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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
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Overtown community. I believe somewhere on Northwest Sixteenth
Street. They were like childhood sweethearts. So they pretty much
grew up in the same neighborhood.
(Ms. Wanza): What sort of jobs did your parents have?
(Mr. McKenny): Well, my mother didn't work ah pretty much
because, you know, she married and ah she had a lot of kids, one
behind the other and ah, my father worked, he's, he's an
electrician by trade and ah once he got out of World War II he
continued his education and ah he went to school for electrician
and that's, that's what he retired doing so he is a certified
electrician but my mother, she didn't work primarily. Later, later
in life, after we became older and whatever, she did some domestic
-work but for the most part when we were growing up, she didn't
(Ms. Wanza): Where were your grandparents born?
(Mr. McKenny): Ah, okay two sets. My maternal grandparents
were born, again in North Florida, my grandmother was born in
Columbia County, Florida and my grandfather was born also in
Columbia County, Florida. That in North Florida again around ah
the Gainesville area. It's pretty, pretty ah close knit up in
there so both my grandmother and grandfather on my maternal side.
Now my paternal grandparents, my paternal grandmother was born in
South Carolina in ah Beaufort or Florence, South Carolina. I
believe it was in ah, I'm sorry in Florence, South Carolina, that
was my gran...my father, his mother who is now deceased. She was
born in South Carolina. Now his father, my grandfather was born in
Florida, again in Alachuwa County so that what's came in the
McKenny, the McKesson McKenny, the McKenny family, umm hum.
(Ms. Wanza): Did your grandparents ever live in Overtown?
(Mr. McKenny): My grandmother did. Yeah my maternal
grandmother? Her name was Lilly Sharp and she ah, she lived in
Overtown from 1931, from the time that my family migrated from
North Florida up until her demise when she died in September of
1995, two years almost to this date.
(Ms. Wanza): What sort of jobs did your grandparents have?
(Mr. McKenny): My maternal grandfather was a laborer, just a
common laborer, he did construction and what have you and ah my
grandmother did domestic work pretty much. She was cook and ah,
You know, cook and housekeeper and that's the type of work that she
did and ah on my father's side, my paternal grandparents. His
mother died, I never knew her, my paternal grandmother, she died
when my father was very young and his father, he sort of what you
call a jack of all trades. He did railroad...he worked on the
railroad, Florida East Coast ah he did construction work on
highways in Florida. He was ah, he was just a...he wasn't a
professionally skilled person but he did all types of jobs and he
was always, always employed. He did work, he would travel with
families. He's been as far as like out in Montana and what have
you with families and ah he lived in Sebring, Florida. I don't
know if you are familiar with that. That's in central Florida in
Highlands County and ah like I said, he did a lot of work. I
remember he died in 1969, I was in high school and ah he was a
worldly traveler. He had been all over the United States working
with a lot of wealthy people and stuff because like he could cook,
he was a chef cook, he, he was skilled with his hands and whatever.
He was just a jack of trades type and again that was my, excuse me,
that was my paternal grandfather. His name was William McKenny.
(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe what it was like growing up in
your parents' household?
(Mr. McKenny): Well it was...it was a lot to do and it was,
you know I came from a big family because there were 10 of us. I
have 4 brothers and I have 5 sisters and I guess in ranging order,
I'm number 6. So I had older brothers and I had older sisters and
I had younger sisters and one younger, one younger brother. Umm it
was fun, it was always a lot to do. You didn't have a lot of ah
privacy. You was never one-on-one relationship my parents, you
always had to share things...
(Ms. .Wanza): (Laughing)
(Mr. McKenny): ...you always had to share things, hand-me-
downs and left overs and this and that and whatever. It was fun.
My biggest dream was when I get grown, I'm going to always have my
own room and my own bed (laughter) but ah there was never a dull
moment but, you know, as I got older because I had older brothers
and sisters, the house kind of thinned out, you know, and whatever
then I became the oldest child in he house at one point when I got
to be like a mid-teenager in my early teening years and things sort
of changed but ah we were a close knit family. My parents later
divorced. I spent a lot of time ah after my parents divorced with
ah my grandmother who I mentioned ah also lived in Overtown and ah
I was very close to her. She was ah I don't know, just always
there for me. She somewhat, somewhat, what you would call say
spoil...spoiled you and whatever and ah I could have my way pretty
much with her but it was, it was ah, she was a very positive person
in my life and she lived right around the corner from us when we
lived on Northwest Sixth Street and even when we moved on Northwest
Tenth Street, I was only about 5 blocks from her so it was always
just...I saw her almost on a daily basis and ah that was the center
of my life pretty much growing up, in particular when my parents
divorced because I guess my, my needs or whatever emotionally or
what have you, she was just there and she fulfilled them.
(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum, okay. The next set of questions are
regarding employment from 1945 and 1970. Now I know you weren't
born until '52...
(Mr. McKenny): (Laughter) Okay.
(Ms. Wanza): So umm, we can, I mean like somewhere like in
your teenage years or something if you had employment during that
(Mr. McKenny): Then you know everything in that time frame,
I'm going back from the time I was 14 which would have been about
1966, because I remember when I was 14 I got a working permit
because I've been working about that time, part time and ah I
worked ah every summer when I was out of high school, whatever, you
know whatever was available, in particular sometimes I worked on
what they call the dock which is now what the call the Port of
Miami. They would let us work there part time and whatever, you
know, because it was...we weren't in the union and whatever and
they let us work minimal hours and what have you. I did that. I
have also worked ah in a mannequin display type factory that was
located in what is now downtown Miami. I ah, I've cut yards, I've
worked in ah motels. I worked one summer just prior to finishing
high school I worked as ah, I was trained as an orderly, this right
after...just before I finished high school in 1970 in Jackson
Hospital and I worked there for one summer and ah up until that
time, like you said prior to 19...up until 1970 that was about
the...Ahh! I'm going to go back...I went, I spent two summers
consequently, I think when I was in 10th and llth grade which would
"have been about 1967 and '68 and then from '68 to '69. Those two
summers were spent in Washington, D.C. because I had an older
brother who was in the military, the Air Force at that particular
time, he and his family and they were stationed "in Virginia" which
is right across from Washington, D.C. My brother was working at
that time in the Pentagon and he got a summer job for me in the
Pentagon and I was just very impressed with that whole military
background and the whole, you know just seeing these guys in
uniforms and people saluting them, just coming from Miami, I had
just never seen so many professional Blacks all up under one
umbrella in my life and I was...
(Ms. Wanza): (Laughing)
(Mr. McKenny): ...amazed so that may (laughter), that may
have been a umm catalyst for me to want to go beyond just my own,
you know, how would I say, just go beyond my own...
(Ms. Wanza): Yeah.
(Mr. McKenny): ...backyard
(Ms. Wanza): Backyard, umm hum.
(Mr. McKenny): in terms of ah...you know, and they were just,
these people were like role models and what have you, but i did
that for one summer and the following summer, again because I so
impressed with the area and just to see so many, so many what I
would call upwardly mobile Black ah that I came again and ah I was
even considering ah finishing high school there but I really
couldn't, I had ah, somewhat of a problem adjusting to the weather.
You know having come from Florida all my life, that first winter,
in the middle of the winter, I told my brother to send me home
(laughter). I was in the 11th grade then and ah I just could not
adjust to the cold weather having come from Florida all my life, I,
I live snow but having to get out in it every morning and bundling
up in layers,.J was not use to that so it didn't, it didn't really
work with me and I came back to Miami and the following summer...
(Ms. Wanza): (Cough), excuse me.
(Mr. McKenny): ...I went to that area, Washington, D.C. area
and ah I wasn't able to get a government job but I sought
employment on my own and I worked in a country club. I think I was
more or less like a, pretty much like a gopher. You know you did
everything. I waited tables, I ah, I did...washed dishes, I did
maintenance work and what have you for that particular summer and
that was called the Washington Golf and Country Club but the plus
part about it, a lot of the dignitaries came there for lunch, for
dinner, you know, and I saw a lot of people that were in particular
during that time, I think it was during the ah Nixon
administration, I believe it was, I saw a lot of congressmen, a lot
of people that were in the presidential camp then...
(Ms. Wanza): All kinds of stuff going on...
(Mr. McKenny): ...all kind of stuff was going on, you know I
(Ms. Wanza): (Laughing)
(Mr. McKenny): ...just sit back and some of the more ah more
experienced staff people, they were pointing out people to me, oh
that congressman so-in-so, so-in-so, so-in-so because they came,
again it was a country club and it was beautiful. They played
golf, they just to unwind. They came in, they ah getting ready to
have their drinks and their social, social affairs, they had
dinner, they had lunch. They just, this just where they chilled
and unwound, offic...you know unofficially. You know this is where
a lot of decision are made that affect you and our lives
behind...in what I call these little smoke rooms and what have you
and this is the kind of scenario and I was very impressed with
that. I didn't see very many, all of Washington ah...Yeah, well I
know that there were a lot of Blacks, not a lot of Blacks, a
lot...som...Blacks were being involved in the government in terms
of congress and whatever, it was still that segregated kind of
thing. Mostly all of the employees there were Black, you know, and
what have you the caddies, the waiters, the waitresses, the people
that worked the cabanas and whatever but you, you rarely saw Blacks
there mingling with these "White European ah politicians" and I
later found that, that was not by design and that was just by, you
know, no not by circumstance rather it was by design and that was
it, you know, but ah that's just the way it was but I was very
impressed with just ah, just to see so many ah prominent people and
this was the way they unwound and whatever.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so you worked in Miami, at the Port of
Miami and you did other jobs?
(Mr. McKenny): Yeah, like odd jobs. Umm hum.
(Ms. Wanza): You worked at a store...other odd jobs and you
worked in D.C. for two years.
(Mr. McKenny): And also I mentioned at the summer at
Jack...JMH at Jackson Hospital where I was an orderly.
(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.
(Mr. McKenny): Umm hum. I was trained in that, left up until
that time, that was up until 1970 and then from there I finished
high school 1970. I had planned on attending college but for
financial reasons I did not go. I worked just to save up monies on
my own and ah as it would have it Vietnam was winding down at that
particular time, I was drafted for the Air Force, the Army and I
chose the Air Force instead and in 1972 I went in the Air Force and
4 years from '72 and '76, that's when I left Miami and I did basic
training in ah Texas which was in Lackland Air Force Base in San
Antonio, Texas. I was there for basic training. Beyond that, I was
stationed in Altus, Oklahoma and I was, I was stationed there for
22 months which I didn't like it, I did not like (laughter)
Oklahoma and Texas but I did the best I could to make adjustments.
I would come home as often as I could but I got a chance to see
that part of the country, the west, what I call the mid-west ah
Missouri, Kansas ah Texas...
(Ms. Wanza): Did you like Missouri?
(Mr. McKenny): Well I had a roommate that was from Missouri
and you know umm, when I, when I would go home with him and some
other guys like on weekends...
(Ms. Wanza): Was he from St. Louis?
(Mr. McKenny): He was from St. Louis.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so did you like St. Louis.
(Mr. McKenny): I like St. Louis.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, I was out there. (laughter) I stayed
(Mr. McKenny): Were you, okay. You worked in St....
(Ms. Wanza): Well not in St. Louis, in Springfield
(Mr. McKenny): Okay, I knew of Springfield Missouri but St.
Louis I love...I love East St. Louis, Illinois is even better.
(Ms. Wanza): Un hun (laughter).
(Mr. McKenny): You go there and umm...I have family, I had
family members that lived in Kansas City, Missouri which is
further, you know, much further than St. Louis and on occasions I
would visit my family...my cousins that lived there but I like
Texas I liked...I did not like Oklahoma period. They had a lot of
rigid old laws on the books and you know whatever and I just was
coming from Florida that I was not accustom to and it was a place
that although I was stationed there I spent very little of my
leisure time on the base in the State of Oklahoma. We would always
leave whenever the opportunity presented itself. But back to your
other question, I, I liked ah St. Louis and that particular area.
(Ms. Wanza): Yeah, let's see what kind of hours did you work
on the jobs, mainly?
(Mr. McKenny): Well when I was working part time, you know,
I was mostly part time, full time. You know I would go to work in
the mornings and work the duration, the entire day and when I had
summer jobs, summer youth jobs, during the summers, it would mainly
-be like maybe you know the maximum hours that they would allow. It
may be would be about 6 hours a day, 5 to 6 hours and then again
when I worked at JMH as an orderly, I worked, well we were in
training...it was like on the job training so you know you would go
in and you woild...it would be like a full day, I think from like
7:30 to 3:00 or what have you.
(Ms. Wanza): The next question is, how did you find work?
(Mr. McKenny): Well basically ah when I was a teenager, I
would get like part time jobs just through word of mouth, somebody
else in the neighborhood would let me know that something was
available and ah, sometimes other jobs would be located in the
newspaper and I would follow up just from an advertisement in the
newspaper and ah, basically that was it, you know.
(Ms. Wanza): How did you get to work?
(Mr. McKenny): Basically by a bus, I did not own a car. I
would take a bus or what we called the Liberty City Jitneys? we
had the jitneys in those, at that particular time, catch the bus or
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, let me see. Where did the other members
of your family work?
(Mr. McKenny): Umm you mean in my household when I was
(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.
(Mr. McKenny): Well like I said, my mom for many years did
not work and subsequently when she did after my parents divorced
when she started working a bit, she did domestic work and umm she
-pretty much worked on Miami Beach at one point, sometimes ah Coral
Gables, well generally between Coral Gables or either Miami Beach
in those particular communities because she worked for like wealthy
families and you know sometimes you would work 2 or 3 days with one
family and they would recommend you to one of their friends or
whatever and she would catch what they called days work, she would
be able a couple of more days for someone else so it vacillated
between Coral Gables and Miami Beach.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay.
(Mr. McKenny): She worked on like the ah Sunset Island, some
of where the real wealth people lived, where you had to have gate
access and this kind of a thing. They would even pick her up, you
know this kind of thing and what ever, you know they would come get
there "girl" and this kind of thing. She did that for a while.
(Ms. Wanza): So umm where did your brothers and sisters work
when they got older. I know you said one brother was in the
(Mr. McKenny): Yeah, one brother, when he finished high
school, he went to the Air Force, he attended Miami Northwestern.
He went to ah, he went to the Air Force immediately when he
finished high school, I think about may be, may be a year or so
after he finished high school, he went in the Air Force and he made
a career of it. So he's out now, he's retired after I think 20 or
22 years as a career Air Force person. Ah another brother, I have
another brother that lives...well I actually have two other
brothers older than I that live in Syracuse, New York, all of them
-attended Miami Northwestern and umm, the two of...these two they
live in Syracuse and one is a judge, he's ah municipal judge and
the other, he works as basic like an electrician. He pretty much
took up the same trade as my father did and they both live in
Syracuse, New.York. I have ah...my oldest sister lives here in
Miami. She works for a construction company, she's a bookkeeper
and ah I have another sister that lives in central Florida, in
Sebring, Florida where I told you my grandparents lived cause
actually she grew up with them, my, my paternal grandparents, she
lives there, she's a registered nurse by profession and I have 1,
2, 3 other sisters. One that lives now in Daytona, Florida, she
does secretarial work. I have another sister that lives...2 other
sisters that are here in Miami. One does secretarial, another one
does secretarial work and the other, she's a computer ah computer
programmer. She worked with University of Miami at the Jackson
Memorial Hospital complex but she works for the UM and she's like
a computer programmer or whatever...
(Ms. Wanza): Okay.
(Mr. McKenny): ...and I have one brother that is unemployed,
terminally unemployed. I think that's about (laughter), I think
I've covered everyone if I can, if I can think correctly.
(Ms. Wanza): Beginning in the late '50s many immigrants moved
to Miami from the Caribbean including Haiti, Cuba and other
countries. Do you believe that those residents competed with
Overtown, those immigrants competed with Overtown residents for
(Mr. McKenny): Of course.
(Ms. Wanza): Yes.
(Mr. McKenny): Of course, they came here, that was there game
plan, to you know seek employment and ah I don't think it was by
design per se-but the circumstances presented themselves. Yes they
competed because a lot of them came and they were seeking unskilled
labor and they were, you know because they were immigrants, a lot
of them didn't have status where they could compete for you know
"better paying jobs" so whatever was available which was usually
what most Blacks in Overtown was just getting, ah how would I say?
Ah manual labor type jobs or unskilled labor...they competed. In
particular ah doing domestic work, doing hotel work ah doing,
handling baggage and doing maintenance and stuff at the airport
which for many years Blacks were the...primarily the ones that this
ah unskilled type labor. They competed and as you can see now what
the result is. I need not say more but yes they competed the
competition was fierce.
(Ms. Wanza): Do you recall people moving into umm the
Overtown from out of town, within, you know from within the, U.S.
within the country?
(Mr. McKenny): You mean like people migrating from this, from
this, from other parts of the country?
(Ms. Wanza): Migrating from other parts of the country, umm
(Mr. McKenny): Sure, yes. Yes.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, where they were from?
(Mr. McKenny): Well we had neighbors that...it's interesting
that you ask because we had...I had a next door that was ah a Cuban
immigrant. He was a Black Cuban and ah he had come over ah during
the migration when the big influx of Cubans were coming in during
the 1960 and ah but I also had neighbors ah from the United States
from everywhere, from all parts of the south, other parts of
Florida, Georgia, of course, the Carolinas, Mississippi, Alabama,
Louisiana, Tennessee, you know all parts of the south. Ah in
particular ah some Blacks were like from the west, Texas and
whatever but most of them, they came because at this particular
time there were a lot of jobs, semi-skilled job, ah unskilled labor
in Miami with the hotel industry and they...you know a lot of
people came here from other parts of the country seeking jobs where
they came from maybe rural areas where there weren't a lot of jobs
and then the competition really began with the ah, how would I say
with the ah Caribbean influx.
(Ms. Wanza): Where did the umm people who came, who migrated
into Overtown live in Overtown? What area, did they live in a
(Mr. McKenny): They lived, no they didn't, no they didn't,
there weren't, there weren't to my record, there weren't any
particular pockets of people in any particular neighborhood. I
think they live wherever they can afford, you know wherever the
rents were affordable, cheap people moved there and there wasn't
really ah racial kind of a thing and whatever. People just lived
wherever they could, you know whatever types of rent
that they could afford for the most part.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, the next set of questions are regarding
neighborhood life between 1945 and 1970. Could you describe your
place of residence?
(Mr. McKenny): Well I lived, I grew up in Overtown and I
always lived in ah apartment buildings, you know we had like ah
maybe two bedroom apartment and ah when we lived on Sixth Street,
we lived in a small apartment complex. It had about maybe 12
apartments total, 6 up and 6 down and because we needed bigger
space when we moved ah from there when I was about 10 years old, we
moved on Northwest 10th Street, we moved into a bigger, bigger
apartment and ah same design, you know standard ah concrete block
structure, it was a 3-story building ah pretty much, it was a, it
was just rental property, nothing fancy but you know, you made due
with what you, what you had for the most part. I, I enjoyed my
childhood. You know we didn't have grass in the yard in the yard
and that kind of a think. I had ah, ah asphalt, you know parking
lot, but you know we played sports out there, we played ah
childhood games and whatever, everything from ah springboard and
what have you hide and go seek and then later, like I said I
started playing like a little touch football, ah basketball with
ah, were we would put a tire, a regular car tire, we would stick it
up on the second floor up under the rail from the banister and
then, you know, we'd shoot hoops from the first floor to the second
floor and had...that would in turn become the ah actual hoop, it
would just be an old tire, we stuck it up under the banister.
That's how, you know, we played sports like that in particular and
tten we played sandlot, sandlot softball in a vacant lot with
covered with weeds, you know, after you trample on it enough the
weeds will get trampled and you play actually on the sands that was
back then. That was right in the back of my building and that was
like our little park. You know it was a vacant lot and we played
everything from sandlot softball, we kick ball, you know the boys
and the girls and would play against each other, what have you. So
I had fun growing up. We didn't have much but ah we made due and
ah I have no regrets.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, could you describe the street where you
(Mr. McKenny): I lived, when we lived, well when I lived on
Sixth Street, again we lived right near the Florida East Coast
Railroads, what was then the Florida East Coast Railroads and I was
fascinated because I could see the trains everyday and during that
particular time, Florida East Coast was ah passenger train and ah
a few blocks away I think it was it was across may be like, may be
like Third or Fourth Street was the actual terminal, station where
people would actually board the trains and also ah get off the
trains there and subsequently it was amazing because ah you could
stand out there and just watch the train coming in and out and a
lot of times celebrities. I remember when I was a kid, Elvis
Presley was very popular then and one weekend he was coming to town
and we just...you saw all these White people running behind the
(Ms. Wanza): (Laughter)
(Mr. McKenny): ...and I can never forget this. They were
trying to ah I guess see him get a glimpse of him or what have you
when he came in that train and that was, I know that was back in
the '50s. I was a little kid, 5, 6 years old but I remember that
because everybody from Overtown was just watching but it was all
these White girls, particularly...
(Ms. Wanza): Was he getting off in Overtown or was he getting
(Mr. McKenny): Well the train station was there. They may
have even actually let him off at some other point but the, the...I
guess the tip was that he was on this train and was to get off at
the train station there...
(Ms. Wanza): Train, umm hum.
(Mr. McKenny): ...and these people were just running behind
the train and I guess they wanted to get a glimpse of him when he
got off. I did not go to the station. Like I said mostly he had
a large White following. I could see these White teenagers for the
most part and again, that was ah one of most rememberable occasions
of ah growing up in neighborhood, on Sixth Street and then when we
later moved on Northwest Tenth Street. Again it was near the
railroad tracks, right near the Florida East Coast Railroad. It
was not a...during that particular time, I don't recall them
having...I think that particular station had closed for ah picking
up passengers and what have.you so mostly it would be freight
trains and what ever but I was always fascinated by the trains and
-what have you and ah, that particular neighbor was not too
dissimilar from the one on Sixth Street. It was a lot of ah...as
opposed to a lot of private homes, there were a lot of apartment
buildings, a lot of ah rental apartment buildings. Most of the ah
private homes, and what have you I ah...were I don't know were
mostly located a little bit further west maybe across Second or
Third Avenue but again during that particular time a lot of them
because of the Urban Renewal, a lot of people sold their
properties, a lot of houses were raised for the ah, for the ah
building of the ah expressway. I knew friends of mines whose
families were affected by that...well my family was not because we
did not own property and whatever but ah I do know friends of my
that were displaced because of ah Urban Renewal by 1-95 but I, I
vividly remember back in the '60s. I attended because I attended
Booker T. Washington when it was a junior and senior high, my, my
junior high years, 7th thorough 9th grade was spent there and we
actually had, when they were building 1-95, they had tore up a lot
of houses and a lot of streets and we use to actually walk across
the building of 1-95 during the '60s when they were actually
building 1-95, that was for us like an adventure, we use to come
across it...it would all look like hills and we'd come across and
go to school and come back doing the same thing until they actually
built it and whatever and I, I vividly remember that. That was in
(Ms. Wanza): Who were your neighbors?
(Mr. McKenny): They were other Blacks and ah for the most
part and ah they were not too dissimilar in terms of economic
"status than my family, you know, most people were working class
Blacks. People with a lot of kids, they didn't have a lot of money
but most, most of them were working class people, you know they had
jobs. You would see people catching the bus every morning got to
work. Men would be out catching breaks to get on the dock or do
what ever they could do, it was not a neighborhood where you saw a
lot of ah vagrancy or where you saw a lot of homeless,
homelessness. I didn't, I did not grow up in that type of
neighborhood. I think we, you always had what they called a
neighborhood drunk, you know it's a wine-o or whatever but just to
(Ms. Wanza): People sitting out on the street in groups.
(Mr. McKenny): You know just to see groups of men up under a
(Ms. Wanza): ...tree sitting down all day long.
(Mr. McKenny): ...just to see young guys, young healthy guys
like that, I did not see that growing up, that was an exception
more so than the rule. That was very rare, that was very rare.
People pretty much prided themselves in working, doing something so
I did not, I did not see that growing up, that was, that was almost
(Ms. Wanza): Okay. Where did your neighbors work?
(Mr. McKenny): They did ah, it was a merit of work they did.
You had people doing...men did construction work, they did labor
works, some of them worked in the school system as, you know ah
janitors, maintenance people, a lot of them worked in the ah hotel
industry on Miami Beach. A lot of them worked downtown in the
office buildings doing maintenance and an janitorial type work, you
know what I call, common labor and semi-skilled jobs and as far as
for the womenin that, at that particular time, they mostly did
domestic work either in private homes or in institutions you know
like hospitals or maybe ah businesses or what have you. They
mostly did domestic work or cooks and a lot of them did ah...what
would I say ah child care, where you know, kept a lot of kids. You
had a lot of the older people then as opposed to ah people sending
kids to "day care center." I never went to day care. My
grandmother kept me for the most part and most of my sisters and
brothers but ah at such time when ah she, she did not keep us ah I
remember my...vivid...very vividly, my mother when my mother
started working we had a lady in our neighborhood we called Ms.
Sug. She was an elderly lady, she and her sister, Ms. Dolly, they
kept kids and she would have about maybe 6, 7 kids that she kept
cause I use to drop my brother and sister off on my way to school,
I would drop them off and then my, it was my job to pick them up
when I got home to sit with them after...until my mother got home
and I hated that but you know I did that for a couple of years up
until they got...but my mother didn't, she...none of us went to
"day care." I never went to day care or kindergarten.
(Ms. Wanza): What happened to those neighbors?
(Mr. McKenny): Well ah...a lot of people ah with the
transition of Overtown, a lot of people moved out because they were
displaced. A lot of people for what, upward mobility, they chose
to move later on and ah to go back to the same neighborhood now on
Northwest Sixth Street, that is the same neighborhood that "I--
mentioned to you prior...before that has become the area of the
Miami Arena. Where they park in the Miami Arena, the parking lot
and the where the Metrorail station is, that was my old
(Ms. Wanza): Oh, that was Mr. Sawyer's property.
(Mr. McKenny): That was, that was Mr. Sawyer's property. I
know, I know them personally, they lived in the neighborhood on
Seventh Street, Mr....Bill, Bill and Bernice Sawyer, that, they
lived in that particular neighborhood then. I knew them, I knew
their daughter Vernie and ah that's where the Miami Arena is now.
I lived right in that area and then further down going ah north,
almost 5 blocks away on Tenth Street, the building that I grew on
Tenth still exist. It's an apartment building, it's still rental
property. No major changes has taken place, they painted it and
it's now got a fence around it, a mental fence and whatever. It
still has the same asphalt parking lot and whatever, that's still
there. It's still rental property but the neighborhood changed
because all of the houses that were there, when they built the
Metrorail, the Metrorail almost comes right across my apartment
almost on the roof of that building so subsequently all of the
housing pretty much in that particular neighborhood was torn down,
just vacant lots now or what have you. Very few of the original,
very few of the original apartment buildings exist now and again
that was due to the, to the ah when they built the Metrorail.
(Ms. Wanza): When did, approximately when did your neighbors
(Mr. McKenny): That was during, that was during the '60s.
Again that was during the ah construction of the ah, pre-
construction and during the construction of the ah Instate 95 so
that was during the era maybe between I would say 1960...between
1965 and '68, somewhere up in that, about a 3-year time frame, the
whole neighborhood took a different flavor.
(Ms. Wanza): Where did they go?
(Mr. McKenny): Well, for the most part they moved north, they
moved in areas like ah what is presently called Liberty City,
Brownsville, some, some people ah moved south Richmond Heights. I
guess according to their needs. Ah but most of them moved north to
Liberty...again like I say to Liberty City, Brownsville,
Allapattah, Edison area, all these particular communities, some
went as far...Carol City was not very populated at that time
particular time. I don't remember too many people moving further
than say Opa Locka but Carol City was primarily ah, ah anglo
neighborhood during that time. It was not very many Blacks and
then I guess at some point some of them moved at that point.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, could you describe the main business areas
you went to in Overtown?
(Mr. McKenny): I went downtown Miami for the most part, we
went there for just about everything but again, in ah, in Overtown
itself before 1-95 there were a lot of Black owned businesses and
I know when I would shop for clothing, shoes, to get a haircut, ah
we had Black dentists, we had Black doctors, medical doctors,
lawyers, all of them were located in Overtown prior to the'--
construction of 1-95 for the most part, so you know for those
medical services and professional services, you actually the ah
practitioners there. So we did...ah we took care of our needs
right within the community but then again if you wanted. I don't
know, they a lot of smaller ah clothing stores in Overtown but you
had a choice, you could buy them there or if you more of a variety,
you went across the tracks and walked downtown to Downtown Miami.
Soon as you were there right in the community, which was unique or
you went into Downtown Miami but I didn't know anything about
malls. You know I never, I knew, I knew nothing about going
to...Sears was like going somewhere...for me to go across the
tracks to go over to Sears that was like going somewhere for me for
say for like Dadeland Mall and all these malls, I don'-t think the
concept of malls was very popular when I was growing up. Un hun,
you shopped within the neighborhood.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay. Could you describe where your family
(Mr. McKenny): Yes, they ah...my grandmother use to buy
groceries where she could get credit (laughter) for the most part
and she had credit with ah quite a few of the stores in ah
Overtown. I remember one was a store on Third Avenue called Sam's
Market, she had that, she had credit. You'd go and get what you
want and they would put in a little book and you'd pay them later
but ah there was a store called Red Top. I remember that on
Northwest Eighth Street and First Avenue. She didn't have credit
there but she, she would buy a lot of staple goods and then hered-
was another store across the tracks on Fifth Street that was called
Tip Top and it was either between sending me to Tip Top or Red Top
according to what she wanted and sometime on one...any given day I
may have to go to both because my grandmother was of a very...how
would you say, a very conscientious shopper. If something was five
or two cents cheaper at that store, you went over there and got
that, then you got the other stuff at this one so you vacillated
between the two stores and that way it was and then she might want
her meats from another store, you know what I'm saying because I
don't like these people "beef," I don't like their chickens or
whatever so you go over there and get this. So on any given day a
meal might come out of three stores but that's how we basically
shop and then ah, they use to have vendors, fruit vendors that came
in the neighborhoods and you also had an old fashion milkman that
delivered milk and she had "credit" with these people you know like
dairy products, milk ice cream, butter and eggs, she would get that
from the milk truck. Fruits and vegetables, she had credit with
the guy that had fruit truck that came in the neighborhood a couple
of times a week and you know she would get all the fruits and
vegetables from him and like I said the milk and dairy products
from the milkman and the staple items and the meats either from the
meat store and from Red Top or Tip Top for the most part to my
recollection. The same thing with my mother.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, could you describe where your family went
to the barber shop or beauty shop?
(Mr. McKenny): What was that?
(Ms. Wanza): Barber shop and beauty shop.
(Mr. McKenny): I went to barber shops in Overtown. I went to
Black barbers and ah they had also in addition to barber shops,
they had barber college called Miami Barber College and this is
where during that time they trained Black barbers because that was
before integration and you could get cheaper barber, you know
because they were apprentices, we would get haircuts for fifty
cents, seventy-five cents, so you know I, I was in there as much as
I could and then as I got older and started earning my own money
then I started going to private barbers and whatever because I was
paying for it myself but when they was paying for it, you better
to, to Barber College and get a number, it was that kind of a thing
but ah it was always Black barber shops with in our, -with in my
(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe where your family went to the
(Mr. McKenny): Same...right in the neighborhoods. There were
ah neighborhood drugstores. Stones Drugstore, I remember. There
was ah Harlem Drug on Fourteenth Street, there were ah People
Drugstore on Eighth Street. Then you know sometimes ah for other
items they didn't carry, you would go downtown to Walgreens., There
were several Walgreens in Downtown Miami at that time.
(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe where your family went to the
(Mr. McKenny): In Overtown. They had little mom and pop
store type dry cleaners.
(Ms. Wanza): Dry cleaners, umm hum.
(Mr. McKenny): My grandmother, you know she would again, she
(Ms. Wanza): Thrifty.
(Mr. McKenny): ...ah very conscientious spendthrift,
spendthrifty so a lot of her better clothes she would have me to
take downtown to what was called the Miami Laundry because had, she
was a member of her church, her robes all of her choir robes, she
swore that they did better work and that it was cheaper but she
didn't like spots in her stuff and wrinkles and whatever so all her
choir robes and all of her church, what I call church outfits, she
put them downtown in the...what I call the White folks cleaners but
the other stuff she would just send it anywhere, you know she was
very particular about that. I laugh about it now.
(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe where your family went to
(Mr. McKenny): I went to ah, I went to my grandmother's
church which at one time was located in Overtown. It was called
Spiritual Guidance Temple of Truth and it was ah really ah, what I
call it? It was a nondenominational church and I enjoyed going up
there in that particular church and later years after ah 1-95
because they were located on Seventeenth Street and Northwest Third
Avenue, the church relocated to Broward County in Pompano and how
we got there, they had buses, church buses and they would pick us
up at a certain location and you were bused up there and we went to
Sunday school up there but when I got a little older, I chose ndt--
to go that route because it would almost take up your whole Sunday,
you to go up there and be transported to Pompano, go to service,
come back, your whole day was gone so I choose to just go to church
in Overtown so I started attending Mt. Caramel Missionary Baptist
Church which is now located in Liberty City on Seventy-Nine Street,
it was located on Fourteenth Terrace then and I went there for
several years, the Mt. Caramel Missionary Baptist Church.
(Ms. Wanza): okay, could you describe where you went for
entertainment such as theaters, bars, restaurants or sporting
(Mr. McKenny): During the, during the era when I was growing
(Ms. Wanza): Yes.
(Mr. McKenny): Okay. We went to ah the theaters, we went to
the theaters that way in Overtown. Again, this was before
integration and ah they had theaters in Overtown, you had...I
remember going to the Modern Theater, the Capitol, the Ritz. Every
Saturday, that was pretty much my little routine, myself and a
bunch of other guys. We would all like, cause it was only like a
dime, nine cents less than a quarter and then you had what they
called the kiddy show and they gave you little coupons in schools
on Friday and I think you paid, like I said a nickel or a dime for
the kiddy show, you know, if you wanted to stay beyond that, if
your parents allowed you for the regular theater...see for me
Saturday going to the movie was all day. I would go for the kiddy
show which began about may be 10:00 in the morning which ended7-:-
about maybe noon or say 12:30 or 1:00 but if I decided to stay for
the regular show, they'd...you come out, they'd empty the theater,
then you would had to pay it again, another, another fare to go in,
another admission fare to go in and I would stay...that was my
whole day. I would stay...we called it going to the show and I
would stay in the show all day. I would stay...my grandma told me
to come home before it got dark, you know once it start getting
dusk dark and what have you, to be home, be home before it get
(Ms. Wanza): So did your family, your mom and your dad did
they also go to the movies?
(Mr. McKenny): My mother use to take...my, my mother...I
don't remember my father like I said, ah they divorced-and I don't
remember going to the...entertainment places with him but my mother
use to take us to the movies, that was a treat because she use to
like to go the movies. She use to take us as a group and what have
you and then when I got older, like I say, I use to go by myself
but my mama use to take us to the movie. We use to go to
ah...sometimes she use to take us to ah...(finger pop) what was
another, another thing we use to go to? They use to have plays and
stuff and what have you and ah some of the, some of the various
little halls and stuff and whatever, I use to go to, I remember
what I call the ah Long, Long Shoremen's Hall. They use to have
gospel, gospel music and whatever there. We use to go there. Ah
at one particular time when the muslims, the muslims were becoming
very popular they would come by and actually recruit people tod-
attend their services and my mother just, I guess to just be
exposed to ah knowledge, she would take us to the Muslim Temple
something up on Second Avenue. So again, we, everything,
everything that I did growing up was pretty much done within the
community and that was just, just the way it was for me.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, umm I will continue the interview on Side
#2. I will be ending Side #1. I'm interviewing Mr. Edward
McKenny. This is August 29, 1997.
TAPE #1 -SIDE #2
(Ms. Wanza): This is Stephanie Wanza. I'm interviewing Mr.
Edward McKenny. This is Side #2 of Tape #1 and we left off on the
set of questions, umm regarding neighborhood life.
Okay, the next question is: When someone in your family got
sick where did they go to the doctor's office?
(Mr. McKenny): Okay umm, I recall when I was a child, I was
a patient at what was then call Variety Children's Hospital which
is now Children's Hospital but it was called Variety, that's where
my mom took me and ah some others of my brothers and sisters, she
took them to Dazell Simpson, who is a pediatrician. That was their
doctor and all other times, just going through emergency at Jackson
Emergency Hospital. That was about it.
(Ms. Wanza): Dazell Simpson was my doctor too. She my
(Mr. McKenny): Okay. She was located, you know she was
located in Overtown during that, that time...
(Ms. Wanza): ...and then she moved over-to...
(Mr. McKenny): ...and doctor, her husband also, Dr. George
(Ms. Wanza): Yeah, that's auntie.
(Mr. McKenny): Are they?
(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.
(Mr. McKenny): Okay.
(Ms. Wanza): Yeah, ah, let's see. How long did you continue
to patronize the businesses in Overtown?
(Mr. McKenny): Some of them, you...well for the most part,
even beyond their moving because when the Drs. Simpson, when Drs.
Simpsons moved to where they are presently located, if they are
still there, Tri Arts, we still went there, my mother, for my
younger brothers and sisters, they still went there.- I recall
having recall going there with her for them for their pediatrician
visits. Ah the barbers and what have you...my barber remained in
Overtown. I use to go to Mop City which you may be familiar with.
They were on Second Avenue and then when they moved to where they
are presently located in Liberty City, I use to catch the jitney
and come over there so pretty much I followed wherever they went,
you know, for the most part, for the most part, umm hum.
(Ms. Wanza): When did you begin to shop or go to entertainment
outside of Overtown?
(Mr. McKenny): Okay, I've always ah not so much for the
entertainment but for shopping, we all, we always had a choice of
shopping in the community, right in the neighborhood or if we
wanted to go across the tracks and go downtown,and the only reason--:
for the most part that I went downtown was because you had more
variety, not that the quality was better but you just had more of
a variety of stores and also my grandmother had a few charge cards
at a few stores like Richards and she, you know, when I got older
she would let me charge things at those particular stores but
again, it was just a matter because you had more of a choice not so
much as the quality, quality was any better.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, during the period from 1945 to 1970 what
were the main things that made Overtown a community?
(Mr. McKenny): Well, my, my most vivid memories was that it
was an intact, self-sustaining community. Pretty much ah
everything that you needed, your ah basic needs for your household,
they were available to you in the community and ah your spiritual
needs were met there, you know, all of your churches, your
community schools, everything was in tact and I like the fact that
ah Black professional ministers, ah teachers, social workers,
etc., these people not only lived in the community, they worked in
the community and lived in the community and you actually saw these
people. I can recall when I was in elementary school. Teachers
would send me, they would send me to their house to get their lunch
out the refrigerator. I mean it was just that kind of
neighborhood. You didn't have, you had very little vandalism and
whatever. People ah, professional, professionals, like I said,
your teachers and things, they lived right in the community for the
most part, they attended church there so your parents interacted
with them. It was like when you got into trouble. .It was truly"a--
community and for that I value that. You don't see that too much
now since integration.
(Ms. Wanza): How has Overtown changed since 1970?
(Mr. McKenny): For me it's, it's, it's a different community
because it was a viable working class community in my childhood,
growing up but from what I see now, I have ah worked in Overtown
because with my profession we have an office in Overtown and I
worked there for several years, in the 1980s and I also...in and up
until 1994. We visited Overtown working as an agency there. It's
not a working class community for the most part, I mean there are
some working people but basically now, it's ah...you see a lot of
homelessness. You see a lot of ah single parent, female household
headed families and ah you don't see a lot of working men. You see
a lot vagrancy, a lot of, it's, it's...for me what's so unique
about it now, its ah transitory type neighborhood, very transient.
Umm, umm, not transitory, I'm sorry, very transient. You see
people come in, they don't have any rules, they come in and they
leave, you know and what have you and ah you don't have a lot of
ah, what I say, mom and pop stores that are Black owned. You know
most of the people that have businesses there, they don't live in
the community. They don't have any vested interest in the
community so like I said it's very transient and it's very for me,
it's very depressing because I, I grew up in the same community
physically but it's just a whole different, whole different
scenario now and negative in, in a sense, very negative.
(Ms. Wanza): Umm how and when did that sense of community-
(Mr. McKenny): Pardon?
(Ms. Wanza): How and when did that sense of community change?
(Mr. McKenny): For me, I, I think it took place over, over a
period of time because of deny and neglect by the city government,
the county government, the powers that be, I think Overtown just
became a festering sore and then ah with the riots and what have
you, I think a lot of federal focus came upon the community and ah
a lot of bandage approaches came into play. You know they were
like coming with programs that really had no ah, to me had no real
substance to it and no vested interest because they didn't even try
to, you know, for me bring jobs to the communities, build homes in
the communities, affordable homes, you didn't see these kind of
things. They built a lot of public housing, you know. They built
some subsidized housing. Ah they patched up old schools but there
was nothing in the neighborhood that would really want people to
invest in their own community so it, to me it just took over a very
transient kind of flavor. People stayed there until they could do
better and they moved on and what you got left now, for me, for the
most part is just people that ah due to circumstances this is where
they are because they can't do any better for the most part. It's
nothing where people...I don't say it's too much where people want
to be there, you know because there is nothing in the neighborhood.
It's very blighted.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay. The next set of questions will be
regarding 1-95. When and how did you first hear about the building'
(Mr. McKenny): I learned about it I guess because I grew up
in Overtown and we knew that this expressway was going to come
through. I never thought that it would be such a ah massive ah
undertaking personally. I didn't think that it was going to really
uproot an entire community but if you know, in reflection now,
take...looking back at other cities that have had "Urban Renewal"
take place, I now consider that to be urban removal because what it
does is just remove people out of a neighborhood which for the most
part never come back and the people that are remaining are the
people that just are stuck there; but again I learned about it, I
guess I was in my early teens when I was in junior high school is
when this ah whole piece about the expressway coming through but I
never thought that it would be such a massive undertaking. I just
though it was something that was going to built over our
neighborhood, when you look up at it, you'd see cars go thorough
and it was going to work it's way around it. I didn't know it was
just going to dig through the neighborhood and remove people so
that's why I call that urban removal, umm hum.
(Ms. Wanza): And how did you hear about it?
(Mr. McKenny): Well I was a kid then so I use to hear my mom
and adult people talking about it because, you know, from, from
that. I never read it because at that, that time I wasn't avid
newspaper reader or whatever and ah, you know, you would hear
teachers talking about it in school because a lot of them affected
and you heard adult people, you know, talking about it but I didn'tn-
never know that it would take on the ramifications that it did?
(Ms. Wanza): Okay and where were you living at that time? On
Tenth Street or Sixth...
(Mr. McKenny): Yes, yes.
(Ms. Wanza): On Tenth Street.
(Mr. McKenny): Yes.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay and you ah rented the place or rather your
parents rented the place, rented?
(Mr. McKenny): Yes, it was a rental, rental apartment.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay. What kind of a reaction was there to the
news that an expressway would come through Overtown?
(Mr. McKenny): A lot of people were ah...I don't know, I
guess there were mixed emotions. I don't think a lot of people
knew ah the extent that it would affect on Overtown. People that
owned property were either for it or against it. A lot of people,
you know they had property that had been passed on to them and it
had sentimental value as opposed to a lot of monetary value. They
chose to must remain there. Other people had to move because of
"eminent domain" and ah they were displaced and ah other people
like in my neighborhood, it didn't directly affect physically my
neighborhood because it was west, it was blocks west of where I
lived but in the area where it was built and I had a lot of friends
that lived, what I called across Third and Fourth Avenue, all of
these people had to pretty much move out but it didn't affect my
neighborhood because I lived near the railroad tracks, umm hum.
(Ms. Wanza): Did you discuss it with any of your neighbors or-
with your friends, I-95?
(Mr. McKenny): I don't, I don't really say discuss it because
when this was taking place I was in my early teens. I'm going to
be honest with you, it wasn't a priority with me. I could
personally care less because I didn't understand the ramifications
of it then but now reflecting back I guess it did have an affect
because a lot of my friends moved, a lot of businesses we
frequented, they relocated due to the ah, due the building of the
expressway and what have you and the displacement of their
businesses and homes, so yes, it affected me but I didn't...being
young, I guess being in another whole other mind sit, I didn't
really think about it on a day-to-day basis. I saw it happening
but again it was just like a big project that was taking place and
whatever, that didn't really click with me at that time for lack of
a better term.
(Ms. Wanza): Do you recall anyone attending any meetings
where it was discussed or sign a petition or discussing it with
any public officials?
(Mr. McKenny): No. I don't recall. It may have taken place
but I don't recall.
(Ms. Wanza): What was it like when the expressway was being
(Mr. McKenny): Well, it, it displaced people and for me going
to school everyday, we had a...just about every week you had to
take a different route, I use to could be able to walk, Booker T.
Washington was like on Sixth Avenue and Twelfth Street, and Twelfth-
Street was a main artery and you could walk from where I lived and
go straight down Twelfth Street all the way from Third Avenue
straight up to Sixth Avenue to Booker T. but when the expressway
was being built, you had these canals where they were digging. You
know anywhere you dig in Florida, you are going to hit water so
look like everyday we had to take a different path of which way we
go to school, we weren't bused, we had to walk to school, so you
know, my mama would always tell me, y'all be careful don't go round
them construction sites and stuff and whatever because they
wouldn't have no signs up and you literally had to say we can't go
round this way, you know and the fun part about though, some of
this stuff, we use to jump in the little holes and all of this kind
of a thing, you know how boys are. We use to do this kind of a
thing, it's kind of like adventurous, it's lot...was like a little
safari kind of thing but everyday you had to take a different route
going and coming to school because of the building of the actual
(Ms. Wanza): What did the community get from public officials
in return for 1-95 going through Overtown?
(Mr. McKenny): The public?
(Ms. Wanza): Well, what was the Overtown community able to
get from public officials?
(Mr. McKenny): A lot of promises, broken.
(Ms. Wanza): Broken promises.
(Mr. McKenny): Umm hum.
(Ms. Wanza): How did 1-95 affect the community?
(Mr. McKenny): How did 1-95 affect the community?
(Mr. McKenny): I, I think that ah what people saw as being
progress didn't really benefit the residents of Overtown,
financially in any means for the most part. Again, like I said,
some people sold their properties by choice but they only got the
value of the actual ah, ah, pretty much just the value of the
actual ah house as opposed to value of the property. I think it
was that the property was more value than the houses that they sat
on and what have you and for the most part, I think they were
ripped off because I think ah, you know in hind site, that the
powers that be, they knew that this was ah premium property, you
know, near...anytime you got property located near a major downtown
area and then you got property that located near the bay, that's,
that's prime property and these people didn't know the value of
their property so I think that they got ripped financially and then
the other ones because of eminent domain, they didn't have a choice
so I think it was a loss, that's my personal opinion.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay. The next set of questions will be
regarding umm one 395 and 836. When and how did you first hear
about the building of 395 and 836?
(Mr. McKenny): Okay, ah...
(Ms. Wanza): That's the expressway going to...
(Mr. McKenny): ...going to Miami Beach.
(Ms. Wanza): ...Miami Beach.
(Mr. McKenny): Okay that pretty much ah connects with 1-95
and ah, and a lot ah, a lot of people that-were affect by the"
building of 1-95 which is pretty much more going north and south
but like to my record...recollection, the 395 goes east and west to
Miami Beach, a lot of people that lived in the parameter of my
neighborhood, they were affected by that because it starts in that
area so again they were displaced and the 836, I don't, I don't
recall too much personally about the 836 because that extends west
of 1-95, you know the connection for that so I didn't know too many
people that lived that part of ah, across that part of ah 1-95. I
didn't know any people personally that lived over there so I don't
know but I do know about the people that lived with the ah, ah 395
piece, that connecting piece, they were affected just like we were,
just a lot of people were displaced.
(Ms. Wanza): Where were you living at the time?
(Mr. McKenny): Tenth Street.
(Ms. Wanza): Tenth Street?
(Mr. McKenny): Umm hum.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, umm what was the community able to get
from public officials in return for ah these expressways running
(Mr. McKenny): To my knowledge, not much, guess again, I can
say I guess just broken promises.
(Ms. Wanza): What was it like when the expressway was being
(Mr. McKenny): Pretty much most of ah my answers to that,
those questions would pretty much ah...
(Ms. Wanza): Is the same. "
(Mr. McKenny): Umm hum would be pretty much ah echo my, my
sentiments from earlier questions, pretty much echo that.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, alright, umm and a meeting wasn't...you
weren't knowledgeable about any meetings or anything like that?
(Mr. McKenny): No, I was not.
(Ms. Wanza): Alright, the next set of questions are regarding
public housing. When and how did you first hear about the building
of public housing?
(Mr. McKenny): Well, they didn't have a lot of...when I was
growing up there was not a lot of public housing, I think the
public housing in Overtown came after 1-95 which it did. There was
no public housing in Overtown.
(Ms. Wanza): So basically it was in the, in the '70s?
(Mr. McKenny): I would say it was in the 1970s and beyond so
when I was growing up there was no public housing, to my knowledge
there was no public housing.
(Ms. Wanza): How did public housing affected Overtown?
(Mr. McKenny): I, I don't know I think for some people ah it
allowed them ah rea...more reasonable rents, ah subsidized rents
and what have you. Some people, you know, were able to move into
larger, you know, larger residences because it gave them a little
more space but then again, you know, for me, the only piece about
that, you don't have anything vested into it. It's still paying
rent, you don't have no ah...you don't even have any penance of
ever owning this so for me it's just another form of rents, you
know on the most part.
(Ms. Wanza): What was the community able to get from public
officials in return for public housing going through Overtown?
(Mr. McKenny): Again, personally I wouldn't know, from what
I could see, not much.
(Ms. Wanza): Not much, okay.
(Mr. McKenny): Not much.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay. The next set of questions are regarding
the building of Metrorail. When and how did you first hear about
the building of Metrorail?
(Mr. McKenny): Okay, when the Metrorail was being built, I
didn't, I didn't, I no longer lived in Overtown. That was ah, if
I'm not...if I recall, that was in the 1980s and ah at that
particular time I was living in ah my own private home...my own
private residence which is located in, I don't know, should you say
West Little River and ah ironically, the ah Metrorail, I lived at,
at that time on Northwest Eighty-Second Street and Thirty-Fifth
Avenue. The Metrorail bordered Seventy-Ninth Street so I could
actually see the construction from that, from my backyard but it
did not affect my neighborhood at all, other than it kind of like
ran on the parameter of it.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay.
(Mr. McKenny): Umm hum.
(Ms. Wanza): In your, within your neighborhood, do you know
what kind of reaction there was to the news that Metrorail would be
(Mr. McKenny): It was ah...I no longer live there. My mom'
lives in that neighborhood, in fact, she lives in my house now but
ah there were mixed reactions because I think a lot of people
thought it was going to bring down their property values. Ah
basically I thought they felt that ah in addition to bringing down
their property values that you would bring in a transient kind of
population, you know catching these rails, a lot of vagrants, a lot
homeless, a lot of whatever kind of people and I did see that in
particular with ah, I was concurrent with that...
(Ms. Wanza): (coughing, sneezing)
(Mr. McKenny): ...bless you.
(Ms. Wanza): Excuse me (throat clearing).
(Mr. McKenny): ...almost concurrent with the building of the
Metrorail they, they brought in the flea markets because Northside
Shopping Center for whatever reason after the riots in the '80s...
(Ms. Wanza): (Laughter) Just stopped?
(Mr. McKenny): It kind of like...that shopping center took
over a different flavor as opposed to having, you know, major
stores in it like Sears and J. Byron's, it, which it did...they
relocated and then it took a flea market kind of flavor...
(Ms. Wanza): Jorge and Jerry's and all that kind of thing,
(Mr. McKenny): ...it took a flea market kind of flavor and ah
with that, you also had a ah, what do you call it ah, what do they
call this ah, ah labor pool. Where men would, for people and
primarily men would line up at night to try to be in this labor
pool in the morning, very early in the morning and mostly these"
were like homeless people and that took on a different flavor
because a lot of these people that were ah trying to get jobs
through the labor pool, they in turn start sleeping on the streets,
right around the parameters of the neighborhood so I think that
brought some ah element of ah fear in a lot of the neighbors who
wouldn't even want to walk because people use to walk and jog and
that kind of thing in the night and these people were panhandlers
and you know it just frightened lot of people every time you go to
a grocery store or the filling station somebody come up for you and
they want change or they wanted a cigarette or they wanted this or
they wanted that, you what have you, let me pump your gas so it
took on a different flavor and ah, I won't say a lot of people but
that particular community then was very visibly integrated because
it was originally a "White" neighborhood. I would say about 90%
of them moved out and mostly now is ah, in that particular
neighborhood is a mixture of ah Caribbean Blacks, African-American
Blacks ah and ah Hispanic people from wherever for the most part.
(Ms. Wanza): So you owned your home at time when you heard
(Mr. McKenny): Yes, umm hum.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, what was the community able to get from
public officials in return for Metrorail going through the
(Mr. McKenny): I ah...there, there were some meetings. I
recall having attended a couple meetings when they were ah pretty
much ah having hearings about that and they didn't really promise"
anything it was just that they were showing the positive of having
this Metrorail going through and I, you know, for my own reasons,
I said well there goes the community, this kind of thing but then
from a more...from another picture, I thought that mass transit was
very much need and if that was the mode that they had to go and if
that was the ah what "route" that they had to go, I said, well
some...there are people who will benefit from this, you know
whatever, so I wasn't, I wasn't really totally turned off about it
(Ms. Wanza): How did metrorail affect the community as a
whole. I mean in turns of your community and if you heard anything
about Overtown. I know you weren't living there at that time.
(Mr. McKenny): I think Metrorail was a farce in terms of
what, what people anticipated it would be. I call it a trip to
nowhere because for me, for most common people that need public
transportation, it doesn't connect them or get them where they need
to be, you know, it only kind of like gives them to a start, they
still got to catch another bus, maybe two, they've got to catch the
Tri-rail, they got to get some other mode of transportation. It's
trip to nowhere, it's, it's cute (laughter), you know, and stuff
and whatever, Oh, Miami is really there for me ah it doesn't
connect, to me, points where people need to be like out beyond the
airport, where all the industrial parks are, it doesn't connect
people "across the bay to Miami Beach, it doesn't go into "airport"
where people can go there for travel. Where I been to other
cities, you take Atlanta, you taking Washington, D.C. you get...
(Ms. Wanza): Washington, D.C. you can go anywhere you need to'
(Mr. McKenny): ...you go anywhere you need to be. You go to
Atlanta and catch MATA and you go into Atlanta...
(Ms. Wanza): ...and get there within 30 minutes, I don't care
you go, umm hum.
(Mr. McKenny): ...and MATA is the same thing from the airport
you go right into the heart of the city all in towards inter-city
Atlanta, same thing Washington, D.C., it's the same thing. Miami,
it's a trip to nowhere. You know, so I don't think that ah unless
they do some more linking with it but you know it's going to take
years if they ever do it. Now on the other hand for people that
live in the suburbs that don't that choose not to drive their cars,
you know, they park their luxury cars at these terminals and what
have you and then they get into it and they get off in downtown so
they save parking, they save travel time and what have you. I
think it was built for me with being more something ]i for people
in the suburbs to get them backwards and forth, to downtown and
back and points in between as opposed to "working class" people who
really need public transportation. When you can park your
Mercedes, your luxury car and what have you and then you catch
public transportation by choice, that's difference in someone that
have, doesn't have private transportation and doing this because of
need, so...I was very disappointed.
(Ms. Wanza): Alright the last set of questions are regarding
the future of Overtown. What do you think are the important
misconceptions about Overtown?
(Mr. McKenny): Well you know from ah my own respective, I
think Overtown will never be the community that it once was and
people think that based on just ah the residence that are there
now, it's a whole different mentality. I don't think that ah the
powers that be, you know, "government" that they ever intend for it
to be that. I see Overtown as being ah, ah building a bunch of
condo or businesses and what have you that the average "person"
working person cannot afford. I see them expanding ah the Arena
and all these kind of shops and stuff and what have you because
it's prime land, right located near downtown and the bay. You know
they built Bayside and you know whatever and I think, for me,
eventually they are going to displace most of the residents of
Overtown for the most part and they are going to make that ah, they
are going to make that just like ah private ownership, you know
probably build, like I say, condos and ah townhouses and things
that a lot of people cannot afford and the people that are there,
they are going to be displaced to move them further north or
whatever. Umm hum.
(Ms. Wanza): So what are the most important misconceptions
(Mr. McKenny): I don't think Overtown, itself is a lot of
misconceptions ah it, it just is a blighted community and I think
that the apathy that the ah powers that be took with it ah, right
now you are just seeing the results of it. You got a lot of, a lot
of, just a lot of nothing that's going on over there, you know a
lot of, a lot of really a...not just say poor but a lot of hopeless"
people, you know, just being poor is one thing but when you
hopeless, it's like a penney with a hole in it you know and ah I
don't think the community will ever the viability it once had,
(Ms. Wanza): What do you think public officials need to know
most about Overtown?
(Mr. McKenny): I think they know as much as they wan...care
to know. I think that ah they need to stop making promises, broken
promises to the residents and if they are going to do some things
just go on and do it, you know rather than talking about, making
campaign speeches and what have you during election time and what
have you, broken promises. If you are going do something fine but
other than that, I don't have too much confidence- in public
officials, I guess as you obviously, obviously can, can, can sense.
I don't have too much ah...but personally I don't have that much ah
confidence in public officials.
(Ms. Wanza): What should be done to improve the Overtown area
now such as transportation projects, attractions, job creation or
(Mr. McKenny): Beautification to me is, is, is not a high
priority because you can have beautiful community but if you don't
have working class people that someone invest into it, that's just
a facade, so I don't, I don't have too much of a priority with the
beautification piece. The biggest thing is the people need jobs
and then if they get jobs, they can choose to either move out of
that community or invest into it themselves through ownership anid-
what have you but if they don't have jobs and skills, they just
trapped and I think that what, to me, is the biggest problem, the
lack of jobs and the lack of skills.
(Ms. Wanza): What should be the relationship between Overtown
and Downtown Miami?
(Mr. McKenny): I think that the people there, the working
people, you know, they, they pay taxes like everything so I figure
they should have a voice, you know as city governments as they are
managed through the City of Miami and ah possibility I believe in
our reach. If a lot of the people don't come to "town hall meeting
or city counsel meetings" bring it to the community or least you
can ah take a grass roots approach and people can connect, you know
from a grassroots approach to be a voice in their own community but
when people have been promised so much and have received so little,
I don't think they have much confidence in that city government or
the powers that being or "working for them" so you create a lot of
apathy, that's my personal opinion.
(Ms. Wanza): So what, what should be the relationship
Overtown and downtown?
(Mr. McKenny): Okay, based on that scenario, it should be one
of a win, win situation, you know well like you need us because you
are politicians and we need you because you are the ones that are
brokers of services through us through the whole game of politics
so it should be a win, win situation but it's usually not. They
come in and they sell dreams and they get your votes and then you
got broken promises, it speaks, it sort of speaks for itself. '--
(Ms. Wanza): When you have visitors from out of town, where
do you take them to show them culture and history of Dade County's
(Mr. McKenny): Hump!, well for the most part what I do, I ah,
I don't believe in ah taking people into places where they are not
comfortable and most of my friends I ah, try to find out what
there, what there particular likes are. Most people come here to
see the beaches. I personally, because I grew in Miami, I could
care less about the beach to me is no big deal, you know
having...being a homeboy grew up through here, most people be it my
family members that grow here or grow up here or other Blacks that
I know they like to go to the beach. I take them to the beach,
either on Miami Beach, I may go to...I like to go over to
Hallandale Beach, points further north, oh Key Biscayne,
Rickenbacker Causeway, ah Crandon Park, I either, Virginia Beach,
the old Virginia Beach, they like the beach. I like to go down on
the Keys for the most part. For me, most inter-cities they all the
same so you know if you seen one, you've seen them all. They do,
most people say that Miami's inter-city is cleaner as opposed to
cities like New York, Philly, Chicago...
(Ms. Wanza): Chicago (laughter).
(Mr. McKenny): ...where you got just broken bottles, glass,
they do keep the ghettos here pretty clean, you know for the most
part. You see the people sweeping the streets with the vehicles,
5:00 o'clock in the morning and stuff and whatever. It's a cute
little ghetto, you know, and stuff and people like that, (imitating-
female voice) this don't really look like a ghetto, it's so
clean, you don't see piles of garbage stacked up." you know but
far as for entertainment, I pretty much, pretty much play it by
ear. There is not a whole lot as you know, places that are a sit
down kind of establishments in the Black community and I don't, I
don't by any means ah how do I say, ah try to disguise that. I
just let people know there are very few places, I say that, you
know, most of the businesses that we frequent that sit down do
(Ms. Wanza): ...exist anymore...
(Mr. McKenny): ...do not exist anymore and we just go, where
you can go.
(Ms. Wanza): We mostly go further north because that's where
a lot entertainment is going on.
(Mr. McKenny): Right and what have you, but ah like I say,
most, for the most part, most of them, they like to go to Bayside,
they like to go the malls, they like to go the beaches for the most
part I think and Miami has a lot of beautiful parks you know when
you like you have family reunions, you know like Oleta State Park,
that's nice, you got ah again Crandon Park with the beach and
stuff, you know you got a lot of nice parks and stuff here but as
far as for ah Black spots of entertainment...
(Ms. Wanza): ...and culture...
(Mr. McKenny): ...and cultural it's very limited, you know
it's very limited and I let people know it's just very limited.
(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum, okay. Could you describe in your own'
words what kind of community you would like Overtown to be in the
(Mr. McKenny): Well not be idealistic but real...being
realistic. I think that Overtown could be a viable community if,
in fact, again ah people had jobs, people had skills and people
want to "invest" in your community but when you don't have people
invested, for me, in their own community it doesn't grow. When
you've got people that ah, even with the terms of goods and
services that have no connection, no linkage to the community, they
make their money there and they move and they leave on, they take
their money with them and the community stagnates and see that's
what happening for me in Overtown so unless you've got some
invested interest you know as far it's residents and also for
people that do business, I don't see the community changing much.
It would just maybe change physically, like you say for
beautification and this kind of a thing, you know a whitewash
approach but superficial but for, for, a realistic thing you have
to got to have more of an investment in the community, you know,
and I think in turn that would attract people to move back, I would
move back to Overtown for whatever because I think it's a nice area
and if you had things that were amenable to me but when you got to
go out of your community for everything, really, why be there? You
want to have some things that are amenable to you right in walking
distance or a short driving distance. There is not even a grocery
store that nobody can really walk to. There is not much right
there in... -
(Ms. Wanza): They have one down there but, I mean if you
live, like way, way...
(Mr. McKenny): Yeah, they got one, I know about that...I know
about the store that's Overtown but for the most part, you know a
lot of people they just get rides and they go out of the community
and they go to Winn Dixie where it's cheaper or whatever and what
have you, you know that kind of ah mentality, umm hum.
(Ms. Wanza): Yeah, umm hum, yeah I understand. Okay well
that umm ends our interview, thank you so much and umm is there
anything else you would like to add?
(Mr. McKenny): No but I just hope that ah at least my ah
responses will in turn at least be addressed, would even be
considered and ah if nothing else it would be ah, ah, how would I
say, raise somebody else's conscientiousness about Miami and
Overtown and thank you for having me as your guess.
(Ms. Wanza): Okay, this is Stephanie Wanza, I'm ending the
interview with Mr. Edward McKenny. This is Side #2 of Tape #1.