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Oral history interview with Beatrice M. Folger by Kevin Costello


Date: December 5, 1986

Interviewee: Beatrice M. Folger

Biographical abstract: Beatrice M. Folger (1903-1998) was a resident of Greensboro, N.C. from 1948 to 1998 during which time she served on several community committees.

Interviewer: Kevin Costello

Description:

In this transcript of a December 5, 1986, oral history interview conducted by Kevin Costello with Beatrice M. Folger, Ms. Folger primarily discusses her involvement with the YWCA and other integrated groups in the 1950s and 1960s. She describes interracial meetings, cultural events, and clubs, and the roles these played in opening up dialogue between blacks and whites. Folger also talks about the role of some specific local citizens, including Ethel Troy, Warren Ashby, and Capt. William Jackson. Other topics include treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, C-SPAN, and Clan of the Cave Bear.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.510

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Civil Rights Greensboro and the appropriate repository.



Oral history interview with Beatrice M. Folger by Kevin Costello

KEVIN COSTELLO:

—December fifth, and I'm interviewing Mrs. Beatrice Folger.

[recorder paused]

BEATRICE FOLGER:

—all in chaos, that's what it is. And we came into the end of August. And I'll never forget the first time—I didn't ride in the bus very much, I had no occasion to—but I wanted to go downtown one day. And I went up to Walker Avenue and took the bus. And I can't tell you, I can't explain the feeling I had when I saw that sign. When you grow—well, you grew up here so you—

KC:

Yes.

BF:

You know, “whites sit in the front, blacks to the rear.”

KC:

I can, I can remember the Carolina Theatre, separate entrances.

BF:

Oh yes! Yes, oh yes. And I remember later on when there was more stirring about it. They used to tell about the fact that when the blacks wanted to go there—of course, they sat in the balcony—that they went around towards the sidewalk, around the side to the back. And as they walked through there, there was a restaurant right next door. And the, the outlet fan from that kitchen was constantly blowing greasy air, and it would just hit them as they went by. The little things, that nobody would ever think of, you know.

KC:

What year was this?

BF:

Well, I believe we got here in '48.

KC:

Oh.

BF:

In—you know, this is strange, I, I can't keep dates straight. Because for instance, it wasn't long after that that those signs came down. Do you, do you know what date that was?

KC:

I, I don't.

BF:

I'd say the next year.

KC:

See, now I don't remember the signs on the buses, but I do remember the separate entrances and the water fountains at the Carolina—

BF:

Oh, yes.

KC:

—Theatre.

BF:

Yes.

KC:

But that's my oldest recollection.

BF:

But see, a good work for Greensboro, though, and I don't know—oh, maybe it was the whole state, including the city [unclear]. Anyway, those signs came down within a year or so. That was the first thing. And then after that—well, let's see, maybe you want me to look at some of these things and see where you're going with—

KC:

I am more interested in what you have to say and—

BF:

Well, I'll tell you. Coming here as we did, we were naturally watching some people. We came from California, and a girl out there who had lived here talked to us some. And we had the impression we should be very discreet. You know, not come right out and say things that would offend somebody else.

But she said something I never forgot, because she was supposed to be a lovely person. She was working for her church, but this quote—I mean, again, you're not old enough to know the things we're feeling but, I'll never forget what she told us about when Dr. Frank Graham was at Chapel Hill. And they had their first integrated conference of their careers. And I'll never forget her comment. She went, “They had a wonderful time.” And then she said, “They kept their place and we kept ours.” You see, that, that was just in people—

KC:

Right. Oh sure.

BF:

—to such an extent that it was just a part of their lives. But do you know that the very—I would say by 1950, if not '49, maybe, United Church Women, who had already been very friendly toward black women—black women had been coming to their meetings—but they definitely voted to make it a, you know, a legal authority, or whatever the word would be, that they were a part of all of it. And I was there, and I was very impressed and pleased to think that was happening. I know that was at least—I think that was probably '49.

And then a few years later I was on the board of the YWCA [Young Women's Christian Association]. And they, they were very, were helpful then. And I remember saying then to some [unclear] that the Church Women United and the YWCA were way ahead of everybody else, that is, as, as a group.

But again, about individuals—for instance, I'm sure it was the first year we lived here that a delightful woman [who] belonged to our church invited me to go to, I guess it was the annual YW[CA] dinner at Bennett College. And we sat at the table with Mrs. David Jones, whose husband was the president of Bennett at that time. And a woman whose name I don't remember, but she was connected with Palmer Institute. You're probably too young to remember, but—

KC:

I remember of it.

BF:

You remember it existed, you know. Well, I had a delightful evening and of course, me, I mean, it was, it was just fine, because there were two of us whites there and two blacks. And it does seem as though, from that time on there were just—just for fun, I mean, look at my notes, because I do have some things down here might be kind of interesting. In those days, that's again—well, you'd be too young—to show that they were trying to do something. it, it, it wasn't getting very widely described. Before we ever got here and for years afterward, every year there was a Sunday afternoon in winter when there was an interracial, lovely meeting at one of the big churches and a very outstanding program of some sort. And they were interracial.

That was, see, that was, look at—trying to—the people who had the right attitudes, I suppose, they were doing what they could, you see. You couldn't buck society. But they were doing what they could.

And my husband was in charge one year, and I believe it was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Because different—he used different denominations, like the Greek. The Greek—whatever they call them—the Greek—

KC:

Orthodox.

BF:

Yeah, he had his part, and, and Don Trexler[?] sang a, a beautiful song by the candlelight or something, you know, the Jewish groups, all that kind of thing. Anyway, those things went on. And the YWCA board was integrated, all this time. I met a lot of outstanding black women leaders.

Then, in—what, well, I suppose, '54—when '54 came, things began to stir up. Somebody began to—came down to the YW, looked over the list of people on the board, the staff. [unclear]. And at the same time, a lot of people were trying very hard to do something. There was a group, I don't remember who started it. There was a man who taught at, at UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro]—just died a few years ago, was very active in this—Warren Ashby. Have you heard that name? I remember he was in the group. I can't remember all the people, but there was a group who met for dinner at the YWCA, I guess once a month, for instance. That was way back, in those early for[ties]—fifties.

Then the American Friends Service Committee had a, well, then their central office was here. Now it's in Atlanta, for the southeast. And there was a group—that was one of the most interesting things I ever did—there was a group that met there, I think, twice a month. And there was the most frank conversation between whites and blacks. And black people told us things that they just ordinarily wouldn't, wouldn't mention, you know, because they just couldn't be sure, but they were sure they could—

KC:

Right. They had confidence in—

BF:

—trust us, you know. All those things were really—were really very fine. You speak about the drinking fountains. I remember, it was from that group, I think, that several people started out going downtown and talking to managers about the drinking fountains. And you know, it wasn't long after that that they began to ease up on that. Now this was the end, was, right in the central fifties, because we left here in '57, and were gone for four and a half years. And then we came back just in time for the sixties [laughs].

KC:

Just in time for everything else.

BF:

In time for the sixties, isn't that the truth. About—anyway, this is the kind of thing that I can [can't?] understand. People—they wanted what was right, but they didn't want a stir. And I'll never forget, there was a wonderful woman who moved back here—her family had lived in town for many, many years—and there was, there were four sisters. They were all interesting people. They were the Troy sisters and they lived in one of the oldest houses in the town on, on South Mendenhall [Street]. And they were—they had been connected with Greensboro College in its early days, and so on. And Ethel had been a YWCA director, going all over the country, for many years. She came back home, and of course she was concerned, so she started doing things. And I remember when she one night at a meeting at the church. She had a petition that she wanted people to sign, to open up the Tate Street movie. Remember the old little movie up there?

KC:

The Cinema Theatre—

BF:

Yes.

KC:

—I think it was called.

BF:

And I remember so well, one person saying, “Oh, it'll just make more trouble.”

KC:

Right.

BF:

They just didn't, didn't want that. And then—I don't know whether I can tell this or not—we really went through a lot of things. [Laughs] There was a seminar held for several years out here at Guilford College in the summertime. It was again, interracial, international, had people from all over the world. And it was awfully interesting. And on Tuesday nights they liked to have people from town and we used to come out. We got acquainted with a number of them. It was delightful.

Then one Sunday, a professor from a college somewhere else and a student from Syracuse University [unclear] wanted to come and meet my husband. And it's one of those things that happen everywhere. One person, no one else would have done it, but one person said they couldn't come in, at all. Well, that was [unclear]. My husband didn't know it disturbed me so. But we jumped in the car and came out here, and they were all eating dinner and apologized. And then, several officials came with him again, two or three nights later, and came out, and they had a long conversation, trying to make him see that that was not representative of the whole group. But it happened.

KC:

Sure.

BF:

And to show how bad it could have been, because several years later I was out in the Middle West at a conference, and we were in workshops. And I was sitting in a workshop, about thirty-five people, and a woman began telling about that terrible incident. And I was so glad that I was there, and I could say, “But let me tell you, that sounds awful, but the other—loads of the rest of those people didn't have that attitude.” And they spent hours talking about it and deciding what they would do. I was just so thankful because that's the way lots of things happen. That's what she knew about, because it was her husband that was, was the professor. And I never have been so glad in my life I was somewhere as I was that afternoon, for that reason, you know [laughs].

Then, some of the things that—well, I suppose you know all this—but the things that did happen in that school [unclear]. A woman who taught English at Dudley [High School] told about being on the bus coming from somewhere distant, like maybe Durham or something, Chapel Hill. And everything was all right until they got to this—it was getting to be, I guess, time the people were coming out from offices and work and so on. And the crowd began to get into the bus, and the bus driver ordered her to move farther back. And being a woman with education and culture, she was a little embarrassed. She says the one thing that helped her, though, was she felt that the people on the bus were indignant for her. And back then that was forced, you see. So, there were these little things that might have made life at least, at least endurable, you know?

Let's see. Oh yes, one morning a secretary came into the office, my husband's secretary, and she started telling something and she was so mad she cried [laughs]. Because she'd been on the bus coming, coming to work. And the bus was filled, and a black woman got in. And there was—the seat next to her was empty, and so she moved over right away, glad to have her sit there. And the bus driver made her get up and go back. And they would make them go back and sit where there wasn't any room.

KC:

Right.

BF:

You know, just squeeze in. And so there was a girl again, who felt so bad about it, she says, but, but what could she do? And then I remember about Warren Ashby, for instance. There was one night, now this, I guess this was still in the fifties, although I get mixed up between the middle fifties and the early sixties, a little bit, see. But there was a—something going on at Bennett that was an intercollegiate affair. And we were talking to him after we got there. We had gone because we were interested in [unclear]. And he had taken three girls from the school, Woman's College [now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro], or whichever it was, and he said “You know, I need to do something. Would you mind taking them home?” We said

Sure, gladly.

So we took the three students back to UNCG. And you know, they—of course, they talked in the car all the way home. And they all three said that they could not talk to their parents at all. “We can't mention this.” So that was, that was hard.

KC:

Yeah, that is interesting.

BF:

And you spoke about the fact that the people came from somewhere else to Greensboro to get people moving. But the Southerners—I've always said—the Southerners did stand out. They deserve a lot of credit, because it took a lot of courage, really. And it would be very unpleasant sometimes, just bound to be.

Then, anyhow, when we came back in, in '61, we got—we came back here right at Christmastime, '61. I remember that. And they had been, all day—well, of course, that was the—'60 was the year of sit-ins; Jesse Jackson, of course was [unclear]. And one night, I think we'd only been here a few weeks, and the telephone rang about dinnertime, and it was Warren Ashby. And he was wanting to know if my husband could possibly come down and talk with a group, that some of the young crowd from A&T [North Carolina A&T State University] were still anxious to do something, and they wanted to boycott the business district. Especially the shopping, that one or two blocks where the big stores were: Belk, Meyer's. And he said, “Some of us don't feel it's right. Come down and see if we can't talk them out of it.”

So he went down, and they talked them out of it, because they knew that it would not be fair, because there were certain stores—what was the name of it? There was a woman's fabric—woman's clothing store. Not as big, it was between Belk's and Ellis Stone, or Thalheimers. And they had been—they had been very fine, very [unclear]. And they said it wouldn't be fair to them and a few others like that, if you were to boycott the whole—that would be wrong. So they, they listened, and they backed off, thanks to him.

So there were little, little, little things happening all the time like that. Another thing, of course, we thought disturbing to us, one of the first years we were here. There was a big—for years there had been international institutes all over the country on college campuses, sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee. And, it got kind of unpleasant that year because the outstanding speaker came from the West, and he was just horrified when he saw that there had to be lines drawn.

KC:

Right.

BF:

And I remember at that same time that the president of—what's the name of that black college over at, not Lexington is it? It's a black college. Anyway, [unclear] and he was telling my husband how unpleasant it was, how they had to stay with family, you know, because there wasn't any place they could stay. And if my memory serves me, it was that time—now later I think people could eat in the dining room at the Woman's College, but I'm not sure at that time they were able to. Anyhow, it got kind of ticklish, you know.

Then when we came back, when we came back in '61, '62—this was interesting. They were still having, they were still having those Sunday afternoon affairs that were so nice. And we were just back, so we thought we might just go to St. James, which is a black church on Asheboro Street. And, this was very interesting. We were sitting there in the audience, and the man, whom neither one of us knew, who was presiding, began talking about my husband and telling what he had done to, to—well, because he had been responsible for merging the black and white ministers. So, that was, that was kind of interesting.

Then, in those years, another lunch—a luncheon group—or it was dinner—a luncheon group got started. And I don't know how many years we met. Once a month, again, black and white. And there would be something very interesting presented with all kinds of extras and so on. And then, finally, of course, the time came when you could see when things began to get better. Then those things weren't needed. And now—so it's a funny thing now—of course, life out here is different, for me, anyway. But I think in the later years, it wasn't necessary to go out of your way to be friendly or to do the right thing, because things were better for everybody.

KC:

Right.

BF:

So, so the mingling, to some extent, just wasn't, the effort wasn't there. But if it would have been natural, of course, then we did it[?]. Then, of course—I don't remember, do you? Was it in the early sixties, or was it earlier than that, when some of the colleges began—do you remember when, when Woman's College, or was it not until it was UNCG, that they began taking black students?

KC:

I think that it wasn't until they—

BF:

Early sixties?

KC:

—became a part of the University [of North Carolina] and I think—

BF:

So that was early—

KC:

—that was in '64.

BF:

I was going to say, it seems that after we came back was when it had its new name and so—yeah. Let's see. Oh, another thing that I thought was interesting and, and shows again, the interesting—that people didn't want to go too far, but they wanted to do what they could. Whenever there was anything going on that was unusual or nice, there would be white people with black folks of all kinds. They'd go to church services and—I'll never forget one night. It was a wonderful experience. It was the Diamond Jubilee of A&T, and they were having all kinds of affairs going on. And, and Margaret Hinds, an opera singer—she lived—she grew up in [unclear], whose father was a minister here in Greensboro—and my husband was very fond of him. He was a wonderful old man. And we went to that concert, and it was one of the most exciting things.

I, I met her afterward, and I told her I'd heard all kinds of operas, great singers, and I'd never heard anything as exciting as she was, just wonderful. Well, there were white people scattered all through the audience. Now they'd do that sort of thing. But it took them a long time. I, the most thing—I think the biggest mistake was the fact that in the South they waited until they were forced—

KC:

Yeah.

BF:

—for the schools, for the children. Now, after '54 they were supposed to make, what was it, “all possible speed”? Some little—

KC:

Right.

BF:

—phrase like that, but they just didn't do it. And they put it off, and they put it off, and they put it off. And then, of course, there was busing, and people hated that and—but if they had only started in little bits and pieces, it could have been done much more—

KC:

It could have been done much differently.

BF:

But it wasn't. That's human nature, I guess. We don't like—we don't like to change.

KC:

Yeah.

BF:

There are some cases [unclear]. But truly it was interesting. You speak about again, about people from the outside, really, coming here. It was so interesting to us. One of the reasons we came here—we were in a much larger church, the largest church that we had in California, but we'd never lived in the South. And that appealed to us. A friend in the [unclear]—

[Interruption—knock on door]

BF:

Hello! Hello! Hello! Oh, I'm, I'm sorry I'm having a—

[recorder paused]

BF:

—how difficult it was, to come and, and live here. And let's see if I've forgotten anything else about the [unclear].

Oh, I was trying to remember two of the restaurants in the area. The S&W [Cafeteria]. Are you too young to know the S&W—

KC:

Oh no, I do remember the S&W.

BF:

— downtown? I remember they were one of the first places that black people could go. And then, of course, it began to get better and better as time went on. I guess I've talked so fast, you know, I've covered a lot of this stuff.

Oh, this is another interesting thing. My husband was asked—he did a lot of speaking around town—and one night he'd been asked to speak to one of the clubs at the YW. He sat next to a young girl who had been in a—again, the first experience of an interracial camp that summer—a teenager—somewhere in the mountains. And he was so intrigued to hear what she had to say, because it had just changed her whole life. She had no idea that she could find so much in common, and be so fond of, of, of a black girl who couldn't go to school with her yet, you see.

So those little things were, were cropping up constantly. And I remember, too, that Greensboro did have a pretty good reputation. I was interested in this—my husband went to give a, a—Hampton Institute in Virginia had a custom of having weekend speakers, you know, things going on for three days. And he was asked to come out. And I remember that one of the teachers there who, you know, who was from North Carolina, knew Greensboro very well. And I remember him saying always that Greensboro is, is ahead of most of them, which was interesting to us to hear him say that. But of course we still have a long way, a long way to go, even so.

But I, as I said, I've talked—there may be something here that you're asking that I haven't talked about. Because you're asking first about my background. Well, of course, growing up in New England, I had no—

KC:

Right.

BF:

—[unclear] whatever. And then I lived in the Middle West, and of course, we began to see it then. We lived in a college town in Ohio, and there were lines drawn. Oh, we, we could—black people would be welcomed, but there were separate black churches. And then the [unclear]. Then, we went to California, where at first there was very little. Then when the war came and all the people came out there to work, there were more problems. So we, we were sort of being educated by degrees—

KC:

As you went along. Yeah.

BF:

—you know. And then finally came down here. Let's see, what was my perception of the [reading from list of questions] —well, about race, we've talked about that.

Oh, this brings up an interesting thing. What was your impression of the police? I remember this story distinctly, that there was a police officer name Jackson.

KC:

Captain [William] Jackson.

BF:

And that he, he just was outstanding. Anyway, he was able to—he and, he and Jesse Jackson—he was able to talk to those young people, to handle them very, very well. Which people were very delighted about [unclear].

What's your impression [reading from list of questions]—I suppose you know—I suppose you really can't realize what an enormous difference it's made in twenty-five years.

KC:

No, I think that's too soon, too.

BF:

At the same time, an awful—I think a lot of them—yeah, they're unsatisfied, they feel—but when you think of the past, there is just no comparison. And things are a million times better than they were. [Of] course I think it is too bad, slightly, that there isn't anybody on the council. And of course, the trouble on the school board. I don't know about that, but that was mainly to do [unclear] with being black. I do think—there is a chance, I think sometimes—it's natural that the blacks are overanxious, and over—

KC:

They're overcompensating.

BF:

Yes.

KC:

Absolutely.

BF:

And so they feel perhaps that more should be done. But they are really [unclear]. But I think we have to be fair about things.

And we were up in New Jersey for four and a half years. That's why I was talking about '55, '57 and '62. And it was interesting to see what happened up there. There was a secretary—we went to a Congregational Church up there—and the secretary was a black woman. And not only that, but before we left, a young black man was appointed to the board of deacons. A doctor's wife—he had died, but she was a, a nurse at the big veteran's hospital in South Orange—she and her daughter belonged to our church. And there was mostly a very pleasant situation there.

But there were little problems. I remember a friend of mine talking about the fact that she wished more women would come into the church—not just this church, but all churches. But she said that—I was talking one day to the wife of that minister, [unclear]. And she said, “Well, a lot of them have come up here from the South, and they, because of their past, they have a chip on their shoulder, and they're not ready to forgive and try to move on.” So there were lots of angles to this thing. But I do, but I do think that—of course it shouldn't have taken so long for that to happen. But it did.

KC:

Well, it galls me now to be told that, particularly by the present administration, that it's run its course. That it's, it's done all that it's going to do.

BF:

Oh, no, there's never an end to that, is there? No, absolutely not. But oh, I do think the most awful thing would have been when people who, who were somebody and they couldn't stay in a hotel. They had to stay with personal friends or else go on to the next town somewhere. And you know, I remember—now why would that be? Because he wasn't against, it wasn't because he was against blacks—but a young man who was just with us for a short time, who was with one of the big companies, and he had to come through some of the Southern—like South Carolina, Georgia. And he spoke about that one should never try and go through there at night.

And I know he didn't mean, he did mean the black people. I wonder whether at that time there was more—now he wasn't black. So I'm trying to figure out what that was, whether the KK[K], you know, that was down in there. I discovered, one year, after he'd—long after he'd retired, my husband took a, a trip down in the country, lovely experience. But somebody told us that on the way down there we went right by the home of the man who was the leader of the Klan in this section [laughs]. I didn't know I'd ever laid eyes on it. But I'd never even known I was anywhere near that.

But you do hear a little more about that, but I'd never heard about that [unclear]. And I don't think—we didn't hear so much about that before, before things got better. But I guess that's the reason, isn't it? They didn't, they didn't have to do anything while the Negroes were kept down. [Unclear.] But I do think that—again, I've often thought of that. There were Southerners who did stand out, a lot of them did.

Out here at, at New Garden [Friends Meeting], which is a [unclear], they simply, they wrote a very nice letter just stating how they felt about the situation, I think it was about the schools. Oh mercy, did that stir up a hornet's nest.

KC:

I'm sure it did.

BF:

'Cause that was back in the early fifties [unclear]. Because course now—but of course [unclear]. But of course it's not perfect yet, but I do think that it's a thousand times better.

KC:

Oh sure.

BF:

It really is. People have had opportunity to do all kinds of—do all kinds of things if they had ability. People who—of course, in the theatre and the concert stage they were able to do that anyway.

KC:

I think that that may have a lot to do with the breakthrough.

BF:

I think it could—

KC:

And the [unclear, both talking at once].

BF:

—and the kind of people who, who went to concerts and theater were the kind of people who were ready—

KC:

Ready to accept it.

BF:

—to accept that. You know, we had an interesting experience. This has nothing to do with Greensboro, but we were in Chicago one year when—what was that famous black play?

KC:

Porgy and Bess?

BF:

What?

KC:

Porgy and Bess?

BF:

No, no it wasn't that. It wasn't Porgy and Bess. It was even before—yes, it was even before Porgy and Bess, I think. And the lead was played by a man who was a professor here at A&T, William something. It was taken from that book, written by—oh, I've, oh I've got just one of those of a blank spot, you know—

KC:

Would it be Raisin in the Sun?

BF:

No, we saw that one in New York [laughs]. But, oh heavens—this is based on an old, real old fashioned Negro approach to life and, and, and the world in general and everything. Oh, the man wrote the book, and the book attracted a lot of attention, and so somebody turned it into a play. And it was all black people, of course. And it was playing in Chicago. And we were there—I guess it was at a conference. And a bunch of us were invited to come backstage, and we met all the cast. And we didn't know then that we'd ever be living in Greensboro, of course. And this man after, after several years of touring, came back and taught at A&T again. Oh, this is maddening, you know, these blank spots you get because you haven't thought about it, you know, you haven't thought about it or heard about it in so long.

Was it All—not All God's Children—no, that was another one. That was another one. But anyway, anyway, I do, I do hope that—this is interesting [looking at list]. This place here would be happy to have somebody, but nobody would ever come right here. But a couple did live over in the big building that stands out like this as you come around the curve. That is the intermediate care building. And a man and his wife—[unclear] he's still here. But she died and he got worse. He's over here in the building you see out there.

And there was a darling little woman named Mrs. Jones who was over there, but those are the only black people. But they would be welcome. So, there are things like that where [unclear]. And I remember when Mrs. Jones had a birthday, and her sons came and had a big party. And one of them sang, he had a beautiful voice. She had a corsage. And here—all—and everybody else of course was, was [unclear]. So I just, I just hope that things [unclear]

[Recorder paused]

BF:

So, we all went through this Japanese-American business.

KC:

You still see that in the newspaper.

BF:

That was another terrible, terrible—

KC:

Recently.

BF:

They're talking about it lately and all.

KC:

Yes.

BF:

It's a little late, now. Of course, they never did do anything to try to make up for it, you know.

KC:

Well, we have—we are so self-righteous, condemning the Nazis.

BF:

And you see the terrible thing is, they were American citizens. They were, they call, you know, the Issei were the old people, and the Nisei were the American citizens. You see, there's the first thing, California wouldn't allow—I mean we wouldn't allow the first generation to become American citizens if they wanted to. Then, of course, their children were born here. If they could have refused that, they would.

And, my husband, who was president at that time of the Southern California Council of Churches, and they had a group of people acting as taxi people because they [Japanese-Americans] couldn't take their cars, you see. And they were taking them to the railroad station and getting on these old beat up trains that hadn't been used for years, and taking them to these various relocation camps.

And I went with them one morning. We left home at four o'clock. We went into Los Angeles, and, again, the, the bright spots—I stood, I stood at the station with another very good friend of my husband's and her husband. And her husband and my husband were both going out to get people. And right near us were standing two white women, and a Nisei couple, with of all things, a baby, in a—and very well dressed, and the baby in a very attractive thing, a little thing they had to carry children in those days. Oh it was so [unclear]. And I was so pleased.

I heard—'cause she was just beyond me—I heard the woman say to them, “Now look,” she said, “as soon as this thing is over you come straight to us.” Because, of course they, they had left everything. All they could take was what they carried in suitcases. And they got into those relocation camps and they weren't ready for them. It was awful. They were in rooms with a blanket hanging between one family and another. You know, I'm surprised there hasn't been more—one book was written about that. And I never knew of another. And nobody has ever written a play about it.

KC:

How—do you remember how recent that one book was? I remember one in the last—

BF:

It came out very soon. Oh, I'd say it's way back now. Let's see—did we [unclear]? I don't know. Yeah, we must have been living here. Let's say the fifties, but I don't know.

KC:

One more may have come out, in the late seventies.

BF:

Well, I haven't heard of anything else. But I've often thought, I don't know how they could forgive us, really. I just don't know.

KC:

I don't.

BF:

There was a family—there was a lovely girl who came to our church, sang in our choir. And her father was a teacher in Los Angeles, and so was her mother. She had a sister who was—two sisters, younger and older sisters. She was—she told us this when this was happening. Now this was still during the war. You know, they let some out. She came back before the war was over. They let some students—after they had gone through all this terrible relocation—she came back free, and was able to be there. But, this is what happened to their family. She was at school, up at Berkeley. Her sister Alice and her little sister Mary were at home in Los Angeles with both her parents. They were out. Now how was that now—I'm trying to remember.

They must—the parents must have just come home. Because this was the thing I never forgot. Two men—I suppose they were FBI—came to the house and took the father and mother away. And just left those two little girls there alone, just frantic.

It sounds like something from Nazi Germany. And you know why? You see, they picked on every Japanese who was taught in a language school. But they wanted to keep the Japanese language, especially, because the older people had never learned English. And he hadn't done anything. They sent him to that—some prison way up in Montana. They released him, and sent him back to a relocation camp. Wasn't a whole lot better, but they knew he hadn't done anything wrong.

And this same friend who was with me in the railway station while we were waiting, said that said that an FBI man said to her husband, he said, “All this is unnecessary,” but, he said, “this blank, blankety war, these blank, blank pressure groups,” he said, “are just making it so they just can't wait. We know better. We know they, they don't deserve it. We shouldn't be doing this.”

But people, you know, how people can't keep their heads—their emotions just run wild, and they just do the most terrible things.

KC:

Yeah.

BF:

No logic whatever.

KC:

Hysteria.

BF:

There was one night, over—I bet you don't—we had real blackouts living right on the West Coast, you see. And there was one night when there was quite a lot of excitement, and my husband was so amused. Somebody the next day told him, she said she knew she saw a plane. You know she didn't. And she was supposed to be a respectable, sensible person.

People just get really—and they were telling these wild tales about how the Japanese gardeners, you know, had planted their gardens in the shape of an arrow so the planes would know where to go when they flew over. All of these things. Oh, I'll tell you, the human race worries me sometimes, it really does [laughs]. When something awful happens like that, and people haven't had a chance to settle down, they sure can go—

KC:

Yeah.

BF:

So, I don't know, it was interesting. A little Chinese woman who had come from Hawaii, because her family lived here, and they thought she better leave Hawaii and come to the mainland. And she talked to a group, a club I belonged to when I was living there. And I'll never forget one thing she said. She was telling people who were asking her about what was happening in the islands. And she said, “Oh everything's going on just the same.” [She] said, “The Chinese and Japanese are marrying. And everything's all over the place and nobody has any feeling[?].” And she said, “You know, after all,” and this was what was so interesting. She said “Jesus once said” —do you remember? She said that “Jesus said that you should be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.” And she said, “I think that's right, don't you?” Don't you? [laughs] Nobody could say a word, you know. [laughs] But, there again, why would you, you'd find people like that that had good sense—well, the people we knew mostly did, of course.

But of course, we know that some—where there was power, things were not good. And those relocation camps.

[Recorder paused]

BF:

—we were coming [unclear]—and she tried to tell about it, she got so angry she cried, you know. You could see how [unclear]. And when they first went to the distribution center, the racetracks at Santa Anita was the distribution center. And people stayed in the stalls where the horses had been kept. They had whitewashed them, but you know, they didn't do a whole lot of good.

KC:

No. [unclear].

BF:

And these people, who lived in homes as nice as anybody's—a lot of them were people who had done well, they were very successful. You know, I had a, a friend of ours said that she was teaching school, and she said she'd rather have Japanese children any day. They were really—they were really something. So many of them were way ahead.

Well, and you know, they used to say in Los Angeles, no Japanese child ever turned out to be in a—in a juvenile home. The parents, the father would say, “Oh, it was my fault.” So the children have a sense of responsibility and respect and so it was just amazing. You wonder why it couldn't catch on just a little bit.

But anyway. That was just interesting sidelights. And how human nature hates change. Somebody brought me a book to read, a few weeks ago, that is kind of interesting. How much of it was researched, I don't know, and how much is imagination. But it's called People of the CavePeople of the Cave Bear.

KC:

Clan of the Cave Bear.

BF:

Clan of the Cave Bear. Have you read it?

KC:

I haven't read it, but that's what I do for a living, is run a bookstore.

BF:

Oh. Well, I'll tell you. You know what? It, it's a—you know what, it's a story of cave people, of course. And the one, one poor little girl, who after an earthquake, she's left all alone. And she wanders for days and comes across this other group of people who are not like her. And I suppose, I don't know what other people think, but all I could think—what the main thing was in that was how people resist change and difference. They got, they began to like her because—and she was not like they were. She was evidently a few generations beyond them. And they, some of them were jealous, of course, because she was. And she looked funny. She'd—we'd probably would think she looked better, but they thought she looked weird. Isn't that—of course, that's human nature.

KC:

Sure.

BF:

And I just think that that is so true, that we resist anything new, if it's hard to take. Or if it's terribly different.

KC:

Yeah, you're right.

BF:

That was a good picture of it [laughs], with the cave—the cave man—how many years ago do you—fifty-thousand years ago, something like that—

KC:

At least.

BF:

—that they lived? Yeah. Well, I tell you, it's interesting. It really is. And now, you know, what they're talking about all the time now, on this C-SPAN [TV news channel], especially of course, is the problem in Washington. They had three newsmen talking—do you, do you ever see that?

KC:

Every now and again.

BF:

We're so lucky; it's a wonderful thing. Four years ago, a very wealthy man, who lives here—I know he made it possible—but he and, and the director [unclear] got cable put in here. And C-SPAN is the thing that I'm just crazy about, because you really hear these people talking and saying what they think.

KC:

The real—right, the real thing.

BF:

And it goes all day. Like, they'll have programs where the people can telephone in. The one I was listening to when you came, people call in and say, “What did you think?”, because it was a, a man from the Baltimore Sun, a man from the Nation, and the man from the New York Times. That's the type of thing they will do. And then they'll give their comments and so on. And then you'll hear—you'll hear hearings, you know. Hearings before the Senate or the House. And the spee[ches]—speeches by special people. All kinds of—it's really fascinating.

KC:

That could be real fun—

BF:

Oh, it's great.

KC:

—in January, when they start—

BF:

Won't it be?

KC:

I think both of them are going to have their own hearings. [Referring to Iran-Contra hearings]

BF:

Won't it really? When, when things get exciting. And especially then, all next year, I suppose.

KC:

Yeah, I think that this one's gonna—

[End of Interview]