Interviewer: Cheryl Cowherd

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Kirkwood History Project #11

Interviewer: Cheryl Cowherd

Interviewees: Sarah Stephens, Sammy Stephens, John Sanders

Transcriber: AB
(Mumbling at first, laughing)

Sarah: We relocated in Kirkwood.
Cheryl: When did you move here.

Sammy: We moved here about 1961. (Inaudible sentence, too low and mumbling)
Cheryl: What was Kirkwood like when you moved here?

Sammy: (Inaudible)
Cheryl: Oh okay, so when did you (inaudible)?

Sammy: I moved here…
Cheryl: Around the same time? Well, what was it like when you…well did you come a lot?

Sammy: Oh yeah.
Cheryl: Uh-huh, what was it like when you came down compared to when she moved in?

Sammy: (Inaudible, mumbling, too low)
Cheryl: What do you think caused the change?

Sammy: I would say (inaudible few words).
Cheryl: And what about you?

John: (Inaudible)
Cheryl: What made you want to move here?

John: Oh why did I want to move here? I was in the military and I was stationed here in Atlanta at the old fort in (inaudible). And (inaudible rest of sentence). And when they built the Atlanta Pacific area, the old Fourth Ward, College Avenue. The old Fourth Ward where most of the Black lived over in the Fourth Ward. (Inaudible sentence) At the time (inaudible) so Kirkwood was the area where we descended and here the lined streets (inaudible). Our parents were middle age and so Kirkwood community was always known as White/Black in the 1860s. The Whites moved out and the Blacks moving in and filling the homes. (Inaudible) the (inaudible) the property was cheap. They wanted out, we needed in. The (inaudible) I think I said too much.
Cheryl: No.

John: Yeah. The field that remained, the remaining residences were somewhat skeptical about their new neighbors. I remember houses that used to come across the railroad tracks. And I remember up to about the Boulevard. Tips to half-way there.
Cheryl: Is that the one right on the corner?

John: Straight across. (Inaudible) the fruit stand between the street and the railroad was closest to that. In the front of that, a couple of small businesses. And the first thing that caught my attention was (inaudible) I thought about the property and Mr. Mill, which was one of the first, he had completed his house, some of it was on his property. People could stay there six nights if they wanted to. Because what happened was that this family that lived down the street. It was impossible because it wasn’t friendly. (Inaudible sentence) Powell Street and the sign and the one that said Whites only. In the 1950’s up on Bouvelard, which is now Hosea Williams (inaudible) there was a drug store on the corner, Bouvelard and a service station. Our type of neighborhood businesses that make it a nice convient neighborhood to live in. These eventually began to disappear. (Everyone mumbling, inaudible) And the transition that probably (inaudible) but anyway at that time I had great ideas with my brother. And my brother who is disabled, my nephews were educated at Kirkwood Elementary School, which is now a loft and high school was (inaudible, others start taking).

Sarah: (Inaudible) High.

John: Right. And I think it was there. But anyway what happened was older homeowners, the old black homeowners that moved in became older and eventually died. And the children living there didn’t return and they were 20 to 40 years old. They wanted to live on Collier Road or in Stone Mountain or somewhere where they fit in so.

Sammy: (Inaudible, mumbling)

John: I am sorry, go ahead.

Sammy: (Inaudible sentence) I came to Atlanta (inaudible) it was pretty, very pretty. When I came out here, I was born, I worked up to (inaudible) and I was riding a bicycle and eventually got a car. (Inaudible few words) so I moved here 1940, 1941. (Inaudible few words) I was in the Navy during the war. (Inaudible sentence) But when we started moving in (inaudible). And it was (inaudible rest of sentence). Way back in the 1960s. And when I think about it and I have just the (inaudible). The year now was 1967, 1966 to 1967 (inaudible rest of sentence). There was time to do it (inaudible). And there was time with the landlords and the one with our landlord (inaudible). Because he took on (inaudible). (Inaudible sentence)

Sarah: There was another one.

Sammy: There was another one. You know that you had people that were (inaudible rest of sentence).
Cheryl: What about city services at that time? Would you say that they were…?

Sammy: Um, we did them all because there was nobody here.
Cheryl: Oh okay.

Sammy: Most people had never had electricity. And the people who did, they had nice houses. (Inaudible sentence)

John: Like I said most of the properties, limit housing, they were foreclosures lots and they went for about and probably back in the mid or last 1960s, early 1970s, they weren’t as involved politically saying as (inaudible) there was a force downtown unless someone you knew who knew somebody (inaudible). I mean, we had (inaudible) and by the time you got to it, it really was really something.

Sarah: (Inaudible section)

Sammy: I remember, I can’t remember the year, maybe it was 1980, because that’s when Sara got here. But we was to meet with Norton-I mean Bowler, Marian Bowler. We had a funeral home on Howard Street, we had a business of a funeral home. But his business and his home (inaudible) to try to get more (inaudible) city services. Politics, he hated politics, and you know, made us feel good for a little while but still it wasn’t anything. It became neglected.
Cheryl: About what year, at what time would this be?

Sammy: This was probably, what you would say, 1979. But of course I was coming home at the time. One of the things was (inaudible end of sentence) So you don’t influence Dekalb County politics and you don’t influence Atlanta politics because you are only just a little group of people out there with no clout at all. And we had that problem, we didn’t even vote. What’s out there. No votes no dough. There was nothing that would make them really come and help us. And of course between the white flight and the change of the (inaudible) until maybe the late 1970s (inaudible).
Cheryl: But what I wanted to know is what did the neighbors do? How did they, how did we as neighbors with all those tings going on about the city services and all that. I know that we still are missing some of that cohesiveness to live through the (inaudible), which is where we are now. So what were the people doing to stick together. Whether it be churches of neighborhood groups or your next door neighbor or was it generalized---

Sarah: Like Motown was your thing. And we be dancing at the corner---

Sammy: I was living through it---

John: I spent 1872 away from Kirkwood you know when I served in the military.
Cheryl: Okay.

John: But you would say in Kirkwood, to say of this time, what I would say is that most of the homeowners in Kirkwood where confined to the working people. You work five, six, seven, eight days a week to try and make a home. Make a home that was nice and those services weren’t available and they never tried to pick on two days a week or the litter on the streets was probably swept up once and month but the times that they (inaudible) and really be persistant was (inaudible). That’s just my opinion.

Sammy: (Inaudible section)

John: (Inaudible first few words) my father would have thought after 47 years and none of it would have (inaudible). 47 years.

Sarah: (Inaudible section)

John: I don’t know if that (inaudible) if that includes nieces and nephews and constantly making (inaudible). You didn’t have anything but you knew how to use what you had very well. An old cherry pot, (inaudible rest of section).

Sammy: You really couldn’t survive, I remember about (inaudible rest of sentence) but she did. And the other thing was that she did that and if she didn’t do that it was all over. And if you didn’t go out of the house, you didn’t (inaudible).

Sarah: (Inaudible section)

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