP: Oh yeah, because the first place my relatives, it's integrated relatives. My, for my daughter, is married to a Caucasian. She lives out in, she has a 01:17:00farm. She has horses, three or four, but her husband is Caucasian. Some of my friends, they come, their spouses are Caucasian. So, it's integrated. I have a couple of Asian friends that come. You probably know them, Nola? You know Nola? Bougo?

RK: Not yet. She's on that list...

JP: Oh, really?

RK: ...that...gave me.

JP: Oh, Nola and I have known each other for years. She was first, her first husband was a Black man, and they had a night club there on Lincoln, Southwest Lincoln. That's where I first-she used to sing there all the time. Then he passed away, and then she remarried. We're still friends. It's integrated. Then I've always had some of my college, some of my college friends. Since I've moved here in Lake Oswego, I've met some friends that owned a couple restaurants I 01:18:00used to go and eat in. They come up and we have tea and that's just sort of a normal, natural thing.

RK: So, there's probably been a change from those experiences that you've had as a child from being ostracized to...

JP: Integrated.

RK: ...a gradual type of integration.

JP: Yeah, because you know things do change. People's attitudes do change, even though sometimes it's hard to see, but prejudice and discrimination is a learned behavior. It is learned and that's why I know it can be eradicated if people really realize that. When I was teaching kindergarten one of the children brought a book. It was a pickaninny book. He was just so cute. He said, would you read this to my class. Of course, this was a Black person with big red lips. 01:19:00Oh. I couldn't. I said, well, let me put it aside. I have other books that kids want, children want me to read. When I got through, I said, take this book back to your mom and take this letter that I wrote her. I wrote her and I told her, you know, discrimination and segregation is all taught, and it's taught through stereotype and misbeliefs. I said, this book will do more damage than anything. She didn't realize. But I wrote it so it wouldn't ostracize her, but she could really internalize what I was saying. When I got through, she wrote me the nicest letter. I still have the letter somewhere. I had no idea. She said, at night when he goes to bed this is what we'd read to him. So, I sent her a list of books that she could read to him that she would eliminate that. She said she threw it away. But the letter meant a lot to me, because that meant that she internalized what I was saying and did something about it. Those are the kinds 01:20:00of teaching and education that I really like. You can wake people up.

RK: What about in terms of thinking about this kind of change. You're a very reflective person, so in, how have your own, did your own attitudes change some in terms of how then you were addressing the relations with White people?

JP: Did my attitude change? You mean, change you mean negative or positive or what?

RK: Well, your way of responding. I was thinking that, you know, you talked about the stereotyping which goes both ways with that experience with the blonde 01:21:00haired woman you had mistaken for someone else. I'm just wondering if through the years as people have, as some people might start having the different responses to the African Americans, whether then in turn you begin to have some different responses that are-

JP: I don't know if I've had any different responses, because, you see, like I said prejudice was taught. My parents re-taught in a way that you can't hold that against them. You have to think about what your goals are. In that way, I don't think that I changed in that. I've been more open to integration, definitely, and I've told my kids the same thing. The only time that I felt 01:22:00really uncomfortable, it was a short period of time, is when I visited the Black museum in Washington, D.C., which was about 3 weeks ago. A lot of things there, even though you knew on the top of your head existed, when you really saw it in reality the thing that went through my mind was how can a race of people hate somebody so much that they didn't even know them? How can they throw the families into the water? The children... how can you throw a baby in the water to drown? Those things did bother me over a period of time. I just couldn't understand a group of people could do that to another group of people that they didn't have time to understand. Then, to do the same thing for years, for years and that's why my father left Mississippi, for that same thing. The Ku Klux 01:23:00Klan. I don't think I told you what happened. The Ku Klux Klan was waking down, four of them on each side, dragging a black, pregnant woman on the street. My father was 16, high school, and when he saw this and he couldn't believe it. He asked somebody there what happened? She had refused to tell them where her husband was because she knew they were going to kill him. They were dragging her, trying to make her tell. Well, you know, those kinds of things you never forget. You never forget. That changed my dad's whole attitude about even getting an education, although he knew it was very important. Instead of him finishing high school, he came to St. Louis and insisted, after he got married, that his daughters would go to high school and college. Hopefully, they'd never 01:24:00have to see something like that. Those are some of the things that still go through my mind. I don't understand how people could be so cruel and not even know them. I don't understand that.

RK: What do you think about now, well, actually from what you just said how do you think that then, there are many, many people now, both Black and White, going to the museum. This is totally speculation, but how do you think that's going to be affecting both sides?

JP: Well, I think it's an absolute asset. Number one, you've got to know the truth. What I really liked about that museum is no matter what the Black has 01:25:00gone through all those generations, it was a lie in terms of whether they can read, whether they can write, whether they can be an asset to society. Because you see those kinds of things were taught to Caucasians that the Black man cannot read. He's not capable. Mormons taught it in their religion. People taught it in their religions. Yet, look what's happened. All the way through they end up with a Black President of the United States. So, what I'm saying is, all those were lies. You still have to rise above that and keep going.

RK: Tell us, I think we're coming, obviously we can keep talking, not all day, but five more years, but to kind of start to wind up as you're probably getting tired, too. When you look back in your life, what stands out the most in your memory?


JP: When I look back at my life, which I've done several times, I think the thing that stands out in my memory are several things. Number one, how lucky I was to have the parents I had, because what my dad saw and what my mother also has experienced, they didn't make it, they didn't allow it to be negative in their lives. They turned that around and they could see that there's a goal out there for their children. It was a lot of hatred and miscommunication, and that's hard. If you experience what they've experienced, you can also teach hatred. Some Blacks did, because it's a matter of survival. They've been so hurt. I think that was, my sisters and I have said that over and over again. We were really lucky to have the parents that we had. And the people, the friends 01:27:00that I've met all along the way. They've been very, very helpful, too. There are good people out there. I guess with all that I went through, and some of it I haven't even shared. Out of all it, I still feel there's a lot of good people.

RK: What would you say were the very best parts of your life?

JP: The very best parts of my life, was, number one, my family as we were growing up. We laughed and sang and had so much fun with no money [laughs]. It proved you don't have to have money to be happy. You have to have perseverance. You have to have a goal in life. That's so important. Then work towards that goal. Put your energy towards a goal that you are trying to reach. Human relations is so important. Friendship is important. Keep the friends that you 01:28:00have. Don't expect them to be perfect. Those are the things that kept... and be active. My tennis and my ping pong, and all those things that we did, we did with people that were happy, too, that could share those kinds of things. Right now, in about 15 minutes I'm supposed to meet some of my friends that I played tennis with. Now, I'm 89. I'm still having lunch with friends that I played tennis that I've played tennis-one's my friends and two are Caucasians. We've been friends for 50, 60 years. Those things, good things, can come out of all this.

RK: Well, everything is so positive. I hate to ask this question, but what about the not so good ones that stand out?

JP: What are you asking me about them?

RK: We were talking about the best parts in life? That's really a better place 01:29:00to end the conversation, but I do want to think what were some of the worst? You've probably already told some of them.

JP: Yeah. The worst ones, to work so hard in college and to be-I was chosen for Who's Who. I ended up being Student Body Secretary. I was president of my sorority, all of this in college. When I walked in that door, there was nothing but negativism. I ended up with a positive. In fact, I have it in my yearbook here, pictures that I was very successful in college. So, I have to think about that. I have to focus on the positive. If you focus so much on the negativism, you're going to be negative all your life, and all the good stuff that's out there, you're going to miss. I think the most important thing, and I told my sons that, the most important thing is education. If you get an education you 01:30:00can do a lot of positive things with people.

RK: Are there any things that you would have done, when you look back, that you would have done differently if you were able, do you think?

JP: I would have done differently...I probably would have taken some more music [laughs]. I'm so sorry I didn't do that. At this point, no. I think because my parents my parents kept saying, reach your goal. I had that goal focused so strongly that I don't, at this point, no. probably after we finish here things will come to me. I feel I lived a good life, that I was very fortunate, because I lived a good life in bad times. I'm thankful that I was able to survive.


RK: Thank you so much. Is there anything else you feel like you would really want to tell us that hasn't come out yet from any questions or you're just...?

JP: I still would like people to focus on an education with their kids. Be a family with their children. That to me was most, and we were poor, but we didn't know it. Because we had that piano music. There is no reason why parents cannot encourage their kids to finish school and to think upon a career and show them that you're supporting them in that way. That, to me, that's what got us through, because we didn't have any money. Then, my mother, because she was such a good mother, she got recognition. She got a lot of recognition. Mother of the year. She got some beautiful letters from Japan when she got mother of the year. 01:32:00You see, it's the way that you carry yourself. The negativism is going to be out there no matter. You're not going to be able to eliminate it. That's just part of life. You can make the best that you can out of life with positive goals and work towards them. I really believe that. All my sisters did the same thing. We all married, all have children, and we all look positive. We all love music. I think music is fundamental. Music and sports will get you through anything.

RK: Well, thank you so much for your time and this wonderful information. It's inspiring just to hear you talk.

JP: Oh, bless your heart.

RK: ... and to tell about your life, and I think you're amazing. If I could be like you when I'm 89 years old, I'll be happy.


JP: You can be better than me.

RK: I don't know. This has just been any wonderful. Do you have any questions or anything you want to ask us?

JP: No. I think you're doing a great job. When will I see some of this information done?

RK: That's going to be a long way down the line.

JP: Now, what do you mean by long way? Will I still be alive?

RK: It looks to me like you'll live until at least 120, so...

JP: My mother lived to be 100.

RK: Well, you're on the way.

JP: We didn't know how long she would have lived, because she was killed in an automobile accident. We have no idea. She was, we took her, for her 100th birthday we took her to Bonneville Dam, not Bonneville Dam... yeah, on a ship. 01:34:00See, [laughs] I forget sometimes.

RK: On one of those cruises?

JP: Yeah, uh-huh. Anyway, she was still walking. Happy. Had all her senses. We got on the ship. We announced that we had our mother there. The man asked her how old she was. We said, 100. He says, 100! We took her into the dinner, and he announced it: we have a lady here on the ship that's 100 years old. She just smiled. They said, she doesn't look it! They couldn't believe it. But we don't know how old she would have lived had she not been hit in an automobile accident. The man didn't stop in a stoplight. He went right into their car and demolished it. We rushed her to the hospital. All my sisters were there. we stayed the 4 or 5 days she was in the hospital. She was there laughing, telling 01:35:00us all crazy jokes. We just knew she was going to come out. The doctor came in one day and said, Mrs. Brock, how are you doing? He just yelled it at her. She said, I would do better if you wouldn't yell at me. I'm not deaf. We all fell out laughing. But she was so up in the hospital, we just knew she was coming home. Bev and I had gone to lunch, and the nurse said, may I speak to you two girls. We said, yes. She said, I need to tell you, your mother's dying. We just didn't believe her. She said, yes, all her vitals are closing down on her. We still couldn't believe it, because she was still up and laughing making us all laugh. When the nurse left, we looked at each other, she doesn't know what she's talking about. Mother lasted one more day, she went in a coma and passed away. The woman told us the truth. You know, I'm sort of glad she did tell us. Then, 01:36:00when it did happen to her, it wasn't a shock. We were just assuming we were going to take her back home with us and everything.

RK: Well, you were asking, it's a long process, because basically what we're talking about having this fancy camera, we need a lot more technology to be able to get this, what we've recorded, into a form that then will eventually, it's all digitized. For the virtual museum, setting that up is very complex. We're still working to get partners to work with us who have all the technology we 01:37:00need so that we can have something permanent. For that to happen is that eventually you're going to go online and you're going to type in "Oregon Black Pioneers Virtual Museum." It's going to be catalogued, and there will be interviews that are just what you can call "raw data," just nothing analyzed, just straight what you just told me. Then that would make it possible for researchers, or anyone, to look at as many of these and do their own historical analysis or whatever. Some of them what we want to be able to do is make separate videos, so we're interviewing several people, we get different themes. One theme that's coming out already is the strength of that belief in the need 01:38:00for education. I'm listening to different people. That's getting repeated. There's another part, too, that positive attitude, keeping some... so, eventually, we want to work to have separate little, short videos that would pick out a theme. Then, people can access this and they can set up their own exhibits within libraries, within schools, within any kind of community situation. It's going to provide historical data for academics, for historians, for anyone and also a means for communities to set up their own little educational programs.


JP: That's good.

RK: It's a process.

JP: Well, having gone to the Black museum in Washington, D.C., I see a need for this, because it's education that's right there, that you just access. Its worthwhile going back and checking. I'm ready to go back to the one in Washington, D.C., again. There's so much there that I didn't even know about, the history. It's educational.

RK: Well, and the point is, that people don't know about Oregon. Actually, who was it? I think it was Martha Rutherford who pointed out to me, I think it was her, that she noted they didn't have anything about Oregon in the museum. It was like-


JP: You mean the one here?

RK: No. I mean in Washington.

JP: In Washington, D.C.? No. I didn't see anything about Oregon, but they had enough information there that you can also say that part of that's Oregon.

RK: So, that's part of the whole idea here, is to get the history of African Americans in Oregon. So, Oregonians... you know, they don't know, they don't know about the history...

RK: I know.

JP: ...of African Americans here.

RK: You're right. You know, all the segregation, discrimination we experienced in high school. My college never knew it. My White friends that I met, they never knew it. When they would have something at Jantzen Beach, we couldn't go. It was... yet, no one at Jefferson High School even took a, to our knowledge, 01:41:00took time to find out why the Blacks weren't participate in those. We couldn't go. They had skating rinks parties, and we couldn't go. Even if they knew, I don't think they'd do anything about it, at that time.

RK: Well, I grew up in Washington, D.C., during the time of segregation and when integration of the schools was in 1954, I was in fifth grade. Yeah. I was in fifth grade, because my fifth grade teacher, her name was Mrs. Wishesson, warned us that what was going to happen was that the negroes were going to be coming into our schools, and if that happened she was going to quit.

JP: Yeah, that attitude.

RK: She's telling the children that. Well, when I was growing up, all our 01:42:00history was all about the south. Nobody ever told us about African Americans that were pioneers that went out west and were part of the western history. They didn't tell us.

JP: No. It's always negative.

RK: It was all, everything was just south. Even New England was great. That's no problem. It was just the south. This type of...

JP: Yeah. What you're really saying is it was taught. Segregation, discrimination was taught, not only through the religions but through education, through socialization, everything. All that was taught. It's still being taught with your president. Okay.

RK: Maybe we should stop [laughs]


JP: [laughs] I had to get that in there. I'm sorry. That man's just driving me crazy.

RK: I have to say don't says it's "my" president.

JP: I know. Everybody tells me that. I said, I can't claim him at all. I had to put him on somebody.

RK: Not me! Oh, my God.

JP: I know.