The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects

Ethel and William Clemons oral history, March 8, 2004



Ethel and William Clemons oral history, March 8, 2004


Oral history interview with Ethel Clemons and William Clemons, conducted by Teresa C. Klasen at the Clemons's home in Bedford, Indiana. The couple describes their relationship, families, and lives in Cadiz, Trigg County, Kentucky; and Fort Wayne and Bedford, Indiana. Ethel describes traveling from Fort Wayne to Indianapolis to attend the Madam C. J. Walker Beauty School and owning a beauty shop on Hanna Street in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The interview duration is 1 hour, 35 minutes, and 21 seconds.


021PC44 AV 8 March 2004, Ethel and William Clemons Oral Histories, The Filson Historical Society, Louisville, Kentucky



Fannie Greenwade quilt 2021.29.1-3




2021PC44 AV 8 March2004


Klassen, Teresa C.


Clemons, Ethel H. Greenwade, 1917-2006
Clemons, William Levi



[This transcription has been autogenerated]

Let's talk a little bit.

Here we are on Monday, I mean.


Monday, March 8, 2004, at Mr. William Levi Clemens house and his wife, Miss Ethel Clemens, about 3:30. And we're in Bedford, Indiana.

Run them good.

I might just try one thing here.

I can pull that curtain back.

I see there's no reason for anybody to be nasty and smelling bad because we got everything to use. And some old folks, you just sometimes wonder what really make them tick. They just don't care. Now, I know you met some of them.

I have no pleasure in life that's bad.

Is that what you mean, no pleasure? That's right.

They don't take care of themselves.

That ain't me lost use me.

Let me do the good thing that you have me to do.

And I know whatever they are, they're going to be

good things if you leave it in his hand because

I don't think he does anything that isn't good.

I got that much confidence and faith.

Well, when you were going through that

operation and all that, when you were

going through that operation and all that.

Yeah, it was a funny thing out

of it, but it was really real.

The doctor said.

I know.

That's what he told us.

He said, she's praying.

Now, have you called your friends and your

relatives and told everybody that everything's okay?

I couldn't because give me that yet.


Doctor Walker? No.

There are some of your relatives checking in

and everybody's wanting to know what's wrong.

What's wrong?

He has some more work for me to do and whatever it is,

I'll be able to do it because he's going to go with me.

That reminds me of that song.

He's going to go with me, honey.

So you all went around visiting nursing homes, did you?

You went and visited the nursing home? Oh, yes.

Thank for the people you did.

That was yesterday.

Did you have your voice? Yeah.

Yes, we did.

Have a good time.

What you think?

Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross is my main song.

Yeah, I know you have heard

that mean, is there a philosophy?

I think.

Is that your house? Absolutely.


No, I tell you, I still don't want

to go to that place called Hell.

It ain't too good down there.

I think if you showed up, they'd kick you out.

So you don't think they'd want me?

We don't want her around here.

She's going to persuade people to go wrong with it.

Yes, you're right, honey.

I know they laugh at me.

I just speak to truth.

Troops is a life.

So for you, your face is your way of life. Yes.

I tell you, honey, every day. Yes.

Anybody who knows, you know.

Yes, I try to do good.

Anything that I can do.

But you're smart too.

You watch and you listen.

My grandma said if you learn, if

you listen, you learn a whole lot.

Do you know she spoke to two older

people you looked at, but they didn't know.

But Honda, they knew a lot.

They knew a lot.

They just didn't always talk about it. That's right.

But they show me a lot.

Now go ahead.

Did she have any schooling?

Could she read?

Well, not a whole lot.

But you know what?

It's the way that she spells.

She could spell anything behind.

She could spell it in the

grandma because she couldn't spell it.

She must have had some schooling from somewhere.

Well, yeah, but what I thought she didn't

know high school and stuff like that.

Just plain old common sense, more or less.

With that lady, she used them hyphens and

she could spell anything hyphens but between two

words, but nothing that she couldn't spell.

You know, when she made quote, did she

ever put any words on them or any

letters on them or write anything on them?

You don't have any memory of that, do you?

Because sometimes people would sign like a special call, they

put the date on it or something like that.

That was a mistake that a lot of

me didn't put too much down and stuff.


Be nice nowadays.

It would be nice if they had.

Yes, they had.

But back then, not really thinking about it.

That's right.

It really was.

Well, after she had her leg

amputated, did she live much longer?

You know, me and my grandmother, after she had

that leg agitated, I kept her to see her

sister in West Virginia on the train.

How did she walk?

Real quick.

So her other life was good.

She just go back and forth with the crutch.

Oh, my goodness.

I didn't know that I would be the one.

But do you know how they hit it's? Take care.

I need to take care of my

uncle and see them beard and everything.

They got the casket, right?

Take care of all that business. That's right.

Oh, boy.

I'm the one that did it.

So that's why I'm sitting here today.

First, your grandmother do the blessings.

Send your uncle.

He will bless you for your goodness.

Honey, ain't owe you nothing.

God ain't owe you a thing.

You get paid in some way, you might

not realize it, but it is coming.

You get paid in some way. That's right.

Because that was one of the good deeds.

I mean, one of the very best deeds that I could have

did was to take care of and look after my grandma.

And I did that and it was well done.

You're proud of yourself that you did it, aren't you?

Yes, I am.

I don't regret not a bit of it.

It wasn't easy.

No, it wasn't.

It sure wasn't.

But, you know, I just kind of had a will in mind.

A will in mind.

Nobody left to do it.

Well, when your mother died, I

didn't know I was a baby.

And she took you in.

She told my grandma Fanny, my dad's mother.

Not my mother's mother. Not your mother.

She didn't want to be bothered with me.

You won't be buying a baby.

You know.

They washed the dapples then they washed all the

dapples at the baby Wolf they didn't have right.

They washed them and put them in

bleaching and they were white as snow.

It was a lot of work that was rough.

It was rough.

And I experienced some of that.

I learned to cut the bath.

I learned to set the bath.

All that little girl from your

uncle's or from your dad?

From my grandma, my dad's mother.

She's the one that raised me.

My mother's mother didn't want to

be bothered with no baby diverse.

Does she live close by?

They all live close by

right across the field somewhere.

Did you know her?

My mother's mother?

Sure I did.

Her name is Coleman.

How do you spell BTI?


What was your mom's name? Hadty.

Haddy Coleman.

You was a grenade.

How do you know that?

Well, that's what was told to me.

That's all we know.

Somebody has to tell you, right.

So she was my mother's mother.

She didn't want no babysitting job.

And you had to do a lot for a baby then.

Now all you do is buy and

throw away in Pampers and back.

But then they had them pretty bird eyedappers.

They had a little crinkle in the white material.

You seem dapper.

Bird's eye.

You mean like embroidery or a

little quicker than the material decoration?

Yeah, but that's a big job to watch.

I had one of them grid, big old pots that you sit up

on rocks out in the yard and boils to do the laundry.

I've had all of that.

I'm so proud that I had that experience.

Are you?

Yes, I have.

And I'm not ashamed of it because it always clean cut.

There was no dirty thinking this day.

People have got so much dirty evilness in their

heart and mind, it just isn't even funny.

But them old folks, they love one

another and they treat one another good.

Well, if I had something, you had it.

You know what I'm saying?

They're hospitable.

But this day is really bad.

It's a shame didn't get as many people. It's evil.

Thank you.

It'll rubbed off.

You have to be all careful

what you said because they showed.

And the bad thing that they ain't got no business

taken up is just the thing that they take up.

Why is that?

I guess it's just life.

But that's it.

That bad thing is what they really

focus on that gets their attention.

It is just what they focus on, baby.

And you know what?

They listen and they're smart.

Everything you said and the bad thing that they

shouldn't hear and take in is a bad thing.

That's what they remember.

That's right.

Well, tell me about being a beautician.

Tell me about being a beautician.

Oh, well, that was just one of the trees.

My aunt was a beautician.

I guess I could call myself during what she did.

But you did it first, didn't she?

Yeah, I did.

Yeah, I was first, and then she come along.

I guess she's doing what I did.

He wanted to be a duty.

Went to Madam CJ. Walker.

I went to Madam CJ.

Walker in Indianapolis.

On Anna Avenue.

Right on the corner of South Park.

Were you living close to there when you went there?

Close to who? Madam CJ. Walker.

Not too far.

Not too far.

But I live in Fort Wayne.

We really want our technical.

I used to ride that train, but it

had a name used to run through there.

Not the Monon.

I used to ride golf.

Wayne to Indianapolis.

School five days.

Is that right?


Were you working in Fort Wayne at that time?

I had a shop in Fort Wayne.

A beautician shop.

What was it called?

What was it called?

What was the name of the shop? Walker.

Who? Moores.


Antique. Antique.

But in it antique.

Like old antique Butte.

It was set up antique.

It was decorated into.

Yeah, I enjoyed when I was there.

And I really had a back pocket

when I went down at night.

Yes, I enjoyed it. Where was that?

In Fort Lane.

Do you remember the street address?

Hannah was the name of the street.


Was it fun just hanging out with ladies?

It was fun just hanging out

with ladies and talking about stuff.

Yeah, we have good all day.

Could you do it?

Were you good at it?

Were you good at it?

They said I was.

They kept coming back.

A lot of customers.

I really had a good tree.

What did they call you? Ethel.

They just called you Ethel More then.

Oh, you were more sure.

Was he in the picture?

Was he in the picture when

you were doing the beauty salon?

I got one here somewhere.

You got a picture?

I had it.

I think I had it, though.

I think he's got a cousin in Louisville.

I believe I had that picture to them of the shop.

Not the shop of my husband.

Yes, I do come a long way.

It must have been quite a

change to come down to Betford.

It must have been quite a

change to come down to Bedford.

Well, I tell you, I'm a person like this.

When I make my mind up, it's just made up.

I'm not too changeable is that word.

Stubborn is the word stubborn.

Not too changeable.

I never had too much luck with my husband.

I lost my husband, and the Lord blessed me

to be lucky to get another good one.

I don't have an offer, so I

put it all on his main effect.

He has kept his arms around me and

lucky when you can think a little bit.

When you're getting in your 80s,

it ain't no small number. No.

A lot of people don't live that long.

A lot of people don't live that long.

That is not a small number.

But I tell you, he has really kept his arms around us.

And he is the one that knows the

heart, the mind, the soul, the everything.

Without you having to tell it.

You can't fool it because you

know what you're thinking before.

You know what you said.

Now, where did you learn all this stuff, huh?

Where did you learn all this stuff experience.

It ain't all hard.

I haven't been experienced.

I did a lot of travel.

Where have you traveled?

All over on the other side.

Plus all over here in the United States.

All over.

Where is Freeport it's in Canada.

You've been to Canada?

Oh, absolutely Freeport.

What were you doing up there what

were you doing up there just traveling.

By yourself?

No, me and my husband, Mr.


It's been an ID.

See, we've been married.

We've been married 29 years.

Is that right silver anniversary is 25, 50.

So we will meet our 25th anniversary.

Yeah, that's a long time.

It still is a long time.

You come a long way with it.

How did you and Mr.

Clemens meet up how did we meet we

met through me losing my other husband.

Did they know each other made it on to take a show.

One of the brothers I'm a daughter of

Elk, and one of them was his.

Oh, you're a daughter of Elk.

One of his brothers passed, and

we were at a funeral home.

That's how we met.

For his brother.

One of his brother, Elle.

Oh, one of his brother, Elle. One of Mr.

Clemens. Okay.

One of both of them.

Both belong to them.

We were bad attending the weight.

You can come in here, but you

live in north out on the porch.

Pretty good, baby.

Look at that.

You've done well, all right.

[Tape 1, side A ends]

[Tape 1, side B begins]


Okay, now it's 358 and Mr.

Clemens is here.

You know what?

I don't talk to her.

Yeah, you can talk.

You can do a lot of talks.

I was telling her about when I met you.

I met you.

I'm going to take a show.

Elk's brother.

She said one of your Elk's brothers have died. Yeah.

And you were a daughter.

She was in the daughter's

over there up in Indianapolis.

Yeah, I was.

There it goes.

I didn't expect you to be.

And I live up there.

I belong to father in Bloomington.


And then Alderson was esteemed leave night that time.

This particular policeman, he died?

Yeah, I think so.

In the meantime, I didn't have no wife, so

he decided he would show me the gas.

Introduced me to Harold today, didn't you?

She said she's done the Washington.

I've been doing the wash.

Yeah, I did it when I did it on a washboard.

I hung clothes out, too today.

Not before.

I used to wash down in the basement.

Old fashioned washing machine with the

thing where with the crank on.

My grandma used to have one of

those and it squeezes out the water. Yes.

Well, tell me more about

what happened with Harold Durson.

Tell me more about what happened with Harold Durston.

Now then he's got a door live in Plumberton Rose.


She goes Bird.

She goes with Bird.

She does with Bird. Obama.

I didn't know that.

Yeah, that's sweet.


Anyway, so you were up there at the

funeral home, and here I'll just introduce you

to introduce me to whichever one you want.

There the one I want you to meet.

Yeah, he told me whichever one you want.

That's what Harris did.

But then I got one for me, especially because the

other guy was married in between and she and me. Yeah.

We ain't got much time.

We'd get a friend and get back because

we're always went back together at the club.

We've had a lot of fun. Yeah.

Did the ladies go to the get together?

Oh, yeah.

So then what?

Did you ask for a phone number?

No, I didn't ask for a phone number.

You don't have to go back.

What do you mean?

I had to work the next day after.

Oh, my gosh.

What time did the club close?

About 132 or something like that in the morning.

Oh, yeah.

I wish I'd been there to see it.

We used to sit back on it and

I thought I was the sharpest angle.

So you had to get me, didn't you?

Yeah, I had to get you.

Now, where do you want me to stay, huh?

You still tell the truth?

Well, I want to know what happened at 130.

What happened at 130 in the morning?

She said, yes, I hate to see it.

And I told him.

And you said you sleep away on your side of the bed.

I will share my bed with you,

but you stay on your side.

I sleep in the bed with a man

and don't have to have to do it.

It's up to you.

Well, I must have told you something about it.

Yeah, I know.

He was a good man.

So then what happened about your job?

Where are at.

And I'm going to be up for a whole lot of weekends.

I'm going to be up for a whole lot of weekend.

And you're going to miss me.

So he said, I worked and all that overtime, everything.

You probably got somebody above your mean,

I'm still going to get a nice.

What happened?

The heater messed up.

It got hot.

Here's another guy that I was a

friend of mine, he's his cousin.

And he said.

He told me that was the end of it.

She's going to get.

He told me, that boy, that's cousin, he

said, she is the best looking woman.

And then when he see me later, I think he

next time he's seen me, he said, I told you

that you could have to get you a new ride.

I said, what?

I told you that you go ahead and get you a new ride.

A car?

Yeah, for her. Oh, yeah.

He said, he's going to get a new car.

I think I got their car.

And she came out of there.

Yeah, down there.

Coming down that main drag.

You had plenty of money to do, didn't you?

I had a job.

Old Lady Lily.

Yes, ma'am.

Did you?

Yes, sir.

And she gave me apples.

Didn't you know what quilt I got at the antique mall?

And the man who sold it said

that he got it from a family.

African American family.

That worked.

I wonder if you'd know them.

You did now.

Yeah, I know.

I should show you.

That one was named Ben and one was named.

What was his name?

But now what happened?

Ben Malone was his.

Malone was there a lady, too?

I don't know.

Anyway, Kirk and Ben one was a show from one.

And at least they told you everything. Yes. Okay.

This little was crazy about me. Yeah.

She bought me the best of uniform.

She thought that I was cutie pie.

And you were?

Well, I don't know about that.

But I tell you what.

I've always tried to be nice and look nice.

Yes, very good.

And a lady told me she had a girl that worked for her.

And she sure will help me with everything.

She knew them had been in the family.

She knew just what Ms.

Lily like.

You have some income?

Oh, yes, definitely.

So you didn't need a family?

Well, not really.

I didn't, because I was well taken care of.

You had your own pace.

What attracted you to him?

One of his brother, Elf Had.

And we met at the film home where the wake was.

What were you esteemed leading night.

What do you call it? Team leader.

Esteem, esteem leader.

So maybe that got her attention.

Not really.

The girl.

And both of them is dead.

It caused me to meet him.

Oh, yeah.

Everybody else is dead, too.

Octave. Octave.

She knows Rosie because he's young.

But all the mother folks, she went on now.

Yeah, probably not the last few years,

but what attracted you to him?

We were at this week where this brother

had paid, and I was introduced to them

by Harold Ducen and Octave of the wife.

But did you think he was cute or what?

Well, they knew him.

They've been knowing him for a long time,

and they know he was a good match.

Everything that went with me, they know

how to look out of that.

All my life, I've been pretty good

shape and always cared how I looked.

So that made me buy pretty expensive thing.

And I wore them and I had to part a little.

And I had my sister come out.

He did that on me.

Well, you know, I had the clothes all the time.

Now, who was your sister?

Look at my closet.

I worked all that overtime.

I had a lot of money.

Oh, you were working overtime.

And plus the car wash.

Wait a minute.

No, I didn't.

That was just very settling.

If someone wants me to wash a car

purposely, then I'll maybe wash your car.

But outside of that, I was running back and

forth on that and just working at Central Boundary.

That's right.

Okay, so that's where your money was going then.


She asked me to go to Western Car. Yeah.

Well, let me see now.

When I lost my wife.

When I lost my wife, I had $40,000 in this house.

And the car paper.

Well, they wanted him to meet.

They knew I was a good person.

And they knew him before they knew me.

I just needed somebody.

And I was going with a bad guy.

But anyway, she's.

He was a bad guy.


Charlie Brown, come out.

He said, what are you doing?

And he said, what are you doing?

She's put a pin wrap against the telecom pole.

Not strong, man, because I work harder.

And I was strong in muscle.

So very big muscles.

And how you're against that telephone pole and

you come, Charlie Brownie, what are you doing?

What are you trying to do?

Well, I plan on knocking her brains out.

But, Gordon, I had some good clothes.

I was sharp.

Ethel didn't tell you about that part of that? Yes, sir.

You were very sharp. That's right.

And I had them closed and everything,

and so I couldn't come over there.

I want them to suit that.

I was living with her.

I was living with her in Bloomington, and it was

not a good thing she threw a brick at you. Oh, yeah.

She could have killed you.

She had a brick in the perk, and she was carrying

the brick and she talked to me in all that curse.

So about that time, I was just about

like I said, two strokes in front where

she gets behind her head or something.

When I ducked around and I caught her and told

her, Charles, he didn't know that we had been argued

a lot and he didn't come out the back door.

He comes just in time because you

could have been in big trouble.

Come home and I got home.

I hadn't got home before she called all that stuff.

You see.

Now you come on back up here.

You come on back here. Now.

I know. Good way.


I was just waiting for me getting rid of that one.

But I could have got in deep

trouble if Charles hadn't come around.

That was a blessing.

That was a blessing that he came in time to stop you.

Yeah, because you lost your temper.

That was bad business.

Yeah, that's right.

That she came along right at the right time.

That's right.

And got you out of that situation.

And you have the good sense to

recognize the right thing to do.

Oh, yeah.

You got to give yourself some credit Because a

lot of people would not have had the sense

to say I got to get away from this. That's right. Yeah.

A lot of people just keep going back

for and it got pulled on me.

That must have been such a happy time in

your life, though, when two of you got together.

I bet that was fun.

Okay, now it's about 430 anyway.

Is it your supper time or anything? Yes.

Is it your supper time or I supper time

whenever we want to eat, here's your thing.

But now we had a doctor's appointment kind

of waiting the day for a doctor.

I'm so happy that she came along and you had

the sense to know a good thing when you thought

and that you didn't get stuck in that situation.

That's just such a blessing.

05:40 p.m.

Okay, that's coming up pretty soon.


So he comes down here in the evening.

That's all right.

I've been here a long time.

I've been here a long time already.

I never heard that story before of

how the two of you got together.

That's very interesting about you wanted him to stay.

You asked him to stay. Oh, yes.

Because he looked and it's a

long week to drive down here.

That time of night.

[Tape 1, side B ends]

[Tape 2, side A begins]
430, right.

You didn't want him to go to sleep on the road.

Yeah, that's right. Right.

And he had had the incident of hidden cans.

You know how they set them up in the road, having

blocks and whatnot, he run into one in Cannes and he

was just asleep in his he'd go to sleep.

Oh, I know what you mean.

Those towns like doing roadways.

So you don't want him to get in trouble.

He run into one MCN.

But you wouldn't just invite

anybody to spend the night.

Oh, no.

I knew what I was doing.

You knew he was a sweet guy.

I know what I was doing.

What were you doing?

Well, I've got him in nine years.

29 years.

And he liked the way I look.

And I liked the way that he looked because

anything that I wanted, he gave it to me.

He took care of you. That's right.

He wanted you to be happy.

That's right.

So I've been sick.

So we've been together for 29 years.

Ain't no short time, just no short time.

And now it's not tired of him.

That's right.

That sounds like I'm no way tired.

That's my sweetest.

Yeah. Yes.

Too many couples can say that out there.

He's my sweet Hunter.

Anything that I can do to make it good for him.

And he got at me over here, too.

That's right.

That's right, baby.

Take care of something good going for me.

I thank God for you.

God sent you down from heaven above he sent you

down for me to love he picked you out from

all the rest because he knew I loved you best.

Happy Valentine's Day, sweetheart.

I love you more.

And he is always that guy.

He's a mess.

That thing in there is my sweetie after 29 years.

That's right.

We've come a long way.

We've gone around a mini curve.

I would like to come back sometime.

And I would like to do some

more of this life story, too.

Well, as I said, you always called and make sure.

Just call and make sure it won't call. Right.

That's okay.

That's worked out sometimes.

But you make people listen to you. Exactly.

I'm crazy. Are you tired?

Sometimes, though, some days kind of tired.

Not so necessary this time of day.

She's pretty straight.

No, honey, look, I don't wash and put my clothes up.

Did you put a clothes away and everything? Yeah.

Yes, indeed.

That's a lot of work for me to go back.

You're all through.

I'm old, but I'm still working, baby.

I do my work.

My everything cooking and everything washing.


Now, we're still here in Bedford

at Clemens household down at 450.

And we're going to talk a few more minutes before Mr.

And Ms.

Clemens go off to the doctor. All right?


So you were talking about going to school, right?

You were going to Mitchell.

Mitchell High School.

Yeah, that's fine.

He switched over to Mitchell High School.

And he told us story about getting beat up.

Yeah, that's right. Right. All.

And then about Mr.

Whatever His Name was coming and he broke up the fight.

Yeah, that's right.

What was the name of that school?

That was Mitchell High School.

Mitchell High School. Yeah.

Because the grade school discontinued at the 6th grade.

And I come to Mitchell High School in

the 7th grade, see, and that's when the

trouble yeah, that's when the trouble started.


And I was the only one there only black, black male.

And then the next year it was different.

Yeah, that's right.

Those children come from Consolidated School, and there's more

of them, like two or three more of them.

But that's all right. Okay.

Don't you just tell me that story over

again about what happened, about getting beat up.

Every day there's a bunch of weight on

me and I slip around somewhere else.

On your way home. Yeah.

And somebody seen me and they call the crowd.

They come and they got there

and their farmer rang around me.

And therefore I fought the one person to one person.

So eventually I'm going to get beat up.

Eventually I'm going to get beat up.

So then I could say I want a home.

And somebody told me with him

every day with him over there.

Did you run?

Yeah, I run.

When they let me lose, I could run.


So next day, next day, same thing.

Start again.

So I went to I think it was CW Decker.

And I told him they said that some of the other

bars told me that you got to eat up every day.

Also some of the other boys,

some other white boys on him.

So he called you to his office?


Because he knew you were getting beat up? Yeah.

No, he ain't called me.

I'll take care of it.

And he was a big man.

And he just hold it at that back

of that neck and held him up.

He got three or four big pop ups at Power.

You don't do that no more.

No person fighting going over here no more.

He stopped it the next day and I just went on my

way because I know that suit and Ten was watching him do.

See, he was fighting my little brother, he spied

my little brother little brother got in the crowd

there with his bowling on that little brother.

And Catholics got in there and everything.

So we just had it all around.

It settled down.

And then some of the friends that I know

in the neighborhood, I walk school them everything.

White kids or black kids? Oh, white.

The policeman, what do you call it?

And they got that straightened out, and he got

to be a friend of mine after this other

boy, after James Shelton, that's one day getting me

some water without getting no money.

And then I'm in.

And don't you run from nobody.

Here comes a boy and they come out and say,

hey, you're whipping so and so now don't throw mud

in the bucket because, dad, look at you.

We don't care about Mr. Harry.

We don't care about Mr. Harris.

I look back and David's down

on the Fort, the whole thing.

He saw the whole thing.

But hey, now as time comes, if you ever

do it again, if you ever do it again,

I'm swearing that you're going to be David.

You're going to be David.

So he's no, he come out and he

come out coming at the well there.

And I just got to somewhere around when he done

that, I raised that bucket up and I went down

and I raised the bucket up and all the mother

dudes, hey, all the other dudes took off.

But hey, the big ones are guys,

like I say, not out of school.

They were out of school.

You didn't do that.

So and so you're okay.

My dad will get you off.

So then you brought you filled the bucket up

and took it home after you put it over.

Yeah, that's good.

So this is when you were still

getting trying to go to school.

And that crowd right there, I was friends, everybody's

friends of mine up and down Baker Street, everybody.

The big was a little after that, after that on my side.

So you just had to be strong.

Stand up to him.

Yeah, that's right.

Don't run no more.

I ever see you running.

No one don't run no more.

He taught me not to run.

They want you to be strong.

I was out there after cold.

I'm in school, way out there in

the country, and we fought every day.

But he said, hey, I felt wrong.

Like I said, I didn't find anything.

And before I could put the water

again, there was torch more money.

Red clay.

He's asking for it now.

What you going to do?

The big old boy now, if he throws in

there again, he throws more money in there.

He went down and got some more red

credit with a bank of red credit.

He got some more.

Now what you're going to do?

He's going to do it again.

I didn't see it.

And when he raised his hand up, he

raised his hand up to that what boom.

To hit that water.

I had about maybe about half foot water and

come up there and overpail and then Pale hit

that dude there in a carbon and he screamed.


Was it a wooden bucket or a metal bucket?

It's a metal bucket.


Grandpa's name had a kind of a heavy galvanized bucket.

Lack of washing, too.

No, not that big.

Not that big.


But that's straight now.

But I didn't have to run no more.

Oh, when you did that, because when you did

with the bucket, they said, you don't fight fair.

You got to do what you can do.

They weren't fighting fair either.

Well, that boy and I have been.

Had it two or three times. Yeah. Had it.

Had it two or three times.

But then he was going to.

He found out that your old Daddy don't

do that because I'm going to kill you.

So you didn't say that. Oh, yeah.

I want my boy to be fighting like that.

And everybody's standing up here and

I got to have water.

We got to have clear water, clean water.

And he's throwing that mud in there.

And Harry, you see that boy over there? Mr.

Sean is over there.

I don't know when he works or what are you going to do?

But this boy is going to come up here and get walked.

Central deal.

Oh, a pump. Yeah, pump.

A lot of people use it. Yeah.

He's going to watch some coffee.

Because every time he comes home with that mud

in the fucking I'm going to beat and that

beat me like he beat me dead.

He did that to make you fight for you.

So how old were you then?

Like twelve or something?

Oh, yeah, that's right.

Now, what about the time did

you graduate from high school?

And then there's a thing about where you got on

the bus or something and you came to Bedford.

Oh, yeah, that's right.

What was that about?

I had a job over here cutting grassford

in Bedford and Dr bars out on Hill.

Out on golf course and go up on a Hill.

Big folks live up there. Yeah.

And Mr.

Got a Cemetery right there.

And it used to be four points.

So I got right there.

That's when the bus stopped for me. He stopped me.

He said, you graduated last night

with my daughter, didn't you?

Hey, come on, Ginia, where are you going?

So I said, Well, I got a job with Pepper.

And he said, Well, Hey, I'm going to Befford.

I'm going to Befford with you.

Would you want to ride?

So I said, I'll be sure.

I'm glad to ride.

I said, I ain't got no money

quarter, but I didn't have a quarter.

How were you going to get there?

That was 12 miles from Metalton.

This new bridge is an old bridge.

And the bus comes down the Hill and come

right there and PECO scrubs that old bridge.

And he comes to let me offer.

And I said, well, go to the doctor's office.

And my sister seemed to think that

he would take me out to Westland.

I went there and doctors get an operation.

Come on, come walk on down there.

Password Jcpenz is now.

And I walked on down that road

and on down at the golf course.

Off on the Hill.

When I got up on the Hill, I was tired of school.

And I'll be back and show you what to do.

I said, Well, I don't want 2 miles or two

and half miles from Jay Street on out there.

But I can walk.

Yeah, we used to walk.

But then did you keep going back

and forth between Mitchell and Bedford? Oh, no.

I always thought they were wealthy.

Yeah, but you know what they had a room for me.

Had two rooms down in the basement and a fireplace.

Well, so that was like a job.

They hired you?

Yeah, that's right.

After high school my sister was cooked out

of the hospital and that's when she contacted

the doctor by she knew the doctor?

Yes, that's right.

And what was his last name?

His name was Byers. Byers.

Yeah, so you actually lived on their property

and did like maintenance work like handyman?

Yeah, I enjoy it, but I made the money and you

see, we started out you gave me I think we started

I think he gave me one dollars a day plus room. Indoor.

Classroom. Indoor.

But then that was what you call it.

[Tape 2, Side A ends]

[Tape 2, Side B begins]
When I went home, my dad was

in Church court and I went there.

I never been to the Church door.

I didn't get Turkey.

Sometime I wonder about that.

But she's praying all the time. That's right.

She's praying to the doctors up there.

Oh, you didn't get on me that switched over to you.

Well, they're linked.

The two storeys are linked.

The two stories are linked.

You can't separate your story. Yes.

Well, I think I should let you guys go.

You guys probably need to go pretty soon. Yeah.

So that's good.

At least we got you now in Bedford.

[Tape 2, Side B ends]

Original Format

audio cassette



Bit Rate/Frequency

160 kbps


Clemons, Ethel, 1917-2006, Clemons, William Levi, and Klassen, Teresa C., “Ethel and William Clemons oral history, March 8, 2004,” The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects, accessed November 29, 2023,