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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
TELL THE STORY
August 14, 1997
(Mr. Devon Williams): This is Devon Williams. I am at the
interviewer's house, Mr. Ralph McCartney. Today's date is August
the 14th, 1997. I'm interviewing Mr. McCartney on the historical
impact of Overtown--transportation had on Overtown.
The first set of questions that I will be asking Mr. McCartney
is regarding family life.
First question: Where were your parents born?
(Mr. Ralph McCartney): Both my parents were born in Eleuthera
in the Bahamas.
(Mr. Williams): Did they ever live in Overtown?
(Mr. McCartney): Yes, that's where all 8 of ah their children
(Mr. Williams): What years did they live in Overtown?
(Mr. McCartney): [Laughter] No, I can't go back that far,
but I know where they lived in, there from probably the teens up
until ah '52, 1952.
(Mr. Williams): What sorts of jobs did they have?
(Mr. McCartney): Well, my father was man that held many
different jobs. He was first ah, first Black driver for one of the
dairy companies here. I can't think of the name of it right now.
I can call you and let you know that. He ah worked on garbage
truck, he got hurt there. The year I was born, he umm, did many
different things, my father a man that I--was not
uneducated but again in those days, jobs were very limited where
Blacks were concerned.
(Mr. Williams): Could you describe what it was like growing
up in your parents' household?
(Mr. McCartney): Well ah other members of the family might
tell you differently but to me it was like an army post. My father
was--well at home he commanded his household. My mother was there
if he wasn't and my being the last of eight children, I had seven
older brothers and sisters who had charge of me so it could tell
you I was the ah perennial ah E-l brother [laughter] but ah we had
a lot of fun. My parents were no-nonsense when it came to
education. We had a host of family and friend that were in and out
of the house Oh, almost on a daily basis and prior to the time that
the community center was build, our home was like a, like a
community center for people. It wasn't the only home Overtown like
that, some close friends in Brown's home were about the same but
umm when other people had "record hops" for school activities, we
sometimes had anywhere from a 7 to 11 piece live-band playing in my
living-room and ah the kids in school use to nickname it the
McCartney Palace on McCartney Square, that was a take off from the
Rockland Palace and Harlem Square that were night clubs over there;
and my mother could--if she were alive, or my father were alive
would attest to what I'm saying. Never did a hungry person cross
that door and leave out that same way and it was shown. When both
died the ah test of support that was given us from members of the
community was tremendous. I don't know if I've ever seen it before
or if I'll see it since but we had a beautiful family life and ah
the whole neighborhood was a family. If I did things that were not
right and an adult saw me, even if he were or she were a stranger,
there was no telling when one of them might take to whipping me and
make me take them to my home and if they took me to my home then
the best I could do is pray that both my parents were there at the
same time because if only one was there that was another whipping
and the first thing out that parent's house, ah mouth, rather was
when the next one came home was, "guess what your son did today"?
and that tells you. The teachers and the principals were like
extended members of the family. Everybody in the community knew
them, they knew everybody in the community. If a child were not up
to par in school, they could always write notes home with the
assurance that they'd get there or they would drop by the house and
make sure that the message was delivered in person and umm I look
at kids in this day and age when going to school seems to be not
what's happening and staying out of school was "cool" or is cool.
It was just the opposite when I came up. To go to school is what
was cool at that time and to stay out of school, you were a street
boy or a street girl and that was the worse label you could have
gotten on you from the community. We played games together we had
our rivalries, different streets, different avenues had their
teams--football, basketball, you know some of them played softball,
very little baseball at that time but it was a friendly type
rivalry. Like most kids, we had fights but they were fist fights
and once the fight as over that was it. Nobody lurked around
corners with oozies or 22's or 38's waiting to kill somebody and it
was very few exceptions during the time that I came--in fact,
during the time that I came up most of the gangs were gone during
my days in ah high school, we didn't have them, have that problem.
You might have had a few hoodlums out there but they weren't that
plentiful and umm if you went down the street and you' saw any
adult, of course, had to speak to them and it was a pleasure doing
it because they took pride in speaking back to you and if anybody
needed you to run an errand for them, you didn't have put your hand
out asking for anything, maybe they didn't have anything to offer
you but then some day you might be walking by that same person's
house and they call you with a few mangoes or few oranges because
fruit were plentiful at the time and you take them home and your
parents, you know would know about it, if they would see each
other, they'd express their appreciation, that the way it was.
Friendships then lasted a lifetime. One of my dearest friends
[OVERHEAD AIRPLANE PAUSE], one of my dearest friends just left
here Tuesday, he was here for the ah, our 45th Reunion. His name
is Joseph Clark, he's retired and raised here, from the United
States, now lives in North Carolina and he was down here and we've
had a friendship for, Oh God, years exceeding the years that we
graduated, I mean years beyond that, even when we were elementary
school, we first came in contact with each other and his family and
my family were very close That was just typical of it,
you know as all over the different parts of Dade County, young
ladies, young men and I guess it--because of their commitment to
friendship we have had them come from this reunion as far, reunion
as far away as, from as far away as California. One of them an ex-
mayor of Palo Alto, California and ah, you know, it's just a
beautiful thing to realize that we still have the type of
association that we had when we were children. I guess I seem a
little dreamy talking to you but I'm reflecting now. Our teachers,
they were no softies and we often said, they gave us a rough time
but it was rough in a good way because they knew for us, to make us
much, we had to be twice a good and umm, they didn't take "No" for
an answer. The principal of my high school when I graduated, came
their to hear the first member of my family graduated and the eight
of graduated from under Charles L. Williams. He's a legend in this
town and was born years before his time. He umm, he gave so much.
He got respect but so--outside of respect so little in return. He
never got his dues but upon his passing, bus loads of former
students and teachers on his faculty left here to go to his funeral
in Jacksonville so it was umm. I'm loving at it from on the
outside. Maybe I can't see what evils there might have been there
but for me it was a good life, beautiful life. What I wish, that
could have been passed on to all the ah offspring and the
offspring of my siblings but then like we're talking about came
the umm "Big Monster" to ah get rid of a community that was
vibrant, produced all kinds of people umm and we talk about the
athletic accomplishment over at Booker Washington School that's
vast or great as they were, there is nothing compared to the
educational value. I have brought this book just to show you one
of my classmates, umm, and he's now one of the greater gynecologist
and doc--specialists in ah, in Dade County, that's James Bridges
and umm, of course, he was a member of my class and there is
another friend of my, a very close friend, that graduated a few
years before me, two years before me but I do believe that I'm
older than he and ah that's how brilliant he was, umm I think he
was a physician to a city president and at the time, the next one,
that ah Rowe, a young man that graduated from high school at the
age of 15 after his parents were told that he, he couldn't go on
the way he was learning as rapidly as he was, white folks said that
it would ruin his mind. He should have graduated at 12 but
listening to them, they kept him out 3 years so as a result he, he
graduated late at 15 and then you have people who have very, very
great ah positions in this county that graduated from there and umm
I mean all of them can relate to the school, not because of the
physical structure but because of what it had to ah offer us and I
think I got more than most because being a member of a family my
size and all of them having graduated from Booker Washington, I got
to be acquainted with the one's that were with my older brothers
and sisters and umm I learned a lot from them as well as my own
peers and I'd like to think that I have an open mind and they are
youngster that I could learn from too, but it's again, like I said,
umm--yeah, that was a beautiful, it was a beautiful thing to go to
the football game and cheer for your, your team players, there were
no favored players because there were young, many young women
willing to take the shoes of the "last scrub" on the team
regardless of his position. There were guys that would go there,
they knew all the athletes and all the athletes knew them.
Everybody knew each other. It wasn't a system of friends and
strangers, everybody were acquainted, you know, and umm, it's just
a beautiful thing. I know that they say you can't go home again
but it doesn't hurt to wish that you could. Maybe I've run off too
much but that's what I remember about my childhood.
(Mr. Williams): The next set of questions are going to be
regarding the employment from 1945 to 1970 and the first question
is: Describe the jobs you've had.
(Mr. McCartney): Well I, you can forget '45, I didn't finish
school until '521 [laughter] but I'm a vet and umm I worked in the
post office in New York. I worked as a proof machine operator in
the bank in New York which in itself was ah, was a trip because I
went there as a computer programmer for computer that's been more
obsolete than you've been alive, more years and it was an IBM 407
at the time and I was told that umm they didn't use the IBM 407 so
they gave me a job as a proof machine operator and when I went to
One Chase Manhattan Plaza to work at the Chase Manhattan Bank and
went four basements down to my work site, when I got off the
elevator, the first thing I saw as an IBM 407 Computer which tells
me that they thought I was the most stupid person they had ever
seen or that they knew my, that, that I should have known my place
and not questioned them about a machine I programmed but to decide
that I couldn't recognize it. Well, I had ah, I had to stay there
at the bank and I worked at the post office but that became too
grueling to me, I, I've been a very free person, as free as I could
be all my life and at that time people in the post office now don't
realize that the peepholes they see were very much in use then.
You could go to the toilet, a man or woman--didn't know if woman or
man was looking at you in the toiler while you used it and umm,
pressures is something that I don't yield to so before I explode or
cause something else to I just got out and umm I once in fact,
learning to program the IBM, it was a gentleman that was teaching
the course by record at that time and when I got through, after
having learned it, they asked me about teaching people the
functions of the machine so that they could sale the machine. They
would have given me a salary to teach them to make $50,000 or
$60,000 a year which was outrageously, ah, ah great salary during
that time and they expected me to take a salary and them, white
salesmen to make that kind of money and I would have been making
about $100 a week. Well I didn't give them the advan--ah, ah,
invitation that I've learned to give people since but I just
quietly walked away because I didn't need that. That's when I went
to work at the bank and I, well I came home and I did some work at
umm--first job I had when I got back was at a place called The
Fruit Bowl in Bal Harbor. A friend of mine was working at ah the
original Fruit Bowel somewhere else and he recommended me for the
job but they had a habit there that ah you needed to be pittering
around all day long and I'm a firm believer that if there is a job
to be done, you tell me what it is and I'll do the job and then
leave me alone and umm, this guy kept asking me, like why don't you
go out and tidy up the front? I said, I just did that. Well, why
don't load the candies? I said, if you look at the candy basket,
you'll find they are filled to capacity. Then he asked me about
helping a girl, at the time, her name was Maria, fix fruit, ah fix
gift packages. Maria was getting a heck of a lot more money than I
as but I said if Maria looked a the damn shelves, she about two or
three week ahead in her fruit, I mean her gift packages. And then
I, I just looked around, they didn't want a worker, they wanted a
"Pet Nigger" and I couldn't do that. I owned pets, I couldn't
afford to be anybody else. So I left there and then I ah, I got a
job with imports, a friend of ours, a fellow, I think he is
deceased now, his name is Dave Marks, Jewish fellow, he ran Zip
Press and he was teaching me the printing business and after a
while I got to the place where I was managing the business and he
was giving me very little but he said he'd give me a percentage of
the money that came in and there was a Black doctor, ah a
optometrist that came to town and, and a white doctor and I took
some orders of theirs and they were very large orders and, of
course, he took the orders and he went to see them and I found out
that the only thing he was giving me a commission for was the
business cards. All the other stuff, the envelopes of different
sizes, the invoices--none of that so I left there and I spoke to
someone and got a job at the EOPI as a credit union manager, I
worked for a while at one that was on Seventy-Fifth Street then I
took for Neighborhood Credit Union and then they brought me
downtown as I worked as a manager of the Employees' Credit Union
for a while and that too was filled with a bunch of politics and
crap. I'll never ah people calling me when they didn't get their
ah loans and I'd explain to them, I'd say well, I don't give or
deny you loans, I only take the loans that ah, the ah credit
committee approve and I write checks on them and somebody obviously
got to the credit committee and their was an Orange Haze that was
working, he tickled me [laughter]. He was talking about how he'd
kicked the behind of anybody that told somebody they turned his
loan down and because it didn't' bother me because I didn't call
any names, all I said was the Credit Committee but that's the type
of foolishness you had to put up in this time. Even among Blacks,
any differences. So umm later on they, what happened an ah
evaluation from the ah regional office in Atlanta about the ah
child care centers and I quit the job because I wanted to address
the lady that was here, Barbara Whittaker, as I recall and umm you
could address them if you were working, it would have been a
conflict of interest and they would have fired you so I quit the
job to be able to deal with it. I think Whittaker got the message
and ah later on I got a phone call from the executive director at
that time that I was going down to South Miami as a center,
Neighborhood Services Center Director and I got down there a lot of
controversies came about with the city administration at the time,
I--there was a mayor by the name of Jack Block who got very pissed
off because of the way I was handling my office and ah I didn't
tell him how to handle his so we just didn't set it off too, too
well but I got my job done and umm later on ah the fellow that was
area director for the area left and went to service for himself--
was a dodo as far as I'm concerned and I got the job as area
director for a while and ah I had worked for the Urban League.
People like T. Willard Fair who umm, who knows everything about
Black folk but don't, as far as I'm concerned is an alright friend
of mine but it's a lot he has to learn and made a mistake with me
once, he fired me but rather than come like a man and say I'm
sorry, he was talking at me through a friend of mine talking about
having the best community organizer he could have found and he made
a mistake, say I made that one mistake but I'll make another one
and then he looked at me and said, "do I make myself clear, Brother
McCartney"? I said, "perfectly Brother Fair." But these are the
types of things that you deal with and if they don't want to hear
it, it shouldn't happen but then you had other people that are
around that are very beautiful. One of them just passed, umm Bill
Wynn, one of the most beautiful people I've ever met in my life,
who did a lot of things for a lot of people and a lot of people
will never know many thinks that he did for them. There was a Sam
Monikers who had a very gruff attitude and always wanted to bully
but he was more involved with the benefit of people then his
appearance would you to know he thought that, that's the time of
facade that he had to project but his main interest was helping
people; and then I worked with a community relations board under
Robert Simms and that in itself was an interesting experience
because I had to deal with more different ethnic groups then I had
ever deal with in my life at one time and Bob Simms was a man that
ah in a very nice way he's a sneaky person. There were a lot of
things that went on when I was working for Bob and he may or may
not have been able to deal with them but again, we were dealing
with the job site and he made me realize that there are some things
you have to understand regardless of how much they hurt and ah
since then, he told me--I use to do ah consultant work with him
too. Then he told me about how ah he was going to deal with
another consultantcy and came by the house after I didn't send him
the info--information about my background and took it and the next
thing I knew awards started coming in [laughter] so that's what I
meant when I said he was sneaky. He did these little things and
umm every once in a while we get together with each other and he'll
come by, "what are doing," he calls me Cyrano because of my poetic
background and he says ah, let's go and have lunch or I've got some
tickets to this affair, come on let's go but you know, he's an
alright dude, like I said, he made me understand friendship is
friendship, work is work and you must differentiate between the two
and umm there are a lot of people that I've met and worked with
like that. Most of them were very beautiful, they have their ways
about them but there are those things that they that benefit
people. I'm sure the R&J's I was talking about did a lot for
people, he worked for government housing. I'm sure you can see what
T. Willard Fair's has done with the Urban League but I was dealing
with their jobs, I was dealing with how they deal with me on a
personal basis because that's the only think I could deal with but
they are, they all show what they're, what they're made of and
there is a lot of good in all of them. I've had the chance to deal
with a lot of people in position and powers in this county and
it's, it's so easy because here in Miami when you grew up knowing
all these different people and you knew who was a stranger coming
from out of town so you could make acquaintance with them as
opposed to living in a place like New York, you may have somebody
representing you in your district, you may never see them if you
lived there for 100 years but at least here, you fairly well know
the people and one of my personal goals is to try to teach people
regardless of their status in life, regardless of their ethnic or
racial background, some of the things were taught me by my teachers
and the people older than me that, you're an individual, you're a
human being and when you see something wrong, you've got to speak
out against it because if you don't, then you're perpetuating that
wrong thing that's happening with other people but like I say, this
is not something that came to me with a blow, this is something
that came to me through bits and pieces of people that I've known
all my life that have been trying to teach me and I was just bold
enough to not receive it until I was ready but umm this what the
whole of Miami meant to me and the job opportunities, that's saying
ah the jobs that were there, I think 3 of my brothers had some of
the jobs that ended up being the better jobs even though they
weren't paying that much at the time umm. Three of them were
projections and ah they worked, at ah that trade for years. The
twins, I have a set of twin brothers, they worked it long while and
then, you know, they got second careers afterwards and then I went
to work for a placed that I never dreamed I would be working for a
place I tried to keep people out of as long as I can remember but
that's Dade County's Corrections Department. I tried to keep them
out of jail but I went to work there and not most of them by any
means but with the of the youngsters that I
worked with in my, my days with the ah old EOPI Urban League and
Community Relations Board and other jobs I tried to teach them the
things that would keep them from jail and then I would see them,
some of them as they came into the jail, it was a very hurtful
experience. I must have worked in the jail for at least 7 or 8
months before I learned to stop crying every night. But umm I
couldn't take the owners for what they did. I've heard many of
them, oh, Mr. McCartney, if only I had listened to you and I tell
them, go to hell, I don't want to hear that shit because if you had
listened to me you wouldn't be in this situation now and some of
them I've dealt with even after they got out. That was just my own
way of getting them to realize that they made a mistake and
hopefully that they could straighten their lives out after they got
out. I've talked to many different people in that jail, some of
I'll never talk to again because they spoke to me knowing that they
were going to prison and that they were going to die there. It's
the type of experience you just can't buy and I was very fortunate
there because the director there, was--when I went was a fellow by
the name of Fred Crawford, was a friend of mine before I went to
work there and before he went to work there, in fact and then I got
a Sergeant, a gruff old white gentlemen that retired from one job
out of somewhere in the New England States, his name was Sergeant
Getline and I'll never forget the experience with him. He found
out my last name and asked me if umm I had a brother that worked
there and I told him, yes and when he sent me on the floor, he said
well, I know I don't have to worry about you because--my brother is
named Carl, God bless his soul, he is the only one of the siblings
deceased, said if you're Max's brother, you've got to be alright
and every time an evaluation came about not only would that man
give me excellent evaluations but he'd talk to me and he always
wrote those notes saying things like this man has too much
intelligence to be stuff in the job like correctional aide, he
needs to do something else and somebody very close to my family was
working at the jail ah attendant and he came to me and told my
family, in fact, that he had been working to that jail for twenty-
something years and never in his whole career had he ever seen
evaluations like that. So they moved me out of that position and
gave me a job as an interviewer for female ah inmates and I had
some operations while I was there, in fact, it was during my
classes 30th Reunion and because of a mix up in insurance I could
never get the go ahead from the doctor to go back so I went into
other employment like, I was a legislative aide for ah Jefferson
Reeves. I'm not going to say anymore than that because I'm not
going to discredit his name while he's dead. If he were alive
there's a lot I would tell you [laughter] but he has a very sweet
family; and then umm I got a call and I went back to the jail as a
aide and then they opened a position as labor supervisor, I took
that and I retired from there because of a physical condition some
4 or 5 years ago but umm the thing I could say about most of the
jobs I've had is that they have put me in a position to come in
contact with many different people of many different backgrounds.
Hopefully I've taught something to some of them but I've learned so
much from all of them and umm, I've, I was ah, I did work out here
too in a place called concentrated employment program except I got
"black balled" from working one time because of my testifying in
the Johnny Jones case. They can say what they want, they black
balled me and a friend of mine saw me after about 2 or 3--2 1/2
years or so, asked me, said are you working? And I said, no. He
said, I know you're not, said but you go across the street and see
so-in-so and tell him, I said high you. That was Dewey Knight,
Jr., the one that's dead, ah acting county manager, assistant
county manager and I went over and got that job and when the funds
ran out for that I thought sure I was going down the drain then and
this fellow, he's a friend of my family, Israel Moltsen, we called
him "Shoulders" and he kept jigging with me and jigging with about
certain things and I cursed him out, not knowing that he had made
arrangement for me that when I left the job that Friday, I'd be re-
employed the following Monday at OIC with Sam Moniker so, like I
say, I've gone through things with a lot of people. A lot of it
but some of but some it I could say was not the most pleasant but
most of my experiences, job wise and my, my schooling that I had
was all ah very, very positive.
(Mr. Williams): Now you mentioned Bal Harbor and a couple of
other places where you worked, ah where were those jobs?
(Mr. McCartney): Ah, Bal Harbor, I was nothing but a stock
clerk and, and a custodian, that's no big deal about it, I wasn't
there that long, it's, you know where it is, right?
(Mr. Williams): Right, yeah.
(Mr. McCartney): And so you know with that and the Zip Press
use to be on Fort-six Street, right on the corner of Forty-six
Street and Seventh Avenue. It's now located on Sixtieth Street and
Seventh Avenue but ah Dave Marks owned it when I worked, ah worked
their and he's since deceased and ah I forgot the attorney's name
now Percy something that ah owns it now but they are about
the only jobs that I've had outside of ah dealing with either
government or the types of jobs that relate to type--government
type things like Urban League is not a government office but, you
know, it deals with the same type of issues that some government
offices deal with and umm I've had two jobs that I know of where I
wasn't in supervisory position.
(Mr. Williams): Were some of these jobs in the area that we
are discussing today?
(Mr. McCartney): Ah, I've given you my complete umm, ah
resume so far as jobs are concerned. I've never had that many,
many jobs. Never had that many but you know, I've had enough time
to get my, get my work in but it's just that I change according to
how my, my feelings and the feelings of those that have been
employed would be and I don't, I wasn't just working two weeks and
then out of work for 4 and 5 months and all that. I was in a case,
I was ah gainfully employed and I made money and especially as a
consultantcy with Bob Simms, even when I was working that was on
weekends so that did a lot for me.
(Mr. Williams): Now what years did these--did you have those
(Mr. McCartney): Now, you're going to put me thorough a whole
ordeal. I really don't, I can't say. I guess around '65 I must
have worked at The Fruit Bowl. Well, '66 I probably worked at Zip
Press then I worked at EOPI after that, then I worked for the Urban
League, then I went back to EOPI after that, I left there umm and
I think that's when I went to Step Concentrated Employment Program,
from there OIC, from there to the Community Relations Board then to
the ah jail and there was an interim when I worked with Johnny
Jones' program, funded but it wasn't that long and then I went back
to the jail and I retired.
(Mr. Williams): What kinds of hours did your work?
(Mr. McCartney): Well, basically my hours were like about 9
to 5 in all of the public type jobs. Ah at the jail from 6 to 2,
6 in the morning 'til 2 in the afternoon. That was about it, you
know, and umm. Like I say, the little chicken jobs I had like The
Fruit Bowl, that was like from 9 to 5, ah Zip Press was basically
the same thing, EOPI, Urban League all those were roughly 9 to 5
jobs, all of them. That's about it.
(Mr. Williams): Where did the other members of your family
work? You mentioned ah your, one of your siblings, you had four?
(Mr. McCartney): Yeah, three, three of them worked as umm
projectionists in the theaters, ah then he became ah, he got
involved with Lane Bryant, worked his way up to assistant manager
or manger and my brother Carl, the one that died, he worked in New
York City for--he lived up there for years and ah he had different
types of jobs and he came with--I think Carl was retired from two
different jobs at came back, worked for the jail and
retried from there. Umm my brother, next youngest to me, Rudolph,
ah he had different types of jobs but ah the best job he had was
with umm Eastern Airlines and umm he retired from there and he's
doing, you know alright. My brother, Harold, one of the twins, he
ended up at the jail as a correctional aide, he retired from there,
his twin Harry worked for the county, his last job was with
emergency housing, he retired from there. My sister Catherine, she
did, she did ah work as an LPN. My oldest sister Vera seldom did
any type of work, she is physically umm, deprived to some extend,
she did a lot of volunteer work, you know but that's about the
history of the family. My mother, of course, was a day worker,
cause that, during that time, that's umm, that's the type of work
she could get. Again, not an uneducated woman but no jobs were
there for Blacks unless they had American college experience, you
know, teachers, something like--they did a lot with the little they
had for the many children they had.
(Mr. Williams): Beginning in the late 1950's many immigrants
moved to Miami from the Caribbean including Cuba, Haiti and other
countries. Did these immigrants compete with Overtown residents
(Mr. McCartney): Ah you say that Cubans, ah Haitians and ah
other parts of the Caribbean, basically, think it must have been
around '60, Cubans, period, started coming in and there were others
but that was the big influx and umm, yeah, there was great
competition among jobs. Haitians came here later and caught hell
trying to stay here so, wasn't too much employment they could have
gotten. Now you might find some of it now because a few of them
got a little "toe hold" as the old Bahamians say that they got
their own business, some of them hire their own and then you have
other people from the Caribbean come but the Bahamians been coming
here for years but they didn't come here competing with anybody for
jobs because they came here to satisfy a need that the system had
here and they met that need by working on contracts and what have
you so the jobs that most of them took were not jobs that other
people would have ben vying for; but the think that I can't
understand is umm, I've known some people to come here and work two
years and end up owning banks, work as dishwashers and things like
that and end up owning banks. Ain't no way in hell, I ever learned
that kind of math in high school or college that could put me in a
position in two years as a dishwasher to own a bank so you see it's
a whole lot of stuff that's going on and now they get racism cause
it--because you look at the Cubans that are here and what color are
they basically? So, of course, the system is going to be far more
gracious to them than it is to the Haitians, than it is to American
Blacks, you know, so it's, that's just something that you look to,
you know you don't accept it but you know that, that's what they
are going to try to deal with and then when I find that in some
jobs here in the country which I was born, have to learn a foreign
language to get, you know I--it doesn't make sense to me and this
is from a person that fought to have Cubans, Haitians and all come
here and seek a place to live and get themselves a livelihood. I
don't have any problems with anybody coming here and dealing with
it. I'm born here but my parents were not born here so I know the,
the immigrant ah background. My only point is wherever the others
came from prior to their time, they had to learn and adapt to speak
the english language and umm, when you took a citizenship test, it
was taken in english. Now, saying if you just want to give things
away, just tell me that and let me know but, don't shove it up me
and then tell me you feeding me chocolate candy so, you know.
(Mr. Williams): The next set of questions are regarding if
the interviewee owned a business and you mentioned a chicken place
or something else.
(Mr. McCartney): That was my parent's business.
(Mr. Williams): Okay, so what, what kind of business did your
(Mr. McCartney): Well it was a little grocery story, okay ah
that was on First Place and Eighteenth Street right across from,
diagonally across the street from ah Phyllis Wheatley and the
chicken place they owned was just about 2-3 blocks down the street
and umm I, I mean as to why they got rid of the business or not, I
don 't know, you know I was very young at the time that they dealt
with these businesses but they seemed to satisfy what my family
needed at the time.
(Mr. Williams): Where was your business--okay, you mentioned
the location. Next question: Who were your employees?
S(Mr. McCartney): My employees?
(Mr. Williams): Your parents' employees.
(Mr. McCartney): Oh, yeah, it was a family business,
[laughter] nobody but the family. I mean you got eight children,
who else can you afford to hire out of little mom and pop store and
a little neighborhood chicken market. You had 6 sons.
(Mr. Williams): Who were your customers?
(Mr. McCartney): Neighborhood people.
TAPE #1 SIDE "A"
(Mr. Williams): This is Devon Williams continuing the
interview with Mr. Ralph McCartney, Side "B". Okay, when we left
off ah the last question was concerning, whom did you consider your
(Mr. McCartney): Ah how do you mean that, individual or what?
(Mr. Williams): Your parents' main competition concerning
(Mr. McCartney): Oh in businesses?
(Mr. Williams): Yeah, the business.
(Mr. McCartney): Okay, there was no, no ah idea or ideas of
competition during that time, there were just certain families that
tried to ah do certain things to better their predicament and
nobody was--they didn't have the competition of one neighborhood
store to the next as you see between Winn Dixie and Shell--and ah
Publix, it didn't' exist. Everybody would, in other words, pull
for everybody to get alone. That's how the tenacity of the
neighborhood--togetherness was something else.
(Mr. Williams): When and why did you move or close your
business, the business?
(Mr. McCartney): That I don't know, like I said, I was
younger, I don't whether it was ah financial, or expeditious for
them to do so or what.
(Mr. Williams): Ah, did, did any outside elements like ah the
expressway, eminent domain or--
(Mr. McCartney): Oh, no the businesses ah went before that.
The businesses went before that, our businesses. Naw, trying to
think of this competition, no competition among things like that.
(Mr. Williams): Okay, the next questions that are going to be
asked is regarding neighborhood life between 1945 and 1970. First
question: Could you describe your place of residence.
(Mr. McCartney): Well I can describe my place of residence
from '45 up until '52 when we had to move. There was an eight room
house at 327 Northwest Fifteenth Street and umm my family lived
there, the property was owned by the Turners, I don't know, I guess
you are familiar with ah Senator, State Senator bill Turner. His
grandmother owned the property, it was direct--she lived directly
across the street from us. In fact, she was the midwife that pull
the 8 of us from my mother's womb and ah Mrs. Turner was a great
help with our family and the ah, the house was always a very, very
joyous one unless one of the kids goofed off then you could the
sadness for blocks around [laughter] but umm like I said, it was
open to the, to the public. Even when we went to sleep, my parents
left the light on the front porch. We had a front porch running
the length of the house. There were four rooms to the front and
four to back so you could imagine how long that was and there were
card tables out there with cards and umm checkers and what have you
and anybody was coming by they could stop there and play checkers
or cards if they wanted to. The only thing was do not disturb the
family when they were sleeping. So they could have a quiet game of
cards and that was it.
(Mr. Williams): Could you describe the street where you
(Mr. McCartney): Yes, it was umm, it was a dirt-brick road,
umm on wha--on the umm east side, eastern part of the block was a
barber shop basically, Kelly's Barber Shop it was then and that was
on the ah, that was on the northwest corner but the east side of
Third Avenue which is ah block from the east side of Third Avenue
to the west side of Fourth Avenue and on the southwest corner a
business came in but probably better known as the Pronto Pup
Shop. That was owned by a family, Arlington Sands came back to
Miami from New York and got his family involved in that. It was a
thriving little business too and umm right behind ah, just west of
the Pronto Shop, Pronto Pub Shop. I some ah, I saw in this
apartment building when I--and I was very angry about it because I
noticed they were building it and it was only door and I was a
youngster at that time but even as young as I was I couldn't
understand, why only one door? if something--fire broke out in the,
there was no escape in the back and I asked somebody about it but
at the time I had no way of knowing who to call or what to do but
I, I was curious about it and then next door that was ah two-story
building with Rosses, then you had the Simmons, Mrs. Olive Simmons
and her family ah had lived ah right there. You had ah, a lady
called, we use to call her, I don't know what her full name was to
this day, "Mama Lucia" and she had a son, Saul and ah Saul had two
daughters, Gloria--I can't remember the other one's name and umm I
think Saul, it must have been Saul's sister, Edna Mae that married
Sugar Ray Robinson, the boxer and then next to her were the
Stirrups, and then next door was the Turners, ah Mrs. Turner,
remember I told that ah owned the property and they had that house
and next door, west of them, was another house that they owned, her
niece stayed in and then on the other side of that was a little
alleyway but there was somebody staying in back, I, I can't
remember those people's name, I believe he girl's name was Nadine,
I'm not sure and umm. I trying, I'm getting a little sketchy about
the next house or two but on the very end another house, the
Culmers. James Culmer, one of my good, good friends, he was in the
school system, lived there. Then on the northeast corner of the
Fourth Avenue which was the western boundary, there was a big two-
story building I never knew much about the people that lived in
that house but then coming back east again, go ah, going back to
Third Avenue, I know, I can recall the faces of the residences but
a lot of them I didn't know. I knew a little fellow that was here
when I was in 5th and 6th grade, Henry Lee Roundtree and his family
lived there. Then we had a fellow that ah we had a nickname for
called Whootie that use to live there and then next door, I think
was the--I know the Brunson moved there, they weren't there
originally, then it was a vacant lot and the next home was the
sister of Mrs. Turner, she stayed across the street from there, she
was blind and ah then was ah another little alleyway and there was
our house and then was the Evans next door, these people are going
to kill me as good as they are to my family, I think they were some
Rosses that lived there and then there was a little vacant lot but
in the back there were some Ferguson and then next to there, at one
time was a home with Mrs. Taylor, she related to my mother. I'm
trying to think of her first name. Her son was a classmate of my
Rheinford Taylor and then you got back to that barber shop on the
bottom but the Johnsons stayed up top. Howard Johnson and his
brother, Dr. Johnson that runs Ebony Drugstore so that was the
block we were on and I remember Howard ah was some years ahead of
me in high school but every morning, I--he passed by the house on
his bicycle yelling--they use to call me by nickname--R.C., my
initials, alright R.C., let's get out of there and I would go in
there and hop on his handlebars and he'd make sure I got to school
everyday. See, now, that's, that's what it was about, that, that
tells you the camaraderie, the friendship that was there. He was
an older fellow but he made sure that I was going to, to get to
school, you know, on time.
(Mr. Williams): What happened to those neighbors?
(Mr. McCartney): Well like I said, Howard and his brother
owned the Ebony Drugstore. Umm, the Fergusons ah, basically out in
ah, Sam Ferguson, Betty Ferguson, they ah they graduated from
Booker Washington, they been finished in '47 with two of my
brothers. Sam finished in '51 with a brother and a sister of mine
and umm they had a brother Willie Ferguson that was my age, I don't
know what happened to Willie, he went into the service and he
always was going in the service so I don't know what happened then.
Alright, I think, I think Glenroy Evans stayed next door to us. I
think, I think Glenroy is still around and umm I know some of the
Rosses, I believe, still around, they use to, one of them use to
work in this thing with--trying to think of Bobby's name, they had
this show they use to do for Black History all over, they use to
work with Bobby Kendricks, they had this group where they use to do
Black poetry and what have you. Umm, the Simmons, one of the--Mrs.
Simmons on the ah--that were on the ah, south side of the street,
her granddaughter, Ida Mae Kelly McKay now, she's a classmate of
mine, she stays down in the Heights. I don't know where James
Culmer is now and I sure would like to see him cause he came
through for me when I needed him badly and I'd sure like to see him
because we were all good friends ever since kindergarten, James and
I, and umm I never knew what happened to the little Roundtree
fellow, he left here, left here owning me about eleven cents and I
never forgave him for it either [laughter]. He must have been in
about 6th grade when he left. But, umm I know the Brunsons', I see
their daughter once in a blue moon and umm, the ah--let me see now.
I guess maybe the old mind doesn't work as sharp as it use but
that, that's you know, some of the, some of the neighbors.
(Mr. Williams): And when did they leave?
(Mr. McCartney): Oh, I couldn't say, I'm almost sure, we were
about the first to move from the lot and umm that block now is--I
can over there and show you where it is right [laughter] now
because umm, I don't know if you remember the umm, the ah riot that
they had over there--Lord, what's Neville's last name? Neville
Johnson riot they called it? There was a shop that he was killed
in, I understand, on Third Avenue and Fifteenth Street, well
directly across from there is that grocery store, part of that
Culmer Center Complex, that, well that Culmer Center Complex takes
up the property that we lived in, lived on.
(Mr. Williams): Could you describe the main business areas in
Overtown, you went to in Overtown?
(Mr. McCartney): Well, as a child, of course, there was a--
there were two barber shops, Ray's Barber Shop at one time he got
killed in his barber shop, God bless his soul and then Kelly's,
when Kelly moved it across the street there. There was a place, ah
Mr. Miller's, Riley Miller's umm place, he had a little beer and
wine place but he sold hotdogs through a window there that we use
to go and buy the best hotdogs they had too. Hotdog! And umm,
they had a little grocery store on Third Avenue between Fourteenth
Street and Fourteenth Terrace, there was a little, well a little,
you'd say grocery store, they didn't sell much grocery, a little
nick-nack store, then ah Joe's Market was between Fifteenth Street
and Sixteenth Street on Third Avenue, Chinaman and he ah, he got a
lot of business there but I'd like to think that they were very
nice people and umm, I'm trying to think--then umm, of course, for,
for places to eat, The Macky's place on Seventeenth Street and
Fourth Avenue and she use to sell the best boil fish in the, in
town and umm you had the Chop Suey on Second Avenue and man, I, I
was so glad when I got old enough to be able to go there. They had
the best fried shrimp and shrimp fried rice, Oh, Lord, you ever
wanted to taste and I think it was called the Magic Chef that was
next door to them. That was like for, not elite, but a little more
elitist than the ah, ah clientele that would go into the Chop Suey,
you see they sold a lot of same foods too, shrimp fried rice and
you paid less for in the Chop Suey than you then [laughter] there;
but umm, and as I got to be an adult, of the Harlem Square, the
Rockland Palace, the ah King's Lounge, Ah Baby Cone's ah Place on
Eleventh Street and ah right on the corner there where Second
Avenue was about to take a cross over into First Place and then you
had a place called Boo Boo's that was across the street, from the
Harlem, from the Rockland Palace sold the best chilly in town,
another beer and wine place and ah, you had about 3 or 4 Joe's
Markets all over town, where you went. You had ah, chicken house
on Fourteenth Street there and Fourth Avenue. You had a little
vegetable stand right next to a theater that was the Harlem Theater
for me that later became the Capitol Theater. Now just to deviate
and show you how things were in this town. When they tore down the
Capitol Theater downtown, rather throw away the sign, they put the
sign on the theater that Blacks were going to that was the Harlem
Theater and renamed it the Capitol just to preserve that sign. It
tells you something, doesn't it? And ah, like I said, they ah the
Pride Shoe Shop, they use to fix and shine shoes there and they had
something called Harlem Drugs, that it wasn't there originally but
it came on Third Avenue and Fourteenth Street and they had umm
Peck's Ice Cream Parlor. Mr. Peck was a man that did a lot of, for
a lot young Black men in this town. I use to hear my brother tell
umm about it when the police would come there trying to harass the
guys that would sit down there, that was their place to hang out
during the earlier evening hours, and he would tell them, this is
my place of business, you don't bother with them, they are in here,
they are my customers. So ah we had to get protection from most
unlikely but the best places you ever wanted to know and umm, of
course, you had your neighborhood pool rooms, that was a no, no, so
far as the young Black man was concerned. I couldn't wait until I
grown so I could go in [laughter].
(Mr. Williams): What about sporting events, where, where did
you go for sporting events.
(Mr. McCartney): Well, our playing field for football was
Dorsey Park. Our basketball court, Overtown, school games was
right at the school, an outdoor court which means you had to be
heck of a basketball player because you had to allow for the wet
and everything else when you took your shot [laughter] and ah then
they had another park in the Black community, the heart of the
Black community and people ever hear that much ah pay it that much
attention to the name of it, but in the heart of the Black
community was a park named Dixie Park. That's where Gibson Park is
now and umm they just didn't pay attention to what the named ah
noted but umm Dixie Park was a place where built the first center
for Black youth in Overtown and ah there was a Mrs. Wright and a
Mr. Percy Brown that umm usually run the recreational part of it
and Annie T. Bannerman was ah over the interior part of it where,
I think it was the YMCA had some activities in the there and, of
course, there were some books in there for you to read and ah the
parks had their athletic activities there, they played softball,
football and basketball around there, ping pong and tennis and
Dorsey Park was about the same or better. The center was at Dixie
Park but Monk Silvers did a good job at Dorsey Park with those
youngsters and umm that's where our recreation was umm even the
semi-pro ah Black baseball team, of course, they played at Dorsey
Park and ah outside of that the white teams played at the Orange
Bowl Stadium and ah we wanted to go there, we had to sit in the end
zone until a big team like Notre Dame or Purdue or somebody who had
the record came down, then we'd sit at half the end zone, they'd
take half that away and give it to the whites because they had a
lot of whites that needed tickets and were dispensable, who were
we? A bunch of Blacks [laughter] so that's the types of things
that we dealt with, that's the way sports, sports were.
(Mr. Williams): Could you describe where your family bought
(Mr. McCartney): Well, now there were supermarkets on the
outer edges of the Black community, Margaret Ann, ah A&P, places
like that ah, I can recall a few Christmases when I saw this
little, no this big red wagon and I was so happy knowing that I had
toy. Toy, yeah. My brothers use to take that wagon to bring the
groceries from white areas back, now I'm going to say didn't allow
me to play with but it wasn't something I could have just rough
house with because I couldn't destroy that, that was transportation
for groceries and I vaguely remember that.
(Mr. Williams): Let's see, so you said that, he use to go and
get grocery from a white neighborhood and bring it in?
(Mr. McCartney): Yes, right.
(Mr. Williams): Why not locally?
(Mr. McCartney): Well, first of all, they were supermarkets.
That's like going to ah a Publix or Winn Dixie in lieu of a mom and
pop store. See we could carry roasts and hams and turkeys and all
that in the little grocery store we ran. If people wanted that
type of stuff, they had to go somewhere else and because of what we
had to pay for it to get it, our prices would obviously have to
higher to the people. So when they got the bulk of their money,
they would go to the supermarket to buy the bulk of their groceries
and they, because they needed a can of beans and a can of milk,
then they would go to the little neighborhood store to supplement
their groceries, it's the same system then as it is now.
(Mr. Williams): Could you describe where your family went to
the barber shop or beauty shop?
(Mr. McCartney): I know my family went to ah Kelly's Barber
Shop and umm we had our particular barber in that shop. There were
about 3 or 4 barbers in there. Now ah, Barber Kelly would cut my
father and my oldest brother's hair and ah I know that, I know Jake
Thompkins he was recently deceased, umm he use to cut my hair and
I think two of brothers hair but basically that was the barber
shop. Now as far as the beauty shop was concerned, I believe
George McCaskal, I believe was a beautician. I know, I recall my
mother and my oldest sister talking about him but a lot of times
you had t learn to do things yourself and a lot of times, they, you
know, like my youngest sister, my sister sometimes would do her
hair but on special occasions she'd go to get all the curls
somewhere else you know but umm, we were a productive society then.
We dealt with things for ourselves, like I recall most of, I don't
know if my youngest sister ever had a store bought evening gown
when she going to high school and everybody use to be envious of
her gown but my oldest sister was making them but you see, my
oldest sister learned this from the school too because they taught
home economics and things like that at the school so you see the
school still did all this, the school played a very important role.
(Mr. Williams): Could you describe where your family went to
(Mr. McCartney): Okay, we went to Barclay's Drugstore or the
Economy Drugstore. Barclay's Drugstore was on Third Avenue and
Twelfth Street and the [telephone ringing I ain't answering that]
and the Economy Drugstore was on ah Eleventh Street and Third
Avenue, they were the two drugstores that were nearest us, that was
before Harlem Drugs got down there on Third Avenue and all.
(Mr. Williams): Could you describe where your family went to
(Mr. McCartney): I can remember this, as a young child, I
could remember catching a bus, bring our clothes to Pratt's
Cleaners on Sixty-second Street and off Fifteenth Avenue.
(Mr. Williams): Was that Liberty City?
(Mr. McCartney): Liberty City. I would take the bus from
Overtown to deal with that. One time, now Pratt use to pick up the
clothes Overtown and then he got this place out here in Liberty
City and then when I got old enough to take the bus, that was the
first place I ever learned to come to Liberty City, on my own, I'd
take the clothes and go to Pratt's Cleaners.
(Mr. Williams): Could you describe ah the churches your
(Mr. McCartney): All of my family during my time went to St.
Peter's African Orthodox Church. I went for awhile to ah St.
Francis Xavier because I was in the kindergarten and first grade
over there, then my membership moved over to St. Peter's also and
we are members of that church now.
(Mr. Williams): Where was St. Peter's and St. Francis?
(Mr. McCartney): Well St. Francis is still over there over
there. It's on umm, it's on Fourth Avenue and Sixteenth Terrace.
St. Peter's was, at that time Third Court, between Seventeenth and
Eighteenth Street, right, right down the street from St. Agnes.
St. Peter's is now located on, between Forty-eighth street, right
on Forty-eighth street and ah Northwest Second Avenue, right around
the corner here and ah that's the church we attended.
(Mr. Williams): When someone in your family got sick where
did they go to the doctor's office?
(Mr. McCartney): --that now?
(Mr. Williams): When, when someone attend-- when someone got
sick in your family where did they go to attend the doctor's
(Mr. McCartney): Now, what I could remember, is going to umm
clinic. Lord have mercy! Ah what the name of this place out here
on Forty-sixth street, Christian Hospital it was called then,
that's where I recall going and of course, Mrs. Turner, that I
mentioned staying across the street was a registered nurse and ah,
you know, a lot of home remedies then, particularly with ah
Bahamians. You got a fever, you didn't go to the doctor for a
shot, you Serrasee and that type of thing but I recall going to ah,
to the Christian Hospital clinic over there on, I think it was
First Place around Thirteenth Street if I'm not mistaken and ah I
couldn't call there names but I could see the place right now and
the nurses that were there so where my family might have gone I
don't know. Now I recall my father being hospitalized in Jackson
Memorial in the ah in "Colored Ward" [laughter] you know, that's
the only think I knew though.
(Mr. Williams): How long did you continue to patronize those
businesses in Overtown, the ones you mentioned up to now? For how
long did you patronized them for?
(Mr. McCartney): Well ah 1952 I left town and umm I came back
and at that time we had moved to Liberty City and we had to deal
with basically the same type of situation out here and then when I
went to live in New York, I came back, became very selective in my
spending but, of course, you can only be as selective as there are
businesses for you to choose from and you had the supermarkets
owned by whites so where else were you going to buy groceries in
bulk? They started off with one thing, a group of Blacks had
gotten into a group, I forgotten-- FiveCo, the supermarket, they
called themselves, this was nothing but little mom and pop stores
but they would buy in bulk and were suppose to stay, pass the
savings onto the clientele but they ended up charging the same
prices they always did so the only person gaining were the people
that ran FiveCo markets so why would I pay thirty cents for a can
of milk that I could buy somewhere else for fifteen cents when my--
not that I would have done but when my spending power was limited.
See that fifteen cents might have bought something else I needed
for another days meal. But umm, that's the way it is right--you
know and it's about the same thing now.
(Mr. Williams): When did you begin to shop or go to
entertainment outside of Overtown?
(Mr. McCartney): Well, there were things that we dealt with
all during the time we were children that were outside. I couldn't
go myself buy my older brother sometime would take me outside of
the area to different things. What we did in Overtown was what was
the norm but there were always the exceptions, you know to that
norm. For instance, they had the ah, the ah Liberty Square Housing
Project. They had this auditorium over there, they had dances
there just like they had dances at the Youth Square Overtown or
Youth Center and they had at St. Agnes Parish Hall. See that's
where we had the dances and then ah, Christ Episcopal Church had a
parish hall where you could have dances in the Grove so we would go
for entertainment different places but the bulk of your
entertainment was in the area in which you lived and as far as
shopping is concerned, you could only go so far to shop out of you
neighborhood because if you didn't have an automobile, you
couldn't, you'd have problems bringing what you bought back in
there and for clothes and what have you, of course, you would have
to go downtown to shop. Ah I know, I hear people talking about how
they had to measure their feet with strings to go and buy a pair of
shoes. I don't know about any other shoe store and it's a shame
that during the time when I was in a position to wear shoes, I have
problems now wearing the average shoe. I didn't go to the places
to buy the shoes and know Thom McAn's was the one place they'd try
the shoe on for me and, of course, as I got money and I could buy
the Bostonian and the Johnson Murphy's and the ah Florsheims and
Stacy Adams and I'm looking at how foolish now that I was during
that period of time because I should have been patronizing those
that catered to me. The Thom McAn's, I don't recall my mother
taking my foot measurement with the string, maybe she did, I don't
know but I distinctly recall as a child, going to Thom McAn's and
the man putting shoes on my feet and trying them on. Now as far as
clothing is concerned, I didn't go downtown to try on clothes, not
necessarily because I wasn't allowed to, though that probably was
it but my parents bought the clothes for me. I had no say so in it
so they went and bought my clothes and brought them. My mother
knew me all my life, she knew what size I was. Maybe it was or
maybe it wasn't because of the ah lack of my abilities to try them
on in the store.
(Mr. Williams): During the period from 1945 to 1970 what were
the main things that made Overtown a community? From 1945 to '70.
(Mr. McCartney): Again, I can speak up to 1952 but umm I
still think it was the school. I still think that it was the
school because from the school came Mr. Williams, the principal and
his staff and most of the people that taught school there were
people that were from over there and they were members of my family
and everybody else family but who had learned enough to instill in
us that pride and that sense of caring and doing so the school was
the catalyst to ah success for the Black community that they--by
none, that was it--it was the school. Now the churches that did
involve themselves and umm, not very many. I remember the first
minister, that I recall dealing with anything and this before
Father Gibson and that was ah Reverend Graham. Now Father Gibson
did his thing, don't get me wrong but I first recall Reverend
Graham from Mt. Zion being the man out there and these were days
that ah, as much as I respect him and morn his death and Martin
Luther King was not even think, thinking about anything wasn't even
thought of, he probably was in high school somewhere. I was a
youngster but Reverend Graham was "the man" in my books and he
taught pride and then he had other people in the community. A man
that has never, never gotten any type of praise and I may as well
call his name now, Arlington Sands, Sr. His son was, is formerly
the ah Police Chief of Opa Locka, now City Manager, I understand.
His daddy, Arlington Sands, Sr. was a man that did a lot for this
community and the Beamens, the Beamens did a lot for this
community. The Browns, Mayor Brown's family did a lot for this
community. My family, McCartney's did a lot for this community.
You had people and institutions that played an important role
together but I think the catalyst of the whole think was that
Booker Washington School over there.
(Mr. Williams): How and when did that sense of community
(Mr. McCartney): Well, when they started splitting the
community up. You see what was once a total community, now it's
four different parts. You see how the expressways is over there
and then they phased out the school in Overtown and the phased out
the school in Liberty City, Coconut Grove too; but when you take
away those things that make a community proud, then you ah, you've
destroyed it. I guess it's like the old adage, those whom the Gods
will destroy, they first make proud, so they gave us Booker
Washington and they made us proud and they took it away and they
(Mr. Williams): How has Overtown changed since 1970?
(Mr. McCartney): I, I, couldn't say--it doesn't even--in
1970, it doesn't sound, didn't seem like the same Overtown to me.
It just did not seem like Overtown. In 1970 I could relate to
Overtown because I had friends over there and I make it a point to
go all different areas of Dade County but it was not the Overtown
I grew up in and umm the ah individuals changed and a lot of people
came there did not, were not from there and they didn't have that
same sense of community and pride then they were isolated because
of those two expressways that dissected and bisected the community.
Gave them four different areas where there was once a whole
community. Then the school board coming on with this phasing
Booker Washington out because of the ah declining enrollment and ah
all this foolishness caused it and that declined enrollment, I had
the privilege of serving on that committee and one of the reason
they gave for wanting to phase the school was because it was too
close to an expressway. Now I want you to listen to this
carefully. One of the reasons they wanted to phase Booker
Washington was, it was too close to an expressway but they built
the expressway near Booker Washington and at the same time, they
wanted to phase Booker Washington out, they were building Edison
next to an existing expressway. Now, you tell me the justification
for it and all you white folk, if that isn't racism, you tell me
(Mr. Williams): This is Devon Williams again interviewing Mr.
McCartney ah this is, this is the con--this is the end of Side,
Tape #1 but not the conclusion of this interview.
TAPE #2 SIDE "C"
(Mr. Williams): This is Devon Williams again ah interviewing
Mr. McCartney. This is Tape, Side, this is Side "A", Side #1 of
Tape #2 of the interview with Mr. McCarty, McCartney at his house.
Today's date is August the 14th, 197-, 1997.
Okay, the next set of questions I'm going to be asking you,
Mr. McCartney it's concerning 1-95.
The First questions: When and how did you first hear about
the building of I-95?
(Mr. McCartney): Alright. I was living in New York at the
time and I was coming home for a vacation. I was riding with a
friend of my family who was living in New York at the time, he's
since deceased, Mr. Harold Bing, God bless his soul and ah as we
were traveling south, I think it was somewhere near Virginia that
we hooked onto this 1-95 and it didn't go very far, bits and pieces
you'd pick up and then you'd go around and you'd pick and then
you'd go around and ah when I got home my oldest brother, Leon ah
got me one night and says, come on I'm going to take you so you can
see what Overtown looks like and he went driving and I knew he was
driving a little long. I said when are we going to head Overtown.
He said, man we almost in the Grove. I didn't even realize that we
had even gone through Overtown. I think 1-95 stopped somewhere
near Twentieth-something street at the time before they finished it
and I don't know how he got out of it and which way he took but I
didn't recognize what I saw and ah when I got back and I saw
basically what they had done, it was like somebody ripped my guts
apart because I saw me destroyed because being a product of
Overtown I was Overtown and umm I don't mind telling you this and
umm it had something to do with that ah whole project too. After
moving back here and becoming involved with that consultantcy that
I did with Robert Simms, I was going by and saw this place "Good
Bread Alley," you've probably heard of that community and most of
the seeing that I did was in there and I went that day and all of
the buildings but two, all the little shotgun shanties but two were
torn down and there was one white guy on a tractor or bulldoze,
another white guy standing on the street and he said--the one on
the bulldozer asked the guy on the street, you want me to get these
now? The guy on the street said, no you can, you can get those
after lunch. Now that conversation may not make sense to you but
I cried because there was one white man who had the power to say to
another white man finish wiping out this Black history, finish
wiping out this Black history and then the next time we had a scene
which was a couple of weeks later, my facilitator, a good friend of
mine is Sam Rogers saw me when the--before the ah military, that's
who we dealt with, came in and he looked at me and he laughed, he
said Ralph, say, your scene is all messed up buddy. I said what do
you mean. He said Good Bread Alley is completely gone and I told
him, they'll see it. And, that weekend we went through this thing
and that Sunday when we went for our wrap up one of the guys in my
group was asked about the ah weekend experience and he said
something about seeing a place called Good Bread Alley and the guys
that worked with the team from Miami started laughing and one of
them laughed and said what do you mean you saw a place named Good
Bread Alley, say it's no more Good Bread Alley. He said Ralph
McCartney showed it to me and I saw it. So this is what I'm saying
to you is, most people my age and older and some of them a few
years younger can walk you Overtown, I'm not talking about one or
two, I'm talking the vast, the majority of the people are no
different from them can walk you Overtown and almost show you where
every house in Good Bread Alley was, where every place in "Bucket
of Blood" was, where every business was. This is something that is
not stuck in me, it's stuck in us and maybe that's why, as much as
the sense of community is gone maybe that's why some sense of it
still exists because I can find somebody and say man you remember
when we use to be here. So, you know, maybe I've gotten off what
you were asking me but I just had to relate that to you.
(Mr. Williams): Did you rent or own the place you lived in at
(Mr. McCartney): At the time, we rented.
(Mr. Williams): What kind of a recreation was there to the
news--I mean, I'm sorry, let me rephrase that: What kind of
reaction was there to the news that an expressway would come
(Mr. McCartney): Well, again when they mentioned the
expressway, I wasn't here. When they mentioned Urban Renewal, as
I told you, we called "Nigger Removal" very angry about it because
people in Overtown were diehards they did not want to move to the
sticks and that's what we use to refer to this place, Liberty City
or, actually this is not Liberty City but where we were going at
that time was Liberty City because this place wasn't open to us and
we didn't want to move away from Overtown and umm the place was
cleaner but the housing was no better and again, it was the sense
(Mr. Williams): Could you describe what was said about the
expressway at that time?
(Mr. McCartney): Again, not being here, I couldn't know.
(Mr. Williams): Okay the next set of questions I'm going to
be asking you Mr. McCarty--
(Mr. McCartney): --McCartney.
(Mr. Williams): Mr. McCartney.
(Mr. McCartney): [Laughter]
(Mr. Williams): Sorry. It's concerning whether umm, if the
interviewee, Mr. McCartney lived in a house or apartment taken by
the state under eminent domain.
(Mr. McCartney): The only umm home in which I was living that
we had to get out because of Urban Renewal was the place I told you
about Overtown. Outside of that nothing else.
(Mr. Williams): Okay so we'll talk about that. First
question: What year did you move?
(Mr. McCartney): 1952.
(Mr. Williams): Who informed you that you had to move?
(Mr. McCartney): I don't know at that time because again, my-
I finished school in '52 and then I was still a child, my parents
dealt with that.
(Mr. Williams): Do you know what your parents were paid ah
for the home by the state?
(Mr. McCartney): The state gave us nothing.
(Mr. Williams): How long were you given to pack up and get
(Mr. McCartney): Umm my older brother and sister might be
able to give you more information but I don't think it was very
(Mr. Williams): Did you receive any relocation money?
(Mr. McCartney): None whatsoever.
(Mr. Williams): Where did you relocate to?
(Mr. McCartney): We ah bought a home o Sixty-eighth Street in
the Twenty-three hundred block I think it was.
(Mr. Williams): What was the mortgage or rent in your new
place compared to your former residence?
(Mr. McCartney): Okay, I don't know that, I don't think I was
here when they dealt with that. That was in '52 right before I
went off to the service.
(Mr. Williams): How did your choose your new residence? Do
(Mr. McCartney): My family dealt with that I wasn't here.
(Mr. Williams): Was the neighborhood in the new location
different from or similar to the neighborhood from which you moved?
(Mr. McCartney): It was different, it was, first of all
integrated. Yes and that only lasted for a short period of time
practically every white moved out but umm very few stayed and umm
we loved over there but it was too inconvenient and I, I don't
think we were there more than a couple of years and my father found
another home over on ah Sixty-fourth Street where we have been ever
(Mr. Williams): The next set of questions I'm going to be
asking are regarding 1-395 and State Road 836. Ah, what was the
most important impact of the expressway on you?
(Mr. McCartney): Ah just the destruction of my community. To
me the total destruction of the community and umm, 1-95 did that
basically and the ah 836 because that's what runs right by the
school, runs right through the heart down right around Fourteenth
Street there and umm it destroyed so many places of residence and
when you look at what they destroyed it would seem as how all of
them did have to go. They took property because it was theirs to
take and they didn't have to compensate to great extent.
(Mr. Williams): The next set of questions are regarding
public housing. Ah when and how did you first hear about the
building of public housing in Overtown?
(Mr. McCartney): I didn't. I knew there were a lot of
apartment building that were over there that were privately owned
and they took them and renovated them so to speak and ah made them
into ah housing for underprivileged people and then they, when they
started building the ah houses specifically, ah for ah people with
no income or low income, I didn't hear about it until I saw it
going up. I think that's one of my biggest peeves, is the fact
that unless you just stop whatever you are doing and go and look
over everything that's coming from out of a government office, you
are always kept in the blind. Now when they went to build the
housing, they told no one but if someone got murdered, they'll tell
everybody. What I'm saying is they, didn't report these types of
things as readily as they should have.
(Mr. Williams): The next set of questions are regarding
Metrorail. When and how did you first hear about the building of
(Mr. McCartney): I was first made aware of that through two
people. Bernard Dyer and umm Rolle, but he's run for many
different offices, you'll--wellington Rolle and they were, they
were not in favor or it and in talking with them I had mixed
emotions about it because I thought at first it might have been a
blessing for working people but then after finding out where it was
going and how it was going to be done, I went along with the fact
that it should have been done because Metrorail was built for
people who had transportation. If it were not so, why would all
the parking spaces be near the stations. That's saying people with
cars park and deal with that but the people who had to catch the
bus still had to walk out and catch the bus and if they wanted the
advantage of Metrorail, they had to pay two fares. They have to
pay to catch the bus and they have to pay to catch Metrorail so
you, know to me it doesn't make sense but all types of conveniences
for transportation have been made for the affluent in Dade County.
I'll give you an example. They had a bus, express bus that would
travel Seventh Avenue some years back, that bus had some gadget
LuicL would change the traffic lights in it's favor all down through
Black community but nobody in the Black community had the chance to
the bus cause it was an express and it didn't stop there. You
caught way up in some white area and you got off downtown in a
white area so the only thing it did for the Black area was
inconvenience the drivers and the people in holding up traffic for
that bus to go through so it's the same thing with Metrorail. If
I live here and in this area you'll find a lot of working class
people and this is not even typical because at least a lot of
people here own cars but you find out where a lot of these
apartment buildings are, if they want to catch Metrorail, what do
they have to do? Say somebody that stays umm, maybe about Fifty-
seventh, Fifty-eighth Street and Thirteenth Avenue. They first of
all have to walk at least to Fifty-fourth Street or Sixty-second
Street or Twelfth Avenue or Seventeenth Avenue to catch the bus
according to which bus they catch, they might have to transfer to
another bus to get to the Metrorail station, then they have to
catch the train to go where they're going and have to reverse that
whole process in coming home. So Metrorail did nothing but screw
up things to me.
(Mr. Williams): Where were you living?
(Mr. McCartney): When Metrorail came through?
(Mr. Williams): Yes.
(Mr. McCartney): Well, my family was living at 820 Northwest
Sixty-fourth Street, I think I was living down South at the time.
(Mr. Williams): Okay, I believe the question, we were talking
about ah, where were you living at the time of Metrorail?
(Mr. McCartney): Well, my family was at 820 Northwest Sixty-
fourth Street. I use that as ah the home address because when I
move different places, normally it's because I worked in those area
and I wanted to be among the people with whom I was working. See
when I moved to South Miami, I was working in South Miami and I--in
order the type of work I was doing, you had to know the
neighborhood and the people had to know you but my main address was
still on Sixty-fourth and Ninth Avenue.
(Mr. Williams): Did you, did you rent or own the place you
lived in at the time?
(Mr. McCartney): Well the family house was owned but the
places where I was moving, I was renting.
(Mr. Williams): What kind of reaction was there to the news
that the Metrorail would come through Overtown?
(Mr. McCartney): The same type of reaction it was when 1-95,
when they knew that 1-95 was coming through. People were
disillusioned, they were angry, they were pissed off because they
were disrupting the neighborhood with no advantages to the
(Mr. Williams): Could you, could you describe what was said
about the Metrorail at that time?
(Mr. McCartney): Not and still be ah respected in the
community [laughter] but you never noticed where the Overtown
station is? Is that Overtown to you? The next closest station to
them is over where? Over there on ah Twelfth somewhere? So they
missed up Overtown to run a rail and they station they call
Overtown is out of Overtown. People Overtown have to walk like
hell to get to it.
(Mr. Williams): What effect did you think Metrorail had,
would have on Overtown?
(Mr. McCartney): After realizing what was umm what was
happening with it, I--the same ah--I, the same effect that happened
was the same ah result that I expected.
(Mr. Williams): And what was that?
(Mr. McCartney): That it would be another disruption for
Overtown and no advantage to it.
(Mr. Williams): Did you discuss it with your neighbors?
(Mr. McCartney): Well, not with my neighbors per se but I
discussed it with other community minded people.
(Mr. Williams): Such as?
(Mr. McCartney): Well I mentioned Bernard Dyers and
Wellington Rolles and ah there were many of them too numerous to
mention. There were many different committees that we had with a
lot of people in it that were discussing it. Some people agreed
with it, some didn't agree with but in the final analyses, those
that didn't agree, their words weren't going to matter any how.
(Mr. Williams): And did you attend a meeting where it was
discussed, sign a petition or discuss the issue with public
(Mr. McCartney): I know I've discussed the issue with public
officials. I think I signed a petition and I've been to some
meetings where it was discussed but umm, and I'm not going to say
that regardless of what you try to do, they're going to have their
way because I can't live that way but up until this point it seems
that's the way it's been going.
(Mr. Williams): What was the most important impact of
Metrorail on you?
(Mr. McCartney): Well, like most people it was of no use to
me and umm it just disrupted the place, the neighborhoods that I
was accustom to, to ah going to.
(Mr. Williams): What was it like when the Metrorail was being
(Mr. McCartney): Pure hell.
(Mr. Williams): Could you describe it a little bit more?
(Mr. McCartney): Well first of all, again, they are
disrupting a community and most of the people from that community
didn't have the jobs to work on it and ah when they got through the
people in the community wasn't served by it, weren't served by it
and now that it's been there for quite some time, the people in the
community are still the ones that feel the pain from it. So it's
been utter hell and it still is. Now the only time, umm you'll
find it running at different, so late at night where it could be
convenient to people, is when the white franchise owners have games
that the rail could be, could be a convenience for the, for the
people going to their games but if they could run it until 12:00
o'clock midnight when the Heat is playing, as much as I love the
Heat, why can't they run it 12:00 midnight when some people trying
to get home from work?
(Mr. Williams): What was the community able to get from
public officials in return for Metrorail going through Overtown
(Mr. McCartney): A bunch of bullshit.
(Mr. Williams): How, how did the Metrorail, (excuse me), how
did the Metrorail affect the community.
(Mr. McCartney): Well let me put it this way. What Metrorail
did to the community and the community had to pay for is the same
thing that happens when a man visits a house of ill-repute and he
has to pay for it, now that the most descent way I could put it.
(Mr. Williams): Now the next questions, I'm going to be
asking you are regarding the future of the Overtown area.
First question: What are the, what are the most important and
misconceptions about Overtown?
(Mr. McCartney): Well, first of all, the system doesn't
regard the people with much esteem. That's number one. Number
two, all the property that has been confiscated by the system and
taken away from a lot of Black property owners is now being given
away to white property owners who are developing an area of
underprivileged people to the point where they can't afford to live
there. If you notice the decent housing being built, is being
built far above the means of the people of Overtown to get the use
of it. So--
(Mr. Williams): Any other misconceptions about Overtown?
(Mr. McCartney): Well, I don't know that it's a
misconception, I do know that umm they've wanted to get Overtown
for years. It's been on the books for years that they wanted it
but ah, they have their plans set decades and scores in advance and
poor us, not knowing anything, we don't act to prevent it. All we
do is re-act as a result of what they do. If ah you read the city,
I don't know if it was a commission or a counsel at the time.
Years ago, when they wanted the whole of the City of Miami, they
suggested places where Blacks should be and if you look at where
Blacks live now in bulk, you find that they moved--I'm talking
about 50-60 years ago these plans were on the books and it's, it's
coming to pass everyday.
(Mr. Williams): What do you think public officials most need
to know most about Overtown?
(Mr. McCartney): I don't think it's anything they need to
know about Overtown. Maybe it's what they need to do about
Overtown that should be addressed. They know everything there is
to know about Overtown, they, they ah--this is the, the strangest
think. In the school books they gave Black folk nothing but white
folk to study but in actuality, in living conditions, white folks
spend as much time studying the existence of Black folk to move
them around like pawns as Black folks do studying about white folks
in school books. They know everything there is to know about us.
The only problem we have is what they decide to do with us. They,
they know the oppression they have caused, they know the oppression
they are causing, they know, that they, they wanted certain areas
at a time and one of the main reasons they wanted Overtown as
another agent is because of the drainage, see? All these things,
the average person working, having a family to take care of, they
don't have time to think about that. But they know everything
there is to know about, not just Overtown, all Black areas. They
look at us under a microscope everyday and if there is any, any
change then they know how to affect us to get rid of us.
(Mr. Williams): The next questions is what should be done to
improve the Overtown area now such as transportation projects,
tourist attractions, job creation or beautification projects?
(Mr. McCartney): What should be done is, some people in
control of the funds for city and county should get together with
private industry to be able to build decent and affordable housing
for the residences that live over there and I'm not talking about
apartment complexes, I mean homes, they started building some homes
around Third Avenue and umm, and ah Seventeenth I think it is until
about, to about Twentieth Street and what they should do is just
get together and then deal with the residences, see about their
input as to the type of housing that they want, that they can.
afford, to see about umm building those things where people could
live. The school is going to be a senior high school, they need
residents over there, not apartment dwellers but homeowners to be
over there so that they build that sense of community again. The
community and the school could become viable assets to each other
as it once was and then people could take pride in saying "I'm from
(Mr. Williams): What should be the relationship between
Overtown and Downtown Miami?
(Mr. McCartney): Jobs should be made available to the people
of Overtown on all different levels, not as they were before and
the only jobs available with people going down there to clean Ms.
Ann's stores or, or Mr. John's ah, ah walls but they should be used
in all capacities. They should also open up the possibility for
ownership of businesses for people from Overtown and other Blacks
to be able to get in Downtown Miami so that we could reflect the
diversity of this community instead of it just changing from Anglo
to Latin and possibility what I've heard back to Anglo again and
instead of being so concerned with stretching Downtown Miami from
where it now exist all the way up darn near to the Broward County
line on the boulevard, all these things should be, should be done
along with the people that live in all these communities where
everybody could have an input and everybody could reap some the
benefits from what happens.
(Mr. Williams): When you have visitors from out of town,
where do you take them to show them cultural and history of Dade
County's African-American or Black community?
(Mr. McCartney): I really don't. The only place I can take
visitors from out of town other than seeing people and it, it hurts
me to say it but is to take them to a lounge to meet some the
people that I know. I can't show them the pride that was once
Miami. I can't--if I take them anywhere, show them anything about
Black culture, it would probably be at the Cultural Art Center
which doesn't reflect everything it should because the programs
that they geared up were not what I thought and most people thought
they were going to be. I mean what is there to show them? I can't
even show them ah a school, not unless I bring them out here and
show them the school that they built for Northwestern and umm,
what's the use in doing that from where all the negative reports
that I've heard on the ear, you know--wait a minute, I keep saying
about them but Fredrico Wilson is saying something about the inputs
that Blacks should have in their schools and you know that's the
same kind of input we should have in our community, whether the
system wants us to or not. You know they built the school, they
built Northwestern, they built a Booker Washington, so what? What
as we of Booker Washington, Northwestern doing? When are we out
there visiting? What are those of us who have retired been doing
to make sure that the schools are as they should be so that the
teachers could be left alone to just teach? Why aren't we
volunteer counselor or hall monitors. So it's the same thing,
those of us retired, why aren't we monitors, volunteer monitors at
City Commission Meeting, County Commission Meetings, School Board
Meetings and all these different meetings, Zoning Board Meetings.
You know, sure the system has done us wrong but you know what the
biggest thing is like darn fools we have accepted the wrong they
have done and not tried to do anything to correct it. Now we
fought for awhile and then they gave us a crumb and we fought a
little harder and they gave us a slice and we stopped fighting
without even realizing that somewhere in existence there is a loaf
that we didn't even see, not to mention get a decent part of so
any--that's what ought to be done. Instead of what the system
ought do, what should we demand that the system do. They had a
meeting about the ah killing of people in Liberty City the other
day, it's in the paper today, well drive by shootings ain't the
only way the people are dying. Why don't we deal with all this
genocide, whether it be the drive by shooting or the depriving
people of jobs or cutting off welfare to deserving people who have
no other way to deal with it, well why can't we deal with that.
We, we need to stop B.Sing and start being for real in what we do.
So the system is at fault, true but we are at fault for allowing
the system to be at fault all this time and all these things you
are asking me about Black, we should a myriad of these things
around where any Black be 7 or 70 should be able to point it out
and say that's me, I did that, not personally but mine ancestors
did that. I just don't understand it.
(Mr. Williams): And finally, Mr. McCartney could you describe
in your own words what kind of community you would like Overtown to
be in the future?
(Mr. McCartney): I'd like to see Overtown, not much different
mentally and umm ideally as it were before. Physically different
that people would have better housing and better opportunities so
business could exist. But where I can drive or take a bus and park
at some point and walk and just talk to people on the street, like
I normally did for the vast majority of my life. Where I could
stop off at a little sundries and have me a milk shake or pike a'
la mode if I want it, where I could stop in a lounge that's not
filthy and sit down and have a beer or a cocktail if I want. Where
I can be able to go up to somebody's house and not have to wait
twenty minutes to unlock themselves from prisons just to let me in
to visit where them. Where I could just see kids out on the park
playing and knowing that regardless of who is the victor that they
could shake hands and even if a fight happens to break out there
they will realize that whatever the fight was about that's settled
when the fight is over and that the people look at everybody as
they want everybody to look at them and that every child belongs to
them and that every child realizes that he has a parent in every
adult. That's the type of community--sure it's idea but everybody
looks for a haven but that's what I would like to see, I'd like to
say hey Joe!, hey Mary! What's going on? Let's go on down to the
bar and have a beer, let's go on down here to the youth center and
play some cards. Let's--what's happening Saturday night, they
having, I understand such and such a band is in town, let's go to
a dance and by the way what are you doing Sunday? You come worship
with me this Sunday and I'll come worship with you the following
Sunday. That's what I would like to see, that's the Overtown I
grew up in. That's what I would like to see again.
(Mr. Williams): Thank you Mr. McCartney. This is Devon
Williams again. This concludes the interview at Mr. Ralph
McCartney's place which is 280 Northwest Forty-Sixth Street. This
concludes the interview.