Interview with Bill Sawyer, August 25, 1997

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Interview with Bill Sawyer, August 25, 1997
Sawyer, Bill ( 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 25, 1997

(Ms. Stephanie Wanza): This is Stephanie Wanza, I am at the

home of Mr. Bill and Bernice Sawyer and I am going to be

interviewing Mr. Bill Sawyer. Today's date is August 25, 1997.

The first set of questions regarding family life. Okay Mr.

Sawyer, where were your parents born?

(Mr. Bill Sawyer): Ah, my ah brother was born in South


(Ms. Wanza): Where was your father born?

(Mr. Sawyer): (Laughter) Now, I'm going to tell you

something, ah, and I'm not trying to be sporty about this thing.

I can remember very well when I was a little boy, people use to

come in the know he was a doctor, people use to come

in the office, Dr. Sawyer, they all could holler Dr. Sawyer, they

were from ah different places, they were and he would, to

everything he would say, yes, that's right so ah he called me in

the office one day and he say Bill, I know wondering where I'm from

and where you're from but it's not important where you come from

but it's very important where you are going. He never told me but

I think, here lately after all these many years now, some of my

people who are suppose to be relatives of mine come by and say this

and they were the other so I just accepted.

(Airplane noise)

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, go ahead

(Mr. Sawyer): Will I have to say what I said all over again?

(Ms. Wanza): No.

(Mr. Sawyer): I had different ones to tell me...did you get

what daddy told me that ah it's not important where you come from

but it's very important where you are going and he just left it off

at that but a lot of relatives that I have met here lately came

over from different places and say they were my cousins came from

Waldorf, Florida, that little town, I've never been there.

(Ms. Wanza): Did your parents ever live in Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh yeah, we all lived right here. No place but

right here.

(Ms. Wanza): What years did they live in Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): I was born in 1918, they say ah...and I, well

my parents, now he, he does...from Overtown from 19...1896 I think

it was. 1896 and then he opened up his office around 1905 or 1906,

something like that.

(Ms. Wanza): So how long did he stay in Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): All that time what I just told you from 1896 I

think he opened his office up from about 1907.

(Ms. Wanza): And so you said he stayed in Overtown until


(Mr. Sawyer): No ma'am. I said 1896, I think he moved from

what place I don't know but here lately, this is about 80 years

later, I've had different ones from Waldorf, Florida saying that

they come, they were my cousins or something but I just accepted.

(Ms. Wanza): Now how long did he stay in Overtown, from 1896

until what year?

(Mr. Sawyer): He died in 1950 I think it was.


(Ms. Wanza): So he was there from 1896 to 1950?

(Mr. Sawyer): I think it was 1950. Bernice?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Hun?

(Mr. Sawyer): That was 1950 when daddy died wasn't it?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Yes, August 1950.

(Mr. Sawyer): 1950 in August.

(Ms. Wanza): And your mom stayed here, with him, in Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): Umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): And did she also move here in 1896?

(Mr. Sawyer): I don't think she moved here in 1896. It was

ah just a little later but around 1908 or 1910, about that time.

(Ms. Wanza): Between 1908 and 1910 when she came?

(Mr. Sawyer): Yes Ma'am.

(Ms. Wanza): And then when she, umm she stayed here in


(Mr. Sawyer): The rest of years.

(Ms. Wanza): The rest of the years and when...and when did


(Mr. Sawyer): Die?

(Ms. Wanza): Die.

(Mr. Sawyer): Bernice what year was that, that mama died?

(Mrs. Sawyer): 1979.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay so she was here too from about 1908, 1910

until about 1979.

(Mr. Sawyer): Well I think daddy here in


1908 or something and would commute back and forth...

(Ms. Wanza): In 18...?

(Mr. Sawyer): 1908.

(Ms. Wanza): 19, 1908, okay.

(Mr. Sawyer): Yes Ma'am.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, I see, what sort of jobs did they have?

(Mr. Sawyer): Dad was always a doctor, that's all I knew.

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum, okay and what, what kind of job did

your mom have?

(Mr. Sawyer): I don't, I don't remember her working.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Your mother was a homemaker.

(Ms. Wanza): So she had a ah...

(Mr. Sawyer): Are you saying something?

(Mrs. Sawyers): Are you saying your mother was a homemaker and

a business woman.

(Mr. Sawyer): A what?

(Mrs. Sawyer): A business woman because she took care of the

hotel business.

(Mr. Sawyer): Well you, you can say that, that she was a

business woman.

(Ms. Wanza): So she was a housewife?

(Mr. Sawyer): That's right.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay and Mrs. Sawyer said that she also took

care of the hotel, so she was somewhat of a manager in the hotel?

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah, because when the hotel was built we

stayed there and ah so we had to run it, she took that over herself


because daddy was busy with his profession, you know. You

understand what I'm talking about?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum. Where were your grandparents born?

(Mr. Sawyer): (Laughter). I'm going to tell you a story

about that too. My grandparents were in ah South Carolina. They

were slaves and later in life, ah move out to Palm Beach when

slavery was over with and ah, my mother, mother's had a car. See,

she stayed right on Rosemary in ah Palm Beach and that's who I use

to stay with in Palm Beach all the time.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so did your grandparents ever live in


(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah, when they met, one day they went down

there and got married. Right down here is where they stayed.

(Ms. Wanza): So your grandparents got married in Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): I don't know where they got married?

(Ms. Wanza): But they did live in Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah, yes ma'am. That's where they always


(Ms. Wanza): Do you know what years they lived in Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): Had to have been about 19...

(Ms. Wanza): Now these are your grandparents now.

(Mr. Sawyer): No, I thought you asked me about my parents.

(Ms. Wanza): Yes, I'm asking you about your grandparents now.

(Mr. Sawyer): But my grandparents they didn't live in

Overtown, they lived, they lived in Palm Beach.

(Ms. Wanza): In Palm Beach, so they never lived in Overtown?


(Mr. Sawyer): No ma'am.

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

have in Palm Beach?

(Mr. Sawyer): Washing and ironing all their life. See my

grandparents, they were slaves and this is when I...this is going

to be amusing to you. Later in life, I, I use to when Grandma,

Cobb, that's my mother's mother. Now she use to go back up to ah,

to ah South Carolina all the time to visit her slave masters, you

know, who she was a slave for and she use to take me up there all

time and I use to be out in the fields there where she was a slave

and all that sort of thing and I'd be a little boy running around

that field all the time but...and she, she would travel back up

there all the time and she would take me with her to and we train we went and we would get off at...was it

Charleston, South Carolina? One of those places near there.

(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe what it was like growing up

in your parents' household?

(Mr. Sawyer): You mean in my grandparents because I stayed

with my grandparents.

(Ms. Wanza): You stayed with your grandparents? Okay.

(Mr. Sawyer): You know, I was...between the two of them


(Ms. Wanza): Okay so what was it like growing up in, in your

parents' and in the grandparents' household?

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh, it was very nice. I, I, enjoyed it see my

grandparents, they both lived in Palm Beach and I use to live in


Palm Beach all the time.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay so what was it like...when growing up?

(Mr. Sawyer): It was nice ah, it was very nice. I enjoyed

because as a matter of fact I was born in Palm Beach I think, they

told me, at my grandparents, my mother's mother's

home...that's...and then my father's mother, Grandma Colt, ah

that's where she lived and she...her daddy helped her get a home

later in life because both parents, both grandparents like that,

where they stayed continued to wash and iron all their life, you

know for a living, I can, I can. I know that for a fact because I

use to be out in the field washing...and helping them wash and

iron, doing something so I can recall that very well. That was in

Palm Beach though. See it's not much difference between Palm Beach

and Miami. They use to go, up until the time, the day that they

both died, they communicated between Palm Beach and Miami all their

lives. As a matter of fact daddy use to go up there about 3 or 4

times a week...3 or 4 or 5 times a week, you know, his mother and

his sister was there and ah he would take me and on one trip coming

back, we had a terrible...he had a terrible accident and that's why

I'm blind, one of the reasons why I think I'm blind today, and he

had a terrible accident on the highway. Ah a car ran into him and

it tore up the car and I can remember that so well. My cousins

and, and my daddy and mother were right in the front seat, me and

my sister and brother and somebody else, a cousin or something and

it tore up the car all over and then I was in the back, the car was

upside down and I happen to look down and ah I didn't see anything


but red and I say, I wonder, somebody has been cut, I wonder whose

been cut because I didn't see no white spots on my...on you know

you have your little shirts on, it was all red and I, daddy, he

always took his medical case everywhere so he saw me. So that was

the first thing he did out there on the highway. They pulled me

out the car and daddy went to work on me, right out there. I think

that's really what saved my life and he sewed the...see this whole

thing was knocked in, it was right near the... it was a very

important thing he told me and what not but ah and it...these

people, our daddy, you know he always carried his medical bag with

him and that was good because he operated on me right on the

highway and some ah...while I was lying out there some people came

by and ah they had asked daddy, they were White people, they said,

Dr. Sawyer, can we be of any service to you? So he said, you take

my son into my office, in Miami and let them put him in the office,

stay there until I get there so that's

didn't do anything because this whole thing was smashed in and what

not so I think it affected know my eyes and stuff like

that but I was lucky because I'm still living and my mother and my

sister...I had two sisters and my brother, they were saved too.

(Ms. Wanza): Could you describe the jobs you had from 1945 to


(Mr. Sawyer): I always worked for myself. Now I went to Fisk

and I graduated from Fisk in ah 1939 but I think over 60

years ago and I celebrated my 50th class reunion already so it's

just about one or two more years I'll be going back up to Fisk to


celebrate my 60th reunion, that's in the next year or so. So,

that's what happened.

(Ms. Wanza): So you said you work for yourself, what, what

type of work?

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh, yes, that's where I was. Well, during the

second, during ah, during one of those wars, the second. When was

that second world war?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm, forty...oh to forty-eight.

(Mr. Sawyer): Forty-four.

(Ms. Wanza): To forty-eight I think, forty-four to forty-

eight, forty-nine.

(Mr. Sawyer): Something like that. Well, I was working for

daddy. I worked at the hotel and then I worked...ah helped him in

his office. Ah did I tell you what he told me when people would

come in the office and say Dr. Sawyer, umm please Dr. Sawyer and ah

from this place to the next place and he would always acknowledge

that. I told you that he called me and told me that Bill, I know

you are wondering where you come from because you hear then from

this place, I'm from the next place and I always acknowledge that.

Did I tell you about that?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm, hum.

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh, well I shouldn't repeat myself then. Ah

but he...I told you he also told me this, that ah, Bill I know

wondering where you come from or where, where you was born or where

you come from and he, he never told me himself. He told me it's

not important where you come from Bill, but it's very important


where you are going so I always lived by that.

(Ms. Wanza): Let's see, so you worked for your dad, after you

came from school?

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh, let me finish now and you will know. I

worked for daddy and mama, you know. Daddy had built a hotel and

ah so he ah, when he built the hotel and what not he had to have

somebody help him with the office and the upstairs in the hotel and

all that and that was my job. I did all that but during that time,

you wouldn't know about it but you can ask your mother and

grandmother. Miami use to be flood with immigrants coming over

here, people from all over the world. Like from ah"'all of South

America and North America. People use to migrate to Miami and ah

I use to...I was working for the government because all those

people that was coming over here during the war and what not ah,

they were admitted to America and, and all of that especially was

right here in the Miami area. Everybody came to. I want to tell

you this and you are going to smile. I always...I was telling

Bernice no longer than the other day, I can remember when, when ah

Miami almost first started, almost had nothing in it and ah, when

these people all began to migrate to Miami, just...they just came

over in loads. Ah, I ah, I use to find room and, and provide

places to stay for the people that was coming there because they

were Colored you know, and, and you use to see that they got their

food and what not so that was a job that was created for me

to...the government had me to that. So all day long, all night you

would see me walking up and down the streets with crowds of people


lined up behind me. I was finding places and placing them in

different places between you and I that's how I made so much money

and ah the White people were so prejudiced umm and what not, they

didn't want...they just wanted the people to come over and work and

that's what they did. They worked in those fields and what not and

I had provided places all over...different places in Miami for them

to live and also for them to eat and so that's how I worked all day

and all night trying to take care of these people that was coming

over here and ah.

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum. So the government paid you to find


(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah. Now let me tell you this and you're

going to laugh at this. Ah, I could recognize...see that had

happened after I had finished Fisk, you know. I was doing that and

that was a job that was created for me and I think it came out

better than ah, than ah going into profession because I was, I was

going into ah medicine. I don't think I would have made that much

money ever umm going into medicine then. So and the White people,

between you and I, they, they have always didn't want nothing to do

with Negroes. So all these Negroes is coming in from Jamaica, from

Nassau and different places in South America. I had to house them

and that's how they use to come in and ah when ah, let me see what

I'm trying to say now. When I was doing all that ah they would

tell me, they wanted to know how much, how, what was my wage going

to be, but we worked, we worked out some kind of way but ah and how

much this food-, and much was this, how much was the other. I had


enough sense that they gonna treat me like that, I made up my

prices for doing this, for years I did this for immigration over

here in America and ah, but like I told them this bill comes to

$400 or $500, ah $600, well only half of that went to the

government and the other half came to me because they wasn't hardly

giving me anything. You know how they treated Colored. No, you

don't know but you heard of it. So this went on for several years

and ah I was able to do well like that. You know who and I were

very close friends? Who lived here with me? Castro. You know the

man that's head of Cuba?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.

(Mr. Sawyer): He lived right down there on Seventh Street

where I had...where, where I, you know had my places.

(Ms. Wanza): And what was he like? What type of person was


(Mr. Sawyer): Well he and I got alone good. We played

baseball and everything together. As a matter of fact, I didn't

think he was going to turn out like this. Ah, I told Bernice, ah

many years ago, I says, Bernice, ah, Castro is, is going to...I'm

to get him a university to go to, you know he was smart. He was

going to the University, the one that's in, not Tallahassee, where,

where is that other university, White university.

(Ms. Wanza): University of Miami?

(Mr. Sawyer): Not Miami, it was up the road a little bit.

(Ms. Wanza): Florida State?

(Mr. Sawyer): Hun. Bernice?


(Ms. Wanza): Florida State?

(Mr. Sawyer): Must be one of those places because I told, I

told Bernice, I said Bernice, Castro has ah got to go home and he's

going to come back and he's going to the University of Florida,

wherever it was and ah, so Bernice, Bernice said yeah. I

said...she said yeah? I said, ah, I want to see how he's going to

make out when he come back but when he left to go he went to Cuba,

went back to Cuba, he didn't come back, he started this foolishness

that know that he wanted the Cubans and all to run their

own county and that's what happened and ah so but ah...that's just

something, you would hear so we have remembrance. We have been

friends down through the years. See in the hotel that daddy built,

there was a, there was a barber shop that was run by Cubans and

all, Castro use to be there all the time. All the Cubans use to

be around there. That was right there on Second Avenue and Seventh

Street and ah we got to know one another so good, he had a

beautiful sister, she...I think she might still be here...she and

Castro didn't see eye to eye so he went his way, he and his brother

went his way. I think she stayed here in Miami.

(Ms. Wanza): Who, now his sister?

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah.

(Ms. Wanza): Un hun.

(Mr. Sawyer): I think she still, she might be still living,

I don't know but she was a beautiful girl but Castro stayed down

there where I was.

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum. Okay, basically umm when you finished


Fisk you worked for government and found housing for the immigrants

coming in?

(Mr. Sawyer): Yes, your parents would know but immigrants use

to come into Miami by the, by the thousands all the time and for

some reason ah, they didn't have enough work in the fields to

develop our, our ah...what am I trying to say...things for

developing thing, you know what I'm talking about? Out in growing

up things in developing our fields and our, our everything and ah

so that's what happened.

(Mr. Sawyer): The regular working hours and then on.

(Ms. Wanza): When from 9 to 5?

(Mr. Sawyer): No, we worked, I think, I don't think it was 8

or 8:30, something like that to school and then after

school ah you'd work like, you know some days I'd have to stay to

work on the newspaper, my students helped.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so what years did you have that job?

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh, this is what I wanted to say. (SILENCE) I

finished Fisk in '39, '40.

(Ms. Wanza): And what was the title of that job, was it...?

(Mr. Sawyer): Just taking care of the...I don't know, I don't

remember no title, just taking of immigrants that came to Miami.

(Ms. Wanza): So the government employed you to do right?

(Mr. Sawyer): That's right.

(Ms. Wanza): Was this the federal government, the city?

(Mr. Sawyer): Okay so you worked for the federal government


for how many years?

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh it must have been 4 or 5 years.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay and what years were those do you remember?

(Mr. Sawyer): I can't, I finished Fisk in '39 or '40. When

was that second world war...about?

(Ms. Wanza): I think between '44 or '45, I'm sorry '44 and

'48, '49.

(Mrs. Sawyer): that. I didn't...I see

people this day, now and this was way before I ever knew Bernice

that say, Bill I knew you many years ago when I use to see you

walking up and down the street, back to the hotel and bring so many

people. I'd say, yeah, that was my job to take care of them and

that they were...had a place to stay and what not. See they were

put out on these field tours, to take care of these field something

ah that we didn't have the people to do it and ah, I was just, I

was just telling Bernice just the other day, I says Bernice, you

know I can remember Miami when it was nothing. Now Miami is about

the fourth or fifth biggest city in America? Did you know that?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.

(Mr. Sawyer): I was so surprised about that. I mean it's

cities that bigger than Miami now, it's New York, Chicago, I think

it's Philadelphia, maybe one more and maybe not than Miami. I

never thought I would live this long to see Miami come back and

develop like this.

(Ms. Wanza): So you had the job with the federal government

for about 4 or 5 years and then what did you do after that? So


that was probably from what, after the war? That was in the '40s?

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah, in the '40.

(Ms. Wanza): So that was from like '44, '45 to '48 or '49?

(Mr. Sawyer): Nine...yeah.

(Ms. Wanza): And then after that, what I did? Ah daddy had

built a hotel and then I built two more extensions to it. One on

Second Avenue and then One on Seventh Street and, and I put an

elevator into it and that was the first time umm a Colored place

had an elevator (laughter) and I was so proud of that and ah, those

two new buildings was beautiful. I made a lot of money. I spent

it all, you know, adding it to the hotel and that's about it all my

life until the government about 10 years ago and started replacing,

you know doing, doing ah developments here, down this way, well you

know about that, your parents will know about it, and Negroes had

to, had to leave this area.

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum. Where did the other members of your

family work? ,

(Mr. Sawyer): Well, my ah brother, my oldest sister, name was Mary

Elizabeth, that's who the hotel was named after. The hotel was

named the Mary Elizabeth Hotel. Somebody probably told you

but...what was I saying now, my mind is bad?

(Ms. Wanza): Where did the other members of your family work,

you were saying your oldest sister?

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh, my oldest sister died, Mary Elizabeth and

another sister got killed, I think they

probably, your parents probably know about this. Ah, one day


somebody called me about 2:00 in the morning. You know she was the

first Colored lady to have a government job here in Florida. She

was ah...Bernice, Bernice? Well she was, she was...what do you

call those things when you working...her office was up in

Tallahassee, where was that Tallahassee or wherever you want to

call it. She was working for the ah city you know but she was very

outspoken all the time because umm I guess she thought she could

get away with it and...but ah, so one morning about 2:00 in the

morning, ah it was in February too. Ah somebody called me and

said, Bill I want you to know we found your sister dead on the side

of the, of the mountainside in ah Tallahassee on the out, out, on

the outer parts of, of Tallahassee that's where you know your

legislation is for the state and I says, I said to Bernice, they

said Sister is dead, they found her on the side of a mountain,

dead. I said, now if that is the truth, I hope it's not the truth

but if it is the truth I hope she died right away because she would

have frozen to death on the mountainside early in the morning, it

was in February. You know how cold it can get up there in

Tallahassee or anywhere in February and so I hope, no body is

teasing, later on about 7:00 or 8:00 the polices came to me,

he said, Bill we want to see you downstairs into the office, says

we were told you had your sister killed and you was involved in

that and your sister was killed two or three hours ago, you know.

I says, I haven't been out of Miami at all, tonight or in the

morning. I've been right here. I bet your parents know about it,

you ask them about it sometime, hear?


(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.

(Mr. Sawyer): Did you ever hear about that?

(Ms. Wanza): No, what was her name.

(Mr. Sawyer): She was ah...Gwendolyn Sawyer.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay.

(Mr. Sawyer): Was on the mountainside that day. That was

many years ago and I remember. You know how people, when you seen

first typing, when people first start to type this thing of White

people...ah Colored people being treated any kind of way and you

had certain people that spoke out about it, and that's the way she

was. I think they had her killed. Then they want...they claimed

they never found out who did it though. Bernice? Where is going?

My mind is getting bad. I'm getting way up in age now, I'm

forgetting things so badly.

(Ms. Wanza): I'm going on to the next question. Beginning in

the late '50s many immigrants moved to Miami from the Caribbean

including Cuba, Haiti and other countries. Do those immigrants

competed with Overtown residents for jobs?

(Mr. Sawyer): All countries, everything came to Miami. Oh

yeah, ah, ah see a lot of the jobs was done right out there in

those fields to, you know, growing up, what am I trying to say,

well you know what I'm trying to say, developing all on the

outskirts of Miami and everything. Oh I told you Castro stayed

here didn't I?. He and I grew up together.

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum. Do you recall people moving into...ah

well let me ask you before I ask that question so did the


immigrants compete with the Overtown residents for jobs?

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh yeah.

(Ms. Wanza): They did?

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh yeah, they had done it but most of those

jobs is memory just be formed, you know, ah most of those

jobs were way out the fields, you know, working on those fields and

things like that.

(Ms. Wanza): Do you recall people moving into ah...out of

town into Overtown from out of town, within the country within the

United States?

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh yeah. Ah, Miami became very popular umm

later on in life and, and at one time it was so popular, all your

big games, all your big night clubs and everything was right here

in Miami, you know, and you ask your parents about this. I can

remember ah, people...I was the only one that a, I was the only

able to get a license that...a night club license that allowed me,

allowed me to.stay open 'til 5:00 or 6:00 in the morning, now most

of your night clubs, all of your night clubs had to closed down at

around 12:00 or 1:00 o'clock in the morning. Night clubs on the

Beach and everywhere and I was the only one that had a club that

could... that never closed and, and, and the night clubs that had

to close over on the Beach and downtown, they all had to come to my

place. Now your parents, your grandparents, they should know all

those things because I was the only one that had a club all night

long and all day long we would be jamming and, and what was so

funny, after 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning when those clubs on the


Beach and downtown was closed, my club was packed jammed and guess

who they were packed jam with? Nothing but White people and then

after, and then...and we never had no bad things to happen and

White and Colored would be in there all night long and all day long

and so I was just very fortunate.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, do you know where the people who moved in

from out of town were from, where they from different states,

different cities?

(Mr. Sawyer): There weren't too much different states and

things like that but it was a lot of foreign people.

(Ms. Wanza): No the people from umm within the United States

who moved into Overtown, what cities...?

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh, yeah. Now, now let me tell you this and

you'll see how it was. You see right in here where we are not on

Second Avenue and what not? Well, what was I going to say?

Overtown was built right around, right around this area and all and

with those clubs and all it really hooked it up real nice and ah,

and what I, what I did was this, I, I redeveloped it and had all

the foreign people and this was able to do pretty good especially

with those clubs going on like that.

(Ms. Wanza): So the people who were already in the United

States who, who just were living in different cities where were,

what cities...and came down to Overtown, what cities were they


(Mr. Sawyer): Mostly from the big cities like New York, like

New York and Chicago and those places. As a matter of fact, all


the big fights use to be held here in ah, in ah Miami in the Arena

you know.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Come and eat.

(Ms. Wanza): We were on the question, what sort of jobs did

the umm people who came down to Miami from out town, from different

towns within the United States, what jobs, what sort jobs did they


(Mr. Sawyer): Most type of jobs they had was mostly working

in the different hotels that go from Miami and Miami Beach and ah

that was, that was about the main job that they had down here.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, the next set of questions are regarding

the interviewee owning a business. What kind of business did you


(Mr. Sawyer): It was mostly, a lot of it was real estate

business, you know like, now all these things around here, see I

bought. See where we are now, where this ah, where this building

is now?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.

(Mr. Sawyer): I'm going to tell you something funny about

this. I had bought all this out and then when I moved on to

develop all this I ah didn't get no talk back from none of my

friends in Miami, they say they don't want to stay down here, ah we

got a chance to move out of places down here, we...they gone...they

all took places some place else. So I said, so when the city was

ah, was removing all the Colored people from this area and that

sort of things, I, the people would say, Bill aren't you going to


move from here? I said no, I'm not going to move from out of here.

I say, this is, home to me and they say, well they not going to

develop down here. I say, I say, I'm going to try to develop it

back in and that's what I have done, you see. Now when I first

built, now we are on our fourth building now. When I first started

building these buildings and what not and people say Bill you so

cheap, no Colored people don't want to stay down there in nothing

like that since ah, we all going north, you know, well you know

this for yourself, most of the Colored people that have anything,

they've gone elsewhere.

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

interview with Mr. Bill Sawyer on this side of the Tape. This is

Side #1 of Tape #1. Today's date is August 25, 1997.

(Mr. Sawyer): the Gables by the Sea, do you know where

that is? I say I lived here all my life I know where the Cables by

the Sea is, you know that's that very exclusive place on the water.

I said thank you but no thanks. I'm going back home and develop

this and that's, you know, that's what I'm trying to do now and,

and I'

(Ms. Wanza): This is Stephanie Wanza. I am here at the home

of Mr. Bill Sawyer. This is Side #2 of Tape #1 and we are

continuing on the set of questions regarding employment from 1945

to...No, I sorry. We are continuing on the questions regarding umm

owning a business within the Overtown area and we left off on the

question of what kind of business did you own and you said that you

owned a real estate business and you were explaining to me about


the different development of the different buildings.

(Mr. Sawyer): You saw the buildings, didn't you? Yeah, you

had to see them, you came up here and do you like them alright?

When I first built these buildings, I'm on the fourth building now,

I Colored people would come down here, they said, no we

don't want to stay down there at all so I went on and built them

and do you know who most of my clients were or are? White people,

they all are white and ah after that then Colored people began to

"come back so our first Colored ones to come here was ah, a few of

my classmates at Fisk University and ah you know I went to

Northwestern too, in Chicago, ah three or four doors from Chicago.

So after they, they saw that things was beginning to develop so

nicely now I'm getting applications from a lot of Colored people so

I, I have both Colored and White now. It's coming out nicely.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, let me see. Where was the business

located? So I know you say you owned different properties and

everything, you owned buildings but where were the two nightclubs

and the hotel, where was it located?

(Mr. Sawyer): Well the hotel,

(Ms. Wanza): The hotel is the Mary Elizabeth.

(Mr. Sawyer): The Mary Elizabeth, yes. That was on Seventh

(Ms. Wanza): And the umm two nightclubs.

(Mr. Sawyer): And then I...that, one of the clubs was right

there in the hotel. The hotel was big...

(Mrs. Sawyer): The Zebra Room and the Fiesta Room, Zebra Room

(Mr. Sawyer): What did she say? She calling the name of the


Fiesta Room and ah, and what was the name of the other one Bernice?

(Mrs. Sawyer): The Zebra Room and the Fiesta Room.

(Ms. Wanza): The Zebra Room and the Fiesta Room.

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah, there were two or three different clubs,

they were all in this hotel because this hotel took up a half a

block on ah...between Seventh and Sixth and another block between

Second and ah Third Avenue. You see that was real big, very big

and I...oh it was the first place that an elevator that ah an

elevator was put in a Colored hotel, the first time that an

elevator had been put there.

(Ms. Wanza): Who were your employees?

(Mr. Sawyer): Wait a minute and I want to tell you some of

the people I want to name and I...mostly your great, great

entertainers, you know entertainers use to come from umm...use to

all work on ah Miami Beach and downtown and they would come to my

club after they were closed and we would still, we would get going

good just about 1:00 in the morning or 2:00 in the morning. It was

many more Whites than there were Colored and, and ah nobody never

had no killing, nothing like that, everything went off nicely and

all those big shots like Joe Louis and Roy Campanella, you know Roy

Campanella, I guess you've heard of him any way but he was one of

the first Negro players in the big league and all those people use

to be down there and they just had a good time all night long,

never closed.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, let me see, umm so who were, who were your



(Mr. Sawyer): Oh, I don't think any of those people are

living now.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Sidney Melton, ah, what that's boy's name

Bill? That was the manager from Fisk?

(Mr. Sawyer): From Fisk?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Yeah.

(Mr. Sawyer): That was the manager of what?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Of the lounge,

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh, (laughter) let me see if I can't think umm,


(Mrs. Sawyer): Leonard, Charles,

(Mr. Sawyer): It'll, It'll come to me. It'll come to me

after while Bern...

(Mrs. Sawyer): Tommy, Fredericka...

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah but you can't think of...

(Ms. Wanza): Fredericka?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Helen...a guy named I don't know_

(Ms. Wanza): Fredericka, Leonard, Charles, Tommy, Helen...

(Mrs. Sawyer): There was a lot of them.

(Mr. Sawyer): What, what Bernice is talking about now is just

their first names. I can't remember all those last names.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so umm how did you find your employees?

(Mr. Sawyer): They would come and be asking, you know, for

a job.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Samuel Markum

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so basically they would come to you, you


.didn't do any advertisement?

Mr. Sawyer): I didn't have to.

(Ms. Wanza): Who were your customers?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Everybody

(Mr. Sawyer): Everybody. The Whites, Colored, everybody.

(Ms. Wanza): Whom did you consider your main competition in

terms of umm...

(Mrs. Sawyer): and his sister.

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah his sister, sister still living, now what

was your last question?

(Ms. Wanza): Who did you consider your main competition.

(Mr. Sawyer): In the, in the, in the club, we had a ah

dinning room and a restaurant so you had everything, you know.

What did you want to know?

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, umm who did you consider your main


(Mr. Sawyer): Oh, well we had somebody here that ah, I'm glad

I'm talking to you. You brought this up. There's a person here I

think people don't ever recognize him or anything like that but he

had one of the best clubs that was so well doing, doing that time,

down through the years, that's all you could hear was ah...Bernice,

who was that I was telling just...

(Mrs. Sawyer): Lockhart, weren't that man's name? Lockhart?

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah, Al Lockhart, yeah, people...just put Al

Lockhart was in charge of it. Well who I'm who I'm talking about

is umm...I'm trying to think, who is it I told you I was trying to


think...what's your name?

(Cs. Wanza): My name is Stephanie.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Charles.

(Mr. Sawyer): Miss Stephanie

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hun.

(Mr. Sawyer): ah what was I saying there? Just help me

remember these things.

(Ms. Wanza): You were telling me...

(Mrs. Sawyer): Boston, what was Boston's name?

(Mr. Sawyer): Bernice I can't remember all those last names

and what not. (Something wrong with tape recorder


(Ms. Wanza): Okay, okay, so...

(Mr. Sawyer): But, but, but me and that other named person...

(Ms. Wanza): You...

(Mr. Sawyer): Wait I want to say something to you. Ah, the

Rockland Palaoe wasn't it?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Yeah, Bill Rivers. everyday,


(Ms. Wanza): Bill Rivers?

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah I want to tell the young lady that..

(Ms. Wanza): Owned the Rockland Palace

(Mr. Sawyer): Bernice?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Hun?

(Mr. Sawyer): Something I'm telling you I use to tell, not

use to I tell you all the time...


(Mrs. Sawyer):

(Mr. Sawyer): Wait a minute Bernice.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Hun?

(Mr. Sawyer): Ah who was it that was with Bill Rivers that

people, they, they never talk about but Bill Rivers is one that

nobody never says anything about him.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Yeah, that's his name, Bill Rivers, that what

they call him but his real name is Daily.

(Mr. Sawyer): No Bill Rivers, that's what people know him by.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Bill Rivers

(Mr. Sawyer): ...but he had a club for a long, long time

before I ever showed up but he was so successful and everything...

(Mrs. Sawyer): He had some restaurants on Second Avenue, was


(Mr. Sawyer): But, but ah, people never say anything about

him and I tell Bernice, I say that's one person in Miami they

should talk about because he had a very successful club during his

time or even the school children that went to Booker Washington, or

when they had their little parties, they use to take it down to his

place, Bill Rivers. Somebody should say something about Bill

Rivers. Bernice?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Hun.

(Mr. Sawyer): I'm telling the young lady what I always told

you, that people should talk about Bill Rivers.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay so who did you consider your main



(Mr. Sawyer): It was Bill Rivers and the rest of them were

White. Bill Rivers was Colored though.

(Mrs. Sawyer): No, O'Dell.

(Mr. Sawyer): Jack O'Dell wasn't like Bill River's, Bernice.

(Mrs. Sawyer): No.

(Ms. Wanza): So were, were these umm people, I mean in terms

of competition, did they compete your business in terms of clubs?

(Mr. Sawyer): Clubs, yeah, in the terms of clubs yeah but

most of them the rest of them like the Sir John, that was a hotel,

you know that was owned by Whites and everything.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so Bill Rivers from the Rockland Plaza


(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah, he use to...just put down there he was a

Colored man.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, and someone else who owned another club?

(Mr. Sawyer): Umm...

(Ms. Wanza): Well basically, it was Bill Rivers, who, who was

your main competition.

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah, that's who it was.

(Ms. Wanza): Alright, umm did you ever change the location of

your business?

(Mr. Sawyer): No, no.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay and I know you lived at the hotel so you

were always close to the business right?

(Mr. Sawyer): (Laughter) I lived right there.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so umm...well that's about it for those


questions...for that set of questions.

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

neighborhood life between 1945 and 1970, can you describe your

place of residence?

(Mr. Sawyer): Could I do what?

(Ms. Wanza): Describe your place of residence?

(Mr. Sawyer): When you say my place of residence, what?

(Ms. Wanza): Where you lived.

(Mr. Sawyer): I lived right here.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so did...

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh, let me tell you this. When people use to

say, Bill, why you gonna stay down there and not go...Colored

people can, can move away from this area and everybody did go

cause...and then the people downtown called me and says, Bill, we

don't want you to live down there because it's nothing down there.

You know what I told them?


(Ms. Wanza): And I was asking you to describe your place of


(Mr. Sawyer): Umm this is what I wanted to say to you. After

the hotel the city along and wanna buy up all this stuff. Sold the

hotel and the clubs to them. Then I went and built a, it wasn't a

hotel, it was a...Bernice?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Yes dear?

(Mr. Sawyer): What you call those things, my mind is so bad



(Ms. Wanza): Okay, umm so...

(Mr. Sawyer): Ma'am just excuse me because my mind is bad now, un

hun, a motel.

(Ms. Wanza): So you lived in the motel? Between '45 and '70.

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah I moved over to the motel.

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

(Mr. Sawyer): Well that motel was about 30 rooms, you know,


(Ms. Wanza): I mean who lived in, you know, you, your wife

and who else. I mean who lived in your immediate...

(Mr. Sawyer): You mean, I mean for our...

(Ms. Wanza): Yes, in your house.

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh, oh it wasn't nothing but me and Bernice and

my daughter.

(Mrs. Sawyer): that's a that was cut off

too anymore, you know?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum. Okay.

(Mrs. Sawyer): and then you talk about lost and found.

(Mr. Sawyer): It, it was, it was my daughter.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay.

(Mr. Sawyer): And my daughter now is a, is a, did I tell you

what she does now?

(Ms. Wanza): No.

(Mr. Sawyer): She's ah, she's also is a graduate of Fisk and

what not. I think she got one of her Masters from the University

of Miami, she's in charge of her department at Virginia State.


University now.

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

(Mr. Sawyer): It's right out here now, Second Avenue.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so it's Second Avenue, what was the street


(Mrs. Sawyer): There was a park the motel

and the

(Mr. Sawyer): See all these properties over there, over here

by the arena and stuff? See I owned all of that and I...for the

Arena and stuff, I sold out to the City but what they wanted to

do...right across from here ah, you see a lot of parking lots,

that's where my motel was.

(Ms. Wanza): Who were your neighbors?

(Mr. Sawyer): Well see there wasn't hardly any neighbors

because all that was bought up by me and I was when I was

developing all those things. Oh, this is what happened, when, when

Negroes could, move away from this way, you know segregation was

breaking down, ah all the Negroes went another way and they didn't

stay down here anymore. The only thing that lived here was ah,

that was Negroes was ah, the church across the street from here,

Bethel Church, you where Bethel Church is?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.

(Mr. Sawyer): And did you know this? Bethel Church is the

oldest church in Miami? Did you know that?

(Ms. Wanza): Un hun. I knew it was at least a hundred.

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah, it's a little over a hundred years old


now and that's where I first went to Sunday School. I was a little

boy and you know what and I can remember it so well over there. It

was just a little wooden house with about two or three rooms in it

(laughter) and I can remember. You heard of the name Dr. Hogan,

haven't you?

(Ms. Wanza): No.

(Mr. Sawyer): There were some doctors in Miami named Dr.

Hogan, some professors here and I went to ah, I use to go to school

when I was in first grade and second grade and before that and

guess who use to be over there with me to Mrs. Anderson's school?

(Ms. Wanza): Who?

(Mr. Sawyer): Lena Home. You ever heard of Lena Horne.

(Ms. Wanza): Yes I have.

(Mr. Sawyer): But Lena Horne doesn't ever mention that she

use to live in Miami. She use to live right here.

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

to in Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): The who areas?

(Ms. Wanza): The main business areas?

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh, there was the Rockland Palace I told you

about, and there was...

(Ms. Wanza): As far as stores.

(Mr. Sawyer): We didn't hardly have too much in them days.

We had little grocery stores and stuff like that. Oh, I'll tell

you another main thing that was right across from the Rockland,

there was some chinese that had some ah restaurants that was ah


very nice, chinese people, you know.

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


(Mr. Sawyer): Hun

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


(Mr. Sawyer): Oh yeah, it was a place you called the Tip Top

Grocery Store. We all use to go down there mainly.

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

barber shop or beauty shop?

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh well that barber shop and stuff was in the

hotel I had, umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay.

(Mr. Sawyer): That's where Castro's main office was, was in


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


(Mr. Sawyer): Ah, Bernice?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Hun?

(Mr. Sawyer): The main drugstore was Dr. Lewis wasn't it?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Ah, People's Drugs and Economy drugstore.

(Mr. Sawyer): The People's Drugstore

(Mrs. Sawyer): You had Dr. Ward and you had Dr. Little. Dr.

Ward was the Economy and Dr. Little was People's Drug.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay.

(Mr. Sawyer): You got those names down?


(Ms. Wanza): Umm hun. Could you describe...

(Mr. Sawyer): Now one of them is still living. Now I was a

little boy for Dr. Lewis who had a drugstore or something and I can

remember because early in the morning I use to go out the park to

pick up balls to make a little money to go to school, ah and I

would make...I was picking up those...they was playing tennis, you

know, ball and I use to pick the balls up for the players and guess

how much I would make?

(Ms. Wanza): How much?

(Mr. Sawyer): Thirty or (laughter) Forty cents in the

morning, that's all but that...what I wanted to tell you was one

person that I worked for...he is still living and he still has a

drugstore and umm I...his drugstore is not far from here, Dr.

Lewis. You know Dr. Lewis?

(Ms. Wanza): Yes, I've heard of him.

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

cleaners? remember?

(Mr. Sawyer): Well most of the time the people use to come

out and pick up our clothes.

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


(Mr. Sawyer): It was Bethel Church right across the street

because we all lived here in this area. It was ah...and St. Agnes

Church. I think those are two of the ah oldest churches in Miami


(Mrs. Sawyer): Young lady, young lady?


(Ms. Wanza): Okay can you repeat what you just said please.

You said your father...

(Mr. Sawyer): He was about the first doctor in Miami, one of

the first doctors in Miami but he didn't have any place he could

take patients and he started the Christian Hospital. You've heard

of the Christian Hospital.

(Ms. Wanza): Yes. Un hum.

(Mr. Sawyer): And then he you don't have to quote

this but it's the truth, you see Jackson Memorial Hospital. He

helped Dr. Jackson mainly to start the...ah what's the name of that

big hospital? Jackson Memorial Hospital. Did you know about that?

(Ms. Wanza): No.

(Mr. Sawyer): Ah the Jackson Memorial, that's, that's about

the fourth, I understand it's the fourth biggest hospital in the

world. Jackson Memorial but dad was one of the main ones, ah that

started with Dr. Jackson. Do you know what Dr. Jackson is or was?

I can guess you did not.

(Ms. Wanza): Un hun.

(Mr. Sawyer): He's the one that had the Red Cross Drugstore

but daddy, they, they don't, they don't have his name mentioned

when it comes to that Jackson Memorial Hospital. Now I can tell

you what I know. See that's why he started the Christian Hospital

because Colored people couldn't go the Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Now I know that for fact.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay. I'm going to finish out this set of

questions regarding neighborhood life. I just have a few more


questions to ask you. Could you describe where your family went

for entertainment such as theater's, bars, or sporting events while

you were growing up and...

(Mr. Sawyer): Where they went for entertainment?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.

(Mr. Sawyer): Well, ladies had a special club all to

themselves and they entertained themselves and ah, the fellows, if

they went for entertainment it was around the Rockland Palace or

the Harlem Square.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so but in between '45 and '70 you mainly

went to your own businesses, your own clubs for entertainment?

(Mr. Sawyer): No because there was a Sir John and a place you

called the Harlem Square too.

(Ms. Wanza): So you also went to the Sir John and the Harlem


(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay.

(Mr. Sawyer): They weren't Colored though.

(Ms. Wanza): When did you began to shop or go to

entertainment outside of Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): When? Bernice?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Hun?

(Mr. Sawyer): Because I never went anywhere to be frank with

you. When did, when did everybody start to going to clubs on the

Beach and places like that? What year was that?

(Mrs. Sawyer): After integration.


(Mr. Sawyer): Hun?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Not until integration came about.

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah I know that but when was that because you

know I never bothered about going to those places downtown.

(Mrs. Sawyer): I don't know it must have been in the late


(Mr. Sawyer): In the late '50s she said. That, that's what

it had to be.

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum. Okay, during the period from 1945 to

1970 what were the main things that made Overtown a community?

(Mr. Sawyer): I don't know what you...I mean Overtown because

we were all together, we helped...all of Coloreds was

the only place we, you know we had to go.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Would you like to have a cup of ?

Bill said he wanted some tea?

(Ms. Wanza): No thank you?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Want some more juice?

(Ms. Wanza): No thank you. Umm, let me see? When and how

did the sense of community in Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): The what?

(Mr. Sawyer): The sense of community, when did it, when did

it change and how did the sense of community change in Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): That word you used before that, what was that


(Ms. Wanza): The sense of community, the togetherness, how

did that, when did that change?


(Mr. Sawyer): Ah Bernice?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Hun?

(Mr. Sawyer): I mean when the community began to change a

little bit was when...

(Mrs. Sawyer): Yeah and ah people started moving all over

the place...

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah, what year was that?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Ah, well that was in the '60, or late '50s and

early '60 maybe and they didn't have

feeling of togetherness any more. The only people who probably

feel that now is people who have been to various churches.

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

(Mr. Sawyer): Well, you can see the changes by this

development right here that I'm doing? You see these buildings

don't you?

(Ms. Wanza): Un hun.

(Mr. Sawyer): Well these buildings like that...but as

to...and where the Arena is and all that was part of Overtown you

know and most of that...a lot of those ah, that land I had to sell

to them to help the Arena and those places.

(Mrs. Sawyer): How has Overtown changed?

(Ms. Wanza): Un hun.

(Mrs. Sawyer): staying here

(Ms. Wanza): Okay so ah basically, umm since 1970 the

community changed through development, through Urban Renewal?

(Mr. Sawyer): And all that yeah and these, what you call


these things, these railways they put out here now?

(Ms. Wanza): The Metro-rail?

(Mr. Sawyer): The Metro-rail and all that sort of thing.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, we are ending on the set of questions

regarding neighborhood life between 1945 and 1970 and we will

continue on the set of questions regarding 1-95.

Okay Mr. Sawyer, we are going to continue on the set of

questions regarding 1-95. Okay the first question is when and how

did you first hear about the building of I-95?

(Mr. Sawyer): Well I have always lived in Miami and the news

just came out and ah I have always been involved ah, how should I

say, in the development of Miami and they were telling me what was

going to happen and this and the other.

(Ms. Wanza): So how did you hear about it? From the news,

from the newspaper or...?

(Mr. Sawyer): Well ah one, one of the ways we heard about it,

I was called downtown and was consulted. A lot of, you know,

questions as to just how did I think it would affect over here.

This was some time before it was built.

(Ms. Wanza): And where were you living at that time when you

heard about?

(Mr. Sawyer): Right here.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay on Seventh Street and Second Avenue?

(Mr. Sawyer): Yes, Yes ma'am. Oh, can I tell you this too.

They have named Seventh Street after me now. They call it Sawyer

Walk. Did you know that?


(Ms. Wanza): Yes I did.

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh you did?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum, yes. Umm let me see, what kind of a

reaction was there to the news that the expressway would come

through Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): Well, in government, it was a lot, it was a lot

of meeting about that and, and a lot of people didn't want that to

happen because they said it was messing up things to buy it up so.

(Ms. Wanza): Did you discuss the expressway coming through

Overtown with your neighbors?

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh yeah.

(Ms. Wanza): Which neighbors, that's just your surrounding


(Mr. Sawyer): Surrounding neighbors, yeah.

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

expressway on you?

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

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

(Mrs. Sawyer): Yes.

(Ms. Wanza): Yes?

(Mr. Sawyer): Umm hum, yes ma'am.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, which pub...which public officials.

(Mrs. Sawyer): The ones that were in power at that time ah

responsible for the planning. All of them, a lot of them

(Ms. Wanza): Okay and what, what came about from those



(Mrs. Sawyer): They did the same thing they planned to do all


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

expressway on you, Mr. Sawyer?

(Mr. Sawyer): Well, it divided, it divided the city and

displaced so many things that, that's what it was but it didn't

affect me any because ah I had been use to. I want to tell you,

now when they...can I say something else to you about it. Now when

everybody was being displaced, in his area and what not, ah

naturally, and this development was here and this area was all

divided up and things like that and ah a lot of your businesses was

done away with, you know that sort of thing so it was a complete

tear up of the, of the neighborhood. I don't know if you know this

or not but the same is happening right now because they want to put

some more thoroughfares and thing right through the neighborhood

out here?

(Ms. Wanza): They want to put some more what

(Mrs. Sawyer): Thoroughfares.

(Ms. Wanza): Thoroughfares?

(Mr. Sawyer): Yes, ma'am.

(Ms. Wanza): What's that?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Streets.

(Mr. Sawyer): Bernice, Bernice?

(Mrs. Sawyer): What are you talking about Bill, housing?

(Mr. Sawyer): Housing and, and expressways too, you remember


the other, not...

(Mrs. Sawyer): And they're trying to develop some areas in

Overtown, is that what you're saying?

(Mr. Sawyer): I'm not saying that, I'm saying some other

expressways and stuff are coming through here and that means a lot

of people would be displaced.

(Mrs. Sawyer): I was just asking.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, umm what was it like when it was being

constructed, when they were building the expressway what was it


(Mrs. Sawyer): It was a disaster.

(Mr. Sawyer): What did, how, how?

(Ms. Wanza): Mr. Sawyer do you remember what it was like?

(Mr. Sawyer): How did you answer that Bern...?

(Mrs. Sawyer): A disaster for business.

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah. it tore...I mean it just displaced


(Mrs. Sawyer): A certain atmosphere of uncertainty. You

remember, what would happen next or where do you go?

(Mr. Sawyer): Look like they, was trying to, especially in

this area, they wanted everything to be displaced?

(Ms. Wanza): What did the community get from public officials

in return for 1-95 going through Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): Say what they able to get?

(Ms. Wanza): Yes, what were they able to get from public



S(Mrs. Sawyer): Unkept promises.

(Mr. Sawyer): She's telling you, that's very correct.

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

(Mr. Sawyer): By dividing it up and, and just, just a

complete ah tearing up of everything, displacing everything.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, M. Sawyer says he never moved because of

95. Now I wanted to ask you about your property. The Mary

Elizabeth, that was taken by the city under eminent domain.

(Mr. Sawyer): Umm hum. Yes ma'am.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, alright. What year umm did that happen?

(Mr. Sawyer): Bernice, Bernice?

(Mrs. Sawyer): I don't remember.

(Mr. Sawyer): I can't remember exactly but that was about...

(Ms. Wanza): In the '80s?

(Mr. Sawyer): Let me see, '80s, I think it was in the...

(Mrs. Sawyer): Ah, it was ah...LaVerne got married in '82, it

had already -been umm closed but it was ah scheduled to be


(Mr. Sawyer): Around the...

(Ms. Wanza): In 1982?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Yes.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay.

(Mr. Sawyer): That's my daughter, Vern. She went to Fisk


(Ms. Wanza): Who informed you that the Mary Elizabeth had to

be demolished?


(Mr. Sawyer): Well the people downtown and the officials.

(Ms. Wanza): The City of Miami?

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, were you...

(Mrs. Sawyer): See ah, a group of us got together and filed

a class-action suit

(Ms. Wanza): Were you paid by the city for your property?

(Mr. Sawyer): Was I what?

(Ms. Wanza): Were you paid by the city?

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh yeah.

(Ms. Wanza): Were you fairly compensated?

(Mrs. Sawyer): No.

(Ms. Wanza): They didn't fairly compensate you?

(Mr. Sawyer): They didn't' do what?

(Ms. Wanza): Fairly compensate you? Did they give you enough


(Mr. Sawyer): I don't think so, but naturally I wouldn't have

thought that.

(Mrs. Sawyer): You know when you have a business and

everything is all taken care as well as equipment and what have you

and ah all that was sold and we were never compensated. Baby Grand

Piano and

(Mr. Sawyer): See I had night clubs, I had night clubs and

ah...I know your mother and daddy would know all about that and

everything. Plus, plus the Mary...



(Ms. Wanza): Hold on, hold on one second Mr. Sawyer.

(Mrs. Sawyer): ...and it was stolen.

(Ms. Wanza): How long did the city give you to umm, to get

all of your business straight as far as the umm compensation and to

get everything ready for the building to be demolished or how much

time did they give you between when they told you and when they

actually demolished the building? Do you remember?

(Mr. Sawyer): Bernice, Bernice?

(Mrs. Sawyer): I don't remember.

(Mr. Sawyer): I don't remember exactly but it was...

(Mr. Sawyer): It took time before anything could be done, you

know that ah class-action suit was put into effect, it was I know

it was more than a year and ah everything was just at a standstill

not knowing where you would go next. Everything was

(Ms. Wanza): Where did given any relocation money for your


(Mrs. Sawyer): Yes. A little.

(Mr. Sawyer): A little, yes, that's what I was fixing to say.

(Ms. Wanza): And did the business relocate?

(Mr. Sawyer): No because I didn't do any...

(Mrs. Sawyer): No because they took the property. How could


(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum, okay.

(Mrs. Sawyer): We didn't any new...relocation money for the

business, we got relocation money for a home and ah

but we didn't get any, any relocation money.


(Ms. Wanza): Okay, Mrs. Sawyer can you come over here? Okay

we were on the question of how long it took before they demolished

the Mary Elizabeth but you explained to me that you had another

hotel across the street...

(Mrs. Sawyer): It was a motel.

(Mr. Sawyer): It wasn't a hotel, it was motel.

(Ms. Wanza): Another motel across the street.

(Mr. Sawyer): Yes ma'am.

(Ms. Wanza): Where you lived and you were told to leave

because of the Urban Renewal?

(Mrs. Sawyer): That's right.

(Ms. Wanza): Now you also lived in that motel, right?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Umm hum. Okay and umm you received relocation

money for moving out of your home, right?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Yes.

(Ms. Wanza): Right but not relocation money for the hotel?

(Mrs. Sawyer): No, no.

(Ms. Wanza): So umm when you moved out of your home which was

in the motel, was your mortgage or rent higher or lower compared to

your former residence?

(Mrs. Sawyer): All of that we had paid for


(Ms. Wanza): Okay so everything was already paid for,

everything was all...

(Mrs. Sawyer): Yes.

(Ms. Wanza): Everything was all...okay. Umm and when you



(Mrs. Sawyer): I had retired.

(Ms. Wanza): You had retired?

(Mrs. Sawyer): I was going to renovate the motel and make it

like I wanted it and not have to work and here comes all of this.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so when you moved out of the motel,

how did you choose your new residence?

(Mrs. Sawyer): I didn't when I was making plans to move out

of the motel umm I had an accident and I became

some times, I the rest of it was left on Bill. He had to

put his time in 'til I got out of the hospital. When did I get out

of the hospital? I went in '86 and I got out in '87 and everything

was at a standstill as far as ah...well after the city came and

moved...put some things in storage for me but ah...even my organ is

ruined because ah, I think it got wet and I, I was just so

disguised because we lost so much until I didn't even bother about

trying to suit, all the furniture...

(Mr. Sawyer): Bernice, ass a matter, some of that stuff, I

was telling you the other day when Vern comes home, we might go and

see about it. It's in, it's in storage.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Oh but ah something happened in storage, the

company, they changed to another storage...and all my furniture

when the brought it to me I just had to

I tried to save it, I thought I'd try it out. I paid for storage

myself and it didn't work, we purchased some.

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum okay, so umm...


(Mrs. Sawyer):

(Ms. Wanza): When you left the motel, where did you move?

(Mrs. Sawyer): When I left the motel I moved to the hospital

an Bill continued to stay there.

(Ms. Wanza): Continued to stay in the motel?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Okay, he didn't want to leave. We were the

last ones to leave and the first ones to come back.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay so when the hotel...

(Mrs. Sawyer): That was a motel.

(Ms. Wanza): When the motel, when did you...

(Mr. Sawyer): See the hotel, they tore down first.

(Ms. Wanza): When did you leave the motel?

(Mrs. Sawyer): January 18, 1986. That's when I first came

out the hospital.

(Ms. Wanza): Where, what house did you move into after that?

(Mrs. Sawyer): I moved into a residence on Fifty-Eight

Street and Twenty-Second Avenue but that was after the hospital

about, which last until July of 19...I went in '80...January 18,

1986 and I came out in July of '87. Un hum and that time Bill was

still living down

(Ms. Wanza): ...and Twenty-Second Avenue. So did you own

that house on Twenty-Second?

(Mrs. Sawyer): No.

(Ms. Wanza): Un hun. Okay you rented that house or


(Mrs. Sawyer): Okay, what and the rent was, of course, higher


compared to the motel because you owned the motel, right and you

didn't pay rent in the motel?

(Mrs. Sawyer): But I had expenses.

(Ms. Wanza): Yeah, okay. Alright umm how did you choose your

new residence when you moved on Twenty-Second?

(Mrs. Sawyer): I had to go somewhere.

(Ms. Wanza): How did you choose it though, you just...?

(Mrs. Sawyer): A friend.

(Ms. Wanza): A friend recommended it to you?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Yeah.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, how was the neighborhood in your new

location different from or similar to the neighborhood from which

you moved? So how was the neighborhood on...?

(Mr. Sawyer): It was or less a housing neighborhood.

(Ms. Wanza): Housing neighborhood. Okay.

(Mr. Sawyer): I wasn't worried too much about it because I know where Twenty-Seventh Avenue is?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.

(Mrs. Sawyer): We moved on Twenty-Second Avenue.

(Mr. Sawyer): Bernice I'm telling her something else. On

Twenty-Seventh Avenue, see all that development out there?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.

(Mr. Sawyer): Well we were responsible for that. That

development out there and I could have gone out there too. All

those ah condominiums and stuff, they were the first condominiums

to be...


(Mrs. Sawyer): They were probably the first Negro owned


(Mr. Sawyer): Ah developments and stuff back then.

(Mrs. Sawyer): It's on Twenty-Seventh Avenue.

(Ms. Wanza): What's the name of them.

(Mrs. Sawyer): It was at that time Alberta

(Mr. Sawyer): That was named after my mother.

(Ms. Wanza): Alberta Heights?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, which is located on Twenty-Seventh Avenue


(Mrs. Sawyer): Fiftieth Street.

(Ms. Wanza): and Fiftieth Street.

(Mr. Sawyer): It's still there.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, Mr. Sawyer I know you said you are not as

familiar with the 395 as much as you are...and the 836 as much as

you are with the 1-95 but umm how do you think it affected the

community? How do you think it affected Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): Well, when it displaced everybody, it kind

of...because you are too young to know this, up and down Second

Avenue were different little businesses, you know Colored People

had and what not and, and...

(Mrs. Sawyer): Have you heard this ah comment, Overtown was

raped? Have you heard that?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Everything was taken.


(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so...

(Mrs. Sawyer): Nothing has been done to create an interest.

(Ms. Wanza): So basically it umm 1-395 and 836 had a negative

affect on the community as did 1-95

(Mrs. Sawyer): More or less in the Overtown community, not in

the other parts. Look at the...alright a few blocks from here, the

ah, what's the name Crown, and that nice station, What's the name

of that...ah Crown Plaza. You don't think it's nice?

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum.

(Mr. Sawyer): And if you notice, ah town is coming this way.

We can go to town from here in about 5 or 10 minutes just walking

downtown. We are right close to downtown now but always remember

this, there is nothing constant except change. Things are forever

changing, never forget that.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Even for the better or worse.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, the next set of questions are regarding

public housing and I wanted to ask you about public housing within

the Overtown area. When and how did you first hear about the

building of public housing in Overtown?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Ah, when they had public housing the first

time, it was the residence across the street and Sixth Avenue, we

lived across the street, we didn't know anything about it and the

Cubans were able to get that spot. Okay, the next time it came

about luckily Ann, Marie Adker found out about it and we, in one

day's time, we got our flyer sheets and we went on a door to door

tour, told everybody to come down to the ah meeting that night that


was being held on Third Street so

and they were getting ready to give that to Cubans too. We just

happened to find out about it. So when we got down there and all

along this street, they said, yeah, we going...I'm going too, all

on the porches and everything. It was rather in there

and so when my father saw all these dark faces and everybody spoke

about what they had done in the past, it was changed and Negroes

who had to move at that particular time, different

areas, they was getting that housing project on Sixth Avenue, Fifth

Avenue, Fourth Avenue and Sixth Street and they...It was very nice.

I wanted to move in there myself but they would let me.

_. I didn't have enough children


(Ms. Wanza): We are going to end this Side of #2, this

is Side #2 of Tape #2 and we are going to continue on Tape #3 for

the rest of the interview. This is Stephanie Wanza and I'm

continuing the interviewing with Mr. Bill Sawyer and Mrs. Bernice

Sawyer also and we stopped on a set of questions regarding public



(Ms. Wanza): Okay, this is Stephanie Wanza. I am at the home

of Mr. and Mrs. umm Bill and Bernice Sawyer. I'm interviewing Mr.

Bill Sawyer. This is Side #1 of Tape #3 and we left off on the set

of questions regarding public housing.

Okay, Umm I know Mrs. Sawyer just mentioned about a public

housing project that was built on Fifth Street and Sixth Avenue and


she said, she wanted to reiterate that the housing at first was not

really for Blacks and that Blacks had to fight to get into the

housing project.

Do you know around what year that was?

(Mr. Sawyer): You talking to me?

(Ms. Wanza): Yes, around what year they began the public...?

(Mr. Sawyer): Bernice?

(Mrs. Sawyer): About what year that was? Do you remember? I

don't remember.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Ah you have that, in '80.

(Mr. Sawyer): Something like that, just say in the '80.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Ah everybody was gone by '86.

(Ms. Wanza): So about 1986?

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah.

(Mrs. Sawyer): That's when everybody was

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, what kind of reaction was there to the

news that public housing would come in Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): What kind of what?

(Ms. Wanza): Reaction was there to the news that public

housing would come in Overtown?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Mixed emotions.

(Mr. Sawyer): Well just like she just said, it was mixed

emotions. Some was happy about it and some wasn't.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, did you discuss the public housing issue

with your neighbors?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Yes and then you had to fill out the forms


and everything else so they were able to get, I think $200.00 or

$300.00 for their moving expenses.

(Mr. Sawyer): Okay, did you attend a meeting where umm the

public housing issue was discussed?

(Mrs. Sawyer): All day and all night.

(Ms. Wanza): Or sign a petition or discuss the issue with

public officials.

(Mr. Sawyer): Oh yeah.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay and what came about from about from the


(Mrs. Sawyer): Nothing.

(Mr. Sawyer): Exactly nothing.

(Mrs. Sawyer): They did just what they had planned to do all


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

housing on you. (Cough, excuse).

(Mrs. Sawyer): Loss of business for one thing.

(Mr. Sawyer): Well that was the main thing Bernice, loss of

business because you know I had several businesses. I had night

clubs and everything and right away on Eighth Street, right across

the street from here ah I had that whole thing over there...where

on the corner...

(Mrs. Sawyer): We had a hotel, filling


(Mr. Sawyer): And I had, had a filling station and stuff over

there. I had to, they asked me, they put pressure on me to sell


that out so they could put ah, ah...they didn't put anything there

like they said they were going to do. They were going to put a

little like park there. It's right by the Lyric Theater. Instead

they said they wanted to take...get all of that.

(Ms. Wanza): Un hun, and they didn't do anything with it.

(Mr. Sawyer): Not, not yet.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, let's see. What was it like when public

housing was being constructed.

(Mr. Sawyer): What did you say, what was it like when?

(Ms. Wanza): Went it was being built, when the public housing

was being built?

(Mr. Sawyer): A lot of people was enthused about it because

Et was nice and what not and things like that. So many people was

lead to know it was improvement in a way.

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

officials in return for public housing going through Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): Well they were ah, what did you say?

(Ms. Wanza): What were they able to get from public

officials? what was the community able to get from, from government

or public officials in return for them putting public housing in

the Overtown area?

(Mr. Sawyer): Well they had some nice homes that was built

and everybody...

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, so it benefitted the community as far as

ah ecstatic and housing and beautification it made it...

(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah, it made it...


(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah, it made it nicer.

(Ms. Wanza): ...look nicer. Okay.

(Ms. Wanza): Umm how did public housing affect the community?

(Mr. Sawyer): Well I think ah they were proud of it to a

great extend but so many of them ah couldn't afford it, they

ah...and couldn't ah, what was I saying, they couldn't have been

around, they had to leave.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, the next set of questions are regarding

the Metro-rail. Let me see, okay we were discussing the Metro-

rail. When and how did you first hear about the building of Metro-


(Mr. Sawyer): Well we were notified.

(Mrs. Sawyer): We were on that committee to help to make

plans for it.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay and where were you living at the time?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Right up the street on Seventh Street.

(Mr. Sawyer): I have always lived right here. If it wasn't

on this corner, it was on the corner across the street ah that the

city asked us to let them have, you know for parking lots and stuff

like that.

(Ms. Wanza): Did you rent or own the place where you lived?

Of course you owned it.

(Mr. Sawyer): Everything I had was I owned it myself.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, what kind of reaction was there to the

news that the expressway would come through Overtown, rather the

Metro-rail would come through Overtown?


(Mr. Sawyer): Well that meant Overtown was further, you know,

disorganized again and all that sort of thing. In the beginning no

one liked it. You can understand that so everything was divided


(Ms. Wanza): Did you discuss the Metro-rail issue with your


(Mr. Sawyer): Yeah, no one liked it.

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum. Okay, did you attend a meeting where

it was discussed or sign a petition or discuss the issue with

public officials.

(Mr. Sawyer): Umm hum.

(Ms. Wanza): Yes, and what came.

(Mr. Sawyer): Yes and that's because they wanted it and what


(Ms. Wanza): And what came out of the meetings?

(Mr. Sawyer): Meetings...nothing, they did want they wanted

to do.

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

Metro-rail on you?

(Mr. Sawyer): Well, I lost a lot of businesses but ah, that

was the most important thing that happened to me but, but like I

told you, ah, ah they asked me to take an Estate in Gables by Sea

and was giving me...I, I said no thank you. I said thank you but

no thanks, I don't want to go no place but right here, what I, what

I been knowing all my life.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, umm, what was it like when Metro-rail was


being constructed?

(Mr. Sawyer): What you mean, what was it like?

(Mrs. Sawyer):

(Ms. Wanza): What was it like, I mean in terms of...

(Mr. Sawyer): People were so discussed and what not but there

was nothing we could do.

(Ms. Wanza): Umm, okay, alright. What was...oh go ahead, you

were getting ready to say something?

(Mr. Sawyer): Ah this is what I wanted to tell, tell you.

When my daddy was dying, he had me to come in and gave me a long

talk, he said Bill try to be as careful as you can with your

developments and with your monies and stuff like that because you

are a nigger and I want you to you to for the

foreseeable future you are going to be a nigger (laughter) for a

long time and I found that to be very true. See you know, he's a

gentleman, he's the person that really started Jackson Memorial

Hospital. Did you know that?

(Ms. Wanza): Yes.

(Mr. Sawyer): And ah, he umm and then, he worked on that,

started Jackson Memorial Hospital going and, you know and all that

sort of thing and ah but you see, you don't see his name listed no

where on Jackson Hospital and Negroes couldn't go there so later on

he developed the Christian Hospital. I don't know if you ever

heard of the Christian Hospital. That was his hospital. Now he

got that because when a lot of his patients had to go to a hospital

or something, they had no place to go so he decided the Christian


Hospital, you know.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay, what was the community able to get from

public officials in return for Metro-rail going through Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): Ah, they didn't get anything, they just...ah,

I don't know of anything we got, to be frank with you.

(Ms. Wanza): How did Metro-rail affect the community?

(Mr. Sawyer): Like I told you, just divided it up and, and

displaced so many people that had been here for years. Like I told

you, for instance Bethel Church over there, that's, that's probably

the oldest city, not city, the oldest church in town. You know I

uses to, I use to go ah that...even when I was little boy, it was

ah just a little wooden house, I can remember (laughter) that so

well. It was just a little house and that's how it started off and

I had a Sunday school teacher named Mrs. Anderson. Nobody every

talks about her. I went to her ah kindergarten school first and

then later on ah I went to ah Bethel had a little Sunday school and

all that sort of thing and ah Mrs. Anderson came over to teach and

that sort of thing, it was just a little wooden house, and I can

remember just as clear, she use to take us as little children on

holidays we would walk around the block from Eighth Street, down to

ah Second Avenue up to Ninth Street and turn left and went to Third

Avenue and come on around because ah she was, she was, she had a

little school house out there on First Place but, but she was a

wonder lady, I knew, I know. I heard some people talking about her

and this very true. Umm, and ah, they said, I wasn't even involved

in the conversation, they were all talking and they said, if there


ever was an angel, she was an angel, Mrs. Anderson.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Yeah, I'm trying to think, Mrs. Anderson.

(Mr. Sawyer): Do you remember her first name.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Carrie B. Anderson, isn't?

(Mr. Sawyer): Something like that.

(Mrs. Sawyer): I believe it was in that book

(Mr. Sawyer): They said she was an angel, she was angel.

(Mrs. Sawyer): I'll check it out on the book, I think it was

Carrie B. Anderson.

(Ms. Wanza): You think it was what, excuse me.

(Mrs. Sawyer): I think it was Carrie B. Anderson.

(Ms. Wanza): Carrie?

(Mrs. Sawyer): C-A-R-R-I-E

(Ms. Wanza): Carrie B. Anderson. Okay.

(Mrs. Sawyer): I'll tell you in a minute though, I

know...there's a white album up there and a it's a church book in

there. They were You see a big white envelope with

a table cloth and book?

(Ms. Wanza): The next set of questions are going to be

regarding the future of Overtown. What do you think are the most

important misconceptions about Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): The most important misconceptions?

(Ms. Wanza): Just like when a preacher, when a preacher over

to Bethel Church told me one time, ah what was that I was doing

Bernice? I was doing some building..


(Mrs. Sawyer): Oh Reverend put his hand on it,

he said.....

(Ms. Wanza): We were talking about the most important

misconceptions about Overtown and you said that someone said that

Overtown was nothing, it never was anything and won't be anything.

(Mrs. Sawyer): And it won't ever be anything.

(Mr. Sawyer): That was that preacher.

(Mrs. Sawyer): And that, that was ah at the time we were

trying to get something built here so that was really encouraging

to us at that point.

(Mr. Sawyer): See we were gradually developing this thing,

you see where we have started one or two more buildings so it's all

coming back.

(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum, okay. What do you think public

officials need to know most about Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): Well, they, I think...

(Mrs. Sawyer): Try to find a solution to solve some of these

problems that we have here such as housing


(Mr. Sawyer): Bernice, it's another thing that we go to these

meetings about, it's a, it's another expressway they want to build.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Oh, yeah they are going to build that.

(Mr. Sawyer): Tell, tell umm where it's going to be.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Ah it's going to be built down there to

connect the port to the airport. You know about that don't you?

That's going to happen but what we did as a group ah for them not


put anymore concrete monsters in Overtown to let it be re-routed

coming round on some other way rather than just having us end up a

thoroughfare for traffic and those people.

(Mr. Sawyer): So public officials need to know that umm the

problems and ah,

(Mrs. Sawyer): And unemployment. Umm lack of business

enterprise in the area, umm more educational facilities for

children to build up their self-esteem.

(Mr. Sawyer): You, know, now do you know what ah, what they

tried to do our first high school here? You realize what they

tried to do don't you?

(Ms. Wanza): Yeah, Booker T.

(Mr. Sawyer): They tried to, yeah. I was here when it first

started, I came up in that high school, Booker Washington, they

tried to they tried to change the names, did you know that?

(Ms. Wanza): No, I know that they...

(Mr. Sawyer): This was just a few years ago.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Jose Marti?

(Ms. Wanza): What did they try to change the name to?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Jose Marti.

(Ms. Wanza): Oh Lord! (Laughter) Ohhh!.

(Mrs. Sawyer): We had to get out there and fight for it.

(Mr. Sawyer): That's right, we really had to do that.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Then when they made it high school, they said

junior high, so then we had to start fighting for it to be a senior

high and then say after knowing that be able to


go to another meeting, because we, we said we were going to form a

group to try to help the children because if it's a high school, we

want it to be a high, not in no name only but to be a high school

that everything else

(Ms. Wanza): Oh boy!, okay. What should be done to improve

the Overtown area now, such as transportation projects,

attractions, job creation or beautification programs?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Beautification. The homeless need to be put

somewhere. They have one shelter but they still have a lot of

homeless people.

(Ms. Wanza): So Mr. Sawyer what do you think should be done

to improve Overtown?

(Mr. Sawyer): Just what she said.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay. What should be the relationship between

Overtown and downtown Miami?

(Mr. Sawyer): Well we, we, that's what we are doing, we all,

they all got to cooperate.

(Mrs. Sawyer): Understanding of each others problems,

understanding of each other problems.

(Ms. Wanza): Okay. When you have visitors from out of town

where do you take them to show them the umm culture and history of

Dade County's African-American community?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Well I usually come out to the Caleb Center or

go down to the library and they go to Bayside and take a ride on

the rail over there, go to the Beach.

(Mr. Sawyer): You know when I was coming up, coming up a long


years ago, I always wanted to go the Beach, ah but do you know a

long years ago, we couldn't go to the...Colored people had no place

to go to the Beach, you knew, did you know about that?

(Ms. Wanza): Yes.

(Mr. Sawyer): I'm telling you what I...we couldn't go to the

Beach. You know, you know what I had to do? Ah I use to have to,

what's that man that had that...

(Mrs. Sawyer): Captain Tom's Fish Market ah, had a fish

market not far from here and he would have boats out there to fish

and what not to get fish and for me to ah get a place to swim and

enjoy my...I use to have to swim from here across the bay to ah,

ah, what the name of that little island, Bernice?

(Mrs. Sawyer): Ah, we went to Virginia Beach,

they would dock and put him off and he would swim the rest of the

way to the beach and he would come back and with for the fishing

boat. Suppose the boat hadn't come back?

(Mr. Sawyer): Laughter I can remember...

(Ms. Wanza): So they would leave him in the middle of the

water to go...

(Mrs. Sawyer): He could swim the rest of the way cause he was

an excellent swimmer.

(Mr. Sawyer): To Virginia Beach and, and this is what, and

this is what we had to do.

(Mrs. Sawyer): He would go out there and catch a boat...

(Mr. Sawyer): We couldn't go the Beach, we couldn't build a

home on the Beach. You know where, where I had to get a home?


(Ms. Wanza): In Jacksonville, on Jacksonville Beach, all the

way up...I still have that home.

(Mrs. Sawyer): And they are trying to take that now, Amelia


(Ms. Wanza): Umm hum. Could you describe in your words, what

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

(Mrs. Sawyer): I would like for it to be like it was before,

if you plant ah pride in the area and try to help the education of

the children, ah that has been lost, they

didn't see somebody the next day to find out what happened

,fellowship day does make
and the feeling of belonging, we have been lost and I think ah

things are

(Ms. Wanza): So Mr. Sawyer, how would you like Overtown to be

in the future?

(Mr. Sawyer): Just what she said.

(Ms. Wanza): Just what she said, okay. Would you add

anything to the interview?

(Mr. Sawyer): To the what?

(Ms. Wanza): To the interview?

(Mr. Sawyer): No not necessarily.

(Ms. Wanza): Not necessarily, okay, alright. Well that ends

our interview. This is Stephanie Wanza interviewing Mr. Bill

Sawyer and this is Side #1 of Tape #3. Today's date is August 28,