Title: William Rolle
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00005673/00001
 Material Information
Title: William Rolle
Series Title: William Rolle
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Wanza, Stephanie
Publisher: Stephanie Wanza
Publication Date: 1997
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00005673
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
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Full Text


This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.

This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
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Fair use limts the amount of material that may be

For all other permissions and requests, contact the
the University of Florida

August 26, 1997

(Ms. Stephanie Wanza): This is Stephanie Wanza. I'm

here at the Black Archives and I will be interviewing Mr. Billy

Rolle. Today's date is August 26, 1997. This is Side #1 of Tape

#1. Okay, we are going to begin the interview now. How are you

doing.this morning Mr. Rolle?

(Mr. Rolle): Alright, how you doing, pretty good.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay. The first set of questions I'll be

asking are regarding family life. Where were your parents born?

(Mr. Rolle): They were born in the Bahamas.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, did your parents ever live in Overtown?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah, no, just, just commuted from here to Coconut


(Ms. Wanza): Okay. Umm, what sort of jobs did your parents


(Mr. Rolle): Ah domestic job. My mother was seamstress, she

sewed and she worked day jobs and my father was a butler, a

chauffeur, he did every thing, he was a cook and he (laughter)

drove car, took care yard.

(Ms. Wanza): This is Stephanie Wanza, I just began the

interview with Mr. umm Billy Rolle and Mrs. Yvonne Daily will now

be taking over the interview.

(Ms. Yvonne Daily): This is Yvonne Daily, I've just taken

over the interview from umm, Ms. Wanza. I'm interviewing Mr. Billy

Rolle and I'm continuing with the questions on family life. This

is the fifth question.

Mr. Rolle where were your grandparents born?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah, in the Bahamas.

(Ms. Daily): Did they live in Overtown?

(Mr. Rolle): No, they commuted Overtown but they lived in

Coconut Grove.

(Ms. Daily): What years did they live there?

(Mr. Rolle): In Coconut Grove?

(Ms. Daily): Umm hum.

(Mr. Rolle): Umm from the early 1900's until the late '60,

until they passed away, yeah.

(Ms. Daily): What sort of jobs did they have?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah, my grandmother was ah, she was a domestic

worker. She worked in ah housekeeping and my grandfather was a

carpenter, he built houses.

(Ms. Daily): What...could you describe what it was like

growing up in your parent's household?

(Mr. Rolle): Yes, it was a very strict upbringing, you know

in the Bahamas, they, they went to school so far and after 8th

grade and 14 years they were through with your education unless

they were, had a lot of money or was really heavy educated so that

they could continue because the Bahamian style education. So when

they came here they wanted for their children to be educated so

they can carry on wants they get something they didn't get really

and ah that's what sparked them to work hard to getting on but it

was heavy segregation here.

(Ms. Daily): The next set of questions are regarding

employment from 1945 to 1970. Describe the jobs you had between

1945 and 1970 that a period

(Mr. Rolle): Yes, well I was a student. I did part time work

for the City of Miami. I did...I worked in grocery stores, I

worked in restaurants, dishwasher, but I went to school in part '46

and ah I came and started teaching in 1950 although it was still

segregated here and through that time, you mention '45 to '70, I

taught all through those years in segregated schools and ah, were

able to instill in the students that, that information that my

teachers instilled in me so we lived segregated but we did most

things in our cities or inter-cities in that they did the other

part of town and they did a good job of it because they built

churches, they built, they carried on schools, they had tailor

shops, they had they own business and ah all for...not a whole lot,

they still made it and that's why we were able to do better than my

grandparents, our parents did because they saw that we got an

education. They worked hard to get us going and then we came back

and to do the same thing with the children that were coming up so

that was the work that I did, teaching and then playing music in

clubs in Overtown.

(Ms. Daily): Where were those jobs?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah, the jobs were at, at the clubs and ah the

club they had famous, Rockland Palace, Harlem Square, Lyric

Theater, Reno Bar, Mary Elizabeth and they were ah, about 10 12

palace that you can work as a musician, now a lot of people worked

right in the area without even leaving the area to catch the bus or

anything else, they weren't even a strong Liberty City then but ah

they were right in Overtown and everything was bustling there. You

worked as a shoe shine boy or a waitress or, or cleaning up the

clubs or in a grocery store like mom and pop stores but there were

enough work right there to carry you on. So that what happened

with...ah before integration, you worked right there in the area

and you had the means to purchase whatever you needed from doing

the work. You learned work ethics and you learned work habits and

that's why our parents wanted us to be educated because you get use

to working and earning without even having any racial overtone

because we didn't come in contact with the other races that much.

We lived in our own area, schools, churches, social activities and

we went downtown to pay taxes and do other things but then for the

most part, we lived in our area and ah it was dignified.

(Ms. Daily): You mention teaching, what are some of the

schools are where some of the schools that you taught?

(Mr. Rolle): Well, I taught in Coconut Grove, I taught in

south, in Perrine, Homestead, Goulds, down in the farmer area but

I lived in Coconut Grove and I later worked in Booker T. Washington

as an assistant principal and which was a strong school for

everything cause the school was the center of the entire

educational system and the social system at that time. Everything

happened in the auditorium, we learned to sing, you had plays, you

had ah amateur shows, and you had good talent coming out because

you were able to display your talent in the schools, that was the

center of attraction, education, that why Booker T. was so greatly

thought of and ah back then in the area, in Overtown area.

(Ms. Daily): What years did you have those jobs? I think you

said that already.

(Mr. Rolle): In, in ah from '50 after I came back from school

I worked in most of those clubs and playing music for the dances,

club dances and ah affairs that the people could have fun socially

on the week so they enable them to, to go to work and didn't have

to entertain themselves without any problem and that was where the

people really let of steam after 5 or 6 days of work, they came to

the club, they had fun and they were able to go back, go to work

Monday, refreshed. Sort of like recreating (laughter) your body

here. Recreation and then back to work.

(Ms. Daily): What kind of hours did you work?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah, when I was teaching during that time within

that same rim from '45 to '70, I taught from '50 to '83 really when

we were having regular schools hours...that 8:30 to 3:30 and then

if you worked at night you worked from 8:00 to 12:00 or from 10:00

to 2:00 in the morning which is a complete line of work because

most people did...they duel jobs. They had a regular job and then

they worked at ah maybe at waitresses or bartenders if they worked

anything or maybe they worked as a tailor or shoe repair but they

had a trade and they had their educational job but there were a lot

ah apprentice jobs and you learned from a guy who was a shoemaker

on Second Avenue, or a tailor on Third Avenue and worked the

theater because there were about 4 theaters in the Overtown area

that you could work as...ah you could do concessions or you could

do ticket taking or you could even run the movie projectors when

you learn that from apprenticeships so there jobs right in the area

that you ran the movie when they were here.

(Ms. Daily): So your hours then were varied or...?

(Mr. Rolle): Varied, yeah.

(Ms. Daily): You have set hours?

(Mr. Rolle): Yeah, the morning hours, you had set hours when

you worked in, in a place like the school or downtown to the bank,

you know. Ah whatever jobs you had downtown then in the afternoon,

you worked in the afternoon, you came back if you had a second job

and ah most of the work was done, well in and out I would say...in

your area and then if you could'get to your job back then through

transportation you'd work and find out where the better work was

and come back into your area.

(Ms. Daily): When and why did you leave those jobs?

(Ms. Daily): Well I stayed on the teaching job for 33 years,

just retired...retirement age came and then on the night work, it

just...the clubs just started closing after the "urban removal" I

would say and then the clubs start closing and the shops closing

and the tailor shops start closing, restaurants start closing so

there wasn't much work after that and that was after, you know when

they start moving people out and sort of eminent domain, taking

they houses and having them move further north (laughter) and they

just use that for their area.

(Ms. Daily): How did you find work?

(Mr. Rolle): Through employment offices that's set up in the

local area and through newspaper want ads and ah the most popular

where you go the employment office and then they would put you to

work for a small fee and ah they had domestic work and some semi,

semi-skilled labor and ah they were doing a lot building during

that time so you did ah...you found some work that you could do

because you were use to working because they had some strict laws

to, loitering, you know couldn't be seen around, hanging around

just doing nothing like they do now, you had to go and work and

then there was a reason for having to have a job because you just

couldn't loaf.

(Ms. Daily): How did you get to work?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah, public transportation. It was the bus,

there weren't many cars back then but then they were...ah the bus

runnings, the buses, ah local bus runs and then the jitney system

and a few taxicabs because you couldn't ride in the other taxicab

back there but you could ride in the, in the Magic City Cabs which

was in Overtown and they took you from your area to the work and

they had the...the public transportation took from here to most of

work was on the Beach and people worked over there and that was

whole lot of people worked to Miami Beach because they were the

hotels and there was a lot of housekeeping jobs and ah marking jobs

or jobs that you working around the hotel, baggage carriers and

whatnot, bellhops what we would say and men worked over there.

(Ms. Daily): Where did the other members of your family work?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah some worked in local stores, ah the mom and

pop stores, some worked in the laundries that were here, you know

there were a lot of...two or three different ah laundries that the

ladies worked in and the men they make them fold sheets and all

this kind of thing. Ah, then we were close to downtown so you

could almost walk to work from this area and the men usually used

the bicycle transportation because they Bahamian style and they

came from the Caribbean island style and couldn't afford an

automobile so they rode the bicycles most places to get to work.

(Ms. Daily): Beginning in the late 1950's many immigrants

moved to Miami from the Caribbean including Cuba, Haiti and other

countries. Did those immigrants compete with Overtown residents

for jobs?

(Mr. Rolle): Yeah. I would say they did because ah, they,

they had, we had no competition before they came in and ah cause

they were enough worXf for unskilled laborers, skilled laborers as

you take a trade, you can, you can work but then I would say it put

a little pressure on the local residents at that time.

(Ms. Daily): Do you recall people moving into the area from

out of town?

(Mr. Rolle): Yes, they were moving, in, in different

sections, not that much Overtown, in the parameter of, of, I would

say Overtown from Northwest Sixth to Twentieth Street back or

either from Second over to Twenty-Seventh Avenue. They moved out,

most of them moved in different areas where some of their people

were, maybe the Haitians and the Cubans and they, they kind of

settled in the area where they felt comfortable but you, you don't

find many right in the Overtown area unless you find the ones who

come in, who lay around with the one's of us who were Overtown

laying around, they hang around, now that, crew is in the area but

the ones who want to find a place to live, they felt comfortable

living with their people and they were further out like Second

Avenue, you know the Haitians are out around Fifty-Fourth or up to

Eighty-Fifth or further out, that's where you find most of those

people because that's where their business are, they live in Haiti

and other little areas where they felt comfortable.

(Ms. Daily): Do you umm, where were they from?

(Mr. Rolle): Well from different places like Jamaica and

Haiti and ah Cuba, Nicaragua, Puerto Rican, because they live in

say different parts of town now. Puerto Ricans in maybe Winwood

and some right over here in the other area, in the ah Second Avenue

from Twentieth Street to Thirty-Sixth and what not there is a strip

over there and ah most of the Cubans, you know lived in little

Havana but they dispersed away from Overtown because ah, well after

the housing left then it wasn't many places to go because they

moved out in Liberty City and different other places, Carol City,

Opa Locka, anywhere where they can find housing.

(Ms. Daily): Were there other people moving in from other

areas in the United States?

(Mr. Rolle): Were there other people?

(Ms. Daily): Umm hum, from different other places other than

the islands.

(Mr. Rolle): Yes, I, I would say they would come to the next

largest city where things were a little more liberal from where

they came from. If they were in the southern area and migrated to

Miami because it seemed to be a liberal town and we had the people

from Southern United States coming in, Georgia, South Carolina,

North Carolina, Alabama and North Florida, they came in here for a

better life like the people coming from the island and the other

countries, they come to biggest city to find more work where the

hotels are where the, where the industry's urban area is moving and

then they move and maybe it crowds a lot of cities out because the

work is better. Our people came from the Bahamas after they came

from the islands into Nassau, then they came from Nassau into, into

Miami for a better life, you see, because there were more work and

some didn't like it, some went back because they lived on they

islands where they had they own, they beaches and the water and the

fishing but a lot of them stayed the opportunities were greater for

their children educationally.

(Ms. Dai-ly): Where did they live in Overtown, these people?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah, right in those sections that I, that I

mentioned mainly from Fifth to Twentieth north, south and from ah

east to west like from Second over to Twenty-Seventh and that's

basically where, where that district, you know, was, that's where

they stayed because when you passed Twenty-Second, you were going,

you know, a long way and it was kind of wood up there and there

weren't too much over that way, now it extends all the way down to

Liberty City and to Eightieth Street now with a district, ah, ah

yes but then at that time that was the parameter from ah, like I

say the, where the police station is to Twentieth Street, you know

going north and from Second avenue going ah from east to west to

say to ah Twenty-Seventh Avenue, you didn't get that far over

because when you get this far over you were in Brownsville, that

was just another, another section but that's the way it was.

(Ms. Daily): What sort of jobs did they have?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah, well ah most of the Bahamians came that, at

that time, they were, they were...most of them...they were builders

and they had trades and they, a lot of them owned their business

because that was their trade from where they came from. They had

they, they mom and pop businesses right connected to their houses

and they sold and they cooked pies and they ah, that kind of work,

they...men did most craft work, the ones who were tailors, they

kept they trade, the one that were shoe repair people, they kept

that up but they did a whole lot with a little bit of money, they

were highly segregated. They saved they money in the post office

because there-weren't banks so they did a whole lot but what, what

we say we have now, it's wide open with them and you get ready to

made a loan, the paper so thick 'til...but they did build churches

and help build roads and build businesses and houses, you know

their own homes because they were use to owning their homes where

they came from just like your people in Jamaica, they had their

people...places on the island so they wanted to do the same thing.

They didn't do a whole lot of renting and what not, they wanted to

own their own. I guess that were their forte and this what they

believed in.

(Ms. Daily): How about the other people who moved from other

southern states and...?

(Mr. Rolle): Umm some of them chimed in and they were the

ones little less educated when they came in and they were coming in

this area to find ah refuse sort of like the people coming from

Cuba or somewhere else. They just wanted to get away from that

plantation mentality and once they got here, they were a little

free, they had more freedom. Sometime they didn't do well because

they a little more liberal here in some leader on the job, some

came to find work for their people and ah, they just thought it was

so much better here than from, from whence they came because they

came off a like a plantation kind of philosophy and ah this was,

this was better and sometime people, people come into rooming house

or an apartment and they so much than what they came from with

running water and facilities and they'll stop there but the people

came before they didn't stop there because they were use to owning

their own on the islands (laughter) and this is what prompt them to

still maintain ownership but when people came off a plantation they

never had a house. They stayed on the plantation they came in

here, not all of them were like that because some of them were, had

some good minds, some of them, they stayed and educated the people

but the one's came here looking for a better life and to keep that

segregated style up for them, the police offered them the...they

came into, into Miami and Overtown and a lot of them did good, did

good and a lot of them thought this was much better than they came

from so they squatted and didn't do a whole lot but except that the

freedom, I would say.

(Ms. Daily): The next set of questions will be regarding

businesses, whether you or your parents owned? What kind of

business did you own?

(Mr. Rolle): I owned a business ah back in the early '60s ah

music store. I sold instruments and I taught music because I had

a degree in music because ah in the area we needed teachers that

you didn't get in the high school and you needed private, private

teachers and that the people came round like they did in the

island, they taught you for twenty-five cent a lesson, piano lesson

cause if they had the knowledge, they passed that onto the students

so I did some of the same thing when I ah came out and well in

music too I sold instruments and I taught the people instruments

and I had a lady that could teach piano. That's the kind of

business, you know, we were doing but the other mom and pop stores

were there but I as far as I'm concerned, I was in the, still in

the teaching business.

(Ms. Daily): Where was your business located?

(Mr. Rolle): Mine was in Coconut Grove, Grand Avenue but I

had students from, from all around.

(Ms. Daily): Who were your employees if you had any?

(Mr. Rolle): No, I had ah musicians as employees and some

non-musicians they were doing...just sales people in the store.

(Ms. Daily): How did you find employees?

(Mr. Rolle): Well, umm personal knowledge and knowing people

that came up and can play, ladies that can play piano in the church

or they taught music in school and I used them for Saturdays of

teaching girls and boys how to play the piano. I taught the

instruments and they taught the piano lessons.

(Ms. Daily): Who were your customers?

(Mr. Rolle): Customers were youth from, from the area and

students from school who needed to learn to play music.

(Ms. Daily): Whom did you consider your main competition?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah, basically, there weren't too many people

going out of the area to take music lessons so ah, as far as

competition and teaching you just needed more teachers in that area

for, for the students that needed to take lessons, you see and they

weren't putting up many public places for music students or any

other students for trade or skills.

(Ms. Daily): When and why did you move or close the business?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah, I, I closed the business because the need

were a little lack when they, when integration came about, when

they started closing the high schools in our, in our areas and the

kids started going to other areas to go to high school, the

interest and motivation sort of lessened to be to play an

instrument because if we had a high school band in my area, Carver

High School and you needed, you might have 140 Black students in

the band. When they integrated with the other schools, ah they

were less demand for students, you know and they didn't feel like,

felt like it wasn't for them because they saw mostly White kids in

the band (laughter) so that's what the tough part there and it

just, just stop by...stopped going in the band and start channeling

in different areas and then plus they, they start requiring

aptitudes and we would have kids come in our band and teach them

when they got there because the public schools' job were to ah

educate all students no matter what line they were but they started

getting competition from kids from

in the Gables and those kids were starting earlier because they had

the benefit of University of Miami teachers, they had professors or

professional who had retired in the area, they had a lot of

teachers and we didn't have but so many teachers so when some of

those kids would meet up with those students they were 3 or 4 years

ahead before they even got started.

(We need, we need to leave at 11:30, I told them).

(Ms. Daily): I think we will soon be finished. Okay, could

you...how success...did you relocate the business?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah no, after the high schools were, were ah

dissolved and they weren't, weren't no lot of need for it and ah

they weren't demand to get into the band program so that's what

happened to it I was strictly doing band because I was a band

major. I did ah strictly music and I did choral music also but

basically I was a band major.

(Ms. Daily): So you didn't relocate?

(Mr. Rolle): No, I did some private lessons at the house but

I didn't relocate the business.

(Ms. Daily): Regarding neighborhood life between 1945 and

1970, could you describe your place of residence?

(Mr. Rolle): Yes, because I lived in two areas. I lived in

the Cityof Miami, in the Coconut Grove area and then I lived in

Richmond Heights for 10 years during that time from ah '51 to '61

and I, live I...like the people lived from here, they got a chance

for home ownership and they were building homes out of the area,

Opa Locka or Richmond Heights ah Cutler Ridge and then being a

veteran, I was also a veteran, I did housing for veterans and it

was cheaper to go that way, 27.50 a month down and 27.50 a month

for a house, a three-one house, three bedrooms, (laughter) one

bath, carport so you had to go for that although you was down the

road about 18 miles and it was out to Opa Locka for about 15 miles

but you had to take that chance in going out there and coming back

in and that's how a lot of people got out of here and started the

ownership and started a better life because they out, they didn't

build in the intercity because they had taken all those, those

homes away with the highways and the byways and the oil leaking

down on the people, you know so they went out for purity and for,

for a better life.

(Ms. Daily): Who lived in your household?

(Mr. Rolle): Umm children, I had three children.

(Ms. Daily): Could you describe the street where you lived?

(Mr. Rolle): Yes, ah, regular neighborhood housing, you had

the regular three bedroom, one bath and some of them were frame

houses, and you had the, they use to have the families there, you

had you and your wife and your children and the grandmother or the

grandfather because after they were old you took them in and then

they sought raised them together and you had the ah, umm, the

mother-wit or the, the psychology of the older people life and how

they came and then helped the children as they went on to want to

be better or do better things in their life.

(Ms. Daily): Who were your neighbors?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah the neighbors were people like myself, they

would always ah, in a staunch Bahamian neighborhood and they had

unwritten discipline rules and laws that you went by, you know.

Places you didn't go, some food you did eat, that you didn't beg or

you didn't go unkept because that was the rules of, the community

and you didn't break those rules.

(Ms. Daily): Where did they work?

(Mr. Rolle): Umm, they worked in neighboring town, right

across from the way from where they lived. They one with the White

areas as, like I said, domestics, you know they worked as cooks and

servants and butlers and that wasn't far from where they lived

because that's the town right next to the...that abuts the White

area and you -live in the other area, this is clean one now but

that's way you did it cause you had your churches and your schools

and you went to work because that were the work was, you see, they

can afford to pay.

(Ms. Daily): What happened to those neighbors?

(Mr. Rolle): The neighbors are there, you mean where they

worked you mean?

(Ms. Daily): Umm hum...what umm...are they still there or

have they left?

(Mr. Rolle): Are the neighbors, your, your neighbors?

(Ms. Daily): Where are they now?

(Mr. Rolle): They, usually...they, they leave because most of

the children don't come back in the area anymore because of what it

is for our area because it's not what it was before they left and

they can't find the work so they just...they go to school in

Tallahassee or Gainesville, they just live in that area because

it's different from here because a lot of other things have changed

with the influx of a lot of new people. If they would come in and

stay back and did what you did, then like, like we had to do and we

keep the philosophy as to home ownership and schools and education

and ah living on your own other than welfare but ah with the influx

of everything else is doing so I might as well do it so your

neighbor's children start doing different, not going and getting

education so they can be on their own. This girl next door gets

food stamps and get a welfare check, well I'll go have me a baby

and I'll do the same thing (laughter) but that was their philosophy

which is different from ours back there.

(Ms. Daily): When did they leave?

(Mr. Rolle): When?

(Ms. Daily): The neighbors?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah I think when, after integration because

things weren't quite like, like you thought they might be and it

didn't work out for you because the schools were different and you

were meeting new people. It's like slavery from back then, people

would come in meeting people different from their tribes and what

not and they, they looked like them and they weren't them because

they spoke a different language and they kind of slowed them down

when they got into other people and they, they didn't think they

need to speak that proper or whatever good English and the teachers

got to be the same way, they weren't fair in that, they taught the

ones who really, they liked, they didn't teach the rest in

integration, that happened to us.

(Ms. Daily): Where did they go?

(Mr. Rolle): Back there? Well, that, that's during

segregation, a lot of people left our area to go to northern cities

so it was more liberal, you see. Yeah.

(Ms. Daily): Could you describe the main business areas you

went to in Overtown?

(Mr. Rolle): The main business areas? Okay. Ah, the clubs

and some clothing stores, some shoe stores, some hat stores and we

shopped right in Overtown, right there, Dooby's and ah Ritz

Theater, Modern Theater, Lyric Theater. Ah you went to the

different shoe shops and the different tailors because they had a

reputation of turning out good suits, custom tailors and they were

the shops you went to because they were right on the avenue and

they were well kept and they were skilled people.

(Ms. Daily): Could you describe where your family bought


(Mr. Rolle): Yes, other than the mom and pop stores, they had

a few of the major chain stores in the area that was a little above

Miami Grocery and A&P, Piggly Wiggly, stores that like that, that

you could get, was a little cheaper and that's where they shopped

for a little grocery.

(Ms. Daily): Could you describe where your family went the

barber shop or the beauty shop?

(Mr. Rolle): Well, right down the street and ah they have a

place in every little town they call "The Avenue" and then they

were located on the avenue, like here Second and Third Avenue were

the areas they were, the barber shops and the beauty parlors and

they were kind of known because that was another business that they

trained too, like beauty schools, like Sunlight Beauty School and

now like you get to work and then they opened they own shops, that

was a business, barber schools, things like that, that they don't

have don't.

(Ms. Daily): I think they do.

(Mr. Rolle): Hun? Yeah some of them they have still but they

missing what they needed.

(Ms. Daily): Could you describe where your family went to the


(Mr. Rolle): Yeah. The neighborhood drugstore. People's

Drugs, Economy Drugs and ah you get the prescriptions and

everything you know.

(Ms. Daily): Whom these owned?

(Mr. Rolle): They were Black owned then. The pharmacist

owned the drug store then, they did alright.

(Ms. Daily): Could you describe where your family went to the


(Mr. Rolle): Yeah, the same thing in the ave...neighborhood

and avenue.

(Ms. Daily): Could you describe the churches your family


(Mr. Rolle): Tnat my family attended?

(Ms. Daily): Umm, hum.

(Mr. Rolle): It was catholic, umm episcopal and we went to

this church in Coconut Grove, Christ Episcopal Church. Sometime

they came to St. Agnes and we interchange, you know, with the

services but there baptist churches and methodist church, Church of

God Prophecy they existed and then they had their way but then we

went to the same schools which means there was no different thing.

You had to go to catholic school, you were catholic. Methodist

school and baptist we ended up to the same school Booker Washington

but then you had you same religion, educationally you learned the

same way.

(Ms. Daily): Could you describe where your family went for

entertainment such as theaters, bars, restaurants or sporting


(Mr. Rolle): Yeah. In our area, in the area of Miami,

Overtown, we had an influx of clubs, entertainment and you had

bands coming in and you had entertainment coming in, you had road

shows coming in because, you know, it was a good town, you could

make money out of those places. This is where they went, cabarets.

(Ms. Daily): When someone in your family got sick where did

they go to the doctor's office?

(Mr. Rolle): In the neighborhood. The dentist, the doctor

was right there.

(Ms. Daily): How long did you continue to patronize those


(Mr. Rolle): As long as they stayed open and still use my

same kind of doctor, family doctor, they got the son of the doctor

now, umm hum.

(Ms. Daily): When did you begin to shop or go to

entertainment outside of Overtown or out of town?

(Mr. Rolle): When they, when they started closing the clubs

in Overtown and they started letting you go down to the hotel and

the entertainment spots in the hotel.

(Ms. Daily): During the period from 1945 to 1970, what were

the main things that made Overtown a community?

(Mr. Rolle): The main things?

(Ms. Daily): Umm hum.

(Mr. Rolle): The attractions of the businesses, you know,

clothing stores, entertainment things, restaurants and you had ah

good top flight, clean businesses so we used the businesses right

in our area. Everybody knew everybody, it was friendly and they

know it was safe, the streets was safe and everything else.

(Ms. Daily): How and when did that sense of community change?

(Mr. Rolle): Ahh, when they started Urban Renewal, when they

were moving people out and they start breaking people up.

(Ms. Daily): How has Overtown changed since 1970?

(Mr. Rolle): Umm, great because nobody's...nobody lives in

Overtown, no businesses are there, churches exist because go out

but they come back into the churches but they go back home to

schools and businesses outside of the area and they just died

there. The churches are struggling to stay open and that's the


(Ms. Daily): Now regarding 1-95. I'll ask you some questions

on that. When and how did you first hear about the building of I-


(Mr. Rolle): Ah, in the papers, in meeting, in the Herald and

then ah I was on a committee there where they keep[t mentioning,

you know, what they would do and how good it would be for the

people. Some leaders bought it and some did buy it but then they

sort of went over them by the leaders who didn't stick it.

(Ms. Daily): Where were you living?

(Mr. Rolle): I was living in Coconut Grove but I was

commuting to Coconut Grove for work.

(Ms. Daily): Okay. What kind of reaction was there the to

the news that the expressway would come through Overtown?

(Mr. Rolle): Negative, but they were told that they couldn't

do anything about it and that was fraud'too.

(Ms. Daily): Did you discuss it with your neighbors?

(Mr. Rolle): Yes. Talked about it and they were showing you

a way it would be better for you but it really wasn't better for

you but then they were trying to convenience you that it was and

eventually it wasn't.

(Ms. Daily): Did you attend a meeting where it was discussed

or sign a petition or discuss the issue with public officials?

(Mr. Rolle): Sure. It didn't do any good because it was like

a like a national program and every city and town did the same

thing. It could be Jacksonville, it could be Virginia, it could be

wherever, they did the same thing in the same kind of neighborhoods

because it was umm nationally put up to do that.

(Ms. Daily): What was the most important impact of the

expressway on you?

(Mr. Rolle): Impact?

(Ms. Daily): Umm hum.

(Mr. Rolle): Well it would get you to and from but then it

still took away your, your lovely intercity.

(Ms. Daily): What was it like when the expressway was being


(Mr. Rolle): Chaos.

(Ms. Daily): What was the community able to get from public

officials in return for 1-95 going through Overtown?

(Mr. Rolle): Promises only. Nothing concrete. Pay offs to

certain people to get to the rest of the people that this was good

for you and it really wasn't.

(Ms. Daily): How did 1-95 affect the community?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah it just was overwhelming and it was just,

just took over...took over what they had, umm hum.

(Ms. Daily): Alright, I'm going down to the questions

regarding 1-395 and State Road 836. Do you know anything?

(Mr. Rolle): Yes, about it just bypass roads to go over your

area, that's what it was, umm hum.

(Ms. Daily): Okay. When and how did you first hear about the

building of 1-395 and State Road 836.

(Mr. Rolle): Through the news media and television and where

were you living then.

(Mr. Rolle): I was living in Coconut Grove.

(Ms. Daily): What kind of reaction was there to the news that

those expressway would come through Overtown?

(Mr. Rolle): It was chaos but then the people you had,

leaders, leadership was ah not like it was way back when we had the

businesses, wasn't quite as strong because there were men who held

up situations like Father Culmer, those people, they would stand

for it but as it went on then those people had gotten older and

weaker and the new leadership umm, just I think gave in, they caved

in, they weren't strong as the old leadership although it was

segregation, these people just held they ground because this was

their ah boulevard, they, they, this was area and their town, the

businessmen and the clergy and they just didn't give us, you see,

but after they broke you down and weakened you just like in

segregation, they broke you down and say well it would be better

for you and then you finally gave in and it wasn't better for you

but then they made you believe it was... just ruin the whole


(Ms. Daily): What was the community was able to get from

public officials in return for 1-395 and State Road 836 going

through Overtown?

(Mr. Rolle): Some people were paid off but then for the most

part, the residents got nothing except booted out.

(Ms. Daily): How did these two highways affect the community?

(Mr. Rolle): Greatly because nobody was coming through and

there were no jobs for the people there and ah, they just were

bypassed by just going over you period. You paid the 6.70 after

95, 836 and go from one area to the other, you know the east and

the west and north and south, the others going around the corner,

so you got nothing, you got chance...didn't get a chance to stop to

buy gas, didn't stop to buy anything from any of the stores. They

just spin on the highways and you lost all that.

(Ms. Daily): Now regarding public housing. When and how did

you first hear about the building of public housing?

(Mr. Rolle): Umm after World War II when they started saying

this would be better for you, you know and build a bunch up in a

certain thing and this is going to better for you, the government

owned it and it would be cheaper and what not. In some cases it

was with the Liberty City project. Other places it wasn't because

it was too much, too much crowding you, jamming you.

(Ms. Daily): And were you still living in Coconut Grove?

(Mr. Rolle): I was still living in Coconut Grove, well you

know we, we did Liberty City ah Overtown and the Grove. We did a

whole run, we were pretty close in the affect.

(Ms. Daily): Okay and did you rent or own that place?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah in the late, in the later years we owned it

and after I got out of school in '51, we owned it since then.

(Ms. Daily): What was the community...


(Ms. Daily): This is Yvonne Daily and this is a continuance

of the interview with Mr. Billy Rolle. Okay Mr. Rolle, what was

the community able to get from public officials in return for

public housing going through Overtown?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah, a few people got jobs from this but for the

most part, ah it didn't help a whole a lot because it wasn't, to

me, it wasn't managed like it should have been. If it was highly

managed and kept going, ah, it could, it could have been really

good because it just kind of turn it loose with public housing, it

just, it just left. They did everything they wanted and then

without any regards to family living.

(Ms. Daily): How did public housing affect the community?

(Mr. Rolle): Ah, like I said before it was demanding it was

poor and it just it just so at a stable, that was it, everything

was crowded into one and you got a lot light people there and you

need to have a pretty good mixture, the one's can do and the one's

who can't, you can't put a lot of the one's who don't want to do

together, you have nobody, no models, no role models, you see.

(Ms. Daily): Now regarding Metro-rail. When and how did you

first hear about the building of Metro-rail?

(Mr. Rolle): Umm through the same ear, media, conferences.

(Ms. Daily): What kind of reaction was to the news that

Metro-Rail would come through Overtown.

(Mr. Rolle): Well they thought that they would gain from that

but then like you said, it didn't really benefit the people because

they didn't need that to get where they were going.

(Ms. Daily): Did you attend a meeting where it was discussed

or sign a petition or discuss the issue with public officials?

(Mr. Rolle): I discussed the meeting because I was one of the

public officials at that time on the County Advisory Board, City of

Miami and we discussed it and discussed and they and brought it to

you and showed you maps and everything. I never did go for it

because I know what it would do.

(Ms. Daily): Did you discuss it with your neighbors?

(Mr. Rolle): Yes.

(Ms. Daily): What was the most important impact of that, of

the Metro-rail on you?

(Mr. Rolle): At that time it didn't have much impact on me

because I was doing my own private transportation. It helps now

for the people who really need to get too and from but then I don't

know what kind of impact it would have on getting them to and from

work since this run like it's running and not like the New York and

the Washington situations, you know you just straight area and then

you can't get to different annexes, that's the only thing.

(Ms. Daily): What was the community able to get from public

officials in return for Metro-rail going through Overtown?

(Mr. Rolle): Like a few people benefitted and then for the

most part the rest of them didn't, they just took the land because

they had to have it and that was the mandate from, I guess from the


(Ms. Daily): Okay, Now, regarding the future of the Overtown

area, what are the most important misconceptions about Overtown?

(Mr. Rolle): People are wild and they are unkept and they

lazy, won't work ana that's what they feel it is. Uneducated but

then the people that made it that way and you got live it and the

people that's down there can't get out, you just can't get out now,

there's no motivation to get out now. There is no motivation to

get them out.

(Ms. Daily): What do you think public officials most need to

know about Overtown?

(Mr. Rolle): Umm, that the people are human and are given the

history and do some of the things that were done by there, they can

probably recapture some of that but you have to start with the

young make them a part of being right there and doing it because

you got the crew coming back from colleges coming back int he area

with good minds and good knowledge to redo it and give them

positions to do it and funds.

(Ms. Daily): What should be done to improve the Overtown area

now such as transportation projects, attractions, job creation or

beautification programs?

(Mr. Rolle): Good housing and good schools and the main

thing, good, good trade schools because that's the basis of it, if

you're educated you can do wonders. If I didn't get an education

I would be like the guys at the Camillus but then you are made to

be, you get you an education and then you can...with that kind of

skill you can make it, need saleable skills down here.

(Ms. Daily): What should be the relationship between Overtown

and Downtown Miami?

(Ms. Daily): Ah, they should be able to provide a enough jobs

to take care of some the people within. Jobs, again you need

skills and you get skills through education early, not when they

get 24 and 25 because if they don't have it then, that's not your

best worker because see then they'll never get it. They'll do

something for that but he can't hold a job because he just tired.

You got to start the guy at 14 and 15 and the work effort, it's got

to be good, you know to hold a job, you just can't say you can work

there because he won't be there.

(Ms. Daily): When you have visitors from out of town, where

do you take them to show them the culture and history of Dade

County's African-American community?

(Mr. Rolle): A few places in Coconut Grove and ah, the few

places that's left Overtown, the Lyric Theater, but then it's not

much else, everything is knocked down.

(Ms. Daily): Could you describe in your own words what kind

of community you would like Overtown to be in the future?

(Mr. Rolle): Yeah. Ah, a friendly neighborhood with good

schools, good churches, good businesses and the basics, the basic

of it is the good schools really, if you are educated you can

always find a way to do. Everybody won't go to college but then if

you got a saleable skill you will do something other have your hand

out. That, that's the key to it, education so whether than try and

give a guy 3 and 4 chance, work on that little guy preventive

without him getting into anything and I, like I said, if you don't

do it through the 3 R's, you're going to lost.

(Ms. Daily): Thank you Mr. Rolle for your time, and I'm sorry

we are so pressed for time.

(Mr. Rolle): Alrighty, yeah okay. I got to get this....he's

pressing me.

(Ms. Daily): You have been helpful.

(Mr. Rolle): Okay, well ah anytime, I like to share, I'll

share with you on my. This is...let me get my pen.

(Ms. Daily): This is Yvonne Daily and today's date is August

26, 1997. I'm just finished with umm...interview with Mr. Billy


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