The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects

Ethel and William Clemons oral history, April 17, 2004



Ethel and William Clemons oral history, April 17, 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. The interview duration is 2 hours, 44 minutes.


021PC44 AV 17 April 2004, Ethel and William Clemons Oral Histories, The Filson Historical Society, Louisville, Kentucky


The Filson Historical Society



Fannie Greenwade quilt 2021.29.1-3




2021PC44 AV 17 April 2004


Klassen, Teresa C.


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



[This transcription has been autogenerated]

It's going now.

Okay, let's see.

It's about 245.

She got a clock over there.

233 on Saturday, April 17, 2004.

Mr. And Mrs.

Clemen's house in Bedford, Indiana.

And we're sitting in the bedroom

and we are eating chocolate.


Well, I got in trouble last time.

You want that light on?

You know, when the Texas still used

to be over on the square.

Well, you got that?

Well, I knew you traveled Philadelphia.

My friend, his sister lives in Philadelphia. Right.

And we stayed there.

That's really nice.

All night.

And he went back to New Jersey

and stayed with Richard and everything.

And that's one reason why.

That's one reason why he was hugging and kissing me.

35 years.

I think it's been 35 years.

He's living better.

And he went to Philadelphia.

His sister is in Philadelphia.

They're both girls, but he married a girl.

And where did the girl live? On it.

Where did his wife live?

New Jersey.

That's a long way from that place.

Oh, yeah.

He called two or three times a week.

Come on, Rich.

Come on now.

He missed you.

He said, now, I'm going to make sure I call.

And you had this, but I know you're on the way.

Oh, yeah.

Don't do that, Rich.

He said, I'm going to keep calling.

Keep calling and keep calling.

And if you ain't on this way.

I told him, I said I'll be there soon.

Maybe this weekend.

I'm trying to west.

Well, the job is after a while.

We're worried about the job.

I want to get a long ways a week stay with him a week.

Then he went over and stayed with the

girls one day or two days or something.

Then we went to Atlanta City.

We got everything done.

What's wrong?

I said it for more than one day.

She tells me, what are you going to call?

What do you call tapery

car, honey, there's nothing special.

Well, look, we don't have to slip and go.

We can go where we want to go.

And when we want to go, ain't nobody

got nothing due to where we go.

Ain't nobody giving us no money. Well, let me see.

We got a flyer there and two of us.

Well, now, this one's got a blue here. Okay.

You just have to share it.

All right.

I would have got one with more

flowers if I could have found it.

I thought that road was awful.

And then while you had it set in

the car, I got a thing over there.

You said that in there?

Yeah, but you can't do it.

Well, I don't want it sitting up on my juice.

It won't hurt.


I'll will take it down later on.

I think eventually it probably

needs to get some sunlight.

That's right.


Oh, look, it's got a whole lot of

buds, and it's got some beds on it. Yeah.

Let me ask you a couple of questions

about from when I was here last time. Okay.

Now, you got married April 14, 1973.

How long have you been going together?

One year.

About a year. One year.

So when you first went up there to the

wake, when you first went up there to the

week, that was like April or summer or something.

The year before? Yeah. Okay.

Wait, I give you engagement ring on Christmas.


Yeah, that's right.

On Christmas a year ago.

On Christmas.

And then you got married in April next year, right?

Like four months, right?

Not for a whole year.

Whole year.

Oh, so you wait a whole year

and then till April after that?

Yeah, that's right.

You were engaged a long time.

Yeah, that's right.


He went up down at 30.

We was old road then. Yeah.

Did I see you here last I see

you last year or he pointed me.

Did I see you?

Yes, sir.

And you speak.

I don't want you to speak.

If you go down, you go down here

and drive it like you say, 50 miles.

Was that 70 miles.

How far is that?

It's 72 miles from my land.

Where she live?

On the north side. Okay.

North side.

What street were you living on?

On the northwest side.

I woke up there a second story.

So you are going up there?

Pretty regular.

But the thing, the cutest thing.

I met him at a funeral home.

Yeah, she already got that thing.

Now, what was the name of the funeral home?

We're Willis.

It was awake, right?

Yeah, that was awake.

But Claude White, right? Claude White.

He says I had a hard time and he was an elk. Yeah. Okay.

Now that's another question.

You were a steam leader.


What's a steam leader?

What does that mean?

What do you do?

Because I've never been in him.

Oh, the app is feeling right.

Yeah, he was a member.

I was coming.

It's second rank.

But just for that night?

No, for a year. Wherever it is.

For a year.


But was it the club or not?

No one in Bloomington.

But did you think that you being a

team leader does that, like, gets her attention

knowing that she had that status?

Well, were you impressed?

She was too much impressed.

Because she had a lot of other

dudes looking at come a long way.

Did she say he beat their time?

Yes, he beat their time.

He made it.

He did everything he could do for

me to make things nice for me.

Shoot, I didn't have to worn from now.

He was good to me.

If he had a pen, I wouldn't be in his bed now.

He won your hand.

Yes, he did.

He sure did. Yes.

I was the best woman because a lot of banks.

But they didn't get it.

He was desirable.

I guess I was.

I was the one that he picked.

And we've been to kill off a long time now.


We've come through many things.

We go on around America, me and

their boy, we really have enjoyed him.

And I, honey, I could drive, too.

I was a Whizzer then.

I could drive my foot in that gas and wall.

Before you got married? Yeah.

You had a car?

No, she had his car.

She drove my car.

But, you see, at that time and since I

know that I was going to get married when

the company says, hey, we're going to work seven

days, we can work six days on overtime.

Central Founders Way on the Hills.

Where were they from?

People from the Hills all in way

over on no, the Hill, West Virginia.

Did you drive with her?

Trust her?

Trust her.

But then with that, you're sister?


Yeah, your grandma's sister. Oh, murder.

You talking about murder?

Yeah, not murder.

The other girl, somebody else died.

But you loaned her your car.

Did you loan her your car?

I took a chance because the roads

were narrow and she could slip off.

She would have 2 miles to go to confidence in herself.

After I looked at that road, I think it

wasn't too long after that was me and my

aunt went that time and breath a little hard.

I can see her had drawn up over in the corner.

We went on down to West Virginia Bay.

Now, is this before you were married? Oh, yeah.


So this was during that year when you were engaged.

After you were engaged.

So you asked him if you could borrow the cost or

he just offered no, because can I use your car?

So then I'm going to have to work Saturday and Sunday?


Did you have your driver's license? Sure.

I wouldn't have been driving without it.

That's a long way to West Virginia.

That's a long but it was no sweat to me.

I put my foot in the air.

I have a big deck a month.

Neither of my grandmothers used to drive.

Neither of them did.

Well, let's see, they were born.

One of them was born in one of them.

So they were quite a bit older than you. Oh, yeah.

But neither of them ever learned to drive.

We got a woman now that the husband runs a car

wars, and she's just now learning to drive the car.

She had never learned to drive.

Well, every time we look up to Go,

Mississippi, every time we look up, they go.

They're going to go crazy.

They make it too many trips down there.

But see, you guys, he trusted you

and you had confidence in yourself. Yes.

And I went on to West Virginia with no sweat.

Yeah, that's a long way.

But I went and when I got there, I called.

And you called them.

You said we made it. Oh, yeah.

In one day, I put my foot in the gate.

Now you got a new car.

After you started going with that right.

Yeah, because the old car didn't have a good heater.

I named our car.

That was Brown Sugar, the one

that didn't have a good heater.

And what was the Net?

That was a beautiful Cadillac now.

Oh, yeah.

She has come here.

She never would go down. Never go down?

No, but I think one time you

were out washing it in the driveway.

I got one restaurant.

We used to have a Brown one, but that was bigger.

How do you spell Ostravine?

O-C-T-A-V-I-N-E-V-I-N-E-I wasn't sure if it

was Z e or V-I-V-I-N-E.

And is that Rose Durson's? Mother?

Mother in law.

Her mother in law. Right. Okay.

Her husband.


She must have married somebody.

Wait, who you tell that?

Rosen, Dr.

Beans, Octavine and Harold married.

They wasn't married.

I thought they were.

I don't know.

But you knew. You knew them who?

I did, but I thought they were married.

Are you sure, honey?

Not sure.

She's got that Durson from her.

From her husband?

Yeah, from her dad.

From her dad.

From whose dad?

Her husband was named Duke.

How was Octavine?

Answer a question now.

Octavine was Howard White.

Harold was Rose their daughter?

No, her husband.

You don't know whether it was

common law or what or not.

They were going as husband and wife. That's all.

You know.

Harold married her.

What's his name?



Hey, she don't go by?

No, I have Boban supposed to go with Alabama.

Well, okay, they're not married.

Rose in on that.

She goes with Obama. Yeah. Okay.

That's her bar friend, your cousin. All right. Okay.

But maybe her first husband.

But was she married before? To somebody? I don't know.

Rose Durston. He has K.

That okay.

Durston is her family name. That's right. Her family.


She never got me.

Well, you know what part.

Okay, well, then I know the story.

I do know that much.

I know why you knew that man.

He was the brother. Yeah.

That's where he come in.

Yeah, right.

And that was at the Bloomington Watch.

Let me get her plans together.

You know what I do want to go back to when you were

living up here in Bedford and when you got the best one.


The girlfriend in Bloomston.

That's what he's doing.

Yeah, I know about that girlfriend, but

that was after his first wife died.

Do you mind if I asked him about what happened?

How he.

Oh, no, honey. Okay.

No, I'm not like it's.

Like I did everything in the world I could.

And that was his first wife. Mother.

Oh, I'm not really like it.

I didn't know anything about hard him.

Well, I didn't know all that.

I didn't know nothing about her.

I had no need to have no kind of feeling.

That was history. Hold on.

That was his first wife.

That was his first wife and Schmidt.

It was my first husband more.

I appreciate that girl.

I appreciate that.

No, honey, you don't have to worry.

She's not going anywhere.

No, she ain't going nowhere.

And ain't I need him trying to put me nowhere.

Well, then I'd like to know about what happened after.

Just keep telling that story.

When you finished high school and came up here

and the guy gave you the best ride.

Yeah, and then you got the

job working for the doctor, right?

Okay, so then you were a young man.

I guess that's right.

18 years old.

And then what happened?

I want to fill in the area what happened between

that and the times somebody asked me hey about the

both me something about how old were you when I

started out that boy got to be.

[Tape 1, Side A ends]

[Tape 1, Side B begins]

You're figuring? Yeah. Okay. All right.

You were living up here.

How long did you stay with us?

Maybe five to two years.

Is that right? Yeah.

And then I went down the train and

I worked down the train two years. Oh, really?

You got a daughter? Two years.

And then me and my wife, we decided that was me.

I went to Chicago.

You went to Chicago?

We went to Chicago.

And that's where we got married.

When did you get married in Chicago, year old Marcus.

That probably hits about it, right?

I went in Detroit and then mom said she's almost safe.

I end up coming on back.

And that's when I started to fool around, trying

to work for different families in different places.

And I work at the Diane Shop and everything.

Look at you, leg.

Like she's got it right down there when

F and I got it down there. Yeah.

So you must have been 54 when you got married.

I'm thinking that, too, when you were a young man trying

to fill in the part of your life that came before.

So you worked for the doctor and

for the doctor, you did yard work.

And that was before World War II.

What were you doing at Crane?

Well, I was working at the Marine Marine barracks.

And that Marine Sergeant Has working for us here.

And he said, Would you like to be a Marine?

He got me, got my paperwork, everything.

He sent it to the Pentagon.

And the Pentagon told me.

He said, hey, we haven't any place for Negro.

That's when I went down to Forest,

he was hit knock her down.

Well, he went ahead and knock her down there.

Galagher man by the name of Galagher.

He was hit, knock her down.

And he hurt the Forest over the construction.

I went to him, I said, hey, I'm

not going to keep working like this.

So I cut out there.

And that's when my wife and I

decided we're going to start getting married.

I got away from this little segregated deal

with the construction thing and the head knocker.

Was that going on at Crane? Yeah.

What is headlocker?

Well, construction.

And then the man was head man down.


You mean the charger the whole time? Yeah.

He died here not too long ago.

It said he'd been in charge of craving.

Yeah, that's right.

So this would be for World War II?

Yeah, that's right. Shortly.

Yeah, that's right.

How did you make your wife wait a minute.

We're all friends.

And then we're more youngsters together in Mitchell? No.


When I worked at Buyers, I was sitting on that porch.


Porch on my mother in law's porch.

Look at this gas.

So you knew the family? Oh, yeah.

How did you meet the family, Mrs.


What was her name?

Oh, the buyers. They were.

But these people right here, what was

their what do call in, didn't you?

Well, no, wait a minute.

Campbell. Campbell.

I checked with him.

Sonny Campbell live in Bloomington.

He was out there.

And like you say, poor devil.

But he lived out on that Social Security place here.

No, he never lived near that

Social Security place out there.

That's pretty camel.

And she was accountable.

My wife was accountable.


And Tony is accountable, too.

Tony in Chicago related to Sunny Campbell.

And to who's?

The guy in Chicago.

But how did you meet her family?

Listen, Mommy, Jude and Joe Bond, everybody here.

Was Ken coming on there?

It was Ken, but she was familiar. Bedford. Yeah.

You were from bedsville. Yeah.

But after you came up here, you

started spending time on her front porch. That's right.


And near her meal, everybody else's.

Now, here's one other thing.

He gets confused about a high

stepper going to get into that.

Because look, back in them days, when you hire

stepper now, you believe that you was something else.

In other words, you asked the man you as a flirtation.

Yeah, I was a flirter.

And I got whatever I want.

Is that you?

I think I understand what you're trying to say. Yes.

Like a prostitute or something like that. Oh, no.

When you talk about how you can flirt without that's.


Well, I wasn't a Freuder.

I didn't froze after nobody.

They wanted after me.

I would shop every time you see me.

Yeah, she was respectable. All right. Okay.

I got that all straightened now out

about the high stuff and all that.

Oh, I don't mean now.

You know better than that.

I understand what he said.

He just didn't want me to get the wrong impression.

Because you knew how to get the boys if you wanted.

No, but I didn't have this.

And I just kind of shot all the time.

Well, it sounds like he had an eye

for somebody that was kind of sharp.

It was a meeting of the mine, I guess I was.


That dress was really nice.

That's the first dirty day, wouldn't it?

The first every day.

I picked up the next year after we were married then.

But that's like 74, 75.

How old was she?

Was she the same age as you?

No, she's about 19 years old when you were 21.

Two years younger.

And her name was Kendall. Yeah.

And she went to Bedford High School.

So when she graduated, that was at about the same time.

So the thing that made you leave and

decide to get married is when you got

that new Pentagon did not accept that's. Right? Yeah.

What was your reaction then when that happened?

Didn't even give you a chance.

He told me.

He said, look, you can have all your clothes

and the issue of clothes for a long time.

I work all the girls.

When you were working out there?

No, when I was working.

When I was at Crane.

Why was that Crane as soon as I left Crane, I

left Crane and there was a little girl out there now

that she's in the family now, in the swarm family.

But she helped me and she said no.

So I said, no.

I'm going to have to live with.

I'm going to have to live with.

So I went on it for Chicago.

I went to Chicago and then I

wrote, she got the next train out.

Oh, my God.

We got married in Chicago.

Where did you live in Chicago?

I couldn't tell you.

I think it's all this tore down.

I think these apartments and things are all tore down.

That's been a long time.

Horton came up.

So you went up there first and did you get a job?

I didn't get no job.

I went to get a job, but something told me

and said, hey, look here, you're a big feeling.

A big what big feeling is little Camel's mother.

She said, you mean you come to Chicago and

you get a lot of jobs in Chicago?

I said I had my mind going to Philadelphia.


So when I left there down to train

station, I told her then, all right, it

will be Detroit first and then Philadelphia.

So I figured I'll go on.

I said, I'll think about the Ford plan in Detroit.

I think about the Ford plant in Detroit.

So I cut out.

I got there and I got out there to River Rouge.

I went out to River Rouge and might be a week or two.

And so it raining and bad.

I didn't have necessary clothes

where places were condominium.

But a lot of people around here

did go to Detroit because Mr.

Jackson, did you know Cordell Johnson?

Yeah, I believe she spent some time in Detroit.

A lot of people went up there for jobs. Yeah.

Only a lot of people you knew, didn't they?

No, they probably had them.

Probably had them in Indianapolis, but in the small town owned,

they went off looking for a big city to work.

But anyway.

So then you didn't stay in Detroit.


Made so much money, didn't know what to do

with I think it was 80 Continental Motor.

Yeah, Detroit. Yeah.

And then I had so much money, I didn't know what to

do with her mom about how sick she was and everything.

Yeah, she's in Chicago, but she

decided, oh, wait a minute.

And she comes to Detroit and she's sick

and she got sickness and kidneys failed her.

So I ended up and I sent her back home and then

Monroe took me and said she said, why don't you come home?

I looked up there and it raced right there in Troy.

So the man is so easy.

You can stay here long.

You can stay in here as long as you want to.


So I stayed for fun.

Is that the preacher in Portugal? Oh, yeah.

Well, he was a Beaver preacher.

I remember hearing you talk about it.

That's the reason I know what you were talking about.

He let you have his room or something? Yeah.

So anyway, they had a race ride, and

it was a terrible thing in Detroit.

Was it in World War II?

Oh, yeah.

During World War II.

Yeah, it was in World War II, like 42 or 43 years.

So we had a race right there.

Were you with it?

Well, every time I looked up, the police was.

I got on a street car.

Hold it right there.

Wait a minute.

Down here.

Up there.

They're supposed to be in service,

but I wasn't in service.

A doctor here gave me authorities.

They sent me down to Louisville and

gave me authority on the four F.

So I went to Detroit.


So then you went back.

Then you went to Detroit because you have

here they are patting on my checking boots

and everything to see if tonight.

Why aren't you in the service?

Are you getting smart with the officer?

No, I'm not getting smart with you.

Where it has it down here.

You check in the courthouse and they'll tell you.

So you should know he's going to be on our paper.

He ain't going to be in Detroit.

He's going to be on our payroll down here.

You mean they wouldn't have your record up there?


Then they put the record.

They send the record up there.

When they send the record up there, why is he in there?

So, hey, I went down there to where you had there.

Selective Service? Yeah.

Went down there and they hadn't me.

Basketball court, night and knees all swell.

They're trying to find out if

he's a sleepwalker at home.

My dad.

Well, anyway.

But you were.

I was a sleepoff here.

He mentioned a sleepoff.

Well, you should understood me. Yeah. Okay.

Anyway, I don't know.

So they were testing you?

Yeah, they tested me.

And see what my parole board.

What kind of board you go.

Well, anyway, where it is, it was

down here and they said no.

We got him listed down here for what you call it.

Then when his time is up for his

for ETSA, then we'll check him back in.

When that time comes, then we'll

decide to send him down there.

I don't know what you call it. I don't know.

Training or something.

Well, my goodness, that's quite a rigmarole.

When you were here, you've gone down to Lewis.

Yeah, that's right.

You were a sleepwalker. Yeah.

And did your father come down there and testify?

How did they find out you were a Sleepwalker?

I didn't want to be in the Walker.

Everybody did.

Now, black people or everybody.

He's a preacher trying to get out of that, too.

My dad got out of it.

Some people.

Well, see, he wanted to be a Marine.

Oh, yeah, I wanted to be a Marine. That was different.


And so when they want be a marine here, brand.

No, we haven't any place for Negroes at this time.

At this time.

And so then he said.

Look, he had this top Sergeant down the crane.

He said, Mr Clinton, you have all the issue close.

You can keep all them if you want to.

So he's already given them to you.

Oh, yeah, he's already given to me.

They had me in training down.

[Tape 1, Side B ends]

[Tape 2, Side A begins]


He thought it was okay. Yeah.

And we go to Church and I'll mention to

them then and I told him, hey, I had

to issue a clothes and everything down Crane.

And they said, hey, no Negroes in the Wrinkles.

They had to have a separate quarter.

And then, I don't know, somebody asked

for separate orders for the Negro.

Well, this man at Crane that had invited you

to do it and had you signed up and

everything, did he ever make any kind of apology?

Oh, yeah, I see him every day. Yeah.

I'm going to get ready to get married

and I'm going to go to Chicago anyway.

I see so many big buildings.

So you went there first?

No, I went to Detroit.


And then no, Chicago go and then

Detroit next far as I ever got.

Then I had come back home.

Come back home, started that car wash.

And that came after your first WiFi.

Is that why you came back here?

Oh, yeah, that's right.

Was that after the war, when you

came back here when she died?

She died in 69.

Oh, she died in 69.

So were you in Detroit for all that time?

Oh, no, I come back here, we play card for them.

You look at me.

I wasn't there.


There is a race riot in Detroit.

I wonder if that was after the war.

Was your wife with you when that happened? Oh, yeah.

Your first wife, was she there with you? Yeah.

And when you were getting patted down?

No, but that must have been during

the war because you said that. Yeah. Why?

You weren't enlisted.

So first you had tried to enlist, not rejected.

Then next thing you got the four F.

But that wasn't for the Marines.

That was just for that.

Yeah, it was for the military, the whole work.

So did that happen before you went up to Chicago?

I was down here.

That's where they had me crawling up down there, too.

Then later on I got in Detroit

and they had me calling again.

Was that to test it?

I don't know how.


So the years you are working for Continental,

how long did you work for them?

I think I was there when my wife had got sick.

I come home three years.

Less than three years.

But I had the money.

That was in the 40s.


And later on with everybody great big money.

And at that time I would eat.

That was big money.

What happened?

That was the late 40s.

Something happened during the 1950s and the 1960s.

Oh, I've been here.

But your wife didn't die until 1969.

Yeah, 69. Okay.

So you came down here and then

she didn't die for a long time.

That's right. Okay. I see.

I thought you came when she was about to die when Dr.

Joe diagnosed her for kidney.

And then she went down there to

New Albany and went to New Albany.

Well, I think she had cancer.

I think that was the main thing.

That cancer had eaten her kidneys up.

She had one kidney good.

And the other one is just about either.

So we went down there at that long

Jeffersonville up on that Hill up there.

And that was cancer.

I'm pretty sure that was cancer.


She started getting well, you might get home.

She started getting well.

When she started getting well, she started.

She started out skinny, but she was.

Why is that?

She was swallowing that they come overcoming.

My mom carried us out and she was man her fingernail.

The blood was just running out

over because her kidneys weren't working.

But anyway, so much for that.

This is a terrible thing.

I wonder if nowadays they know enough.

They know how to take off.

They didn't know about cancer.

They don't learn so much now.

It will almost make you hurt.

That's the truth.

I've heard that story.

I didn't know her, but it just seemed like I know her.

And what I can find out, she and I were somewhat alive.

All right, I believe.

How are you?

Something about it I didn't know of, but him talking.

I know, but you're talking about

the unity tools and everything.

You mean she didn't fly cars?

So she was married?


She was clean living.

But her mother, she never was going to Church.

She didn't go to Church.

And her mother always wanted to get to Church.

She lived right here by the Church,

but she wanted to go to Church.

But she went down at the Derby, though.

That's right.

She always went to Derby.


Then I premiered.

Started going to Derby, too.

So we started going to Derby.

I've been to the races once in Lexington.

Like Kingland beautiful, but you can smile.

We didn't miss them.

Oh, yeah, we didn't miss them.

And my other husband, we were on the front of the heat.

We had a charge seat.


He was cutting of sporty. Kind of.

What sporty?

Yeah, that was Smith.

His name was Albert Smith.

Well, that's it's. Interesting.

So you both had it in common that

you were used to going down there.

Now we went and had a seat.

It didn't set out in the field yet.

He couldn't pay rent.

He'd do what he wanted to do.

All he was a don't care kind of person.

Don't do anything if you want to do something.

And maybe to pay the rent.

Well, the rent could wait.

Yeah, that's right.

But I tell you, you had a

heart of gold do anything for you.

But him and money didn't like one another.

Known about Bedford.

How did you find him?

How did you guys get together if he was down there?

What's the big place in Indianapolis?

The ballroom? Yeah.

He's always in the boat.

He was a high captain.

Big hotel.

He was a cat.

He was a cat.

The Dome yeah, that's right.

Was this in the 40s?


Oh, my gosh.

He was in charge.

How did you pick something?

How did you meet him?

No, you met me at will.

But the thing about it is, look, hey, he

had that money, and she said she's high stepper. I was.

I got anything I want.

Just like when I met him.

Just like when I met him.

Did you give me what I wanted? Yeah.

You tell me.

I wasn't shopping.

I have to get shot because I was shot.

And Smith spent that money on you.

He was spending yours.

Maybe it was a package.

He sounded like he was.

He's he had a good heart in it.

Yeah, he really had a good heart in him.

I used to have his picture where I could

show you, but I had it to his cousin.

His cousin lives in Lourbore, and I

thought maybe they might appreciate it.

Oh, yeah, that's right.

I guess you kept a copy of.

Oh, he was a sharp man.


Did he go man?

He was a what?



Allen Figurs on it.

But having money up, he couldn't keep a hold of money.

No, he couldn't help.

No, he didn't pay money.

Money was for spending.

But you got to be a good one to

really hold that stuff, you know, that to keep

money, you got to really handle it.

You got to really know what to do.

You are.

I'm the one that handles the money with him.

The money got so big, he put that in.

You can buy so much.

The bonds paid off pretty good for a long time.

They bond to pay off for you.

Is this after one time?

Oh, yeah.

You know, they were required to buy so

many other bonds, they take it out of

your payroll, and I've never seen it.

Well, Mr.

Smith, did he die?

When did he die?

He died.

Remember that?

He died under the bath, too.

He died and he was scrambling around on

the floor and got hung under the bath.

Oh, my God.

You know what I have had you know,

I just thank God for your goodness, because

he sure have brought me a long way.

He had brought me a long way? Yes. Poor Smithy.

He got hung under that basket and couldn't get out.

It was like setting up on legs.

And he was sick.

And he was on the floor. Yeah.

What was he sick?

He had an attack. Yeah.

In his own mind, he probably was trying to get to

the toe, come up and bump his head against that too.

30 something years.

How long was it after your husband died?

No, it might have been maybe a year.

You've been single for a longer time, but

you've been running around with this bad business.

I like it.

The bad business. Yeah.

That sounds pretty right.

But you must have been going through a hard time.

I figure you are going through a hard time.

You mean Evelyn?

No, you after your wife.

Well, you see, the only thing about it. Yeah.

I don't know where you know anything about it.

That main affair has all control.

No, this is his word.

We just have a few days here in it.

But the world belongs to him.

And we think that this is our world.

Just ain't our world.

The Lord just gives us a short time in it.

Do you realize that?

It's up to him, okay?

That's right.

He is a reason for it all.

And I tell you, I don't think I would

have come as far as I have come.

If I hadn't had it.

I couldn't have made it.

I could not have made it.

You had whole different parts of your life.


Your life has so many different stages.

I have had it.

You never could have seen how things would have gone.

I could have made it.

She had beer.

All her people. Yes.

I was one left to take care of all of everybody.

Look up for it and catching

insurance policies and everything else.

See, there's my aunt up there.

All I got to do is look at my forehead.

But anyway, he has brought me this for.

And I don't think he's going to leave me now.

I don't think he's going to leave me now.

Can't get away from the Canon at forehead.

We got them forehead.

I'm just writing down when you make a little movement.

Because that won't be on paper.

I got to write that part down.

I don't know, but I don't think

I should stay too much longer now.

You know how she is a sure hand expert.

She has to be.

That's because when you jump in and

this thing blocked out this year. Yeah.

I was going to tell you the last time

when I did that without taking any notes.

And then when I got home, I had nothing to look at.

It's like all I could do to figure, remember what

we said is I had to listen to all that.

It's a lot easier to just look at

your notes written down on a page.

But it works.

I got to take notes, but

then also use the paper corner.

And then I get all the details on the paper corner.

That just kind of make a list of the general topics.

And when you make some little thing with your hand

or what do you did that like with Smith.

I got to write that down.

We've come a long way.


And that's yours.

And here's something else, too.

Now, sweetie.

Was an elk.

Did you know him? Oh, yeah.

You know him before he died? Yeah.

So you know Mr. Cleveland?


She didn't know me for Smith.


I thought he was on the books.

He didn't have a John L.

Okay. All right.

You didn't put that down there, did you?

No, but it'll be on there.

But it'll get straight.

But you knew him anyway.

Even though he was amazing,

Lodges must have got together.

Well, when you came back from Detroit and that's

when you said you started doing the car wash.

What happened after you got going on

the car wash was that investment? Oh, yeah.

So you just bought this property?

Yeah, let me see.

There was a couple who live here

and they got bowled up somewhere.

The woman killed a man.

The woman killed a man and his

name was reek moved in his house.

And then they let that go in on the taxes.

My mother in law told me, she said, why don't

you buy it that little place over there and everything.

And she's grabbing for property.

Grabbing for what? Property?

So I'll come on here and I went down at

the courthouse and I worked a lot for $25.

All the foundation was on we're.

[Tape 2, Side A ends]

[Tape 2, Side B begins]

[Tape 2, Side B ends]

[Tape 3, Side A begins]

430 days I ain't got nowhere to go but in the

kitchen well that's important because it's almost 05:00 yeah but getting

some checks yeah no we got some food out there she

told me you made some fries honey you can't beat it

you just can't beat it together no way no perfect match

but I just got enough garden to meet that I can

meet anything he come up with no matter what he come

up with I'm ready for it yeah well that's what makes

it just adding my buddy over there I'm going to take

that thing you don't put it in the direct sunlight well

I think it could be good to get some direct sunlight

sun to part shade sun to part shade but do whatever

you want to do with it you said to now I

hope it'll just Bloom a little bit more than just this

one flower oh yeah I'm going to take off this because

it's been a long time but I just want to clarify

that last thing about the ambulance that happened the problem with

the three people dying by the bulldozer and you being on

the scene that happened after you've gotten rejected from enlisting in

the Marines but not very long after that no it wasn't

very long after that and you decided time to leave yeah

but then at that point you are feeling pretty hurt and

angry at the way you've been treated but when you came

back from Detroit and you started speedy and you got in

the Chamber of Commerce and you got to be a respected

member of the community it just seems like kind of came

full circle or something maybe you see what I'm trying to

say that maybe at the beginning that times changed during that

time and you did get some you got to be a

respected member of the community but really even when the thing

happened with the Marines that wasn't the local community no it

wasn't the local community no was it?

No it wasn't a local community that wasn't the local community

and the man apologized you could tell that he felt bad

about it yeah he wasn't a local man at that first

Sergeant wherever he was down there but see he was locally

down here I don't know where he was from he was

a master Sergeant or something but he was under the Pentagon

his instructions come from the Pentagon and he just didn't realize

yeah he didn't set you up he made an honest mistake

you're working here at the barracks and keeping their fires going

and everything like I said I'm going make a trip around

and keep the very expires going there and then come back

here and then like I said early in the morning so

then finally we get this thing all set up and he

said hey you know what, you just keep fire going everywhere

that's nice and you said I'm going practice Marine anyway, I'll


And then later on, later on, he says, you know what?

I talked to the boy.

He might meet all the board

lacks, everybody like you and everything.

I'm going to see if I can get

you into Marine corn clothes and everything.

Helmet clothes and everything.

Not no helmet.

We had a little old oh, yeah.

That little old up here.

Yeah, I know.

He told me there.

He said two weeks ago around he throwed up one

of the other sergeants, you go down and have time.

So I thought, well, I thought he was going to tell

me what instead of that, he said, hey, the Pentagon says

we don't have any place for Negroes at the present.

So he told me that.

He said the reason why he said

we had to have special quarters.

Somebody kicked against the mix.

What do you call it? Integration.

Integration, yeah.

In the armpit.

And later on we got women and everything.

But anyway, and I told him, sure, there's

a lot of people down there now.

A lot of men used to work

Harold used to work down the crane.

He worked down the crane and McKee.

So when he told you that he called you and

he told you that he told you in private?

No, he told me he told me right

there in front of everybody else's, standing straight.

So he said, no Negroes in the Marine Corps.

I could get in the truck every time I got into truck.

Here comes that's, right.

They were worse than hard.

This is hard.

He always showed that his rejection stood out the way

he felt, the way he thought he felt about it.

He showed it.

That's good.

You think it was good in one way and one

way it was because they take what they want to

take and left what they wanted to leave.

Who took a left to him was

giving him the police in Detroit.

He resented you. Oh, yeah.

Well, look, they just figured that, hey, no, 18.

How old are you?

18 years old.

And I know you was a dude.

That's all for race, right?

Time comes.

You weren't used to being treated that way, though.

No, not down here. No.

When you come in that door, you've seen them.

Three people pictures on that wall.

Three up. Yeah.


Why did you tell me to go look at that?

No, that's what made the change, right.

When things started to change, not marked with

the King, the other man, Jeff K and

his brother, they started this thing.

They started this thing rolling.

And then here comes Martin Luther making his speeches.

So I figured that all three of them more

or less hooked again, me green blood about it.

That was after this business in Detroit, right?

That was after this business in

Detroit with the race riots. Oh, yeah.

The race ride started before.

After World War II.

Well, during World War II, if

they wanted you to enlist.

It must have been during the war, probably.

Yeah, sure.

And then they called up now call up

who are taking care of the Selective Service.

No, he's all right.

They had you on record.

That's part of it.

How did you feel while that was going on?

Well, I don't know.

All these things, all this hollering and

hooping, squealing, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Over Mitchell.

It's all started all started in middle school.

All started in middle school.

Now these kids, these boys, these

boys are going to gang me.

It all started right there.

And I thought, wow, am I going

to live with this all my life?

Hey, I had to go to school.

I had to go to school.

And the Superintendent, the what's it called, two

officers, they're making you go to school.

You go to school, but your rights are

being violated later on in your life, right?

It's going to be violated now.

So when later on I come down here,

I said, hey, here comes a man.

You say, hey, I can get you into the Marine Corps.

He tried to get me in the Marine Corps.

Then here comes the big man calling from the Benedict,

hey, we have got no place for it because such

a President said no mixture in the armed portion, right.

It's the same deal, wasn't it?

Yeah, it's the same deal.

And then they're going to turn around

and say, we don't want you.

And then they're going to turn around and make

trouble because you're not enlisting after they rejected.


So you saw a terrible hypocrisy, right?

You know what I mean?

Hypocrisy? Yeah.

I mean, if you could have

turned into a very angry person. That's right.

These black dudes running around here doing it.

Everybody gets American people.


You have good reason. Yeah.

I'm with Johnny's Boy here.

Black Panther.

Yeah, but you didn't.

I did because the banks started

out, like I said, school there.

And then, like I said, my dad might

make me fight and then find out.

Yeah, okay.

Well, that's not bad.

That's about the neighborhood thing. Yeah.

I didn't think all the time.

I said, well, maybe it'd be better off for

me to run for me, so and so.

But then dad was, hey, we

didn't get no water last night.

Hey, you go up there and get your water and water.

That's what there's Negro.

He told the doctor the story.

Oh, yeah.

And then I told the doctor to

pay the first doctor to come here.

Right across from the Boys Club for

me is the Boys Club, too?

Right across from the Boys

Club is hall, governing hall.

And he's got a big building right there, not a brick.


Here comes a man here and he

tries to oh, he's a doctor.

So he decided he's going to go to Bedford because

there's a lot of people that need his service.

Maybe in Bedford so he come and try what you call.

So he asked, all right, bedroom space.


Are you so and so?

Yeah, I'm down in Bedford, so and so.

But he said, I don't have too many customers.

So when he comes, check her out.

He decided, well, wait a minute.

Maybe that's the reason.

So he cut out.

He cut out. Wait a minute.

Before he cut out, he asked, oh, he's

trying to buy my house and real estate.

You buy the house? So and so.

Hey, then if you buy there, then

your patronization ain't going to be recognized.

Your what?

Your patronization ain't going to be recognized.

He won't be able to make living.

The doctor. Yeah.

Was this doctor black?

He left and went to Bloomington.

Why does he have to leave?

Well, at the business.

Hey, you're after business and at the Chamber of Commerce

and those there, if they going to pull you down.

But, hey, you got a lien.

Now, why did they pull him down?

Was he Negro? Yeah.

Now they accepted you because

they had Negroes already there.

So this lady, this doctor, is Negro.

Yeah, I see.

So he was her forerunner and

he couldn't have a practice.

Yeah, that's right.

She said, oh, is that right?

I said, yes.

Like I said, two or three of them.

They may not be as dark as

you, but they are black doctors.

A forerunner going right there.

So there was this hall before that.

No, wait a minute.

There's somebody else rented space at

hall on this big building.

Crossing Boys Club.

Oh, he's the one that owns the building.

Yeah, but the doctor that rented

the space rent the space.

If you rent a place from a real estate person and

what you call it, then we fail to patternize you right.

So he gets all that congestion.

So he says, I just go on

Bluetooth and where everything's all right.

And what was his name?

I don't know.

This was many years ago.

No, not many years.

Yeah, probably.

I think it's within the last seven years. A black box.


And he ended up somehow you've been able to.

I don't know.

Just because you were raised here.

Well, somehow.

Well, now then, I was born and

raised on Grist Lavender, New, and just

across Street, Bristol Avenue in Mitchell.

And then I have the Rico it.

And then a Charge Pilzer.

He's an Italian.

And he put me on his bus and gave me

a free ride to factory that I come up in.

I work for doctor buyers.

And then later on, I decided, well,

I'm going to go to train.

And you could work for train as a civilian?

Yeah, I could work for him as a civilian.

But then when that time comes, later

on the Marine Corps deal come.

Well, then, hey, I told my wife I

was standing out bars at that time.

I said, Get your clothes together, because I'm going to

marry you so and so and get your money.

So I went down there and got what we

call got the marriage license and I headed on

to Chicago and then she come on to Chicago

with me and we got married right by yourselves.

Were you the only two at the ceremony was

it in a Church or no justice of peace?

Don't look at me.

No, wait a minute.

I believe it's a justice of peace in Chicago. No. Here.

Oh, here.

Oh, you got married here.

You got married license here.

But I got married in Chicago.

At Church? No.

At her aunt's house.

At Tony's mother's house.

Oh, boy, I'm sweating now. Yeah.

All right.

Now, let me ask you something.

You told me you wonder why I told

you to go and look at them pictures.

I know you didn't see them

pictures because you didn't wear out.

I have seen them.

I just couldn't remember.

I have seen it and they are starting it.

And Martin Luther King he

started these marches after Kennedy.

After Kennedy.

His brother.

That happened about the same time. Yeah.

68 yeah.

So he got killed before White Lucra, didn't he?

Did he it's about the same time?


The main one.

And then here.

Come now.

What's going to happen there?

That was a time.

That was a time.

That was a time.

The clock stopped.

That was sad when that news came through the

whole house and blocked all the region stuff.

The registers off.

Everything stopped when they announced that

no, we're Martin Luther K.

That was so sad. Yes.

And you just sat down on the other card.

I was blood.

Were you glad no.

[Tape 3, Side A ends]

[Tape 3, Side B begins]

Everything just stopped.

It looks like everybody just froze.

But you know, he was making things changed.


He has so much power.

He's not been sharp.

Don't leave him out.

I leave him out.

But he can't pass.

It was a different time.

It's such a terrible.

I mean, to think. What? My house.

I had a dream he could show too. Couldn't.

Heckle, I don't know.

Wait a minute.

Give me all three of them.

Well, mainly.

Wait a minute.

It was all cut and dry.

Now, look, I don't know what your

politics is, but that dude over there

in Missouri, what's that president's name? Truman.



Somebody is going to plan on taking Jeb Kennedy's.

Taking his place because they

made plans on killing him.


No, it looked like me that somehow

another that he is cut and dry.

He said he's too powerful.

We've got to get rid of him. Kennedy.

You got to get rid of him.

See, now, you don't mean JFK Hoover. No.

Jeff Kenneth.

Yeah, the one in Missouri that

was pulling the strings or whatever. Oh, yeah.

Well, that's it.



Now then, you see, look, like you said.

What is his wife's name?

I got to head to Washington before he got killed.

All of them.

Even that's Jeff K's brother, Bobby.

He's going to get in.

He's going to do the same.

He's going to do like Jeff K did.

Hey, we got to get rid.

So you're confirmed by simple.

And I can't think of his name.


Jackson, you don't need any blankets.

Okay, I'm turning this off now.

And it adds 515 on the

picture on the Bobby Kennedy, Dr.

King and JFK picture.

[Tape 3, Side B ends]

Original Format

audio cassette



Bit Rate/Frequency

96 kbps


Clemons, Ethel, 1917-2006, Clemons, William Levi, and Klassen, Teresa C., “Ethel and William Clemons oral history, April 17, 2004,” The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects, accessed November 29, 2023,