The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects

Interview with Roosevelt Chin, Part 1 of 2, February-March, 1987



Interview with Roosevelt Chin, Part 1 of 2, February-March, 1987


The first of a two-part interview with Roosevelt Chin (1933-2007), a lifetime worker at the Cabbage Patch Settlement House in Louisville, Kentucky. Interview conducted by Keith Cardwell. The interview duration is one hour and thirty-four seconds. Chin describes his college years and the transition from being a full-time student to accepting a full-time leadership position at the Cabbage Patch Settlement House. Chin describes the various theatrical productions and parties that he helped organize at the Cabbage Patch. Chin describes the innerworkings of the Sewing School. Chin opines on how the changes in school bussing schedules brought about a low period for the Cabbage Patch. Chin describes the process by which Black people were integrated into the Cabbage Patch in the late 1950s. Chin describes the years of declining health in the life of the founder of the Cabbage Patch, Louise Marshall (1888-1981). Chin details the responsibilities to Miss Marshall which were put upon him and other Cabbage Patch staff members who were close to Miss Marshall during her final years. Chin describes the conflicts between board members and staff members of the Cabbage Patch after Miss Marshall became inactive in the early 1980s.


Mss. BJ C112 Item 1530, Cabbage Patch Settlement House Records, The Filson Historical Society, Louisville, Kentucky




Mss. BJ C112 Item 1530


Roosevelt Chin [00:00:03] I remember telling Miss Marshall-- she kept pushing me. "Why don't you go ahead and graduate? Why do you work here so much? Won't you get more-- take more hours, at UofL?" And I remember finally coming in and telling her that my true feelings were, I didn't want to be a doctor. I didn't want to take all that science. I really wanted to do art. And I remember she was the only one to back me because my father kept saying, "All this money we've wasted and you don't want to be a doctor?" You know. And my mother had told me "oh, your sisters taking journalism at Syracuse. And your brother's taking business management at UK. Why do you wanna be an artist? You know, they're again, being from-- being from the old country that they couldn't conceive of, of following your-- your dreams and feeling. They only look at it in the way of can you make a living being an artist? And you know, at that time, they didn't think you could. And I remember Miss Marshall introduced me to a man named Gilmore, Mr. Gilmore, who was the advertisement director at General Electric. And I remember she almost pushed me into it. And she said to Mr. Gilmore, "Now, Roosevelt wants to be an artist, and I want you to take him under your wing and teach him how to-- how to do the advertising. And I almost couldn't say no because I'd already made this spiel about, hey, I want to be in the arts. And rather than discuss it with me, or argue or try to talk me out of it, she went ahead and proceeded to get me into that direction. So after making that commitment, I couldn't back out. And finally, Gilmore advised me that if I wanted to go into art, I better get some training. Go ahead and register at the-- at the what they call the Art center, which is right next to the University of Louisville. It wasn't part of the university. And so I went there and registered and took a year at the art center, and that wasn't credited towards a degree. And in 56, my father had just died, and my brother was the executor of the will. And he told me, "Hey, there's some money for each one of us. So if you really want to go away to art school, you can." And then the first big decision was when I want to leave the cabbage patch. I remember talking to Miss Marshall and she says, well, I want you to leave. In fact, she almost forced me, said, "You're not going to be hired here until you go to school." So in 56, I went to New York and attended three schools: American Art Academy, some of the night school, and the Art Student League, which was the big thing then. It was right across the street from Carnegie Hall. And I remember in 56 and 57 going to school there. And the reason I chose New York because at that time, my sister who was in Syracuse had gotten married and she moved into New York, in Brooklyn. In fact, that's where her first and only child was born: in New York. So I knew I had room and board. I go to New York. So in 56 and part of 57, I stayed in New York and attended three schools. No degree. The gist of what they call professional training to build up a portfolio of my work. Then I got homesick, cuz I remember I came home for the Male-Manual game. I came home for Christmas, and everybody kept saying, "Well, just stay up in New York." You know? And so I remember Miss Marshall told me, "Don't come back until summer." So the longest stretch was from-- from New Year's to June, my only Easter, on New York and Fifth Avenue. And, "You'll be back in the summer of 56". Then I told Miss Marshall, "I'll never go back to New York again, just too far away." So then I went to the Cincinnati Art Academy in 57, 58, and, and, studied at the University of Cincinnati Art Academy. And then 60, I had all this training, no degree. And Miss Marshall said, "You need a degree." So I went back to the University of Louisville and picked up a Bachelor of Science in art history, which was just another way of saying he got a degree, because at that time they had no art degree. They still had that little art center, which wasn't part of the University of Louisville. So I had to stock up on things like art history and ceramics, things that they offered. But they didn't have the biggies, you know, the painting and the sculpturing and lithograph and all that. And at that time is when they finally made the little transition where the university had its own art department, and in 60, I picked up a bachelor's degree. And then I worked here for a long time until Miss Marshall again, said that I need a social work degree, so in, 67, 68, 69 I went back to Kent School. So that was a long time in between, from 60 to 68, where I didn't-- I didn't do any schooling at all. I just worked full time here. Since finishing Kent School, I have never, never left. Yeah, [unclear].

Keith Cardwell [00:05:19] Well, I want to thank you for being open and sharing all of this with us today. And we'll-- we'll set up another time to meet later on and pick up with your post college days and your leadership role here, and try to cover that in the next--- in another hour or so, on another Saturday. Right. Thank you. [END OF SESSION]

Keith Cardwell [00:05:55] My name is Keith Cardwell with the Cabbage Patch Settlement House. Today is Saturday, March the 7th, 1987, 10:00. I'm doing a second interview with Roosevelt Chin. We're sitting in the boardroom at the Cabbage Patch Settlement House. We finished up our last day by, getting you through college and through your degree work at Kent School. I'm going to pick up today with the post college days and your leadership role here at the Cabbage Patch. How was that transition from-- from school to a full time leadership position?

Roosevelt Chin [00:06:43] Actually, I had two transition periods because, I went to the University of Louisville, entering in 1952 and stressing out a lot. I remember, knowing that some of my classmates were graduating 51, and now, I hadn't even, come close to graduating. And all that time where I was taking a hodgepodge of-- of courses, I was still working at the Cabbage Patch. And I remember in 56 making a similar decision of, do I want to pursue an art career or stay at the Cabbage Patch. And Miss Marshall encouraged me to try the art field, because I think she had a sense that after I'd satisfy this yearning to-- to experiment, that I would be back at Cabbage Patch, and she knew that all along. So with her blessing, I went to New York in 56 and-- 56 and 57, and part of 58, I attended some professional art schools and, got my fill of art. Came back to Louisville and then came back to work with Cabbage Patch. And finally she said, well, if you're going to be back and it looks like you are, you'll need a degree. And I already had-- I think I accumulated 170 some-odd hours and I only need 120 to graduate. But they were all sorts of subjects that you couldn't collate into any kind of a degree. There was some art history. There was some sciences. There were some humanities. But no emphasis on any of them. So I went back in 60, 59 and 60 to the University of Louisville and picked up an undergraduate degree. Well, my first transition period began after 60, when I knew I was finishing college and I knew I would be full time at the Cabbage Patch. Now, at that time, 60 to 69, I think I relied mostly on the-- on the, power of the activity better than the leadership of me. I was very adept at being creative in presenting activities for the youngsters, but the activity itself was so exciting and different that the kids would join my activities, and really, really, got a lot out of it. Despite my-- my-- my leadership role, I think the activity itself would have carried it over. I had huge, Easter plays. I had a number of-- running some of the Christmas parties for 600 people, elaborate decorations, big plays on the-- what-- we used to have the stage in the gym which is no longer there, now, the teen room. But, some of those, extravaganza were, you know, were really big. You'd spend two, three months in getting ready for it, learning the parts, or building sets, or costumes, everything. And at that time, we had large numbers in Sewing School. One time we took on to-- to do the whole Bible, which is, you know, 300 and-- I mean, we had about ten one act plays that Mrs. Green and I had to write. And each one dealt with, you know, from Abraham all the way-- all the way up to, Wycliffe, writing-- printing the Bibles and then smuggling them in. We came-- we went through the whole gamut and I made costumes for them, I took tents and, and, fishing boats and, Roman forums and the-- and the cave for the Easter play, and all in one play. But now you look back and say, "how in the world did we get all of that done?" But the Sewing school ladies helped make the costumes out of the scraps from the rummage sales. [unclear]. And, we had different people come in and rehearse with each group. And I was coordinated with building scenery all through the building with the Sewing School children, in three different places and, each group of girls were doing their own little story without knowing what the others were doing. Then on the grand day, we all assembled upstairs in the-- what is now the daycare. And--and in the correct sequence, we introduced each group and they got up and portrayed more tableaus-- what they were-- that they just posed in the scene that was most important in that particular story. And-- and Ms. Green or I would read the Bible passage and Bible story that went along with it. So it wasn't acting in the sense that people think of. It was more just, depicting what-- what we want to get across to the children. And that was those-- those were those huge things that we used to do. And, I guess I was so energetic back then, it just didn't faze me to-- to work day and night of some of those things. And the huge Christmas parties with, the 30 foot tree on top of the stage and elaborate Christmas plays and-- and, I was rehearing, building sets for the-- for the stage. And I think that time of the-- of my career, I was probably the most energetic as far as, I was still coaching basketball teams and doing arts and crafts, and I was doing a lot of camping, and, I really didn't feel the sense of-- I felt I was a leader here, but I felt I was really a, without theory or without, real purpose in what my leadership was supposed to accomplish within our park. Right.

Keith Cardwell [00:12:27] Well, yeah. I was going to ask, who was Ms. Green?

Roosevelt Chin [00:12:32] And Mrs. Green is is Mrs. John R. Green, who-- who was hired here to run the sewing school. And at that time, we didn't have the department as such. But she was, I guess, would be the relief worker, the one that did the home visits, the one who, supplied clothes and--- and food and so forth when we needed handlers. Much like our social services department now.

Keith Cardwell [00:12:57] Where did the finances come to put on a production like this?

Roosevelt Chin [00:13:02] I don't, you know, there again, I don't remember, a budget and such. It was from Mr. Marshall, who told Mrs. Green she could spend this much and get it done. And we did a lot of what we call a cash advance. We would go down and buy things out of our own pockets, give the bill to Miss Marshall and she'd-- she'd give us back the money. And there were some things that we had to buy, you know. A lot of-- lot of decorations and costumes. Some things we just couldn't make ourselves and we'd have to go out and buy.

Keith Cardwell [00:13:28] But we were these plays, presented to the public or just to the kids here--

Roosevelt Chin [00:13:33] To the population of the Sewing School and arts and crafts. And that would be at least 100 children. Christmas parties and plays were sponsored by one of the companies in the neighborhood. The one I remember most is-- it was a paper company down the street. And instead of having a annual Christmas party, they would bring all their executives and secretaries over and their participation would be handing out the presents, an ice cream and the bag of candy, as the children left. And one person, I can't remember his name but I always assumed he was the president of the company, would be the Santa Claus. And then the-- the board of directors and members of the Cabbage Patch Circle would be the, ushers and-- and the monitors, and I would be in charge of the, of the, program, and Deitsch would be in charge of the gifts, and he would order the gifts and get the different church groups to come in and wrap them and have them all ready for the party. Well, it was a joint effort. And Jim Cooksey, the other staff, would be in charge of-- of the mechanics, the borrowing chairs from Walnut Street Baptist church and borrowing chairs from the funeral homes and, you know, 600 chairs. It was a lot of chairs to gather, and it would just fill the whole gym up.

Keith Cardwell [00:14:56] What was the name of that paper company?

Roosevelt Chin [00:14:58] Gee, I-- years and years, I think they switched names is the only reason I can't recall. We used to call them the Rowland Paper Company, but I think they, they, merged with another group. And, I recall-- it could be Superior Paper Company later, but they would never let us mention their name. I remember that was always my job. At the end of the play, I had to go up on the stage and, announce that we want to thank and I usually wanted to say the name of the company, but they would always tell me, no, you want to thank the Printers of America, which was for the-- the union or whatever agency that, that actually the money came from. There was always some nebulous type of a thank you where we really didn't know who to thank.

Keith Cardwell [00:15:45] Yeah.

Roosevelt Chin [00:15:46] Miss Marshall knew them-- knew the people, but they they didn't want to identify themselves or-- or take the credit for it, because it wasn't their money. It was maybe just the people who had delegated where the money went. But there was a real big thing about the-- whoever got to be the Santa Claus. Yeah. I don't think it was the same one each year. But that was a period when we were doing the long trips and camping up to Yellowstone Park to Grand Canyon to Canada, to Disney World. The football teams were very large, competing with the high schools around here. And in the freshman leagues, we were forming our own football league, which is now the Living Loud League we started as a local junior football league, but it was really high energy and-- and really, a good variety of activities. At that point, we hadn't-- we hadn't gotten together and decided, "Hey, you do the athletics." Others didn't have you do this and you do that and parceled out the different duties. We just all pitched in and whatever we thought needed to be done, we pitched in and did it.

Keith Cardwell [00:17:01] Would you say that was the heyday of the Cabbage Patch?

Roosevelt Chin [00:17:04] Those were the days of a large crowd, of no trouble getting-- getting who you want to join. You know, you wanted good football players, they would come from all over the place. Same thing with the Sewing School. We had them transported in from all the different schools, every school in the [unclear]. And, I remember Thursday was Sewing School day and it took the whole staff to get ready for it. You know, Dietsch had to make pickups at some schools, Cooksey would pick up a couple of shools, I would go to anther school. Even our secretary would have to sit at the door and take attendance. They were lined up to get in and we're talking about 80, 90 girls going in.

Keith Cardwell [00:17:45] Hey, tell me a little more about about the Sewing School. Where was it held?

Roosevelt Chin [00:17:49] Sewing School, there were three department. The beginners were downstairs in the basement, which is now called the Creative Arts Room. The middle group was upstairs with a tutoring room that's divided into-- into two separate rooms. That was one large room. And--- and then the advanced girls were over at the daycare. [unclear] And, they did a dress, among-- I remember the downstairs one was just learning how to do the stitches and make things like a pincushion or a, or a potholder. The ones upstairs, with Mrs. Green in charge-- downstairs was usually in charge of Ms. Palmer-Ball, who was a board member, and Mrs. Green was in charge of the intermediate ones upstairs in a large, what we called sewing room, which is now where the tutoring room is. Mrs. Green was in charge of that one. And they would do things like aprons and-- and stuffed animals, a little bit more advanced, where they would learn to use the sewing machine. And she was good at crafts type of sewing, meaning a laundry bag that held clothes pins shaped like a duck, you know, to hang on the clothes line. And and she would make funny figures. I mean, remember there were these little fat moon shaped people, with little legs and arm. And inside you'd keep your pajamas. For when you went to slumber parties and the boys would have something to put their pajamas in, and Kleenex box holders and things like that. So it wasn't sewing as such, except that you did learn how to do your stitches and then use your yarn and things like that. And then the older ones met in what is now the sleeping room for the daycare. And Mrs. Joyce was in charge of that. And they were the, the ones that are in the third year, and they would use the sewing machines, they would actually make their own dresses and jackets and so forth. And all three of them would be a total between 80 and 100 per week. And of course, they would have, all kinds of elaborate, celebrations, any kind of a holiday. These sewing schools were well fortified with, volunteers. They were all-- all the three leaders, Mrs. Palmer-Ball and Ms. Joyce and Mrs. Green, were very active in the church, and they were able to really get a lot of strong support from Ms. Marshall's friends and people from their churches. So, it was no problem to get 30 volunteers coming for each of these sessions, and each one would bring flowers and treats, you know, it was really a party type atmosphere. Well, these were the ladies that each one wanted to be looked at. And when you put them all together, it was really a nice gesture. And then one thing I remember-- Christmas decorating the room, you know, they were bringing these huge, pieces of magnolia leaves and red candles and, you know, really a Alice in Wonderland type of production. Each one would almost outdo the other one. And, and treats they would come into, you know, they didn't come with the things-- They came out of the bakery down the street. They they came from the nice sheltered [unclear], Hepburn Lane type of bakery. You know, the things that our children had never had a chance to experiment. The little tastes and the little tiny treats were painted. It was not only enjoyable for our children, but it was a learning experience they got to taste some things like-- that you don't get in this neighborhood, and the more they did it, the the more the children enjoyed it and the more the the volunteers would try to top it each week. And I was always in on it, because they would ask me, "Hey, we're getting ready to have Mother's Day, what kind of things can you get ready for us?" And I'd have a Mother's Day poster for each room, and they would bring the lilies and the flowers and the candles and the treats and cupcakes and all that. So that was really a big weekly affair. I guess that was the-- probably the biggest thing going on weekly at the Cabbage Patch all those years. Classes couldn't match it. Well, football was big, but there again, that was-- that was more isolated. It wasn't just open to everybody. Obviously you have to have some skill to play football. Whereas sewing, any girl who's interested can come out and come to sew.

Keith Cardwell [00:22:16] When did that phase out?

Roosevelt Chin [00:22:19] You'd almost have to say with the bussing because, see, they would meet here--- they'd get out of school, at that time I guess it was 2:20 when school was out and they would be here by quarter to three. All classes were to start sewing by 3:00. And by 4:00 we would take them all home. And of course in the winter months it would be dark by 5:00. But then with the bussing, two things I remember happening was they didn't get out school till later, they started getting out at 3:30 instead of-- you know, all the time I grew up, 2:00 was always the last period. Three-- School would be out at three. But this is when I was in high school and everybody who played ball got out at two. Because you got-- you had to to go to the gym to get ready for practice. And later on I think it was expanded to 2:20. And then with the bussing, probably because we had to start so much earlier--- I think the elementary didn't go until nine something and got out at three something, and the high school-- that kept going one hour earlier. I think the high school even today I think get out at 2:20 and the elementary get out at 3:20. I never could understand the-- why the difference, but I think that's to alleviate the numbers of busses and the-- and the traffic and the driving and so forth. So once the elementary schools, and there were about 7 or 8 in our neighborhood that came to the sewing school, once they were required to stay later, that immediately had a chain reaction. Because some of the volunteers couldn't come because they of course had husbands they had to cook for and they wouldn't get home.

Keith Cardwell [00:23:55] [Unclear].

Roosevelt Chin [00:23:55] Okay. I remember some of the volunteer teachers who'd been coming all this time had to stop work. They had to be home by-- it used to be they'd get home by 4:30. The last pickup going back to the schools for the children was usally at 4:00. That means the volunteers left at 4:00. They'd be home about 4:30 to cook for their families. And then when you added another hour that took their time in their schedule. And then on top of that, the bussing moved a variety of neighborhoods into the schools, because I remember going to one of the schools close by, Cochran, and the-- and the principal said, well, you know, you can't just gear it to the Cabbage Patch Kids. I've got kids from other neighborhoods in here now. If we're going to allow you to announce that camping is starting or sewing school is signing up, everyone in the school has to be eligible to come and sign, even though by the distance of travel, that would keep some of them from doing it. I still have to present it to them, at least give them a chance to reject it. And that kind of put a crimp to the publicity angle. We couldn't get our word to an exclusive bunch. But-- so when you started, we'd have to make a general announcement to all the schools in the neighborhood, and of course, a lot of those children had no idea what the Cabbage Patch was or had no desire to even come here. So our kids were kind of spread out because we only talked to the buildings that were in our neighborhood. Some of our children weren't even in those buildings. They would be bussed out to other buildings in those neighborhoods. So we just missed out on getting the word across to them. That, the volunteers and the the time, were the three major factors to start doing sewing school out. And the majority, not the majority, but a lot of them did walk after-- after the sewing was over.

Keith Cardwell [00:25:51] When did bussing take effect in Louisville?

Roosevelt Chin [00:25:56] Gee, must've been, Early 70s, I guess. 74, 73, 74, something like that. But ever since then, sewing has kind of phased itself out and sewing as such, as recently as last the 2 or 3 years has not been sewing skills as much as it is doing projects that required some sewing. You know, you make stuffed, soft-- softer Cabbage Patch dolls and you did the little old things that use yarn and you did have to grab it and you did have to push it and pull it through. But there was no actual sewing lessons given. Let's see. That finishes the transition period between starting to work here and finishing my undergraduate degree. In 60, I finally got my degree at the University of Louisville and began a completely full time, because up to that time, even though I was full time, I was still taking time off to go to school and do other things. And so from 60 to 69, I was completely full time, and there was a transition in-- the in the building too. I remember one of the key things that happened was we opened up the second floor above the game room, which is now used by the daycare. I remember in 60 we had what we call a Fiftieth Anniversary. We began in 1910. Well, that was a very elaborate type of thing. And we get all sorts of groups coming in. And Ms. Marshall would talk to them and we had a building fund. I remember Ms. Marshall had me draw a huge picture of what the second floor would look in our building, and as each one gave Miss Marshall some money, she would paint in one of the bricks and we tried to paint all the bricks on there to raise enough money for the second floor. But that was in 60, and at that time the teenage program was only, I guess, football and camping and so forth. There wasn't-- there wasn't the what I would call the boy girl dating relationship type of program. And, from the 60s on, once we open that second floor, we called it the Teen Lounge. In fact, sometimes I forget and I still call it the Teen Lounge. And the Teen Lounge is where we first started having things like bands coming in and-- and every Saturday night, the teenagers would get to decorate it up and have little lights at each table and do the disc jockey thing, play the records and all that. And that's when, that's when Ruth Tomlin down the street really got involved and-- and started to develop the teenagers. And it really got there again, quite-- quite elaborate and big. Big dances, Valentine dances, Easter dances, filling the gym up, having bands on the stage, patio lights out in the yard, and umbrella tables, and they really got into it. And that-- that was the time when I was just finished with college and starting full time and knew I would be here the whole time, and we-- during the 60s were all our big campng trips and-- New York-- we went to New York World's Fair. That was what, 64? I remember the whole bunch going to-- going to Yellowstone Park. Dietsch and I took a bunch to Grand Canyon. Cooksey and I took the football team down to Florida. So if memory serves me right, that was all in that time, in the 60s. And the dances were real big and, a lot of the young people that we worked then, would date each other and end up getting married and that hadn't happened here, and I knew maybe 2 or 3 cases. So [Joe] Burks being one, he met his wife here. My sister and-- and her husband met here. And from then on, that's becoming a-- a thing that's more common than not. A lot of the kids did, you know, end up marrying each other-- [INTERRUPTION] but not as elaborate. I think Burks had-- he met-- he met Katthleen here.

Keith Cardwell [00:30:27] Yeah.

Roosevelt Chin [00:30:28] But it was more just probably opening up Saturday night. I don't think there was the full gym decorating or having-- fans really start picking up once, well, I guess the Beatles, you know-- once guitar start taking over. Up to that point, bands meant trumpets and so forth and actual--- actual musical instruments, trombones and everything and clarinets. Well, I think once the Beatles and the-- the "rock bands" came in,all you needed was a guitar and a drum. So every-- every little group in the neighborhood tried to start a-- start a band and those kind of bands didn't cost a lot and didn't really need a lot of musical talent. So the little teen bands were everywhere. Everybody's garage had somebody's band practicing, and they would come around and ask us if they could, you know, play for the band. And I remember every week we'd feature this and groups would come in. And one-- one day a week, they would come up to our lounge upstairs and play sort of, an audition. And if our teenagers liked them, we'd hired them for the big dance on Saturday night. And more and more-- and I don't remember refusing anybody, but most of them were Cabbage Patch kids anyway or at least one member of the band, and usually there were four, and one member would be a Cabbage Patcher. So, dances, yes-- there were dances in the old days, but not-- not as elaborate as it was in the 60s.

Keith Cardwell [00:31:52] Since by this time there were Blacks, involved in all aspects of the Cabbage Patch.

Roosevelt Chin [00:32:01] Well, and all that stems in the fact that our philosophy then and this began in the late 50s I guess, 57 first I remember, no, even before that I guess, we were-- the feeling then was, we offered them the same thing, but we didn't mix them. We didn't let them come at the same time. So we have what we'd call the N program, which stands for the Negro program. And we'd closed the-- the game room and gym and the activities at five. Then the Blacks would come in, you know, that's a-- that's a term that came later, the Negroes would come in back then is what was used, and they would stay from 5:00 to 7:00 and they would leave and then the whites would come back in from 7:00 to 9:00 and only if they came out for a team were they together. In fact, at the very beginning, I remember we would have one team that was all Black and one team that was all white, even though they knew each other-- well, maybe they didn't know each other. They weren't in school together or anything. But they did come at different times to play and-- and their very first teams were, we offered them the same team. There would be-- there would be two 17 year old teams, one for the white ones, one for the Black ones. So Ms. Marshall had a vision where she knew that the Blacks were to be treated the same, but she wasn't ready to make the total move where it was completely integrated. She just made sure they all had the same opportunity. They all had a chance to use the game room. They all had a chance to get on the teams. And we did the trips that way.

Keith Cardwell [00:33:41] What motivated Miss Marshall to open the doors of the Cabbage Patch to the Blacks after 50 years of not-- 30 years of not having done it?

Roosevelt Chin [00:33:52] I think she was always a-- she had that pioneer spirit where she was-- she was willing to try things that other people wouldn't try or were afraid to try. But, you know, there were Blacks before-- Black-- let me qualify that. When-- the general consensus of when when the Blacks used our facilities and joined our group was the Sherman Lewis era. And I remember the story about Sherman was that, you know, he went two or three other places and they wouldn't let him play. And-- but he came here and Joe Burks took a ball and let him play. But he became an All-American, and now the coach-- defensive coach of the Super Bowl champions, the 49ers. The San Francisco 49ers. But that seems to be the-- the thing that everyone recalls when they talk about the integration program. But I can remember even before that, some of Joe Burks's team had Blacks on it, and I remember there was one whole team with nothing but blacks, and I can't remember that coming after the Sherman-- I think it was preceding it. So it was maybe just touch and go back then. But it didn't really count until we completely opened up the building. And that began the time that-- I'm pretty sure because I know when Sherman played football here was in 57, so I would I would always say that was the time, 57, when we opened up everything. But, I think I can remember in the earlier 50s, some of the Blacks having their own teams here. State wise, I'm not positive.

Keith Cardwell [00:35:35] Yeah. When-- when did the Cabbage Patch start integrating the teams and-- and allowing the Blacks and whites to use the game room at the same time.

Roosevelt Chin [00:35:42] Now at that time the teams and activities were integrated before the facility because the fear of some of the whites and some of the parents and some of the staff was that once we open the doors to anyone using our game room and gym, the-- the proven theory, proven because we'd seen it elsewhere, was when the blacks moved in, the white flight. The whites would move out. That was-- that was certainly happening in the school. Because Central, and I guess [unclear] were all Black, you know, when we were first opening up the schools for the blacks because, well, at that time they strictly went by, place of residence. So naturally, all the Blacks who live downtown would all go to Central and all the whites who have moved out to the suburbs have- would all go to the County school. So just by that selection of where you live, that made it either all Black or all white. So same thing here. We thought once we open it up, all the whites who were moving away-- when I was growing up, the housing project on 13th and Hill was all white. So we could see the-- the Parkway place-- Parkway housing project, and we could see that transition as the Blacks start moving into the project, the whites start moving out. And the-- of course, now it's frankly a totally Black project. And we could see the writing on the wall that once we open our doors, that would happen. And so we thought we better do it step by step. And the first one was to use a controlled group. Football, basketball, would be controlled because you knew who-- who could come out and through your cut system, you could just make sure it wasn't all Black. So we we would able-- we were able to-- well, you hate to use the word quota, but you were able to monitor so that the whole team wasn't all white, which is something we knew wasn't right. And we also knew it couldn't be all Black because that would mean we were chasing all the whites away. So we were able to make a blend that way, because when Sherman played, it was a white and black team. It wasn't all black or all white. And for years, that was the way we operated. Special groups for Blacks and whites were in it whenever was needed. Open free play, we still had that-- the N program. And that didn't change until, gee, I guess when the bussing started in the 70s, in the early 70s or the middle of the 70s when everything started, when we finally opened up the facility to everyone. Plus, at that time, a majority of the Blacks didn't feel like they were being discriminated here anyway because they were at least allowed to come in and participate on teams and in a different club. Because arts and crafts and all that was integrated. Anytime we had a-- we used to-- for a while we did it where-- I can't remember how we did, but I remember there were always two days, Tuesdays and Thursdays, when we tried to have our clubs or hobbies and so forth. And because we knew all the Blacks would also be in the building. We didn't ever want them, you know, although I'm sure they knew it, to see that the whole gym and game room was all white. And then we didn't want the whites to see that hey, the whole game room and gym is Black from 5:00 to 7:00. So we had to come manipulate to make sure that the two open periods didn't clash and run into other because, you know, we thought that could cause some problems if all the whites, were lined up at one door ready to come in and all the Blacks were leaving by the same door. So I remember we would enter and exit at two different ends of the building so that it would lessen the fact that, hey, you know, you all-- we're letting you all use the Cabbage Patch but not at the same time. But we thought that was bold enough a step to take at that time until the-- until the total integration came about where everybody comes to the same door and [unclear]. But I can remember that we were the very first ones because other agencies would ask us, how come we hadn't had any--- there was one time in Louisville when there were riots everywhere. I can't remember when that was. I'm sure that led up to the-- to the bussing part. And I remember a lot of people were asking us, how come, you know, we were primed for a riot. You know, [unclear], someone would come around and burn the place down and all that and-- and I think we avoided that because they already knew they were using our facilities and that-- that's been going on for, you know, ten years, you know, where some of the guys who played ball here already knew that, hey, they didn't, you know, we didn't go at the same time but we all played ball together and we all came to arts and crafts together and Christmas parties and all that. So I think, they didn't feel that they were being deprived. They were only being kept separate as not to cause any problems. Because every-- every activity was open to them, even though they weren't together. There wasn't anything that we didn't allow them to-- to do with the whites except they did it at separate times. But we never did have any kind of rioting or protest or anything or sit down or sit in at the Cabbage Patch and probably because of Ms. Marshall, we started early enough. Because I think we would have-- I remember, some of the stories I'd heard from some of the other coaches and Joe Burks in particular where the-- where the Black teams would come in and just dominate some white team. And back then the Blacks, you know, Central and some of these other teams, there were a couple of teams in Lexington, Dunbar and a couple of these all Black teams, never played the white schools. The white schools stayed among themselves. The Blacks had their own state tournament, the Blacks had their own national champions and so forth. And, even at that time, I think we had some Black teams here. And whenever we played some other white team, you could just see the superiority of the Black players, that probably they were hungrier and they were, you know-- They were more motivated. And I remember one time Dietsch and I both had 17 year old teams and we met each other in the finals. My team was all white and his team was all black and-- so you really can't pinpoint at what time did we start integrating, because we did it in such a way that it was like-- it was like seeing a relative that you hadn't seen in a long time, and suddenly he's grown up and you didn't really see that he got bigger each day. It was a- such a gradual transition. And it probably came about because of Miss Marshall. And the Cabbage Patch started to early.

Keith Cardwell [00:42:28] What kind of relationships were there between the Blacks and the whites after having integrated and all of that, at the teen dances and that sort of stuff?

Roosevelt Chin [00:42:44] You know, I don't remember a lot of Blacks participating in that. I think it was open to them. There were a few that came around, but, and there again, the other problem that kind of went away was also at that time they didn't-- they stopped doing the slow dancing in the close dancing. It was all just standing on your own, doing the twist, you know, doing whatever it was that they're doing. So in that way, we didn't have that boy girl type of problem that we --everybody thought we were going to have, because it was mostly dancing alone. You didn't touch anybody else, you know? I think that was what was so strong in the 70s. And I can't really remember the Blacks and whites causing any kind of a problem once we opened it up to-- and, you know, I can't really actually remember how we offered Black-- I don't think we had dances for them. A little bit-- that's a little-- that's a little hazy right now, I can't remember. You know, I can remember everything we had for the whites we also had for the Blacks. But I don't remember that being the case with the dancing. I remember the out of town trips, because we would go to Butler for swimming with the white kids, and then we'd announce, "Hey, next Thursday we'll be up with another group." And so they would be expecting the Cabbage Patch group to come but this time it would be all black, you know, and we were doing it that way in those days, but I can't remember the dances at all being done that way.

Keith Cardwell [00:44:12] Yeah. Did you have any problems at Butler or any other place when you--

Roosevelt Chin [00:44:16] Yeah. I remember a couple of the-- couple of the groups like that, the blacks would do a lot of-- but again, you can't say it that way because you're-- you're, stereotyping the blacks being the thieves. One group went there and there was a lot of stealing in the gift shop and all that. And I remember, that we had [unclear] taken drastic measures to counteract that. And there again, there was probably-- even society wasn't quite ready for a whole bus load of Blacks to come in. So, in a stereotype type of attitude the shopkeepers all said "oh, they're Black? They stole it." You know, that type of-- where it could have been anybody else stealing it too, you know. Nowadays, you know, it's accepted that, you know, the color of a person has nothing to do with if he's a thief or not. But in those days I think the fact that-- I guess it was quite imposing to see a bus load of Blacks come in if, you're not ready for it. And so I think anything that went wrong, immediately they'd say, "All the Black kids from Cabbage Patch did it."

Keith Cardwell [00:45:14] Were you ever refused admission to any place?

Roosevelt Chin [00:45:17] I think we checked ahead of time. We were quite aware that some of the other places around the state just weren't ready for us yet. I remember camping, you know, when we negotiate for a campground, you always mentioned that "We have some Blacks in our group." Because we knew, a lot of places weren't doing it yet or were slower to doing it or else hadn't done it to the degree that we had done it. I remember that was always part of our groundwork that we did before the groups.

Keith Cardwell [00:45:52] On these long trips you would take to Washington and New York or Canada, how did the financing, allow for such a trip?

Roosevelt Chin [00:46:04] You know, again, I wasn't-- we didn't operate as a budget as such. It was just a question of Ms. Marshall would look into the-- she would have 2 or 3, friends of her, they would manage her books, and she would just make a phone call that we had the funds to send this bunch on a trip. So I think there was a budget in her head but it was never written down that you had this much to spend for your camping program. And it was the question of the staff convincing her that it was worth-- it was a worthwhile activity and she would get the money for it. And if there wasn't the money or it was short she would make some phone calls with some of her friends and say, "Hey, we need this much more before we can allow them to go" and [unclear] a check. So you would almost have to say it was her individual efforts that solicited the money to go whenever it was over and above what we normally would have spent.

Keith Cardwell [00:47:00] What was your title during the years of 60 to 69?

Roosevelt Chin [00:47:04] Just Cabbage Patch staff. We hadn't worked up an organizational chart. We had no designation of who did what. I just know, I wasn't-- I just, by my training would sort of move in on the arts and crafts department. And Dietsch just sort of moved into the women's athletics and the running the whole gaming and gym program. And Cooksey was more into the home visiting and discipline and the counseling and the football program. But it was never pointed out that you're in charge of this area and you're in charge of that area.

Keith Cardwell [00:47:41] When did that time come about where you came by title?

Roosevelt Chin [00:47:47] After Miss Marshall was inactive. She was in the nursing home for a while, and I think it was just by direction but we did it in such a piecemeal fashion. Sort of like a family running a store. There was no need to, write down that you're the stock clerk and I'll do the mopping, you know. Everybody just did it. But once Miss Marshall was out of the picture, I think people who stepped in to try to continue the operation were amazed and they'd say, "How did anybody know what they were doing? No one knew when they started out." But I think at that point, the board and some of the other people started asking, you know, we had to-- we had to be more professional about it and defend it in a better way. And I think that's when we started working up organizational charts and budgets. And I think that interim period when Dietsch was the executive director, was when we really first start getting into budget and so forth. The [unclear] Miss Marshall had with us, that was never, never, a problem with the staff. She took care of all that.

Keith Cardwell [00:48:47] What year did Miss Marshall become inactive?

Roosevelt Chin [00:48:55] She died when the sewers blew up, so that was 80, I think 81 when she died. I guess, about a six year period. She had-- she had gotten mugged over at the Puritan hotel on 4th and Ormsby. She had pulled the car up and somebody reached in the passenger window and wanted her purse and as determined as Miss Marshall was she wouldn't let go. And I think the guy swung and hit her in the face. She took off and he was hanging out the window and finally got, 100 yards down before the guy finally let go and fell out and she was just shaken up by that. And I think that was the first sign I had that she-- this lady had had it, you know, she's really getting weak, she [unclear]. And I remember she took a trip and fell, I don't know if she fell in the train or the ship or what, and broke her hip, and they had to bring it back, and, you know, she-- they replaced her hip with a plastic one. And she was in a nursing home, and we felt, "Well that's it. She'll be in a nursing home the rest of her life." And you know, she moved out her nursing home and came back to the Cabbage Patch, not doing anything except being on the phone and conducting board meetings. And then I can't remember why she had a relapse, but they came to the point where she couldn't even do that. But she went back in a nursing home again when, where she dies actually. So there were two times when she was in nursing home: once after the hip and once because she just wasn't capable of doing it again.

Keith Cardwell [00:50:31] What was the name of the nursing home?

Roosevelt Chin [00:50:32] Gee, it was right across from Bowman Field. I guess it was Trimble County. Her first nursing home was Mount Holly out on Frankfurt avenue when she first broke her hip, but Cooksey and I would make, well I guess Dietsch did too, daily runs to her. She was so particular in what she wanted to eat and who would cook it and all that. And she recovered from that and came back here, because, then it became Mrs. [unclear], the secretary of [unclear], Cooksey, Dietsch and I taking turns taking her home, picking her up, taking her home.

Keith Cardwell [00:51:05] She still lived at the Puritan?

Roosevelt Chin [00:51:06] At the Puritan, right. And I remember sometimes, you know, it'd be a three hour thing just to get her home, get her on the bed, make some tomato soup for her in the little kitchenette there, and feeding it to her, and then leaving and wondering how she's gonna get-- She was too weak to even get up and wash herself or get dressed for the next day. And I think she had a sitter for a while who would come in at 5:00 and sit through the night and-- but none of them would last. You know, she was just so demanding and so particular in the way she wanted things done. She went through I think probably every sitter in the city of Louisville, until she could get somebody that she could get along with. And then when something happened, they'd quit on her and she'd have to find somebody else. Meanwhile, all that time, in order for her to be at the Cabbage Patch, one of us would have to respond to her calls and pick her up, bring her in, lie her down on the couch at the end of the room and she operated up via the little couch there. And then the whole day she would just lie there and, answer the phone, or we'd come in with questions and she'd tell us who to call to get an answer. Until she got to the point where she could-- just couldn't do it. There were many nights when she was ready to go home, we would almost have to bodily pick her up. Get the juices flowing again so she could walk to the car. So there were two nursing homes [unclear]. Mount Holly for the hip, and Twinbrook, for when she just got too old.

Keith Cardwell [00:52:36] How was it during that time of transition from Miss Marshall being such a dominant force to her being--

Roosevelt Chin [00:52:45] I think there was, the word's not resentment, but I think there was a lot of uncertainty in staff and volunteers in program. Suddenly we were without our captain or the person who guided the ship, and everybody was just running around doing whatever they thought was something they'd been doing all along. And I think, at the interim, the board of directors asked Dietsch to be the-- to be the director here. So I know there were a lot of conflicts at that time. I think Dietsch-- none of us were really groomed to do this type of job because Miss Marshall did it all. So we knew very little about who to call for funds or how they did the budget if there was a budget, or how to appropriate tasks to all the staff members. So when Dietsch was asked to do it, I know there were a lot of-- the type of attitude, "Well, Miss Marshall could tell me to do it, but I'm not going to accept it when Dietsch tells me to do it," especially if we did it in an unusual way, because Miss Marshall did it in an unusual way. And at that time I remember everyone starting to form their own organization chart. You know, there wasn't one. You know, in other words I would start saying, "Well, I don't agree with how the football's done, I'm not gonna do football anymore, I'm just gonna concentrate on my arts and crafts." And then Cooksey would feel, "Well, they're not doing this the way I think it ought to be done. I'm just going to start doing my counseling and my own thing too." And then there again, Dietsch. Dietsch would do it the way he thought that Miss Marshall or he wanted it done. So there were a lot of-- a lot of growing pains and struggling, each in his own way, with no one person making it cohesive.

Keith Cardwell [00:54:47] Was there any fear at that time that the cabbage patch would fold?

Roosevelt Chin [00:54:55] Yeah, I think there was-- not "fold," but not be the same, was the biggest concern. We didn't want it to just become a community center like all the other places. There was something-- there was something unique about the Cabbage Patch, and it's hard to pinpoint what it is, but I think we were more individual oriented, rather than just services oriented. We knew who was coming. We cared about them. They'd be coming for a lot of years. And I think we were feeling we were losing that. But I think even-- even after Dietsch was here for a while, there was always that feeling that the board would step in and change it. I think the board could see, you know, this budget and able to report to us. You know, we didn't do monthly reports, you know. She did it all. We didn't present budgets at the end of the year. It was all in her head. And anything special that came up, like buying a bus or-- or funding a large ship, we had no idea how to come up with [unclear] because before we'd just run to Miss Marshall. So in a way, we were really ill prepared to take over for her because she did it so much of her-- on her own. So I think the board could sense-- and it must've been frustrating for Dietsch too, because he was-- he was in here-- he was in the middle, you know, he was trying to-- trying to be part of the team, of the staff. And then here he-- here at the other end the board was bombarding him with all these questions. How, you know, "How are we running this thing? How come no one knows what we're doing?" You know, and so forth. And, well-- so he was kind of caught in the middle, and I think everyone could sense that something had to be done. You just can't flounder this way. A lot of-- a lot of short tempers and there was a lot of refusing to work with each other and there was a lot of activities canceled because we thought the other person wasn't backing what we were doing. And it was hard to convince another staff member to do it, even though it was hard to convince Miss Marshall. I think Miss Marshall-- Miss Marshall's diplomatic talents were so much greater. She would individually go for the others, and saw that all three of us agreed. But now there wasn't that arbitrator there. And sp each one just went their own way.

Keith Cardwell [00:57:21] What kind of power struggle did you see with the board who seemed to me-- [crosstalk].

Roosevelt Chin [00:57:26] [Crosstalk]-- There were some who were still the old, Miss Marshall's friend who knew us and call us their boys, you know, and watched us grow up and mature here, who still felt like even though we-- we weren't quite as professional as we should have been, they weren't either as board of directors. They were just good friends of Miss Marshall. They had a good heart. They cared about what happened to this place. There was that faction and-- and there was the new blood who were coming in, who were the young professionals. Well, not young, but they were professional type of people. Because there again, without Miss Marshall at the helm, a lot of the board members, they didn't know what to do either. So they'd say, "Let's make sure so and so comes in. He's a lawyer! And make sure so and so comes in. He's a bookkeeper!" And so some of these professional skilled people would come into the board and, of course, they didn't know anything about the past history of how Miss Marshall ran it. So they could only see, "Hey, this [unclear] they don't even have a budget there. They don't even know how-- you know, they don't have an organizational chart." So you can see the dichotomy of the old time board member who was just really Miss Marshall's friend, and the new professional who saw, "Hey, this is a challenge. They've asked me to come on the board of directors. I'm not gonna sit by and watch this thing flounder." But you could see that. That transition. So eventually, I think the-- after 2 or 3 years and the new members being voted in, I think the new bunch started asking enough questions, that the old bunch, who were again, getting up in their 90s and not able to make all the meetings and so forth, couldn't answer because no one could answer these questions. Miss Marshall had all the answers. So that bunch sort of faded out. And then the newer bunch, the more board oriented type of person, started taking over. And they could see, "Hey, this place is really, really-- there's too many skeletons and too many people not knowing what to do, probably because everyone depended on Miss Marshall so much. So this new bunch started-- started implementing things that we had never been exposed to before. Suddenly, "Hey, we went, you all-- you guys to come up with an organization chart so we'll know what Cooksey's doing. We'll know what Chin's doing." And they'd start coming up with things like, "You've got to work out some kind of budget. You know, we can't make decisions. We can't make both-- we don't even know how much we're supposed to be spending. And you all go through those programs and you all come up with a budget." And none of us really know how to set up a budget. And a lot of those little things, were the writing on the wall. I mean, you just sensed [unclear].

Keith Cardwell [01:00:03] Was it during this time with Cooksey left?

Roosevelt Chin [01:00:07] Yeah, it almost straddled it. There was-- there was something nebulous about the, Cooksey leaving. I mean, even to this day, I don't think anyone could really pinpoint. There again, you hate to repeat rumors. You hate to, you know-- you can only speculate. And the three areas I can think of, was-- was number one, he was finishing up his--

[end of recording]


Chin, Roosevelt, 1933-2007 and Cardwell, Keith, “Interview with Roosevelt Chin, Part 1 of 2, February-March, 1987,” The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects, accessed July 16, 2024,


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