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Mattie Reynolds Oral History Interview - Session 2, 1993

Oregon State University
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STUDENT 1: We're interviewing Mrs. Reynolds, February 12, 1993. The first question we'd like to ask you is: where did you live before you came to Eugene and why did you leave to come here?

MATTIE REYNOLDS: I lived in Shreveport, Louisiana. I left because my husband had a job with the railroad.

S1: What kind of job was there for African Americans in this town?

MR: In Eugene?

S1: Yes.

MR: Railroad and sawmill.

S1: How did you feel when you came here?

MR: Oh, I didn't feel too bad because I didn't know nothing about Eugene at the time I came. Once I got here, I said I was going back home.

S1: How were you and your family treated?

MR: Pardon?

S1: How were you and your family treated?

MR: Well, we was discriminated against if that's what you mean. We couldn't go 00:01:00into cafes. We couldn't find a place to stay in.

S1: When you moved here was there a lot of racism?

MR: Was lots of what?

S1: Was there a lot of racism?

MR: Yes.

S1: Can you tell us about some of the laws?

MR: Can I tell you about some of the what?

S1: Some of the laws and how Eugene was in those days?

MR: Now, I don't know whether it was the laws or not, but it was the people. We couldn't rent no places to live. We couldn't go into no cafes, but one café. We just felt out of place.

S1: Where did you live?

MR: Here in Eugene.

S1: Yes.

MR: I've lived in several different places. When we first came to Oregon, we 00:02:00lived at Pry [?]. That was up on the sawmill, up on a railroad switch. We left then and came down to Fall Creek. We left Fall Creek and came down to Eugene thinking that we had an apartment to live in, but when we got to Eugene the woman said she was sorry because she thought his boss was going to rent the apartment for himself. She didn't know he was renting it for colored people. We couldn't live there, so we went over across the bridge on 99 and got a motel. The asked him to keep the kids in because if the kids was out in the area people would move out. Then we moved down between 6th and 7th on Pearl Street in a rooming house. As we moved in the back, white people the white people were moving out of the front. We stayed there for about a week and then we found a place out on 7th and Van Buren and moved out there. By the weekend some people 00:03:00come by to buy it and so my husband's boss man just bought the place for you so we would have a place to live. Then I went back south and got my other, I brought two children with me and I left two in Louisiana. I went back and got them and came out and they had lots of friends, kids, so they would always come over and play. One morning I got up and a policeman knocked on the door. I went to the door and asked him what was wrong. He asked me was those our bikes out there in the yard? I said, no. But probably it's some of the kids' bikes that plays around here. He said, no, someone had called and reported them stolen and they had brought them over in my yard to say that we had stole them. That's the kind of life.

S1: Was there an African American community here?

MR: No.

S1: How many black people were here then when you came up here?


MR: How many black people was here? There was 3 black women and about 6 or 7 black men. I see where they live. Mrs. Washington run the rooming house, a boarding house. They lived there with her.

S1: How was it to raise kids here?

MR: Now, I thought it was pretty good until my kids got to talking. They had problems in school.

S1: Can you tell us some of the problems that they had in school?

MR: No. They never told me. I'm sorry you missed my daughter. She had to go to work. She could have told you.

S1: Did you have any-

MR: But I know one thing about school. They did not encourage the black kids to major in nothing, because one of my daughters wanted to be a lawyer. Her 00:05:00counselor told her she has two strikes against her: one, she was colored. Another one, she was a woman. She couldn't very well go to try to be a lawyer. In later years, she went on to the university and got a degree. She is going back to be a lawyer.

S1: How many kids and grandkids do you have?

MR: How many children do I have?

S1: Yeah,

MR: Twelve.

S1: How many grandchildren?

MR: Forty-six. Great-grands is 30.

S1: Thirty great-grandchildren?

MR: Mm-hmm [yes].

S1: In those days, what did you do for fun?

MR: What did we do for recreation?

S1: Mm-hmm [yes].

MR: We went to this one café down there by the railroad station. It was called Durkis [?] then. We would go there. Go to the movie. That's about it. I went to 00:06:00church out there on the 11th and Chambers, to a little Baptist church until we organized St. Mark.

S1: Did you guys have any family gatherings?

MR: Not at that time. We do now. But we didn't then.

S1: Can you tell us about some of your family gatherings now?

MR: Hmm?

S1: Can you tell us about some of your family gatherings now?

MR: Well, we always have our family reunion out at Jasper Park every two years. We won't have it this year. We'll have it next year. It's when the whole family gets together.

S1: How about the music in those days?

MR: The what?


S1: The music?

MR: Music?

S1: Mm-hmm [yes].

MR: Oh. We had jazz and blues and Christian songs.

S1: Is there any special foods that you like to eat?

MR: We cooked soul food. Do you know what that is?

S1: Yeah.

MR: Well, that's what we cooked.

S1: How about the clothes in those days?

MR: The clothes? It was just like any other clothes. We didn't wear special clothes. We just wore clothes. Women back then didn't wear as many pants as they do now. We wore dresses.

S1: What did the black community do together when the back community started coming in?

MR: We had a social club for the black people in the community. Some was there.


S1: Can you tell us about your social club?

MR: Hmm?

S1: Can you tell us about your social club?

MR: Well, we would meet and then we would have entertainments, have parties, invite the community in.

S1: Can you tell us about the church St. Marks?

MR: St. Mark was built in 1949. We had about 12 members. It was organized in July 11, 1948. But we didn't get a minister until '49. His name was Reverend J.T. Taylor. He built the church with the help of the black community.

S1: It's the oldest church, isn't it?

MR: It's the oldest church in Eugene. It was a black church. Which, at that 00:09:00time, was a colored church. Then we, they said that was being discriminating to say colored church, so we named it Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. That took out the black, the colored.

S1: Did any of your family have any experience in the wars?

MR: In the what?

S1: In the wars?

MR: I had 3 brothers in the war. I had two sons went to service, but they wasn't fighting then. I had 3 sons in the service, but it wasn't no war at that time.

S1: What was your family's experience? Did they go to Vietnam or?

MR: I think my youngest, the younger one went over to Vietnam, but the two older ones didn't.


S1: So, did you do entertainment? What kind of music did you listen to?

MR: Generally, we had church entertainment, so we didn't have music.

S1: Were there any certain books that you read that you can remember?

MR: Huh?

S1: Were there any special books that you read that you can remember?

MR: No.

S1: When the African American community came here, did they organize or change anything in Eugene?

MR: Did they change anything in Eugene?

S1: Yeah, did they organize or at least try to change anything?

MR: Now, we never did have a community until here lately. In the early '50s and '60s we had our organization called CORE, but that was black and white. That's when we went out and picket people that wouldn't rent to blacks and picket, 00:11:00well, we did marches. We went to stores and put pressure on them to hire black people.

S1: What do you guys think of that cross up on Skinner's Butte that they put up there?

MR: That don't bother me.

S1: Do you know why they put that up there?

MR: No. That cross was there when I came here. It didn't bother me. At one time here in Eugene a cross was burned out there on our church lawn.

S1: What did you think about that? Was that-?

MR: Well, I really didn't like it, but it was hushed up, and that I didn't like because they were saying they didn't want people to know that things like that was happening in Eugene, but it did happen. They burned a cross on the church lawn out there and I think they burned a cross on a black family's home up there 00:12:00on Friendly Street.

S1: Can you tell us about any changes that you think have been made since then?

MR: Yes. There's been quite a few changes made. Blacks have been able to get jobs in places where they couldn't when my kids was out there looking for jobs. My kids was born and raised here and they couldn't find a decent job. But since the Civil Rights have came in they have opened up jobs to blacks. They wasn't at the time when my kids was out there looking for work.

S1: What do you think about the younger generation?

MR: The what?

S1: The younger generation?


MR: Well, I think they should press forward, not backward. If we don't stay on top of this thing, we're going to be right back where we were when I first came to Oregon. I was looking at the news last night about the skinheads and the Ku Klux Klan and things. We got to get in there and stay on top of that.

S1: Yeah. I saw that. That was messed up. Do you have any like heroes?

MR: Have any what?

S1: Heroes? Nowadays.

MR: Huh-uh [no].

S1: When you were younger, did you have any heroes?

MR: Yeah, Martin Luther King was a big hero of mine and Malcolm X. They were in two different environments but they both made good for the black people.

S1: Did you ever see Martin Luther King? Did you ever go on any of his-?


MR: Yeah, I went to see him in Portland.

S1: If you have a message for young people, what would it be?

MR: To stay in school and get a good education and don't look down on yourself. Always look up for higher height, but always put God in front. If you put God in front, you can't go wrong.

S1: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?

MR: Yeah, stay out of trouble. No drinking. No marijuana. No crack or cocaine. Put all of that aside and go on and get a good education.

S1: That's all what you got?

MR: Huh?

S1: Is that all?

MR: Mm-hmm [nods yes].

S1: Thank you very much, and we had a good interview.


MR: Thank you.

S1: You have a good day.

MR: I'm going to try to.

S1: Okay.