Interview with Ralph McCartney, August 14, 1997

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Interview with Ralph McCartney, August 14, 1997
McCartney, Ralph ( Interviewee )
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African Americans -- Florida
Overtown Oral History Collection ( local )
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This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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This interview is part of the 'Overtown Collection' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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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

were born.

(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

for jobs?


(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

parents own?

(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.


(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

main competition.

(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

the drugstore?

(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

the cleaners?

(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

family attended?

(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

destroyed us.

(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

what is.

(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.



(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

the time?

(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

through Overtown?

(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

of pride.

(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

you know?

(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?

How so?

(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

Overtown" again.

(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.