Interview with Edward (Buddy) and Steve Clayton.

Courtney Robinson 2005

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Interview Participants
EC
Edward Clayton, interviewee (male)
SC
Steve Clayton, interviewee (male)
CR
Courtney Robinson, interviewer (female)
SS
Sam Stiegler, interviewer (male)
CR
March 6, 2005 at Mr. Clayton's house on Arlington Street in West Medford. Also present are Sam Stiegler interviewing and his son Steven Clayton. So we can start right now with just a general background of your life growing up and maybe education, your religion early goals or dreams that you had. Just a background to get to know who you are better.
EC
Okay. Well I lived in West Medford practically my whole life except for two years. I was born in Cambridge. Moved here when I was two years old. I have lived on two streets for my entire life.
EC
And I went to the Hervey School, grammar school. From there to the Brooks,.to the Hobbs and then to Medford High and graduated in 1946.
EC
Growing up as a child in West Medford we never knew of problems that existed outside the area. We were content to stay within our boundaries and most of the things that were going on in other parts of the world in the state we were not concerned with. We were happy here in West Medford. And it was a nice area.
EC
And after I came out of school, I went in to the service. Went into the field artillery and I was in the medical corp. I was assigned to Camp McCoy in Wisconsin which is now a fort. And I went to medical school down in San Antonio, Texas for the government and then back to Wisconsin. And when I was discharged I settled down.
EC
I didn't like the army so I did not stay in. I came home and I went to work for Simmons Mattress Company which was in West Medford at the time. I worked there until I went into the post office in 1954.
EC
I stayed for thirty-three years in the post office plus my two years of service which gave me thirty-five years.
EC
Had a multitude of jobs. I started off as a foreman in South Postal Annex in 1970. And from there I went through different stations and branches as manager and finally came to Medford. Which was my hometown which, I was very glad to be the top postal official in your hometown. That is what people dream about.
EC
But then I took a promotion from there which afterwards I was kind of sorry I left Medford but I took the area manager's job who was a larger job. You had fifty offices reporting to you and that is really what took your time up. I never had any time at home. There was always something going on in the post office that kept me busy.
EC
And really I enjoyed my career in the post office. It took, like I said it took up a lot of time it was sort of consuming your life you know you live for the post office at that time. You are waiting for the phone call to come at any time of night. A window was broken down in Green Harbor or someone broke into the post office in Marshfield or there was a fire in an office in Mattapan and those you had to get up and go because at times if it was serious enough you had to make arrangements to move the personnel that worked in the post office to another area.
EC
And...
CR
So that fire. . .was that the one that occurred on Easter Sunday that you told...?
EC
It was Easter Sunday morning in the Mattapan Post Office. The phone rang naturally I got up jumped up and answered it.
EC
And, they told me there was a fire in the Mattapan Post Office and that they needed me over there right away. Now I hung up the phone. I started getting dressed and then my wife says to me what was that where are you going? I said well there is a fire in Mattapan the Post Office. I got to go over there. She says what are you a fireman now?
EC
But that is the way things were. I had to go to Green Harbor one time at two o'clock in the morning because somebody broke a window in the Post Office you know. And they broke in and they did a lot of shifting around and throwing stuff around that we had to clear up.
EC
But there was all kinds of calls like that. Another time I got a call from the Post Master down in Hull. The ocean was coming. The post office was right on the ocean in Nantasket and the waves were, coming up over the barrier and they were coming in to the office and he wanted to know what to do. I told him he better put his hat and coat on and get out of there. [laughing] But it was funny he was a local guy here too. He lived in West Medford at the time.
CR
So you mentioned before that West Medford was a tight community and that you did not really. . .was it that you did not really know what was going on with the outside world or that you just never experienced it?
EC
We never experienced it. We were not concerned with it. Even things that went on in Boston and you know South Boston or Roxbury. . .you just did not concern me growing up as a young person you know because it was like everything was nice here, We enjoyed each other. It was a real tight community.
EC
And I'll tell you I never witnessed segregation really what it really was.. .I read about it...heard about it but went in the army I witnessed it. Because when I left Wisconsin to go to San Antonio, Texas to school...everything was good from Wisconsin to Chicago from Chicago to St. Louis.
EC
Then when I got to St. Louis there were five of us. And I was a senior rank at NCO so I had the meal tickets and the train tickets. Now they told me the four soldiers that were with me could go in to the Pullman but I could not. I had to go in the coach. So I said well look I am in charge of the group...I got the tickets...and they didn't care. They said you ride in the coach and they are going in the Pullman.
EC
That was an overnight trip so I was a little upset about that. I never witnessed it before. So I went and found the officer in the train station that was in charge...there was one, [crash] there is one in every train station during wars you know. So I went to him and explained what the situation and he said oh no wait a minute we will straighten this out. So he went and he found the train master and he told him...he said...you know if this gentleman cannot go in to the Pullman he said the train is not going to leave this station.. .it will stay right here.
EC
So now they got their heads together they did everything. . .see how foolish it really is. They put me in a private compartment all by myself. I had my own fan in the ceiling for ventilation. My own men's restroom. Everything in a private compartment to keep me out of that Pullman.
EC
And what happened on the way to Texas was an over night tour...I said well...the conductor told me you do not need to come up for anything. Anything you want call me and I will get it for you. Well he was on his feet the whole trip because I called him every fifteen minutes to get me something...a glass of water...some ice...a sandwich. But that was the first I witnessed it. And then when I got to Texas I really saw it. Too many stories to even innumerate, but everybody realizes what it was. But we did not, in Medford we did not see that. None of it. None of it.
CR
Did you experience anything at all even from going to the Hervey to the Brooks and then to the High School?
EC
I never did personally. No. No.
CR
And you mentioned in the army that you worked in the medical corp. and you went to med school is that right?
EC
I went to Fort San Houston to Medical School
EC
Well it was actually for a service technician. You know
CR
Ok
CR
It was a nine-month course and, it was interesting. I liked it. And when I came back I went to work up at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin. They put us in to the hospital. I worked at the hospital and I worked there until the outfit got ready to go overseas. And when it got ready to go overseas I didn't have enough time to go overseas left in my enlistment so. . .I got called in to the reserves so they sent me to Camp at Indiana and I was discharged there and came home from over there.
CR
Now why. . .if you do not mind me asking. . .why was. . .did you not really like the medical corp.. . .was it something you did not want pursue? Was it because of lack of availability of jobs?
EC
Well, no I just didn't really...there wasn't many jobs around...I did not really like working in a hospital you know...it just wasn't my thing. So when I came out there was jobs available over at the mattress place so I went to work there.
CR
And how was it that you began working at the post office...in South Postal...Boston? You know...how did you get...find out about the job...was it something...?
EC
Well when you come out from the service they give you different civil service jobs.
CR
Oh okay
EC
They give you different flyers that tell you what jobs are opening and all that.
EC
And what I did was I took the fireman's job in Medford and I also took the Post Office. And I did get called for the fireman but at the same time I got called for the post office but the money was better at that time in the Post Office than it was in the Medford Fire Department.
CR
Oh okay.
EC
So I took the post office.
SC
Then again [sitting down] ...the Post Office would have been a lot safer.
EC
That is right.
CR
And you are still a firefighter later...
EC
Do not think I did not think about that. . . [laughing] getting up at three o'clock in the morning in the wintertime and going out to fight a fire. It was not my thing.
CR
Right.
CR
So do you think that kind of helped put your foot in the door? Do you think that had you not been in the civil service would it be possible to get a job, I mean had you not been in the army but through the civil service do you think there would have been struggles to work in the post office?
EC
Yeah
EC
It would've, it would've been hard to get in. It really would. Yeah. Because they were only taking veterans. And in fact they were taking disabled veterans first. They went to the top of the list. And a regular veteran came after that. And a person who wasn't a veteran. . .they did not have any chance at all to get in. I got to wait...I waited...after I got in I waited seven years before I got a career status. Now it takes about a year, year and a half. But at that time every time a disabled vet took the exam he went ahead of you.
CR
Right.
EC
So you just stayed still. For seven years and then I finally did make it.
CR
Did you ever have any issues with. . .you know racial prejudice or anything regarding, um, that kind of experience...in the post office...were you one of...?
EC
No, no, no, yeah, The post office was not really that bad. No. It was not. As far as promotion opportunities were it was tough.
CR
Right.
EC
But I mean as far as employees. . .employee upon employee it really wasn't that bad. But it...at times I used to go to meetings. The managers meeting and I'd be the only African-American there. You know and you wonder...you say to yourself with a...like a fourteen...sixteen percent workforce of Afro-Americans why there weren't more supervisors you know. But then as it went along it got better. And then, to tell you the truth at one time there were ten Afro-American supervisors in the post office that lived in West Medford.
CR
Really?
EC
We had the most of any area...tight area. And what happened one time...as I went up in grade I had to sit on promotion boards for people who were starting to be supervisors. So one fellow, I'll never forget it. He came in and what they do is they sit down and you ask them questions and you sort of lead them into telling about their career and everything so that you have something to look at to see which one you are going to promote. And when he got all through he said can I say a word and I said sure whatever. . .whatever you want to say. And he says do you have to live in West Medford to be a supervisor in the post office? [laughing] Which I thought was pretty good.
CR
Yeah.
EC
Yeah, But that, on the whole, outside of promotional opportunities it was like everywhere else. It was tough. It got better as it went along though, yeah.
CR
Now at the Post Masters' meeting you said you were the only African- American that really...when you really kind of felt. . .?
EC
Well that was when I first made manager. Yeah. And every once in a while somebody would say something that would kind of upset you, you know. And one time we were having, things like this bother me. We were having a meeting at Auburndale at the Holiday Inn and there was a big sign on it as you walked in that the pool was closed for the day. And one of them said oh I see the pool is closed today. They must have known you were coming. So things like that...you know...they thought it was funny but it wasn't. It wasn't funny at all.
CR
Right.
EC
And you know. . .but in order to keep the job.. .and there were many times when I felt like giving it up really. But then I would say to myself well.. .it's keeping me in the house. . It's feeding me. I can take it. I can take it. They aren't going to drive me out.
CR
Now before when we met you mentioned that you had more than one job at this time or...?
EC
Oh yeah, yeah. i was working two jobs.
CR
. . .In addition to being Post Master and having all this responsibility...?
EC
Yeah. I worked at Symmes Hospital.
CR
Oh in Arlington.
EC
For eight years on the maintenance crew. And then what happened is my wife got sick. She worked at the post office also for a short period of time but when she got sick and had to come home that is when I had to. Make up the difference in salary and that is when I started working...at one time I was working three jobs.
CR
Oh wow.
EC
I was running into myself going out the front door coming back and forth. But we do what we need to do. And she was sick and the kids were young and you know...they needed clothing and sneakers and shoes and everything so I had to work. Didn't kill me I am still here. [laughter]
CR
And you said you retired from the post office after...?
EC
1986.
CR
1986.
CR
Okay. Now kind of going in to West Medford and what it was like...things that maybe Steven can't tell us. We kind of already touched upon what was going on in Medford. But how have you seen anything kind of change
EC
Yeah
CR
From when you first came to West Medford even to now...or through Steven's generation...?
EC
Yeah Definitely.
EC
Big, big change in West Medford. Big change. When I was growing up there was a lot of open fields. There were very few houses. There was big spaces between houses but now they've built in every possible lot that they can build in. They are putting houses so close together now. And the...the make up of the community changed too. At one time it went...deep into Afro-Americans there were a lot. Now it is less. It is more of a mixture of everything you know. Which is good for the community. But, there's no more open spaces that is for sure.
CR
And how do you feel about this project that we are working on to restore the history of West Medford? You know...what kind of...do you think is important that we know that we're losing or that you know people have not learned about, you know?
EC
Well what it is...is the different people in West Medford. If we don't get it down in writing or somewhere, our children are going to know nothing about their past. You know like we have a lady down that lives right down the street. She had the first, she was the first Afro-American hairdresser to have a beauty parlor in West Medford. And then there was a lady the next street over she had a beauty school in Boston. The Newton School of Beauty where she taught. She had many students going there, really. We had barbers that had their own business. We had stores, two stores here owned by people in the community. But those things will be gone by the boards you know. We had a...well they named a school after her so she probably will be remembered but Madeline Andrews...she was one of the...I guess the first School Committee member.
CR
Right.
SC
She made the good peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
EC
Right. But...you know things like that will go by the boards and they will not know anything about their backgrounds or...if anybody had anything. And even my grandkids now. . . unless you tell them about different things they really don't know.
CR
Right.
EC
And it's a shame that it is not taught in the school system to let them know that there are other parts in Medford that have something besides the Royall House and places like that, you know. That are taught. And there were. There were quite a few. We had a judge...that lived down here. Nobody really knows the judge...nobody really knows that he was a judge...I don't think my grandkids know that...Oliver was a judge...they know him, Hi Mr. Oliver, but they don't know that he was a judge.
EC
And uhh...
SC
Same with Mr. Fields.
EC
Yeah Lonnie Fields who was in the White House. He must have been under six or seven different presidents.
CR
Yeah we are actually...
SS
He's my nominee.
SC
When we were growing up...their house was right next to the little store that we would visit all the time. And you would go by and you would visit but you would never see him and you would always say, Where is he? How come he's not here? And Mrs. McLaughlin, right? That was what her name was...
EC
Yeah Mclaughlin.
SC
She would explain that he had a job and he was away. Really never said what it was because we was just kids, you know.
SS
Who was Mrs. McLaughlin?
SC
Mr. Fields wife.
SS
Oh his first wife Edna?
EC
Well that was her name. . .when she married she became Fields but before that it was McLaughlin.
SS
His second wife or his first wife?
EC
No his. . .the one that...
CR
Mayland?
EC
Yeah. Mayland, yeah.
SC
And it was like. . .he was there but he was never there. If you can imagine what that is like. Okay. And it was not like he had passed away. . .they were divorced or separated. You know everything was normal just like a family would've been. But he just wasn't there.
EC
He wasn't there.
SC
Which is kind of strange to a certain degree.
SS
When was this?
SC
When was this? I would have to say like maybe fifties. . .late fifties early sixties.
EC
It had to be in the early sixties I would say because I...his son-in-law was in the post office also. Yantsy. He was a superintendent of registry section...I worked with him. But there were a lot of things down there. I can't even really think of them all. Rowe, Mr. Rowe down the street. I do not know whether anybody mentioned him or not. He had a moving business. . .he had an office on Mass. Ave. in Arlington. So he had a nice business going. Really good business.
SC
Was it his brother who had the car...
EC
His brother had the car business over there...doing things...cars and all of that. And Mr. Parigm was on Jerome Street he was one of the top artist, he did all of the artist work in the City of Medford in fact. . .the signs and things that they needed. I don't know. . .someone probably mentioned him...I don't know, but uh.
CR
Okay. So. . .we can talk more about the community with Steven and everything...but for now...I asked you before and you were rather humble...so why...I mean...the quote that we have here from the thing...from the Remembrance Act is that..."the history contained in West Medford both prior to and following the passage of the Civil Rights of 1964. During these periods, and often against overwhelming socioeconomic odds, many Afro-American men and women were pioneers, artists, entrepreneurs, and leaders. They achieved notable distinction, mobilized people to act, and supported the larger community. Many made numerous sacrifices in order to pave the way for others to follow. Those individuals we document will be selected both on the basis of their achievements and contributions." So that's pretty big stuff. They chose you. So how do you feel about that? Did. . .I mean I remember when I first asked you . . .you were kind of like I don't know...
SC
He won't say nothing.
CR
You are very humble. We'll have to get it out of Steven later.
SC
He won't say nothing.
CR
Did you realize, you know, when you were doing this, you know, sitting one among you know, sixty other postmasters that how big of an impact you would have later on and what you were doing?
EC
No not really at the time I didn't.
CR
Were they kind of personal struggles and you did not realize that they were going to being, you know, on the larger side?
EC
Well really I didn't...I knew I had a job and I knew, you know, it was going to be tough. In fact when I got promoted it was explained to me...you know...that it was really going to be tough. And that...you know...they thought that I could do it...the usual thing...but it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. You know. . it turned out it was a lot easier than I thought. There were times when I wanted to pack it in and say the heck with that envelop and dig ditches before I finish this job off. But after it got going and it got a little easier along the way.
CR
Now did you...in terms of your family life...obviously you not being there did that...you know the relationship with your wife was it hard because you were working so many hours and always out...you know...either working one job or the other and with your kids did you feel like you were ever...influence or was it just like the stress of being in the post office that made you want to leave?
EC
Well the post office was really stressful. There was no doubt about it. It was stress all day long from the time you went in in the morning until you left at night. .
CR
Right.
EC
And it was hard not to bring it home. So she did a wonderful job controlling me. Because I would come through that door like a tiger sometimes and...I wanted to tear the house up and she'd kind of calm me down. And I had to stay away from the kids because if they did something I would be all over them. [laughing]
SC
I thought I was the only one he got mad at.
EC
I'd be all over him. But it was from the job. And it was hard not to bring it home. You know because you were in it all day long. It was hard to just walk out the door and put your hat on and everything disappears.
CR
Right
EC
And another thing...oh she was terrific...in fact...with the different...she worked in the post office so she understood it which was good...it was in my favor but...I would listen to the weather report at night and it would say it was going to snow in the morning. And when I was in Medford I had sixty-five mailmen working for me. And I knew if it snowed that night there would be about twenty of them that would call in sick. Cause They're not going to come in and deliver mail in the snow. And I would lay awake all night worrying about it. And she said to me why would you listen to the weather report, just go to bed and forget it. Don't listen to it. [laughing]
SC
Turn it off in November and turn the weather back on in April.
EC
Because I would lay awake all night worrying about how many guys are going...if I am going to get all the mail delivered. . .
CR
Were you postmaster during the Blizzard of 1978?
EC
Yeah. If fact, that is when I went to Medford in 1978! That's when I went to Medford.
CR
Well that must have been...
EC
In '78, During the Blizzard of 1978, I was working in Brighton but I could not get to work so I was home.
EC
The Post Master of Boston who was my boss, the big boss, he called me and he says, I want you to go down and open up the post office in Medford. I said open it up in Medford and he said yeah you can walk down there it's no problem. So I went and I picked up the regular clerk...that lived...one guy who lived on Sharon Street and we went down. He had the key. We went down and we opened up the post office. We had to walk naturally because you couldn't take cars on the street. So we went down and we opened it up and you won't believe it but people came in looking for mail.
CR
Really?
EC
Yeah. And there was nothing there for them because the mail couldn't move. You couldn't bring it out from the South Post Office.
SC
So opening mail was like one of the highlights of your day.
EC
So what we did we stayed there...finally on the third day they announced that all postal employees that lived in Medford that worked in other offices that they could report to Medford and we we'd find jobs for them there.
CR
Oh okay.
EC
So what we did. We had guys coming in from...who worked in Woburn Post Office but lived in Medford...that worked in Somerville but they lived in Medford. So what we did, . we got a whole lot of shovels and had them shovel. They shoveled out the mailboxes. They shoveled but they had to walk from mailbox to mailbox.
EC
But see, I was still manager at Brighton though.
CR
Right.
EC
So when the storm was over I had to go back to Brighton. So then the job in Medford opened up and when it opened up I put in for it because I liked it when I was there. I was only there like seven or eight days but I liked it and it was close to home. So I put in for it and I got it. So that's, that's the year I ended up going to Medford. I was there from 1978 to 1981 before I got promoted.
CR
Okay. I think that kind of concludes this portion of the interview. Do you have any other individual questions for Mr. Clayton right now?
SS
I guess one question I came up was. . .you said you worked in South Boston?
EC
Yeah.
SS
When was the time period for then, when you worked...?
EC
South Postal?
SS
Uh-huh.
EC
From. . .when I got promoted in 1970 I was there for about...less than two years, minimum of a year but I did not like it. It was nights.
SS
Well South Boston at that time it was just before...the busing and the riots...and everything that went down in the early seventies...
EC
But it wasn't...it wasn't actually in South Boston. It was in...the territory is South Boston but it was South Postal which was South Station.
SS
Okay.
SC
Where the trains are.
EC
Where the trains are. That's where it was right there. That's the big post office but actually it is in South Boston but it is way on the outskirts...
SC
You parked. . .where was the garage at. . .the garage was in South Boston.
EC
The garage was in South Boston.
SC
When you were manager you used to have to go down there and pick up your car.
EC
Pick up my car there, yeah.
EC
But different things happen. You mention South Boston and what was going on. One time I do remember. I had the government car and I parked it in front of the South Boston post office because I had to go over there. That was one of my offices. He worked for me. And I had to go over there to talk to him. I got out of the car. Went in to the post office and three kids came up with baseball bats and broke all the windows in the car. The windshield, The side windows, the whole thing.
EC
So I called the South Postal and I told them I'm not coming back. I'm not going out of this post office until you come and get me. I said the car is out there and it needs to be towed because all the windows are broken out of it. I told the whole story.
EC
So what they did, they sent the Postal Police over.. .the car. . . Postal Police...
CR
Postal Police?
EC
Yes. They picked me up to take me back to South Postal. And they sent somebody from the garage to take the car back. But that was one of the things that happened, you know, little different things like that, you know.
SS
That was my question. I did not think it would be too easy to be an African American employee. . .
CR
And In charge...
SS
At that point in time.
EC
yeah, No, it was not. But, I didn't, I went over to South Boston ten times...dozen times maybe...nothing ever happened. That one time, they yelled slurs and broke out the window, you know.
CR
And that's when you were, you were in charge of them too...?
EC
That was later on, that was up, that was probably around 1982. . .so it wasn't early on. That was late.
CR
I do not know if we should stop the tape now.
[tape pauses]
CR
Okay. This is Courtney Robinson again interviewing Steven Clayton. I am in the presence of Edward Clayton and Sam Stiegler on Arlington Street. It's about 11 AM. So now I am going to ask you kind of about the relationship in your family life from your perspective with your father working as much as he did and being a kind of leader and pioneer. And just to get some background of you and your education.
SC
Well you mentioned the part about him being humble. Um Yeah. He's very humble, very quiet. That's his personality um. And you know, he's...that's part of the reason why he is a great person to me. Um, When I growing up and this was the first piece that I ever really...I go back to this spot all the time when I talk to a lot of people about different things and growing up and him. Um, He's a heck of a baseball player which he did not say anything to you about.
CR
Oh yeah, I remember you saying that.
SC
He was a heck of a...yeah...track star too. And he probably has got some photographs in the yearbook book or something like that. But he never said anything to you about that. Ok And that's just an example of what he is like. And I learned to play baseball with girls. They showed me how to hit the ball. How to run, catch. And I was pretty good. I was pretty proud of it too.
SC
And at one point I sat there and thought about it you know...I said he was a good athlete...what happened. And the reason why is that he was trying to put sneakers on our feet...jeans on our behinds and you know...an opportunity to you know...do something.
SC
And um, Sometimes you need to make a decision on you want to do this or you want to do that. And he sacrificed that part of his life so that we might have something for our life. And that, I thought that was like a pretty big thing.
SC
Um, That little trophy up there on the mantel okay, we have that in our family because of him okay. I was here and I grew up in Medford and I knew a lot of people in Medford and uhh, same thing with my brothers going down the line. But even though he was out working, you know, twenty-four/seven, for the United States Postal Service you figure how does he get the time to make an impression not a community but a city. So we bring that home, okay. Being an Afro- American family too.
CR
Right.
SC
Okay, I found that very overwhelming. To this day, you tell people stories and their eyes open up and they look at you and they say, "what?!" Sometimes little things get done like that and it reinforces the fact that there might be a big guy upstairs that has something to do with what happens. You know.
CR
And the trophy that is the Family of the Year Trophy?
SC
That is the Family of the Trophy. Right.
SC
And, and that's just an example of the kind of things he has always provided. Leadership. You know, you get to that point and you think, what would dad do?And like I said before, sometimes I thought I was the only one he got mad at because he never seemed to get bothered by too much.
SC
Um, My mother was the antagonist. She was the one that wanted to stand up on her back legs and fight, and do this. He would fight if you got him, you know, rilled enough you know. But I think my personality of sitting there and dealing with things and compromising and um using diplomatic avenues to deal with situations I think comes from him.
SC
And I also have this little mean streak inside of me that really doesn't do too much you know, in a positive sense but it's there and that is my mother. And, you know the things that make you a person basically come from that.
SC
But, that's one of the things that, you know, was always very big to me when we were growing up as far as, you know he was concerned. You know he was always gone. He was always working. You know, the Elks, newspaper routes, Symmes. There was almost one particular time where you could go anyplace within the local area and probably run in to some place where he had worked before. [laughing]
SC
And um you know, I'll tell you another little story. I got this job working in the post office as a temporary and I went in and I basically just kind of like tried to keep...you know to myself...because you know I did not really know many people and it was a night job. Which you would be surprised what strange people are out there working at night.
SC
And while I was working there was a gentleman that was asking about me. We used to call him the doctor because he looked more like a doctor than a supervisor. He had glasses, about six-two, white hair, good dresser,...this was about one o'clock in the morning. My boss would come up and say, "You know Arthur has been asking about you". I said, "really?"He says, "Yeah". I said, "Oh, what does he want with me?" He said, "I do not know but he just comes up and asks how you are doing and da da da da da."
SC
I said oh, okay, this guy knows me but I do not know him. I have not been here long enough to do anything wrong. You know I'd been on time and everything so, I really didn't think too much about it. And then I caught a rumor that he was asking about me because he worked for my father. And then I started to catch that little thing like, you know something I've been through this before.
SC
It happened one time with Rudy Smith. He was the first black police officer. That was my uncle and I was lucky to have him, you know, with me too. And I got stopped by a police officer. I had my license in the glove box but the picture hadn't been taken. It had been renewed but I just never had the picture taken. I pulled the license out and showed the police officer. He looked at it. Went back to the car to check it. Came back and he said your license is good it has been renewed but you had better get your picture taken.
SC
And then I mentioned Rudy's name which was the wrong thing because he had an altercation with Rudy too. I talked to Rudy about it and Rudy straightened me out about it and I understood that so when I ran in to this particular episode I kind of had a little bit more experience with it so I was a little more ready, you know...to deal with it.
SC
But um, you know, as far as the heritage goes within the City, I believe it's lost. Okay. Um, I think you guys from Tufts and Brandies are putting together a humongous effort to put this back together. I think it key, okay...for us to be able to leave some sort of trail.
SC
If someone was ever to take a peek and look at things. Other than...you know...we would have to go door to door and knock on doors and ask you know. . .what do you remember. . .what do you remember. . .so I mean to have something here that could be online or a book or even something down at the Historical Society.
SC
The neighborhood is not the same no more. You could next door and knock on the door and get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There was always something to do, someplace to go. We all leaned on each other. There was a Community Center where you would go for Saturday after meals. They'd have you know, . . recreation things for us to do. Day camps for the kids to go to.
SC
It was something, that if I had to hit it in a direction, it was almost like a cross-section of a City. Almost like if you took a slice of an orange. We were like a city within a city so to speak and we only had three streets. So it was a little bit more unique in the fact that we were all put together.
SC
And you know, basically had to go ahead and survive. Owners of businesses, they were always someone next door to you. I would always run back and forth from house to house. Which was one of the reasons why I was always up and out early.
SC
Because Mr. Dawson was a musician who was a professor at Berkeley and a very good drummer. You heard a lot of musicians today mention his name and it is almost like, wow you know him. To me he was just Mr. Dawson next door and I would go to the store for Mrs. Dawson for some milk and bread every now and then.
SC
And Mr. Bowden, he was next door on the other side of us. He was on the trains going cross-country. Chicago, Colorado or whatever. And he wasn't there so I would run to the store for her every now and then. [laughing] It is tough enough trying to get things done at home without having to go back and forth.
SC
Mr. Sanhouse, He was your boss at one time right, so I had to keep an eye out for him. And the lady across the street the Needhams, which was the white family too which was kind of unique. She used to give me a ride to school every now and then so I had to kind of like. . .you know. . .keep things a little bit cool over there too because you would out. . .cold out in the morning. . .you had to go two miles to Medford Square. It was kind of good to deal with.
CR
This sense of community that your father touched a lot of people. . . How did that work for you and against you at times? I mean, was it constantly feeling like, Mrs. Works who is on the Committee. . .she kind of talks about how you know everyone was everyone's mother...
SC
Oh yeah.
CR
If something happened everyone knew about it and everyone was watching out for you?
SC
Yeah.
CR
Did you get that kind of thing...?
SC
Yeah
SC
He's got a footprint, we will put it this way. He's got a footprint out there in the snow that I'm never going to be able to fill. All right. I realize that. I'm not even going to try to do it, okay. But I know that, that same sense is in me, instilled in me. And, you can try to do what you can do but you know.
SC
I can remember, you know, trips to the airport. . . helping people back and forth from the airport. . .back and forth from the doctors, um, you know to the point where you know. . .people helping other folks with cars. . .getting cars going. . .doing this. . .doing that. Painting. . .putting houses together.
SC
Parties. You know, they used to have a party. Belle used to have a party at new years. They used to have this party at New Years.
CR
The Sherwoods...they had parties?
SC
Yeah the Sherwoods were like that too.
SC
It was, It was really very unique to that point where it was almost like. You ever see those T.V. shows where the Mayor is the Post Master and the milkman and, it was almost the same thing here.
SC
You know, even though he was your next-door neighbor. If you needed to find out you know, something about trains or you needed to take train, you would go talk to him over here. If you wanted to see a good show or some talent and some people were coming to town. He introduced me to Dave Brubeck one time and I did not know who he was. And now, it's a big thing. And the neighborhood was like that. And everybody had a certain role that they did play. And he had a very huge role that he played, you know, in doing those things.
CR
So do you think your Dad is kind of not telling us how important. . .you know...what are kinds of things that the community might have gained that he might not even realize his influence had? I know he was.you mentioned before that at the High School you were a band parent, he was a band parent.
SC
Right.
CR
So was it kind of things like that where even with his work...he was involved...?
SC
Want to know something. . .there are things that he has been through and done that he has not even told me.
CR
Okay.
SC
So, you know what I mean...there is a case of it. You could open it up and it would be like Pandora's Box.
SC
We speak about being African Americans okay. That is on one level. Okay if you are a Native American, you know, my impression of that was we were a step below that because they were listed on reservations. You know, I never could understand that but you know, we have that in our background too.
SC
I think there's a few people in the community that probably fall in to that. It is a thing where you know you are growing up. . .and you know he is up in the morning and he is gone.
SC
You come home and he has got one shoe on and one shoe off sleeping in front of the T.V. There used to be this thing called Conrad that would come on at two o'clock in the morning and it would be just like the color patter right, and you would here this. . .bbbbmmm, right, you would hear that on in the living room, or the den, we would walk by and there he was. . .one shoe on. . .one shoe off. You would go in there and wake him up. I am watching T.V. No you are not. . .Conrad is on...he is a hell of detective...I said no T.V. is gone Dad. Go on to bed.
SC
Um...so he was good at that...keeping cars running. I sit there and talk about some of my troubles with my cars and he turns around and just hits you with a story or two which kind of gives you a feeling and reinforcing the fact that you know, it happened before. People have dealt with it before and you will make...you will make it just as...you know we did.
SC
And, um, you know it's, it's something very good to have those kind of things. You know, You sit there and you mentioned the point that you know, some things work against you. There has been working for me than against me which makes it a lot easier, you know, to take that stuff that you know, falls the other way.
SC
You know, The little history that they had at the post office with Arthur, you know, was one thing and I felt as though so many other things positive have happened to me that this, you know, I could make the effort to deal with it, and go ahead and fight with it.
SC
I was a little bit more vocal about being challenged you know on a black-white issue than he was, okay.
SC
I found out that if I do bring this side to the forefront and that is dealing with it diplomatically and comprising, alot more can happen positive you know, than anything else. Especially when you have, you know, a wife and kids at home. You know you really don't have time to you know, to go out there to meet a challenge with a challenge.
SC
Sometimes you know, you turn around and you said, my T.V. still works. . .the electricity still works. . .my wife and kids still love me. . .what is the difference if this person wants to call me a name or something. So you know. . .you just go forward from that.
SC
But um you know everybody knows him. Nobody knows who Ed Clayton is...they know who Buddy is though. And from that you know. . .we all try to take a page and go forward with that so.
CR
Are there any kind of personal stories that sort of reflect your father in a certain light that you want us to have? Either a fond memory or a situation that kind of reflects his personality.
SC
He has always. . .
SC
He has always. . .he has always. . .set an example. I kind of like got a little bull-headed. I still am a little bit to a certain extent. I had a project I was making in high school and I went out and got a 4x8 sheet of plywood and I got up about four in the morning, four or five in the morning and started walking to the high school with it and I carried it from here to Winthrop Circle before my headmaster caught me.
SC
He was going in about quarter of seven and my plan was to get there before anybody did. But I was just trying to do it and let him know that I could do it. And I do not mean to sound selfish but I wanted to get it down myself, okay.
SC
He's always shown me, a little money is better than no money. You can always get something if you want it you just have to want to work for it. And if you do work for it, it's that much more enjoyable. I can remember when we first got our first T.V. and you know...it showed us how to share. And I remember growing up in a room where it was so small that I would fall out of bed and hit the wall before I hit the floor. You know. . .down at 72. My grandmother who used to...
[end side A]
SC
I still do to a certain extent, I call this the new house. How old is the house?
EC
Forty years.
SC
Forty years old and I still call it the new house.
SC
And you would come home and you would not know where somebody was. Now he would go to work at Symmes. Then he would go to work at the Post Office. Then he would pick us up at my aunt's house, walk us back home, and then you would wake up and say where is Dad? Oh he is down at the new house. Where is Ma? Down the new house. Okay. Where is Dad?...we would go down to the new house...where is Dad?...oh he is back down at the old house.
SC
So, um, you know having the yard, and being so close to the park...was great. You know I got a kick out of painting the picket fence. There was always something about having a picket fence in front of the house. You know, seeing your name on the light post. Walking down the street at ten o'clock at night and seeing the post light on. To the point where I would leave two windows open. One for them to find and one for me to get in. [laughing]
SC
I remember...my mother was...she was the stone face. She was the one that you had to. . .she would say to you wait until your father gets home and you would say please, please wait until Dad gets home I'll live.
SC
I had been out too late and they had locked the house up and my mother was not going to open the door. So I was just, tired and sat out on the back step and because it was cold my legs had gone to sleep and I couldn't walk. Okay. He came down to open the door and tell me to get in right, and I said I can't. He said, get up. I can't get up. He said, why not? I said my legs had gone to sleep and I can't move.
SC
But um, you know it was, it was very, very special. I remember we had a disagreement. And, I went down the stairs, came up the stairs, went back down the stairs, then I came in and had a talk with my mother and I said you had better tell Dad to take it easy on me. I said I do not want him to get hurt because then you will have to go to work. I do not know how old I was. I was about 13, I think.
SC
You know it was very, very strong foundation, that he was able to do this. And, you know, I know why I do things because of what was in front of me. And at times I sit and I wonder what was going through his head when he was growing up because he had a pretty good challenge in front of him when he was growing up. But I will let him tell you about that because he has not said nothing about it so I don't know if he wants it out.
SC
But, you know, it is all around you. It is all around you. You see it. You know we had a Desotto that didn't have floor boards because it had rotted away and we used to pick up the mats to look at the puddles as we'd splash through and we...we got through it all...we got through it all.
CR
All right. Sam do you have any questions?
[tape pauses]
CR
Okay. So now we are combining the interview. It is about 11:30 AM. And we're just going to talk about First we are going to talk about the Family of the Year Award and kind of both of your perspectives of it and what it meant to each of you kind of. You said the Chevalier Theatre had the thing? Is that how you say it?
SC
Well I'll start it. Basically I got a telephone call. I had no idea what this was. And it wasn't something that was an annual event so we didn't know about it. I got a call. And it was just like most of the things, he dropped it on you. . .if it didn't he would not say anything about it. He said, "Well we got this...nominated." "Nominated for what?" "Family of the Year." "You're kidding." "No." I said, all right. . .yeah.
SC
I worked in Medford anyway. I know a couple of people. . .because of you know, working in Medford and we had mentioned a couple of things and they mentioned it back to me and we went down and it they had a nice little show that they put on in Chevalier Auditorium.
SC
It was where I graduated from. It was kind of unique in that fashion. . .got my high school diploma and then I came back and we got this award. It was kind of like, you know um, being accounted for. . . someone actually was making a note that, you know, we were there.
SC
We had been here our whole lives but someone was going ahead to do this and at the same time it was a chance for it to be rubbed in a few noses and we were not doing the rubbing. Somebody else was doing the rubbing for us.
SC
And uh, You know, and, you know, you would sit there all the time. I mean there were times when I had to go to school and I had to catch a bus. And I had two bus stops. I had one bus stop I would get on where I would not receive any harassment. And then there was bus a stop that if you did get some harassment you could run out and catch the bus a little bit later. By the time someone figured you were on the bus it was time to get off.
SC
So you had these little things that you still had to do. It was part of growing up black. And, one of the things that was very unique in the community was that you did not really notice it because as children it's not part of you. It is basically something that is taught to you.
SC
You're not supposed to do this with this person because he's black. You're not supposed to do this with that person because they're white. You're not supposed to do this with this person because it's a guy. Supposed to do this with this person because it's a girl or he's an Indian or whatever. And as kids you really did not notice that so it was not really a part of it until you got to a certain extent where you started dealing with other folks and this really kind of like. . .
SC
Was just a like, a thing where it was just like placing a lorel on you head.. And you know a lot of it did come from him, working in the post office, working as a band parent, working with the basketball team, bringing the machine from McDonalds to the game.
SC
And I did a lot of work with some of the kids in basketball for Buddy Kelly who was one of the coaches so...alot of it did come from that. My mother was, you know, in the community also. I know she worked the poles on election day, and she was at the Community Center also.
SC
So, you know, being the only Clayton in the city did help too because once they heard your name it was like, oh do you know Buddy? Yeah that is my father. Do you know Caroline? Yeah that is my mother. Do you know David? .That is my brother. Do you know Peter? That is my brother. So it was something that was unique in that fashion and probably reinforced the fact that, that did show up on, you know, our doorstep.
EC
Then one thing, other thing about it. They are running something like that now also where they have the ballots in the paper.
CR
Uh-huh. .
EC
That is what that was. They had ballots that they put out in the different stores in Medford and you would pick up a ballot and you would vote for your favorite doctor. . .favorite dentist. . .favorite restaurant and then your family. . .your favorite family. So that's how we got it. And it was unique how they did it at Chevalier. They did it just like the Oscars.
CR
Oh really.
EC
They had the top three vote getters come and they had a banquet. . .a meal and everything. And then they had somebody open up the envelope and read who got it out of the three. I never thought we would get it. I really didn't. Because you know, we were one of the three top vote getters. . .that was the top vote getter but I never really thought we were going to get it. And when they pulled the name out of the envelope I was weak. I couldn't get up. [laughing]
CR
Do you know the other families that were involved. . .were they white families or...?
EC
They all were mixed up with so many things like he was involved in sports and everybody in the city knew him. His brother David, the same thing, David played basketball and he was down in a...they were in a City League they were everywhere. And their mother was in the Community Center. She was an officer up there plus she was the clerk and she knew all the different organizations in the city. So the whole family actually was well known and that's the reason they got it. They earned it. [laughing]
CR
They earned it.
CR
Again that humble attitude. So, in terms of the West Medford Community obviously you guys were important and I just have some things down about.. .you know the baseball games that you had mentioned. The Community Center which I think is a huge impact to everybody.
EC
Yeah.
SC
Yeah.
CR
And how that impacted you and what is going on with it now. And then you had mentioned Wayland Park trips that you went on.
SC
Yeah
CR
Any stories or?
SC
Well we were members down at the Community Center and I can remember. It wasn't like he was adamant about it but it was a statement that he had made. And I didn't realize it back then but once he did make a statement it was something that he wanted to say. It's not like, you know, it doesn't necessarily have to come out.
CR
Right.
SC
But it was a big point to be a member of the Community Center. And, you know, you didn't really have to know reasons. You just had to know that it was an important fact. But after you look at it and you realize, and you watched and you saw all the different things that come out of there. Mr. Works, Janice's husband, he was the credit union...man. He would go down there. I think it was, what was it once a week?
EC
Yup. Once a week. Once a week. He started the first credit union.
SC
Put a little bit of money down...
EC
Just for the West Medford area.
SC
Right. And, you know, back then you did not realize it. Okay,But in essence that was basically a savings bank. You know that was being started right there. Starting with people bringing down five. . .ten. . .fifteen dollars. . .whatever a week, okay.
SC
And, you know, also at the Community Center they used to have the little dinners that you would go down there and you would give them a dollar. . .a dollar and a quarter. . .and you walk home with a fried chicken dinner. . .fish dinner or. . .all kinds of dinners that they would have down there that they would, you know, put together.
SC
Then on Labor Day they would have, you know, everybody would just kind of like stop doing what they were doing and you would go down to the park. And you would dress up your bike and they would have races and they would have baseball games and basketball games. And it was what they called a field day. Okay. And that was what Labor Day was to us. It was a field day. It wasn't Labor Day, it was Field Day.
SC
You know we have the little things. With Paul Revere running through the city, you know, waiting for him to fall off his horse. You know, we had the Lakes up there. It was just a real, very unique situation where you had three streets of people that. I don't think you will ever find in this community again. Might find it some place else but it's just something that was very tight. And the black and white issue was almost non-existent. I had a couple of friends of mine that lived up behind the Brooks School off of High Street that I would go up and visit all the time and everything was cool. But then after you got up and got out of the City then you would...
EC
That is when you see it.
SC
. . .something happen. You know
SC
You'd catch a look. Catch someone mumbling something under their breath or something like that and. That is where you got to a point where you had to address it. I think it worked in a positive fashion that we were old enough to address it...a certain maturity that comes with growing. That, you know, you sit there and say well you know something even if that did happen I still got to the bus and I got out of here and I got home. So, that was...it.
EC
As far as the busing was concerned, the only way that I ever knew anything about busing except reading it in the paper was because I was working in the Roxbury Post Office when it was all going on and with Loiusa Day Hicks . .and everything. . .all the problems. I would have never known about it. We never witnessed anything like that here in Medford. In fact, at that time like. . .we were such a small community down here. . .that you know we just melted in. I went to school everyday. I never knew I was any different than anybody else really.
CR
Ms. Sharpton was mentioning the other day that the issue they had with the Hervey was that they were trying to bus some of. . .they wanted to bus white children in and some African American children out but the white children that they were bringing in were all either mentally or physically disabled...
EC
Disabled. Yeah.
CR
. . .to a degree and she. . .a lot of people kind of...
EC
Well see all that happened after. . .after our time. We did not witness any of that. All the problems they had at the High School. We never had those problems.
CR
Right.
EC
Never had them.
CR
Did you feel like.. .it ever kind of. . .things happening.. .even though it did not affect you directly that it affected the community in any way or do you think something like the Community Center. . if anything. . .provided comfort to that...?
EC
Yeah.
SC
I think that when you got to a certain extent, because we were almost like a community within a community. . .okay. We were, I would have to say, self-sufficient might be a good word for it.
SC
Okay Because you know, you could get things done when you needed to get them done. So you really did not have to go out to do things. On certain occasions. . .certain issues yeah you had to do that, but I mean, you know, when you needed to get things done. . .very seldom did you have to go up more than two or three streets to talk to somebody to get an idea of what you needed to do and how to do it. So I think that was, you know to a certain extent, you had school right up the street. The Hervey School which was really convenient for you to send your child to. We could walk. The Brooks School was the next step so now after you are used to walking up there. I mean I was walking back and forth to school and I was in kindergarten. Okay. My kids are in the ninth grade and I am driving them to school. Okay.
EC
A lot different.
SC
Give you an idea of the type of benefit being in a community like this will do for you. Then from there you went to the Brooks. . .which was now you in the fifth grade. . .now you are a little bit more mature and you might be able to handle a little more of a challenge. . .now you are going to the Brooks. Then you go right next door to the Hobbs which is not that much further so...
CR
Right. The same sight.
EC
Same thing.
SC
Same thing.
SC
But now the High School was only from ten to twelve then. So I went from seven to nine at the Hobbs so once I got to be in the tenth grade. . .now I am fifteen. . .sixteen years old. You know, I am ready for the challenge of you know. . .going to the city. . .the center of the city. . . Medford Square for the traveling so.
CR
Just to kind of go back to the Community Center. . .I remember you mentioning that you guys remembered when they brought in. . .was it old army barracks is that right?
EC
Yeah. It was an army barrack they bought over in Charlestown. And that was the one in my time. We went over in Rowe and Brothers Moving Truck. . .picked it up. . .brought it back and the men in the community put it together. Dug the hole for the basement, everything.
SC
And the truck that they brought it over in. We played in it too.
EC
Used to play in it. It was a big. . .moving trucks are big...
SC
He would open the truck up and we would go in and play in it. He was also in charge of turning on the showers...which I think are still down there.
EC
Yeah. At the tennis court. Yeah.
CR
Yeah.
SC
Down by the tennis court there is a park for young children. There is a big cement circle. At the top of the circle, you know, at the...the diameter I guess you would call it. There are these little metal things that shoot water out of it. And he has this long wrench. . .which had to be as long as. . .as wide as the rug is and he would open up this little manhole and he would stick the wrench down and turn it. . .turn the water on. And he was in charge of that. He would do that for us. He also took care of the tennis courts.
EC
Oh he was Mr. Tennis. He was a good. . .good tennis player. He had a tennis club. And they all used to go down there and play tennis.
SC
You know something, I remember playing him one time and he beat me. . I was not good at tennis okay. But he beat me and he did not even move.
EC
[laughing]
SC
He would just stand there and take a step maybe and reach and hit it and. . .he was a big man.
EC
Yeah. Good tennis player.
SC
About six. . .six two. . .six three. . .probably weighed close to 250 lbs. . .maybe 300. And his brother ran the little garage up the. . .over on Jerome Street.
SC
You know, and the Community Center was the place where everybody would go. You would have your arts and crafts there. They used to have the tables set up like this and they would have the cold water and the wax and you would dip the string in it and you would go around and make yourself a candle and bring it home.
SC
They had the Boy Scouts down there, the Cub Scouts down there, the Brownies, the Girl Scouts. They had the dance club down there. They had a piano upstairs that you would go in and play on. They had a pool table downstairs. A ping-pong table down stairs. And it was. . .it was the world to everybody.
SC
Where are you going? We're going to the center. Then they found out that it was against the law to put children in a building such as that and they closed it. Right. For the longest time we were down there. I remember, I think when I was turning five. I had my birthday party down there. . .I had all the kids by you know. . .then all of a sudden it was wrong to have it there after having it for so long.
SC
I thought that that was kind of. . .I thought that they were kind of picking on us. . .to a certain degree. Things were working for us down there and everything was fine and dandy and then all of a sudden someone came in and you know. . .slapped something on. . .it was politics I think to a certain degree.
CR
Is there kind of anything else. . .any other events that were occurring in West Medford that we might not know about. . .that. . .or that you think should be put down in history. . .written somewhere. . .other things that happened? Any incidents or...?
SC
Hundreds and thousands of stories.
EC
I know it. There's a lot.
SC
Some we know about some that are sitting in our heads that we just have not even kicked out of it.
CR
Right.
SC
You know, my grandfather, Cecil Isaacs.I remember we used to go shopping. My mother would take us in town shopping and all of a sudden you would look up and there was my grandfather sitting there. He was a collector down in, Downtown Crossing. . .and it was his brother Walter, Alice's husband, and Alice is what. . .she is about ninety- eight. . . ninety-six?
EC
She's in the nineties. I don't know.
SC
And I remember when I first got my job in Medford. . .when I was. . .I got the job in Boston and then I was assigned to Medford. And when I came in to Medford I really didn't know how things were going to work. And what happened was is...I walked down to City Hall to see my Aunt and say hi and I walked in and she just brought me around and took me in to the City's manager's office. It was Jim Nicholson back then and I was talking to him and it turns out that I had worked with his son, Frank. And so there was a little relationship there so at that particular point I had a little bird on my shoulder when I walked in to different places because of Alice. And you know Sonny was down there. . .and these were all people that you grow up with and, you know. . .
EC
One other thing that you mention, when you mention your grandfather was that the group of men here in the community, like, nobody had a whole lot of money. I was a child then. And what would happen was that you needed to paint your house so they would get together on a Saturday and ten or twelve of them would come down and they'd paint your house. And all you had to do was supply lunch for them, sandwiches and cold drinks or something like that. You got your house painted and you bought the paint. Now next month somebody had to have a plumbing job done. There was an electrician. . .there was a plumber. . .there was a carpenter. . .there was a builder. Mr. Booker was a builder. He built many houses. He built the Harriet Tubman house in Boston. He built many rest homes. I don't know, probably seven or eight houses right here in this area he built. But those are things that people aren't going to remember if you do not put it down in writing somewhere. You know.
SC
They're all in the back of your head. . .you just need to. . .you know.
EC
Like Sonny Sherwood...when he died...all the stuff that he knew...he was like a historian for this area. . .died with him. You know.
SC
And slowly but surely it will. . .it will disappear.
EC
Yeah. It won't be available.
SC
Like I was saying. . .it is key what you guys are doing. . .you know regarding this. But, Rudy first black police officer. . .I remember...
EC
Fireman Charlie Booker. . .the fire station is named after him up in West Medford Square.
CR
Right.
SC
We had this thing. It wasn't like a gang or anything like that, but there was a difference with two different parts of the city.
SC
And I remember , you know, they would drive by and they would throw rocks and you know, vice versa. And I can remember, there would be little piles of rocks that they would leave, you know, you had to leave in different spots just in case you know you were walking down the street and someone chased you or dog or something came after you. You would have leave something you know, to protect yourself.
SC
Well I remember. . . Rudy came up to me one time and he said to me, "you know if you are walking, walk in a group." And I wasn't really paying attention right and.. .I was.. .what are you talking about and then he finally got a little upset at me and he said, "well do you want to know something." He said, I was sitting in the station and he said, I heard them say that there was a police call that went out for someone to come down.
SC
He came down. No one else would come down. Okay. And the reason why is that. . . It was only the niggers. Leave them alone. Okay
SC
And he was explaining to me that when he took the sergeants exam and passed it, they took it away from him and gave it to someone else that did not do as well as he did. In order to regain that sergeant status he had to take the City to court. Took the city to court and won.
EC
And won.
SC
He got his job back. Okay.
SC
So uh, that's what he was explaining to me back then. Okay. And I really didn't understand or I didn't hear it coming out of him right. ... But all I could remember was him standing in front of me in West Medford okay, telling me about this stuff right then. . .and I said to myself well this had to mean something to him because usually he just stands there and stares at you with these glasses. . . Donald Bell was another guy that was prominent in the community. Donald passed away did he not?
EC
Yeah. Yeah he died. He was a police officer.
SC
He was a police officer too and it was really difficult for him too because we weren't as cooperative with him because, . . he was like, we were friendly with him.
CR
Right.
SC
And Rudy was. ..more of a figure that you were more of.. .afraid of than Donald was. Because Donald. . .we would go by to see his kids and he would play. . . He was a great, great guy to hang out with and deal with. But, those are the different things that we would have to, you know, encounter. There's millions are stories. You could knock on someone's door...
EC
I'm telling you there is a lot. . .there is another fellow. . .as we sit and talk it pops into your head. But Donald and Rudy were cousins. Donald's brother was an inspector, the first black inspector on the MBTA. . And I don't know if you ever remember hearing about McClernon when he was the head of the MBTA. He had...he formed this group of inspectors to go around and spy on the employees and do things. He was one of them.
CR
oh Really.
EC
One of the first ones. He was an inspector. But, you know, it pops in your head the different things. There are a lot of professional people in the area. A lot.
SC
Florence and Jimmy. They had the Powers...
EC
Yeah my aunt owned the Print Shop up in West Medford Square.
CR
That was the aunt that helped out a lot. . .you mentioned before that she was kind of...
SC
Jimmy was disabled. And he just deteriorated.
EC
Yeah he had MS...from the service. He had got wounded over in the service.
SC
And what I learned from them is, you know, even though he had this they were still regular people. You know there were times when Jimmy couldn't speak. . .or he'd get in to a choking fit and, you know. . . Florence was right there for him. And she basically ran that Print Shop.
EC
Yeah she did.
SC
Jimmy went from up here. . .did a little bit of walking then wheel chair. . .if you ever go down to Hawthorne Street. That street was never paved, never paved. It was always pothole city.
EC
Dirt.
SC
And it was, you know, you would go down the street in your car and it was always...and it was never paved and it was never a big thing with us. We never realized it right but Florence had them pave it. From her house to Jerome Street was paved. The rest of the street did not get paved.
EC
The rest of the street didn't get paved.
CR
Really.
EC
She went.. .she fought them. ..and they did her.
SC
She fought. . .and she went down there tooth and nail and they took notice. Jimmy had a veteran status and the ambulances could not move in and out and she had them do that. Her driveway was heated. . .she had a little switch in it. . .and snow would melt and you would just have to shovel out the sidewalk. . .there were no thresholds in the house so you know. . . she could push the wheelchair back and forth. There was an emergency exit where, you know, a gurney could go in and go out...and it was paved. You know. . . and she did all of this because they would never had gone ahead and done that. She was just a fighter.
EC
She was, she was.
CR
Do you have any other. . . ? Anything else you guys want to add before we close the tape?
EC
No not really. No.
SC
No. I mean it's. . .like we said...
EC
There is just so many things. . .and the group is going to touch on a lot of them I think.
SC
Yeah. You will see them cross.
EC
They will be crossing. . .they will be touching ones that we touched on probably.
CR
Exactly.
EC
I just hope that nobody gets forgotten.
SC
Yeah.
CR
Yeah, I mean this is...
EC
Because that's going to be a problem.
CR
This is just the first round of things from my understanding as the Project moves forward. And as more things come up and people that are not mentioned are mentioned. . .that is...
SC
That book. . .is Doc Kountze...
EC
Yeah there's a lot in that book. But then, there 's a lot he did not get in also because you know, you do not think of it at the time.
SC
You could tell me. . .you could say his name to me right now and I would not know. Maybrey. . . Is it Maybrey?
EC
Maybrey. Yeah Maybrey Kountze.
SC
But you say Doc. . .oh yeah... I know who he is.
EC
You say Doc...yeah.
SC
And the Grunaways. . .he had a house...
EC
You got that.. .you shut that off. . is that still on?
SS
Yeah.
CR
Yeah. We will turn it off. So we will conclude the interview now. It is just a little before twelve.
[stop tape]
EC
Mr. Fields, he lived here but we never saw him you know. When he first moved here they were done on Fairfield Street and. . .you know like I say. . .we knew there was a Mr. Fields but he was always in Washington at the White House. . .you know.
SC
At the White House.
EC
You know. . .so we really. . .I really don't know that much about him. You know, I have been to places with him and talked with him and very nice. . .a real gentleman you know. And. . .but outside of that I know nothing about his life.
SC
He was a big guy...
EC
Yeah..
SC
I can remember that. And the house that I remember is on Jerome Street next to the store. And the store was very unique too. . .I really don't know if anybody talked about the store either.
SS
The Little Store?
EC
The Little Store.
SC
. And Pop Henry who had. . .polio?
EC
Yeah.
SC
He had polio and he had this big brace. . .
EC
Brace on his leg.
SC
And he would drag himself down the street and open the store and that's where you would get all your stuff from. And there was a friend of mine named Michael that I used to hang around with and...he was...we referred to him as the state...I don't know if he was an orphan okay but she took care of him. And Michael when he first came in.. .really wasn't embraced like everybody else was in the neighborhood because everybody else knew everybody okay.. .I mean. . .it was almost like a new kid popping in to the neighborhood and he didn't have parents. Okay. So, we kind of like hung out together and grew up together and played together. And, so I 'd go to the store and get a sherbet and I'd go next store and I would knock on the door and she would open the door.
SS
Who is she?
SC
Mayland.
EC
Mayland. They lived next to the Little Store at that time.
SC
And she would offer us, you know, sandwich something to drink and you know. . .we would talk and. . .you know somebody who's passed away you know the husband is passed away you can deal with that. Someone who has been divorced and they are separated you can deal with that. But someone who is together and you never see them...
EC
It's kind of. . .yeah. . .
SC
It's really strange being six or seven years old. . .you know hearing that. Well he's not here. . .where's he at?
SS
The early sixties...?
EC
You just never saw him. We're talking about...
SS
Fifties. . .sixties. .
SC
I'm talking sixties. I am talking sixties because...
EC
Well wait maybe. . .later.
SS
Just what I know so far. . .Mrs. Mayland Fields. . .she is the second Mrs. Fields.
EC
Yeah. Right.
SS
The first Mrs. Fields passed away in. . .I think it was 1973.
EC
I never even knew her. I never knew her.
SS
So what.. .after talking to Mr. Greene.. .Oscar Greene.. .last week he said that.. .the first Mrs. Fields. . .Edna. . .I believe her first name was...
EC
Yeah.
SS
They lived in Washington but she got very sick and she had to come up to Boston because she. . .her doctor was here. So she came up. . .back and forth. And then in 1960.. .1961 . ..is when Mr. Fields moved up here.
EC
Yeah.
SS
Did you know Mrs. . . .the first Mrs. Fields at all?
EC
No. Never knew her. Never even heard of her.
SC
Not me. That was...
EC
I never knew him until Mayland actually married him.
SS
Okay.
SC
That's when he came in to my life.
EC
So that was in the sixties right...
SC
Sixties...
SS
Mayland said eighties.
EC
The eighties. . .it was that late.
SS
Yeah.
EC
See I can't. . .see I just never knew him.
SC
I knew. . .I knew her.
EC
I knew her all my life.
SC
Right
SC
And I'd have to say. . .when he came in to her life might have been later but I have always. . .I've always known her. . .I'd have to say. . .sixties. . .that is when. . .I mean that was 51 . . .so sixties would make me nine so I am talking maybe thirteen. . .fourteen...
EC
And I knew her since I was a child...
SC
65...66...and that is when about the time...I would have to say I was maybe twelve. . .thirteen years old. . .about the sixth grade. . .seventh grade. . .yeah Michael was out then. And that is when I knew her.
SC
Later on is when we finally came to the grips that you know. . . she was actually married to him. Okay and.. .you know you sat there and like I said before you know you. . .you hear these things and you see him but you never know where he is at. . .I mean. . .divorced. . .okay...
EC
Yeah I don't remember.
SC
. . . .He lives on that side of the city she lives on that side of the city.
EC
First time I saw him. . .I don't remember because I didn't see him that much. You know.
EC
I knew. . .I knew of him like he says and I knew his son in law. He had a daughter that was married to a fellow that worked with me in the post office. . .Stan Yantsy was his name.
SS
Was her name Virginia?
EC
Yeah I think it was Virginia. I am pretty sure.
CR
What was the last. . .who...
SS
What was his name?
EC
Stan Yantsy.
CR
Well we are looking for information about her but no one seems to know about her.
EC
Well that's the only thing I know. I worked with him and I knew he was married to Lonnie Fields' daughter. . .we called him Lonnie. . .I don't even know what his real name was.
SS
Alonzo.
EC
Alonzo. Okay. Because everybody that knew him. . .at least. . .know of him. . .called him Lonnie. But I didn't know too much but I do think her name was Virginia. . .Stan Yantsy's wife.
SS
Well sort of what we are finding about the people. . .everyone who knows Mr. Fields is that the people in West Medford who knew him did not know him until after he left the White House.
EC
Yeah. Because that...
SC
That is when he came back.
EC
That is when he came back.. .yeah. So that is why we knew him. When he was in the White House I didn't know him then.
SS
So I am trying to get. . .find Virginia who I believe is actually his stepdaughter and his first wife's daughter. . .
EC
Yeah that would be. definetly
SC
You got your work cut out for you.
SS
. . .Washington D.C. . .do you by chance. . .you don't...
EC
No I don't know where she is now and Stanley died.
SS
Yeah okay.
EC
Yeah. . .Yantsy. . .he died. . Me would help but not even him.
SS
Does he have any children in the area?
EC
Not that I know of. No. And then Stanley left and he went to Washington to work you know. . . he transferred from Boston to Washington in the Post Office and when he retired he retired from Washington D.C. So I never see him that much either. . .you know.
SC
He was as close as you could get to being a ghost. . .without being one.
EC
Without being a ghost. Because, you knew of him but you. . .you didn't.. .never saw him.
SS
Was there a feeling that he was sort of like a celebrity moving in to West Medford...?
EC
When he came back. . .no I don't think...
SC
It was like he was moving back.
EC
He was like. . .like he came back but he never talked about. . .unless you asked him questions he never talked about being in the White House or meeting dignitaries and all of that. . . he was like the Maitre D of the White House...
SC
And when you talk about the community thing again. . .you know. . .like Mr. Dawson.. .he was Mr. Dawson. He was a great drummer and he was in the New England Hall of Fame as Jazz.. . He was a professor at Berkeley. But he was just Mr. Dawson.
EC
Mr. Dawson. Yeah.
SC
Okay. And he was Buddy Clayton you know. . . he was not the Post Master. You know. . .and the different people. . . Frankie Booker. . . he wasn't. . . he was a carpenter but he was Frankie Booker. And Mrs. Booker. . . she was the hairdresser right. . . But she was the person that I didn't want to see me when I had my little bottle of wine in the brown paper bag coming home but she was the hairdresser. And she used to have her business in her house in the basement and we would go over there and we would play records and turn the radio on and listen to W.I.L.D. and stand out in the backyard and dance while she had her little hairdressing thing down in her basement. And a lot of that. . .that is where it all started. It all started in their houses. . just like any other business. . .if you have this thing and you are making cakes and the next thing happens...
EC
Next thing it explodes and she got a shop up there...
SC
A shop...
EC
And two or three people working in there...
SC
Beauticians working in there. . .then the Medford High School decides to have a. . .add a Vocational program to it.
EC
Oh that is right. Mrs. Hardy. She was the first. . .first teacher down at. . . hair dressing teacher at Medford High.
SC
At Medford High when they first. . .
EC
She lived right down on the corner here. She lives on Martha's Vineyard now. But. . .she. . .those things popped in your head. Now they would have forgot her all together because she doesn't live her anymore. So I bet you that no one is going to mention her name at all.
CR
Now do you guys frequent the Vineyard.. .they talked about the West Medford community being strong in Martha's Vineyard?
EC
Yeah. There and also...
CR
Do you have a house there or. . . know people...?
EC
There's a lot down there.
SC
The lsaacs...
EC
They had a place down there.
SC
Walter and Alice. . . had the. . .the house. In fact she was in the picture. . .was she in the paper. . .Alice and Walter had the house and they basically kept it for as long as they could and then their son Walter Jr. has it. But. . .the Sherwoods. . .they were down there frequently. The Hardys...
EC
Yeah. They lived down there.
SC
What is his name. . .Bill and Haddie...
EC
Bill and Haddie Lewis had a place. There is a West Medford tinge down there. . .but also. . .in Los Angeles, California. . .I don't know how it happened there. . .but there's a lot of people went from West Medford to Los Angeles, California and settled there. And they used to. . .every year in August they used to have a big cook out and they invited everybody from West Medford to come out.
CR
Oh really.
EC
And a lot of people used to go. A lot of people. I went one year. They must have had about seventy. . . seventy-five people there all from West Medford. Ones that live there now. . .their children. . .and the ones that weren't from here.
SS
In L.A?
EC
Yeah. In L.A. Yeah.
SS
That. . . Mr. Greene mentioned something about Mr. and Mrs. Fields going to California a couple of times. . .I wonder if that...
CR
Oh yeah maybe. .
EC
Maybe that is when they went. I'm not sure.
SS
When would these have been happening?
EC
They were happening every August for a while.. .they haven't happened for a while.
SS
I mean the eighties. . .the nineties or. . .?
EC
Oh no it was probably in the late eighties. . .early nineties. . .yeah.
EC
Yeah there was a family. . .two families in Medford. . .one the Barnetts. . .there was eleven of them. And the Lamberts there were seven of them. And out of the eleven I think probably eight of them settled in California. And the other family all of them went there at different times. . .when the mother and father died they all lived up in L.A. So Medford. . it has a West Medford tinge out there too. But it was a great place to grow up in believe me. I wouldn't change it.
EC
When I got out of the service I looked at probably seven or eight different places that I was going to move to. . .I said I'm going to move out of Medford I lived here all my life you know. I went to Florida. . .didn't like it. I went to Louisville, Kentucky I spent a week there. . .didn't like it. This fellow Donald Bell that was a retired cop from Medford had me come down to Florida. . .he was going to make me buy a house down there but I just didn't like it. Then I looked in California. . .I looked in Texas. . .I went back to San Antonio and looked there. Always I kept coming back. There is no place like West Medford. No place.
CR
That is the same thing you had told us about the story. . looking in Washington.
SC
She told me go home. . .I said you know something you right. You know. . . it is just. . .I mean. . .you could have. . .we played baseball and football in the streets. . .I remember Mr. Frisbee used to come home and he would stop the car right. . .and let us play. . .you know. And Florence would come out and tell us. . .will you let the damn man park his car. And I thought he was just watching us...
EC
The streets. . .the streets belonged to the kids. They did. . .we played in the streets all the time.
SC
You know the trees. . .the corner. . .they used to call it hanging out. . .we would go to the corner and there was like three groups. The older kids had the corner itself. The real young kids we would go down and stand in front of the store. And they'd pull out. . .you know songs and start singing. . .you know a capella and. . .you know. . .it was very unique. I mean you don't see that now and we don't have that now because. ..I mean that has. . .that's been lost.
EC
And some of the things that are going to be lost. . .just sitting here now thinking. . .Mr. Banks had an insurance agency and a store on Jerome Street that is a house now. You would not even know it ever was a little store.
SC
A barber shop...
EC
There was a barbershop and he had an insurance agency. And Mr. Woods who lived next door.. .he had an insurance agency and. . .those things are going to be forgotten. No one is ever going to remember.
SC
And then there was. . .an insurance agency down the other end of the street too. That was the first one...
EC
The firestone...business...
SC
. . .within West Medford. . .other than the store.
EC
And you know another thing that makes West Medford unique. . .even against other parts in Medford. . .you can go out here and you can walk five minutes and get a bus to Harvard Square. You can go up five minutes up here. . .you can get a train to North Station. You can get a bus to Lechmere. . .you can get a bus to Davis Square. The transportation out of here is unique.
CR
Right.
EC
You can go anywhere it seems like. . .you know.
SC
I used to go to work and they would say how do you travel? I said.. .I walk up the street and catch the first thing smoking...
EC
First thing going by because it goes whereever you want to go. That's why I say I like West Medford. . .I would never leave West Medford. No.
SC
Okay gang.
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