Audio commentary by
Alberta Wren to be added
Audio Help

previousnext

NARRATOR: Alberta Wren
INTERVIEWER: Ebony Williams, Marymount Student
Date: December 9, 2001
Location: Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Yonkers, NY


INTERVIEWER: This interview is done in collaboration with Marymount College and the Hudson River Museum in order to collect and preserve the oral history of Black Americans who migrated North from the South, during the Great Migration. Thank you Mrs. Wren for coming. And I'd like to start by asking when and where you were born and raised.

NARRATOR: I was born, uh I (guess it have to be Richmond) or shall I give you right that little small town that I... Chase City, Virginia. Richmond is the next you not far (inaudible).

INTERVIEWER: In what year was that?

NARRATOR: 1907.

INTERVIEWER: 1907. And when did you leave to come to Yonkers?

NARRATOR: Now you ask me so hard questions. Now I say I was the age of 17. Can you follow that back? All right, you can look for that.

INTERVIEWER: 17.

NARRATOR: Uhhuh right. 17 when I left Yonkers when left Virginia. That's when I left Virginia.

INTERVIEWER: You left Virginia at 17.

NARRATOR: Umhum.

INTERVIEWER: And why did you come to Yonkers?

NARRATOR: Why? Well...you know there wasn't actually you know how you just leave home to come to...I had people here. (inaudible) It's kind of a hard question to answer exactly why. But uh...

INTERVIEWER: So you had family here?

NARRATOR: I had family here. Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Who was here?

NARRATOR: A sister and two brothers.

INTERVIEWER: A sister and two brothers?

NARRATOR: Probably two sisters, yeah.

INTERVIEWER: And what did they tell you about Yonkers? Before you left Virginia, what did they tell you about Yonkers?

NARRATOR: What did they tell me about Yonkers?

INTERVIEWER: Did they tell you, um, about the opportunity? Did they tell you about the neighborhood? Before you...

NARRATOR: No. You know you just come to the work for the (inaudible) in the southern part of the country you know and could get better work her you know pay more and stuff like that.

INTERVIEWER: Okay...and when you moved up here, um, who did you live with?

NARRATOR: I lived with my sister.

INTERVIEWER: Umhum. And did you, um, find a job up here?

NARRATOR: Yes I did.

INTERVIEWER: And what did you do?

NARRATOR: Domestic work, I did, uh, working in a (inaudible), I guess you call it this big, uh, like a hospital, homes, something yeah that's domestic isn't it.

INTERVIEWER: Uh huh.

NARRATOR: Yeah, well I did domestic work. Now what was the name of that little place? Bruton Homes. Bruton.

INTERVIEWER: Bruton Homes.

NARRATOR: Mr. Bruton, Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: And how did you get up to Yonkers? Did you take a bus or did you take a train?

NARRATOR: Train.

INTERVIEWER: Train. Do you remember that experience?

NARRATOR: No just uh, you go to the nearest station

INTERVIEWER: Umhum

NARRATOR: Which (was a little) uh out from where I live near Richmond. A little place call Chase City. That where you got the train from. And uh, you know...yeah I suppose we changed a couple of times or so. And then you rode on a bus and you'd ride to certain places. And you get a train to New York City.

INTERVIEWER: Mum. And did you come into Penn Station?

NARRATOR: Yeah that's right. That's right. And they you'd come to Pennsylvania Station and then from that you'd get the umm the bus into Yonkers. And I went to my sister's house.

INTERVIEWER: She...

NARRATOR: Just you know.

INTERVIEWER: She didn't meet you there at Pennsylvania Station.

NARRATOR: No well it's been so long. You know how long that's been? Much over 50 years. I think you just get a train out from Pennsylvania Station and it brings you right into Yonkers.

INTERVIEWER: Umhum.

NARRATOR: You know then get the number one bus and uh, something like that. I
think they leave you on Warburton or something like that. But don't pinpoint me on that because I might have to prove something.

INTERVIEWER: You...

NARRATOR: I mean by that when I left like, when I left, I stop at my sister, I had a sister living in Yonkers and I stop with her and then I don't know, in place like a big hospital. I forget the name of the place (inaudible).

INTERVIEWER: Did you have any worries or fears when you came to Yonkers?

NARRATOR: Fears?

INTERVIEWER: Yeah...

NARRATOR: Like what?

INTERVIEWER: Did you um...

NARRATOR: I mean what do you mean like fears?

INTERVIEWER: Did you have any expectations of Yonkers and it didn't happen or fear coming to a place...

NARRATOR: No, I didn't fear because I had relatives here. I had a sister here. And it was just like moving to another neighborhood, you know to relatives.

INTERVIEWER: Did you meet a lot of people that was from your neighborhood?

NARRATOR: Yes, Yes! I went to church by the name of Messiah Baptist Church and I met a lot of people.

INTERVIEWER: Umhum...

NARRATOR: But now that's been so long. That's been over 70 years. (Inaudible) and a lot of things. I, you know, can't quite remember and well the things you probably need I can't remember.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, don't worry about that.

NARRATOR: Humm

INTERVIEWER: Um, what was your most memorable story about coming to the North. What do you remember vividly when you came up here?

NARRATOR: Story? Remembering a story?

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, what kind of experiences do you remember?

NARRATOR: (Laugh) You're getting me now. I don't know what to answer to that. Well then I came and met my family and years later. But I'm sure it was almost a year before I did any work cause stopped at the house (inaudible). And, uh, I worked, I did domestic work by the name of a person, by the name Bruton. Bruton. And that was like a big place where they took care of the uh, the elderly people.
(Interruption)

NARRATOR: Uhuh? What did I say?

INTERVIEWER: You were telling me about, um, Bruton.

NARRATOR: Yeah, I worked for a family by the name of Bruton. It was like a convalescent home. And they were elderly people there and uh I worked there.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, um...

NARRATOR: But I can't tell you the years you know because if they had to check I don't want to get nothing wrong.

INTERVIEWER: That's okay. Don't worry about the years.

Interruption (Someone speaking to Mrs. Wren. "I think I did send somebody up I think I don't know)

INTERVIEWER: What do you remember about the neighborhood that you um live in.

NARRATOR: Now you know you asking some very, very hard questions. You know how long that's been. It's been over 70 years ago. Over. Now I come over here in 1926. 26.

INTERVIEWER: 1926.

NARRATOR: Yeah. 26. Yeah 26 (inaudible) '26. So, uh, I just remember moving in with my sister and that was on a street by the name of Carlyle Place.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember if it was segregated?

NARRATOR: Well, you know that. Every since I remember it was you know. It was like it is today. A little worser then today, I guess. In what'd I say 1960?

INTERVIEWER: 1926

NARRATOR: 1926 things were little different uh know lots of places there was they'd hire people and they'll say I don't want a color girl send me a white girl. So...(laugh)

INTERVIEWER: Umhum

NARRATOR: Now that was, in those days you know that was all I remember, well I probably could remember can remember a lot of things but I'm going back so far.

INTERVIEWER: Did you have children?

NARRATOR: No, no, no. I was 17.

INTERVIEWER: No, no, no later on during...

NARRATOR: Yes, yes, and yes I had four children.

INTERVIEWER: Four children. What are their names?

NARRATOR: George, Robert, Edith and Cleo.

INTERVIEWER: Umhum

NARRATOR: But they are all gone.

INTERVIEWER: Umhumm...And your husband's name?

NARRATOR: George Wren.

INTERVIEWER: And when did you meet him?

NARRATOR: Well he's from my neighborhood in the South and we grew up together,
kinda,.

INTERVIEWER: And did he follow you up here?

NARRATOR: Oh no, no, he didn't follow me. (laugh) He came on his own.(laugh)

INTERVIEWER: Oh, okay.

NARRATOR: No, no, no as a matter of fact he come up I mean I can't say just say exactly when he came but uh you know there was a lot of people after they come out of school they couldn't get any jobs you know

INTERVIEWER: Uhhuh

NARRATOR: Unless you farmed. You know we lived in a farming neighborhood. You know, so there wasn't that much money. We had plenty...we owned our own farm which was almost 100 acres, but we were farmers, so there wasn't much money so once, uh, you know, you wanted to make a little more money, (laugh) you moved to a place that's a little more different from the southern places.

INTERVIEWER: Uh hum. And is that why your husband came up here to...

NARRATOR: I can't just speak for him, but I'm sure it was, you know, he came up when he was young. Yes, of course he came to get a better job. Cause he worked night shifts (inaudible). Otis Elevator. It's closed up now but it's a big place called Otis Elevator. Especially in Yonkers (inaudible) I understand it's closed now.

Gloria Dent: They are closed. Yes.

NARRATOR: They have closed.

Gloria Dent: (inaudible) Industrial Park.

NARRATOR: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah there's a sign there

Gloria Dent: Near the train station

NARRATOR: Yeah

INTERVIEWER: In what year did you guys get married?

NARRATOR: We got married, now let me see . . . 1900 and 7 that's when I was born, (laugh) don't tell her...19...Isn't that funny how these things get away from you. It could of been 1900 and 30. Yeah.

(Knock at the door)

Gloria Dent: Come in.

NARRATOR: 1929, 1930, I think 1930.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, and now did you um, run into him again? How did you know he was in
Yonkers?

NARRATOR: Well we were from the same town.

INTERVIEWER: Uh huh.

NARRATOR: We were from the same place. So, uh, he came to Yonkers you know in
this town. And I knew him, you know, from down south as matter of fact, we went to school together as we grew up and uh, his family knew my older sister, so, uh, we ran it to each other you know.

INTERVIEWER: And your kids, your four children, right?

NARRATOR: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: They went to school here in Yonkers.

NARRATOR: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Um what did you think of the schools the...

NARRATOR: The Yonkers schools?

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, when your kids were in school.

NARRATOR: Well, it was, uh, you know all right. I guess. You know in that day anyhow.

INTERVIEWER: How so?

NARRATOR: Huh?

INTERVIEWER: How was it okay?

NARRATOR: (Sigh) I don't know how to answer these things. I don't know how to answer … uh, it was desegregated.

INTERVIEWER: It was desegregated?

NARRATOR: Yes, it was then.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

NARRATOR: Yeah, um, well there were certain things they have only white. You know,
I just kinda remember but not clearly but I know there was a lot of things that the colored could not do that the white did.

INTERVIEWER: Such as?

NARRATOR: Certain (inaudible) as I say I did domestic work. And that would be the
employee, they'd would say I want all white and I want it now. That (inaudible) like there is today...there were people who didn't want colored help. And that's 50's you know. I didn't like that but, uh, the place that I come from, there a lot of that going on Southern they object certain, uh you know that they'll say I want help but I don't want colored. I want all white or I want, I don't want Jewish, I don't want...different kind of people you know. That was that. I guess you're not get very far on these things.

INTERVIEWER: No, no this is just for me. I just have the spaces and use them if I need to...um the housing. When you got married to your husband, did you move into an apartment?

NARRATOR: No, I moved in with a sister. I had a sister that lived here. Now if you ask me a lot about I that can't tell you because she uh, she came up before I did and had an apartment. And so I wanted…I…I come to Yonkers to get a better job or something you know down there we were farmers and we . . . didn't have much money we had uh, as I said, you know our home all things like that but you know you need money (laugh) so up here you could uh, you know, get jobs and that's mostly you know, the reason why I wanted to come here too to have money, and do things.

INTERVIEWER: To have money.

NARRATOR: I mean, you need it you know your parent has a big farm how anything you want. Big gardens, big this and that but there wasn't much money but I grew up there and my father, uh, you know was a farmer. So, anybody that knows about farming knows that you only get money when you sell your crops like whatever you raised. If you raised tobacco, cotton whatever. Then it's only once a year that you sold those things and your parents, of course, my parents raised me. I...that didn't hurt me so much because I was you know a child. But you know, as you grow up, you like to uh, you know something different.

INTERVIEWER: Uhmm. How would...how would you explain or describe the housing situation. Was it easy to find apartments or homes?

NARRATOR: Well as I said, when I came I moved right in with my sister that had been here. Now if you asked me when she come, I wouldn't exactly tell you that, but anyway, I had older sister that came up before I did and when I came to Yonkers I uh, you know, went to live with her.

INTERVIEWER: When you and your husband had your first child did you...

NARRATOR: Did uh...that wasn't my husband then. I didn't marry, no.

INTERVIEWER: But when you did get married, did you move out of your sister's?

NARRATOR: Oh, no, no. My husband had like a job at uh, you know. A job to take
care of me. We got an apartment.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

NARRATOR: As near as I can remember. We might have, we might have moved in with my sister you know part of the time until, until you could get an apartment you know like uh, it's very hard to uh, unless you have it plan but we were both very young, and so I was living-I moved in with my sister until I did get an apartment. Now these things, that been a hundred years. (laugh) I can not, you know, I can not go very far, because, remember how long that is. In 26.

Gloria Dent: Umhum.

NARRATOR: Now that's been a long time.

Gloria Dent: That's a long time.

NARRATOR: Yeah, and a lot of things, I can't (inaudible) oh dear.

Gloria Dent: That's 40 years...

NARRATOR: Huh?

Gloria Dent: At least 40 years before me.

NARRATOR: (laugh) You don't even look that

Gloria Dent: (laugh) Thank you.

NARRATOR: That's 40 years before you were born. See there.

Gloria Dent: I was born in 63.

NARRATOR: I've got a son . . . how old are you?

Gloria Dent: 38.

NARRATOR: Oh well, you just a little baby. I have a son...My son is gone now. But I
don't know. He'd be much older than that. I can't, I don't keep things in my mind. As I got a little older, (laugh) I kinda forget things...Oh dear.

INTERVIEWER: Umm...well since we are coming upon Christmas, I was wondering how was your Christmas celebrations.

Mrs. Wren: Do you mean in the South.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, do you remember?

NARRATOR: Well, they were very beautiful I thought we would uh, buy living on a big
plantation like you know you got a lot of beautiful trees you'd cut down a tree and make a big Christmas tree decorate it and uh like get gifts you're going to give to somebody. Put your gift at the bottom just like they do now.

INTERVIEWER: Umhum...where there special foods that were prepared?

NARRATOR: You mean for Christmas?

INTERVIEWER: Umhum.

NARRATOR: Well, a lot of people-yes, a lot of people use to like to bake and uh, make a
big turkey or something like that just for the holidays you know same as here.

INTERVIEWER: Umhum.

NARRATOR: Umhumm.

INTERVIEWER: Did you do the same um...

NARRATOR: But I didn't do that in those days I was home with mother you know and uh, you know, so mother would always have like uh, like being on a farm maybe you don't know nothing about a farm people raised chickens and blah, blah, blah and this and that and around holidays that is what they do. You know prepare a big dinner, suppers, or whatever.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, my dad grew up on a farm . . .

(Interruption)

NARRATOR: No that was South Carolina. Real pretty-it's no different it just big towns, little towns, little country places a lot of country southern part.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, um, you were speaking about people use to bake a lot for holidays.

NARRATOR: Yes. People always made big dinners on Christmas day. There was
always families with uh at least my mother not only my mother, most people had like a big, celebrated Christmas holidays, I guess, like they do now. Being that is they raised there own chickens and eggs and everything and made big dinners on Christmas holiday.

INTERVIEWER: Did you and your sister continue to do that when you came out here?

NARRATOR: We had huh?

INTERVIEWER: When you came out to Yonkers...

NARRATOR: Yes, she always on the holidays, she always kinda make uh, you know, for the holidays

INTERVIEWER: Were there a lot of people that came over.

NARRATOR: You mean to my sisters?

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, to your sisters.

NARRATOR: Well, now my sister lived privately you know. Just like you would go and get you an apartment and uh lived part your life. So that's all I just moved in with her. But she had her own apartment (inaudible) I came just to Yonkers.

INTERVIEWER: Umhum.

NARRATOR: But uh, nothing so very special. She was married and we lived in her
house and I just stayed there until I got more settled and uh as I say I worked.

INTERVIEWER: Did she have children?

NARRATOR: This sister did not. I had a large family believe it or not.

INTERVIEWER: How big is your family.

NARRATOR: My family . . .12 children.

INTERVIEWER: My dad had 10. (laugh)

NARRATOR: Well, see that's what I'm saying in those days, they raised big families. People like down there we had a big place uh, 99 acres of land.

INTERVIEWER: Umhum.

NARRATOR: But it's open land. You have uh you know big a part where you had trees and country 100 acres you have all that.

INTERVIEWER: A lot of open space.

NARRATOR: Umhum. Look at your little small hands (laugh).

INTERVIEWER: (laugh) They get cold very easily. Now religion... What role did the church play in your life in the south?

NARRATOR: I don't know. Now these things are so far back.

INTERVIEWER: If you don't remember that's fine.

NARRATOR: The only thing I can say that would kinda remember is like Christmas we'd have like a Christmas program. You know, have a regular program singing Christmas Carols...Whatever, whatever, you know. That was the big program that they had but uh, we lived just like we live here. Had regular church service certain days. I mean, in those days we had are regular days. We had a preacher on Sunday, we had it every Sunday. We had certain days that were preaching day the day of course service you know that he preached and uh that was it.

INTERVIEWER: And were you a Baptist?

NARRATOR: Oh yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Yes.

NARRATOR: When I grew up, you know, your family is a Baptist, but then we did just like they do here. They baptize after a certain age and you go through with that.

INTERVIEWER: And what role does the church play in your life now? And what role does the church play in your life now?

NARRATOR: (inaudible) (Laugh) I worked in the missionary so for a long while I worked on the Ersha board and the Mishna and that was it, um, I don't know. Might have done other things. But you know we were after I got old, we were like, uh, when, I said I was a missionary we were, had like programs and prayer services (inaudible) and the youngster did something else. We have like Christian programs. I guess that's the way you explain it.

INTERVIEWER: I understand you. (laugh)

NARRATOR: You understand me but it's nothing to make a record of.

INTERVIEWER: Now how do you, where do you go to relax?

NARRATOR: You mean on vacation?

INTERVIEWER: Just for fun...socializing, meeting people.

NARRATOR: You mean me?

INTERVIEWER: Yeah...

NARRATOR: Now. Do you know how old I am?

INTERVIEWER: If you could remember before...

NARRATOR: I'm 90, I'm 90, I'm 93 years old. I go back to Virginia. I have a little
place back there. I stay for 10 days maybe 15 days, just to uh, I also us to go to a little place call Newport News in Virginia. There were several relatives that I could travel back and stay. I call this, Virginia, home because my mother stayed there (inaudible)

INTERVIEWER: How often do you go back to Virginia.

NARRATOR: I go there just about every year. I, I still go there because I have relatives and as I say I just like to go back

INTERVIEWER: Do you have family reunions?

NARRATOR: Umhum. Back down there.

INTERVIEWER: Umhum.

NARRATOR: They have a certain time at the church, I guess they call that a reunion or a homecoming, something, whatever.

INTERVIEWER: I imagine that really big if there were 12 kids.

NARRATOR: Oh, well, not sure everybody. Half of my family's gone, you know, down there, that was that...you mean in that day? Is that what you mean now?

INTERVIEWER: Well, I mean either times.

NARRATOR: In those days, you know, when I said we had 12, that was when I was growing up. I thought you were relating to now.

INTERVIEWER: To now, but I mean with nephews and nieces, grandnieces.

NARRATOR: You mean now. I don't have such because my children were kind of scattered around you know. I'm 93 years old. So you know I can't (laugh) hold on to uh, have a relative that's in a just little place in Virginia. I can't even hold nothing in my mind, but anyway, uh, they are in different places. I have one living (relative) all the rest of my family's gone. My, all of my children's gone, but I have grand - a few grandchildren different places. I guess that is not much information. . . hard to get it.

INTERVIEWER: Oh this is just for me.

NARRATOR: Oh that's for you.

Gloria Dent: Mrs. Wren doesn't realize but that I went to with school with some of her grandchildren.

NARRATOR: Huh?

Gloria Dent: I went to school with some of your grandchildren.

NARRATOR: You did? What is their name?

Gloria Dent: Mark.

NARRATOR: Yeah, Yeah, Mark. Mark still have contact.

Gloria Dent: I haven't seen him in a while (inaudible).

NARRATOR: Give me your name before you leave and I will tell him.

Gloria Dent: (laugh) My name is Gloria.

NARRATOR: Gloria. What's you last name.

Gloria Dent: Dent.

NARRATOR: Dent.

Gloria Dent: D-E-N-T.

NARRATOR: Write that down. Marcus comes down. He'll be glad to, uh, just to hear about you. He's not going (come by you). You married aren't you.

Gloria Dent: Uhun.

NARRATOR: Oh you're not. Mark is, uh, Mark not married either. But I mean, he'll
probably be glad to, uh, remember your name.

Gloria Dent: Now you see that?

INTERVIEWER: laugh)

NARRATOR: I don't hold nothing you know what I mean. Names and things.

Gloria Dent: No, no. God Bless you. That's okay.

NARRATOR: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Did he grow up-did you grow up in Yonkers?

Gloria Dent: Umhum.

NARRATOR: All my children grew up in Yonkers. So Mark he ah, lives up there with his mother.

Gloria Dent: Umhum.

NARRATOR: Yeah. Mark ain't never been married. Let's see...has Mark been married?
No, Mark ain't been married. You come . . .

Gloria Dent: No, no no don't tell a thing until he stops by.

NARRATOR: No, no, no.

INTERVIEWER: So all your grandchildren are in Yonkers still?

NARRATOR: I guess they are. You know, I don't see them so much. No, no need in me
saying I guess nothing. My granddaughter is uh, somewhere in South Carolina. I got her address and uh, some of them is gone. Some of them have passed. Some of them are in the Army. My one called Sunny Winsted. Have you heard of the Winsted's? We'll all in the army, Winsted's. I have one in South Carolina, about I don't, I can't recall the little places. You know.

INTERVIEWER: Do you every hope to go back to Virginia to live?

NARRATOR: Oh Lord! Do you know how old I am?

INTERVIEWER: Not to live?

NARRATOR: Oh, no no no no.

INTERVIEWER: You'd stay here in Yonkers?

NARRATOR: I'm 93. My son's gone. And all my children's gone. I go down there
you know to my place, I have a little place down there open up the house and uh, the Grands and all them. they come in and we stay there sometimes abut 15 days or something like that just back home. But no I couldn't think of going back home. I can't hardly get around.(laugh) At 93, what'd I say, 93? I think, I'm thankful, I told them I'm blessed that I could come to church.

Gloria Dent: Amen.

NARRATOR: But we have a van, which is very helpful, and it goes around and picks up
and they, you see, I've been here at this church. I'm some of the older members.

Gloria Dent: Umhum.

NARRATOR: So they never forget me.

Gloria Dent: You and my grandma. My grandma, she still here too.

NARRATOR: Yeah and they call you ahead of time, I mean they don't now because if
I'm not going I let them know. I make it to church just about every Sunday. (laugh)

Gloria Dent: Umhum.

NARRATOR: Oh dear. Not that I'm boasting, but of course it's only that they pick me
up, you know, I couldn't go myself.

Gloria Dent: Praise God.

NARRATOR: I couldn't do that for myself.
.
INTERVIEWER: Do you miss anything about Virginia?

NARRATOR: After about 70 years? (Laugh) I haven't lived in Virginia in over, over 70
years I guess. No, I go down there though. I go down there just, I still have a place down there so I, uh, I go down there.

INTERVIEWER: So you have a house down there.

NARRATOR: Yeah. I have a big place down there and I go down there and we open up
the house and stay out a good long, not a long while at least 10 days sometimes 15 day, a little more.

INTERVIEWER: That's a good vacation.

NARRATOR: My son use to run down there but he's passed now. He'd run down there
take care of business and be in and out. We use to make it for like, Thanksgiving, just go down there for a big dinner and open up the house. But, I can't now because I don't have anybody - I mean I have somebody but they are just about all gone. My son is gone and my granddaughter and them they live all different places.

INTERVIEWER: What kind of changes have you seen in Yonkers since you've been here?

NARRATOR: Oh well...

INTERVIEWER: You've been year 70 years.

NARRATOR: Yeah, well, oh it's been a lot of changes but well now this ain't much
information but one big change is that girls can now get better jobs (inaudible). Just like you probably you could get a good job. When I first come, girls could be college graduates and some of them couldn't get good jobs because they were so hard on the colored people, that's when I first came. They we almost like the South you know. Uh, they, uh, there would be people who wanted a girl and they said that they didn't want a colored girl and so you know. They a lot better now cause right now you wouldn't look at a domestic job but, when I first come, girls could be out of school and out of college come of them could be very hard to get good job, because, you know.

(Gloria Dent: My brother banging on the keyboard.)

NARRATOR: You know, I'm just wasting time saying all this, you probably don't know, I don't know if your parents are Southerners, but you see, way back they were very hard on the colored people. And the girls couldn't get even now, I could remember when girls come out of college and sometimes you couldn't. They would have certain jobs that were only for white, now I don't mean domestic job but now if a girl a girl couldn't just go out and get a good job in high places. You can go into a business place now and you'd see colored girls at the desk all over. You couldn't do it then.

Gloria Dent: Umhum, you're right.

NARRATOR: Isn't that right. Now, you don't know but I do. I mean uh so. It's been a
big change.

INTERVIEWER: Umm. That is a big change.

NARRATOR: Quite a change. (laugh)

Gloria Dent: Stores coming and going I guess. As for Getty Square is concern. I think you've seen a lot of changes.

NARRATOR: Oh, yes.

Gloria Dent: Throughout the years of Getty Square.

NARRATOR: Yeah, yeah, yeah . . .

Gloria Dent: With the stores and stuff.

NARRATOR: Yeah, Yeah, and Yeah. Yes colored girls working in any of those places.
But you didn't see any when I come up when I was young, colored girls could get good jobs.

(Interruption)

INTERVIEWER: And with...I'm sure you've seen a lot of change with children as the generations go. What have you seen with children? How have they changed?

NARRATOR: Children from today from the time I came out, well they can get better jobs you know. You can be educated and you could come right here in Yonkers and you could get a better job. More of the opposite race you know, white. There would be people who wouldn't hire black folk. Not colored people for people that were white. So you'd be fiddling around, (laugh) you know what I mean? Can't get a job and you're able to do that type of work. I mean, you're probably might be a college graduate. Right from Richmond, Virginia. See, where I live, just not to fare from Richmond, and I know they had good schools. You could have come out of a good school, but you couldn't come here and not only that, you couldn't get a highly ...That's why a lot of people leave there to come because the South is even worser than here. And you could come here and get a little better job than you could down there. You could be something, but not an office girl, for many years. It's a lot better now. Not lot, lot, but some better now that.

INTERVIEWER: Umhumm. What are your dreams for the future of Yonkers?

NARRATOR: I tell they very honest truth...at 93, you don't have, you're not looking
to...well, I just look forward to things being calm and nothing breaking out, like a whole lot of trouble as long as... you hardly know what to say you know. It's only that, you work hard for what you get. You send your children to school. Let them get a good learning and they get a better job. But they may not get a high job, like a white girl, and some of them really do. And I want to tell you something, and you might not believe me, but you could get a colored girl and if she isn't all white-you know, sometimes a lot of mixed. Black men marrying white women or getting babies by them. And you couldn't get a girl that look almost like white and she is colored. And she can get a better job then uh, my daughter who is more. So a lot of these goes on here in Yonkers, you know. And it was worse that that in the South. (laugh) Oh dear. So what can you say?

INTERVIEWER: What do you tell your grandchildren about your life?

NARRATOR: Oh, I don't even see my grandchildren. My children are scattered over so
far, round and about. I don't see them half the time, you know. They aren't here now at my age none my children are around me. My son, I had a couple of sons that passed and uh, children move around you lose contact with them. So I don't see them that much. (chuckle) The things have changed, so children have grown up, marrying, move into other towns. You know you don't see them so you're mostly on your own so now it's uh, ... I go to church and I know quite a few people here because I've been coming a long time. I have a lot of friends and I use to sing on the choir, on Ersha Board and all the others so I'm acquainted with the church very much. But as for now, I just kinda sit back and be quiet and glad to do that. I'm just to get, to. . .as I said, since these late days, our church has, not only my church, a lot of churches have vans that pick up elderly people and see that they get in to church which is a mighty nice thing.

INTERVIEWER: How long have you been going to this church?

NARRATOR: Well, let's see. These questions you know... I could hardly remember.
My oldest boy was born in the 30's...1931,something like that. And I have been going to church ... oh I'm sure I've been going here over 70 years good.

INTERVIEWER: That's dedication.

NARRATOR: Somewhere in that neighborhood.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, well, I don't want to hold you up any more. But I just want to thank you so much for your time.

NARRATOR: Oh, that's quite all right. It's a quarter of three.

INTERVIEWER: I know you wanted to get something to eat before the next service.

NARRATOR: I am going to get a little snack.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

NARRATOR: Get something from them.

INTERVIEWER: I wanted to give you the opportunity to say anything . . .

NARRATOR: What's your name?

INTERVIEWER: Ebony Williams.

NARRATOR: Ebony Williams. You don't belong to our church. You don't belong to us?

INTERVIEWER: No, I don't belong here.

NARRATOR: As the old folks say, you better 'join" us. (laugh)

INTERVIEWER: (Laugh)

Gloria Dent: (Laugh) You go to a church?

INTERVIEWER: I do go to a church.

NARRATOR: We have a very friendly - I call my church a very friendly type of people.
We get along. Now wouldn't you know that a lot of people say ah, "Mrs. Wren you're going to stand here?" And we all sit down and we you know and you think were having a party because everybody so getting along "don't you want a piece of my cake. Don't you want a piece of my cake?" And we get along.

Gloria Dent: And we do this thing in between services. That's what going on out there now. And the afternoon service is at 3:30

Alberta Wren

Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Museum Purchase Fund.
Photograph 2001 Hudson River Museum
, Yonkers, NY


CollectionMenu


© 2001 Hudson River Museum

 

 

Banquet to honor Deacon Roy Fields, Corner Stone Lodge, New Rochelle, NY, 1971
Left to right: Delia Hubbard, Ruth Wrell, Alberta Wren, Grace Swanson