Deacon Roy Fields
INTERVIEWER: Barbara Davis, The Hudson River Museum
Date: November 15, 2001
Location: Mount Carmel Baptist Church, Yonkers, NY
INTERVIEWER: I'm Barbara Davis, I'm here today at Mount Carmel Baptist Church
with Deacon Roy C. Fields. It's November 15th. Thank you, Deacon Fields for
joining me today.
NARRATOR: It's my pleasure.
INTERVIEWER: I'm going to ask you about your personal history. Just feel
comfortable talking with me. Where were you born?
NARRATOR: I was born in Lunenberg County, Virginia. That's about eighty miles
south of Richmond,
County. And I was born March 13th, 1912. And I came
to Yonkers, New York, where my grandfather in the year of 1929.
INTERVIEWER: So you grew up in that town in Virginia.
NARRATOR: In the country out there. I left there when I was fourteen; in
fact, I was probably fourteen a couple days after I left. I was fourteen when
I came here.
INTERVIEWER: Tell me about that town in Virginia. What was it like there?
NARRATOR: We were out in the country and it was the nearest town, which was
Chase City, Virginia, about twelve miles from where we lived because we lived
out in the country and the, we had the farm our there with my grandmother
and my grandfather and then I, that's where I started to school there. And
at that time they had, in the country
. and I went
to the Hollywood Grammar School there.
INTERVIEWER: What kind of school was it?
NARRATOR: That was just a, it went up to seventh of eight grade there. Then
I left there and came up here. My grandmother came first to visit my uncle,
because they were up here. And she came for a visit during the Christmas holiday.
At that time, she wrote back because we didn't have no telephone, she wrote
back and said my aunt's husband, my grandmother's sister, her husband, Uncle
William, he was into the Otis Elevator Company. And he said that he could
get my grandfather a job there with him at Otis's. So we just closed the house
and came on up here and my grandfather went into the Otis Elevator Company
and that's where he worked until he was hurt in an accident, on a job there.
And then he had to go out on disability. And so that's where it all started.
Then I started to going to school here.
INTERVIEWER: Now back in Virginia, before we leave there, you were living
with your grandparents?
NARRATOR: Yes. Yes. 'Cause, my mother was up here in New York, see?
INTERVIEWER: Did you have brothers and sisters?
INTERVIEWER: How many?
NARRATOR: I have eight brothers, five sisters.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, my Lord! And were they all living down in Virginia with
NARRATOR: Everybody practically born up here.
INTERVIEWER: So were you the oldest?
NARRATOR: I'm the oldest of all. I'm the oldest one now that's living. Of
course, now I have two brothers in Richmond and I have one here in Yonkers.
That's all the brothers that's living now. I have two sisters in Charlotte,
one sister in Richmond, and one sister in New Haven, Connecticut. That's all
us girls and boys that's living now.
INTERVIEWER: So when you, they, your grandparents received that letter they
started making plans to move north?
INTERVIEWER: And do you remember what that was like when they closed up the
house and you were getting ready to leave?
NARRATOR: Well, to tell you the truth, down in Virginia where we lived, everybody
was like one. Like if we lived next door to you, course, we said next door,
but them hardly was local.
INTERVIEWER: It wasn't right next door.
It wasn't this close.
, and that's the neighborhood.
NARRATOR: And the neighbors there in Virginia, I like all of them, but I
mean all of them that I can remember myself, if my grandmother took sick,
those neighbors, my aunts, whoever it was, they came from their house to come
to my grandmother house; whatever they could do, that's what they did. I mean
that's what you call neighbors. That's what they did.
INTERVIEWER: And they would bring food, my guess is?
NARRATOR: They would cook, wash, anything they could do there in the house.
And the minute my grandfather
the fields if they were plowing corn
or raising tobacco or whatever, they would all go there and help. If they
came back in there, it's the month of November, October/November, they would
call it hog-killing time. That's when
Because we had hogs.
going over to Chester Fields' house today. He's gonna kill a hog this morning.
We going over and we gonna kill the hog. Big hog.
INTERVIEWER: Make it a whole day affair? The hog killing?
NARRATOR: It was probably a whole day affair, practically. And then the neighbors
would come over, and the women would come over, they all cooked.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember what they cooked?
NARRATOR: Well, they would have ham, fried chicken, baked chicken, whatever
the women decided they wanted to prepare, three or different meats to cook.
And when it comes down now to the, to their, um, desserts, sweet potato pies,
apple pies, layer cakes. You name it, they did it. And those women, they got
together like that; it was just like a regular family affair. That's what
it was down there when I was coming up. And then, and I don't care what it
lived a half a mile from each other. I don't care what it was,
when something happened, they would be there. Don't ask me how they got to
know it so fast, but they would be there. And then when I was going to school,
there in Virginia, coming up in school, my grandmother said to me, "Alright,
now, you're going to school this morning."
And the school wasn't
around the corner like the children are having today here. There was no buses
to ride to school, or no trolley cars to ride to school; you walked. And you
was on time. My grandmother said, "You go to school. Don't
go to school." And if you was late coming in, that teacher in that school
would ask you why you was late. And don't try to tell her no story now, because
when you'd get home, grandmama gonna to know about it. Not only that, sometimes
she would go home with you. My grandma said, "
. (my teacher)
Anyway, I forget her name, "Roy was late coming to school this morning"
and he said that, whatever I said, you know, my grandmother said, "Oh,
yeah? He did, huh? Well, I told him not to be late." She was very quiet.
INTERVIEWER: You got a licking'?
NARRATOR: I don't care what you call it. It was more than that. She said,
"What can I
I'll take care of him. I'll talk to him." I said
to myself then, "Well, here I go."
INTERVIEWER: Tell me, was there a church in your community?
NARRATOR: Oh, yes. The Calvary Baptist Church. That's where I raised up,
baptized at that church and everything. And that's where I
church until I left there and came north, and then I've been back three or
four times since then. And believe it or not, every time I walk in the front
door of Calvary Baptist Church, it's just like when I walked in there when
I was going to Sunday school. And my Sunday school teacher was my aunt. That
was my father's sister-in-law's wife
no, my father's brother-in-law's
wife. Aunt Annie.
INTERVIEWER: And where was your father?
NARRATOR: He was in Virginia. [inaudible sentence].
INTERVIEWER: So you would walk to church also?
NARRATOR: Yes, ma'am.
INTERVIEWER: With your grandma and grandpa?
NARRATOR: (We) would walk to church then I was going by myself to Sunday
INTERVIEWER: Right. I see.
NARRATOR: But going to a regular church service, you get in the buggy and
horse, and going to church. And was there on time. You were there on time.
And I remember one time when we
you know how boys are when they're
, my cousins, most of us was relatives, you know. We was all playing,
and I was coming from the store, I guess, somewhere. I don't know.
come home. But don't be late. We were playing. And one
of my grandmother's friends, the old lady, well I mean, I shouldn't say the
old lady, but she was an old woman, and, uh, Pop got her home, and my grandmother
says, "Roy?" I say, "Yes ma'am." Everything was, "Yes,
ma'am." And my grandmother say, "Why didn't you speak to Susally?"
"Susally?," I said, "I didn't see her, Mama." I called
her Mama; I never called her grandma. I says, "Mama, I didn't see her."
She said, "You didn't?" I say, "No, ma'am." "You
calling her a liar?" "No, ma'am." "Are you calling me
one?" "No, ma'am!"
NARRATOR: She says, "Next time that you see her in the room, you speak."
Now, I didn't see the woman, but you know
The next time, I went up
there going to the store, I was looking to see if I could see her. Looking
to see if I could see her, 'cause she, (she could have been anywhere).
NARRATOR: And you wonder how did they find out with no telephones? Oh, my
Lord, no telephone. And I remember one day, I'm going up to the store to
one of those little country stores, you know. Candy, kerosene, everything
you expect in a country store, you know? And I was going up there, I don't
remember now what I was going for, but I knew I went.
NARRATOR: And whatever grandma sent me for
INTERVIEWER: You were going to get it.
NARRATOR: I got it. Going up the store, I saw my grandfather on the side
of the road, as I was going to the store, that's my father's father. He says,
"Roy?" I said, "Yes, sir." "Come here, son."
Oh yeah, I'd go over to see grandpa, you know, he
along and had a talk
with me. "So where you going?" I says, "I'm going to store
for Mama." Sorry,
"Yes, sir." I go to the store, I'm
coming back, Grampa's still up there on the side of the road. He says, "You
going home now?" "Yes, sir." "Alright, you go home. Don't
play." "Yes, sir." I went home. I went home. It wasn't like
today when you take a lot of the children today, you don't know if they're
gonna come home or not
Whatever my grandparents told me, but my grandfather,
he more than any elder person, say anything to you, you'd better respect them.
There weren't no such thing as you didn't respect them. If you didn't, you'd
wish you'd had. And you didn't see no child then, and I'm only talking about,
'cause I don't know.
INTERVIEWER: About others, uh-huh.
NARRATOR: Then. I don't care where I saw an elderly person, I spoke to them.
"How you do? Good evening. Good afternoon, Miss So-and-so, Uncle So-and-so,
or Mr. So-and-so. You spoke. I don't care if you didn't, you spoke, see? If
you don't speak because you don't know 'em, you'd better speak, because if
you don't, when you get home, you gonna find out why you didn't speak. And
that's the way it was in my home country down there where we were. I mean,
there everybody was like one big family. I don't care
It was like one
INTERVIEWER: So when you got, your grandparents got this letter to come up,
and you said they had to close up the house.
NARRATOR: They had to close the house up.
INTERVIEWER: And do you remember how that felt? Were you, what were your
feelings after leaving this big family?
NARRATOR: Well, I'll tell you how I felt. I'm coming up here to see Mama.
That's Grandma. I'm coming, Grandpa and I be coming up to see Mama, now. Mama
was coming back, but after Uncle William, which is my grandmother's sister's
husband, told my grandfather to the Otis Elevator Company. And we just closed
the house up and no one, we just closed up and said to my Uncle George and
Uncle Lee, and all of them that, that was my uncles and all, but they was
all neighbors, and they would whip me just as quickly as they would whip their
child if I did something.
that's my child, don't hit him. He will whip
you, or she will whip you, and I'm telling you the God's truth; when you go
home and you told grandma, she would whip you and then grandpa might whip
you. But you, you're gonna get two, anyway. You're gonna get two. And you
respected those people. I don't care where you saw the people when I was coming
along, you had respect. And there's no such thing as you didn't respect people
when I was coming along. And today, to tell you the truth, when I look at
some of these children today, how they speak to their parents, how they disrespect
other people; I think back, when I came along, and sometimes it makes me feel
like crying. I don't know why. I still don't know why. And when I think on
how I came along, God has blessed me. And he's blessing me right now. From
my early childhood right on through. He guided me, he led me, he protected
me from all of the many ups and downs and everything. He let me stay here
and see my oldest daughter grow up to be a grandmother, and the daughter I
got right now, that's the baby girl, my oldest daughter passed. And, uh, now
I, see my youngest daughter here? She's got a new granddaughter.
INTERVIEWER: So you're a great-grandfather?
NARRATOR: Yeah. And my oldest daughter had, uh, Charlotte had six children:
three boys and three girls, and out of that union there is about 14 grandchildren,
I guess. Dolores, she has one grandchild and two grown children. And they
married, except one.
INTERVIEWER: That's wonderful. Well, we have a big space in time now that
we need to talk about. And that's after you left Virginia. So you weren't
nervous when you were leaving, because you were coming up to see family?
NARRATOR: Yeah. Well, I was nervous.
INTERVIEWER: And how did you travel up here?
NARRATOR: We came by train.
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember the train trip?
NARRATOR We left, lemme see. Where did we catch that train? Out of Chase
City, Virginia, I think. I think that's where we caught the train, yeah. Because
that's the, yeah. And we traveled all the way from Chase City to New York.
But I don't remember now if it was my Uncle
that met me
or if it my mother's brother, because that's my grandmother's second son,
'cause she was living with Uncle
when she came up here. I don't remember
can't remember just where, but I know it was either, it must have been Uncle
Anderson, though; I'm almost sure that met us. And we went to his house.
INTERVIEWER: So you were fourteen at the time, is that correct?
NARRATOR: I was fourteen after I got out, turned fourteen.
INTERVIEWER: You were just turning fourteen.
INTERVIEWER: Um, so to get back to the train trip, I'm just envisioning you
at almost fourteen on that train. You must have been very excited.
NARRATOR: I was
INTERVIEWER: Do you remember what you brought with you when you packed up
NARRATOR: [inaudible sentence].
INTERVIEWER: You don't remember?
NARRATOR: I don't remember what
I don't remember. I don't remember.
Yeah, naturally I had on a suit or whatever. But I don't know what it was.
And my grandfather
, a nice trip. It was exciting to be on a train and
ride that far, because down there we didn't ride no train, we didn't have
to ride a train. We
go to town, or, you know
INTERVIEWER: Was that your first time on a train?
NARRATOR: Yes, it was.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, so that must've been very exciting.
NARRATOR: It was exciting. And I'm just looking. I'm looking, I'm looking.
I'm looking all over.
INTERVIEWER: I know this is a little bit of a sensitive question, but I'm
curious. Were there white people on the train also?
NARRATOR: Oh, yes.
INTERVIEWER: And they could be in the same car with you?
NARRATOR: Oh, yes. As far as I know there were, 'cause I weren't paying no
INTERVIEWER: You weren't paying attention to who was in the car? You were
looking out the window and
NARRATOR: Right, right.
INTERVIEWER: And when you arrived in New York and your uncle met you and
took you to his house, was it a house that he lived in?
NARRATOR: He lived in a big apartment. Right down here on School Street.
INTERVIEWER: School Street in Yonkers?
INTERVIEWER: And how did Yonkers look to you?
NARRATOR: Oh, it was exciting.
people and then when you
see different people and you meet different people. You're playing with different
boys and girls. And this way it was, like there's a mixture. It was no
Everybody. And where we live there, then, with all the, uh, the Italian, and
running around, and all those kids, we played, under 18 school
I went to, there were Italian children, and one Jewish girl, Silvia [Corn?]
That's the only Jewish
I think was in 18. Or that I can remember anyway.
And, uh, and a lot of the girls I went to school with, I'd see them years
later, since I graduated, and I forgotten them and they've forgotten. One
day I met one down here, "How are you?" I said, "Oh, my God,"
INTERVIEWER: You were all kids.
NARRATOR: We were just all, you know, in the family, you know,
nice schools, very nice
We just, I mean, I enjoyed it
it up. I didn't have the
INTERVIEWER: It was all the same. So you were living in the house with your
INTERVIEWER: And for how long did you live there?
NARRATOR: Then we lived there for a while, then my grandmother and my grandfather
then we got another apartment next door.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, isn't that perfect.
NARRATOR: And then, then we had our own apartment, then. See, and my grandmother,
she worked for a family out in
INTERVIEWER: So she'd go off to work in the morning and your grandfather would
go off to work at Otis, and you'd go to school.
NARRATOR: Right. Yeah. And it was very nice, because my aunt, from where
we were living in first, they lived in the next building upstairs, and so
And then a friend of ours, his son-in-law, they would come over and
INTERVIEWER: When you finished school at eighteen, did you then go to high
NARRATOR: You start, I started in, I had the first year to go through
Franklin. But, uh, after my father had that terrible accident, then I went
INTERVIEWER: You had to make the living for the family.
NARRATOR: I mean
because my grandmother and grandfather couldn't work
INTERVIEWER: What was your first job?
NARRATOR: My first job was
a lotta money. A lotta money. After school,
three dollars a week.
INTERVIEWER: And what were you doing for those three dollars?
NARRATOR: Oh, I was in a Italian restaurant upstairs, around the corner.
and I was up there in the Italian restaurant, you know, working,
I don't know [laughing]
INTERVIEWER: So are you a good cook of Italian foods?
NARRATOR: I liked it. I liked it. I liked it, and I still like it. But naturally
now I can't eat any of it because the doctors got me on a restricted diet.
INTERVIEWER: Would you see your mother and your brothers and sisters?
NARRATOR: No. When I came up, I didn't see them anymore until after, must've
been about four years, I guess. And then I went back to Virginia on a vacation,
and that's when I went to my mother's house and met everybody. Saw all my
brothers and sisters
INTERVIEWER: Oh, she had moved back to Virginia?
NARRATOR: She moved back to Virginia. She came back to Virginia
stepfather's father passed, I believe it was, and they came back there. Because
when my mother pulled up in front of the school where I was going in Virginia,
her car looked to me as big as this room, and she said, "Roy?" And
remember, when somebody called you, you gotta answer.
I said, "Yes,
ma'am." "Come here."
"How are you?" I said,
"Fine." I'm looking at her, I'm looking at her up and down to see
who this is. "How's Mama?" I said, "She's fine." I still
don't know who it is. "I'm going over to Mama's now. You come on home
from school." I said yes, ma'am. Oh, you should have seen me getting
from school. I went the short way through the woods and cut through.
Now I don't remember, now, that that's my mother, you know. You don't remember.
And I'm getting next to grandma, getting next to, you know how cute
INTERVIEWER: Right, right, snuggling up.
NARRATOR: And she looked at me and she says, "Come over here now, let
me hug you." I looked at her now and I walked over. I better go, you
know, and that went on like that, and after a while, a she tried to let her
Then my grandmother told me. My grandfather, that I should carry my
right name. You know those old people like my mama. "We raised him in
our name." So actually, sometimes you'll see me with a J in my initial.
That's my father's last name, Johnson.
INTERVIEWER: A-ha. Your grandparents, they were very much a part of your,
a big, big part of your life.
NARRATOR: Oh, yes. And my grandparents on both sides. My grandmother on my
My grandmother, we was in the country then. We went to
her house to visit.
I'll never forget it. Laying in the bed sick, but
I didn't know her, I mean,
She says, "Come here son. Roy, come
here." My grandmother said, "Go to her." So yeah, I'm going,
She put her arms around me, and, uh, and I remember. I'll never
forget it. As I grow older I think about the love that they had for me. But
I didn't know. But the love that my grandparents had for me.
INTERVIEWER: You know it's inside you. It's inside you now. You carry it
with you all the time.
NARRATOR: It'll live with me 'til the day I die. When my grandmother passed
She says, "Now you're grown, you're married, I think I'll go stay
with you for a while." 'Cause my mother was the oldest child. I mean
oldest girl. And I'm going down to stay with her." Alright, put Mama
in the car, and my brother and I had been, the two of us went down, we carried
her down to my mother's. And, uh, and she
The last time I visited my
mother that time, come back, and then one morning the phone rang. I was living,
where was I living then? I think I was living where I am now, up in Greenburgh.
And my niece called. That's one of my sister's daughters. "Mama says
Grandma's sick, wants you to come home right away. She isn't talking."
I said, "I'll be there as soon as I can." So, I knew she was
I said she must be passing. And she, we took her to the doctor, and then my
mother said, my grandma's sitting there in the chair, "This is it."
INTERVIEWER: And it was?
NARRATOR: Died. Right there.
INTERVIEWER: Were you there at the time?
NARRATOR: No. I hadn't got there. But it hurts. Even now.
INTERVIEWER: Even now.
NARRATOR: They were such good people. I mean, everybody says their parents
was good, but I mean, I can only talk for Roy.
INTERVIEWER: Through and through.
NARRATOR: See? And I mean, I just liked my parents. And they brought me in
a way to know people, regardless the color you is, you were loved because
it's a human being. It's a human being. Everybody's a human being, regardless
to what color creed or what you are. God has no restricted person. You have
to die just like I gonna die and somebody's
and we either going, he
said, "Ashes to ashes and dust to dust."
He don't want this
body. God don't want this body. He wants the soul. That's his. He wants the
soul. He told the Devil, "You can touch the body. Don't touch the soul.
INTERVIEWER: Religion has been very much a part of your life, hasn't it?
When you came to Yonkers originally, did your grandparents start going to
church? Did you continue your
I went in the service. I never went to church
when I came back from the service, I met my wife's
my first wife passed.
I met her in this same, Mount Carmel Church, there was a small house that
, that's where I met my wife.
INTERVIEWER: In that church.
NARRATOR: In that church there.
INTERVIEWER: What's your wife's name?
INTERVIEWER: Addie. Did she grow up in Yonkers?
NARRATOR: Partially in Yonkers but she was from Portsmouth, Virginia.
INTERVIEWER: Was she really?
NARRATOR: Uh-huh. And she, she gave me
but I didn't know her until
I went to the church.
went to the church. Now, before you went into the service,
you had a number of different jobs. You started at an Italian restaurant and
NARRATOR: Yes, and the next job I had, you know where the, um, I know you
know where it's at too, Bronx Terminal Market?
INTERVIEWER: Oh, absolutely.
NARRATOR: I drove for the Mambo Brothers. They had a store
, and I
drove for Mambo Brothers. And that's when the Army called me. And so
INTERVIEWER: You were drafted?
NARRATOR: Yes. I was drafted. And I had come to Yonkers
so I was living
in the Bronx then, but I came to Yonkers
And I'll never forget that
my grandmother, God bless her, she walked with me down to the train station
in Yonkers and another friend of mine, they walking and she says, "That's
alright, son. You'll be back."
INTERVIEWER: What year was this?
INTERVIEWER: 1944. And where did you go when you served?
NARRATOR: My, naturally I went to Fort Dix first. From Fort Dix, went to
Fort Benning, Georgia. And then from Fort Benning, Georgia back up to Massachusetts,
Fort Devons. Then from Fort Devons I headed out west. Out to
to me And then from there, well
but the funny part, when I went to Fort
Benning from Fort Dix, we was out there, now Benning now I think is six weeks.
Then you can come home for a weekend. So I asked the sergeant, "Can I
go home for the weekend?" He says, "Yeah, you can go. You're a good
soldier. You ain't giving us no trouble. Sure, you can go home for the weekend."
Oh, I'm getting all ready, then after a while here come, calling names.
That street was lined with soldiers,
and after a while, "Private
Fields!" "Yes, sir." "Front and center. Go get your bag."
INTERVIEWER: Oh, no. What a disappointment.
I went to Philadelphia first, the Third Street station, and
it seemed to me that train, instead of coming
. on the train. Because
you don't get no place in the day.
and around about eleven o'clock,
that night or the next night, I wound up in Columbus, Georgia. When I got
there, there was two trucks waiting for us.
But you get up at 5:00.
Reveille, and I don't care what you get there.
INTERVIEWER: Even though you had been traveling all night.
NARRATOR: You get up at 5:00. They train you that way. In other words, when
they trained you in the service, they don't cut you. They train you the hard
way, 'cause you don't know where you're going and what you're gonna run into.
Here come this fine looking man. He was
the commander. He was
the boss at that fort. Pretty white hair and, I mean, that
"This is my company. You are in a trucking outfit. Everyone in
of y'all," he said, "is going to drive. And they're not
INTERVIEWER: He took it very personally?
NARRATOR: Oh yeah. "My trucks."
I said, "Be calm. You'll
be alright. Calm yourself down. You can drive.
INTERVIEWER: Right. So you were experienced, that was good?
NARRATOR: Didn't bother me.
INTERVIEWER: So where did you go from Georgia?
NARRATOR: Then I went from, left Georgia, then that's when I came to Fort
Devons. Then when we stood some went to Kentucky, some went to Baton Rouge,
Louisiana, I think. Some
, but that man's uniform fitted him just like
a T, and he was proud. He says, "Hey, soldier," "Yes, sir."
"Where you from?" "Fort Benning, Georgia." "Oh yeah?
How'd you like it down there?" You know I wanted to say no. I said, "Fine."
"Oh, yeah. What'd you do?" "Driving a truck." "Oh
you did?" "Yes sir." "You like to drive?" "Yes
sir." Says, "Sergeant, give this man some license." He don't
know me from Adam, but I'm just as nice as I can be. "Alright, you licensed
to drive a truck. Now give him a test." You should've seen the test they
gave me. [laughing]
INTERVIEWER: It was a hard test or an easy test?
INTERVIEWER: Was it a hard test? No, easy. It was no test.
NARRATOR: Far as I'm concerned it was no test at all. I just rode around
and down there and back again. He put me on the big truck too to do it.
says, um, "I want you to go up to the driving school this morning. You're
going to drive for Captain Duggan this morning. You're gonna drive for him."
"Yes sir." Get over there in this jeep
. "Hey soldier?"
"Yes sir?" "What's your name?" I told him.
Fields." "Oh, that's your name. You're gonna drive me today."
Yes sir." A long time the man didn't come up, didn't come out of the
Time for chow. He says, "Go get your chow and come back."
Go back down to the
"Ah," he says, "I ain't finished
with what I was doing yet. Come back tomorrow." I had it good
INTERVIEWER: How long did you do that?
NARRATOR: As long as I stayed in Fort Benning, that's what I did.
NARRATOR: Then I go to Columbus, Georgia
INTERVIEWER: Right. Right.
NARRATOR: Drove him up there then I come on back.
INTERVIEWER: Do you know what? Your grandparents' training for you to be
so polite paid off, don't you think?
NARRATOR: It did. It did.
INTERVIEWER: Don't you think?
NARRATOR: And you can never forget that. You know,
NARRATOR: And I tell you right now, when I think of some of the things, some
of the things that's happened, and, uh, I know I can't help everybody, but
it hurts me sometimes to see the way people treat people. Even the grown ones.
They don't have no respect. Everything "Me, me, me." I mean that's
what it looked like to me. It's just, "Me, me."
INTERVIEWER: Absolutely. It's the golden rule.
NARRATOR: That could be you, you know. Don't, think about the bridge you
came over, 'cause you may have to go back 'cross that bridge. And if that
bridge isn't there you can't get back. But I just thank God for my grandparents
and all. They really, and not only, my uncles and all. They just like my parents.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah. Your extended family. Very close-knit. When were you discharged?
NARRATOR: I was discharged in December 1945.
INTERVIEWER: And you came back up to Yonkers?
NARRATOR: Came right back to Yonkers here, and that's in that December. I
was discharged on December the 18th. And I'll never forget
and I stopped in the
And then, guess where I went first.
INTERVIEWER: To church?
NARRATOR: No. Grandma's.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, of course. Grandma's first. Grandma's first. And she was
very glad to see you.
well I went home, because I was living in the Bronx then.
INTERVIEWER: Oh. And you were married at that, you had a wife in the Bronx?
NARRATOR: And the two girls, my daughter, Delores was nine, I think, or eight.
Charlotte was nine when I came back. Then I went home to see them.
INTERVIEWER: But first to grandma. To Mama's
NARRATOR: And I went to Grandma's.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, isn't that wonderful.
NARRATOR: But, uh, I don't regret it; because there's so much that I have
seen that now I wouldn't be able to go those places.
INTERVIEWER: I was gonna say, that's one thing. You got to see a lot of the
country, at least.
. Sometimes now I wonder what Saipan looked like, over
there in the Pacific. And
I was over there. But when I was older, God
protected me. The whole time I was over there.
INTERVIEWER: And how long were you overseas?
NARRATOR: I was overseas almost two years.
NARRATOR: God protected me.
INTERVIEWER: Did you see,
were you in the fighting?
NARRATOR: No. I was still with the, these trucks.
INTERVIEWER: Because you were a driver.
NARRATOR: Yeah. And I worked for a trucking outfit there, and all I would
do, ammunition from where I would pick it up to the ammunition barn. And see,
in the Army, they don't play with you. They discipline you. And you obey.
[END OF SIDE A]
so I want you to go over here, bet that load there, take
it up to the ammunition dock. So you going up there and loading all that
and nobody with me. All I had with me was that truck and a rifle. Nobody with
me, you know. Say, well, I found
, unloaded the ammunition, come on
back, and that's where, the whole time. Just like that.
INTERVIEWER: When you returned, and there was, I'm sure everyone was just
so glad to see you, did you go right back to the same job, or did you
NARRATOR: No, when I returned from the army, God bless, the man is dead now.
He had a
, Hope Newman, where he
and he says, uh, "You want
a job?" He says, "I tell you what you do. You go down
But see, I was going for truck driving.
NARRATOR: Because I was used to truck driving.
INTERVIEWER: Right. Right. Yeah, you're experienced.
NARRATOR: So I
the fellow was in charge of the trucks, he must've
had a bad weekend. You know, he didn't pass one person for the test on those
trucks? Didn't pass one. He was mad at
INTERVIEWER: He was in a bad mood.
NARRATOR: Oh, a very bad mood. So, he was in such a bad mood, when I gave
him the stick to take it back to personnel at 33rd St., he forgot to do one
thing. He didn't seal the letter. I stopped him in the lunchroom over there
on 10th Avenue, got some breakfast.
INTERVIEWER: [laughing] Peeking on the letter.
NARRATOR: The man looked at me, he laughed, you know. He said, "You
want to work?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "I'll tell you.
You can go to work tomorrow, if you want. A custodian." "Good."
INTERVIEWER: Foot in the door.
NARRATOR: I started right there with the custodians, and worked in the custodian
department from elevators to
to floor sweeping.
And then every
new post office that opened up in the Bronx, in the upper Bronx, we did those
, then we pack up all of our stuff, put them in a truck,
go to another station and do the same thing
INTERVIEWER: They were opening a lot of post offices at that time.
NARRATOR: Yeah. And even if they weren't open, we'd go to the old ones and
do the floors.
INTERVIEWER: So were you, you were a postal employee, then?
NARRATOR: Yeah. Yeah. Thirty-eight years.
INTERVIEWER: Wow. That's remarkable.
NARRATOR: Thirty-eight years.
INTERVIEWER: Very steady job, good benefits?
NARRATOR: At that time, a lot of people don't believe it, but they weren't
taking out Social Security then, in the post office. After I retired, about
a year after, then they started taking out Social Security. So I would've
had thirty-eight years of Social Security.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, my. So you did have a pension?
NARRATOR: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Well we all go the pension. Forty years of pension.
INTERVIEWER: Forty years.
two years overseas.
INTERVIEWER: Oh. Now what about
my Social Security that I had, you know.
INTERVIEWER: What about the GI Bill? Did you take advantage of that at all?
Were you able to get any kind of benefits having served in the War?
NARRATOR: No, I didn't, uh; I didn't get anything from
NARRATOR: But no. Like a lot of benefits I didn't. I didn't, I could've been
getting another check
Before I left, that morning before I left from
the Pacific, I had a little pain in my liver. So I imagine when you go to
the dispensary and all
INTERVIEWER: It was right by your ear.
NARRATOR: But it would start here.
INTERVIEWER: Start at your jaw and go up.
NARRATOR: And go right to here. And when it hit there, boom, just like something
INTERVIEWER: Perforated eardrum?
looked in my ear, I told him I had
"I don't see anything." Just like that.
and had I known that,
I feel as though I could've gotten something, but I didn't get one nickel
for that. But if you ever put
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever find out what it was?
NARRATOR: After I came back, and the first time I was ever in a hospital,
was Cambridge. And that's when I had that trouble.
And they didn't
know any more than I knew, but they just had position there. And they was
INTERVIEWER: But did they ever find out what it was?
NARRATOR: I went to several doctors, and thank God I went to a doctor who
He says, "Why don't you try my doctor. Maybe he can tell you what
it is and how it is and, you know, what happened." So I went to his doctor,
and he had a small office on
Street. He looked at me and he
I told him how I felt and what, and he said, "I know what you got. My
wife has the same thing," he says, "but hers is a little different.
He says, "I know what it is. When you went overseas,
And he gave
, and sometimes I drive from my house to [
INTERVIEWER: And you're also in good shape.
NARRATOR: And I think I'm in pretty good shape.
INTERVIEWER: What year was it when you retired from the postal service?
NARRATOR: What year?
NARRATOR: 1985. Fifteen years ago.
INTERVIEWER: Did they have a party for you?
NARRATOR: Did they? I didn't give them time.
INTERVIEWER: You didn't? You
NARRATOR: I was ready to go.
INTERVIEWER: You booked out of there quickly.
INTERVIEWER: Now you tell me that you met your wife at the first Mount Carmel
Baptist Church over on School Street, and that she'd already been a member
NARRATOR: Yes, she'd been a member there about twelve years before me.
INTERVIEWER: Wow. Twelve years. And then once you started going and you got
to know her, what was your involvement with the church?
NARRATOR: Well when I first went in, my mother's oldest brother, he was
My wife knew him, and he was the chairman of the deacon board there.
And also when I came back I went to church
When you open the doors
to the church
INTERVIEWER: They knew. They knew you were good material.
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever live in Yonkers again, after the Bronx? Or you
went from the Bronx to Greenburgh?
NARRATOR: No, I went from the Bronx to
no. I was in Yonkers for the
time, long again, but then when I got married I was living here in Yonkers.
And then, when I got married, then, about two years, I think, after we got
married, I was in the hospital at the time when the
so she says, "I
see where they're building some houses up there in Greenburgh." She says,
'cause she always wanted a house. She said,
So she went on up to see
about it and everything, and that time, property wasn't like it is today.
It was very, very cheap. We bought this piece of property
went on up
Built that house, and then like I said, it was a one-family
house. Even added our garage to it, and everything, and today
INTERVIEWER: And you're still living in it?
NARRATOR: We almost had it completed, then here comes that urban renewal.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, no. Oh, no.
NARRATOR: You either sell it or they'll take it. But you know what?
we fought 'em for five years.
INTERVIEWER: Did you? Good for you.
NARRATOR: Fought 'em for five years. I knew I couldn't get them,
that time the best I could get for that house was $18,000. Told my lawyer.
Oh, they had people coming over from town hall, coming in. "We want to
buy your house." I says, "I don't want to sell." Say, "Yeah,
but, uh, we like this property. We want to make this a
After a while,
came back again. Another man came. Oh, he come up there.
the first place, I don't want to sell my house. In the second place, I'm not
going to sign nothing unless my lawyer advises me to sign it." My lawyer
said, "Don't you sign nothing until I see it."
. you bring
it to me. And God bless
his office he
INTERVIEWER: Was it as nice as your first house?
NARRATOR: A little larger.
INTERVIEWER: A little larger?
NARRATOR: We got six rooms, full basement and garage. And instead of one
lot we got two lots. [UI phrase]
INTERVIEWER: Why would you choose Greenburgh over living in Yonkers, for
NARRATOR: Well, I'll tell you, she looked in Yonkers before we went to Green
burgh, but she didn't see anything at the time that she really wanted, and
I'm glad we didn't. We saw another house on Palisades Avenue here, but it
INTERVIEWER: You were looking for something with a yard.
NARRATOR: With a yard, you know. And then we had the two daughters, then
we had the dog
INTERVIEWER: Right. When you go back to Virginia to visit, what strikes you
the most about the difference in the life in Virginia and your life here?
NARRATOR: Well, I'll tell you, I haven't been back now in about four years
. [Background conversations--inaudible]
INTERVIEWER: Did you ever have family reunions, or do you have family reunions?
NARRATOR: Every August.
INTERVIEWER: Every August.
NARRATOR: Every August went down for what they call a homecoming.
NARRATOR: And what a homecoming that is. People from Baltimore, I guess California
too. I don't know. All of them
INTERVIEWER: And is it, it's with the church? Through the church. So it's
the neighbors you grew up with and their children and grandchildren.
NARRATOR: Yep. And their children all
INTERVIEWER: And do they still have this every August?
NARRATOR: They still have it, but
I understand it wasn't, naturally,
as good as it used to be. And the church that I was baptized in, that I grew
up in was still there, but now they built a new one right beside it. And you
couldn't tell them apart. Now they tore all of them down, I understand. But
I walked in that front door, and I looked to the right, that's where my class
my teacher, and everything came right back to me.
INTERVIEWER: It just comes rushing back.
NARRATOR: Came right back to me. In the center where my grandmother used
to sit, and all up there, all that came back to me. And the minister that
baptized me, he's dead, and the one that took the church over
he's dead. But he didn't know me too well.
INTERVIEWER: If I asked you "where's home?", what would you say?
NARRATOR: Well, I guess I'd have to say here.
INTERVIEWER: You would say here.
NARRATOR: I can't say it's home there because I haven't been there for a
long time, you know? It's home in a sense, but it's not home anymore, because
I guess I'm almost sure that the house that I was raised in, I'm quite sure
that that's gone. Because I understand that that property was sold
So that isn't there anymore, but I would like to go there. I mean next time,
if I do go down again,
INTERVIEWER: Still there. Absolutely.
NARRATOR: But I know
they all dead now, and none of them know and
none of their people know me.
INTERVIEWER: That'll be really fun to go back.
NARRATOR: [inaudible phrase]
INTERVIEWER: That same road that you were made sure that you said hello and
greeted every, all your elders along.
NARRATOR: Oh, yeah, I forgot another place there named Roger St. John. No,
INTERVIEWER: And he, they were right.
NARRATOR: Yeah. We all
INTERVIEWER: Were, did white kids attend the same school as you in Virginia?
NARRATOR: No. No. They didn't attend the same school.
INTERVIEWER: But you played together.
NARRATOR: We played together where I was. Now, a lot of us, but it was so
many of us, 'cause we
But I thank God
INTERVIEWER: Uh-huh. Right, right. It was a sign of respect.
I don't know where, any other place down there where they
didn't, but I'm only talking about the ones that I knew.
NARRATOR: If there
that you couldn't talk here and you couldn't do
that and you couldn't, don't talk here, don't, and, uh
INTERVIEWER: And that stayed with you. That's the way you were raised, and
that's the way
NARRATOR: That's the way, I mean, I'm gonna tell you the truth, a lot of
people say, "Are there stories
. I don't go for that. The stab
in the back?
. I got God on my side, so you can stab all you want.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, Deacon Fields, this has been a wonderful talk with you.
I really thank you.
(Formal Interview Concludes)
INTERVIEWER: Uh, I have a few more questions to ask you.
NARRATOR: Well you can ask me.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. I'm gonna turn the tape recorder off now; actually, I'm
going to keep it running.
NARRATOR: Wonderful. One moment.
INTERVIEWER: Um, just to continue a little more with a couple of more questions.
You said you worked for the New York Central Railroad for a time?
maybe a month.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, it was just a short term. Right. And about other things
that you might have, you don't recall any photographs from Virginia? Anything?
NARRATOR: No. No, I don't have anything from Virginia.
INTERVIEWER: But you think you might have your discharge papers
NARRATOR: Yeah, I got my discharge.
and your uniform?
NARRATOR: Yeah, I don't
INTERVIEWER: We'll have to go up in the attic and take a look for that, okay?
Or we'll send your wife up. And your certificate from the Post Office
NARRATOR: Yeah, I have that.
INTERVIEWER: Um, so when you came up you didn't save any train tickets or
souvenirs or postcards from your hometown?
INTERVIEWER: Was there anything of your grandma's that she left you? Quilts
or any kind of handicrafts?
NARRATOR: The only thing I have from my grandmother is her picture.
INTERVIEWER: So you do have her picture.
NARRATOR: [inaudible sentence].
INTERVIEWER: If we could borrow these just for a week, and make copies of
them and return them to you, would you be willing? They'd be very safe.
NARRATOR: I'd have to ask my wife here
INTERVIEWER: Okay. She's the one. Okay.
NARRATOR: Yeah, or my daughter, either one of them two.
INTERVIEWER: Okay. You know, we are the museum, so we're very, very careful
with the things, and we'll just be making a
NARRATOR: My grandmother and her picture, with her white hair and all
INTERVIEWER: Oh. Oh, I would love to see that picture.
NARRATOR: A black and white picture.
INTERVIEWER: Oh, I would love to see that picture.
NARRATOR: There's one picture, my daughter's picture's right beside it, and
my wife's granddaughter, and my wife's mother, I think
My wife got
INTERVIEWER: She, she was a saver. So many times the men, I don't think,
are, think about saving these kinds of things. It's usually women. Um, I guess
that would, I can't think of anything else, but, uh, when you became a deacon,
did you get some kind of record of being some
NARRATOR: A certificate.
INTERVIEWER: A certificate.
November the 7th, 1950.
INTERVIEWER: Oh. I would love to see that also.
NARRATOR: I got that out of my
INTERVIEWER: And no scrap books or, um
INTERVIEWER: Can you spell the name of the town in Virginia that you grew
NARRATOR: Oh, Lunenberg County. L-u-n-e-n-b-e-r-g.
INTERVIEWER: And was there a particular town, or they just considered it
the county, well
INTERVIEWER: In the rural areas it goes by county.
She, maybe she can give you some
INTERVIEWER: Ok. Well, I think she had an interview also.
NARRATOR: Ok, ok. Yeah, uh-huh.
INTERVIEWER: Lunenberg County. 'Cause that's just the way they referred to
NARRATOR: Yeah, at that time, yeah. And I think now it's, no, I couldn't
say because, I mean, there's so many changes since I was there, and names,
you know, and
INTERVIEWER: And, um, the nearest city was
NARRATOR: Chase City, Virginia. That's Chase: C-h-a-s-e.
INTERVIEWER: Chase City. Ok. That will help us. Well again, thank you so
much. I think we'll be talking with you again, because we might come to your
house to see if we could borrow a few of these things, if that would be okay
with you? But I'll check with your wife.