Transcript of Interview with Barbara Kirkland
- View Full Item
- Created Date
On a sunny day in 1946, the train from Shreveport, Louisiana, stopped at The Plaza hotel in downtown Las Vegas like it always did. But on this particular day, Atha Toliver and her only child, twelve-year-old Barbara, stepped off the train and onto the dusty Western street of Fremont. Narrator Barbara Bates Kirkland recalls that event and living in Las Vegas for most of the next seven decades during this 2004 interview. Like many others who migrated from the South, Barbara Kirkland’s mother would find employment as a maid. A friend who already lived in Las Vegas had told her of the good paying jobs as private maid. So Atha who was determined that her daughter would get an education and a finer future saw this as her opportunity to achieve this for her daughter. Later, the entrepreneurial and creative mother opened Eva’s Flower Basket, a floral shop that Barbara operates in her retirement from teaching. Barbara returned to Louisiana for her senior year in high school, attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, and then returned to Las Vegas to teach first grade at Westside School. Barbara was active in the community, was a founding member of Les Femmes Douze, involved with Zion United Methodist Church and was friends with many of the early African American community leaders at the time. She talks about these, describes various neighborhoods where she lived and about raising her own two children in Las Vegas. Barbara was a founding member of Les Femmes Douze. AKA/Akateens.
I An Interview with Barbara Bates Kirkland An Oral History Conducted by Claytee D. White African American Collaborative Oral History Research Center at UNLV University Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegasii ©African Americans in Las Vegas: A Collaborative Oral History Project University of Nevada Las Vegas, 2012 COMMUNITY PARTNERS Henderson Libraries Las Vegas Clark County Public Libraries Oral History Research Center at UNLV Libraries University of Nevada Las Vegas Libraries Wiener-Rogers Law Library at William S. Boyd School of Law, UNLV Nevada State Museum, Las Vegas Las Vegas National Bar Association Vegas PBS Clark County Museum Produced by: The Oral History Research Center at UNLV – University Libraries Director: Claytee D. White Project Manager: Barbara Tabach Transcriber: Kristin Hicks Interviewers, Editors and Project Assistants: Barbara Tabach, Claytee D. White, B. Leon Green, John Grygo, and Delores Brownlee.iii The recorded interview and transcript have been made possible through the generosity of a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Grant. The Oral History Research Center enables students and staff to work together with community members to generate this selection of first-person narratives. The participants in this project thank University of Nevada Las Vegas for the support given that allowed an idea the opportunity to flourish. The transcript received minimal editing that includes the elimination of fragments, false starts, and repetitions in order to enhance the reader’s understanding of the material. All measures have been taken to preserve the style and language of the narrator. In several cases photographic sources accompany the individual interviews. The following interview is part of a series of interviews conducted under the auspices of the African Americans in Las Vegas: A Collaborative Oral History Project. Claytee D. White Director, Oral History Research Center University Libraries University Nevada Las Vegasiv Table of Contents Interview with Barbara Bates Kirkland November 12, 2004 in Las Vegas, Nevada Conducted by Claytee D. White Preface………………………………………………………………………………….vi 1946: Moved to Las Vegas from Shreveport, Louisiana, with her mother, Atha Toliver; encouraged to relocate by a friend, Mom Ida and work as a private home maid. Recalls the night she stepped off the train at the Plaza station on Fremont Street; describes Fremont Street. Lived downtown at first, near the post office, near 3rd and 4th Streets; describes the area and compares to Shreveport. Attended Fifth Street Grammar School. Talks about segregation of Las Vegas; riding the bus; Huntridge Theater. Talks about Ruth Sweet, Sweet Ranch, Warden Ranch, attending Zion United Methodist Church, knowing Lubertha Johnson, community activist. …………………………………...1 – 5 Talks about mother working for several prominent families as a maid. Three years later her mother abruptly returned them to Shreveport for one year and then came back to Las Vegas. Attends Southern University in Baton Rouge; takes a first grade teaching position at Westside School. Recalls Mabel Hoggard and other teachers there. Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) sorority member; talks about related educational projects…………………. 6 – 11 Talks about forming Les Femmes Douze, local civic club; organized in 1963by twelve black women; organize a cotillion, provide scholarships for black high school senior girls, encourage personal pride, careers, community service and more. Explains importance of both AKA/Akateens and Les Femmes Douze. Tells about Rhythmettes led Evelyn Stuckey; Barbara Cole a member………………..…………………………12 – 15 Recalls being black and growing up in Las Vegas during the late 40s, early 50s; important role her mother played in her life, guiding her toward opportunities other than maid work. Mother owned a in-home floral business, Eva’s Flower Basket, which Barbara operates today since her retirement. Shares church memberships, women’s ministry; history of Zion United Methodist Church, oldest black congregation in Las Vegas……………………………………………………………………..…………16 – 19 Describes housing conditions of 1946; under-code; dirt streets; Jackson Street as hub of business activity; Shaw Apartments. Remembers coming back in 1955 from college and Moulin Rouge being popular; mother went there; met Lena Horne. Discusses Jay David Hoggard, Sr. (known to her as Pops); classmates with his son Jerry. Tells about meeting v her husband Donald Kirkland in Shreveport, marrying at St. James Catholic Church in December 1956; he taught math at Nellis Air Force Base; story of meeting Sammy Davis Jr.; lived at Cadillac Arms. In 1962, they moved into current home in Casper Park……………………………………………………………………………….20 – 26 With encouragement from Anna and Bob Bailey, she and Donald adopt two children; husband passed away in 1979 and she remained single. Shares Helldorado memories, dressing up in western gear. Mentions transferring to newly opened Kit Carson Elementary School where H. P. Fitzgerald was principal. Remarks about black community participation during Helldorado in spite of segregation; different than in the South. Husband, a Clark County math teacher, and she go to Medellin, Columbia on an exchange program for 1969 school year. Talks about events they missed in Las Vegas that year: Civil Rights movement and protest locally. [Note: Ruby Duncan is present during this interview and makes comments during last few minutes.] Barbara talks more about recent changes in Les Femmes Douze participation, opened up to other than just African American girls…………………………………………………………….27 - 34 Index……………………………………………………………………………….35 - 36vi Preface On a sunny day in 1946, the train from Shreveport, Louisiana, stopped at The Plaza hotel in downtown Las Vegas like it always did. But on this particular day, Atha Toliver and her only child, twelve-year-old Barbara, stepped off the train and onto the dusty Western street of Fremont. Narrator Barbara Bates Kirkland recalls that event and living in Las Vegas for most of the next seven decades during this 2004 interview. Like many others who migrated from the South, Barbara Kirkland’s mother would find employment as a maid. A friend who already lived in Las Vegas had told her of the good paying jobs as private maid. So Atha who was determined that her daughter would get an education and a finer future saw this as her opportunity to achieve this for her daughter. Later, the entrepreneurial and creative mother opened Eva’s Flower Basket, a floral shop that Barbara operates in her retirement from teaching. Barbara returned to Louisiana for her senior year in high school, attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, and then returned to Las Vegas to teach first grade at Westside School. Barbara was active in the community, was a founding member of Les Femmes Douze, involved with Zion United Methodist Church and was friends with many of the early African American community leaders at the time. She talks about these, describes various neighborhoods where she lived and about raising her own two children in Las Vegas.vii 1 I'm Claytee White. And I'm here with Mrs. Barbara Kirkland this morning. It is November 12th, 2004. How are you this morning? I'm fine. Thank you. And you? Wonderful. Could you spell your last name for me, Barbara? Okay. My last name is Kirkland. That's my married name. When I first came to Las Vegas, I was Barbara Bates. And so the Kirkland is spelled K-i-r-k-l-a-n-d. Thank you. When you moved to Las Vegas in 1946, where were you moving from? My mom and I moved from Shreveport, Louisiana, to Las Vegas. What brought you here? Well, we had a family friend. Her name was Ida Graham. Well, Ida Telle at the time. And she had been family friend with my folks. And I don't know what brought her to Las Vegas except somebody encouraged her to come for economic reasons. And she kept encouraging my mother to come out here. Now, both of them worked in private home maid service kind of work. And I called her Mom Ida. She kept saying if you're going to work, you might as well earn more money or something. So my mother conceded and brought us here. And it was basically for economics. What is your mother's name? My mother's name was Atha, which is different, A-t-h-a, Toliver, T-o-l-i-v-e-r. And you said brought us here. Did you have— Herself and me. I'm an only child. So just the two of us. Now, how old were you in 1946 when you arrived? Twelve. Okay. So what was—2 Now you know my age, huh? That's right. So what was it like? What was the difference between Shreveport and then moving here? Well, Shreveport, at that time, was an old city, developed. It has societal statuses and all that. Stepping off the train at what is now The Plaza, which was the train station and a big-grassed area called “The Park.” And looking down Fremont Street, which was totally different from what it is now. It was a blaze with lights that I had not encountered. Shreveport was what you'd call an ordinary city. It had its downtown areas, but not with all that neon glitter and stuff. We got off the train as I remember just at the dusk of evening. And so I saw these lights. And then the rude awakening came the next day when you woke up and Las Vegas was just a very western town at that time. Fremont Street was not totally developed. There were empty spaces on Fremont Street. And most of the major commerce was there, the grocery stores, even a barbeque place. There were hitching posts where the guys who rode in from—you know, not the far distant outside of town, but who rode in like one of the Christiansons. And you have to understand that I will say uncle and aunt because that's what as child I was introduced to them and that's all I ever call them. But Uncle Roy, Roy Christianson, had a ranch off of the Van Buren area and he had horses. Well, when he came downtown, he rode his horse into town. And they would throw their lassos over these hitching posts. And the old El Portal Theater and the Majestic Theater and all of those things were right there. And old Ronzoni's was an upscale department store, okay. When you were going to be expensive, you went to Ronzoni's. And quite a few black families lived downtown at that time. We even lived downtown when we first came, near where the downtown post office is, in that area. The Stephenses lived there and we lived down there. And there was an Afro-American 3 woman who ran a small hotel that lived down in that area. Do you remember her name? No, I don't remember her name. But, you know, it was sort of an awakening. And then over in the area where the Foley Building is, that was the upscale residential section, pretty much, and the old Las Vegas hospital and all of that. Those were residential areas. But my impression—I don't know. I think I was dazzled by the lights at night because I just lived in an ordinary lower-economic, not a ghetto-type place in Shreveport. But, you know, getting to reality then, you just settle in. Did you live with Ida Graham when you first came? Yes. That's where we lived when we first came. We first lived downtown just off of what would be Third Street or Fourth Street, probably. But it was near the main post office. And we lived with Mom Ida there for several years. And then we moved to West Las Vegas. There's a park named for this lady. We lived on Adams. Oh, shucks. The park is right there on Washington and D Street. It's named for her. She had a small house behind her house. And we lived there on Adams in her house. I went to Fifth Street Grammar School. Fifth Street Grammar School, the part that I attended as far as classes is still there. The Foley Building took up the building that was the lower elementary. And when I came I was in the seventh grade. So the part that I attended is still there as part of the government I guess. How did you get back and forth to school? Walked. There was no bus service except like Ruth Sweet—I mentioned her name. Well, I think there was a bus eventually when we got to high school maybe that might have brought the outlying areas in. But, no, I walked to school every day. You know, I passed these—well, like 4 the Elemes. That's an older family. Some of the people who were supposedly society at that time, they lived downtown around that area. And I would pass their houses and sort of fantasize. You would be surprised at the houses that I was fantasizing about. Now, are these white families or black families that you're talking about? Yes. Las Vegas was really segregated as far as housing and entertainment and all of that. It was not an open city, you know, like it is today. What about the theaters? Theaters, you know, I felt strictly at home when I went to the theaters coming out of the south because there was a section for black folks in the theaters, the El Portal and the Majestic. And then there was the Huntridge. The Huntridge building is still where it was out on Maryland Parkway and Charleston. And I used to leave from downtown and catch the Kelso-Turner bus. And I was really frightened because I thought I had to go so far in the country to go to the theater. And it was like a frightening experience for me to catch that bus to try to get to the Huntridge Theater because it was so far away. Did you go by yourself? Yes, I could go by myself. But it was just frightening. Now, tell me about Ruth Sweet. You started to mention her a few minutes ago about how far she lived out and she probably had to catch a bus. Where did Ruth Sweet live? She lived in an area that I have in my mind's eye was—think in terms of behind the Mirage and the Treasure Island area out there. That's where she lived. And it was totally undeveloped and it was just a trail. It was an unpaved dirt road that went. And you'd have to go under something that I conceive as an underpass. It wasn't a populated area and it was not lit with streetlights and all this kind of thing. It was just out in the desert.5 Now, since I've been here, I've read about the Sweet Ranch. Is that where— Well, they called it a ranch just like they called, oh, out by the airport the Warden Ranch. Now, the Warden Ranch was like an oasis in the desert because they had greenery out there, trees and things. When we came here, our denominational affiliation was with Zion United Methodist Church. And so we would have church activities because Ms. Lubertha (Johnson) was a member—or an attendee at least; I know she attended whether she was a member or not—of Zion. So when you wanted to have a church picnic or something, then we'd load up some kind of a way and get out to the Warden Ranch. But I never internalized that they were really working cattle and this thing that you think in terms of ranch work. Anyway, so we'd go out there and have these church picnics and gatherings and stuff like that. And we used to tease and say, “Ooh wee, why would anybody want to live way out here in no man's land?” Well, they say thee who is laughed at last laughs best. Guess what? Wish that we had been laughed at. Now, you said something about Lubertha a few minutes ago. Can you tell me about her and how you knew Lubertha Johnson? Well, because she did attend Zion Methodist Church is the association. And when she was very active as I remember, she was a grown-up, mature lady whenever I met her. She lived a long time, you know, and you'd just get to know a little bit more. Well, there was a couple here named the Johnsons. They used to run a grocery store out of their house on Van Buren. Well, Mrs. Johnson passed on. And Lubertha married Mr. Johnson. And they had that grocery store that's on D Street at Madison or just before Madison, right up from D Street. Well, before Mrs. Johnson died they had moved the grocery store out of their storefront home on Van Buren up on D Street. And Lubertha married 6 Mr. Johnson. Well, she moved in from the ranch, more like town side. And she was always active in all the civic kinds of things, especially associated with black people. And that's how I knew her. I want to know about your mother's work when she first came. Okay. Mom Ida worked for the Cragins and somebody else, I've forgotten. But anyway, you know how people recommend or somebody knows whomever and so forth. So my mom was employed by one of the most prominent white families, and still are, the Beckleys. And the Beckleys had a daughter who is still alive, Virginia Richardson. So my mom, some kind of a way the connection hit, and she started to work for Virginia. And from Virginia, she ended up with Mrs. Beckley. My mom worked a day and a half for three different families, the Jamesons, Eric. They were in real estate. And she helped rear Bill and Bob, who are Virginia and Jack Richardson—Jack is dead—Virginia and Jack Richardson's two sons. And Bill is one of the major developers in the Bellagio, Monte Carlo, Circus Circus Group, White Cross Drugstore off of Las Vegas Boulevard near the Strip. And they owned Downtown Parcels, probably still do. Oh, yes, and Jack Richardson and some men or other developed Railroad Pass Casino, which is now called the Hacienda, I think—no. That was Gold Strike Boulder City, which is now called the Hacienda. And they still have the Railroad Pass. And Bill is into all of that. My mom really was his surrogate mother growing up. Well, you know, she's told me a few times when she had to persuade him to do what she told him to do when his parents were gone and out of town and she would be in charge, you know. And I know that he cared about my mom very much and that they had a special connection. How much did your mom earn? Do you remember? I don't know. She never quite told me. But I'm sure that it was more than she was earning in the 7 South because we came in '46. Finishing my junior year in high school, she decided she had had all of Las Vegas she could take for whatever reason. She never explained it. But she said, We're going back home. So she packed us up and moved us back to Shreveport. But she only stayed a year. My senior year in high school, I finished in Shreveport, Louisiana. And then after I graduated and I had gone away to college, then she returned to Las Vegas. Because I guess the working conditions, if you're going to be a maid in someone's house, the disrespect or whatever she was encountering there, where she saw she could make more money doing the same work, why would you stay? So she returned back to Las Vegas. That would have been in '52 because I graduated high school in '52. Where did you go to college? Southern University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And you finished there? Yes. And then moved back to Las Vegas? Yes, I moved back to Las Vegas. It was interesting. I rushed myself out of college. I did college in three years because I wanted to come back and start teaching for this humongous sum of $3,600 a year. I even drew sketches of the mansion that I was going to build with the southern circular drive and the colonnades in the house for $3,600 a year. Well, when I applied, they said they didn't have any jobs available. I came out of school in August since I had done a three-year term. So I stayed in Louisiana until my mom called and said, You've got to come. It was about a week after school had started here. And she said, You have to come because I just got a call and said that there's a vacancy. So I came. And my first teaching job was at the old Westside School where KCEP is 8 now located in the southeastern corner of the building. I taught first grade. And that's really where I re-met Mrs. (Mabel) Hoggard. I had known Mrs. Hoggard because she and her mother and pops were all members of Zion United Methodist Church. And her mother's name was Mrs. Austin, Maybelle Austin. And Mrs. Austin was renowned for selling desserts after church. You know, the slices of cake. I remember telling her she could slice it so thin, you could read a newspaper through it. But she'd say, Oh, my dear, this is a Christian portion, you know. (She would) sell it for 10 cents, 15 cents or whatever. But I worked at that school. I started in first grade there. And that's where I re-met Mrs. Hoggard because she was teaching first grade and Mrs. Edith Abbington was teaching first grade there. And Lucy Laquette, who was a kindergarten teacher who commuted from Boulder City into Westside School to teach kindergarten because black teachers were not dispersed. You know, there were white teachers at Westside School, but there were no black teachers teaching in other schools. Now, tell me about Mrs. Hoggard and how long she had been in the school system when you came in—was it '52 that you came to teach? No. See, I started college in '52, and I graduated in '55. So I came back to teach in '55. And I don't really know how long she was there. I never asked her or anything like that. Because we're talking about Mrs. Hoggard, yesterday I received a call from a counselor at the school that's named for her now. And they're trying to put together something for the centennial celebration that's here next year. And they asked me for information. And I really don't have a lot. So tell me what I should tell them. Jerry Hoggard, Mr. Hoggard's son, is still available, and he could tell a whole lot about her because he was just a kid. She was his stepmother, but still he lived with her. And he might have papers and stuff from his dad and things like that, that would give them information.9 That's wonderful. I really appreciate it. Like maybe he's got when they dedicated the school, if they did a write-up or even an obituary from her death and all that, that would give some information. And she has a son living in California, I think. But I don't have a clue as to—maybe Jerry Hoggard, Mr. Hoggard's son, would know where to find her son. Getting back to Southern University, did you join a sorority? Oh, yes. I am a proud golden soror, which means I've been in the sorority for 50 years, of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. And I am a chartered member of the chapter here, Theta Theta Omega, which will celebrate its 40th year come May. So you answered another question. So there's a chapter here that's active? Oh, yes, very active. We have grown from a fledgling 12 sorors back in 1960—I just said 40 years, so it must have been '65 to over 120 or whatever, so forth. And there's lots more AKAs in the city. And we understand that, that sometimes people move from other places, and they find a different type of a lifestyle, and they just choose not to become as involved as they were in other places. What are some of the projects that you take on here? Oh, we've done things from—as our chapter has progressed—from working on mobile blood donor trucks. We've always done something in education. And now it has become more refined from a national level, or as we now see an international level, because we have chapters internationally. We have several chapters in the Asian area. We are mainline Europe. We are Hawaii, Alaska, and the Bahamas, the Caribbean. So we have to say internationally because we aren't just mainland USA. Here in Las Vegas at the present moment, we're running what we call an Ivy Reading 10 Academy at Wendell P. Williams Elementary School where children are tutored every Thursday from 2:30 to 3:30 in the basic reading skills and things like that. We have an initiative on health with focuses on SIDS and cancer. We have an economic program. We will be having an economic seminar in the second weekend, I think second Saturday in December, with focus on helping young people particularly to understand what economics and investing and real estate buying and all kinds of things, going to college, how to find money for college. And then we have arts and humanities, where we promote that. Oh, the black family. We are incorporating the black family with our Thanksgiving food baskets. This year we have singled out seniors who are taking care of grandchildren to be given the food baskets. We'll put them together and give them out at Doolittle Center. We have scholarships. We have teamed with Ronald McDonald Charities. And they will match whatever dollar we have. So in the last two years, we've been able to pass out at least $10,000 worth of scholarships to graduating seniors. And so over the years, we've given scholarships. But we have a dynamic present president, Billie Rayford, who is the Northwest Regional Director for Clark County School District. She came across this opportunity and naturally, we're very much engaged in it. Then we do what we call—not to have a day off for Martin Luther King's birthday weekend, we have a day on, where we go and volunteer to do something. We volunteered at the Convalescent Health Center down in North Vegas, where we put together personal care packs for all of the people who are there—you know, toothpastes, soaps, and items like that—and pass that out in memory of Martin Luther King. It's just so many things that the sorority does. We are naturally the supporting chapter for the undergrad chapter at UNLV, which I was one of the founding graduate advisors for the chartering of that chapter. I've been around a long time. And the only other group that I affiliate 11 with like a civic club like that is Les Femmes Douze. It's spelled L-e-s, capital F-e-m-m-e-s, capital D-o-u-z-e. Before you tell me about that, I have a question about AKAs. I interviewed a grandmother who has a son. He's a junior, I believe, getting ready to become a senior. He needs some mentoring, and he needs to know more about school. I've sent a little information about UNLV, but I think they're afraid of the university. And I would love to get some information about the economic seminar you're doing on that Saturday. And I would like to get him involved because I think that he— Yes, because we will do the seminar in connection with the Omegas, Omega Psi Phi, and they're a men's fraternity. And so it would be wonderful to get him connected up because they work with young men. Wonderful. That's what I'm looking for, and I haven't been able to find any resources for her. Okay. Well, you got one. Wonderful. Now, tell me about Les Femmes Douze. Les Femmes Douze was organized in—well, we came together as a group of 12 women in 1963. A woman who was here, her name was Gwendolyn Bennett. She's Gwendolyn Bennett Jackson now. She's back in Georgia. Any relation to Reverend Marion Bennett? We were all teaching over at Kit Carson Elementary School, which is right around the corner. And Gwen came, and she started talking individually to us and saying, Well, you know, there's no outlet to enhance the social skills, especially of our black young ladies. There's nothing that rewards them for maintaining themselves as young ladies. And really at that time, there were 12 very few young black people, male or female, that we were aware of that were aspiring to go away to college. So Gwen just talked to—there's Ruth Hicks, Dorothy Taylor, Eva Simmons, Esther Langston, who works out at the university, Barbara Kirkland, Lois Bolden, Margaret Crawford, Helen—not Helen Toland. Helen was not an original member. Anyway, there were 12 of us. And she said, Why don't we start a civic social club and start working with young ladies who are seniors in high school. So we used that first year to naturally formulate our group. And then the following year, in December—yes, it was December because our theme was a Christmas Fantasy; I can see the Christmas trees—we did our first presentation. So this next weekend on November the 20th, we will be presenting our 40th set of girls to society. We've presented over 700 and something girls over the course of these 40 years and given out quite a sizable—no. We have enabled the girls to receive quite a sizable amount of money in scholarships, more than any other black organization that I know of. And we're still just a local group. We're not across the United States or anything. I want to be invited. Oh, you're very much invited. I'll sell you a ticket right away. Yes, I want one. Yes, we have 32 or 33 girls this year. How do you find the girls? What is the process? The process is that probably in the month of February, the person in charge of applications will send applications to the high schools, to a counselor or a vice president at each one of the high schools, and will ask them to disseminate the information that these applications are available. We try to follow up because we know that the counselors get busy. So we try to follow up just to see. But that's our primary source. Then it's naturally word of mouth. We're presenting 13 granddaughters of girls we presented way back when. And this year at the ball, we have tried very hard to contact as many of those former debs from the first year all the way through, encouraging them to come because we're calling it our 40th Reunion. Some of the very first, first, first ones are still here we know. We're so reinforced because now when we go and the girls are writing their career hopes, it's all about going away to school. In the first year I remember, we said, Well, what do you want to do when you graduate high school? And there's nothing wrong with the careers that they were saying then because that's as far as the horizon opened up to them at that time. They wanted to be cosmologists and maybe do some secretarial. But as I remember it, not one of those first 12 said they wanted to go away to a four-year college. But now everybody's going away. I mean, they've got all packed down. I'm going to be a biochemist. I'm going to be a pediatrician. I'm going to work in corporate America. I'm going to become a CEO. I'm to be a dentist. I'm going to be a marine biologist. It's on and on. And a lot of these girls are doing exactly what—we have an auxiliary now. It's Les Femmes Douze and Auxiliary. But we don't call them auxiliary really. I pulled very hard for it because we were getting mature, the original ones of us, you know. They said if you don't feed something, it will die. So we needed to be fed by some more ideas and newness. So we initiated the auxiliary. And the auxiliary is made up of former debutantes and they are so energetic. They're not like, young, youngies. You know what I mean? We set it that they came from a certain—I would say they would be in their 30s, 30s to maybe 50, somewhere in that umbrella. But they are so energetic. So we have more hands to work and to help in creative ideas and things. The girls who are currently debs, they have to do a minimum of 40 hours of community service. The one who does over and above the most hours, she's awarded the community service 14 award. Then there's an academic award. We have three members who are deceased and each one of those awards is in memory. We have a talent. They have to put on a talent show. And we have independent judges. The members don't even know who won until the night of the ball. The person in charge of trophies and remembrances, that person will know because they have to function. But that's announced at the ball. And so Jenny Crawford is the academic. And all the girls who come, they have to carry at least a 2.5 GPA. Most of our girls carry 3.0 and above. So we're just really reinforced. So those are the two groups. And I belong to my church. Before you tell me about the church, where I'm from, AKAs do something similar to what you do here. We work with girls, too. So are you competing, your two groups? We're not competing at all. The AKAs, we have a group of girls. Just had a meeting last Saturday. So the report from the AKA-Teen chairperson—we call them AKA-Teen, a-k-a-t-e-e-n-s. AKA-Teen, we have 60 AKA-Teen, and they don't all have to be seniors. They are from, I think, the ninth grade through senior high. But we're not competing because we don't have a cotillion with the AKAs. Oh, you don't have a cotillion. No, we don't do a cotillion. But it's to reward, you know, to round out, to expose, to enhance the girls. Once we send the applications out with Les Femmes Douze, then we have a tea about a month later in March. And from then until the night of the cotillion, those girls are exposed to all kinds of activities, the social graces, personal protection, career focuses, how to write resumes, volunteer service, all kinds of things. So it's not just some social flip where you are the daughter of somebody and so you're going to be presented. It isn't about that. They also solicit 15 ads and patrons. That is where their scholarship monies can be generated through. That's why I did not say we give them scholarships. We are a way of them generating scholarship monies back for themselves. It's just an interesting thing. Well, you know, I skipped right past my high school years. I went to old Las Vegas High School that's called the Performing Arts Academy now down on Bridger. So, yes, I went there for three years. That's where the Rhythmettes with Barbara Mofis Cole took place. Tell me about the Rhythmettes. Well, there was a lady named Evelyn Stuckey. She came to Las Vegas (in 1948) and honest to goodness, she was very southern because she had a good southern accent. She initiated this precision drill team. And the girls had to try out. And I think there had to be some academic status. I don't know. I did not try out. I don't know how many other African-American young women did. But Barbara, she tried out and she made it. She historically is the only African-American that was ever in the Rhythmettes. And I was told by her how Evelyn Stuckey—how she stuck up for Barbara. Like when they would travel and things like that, you know, Barbara's a part of the corps, so she's going to be treated just like everybody else. But they were dynamic. Boy, we were thrilled out of our heads with the Rhythmettes. They were excellent, absolutely excellent. I found some old newspapers from the 40s, and I read recently that there was a woman here named Verlene Stevens who wrote on article in the R-J in 1948, 1949, and I think you were still here. It was called Westside News or Westside News Notes. And she always talked about a group of people called the Jolly Club, women who would get together and play cards. Do you know anything about that club? No. See, when I came, I was 12 in '46. So that would still be in my early teens. Unfortunately, 16 as with kids today I'm sure, they're living through present history. And I was living through Las Vegas history, but did not have a clue that I was living through history and should be taking notes. That's right. Because at that time in the late 40s, we began to have more and more casinos. Why didn't your mom leave the private industry, working for private homes, and go into the casino industry? I don't know why she didn't do that. She never told me. Like I said, kids don't ask their parents nothing. They just go through day to day, you know. Well, I don't know. Maybe it's just because the schedule she had or the contact, working in the families, worked for her. I don't know. I just know that she was programming me. Back in my day, when you were in high school, there were counselors. But as is today, I guess they were overworked. Or maybe in my day and because Las Vegas, the school was integrated. Las Vegas High School and Fifth Street Grammar School were integrated. But there were unfortunately some teacher that you just knew—I knew as having come from the South, been exposed to segregation and discrimination, even as a child, you can tell when people aren't treating you—or they don't have the same aspirations for you that they show toward other people. And I would say that probably a lot of the white kids were not—if their parents weren't on top of things, you were not getting certain kinds of counseling and guidance from the counselors. So my mom had taken it upon herself throughout my whole academic career from elementary school—when we were in Shreveport, I went to parochial school. And my mother was always a stickler for grades. That was her indication of my succeeding in school, which could be true and could not necessarily be true. We have different motivations. And mine was 17 you don't want to bring home any grades less than she expects because you do not want her retribution. But anyway, she had always insisted on excellent grades, which I am very happy till this day that she did. And so coming to Las Vegas, the pattern did not change. And then into high school, my mom had said to me, Well, you take secretarial things so you won't have to be a maid at the hotel. Because that was basically what was open. Now, I don't really know who she thought I was going to be a secretary to. But I took typing and shorthand. Shorthand I hated because I am not a repetitive person that you practice, just practice redundantly. But I took it. And I had to make a decent grade in it because she did not like anything but As. She would accept a B here and there, but don't come in with the other stuff. So I guess that's part of her not wanting me in the hotel system as a maid was maybe why she didn't go in as a maid herself. But my mom, I've found out that she had had a secret longing to be a florist. She was always improving stuff no matter where we lived. It was planting a tree, planting bushes, planting flowers, planting something, arranging, making things better. Always leave it better than you found it. And so at age 68 or 70—I'm not exactly sure—but somewhere around that age, a catalog from community college out of Henderson came through her mailbox, and it showed a beginning floral design classes. And she became a certified florist. She ended up with maybe 21 hours in floral design, and she had her own in-home floral business that she ran. So that was something that she wanted to do. What an example. Once in her mature years, then she did it. Did she do that as an occupation later? Well, my grandmother came here and she died here. But while my mom was taking care of her, she just had to stop working because—it wasn't that my grandmother required so much, but it 18 was just necessary. So once my grandmother passed on, she never went back full-time maid work. She just took her Social Security check. But then she enhanced it with her flower business to the point where I can remember her first telling me, Oh, it's just something I want to do, she said. Just a little something extra. See, I was still teaching school. And so when I retired—I came out of the classroom in '89 when my first granddaughter was born. And then I officially retired in '90, August the 31st, 1990. And I was always with my mom helping her. I'm what I call the go-for, do-for—go for this and do for that. But then she started to say, Well, you know, now I've got this business built up, somebody needs to be in a position to take it over. So you ought to go take some classes. And I'm saying, I don't want to. I just got through being in a classroom for 36 years. I do not want to be committed because you have to be committed to a business. So it became a serious business. She ran it like a business. It was a business. She had all of the equipment. She had all of the skills. She had a nice clientele and everything. So she had her own business. Eva's Flower Basket, that's what it was called. And she had a license and everything. Now, I see a lot of floral arrangements around. Did you take some classes? Well, I'm working on a new one for Christmas. Now that she's not here, I can't say I want to—and I know she's laughing and saying, I told you, girl, that you should've gone and taken—but I haven't taken any classes. I have found out that in being associated with my mother and being the go-for, do-for, that I did absorb some floral skills. So I like a covered front door and covered photo albums. You told me about the two organizations that you're active in. And you started to tell me about the church. Now, this is also the church that your mother was a member of? Yes, we were both members of the Zion United Methodist Church. My mom remained a 19 member from 1946 until she died in 1996. But I changed my place of worship about '89, '88. I started worshipping at Trinity Life Center at 1000 East St. Louis. So I am officially a member there now. I used to sing in the choirs. But I learned something about growing a wee bit more mature in years. I found out that the vocal chords, they get old along with the rest of you. So I don't sing in the choir anymore because I just don't. I haven't done that. But I do other things. Particularly, at Trinity, they have a vibrant women's ministry. I like setting tables and things like that. So next weekend, also next Saturday, we're having our holiday women's luncheon. So they always ask me just to volunteer to set tables. So that's why you see that place setting there. I've been practicing what I'm going to set my table with next weekend. And then my Christmas table here at home. So I do that. Tell me a little about the history of Zion. Okay. Zion is, as I understand it, the oldest continuous black congregation/church in Las Vegas. And it used to be downtown. And then it got moved to Washington, the corner of Washington and—I get the J and the H and all of that mixed up. But anyway, it moved to the West Side. And it was just a building that was not much bigger than this room that we're in when I came to Las Vegas. Then a different edifice was built. And the old little frame building was left there as like a little dining hall and everything. If you go up to Zion Methodist now, there are some old pictures in the foyer up there, and I'm on one of them in front of this little old church along with some other young people that went there. But that was the foundation. Earlier you mentioned the name of a person named Gwen Bennet. And I know that Reverend Bennett— That was his ex-wife. Oh, okay. So that's who she is. I know that Reverend Bennett was there for, what, 40 20 years? Forty-four. Forty-four years. Okay. Just retired a few months ago. You came here originally in 1946, ending of World War II. Lots and lots of African-Americans had come to the city about the same time you did. There was really a migration. Do you remember what the Westside looked like when you first came? Oh, dear. Now we would call them very much under code, you know, houses. It wasn't like tents or cardboard shacks or anything, but very sparsely developed. Some things are still here that were there. The streets were dirt. I mean, it was one way in basically and one way out almost. Bonanza was there. But then you would turn in on D street, come down to Jackson, and then up H street, I guess you would call it. That was the circle because I used to have to chase the bus. We moved up on Adams. And then our next location was Madison, on the corner of D and Madison. My mom rented a house there. So I needed to be out to catch the bus to go to high school. And I would miss it, and I would have to run all the way over to H street. That's where Sarah Ann first started to see me, she said. She would see me running to catch the bus over on H street. But that was the route. There were houses, but they weren't really shack shacks, but they weren't—I don't know how to say it as a kid. Because I'd now think about something that I thought was wonderfully beautiful as a kid, and I thought, How did I think that about that if it's still—Bonanza past Martin Luther King, down in that area, they had very nice houses. I can remember some kind of a way the bus would go, and I used to fantasize about those houses down there. But it was just very scarcely populated with unpaved streets. Oh, Jackson Street was the hub for the black entertainment. There was The Cotton Club and the town tavern. Oh, where the New Way Church of God and Christ on D Street is, that was 21 the Brown Derby. Naturally, I didn't go in them because I was a kid. But that was the hub as I remember. Now, what about some of the other businesses on Jackson Street and on D Street? Do you remember any of those places? Yes. Well, we lived on Madison and D. Well, we didn't live on the corner. We lived like one house in from the corner. Well, in front, right on the corner, was Spate's Grocery Store. It was a black man who had a small grocery store there. And then eventually it moved down the street, almost like on the corner of Jackson and D. Payden's Barbeque. I told you about the Johnson's Grocery Store, but that was on Van Buren. They had like a storefront of their house. Did she sell candy? I don't know. I never bought anything from there, to tell you the truth. I just knew it was there. Come to think of it, as a kid, it wasn't my place to be up and down Jackson Street. I know the Hugheses, there's a family, Mrs. Hughes. The Hugheses were one of the first families with business. Do you remember a Mrs. Shaw and a Mrs. Harrison? Oh, the Shaw Apartments. They were on Van Buren past H Street, the Shaw Apartments. That's where some of the black entertainers would have to stay because they weren't allowed to stay on the Strip, even though they were entertaining on the Strip. Then there was another lady. I don't know what her name is, but she was on the corner of H and Adams, and she had a house. Some of the entertainers used to stay there. Was it Harrison? I do not know what her name was. But I know that that was a place. In 1955, the Moulin Rouge opened on Bonanza. Do you remember any of the talk of the 22 community about that opening, about that place? Well, see, I came back in August of '55 from Southern. The Moulin Rouge was going pretty strongly. You know, everybody was super excited. I know my mom was here when it opened. They were just so proud that they had a quality, first-class quality place to go to because black people still weren't being allowed to go to the shows and things. The only way you sort of went to a show was, for instance, when I was teaching and we had a Christmas party, and they booked to go to a show or something like that, then the black members of the faculty went because we were a part of the faculty. But my walking up to the door to go into something by myself, it wasn't happening yet at that time. So we were just very happy to have the Moulin Rouge. So now, as a young schoolteacher, coming back to the city, did you ever go into the Moulin Rouge? To tell you the truth, no. I didn't go into—I still don't go to the hotels. Just not my orientation. Do you remember Josephine Baker coming to the city about that same time? No. Well, I started singing around Las Vegas even as a teenager. It was Fletcher's music school or company or store. John Fletcher was a music teacher. He used to have a Saturday morning radio contest. I won a few of those, singing. One time I got to meet Lena Horne. I have a picture around here somewhere that shows—what's his name—O'Brien and Lena on the picture that they took with us. It went out to one of the hotels. I don't know if it was Sahara. But anyway, I got to meet them. And I got autographs, “Peg Leg” Bates and The Treniers and some of those people you get to meet. But it wasn't like meeting them out at the hotels. Earlier you mentioned Jay David Hoggard, Sr., who was an activist here in the community. Could you tell me more about him? I think you've told me already about Mrs. Hoggard. 23 Could you tell me something about Jay David? Well, Pops was also a member of Zion United Methodist Church. His son, Jerry, and I are classmates as far as the years we were in school together. Being at the church is how I would have run into association with Pops—well, I ended up calling him Pops Hoggard. I'm sure that at the beginning I called Mr. Hoggard and Mrs. Hoggard. But my granddaughter, I give Aubrey credit for calling him Pops. And so we all in the family started calling him Pops. He was just always involved especially in the NAACP and any other civic kind of—you know, voter. And then as he got older, he became very involved in AARP. And Zion Church, he was always faithful to the church in the men's group, lay leader and all that kind of thing. Just a very caring, loving man, just really. You came back as a young schoolteacher. Tell me when you got married and if you had children. That's interesting. When I graduated from college in August of '55, like I said, there were no openings, they said, here. So I had a—not a distant, distant relative—say, “three times removed” kind of a situation. And they owned an S.O. Service Station in Shreveport on the corner of Anna and Pier Avenue. So I applied here. But I did not want to teach in Louisiana, so I did not apply there. I just didn't want to teach there. I think I had some reasons inside of me. Well, let me put it like this. When I left Las Vegas ending my junior year in high school and I went to Shreveport, I went to Booker T. Washington High School. I was a wild western, okay? I was just a wild westerner. And I'm getting down here in Shreveport, and it's like a lot of—I considered it as a pretense or a put-on. You know, people trying to be better than other people and all that kind of stuff, the southern flavor, you know. I became a part of the school, but I really wasn't a part in a way. I got to be a cheerleader that year, though. My senior year I 24 was a cheerleader. I did a lot of wonderful things. But there was this little group, and I just was not like that. So I didn't quite fit. Well, I just started to look around, and the teachers, you know, this was part of the teaching culture that you had to dress up and do all this kind of stuff. So I think I internalized, I'm not going to become a part of that. I'm not going to be roped in. So if I don't put in an application, I won't be hired. They don't know I exist. So I didn't. I got hired by my relative to be cashier/clerk at this S.O. Service Station, that I should read the meters to take the beginning numbers and the ending numbers and to receive the monies from the gas and stuff. Well, my future husband got out of the Army, and even though he had a degree in mathematics, he became a milkman for Foremost Dairy in Shreveport. His route came past this service station. And they used to have a contest, cottage cheese contest, chocolate milk contest, whatever. So I remember that he was trying to persuade me to buy a product that was on contest, and I resisted. Eventually he said, Well, can we go out? Well, about the time I said yes, my mom called and said, You've got to come out here because there's a job for you. So I left. But we communicated. He was planning to come to California to go to USC to get his master's. So I came. Maybe within a two-week time of meeting, I left to come here to take employment. Then he stayed on. This is like September of '55. Then the next summer, he came west to Los Angeles. Between his getting to Los Angeles and starting school, we were supposed to get married like the next year, by the time he asked me, you know what I mean, and we were going to get married in '57. But we ended up getting married December the 28th, 1956, at what was the old St. James Catholic Church. Yes, we were married there on December the 28th, 1956. Donald continued until the end of the first semester. Then he gave up USC, and he taught math out at Nellis Air Force Base. I've forgotten what that club was called, but it's an empty lot now up on Jackson Street. They built a really nice supper club up there.25 The Key Club? No. I've forgotten. But anyway, he was working at Nellis, and then he became a cashier up there. It was where when Sammy Davis married one of his—not May Britt, the one after that. He brought her there. I used to just go up to sit there because I was not a gambler, still am not. But it was so funny because he came in with his new bride. And part of the celebration was—no matter where you put your money on the table, whatever the dice roll, it didn't matter. Everybody was getting paid. And I'm just sitting there. So Donald said, pop, pop, and he spanked me. So I went up. He says, put your money on the table. I'm just sitting there. He says, Put your money on, he's paying anything. I found out that there was a limit that he was just going to give away. So it didn't make any difference what the dice rolled. So I ended up putting some money there. But I could've had a stack from Sammy Davis and Loray (his wife). Yes, I remember. I think her last name is White. Yes. So he was working at the Nellis in the day, and he was working cashier up there. We didn't have any children then. Where did you live? Well, when I came back from school, my mom was living in Cadillac Arms, which is up there. That was a new housing development. So naturally I moved in with her. And then when Donald and I got married, we lived there. And then we came to this house—I've been in this house 42 years. So I guess we moved here in 1962. Now, is this a house that you built from ground up, or was this part of a development? This is part of a development. What was this called? Casper, I think. It's called Casper Park. I think that's what it's called.26 This is a beautiful home. Now, how large is this home? Well, because we have changed its configuration somewhat, I think the last time I had it appraised, under roof I have about 3,000 square feet of livable space. In 1999 I decided that the storage room was just catching junk, and I could do something better with that than that. So I had it converted to my kitchen. So behind this wall is our kitchen. Donald and I were married, and we were not parents for a long time—well, we just didn't seem to be on that road. We decided through the influence of Anna and Bob Bailey to apply to adopt. We applied, and we became the parents of two children, a girl in '63 and a boy in '65. Our daughter is Allison. Our son is Craig. Allison lives here and is now teaching. Craig lives in Los Angeles, and he's in banking. Unfortunately, the Lord decided that he wanted Donald back with him in 1979. So he passed on on November the 5th, 1979. And I am still single. There are two other things that I want to ask about. Growing up here, you must have been involved in Helldorado parades. Oh, yes. Tell me about that. Well, you know that that was just a wonderful time of year. It usually took place in May. And there were three parades. Friday was the old timers' parade with the covered wagons and the cowboys and the this and the that and the other. And Saturday would be the children's parade where all of the schools—and even if you weren't representing a school because Barbara dressed up in pioneer clothes, and I dressed up in pioneer clothes, you know, you could just walk down Fremont Street. You didn't have to be associated with any particular group. And then there were skill equestrian groups. It was just lots of fun. Then on Sunday, every hotel on the Strip would put in a fabulous float. I mean, they weren't just thrown-together floats. They were marvelous 27 floats. I'm sure I have some pictures, still pictures around here of Helldorado parade. And then there was Helldorado village where Cashman Field is. They would have like a carnival kind of a thing. And the rodeo was held where they play baseball. That's where the rodeo was held down there, you know. And the community just came together. As a kid and even after I came back as a teacher, the parades were still intact. After Westside—I worked there one year—the next year Kit Carson opened up with H.P. Fitzgerald as principal. And I moved to there because I could just walk right from Cadillac Arms across a little desert strip then, because the houses weren't there, to Kit Carson. Naturally, we entered the parades. A number of times, at least two, Kit Carson won the grand trophy for the best entry. And I worked a lot of hours on costuming. But it was fun. The community just came together. Tell me about that atmosphere at that time. I know that the city itself was still segregated. But that weekend, those three days, what was it like when it came to race relations? Las Vegas was segregated, but when it came to those kinds of activities, it was a different kind of segregation than absolutely down South. You know what I mean? Where you weren't allowed to participate in things. Here you participated in them. And there was nothing really on the books that said it. It was like a gentlemen's agreement kind of segregation, you know. And I don't know if it was that when the migration took place because of the dam. That was one of it. You know, people came to work. That it frightened the populous, and they sort of set up their parameters. You know what I mean? But we participated in the parades and going—you could go to the village and that kind of a thing. It was just the hotels mainly. Well, see, I was a kid, so I didn't know anything. We didn't have fast food. So it wasn't like popping up in some restaurant and things like that. 28 My husband became a math teacher with Clark County School District. In December of '68, we got a telephone call from Dick Irby. I didn't know anything about this exchange system between Clark County School District and Medellin, Colombia's school system. But they had established a teacher exchange. And Donald had taught several of Dick Irby's children in high school in math at Western High School. So we get this telephone call wanting to know if he would consider coming to Medellin, Colombia, South America to be a math teacher. For once, I didn't back up and say, I don't want to go someplace. I stepped out and took a risk. We taught for the Colombian school year of 1969 in Medellin, Colombia. So the year we were gone was the year that the Strip got busted by the protest, you know, the marching and the whatever. We were there for the Colombian school year. We left near the end of January of '69 because their school year is from January to November. And we taught and finished the year in November. Then Clark County was going through some fiscal shortages and decided that— We were summonsed to return home. So we came back. We started our journey back home at the end of the school year in November in Colombia and got home just prior—well, we went as far as Lima, Peru, before we came back stateside and got home just in time for Christmas that year. So that was an interesting experience. I was preparing to go back for the senior class graduation. I taught second grade. So ten years later, in '79, I was preparing to go back for the graduation of the students I had taught, and that was when Donald died. So I didn't get to go. Since then the drug cartel and all of that has gotten so bad, that I have not felt comfortable pursuing it. But it's a beautiful country, and the people were marvelous. We had a blast. That's really exciting. There's one other thing I want to ask you about. In the 50s, the test site started testing atomic bombs not that far from Las Vegas. Do you remember what that 29 was like, experiencing some of those blasts? Because you came back in '55. All I guess I remember about the blasts is that you could feel the quake on the earth. But I wasn't really, I guess, involved enough to remember anything other than that. Like “you're having an earthquake” kind of a thing. They talk about the fallout, when they did it and it affected the atmosphere. But I don't remember anything about that. You said that when you were in South America, that you missed some events that happened. Yes. It was the protest on the Strip where the NAACP—you know, this was the Civil Rights time. So they did a march on the Strip, or they threatened—well, the Strip opened up because they did not want the negative publicity to go across the world, really, about Las Vegas. So that forced the opening so that black people could go into the shows and things. Do you remember blacks ever actually marching on the Strip? I thought that they congregated, but it wasn't like a long-term protest. The hotel owners, the way I understood it since I wasn't here, really understood or it was made clear that there was going to be a protest. To avoid this negative publicity all over, then the negotiations took place. But there might have actually been people with signs or something, but it never really went into a full-blown march. I appreciate all of this information. This has just been wonderful. Ernie, because you were here about the same time, did you have anything— I have photographs because I worked for Channel 10 then of protests on the Strip. But I think when the people actually marched was '72. Okay. That was Ruby. Oh, Ruby Duncan.30 In '69, I don't think there was an actual march. Right. It was only a threat. Right. That's what she said, yes. But I have one question for you since you've lived here for that long because I used to live right off of Bonanza and—the street's no longer there because of the freeway. There was a little store right on the corner of Bonanza and whatever that first street is off of— D. What was the name of that place? I used to go in there and buy candy. That wasn't Thrower was it? No, not Thrower. It was there forever. It finally got boarded up. Oh, why would you ask me. If you ask me, it's surely not going to come. But, yes, they're right the corner of Bonanza at D Street, was a grocery store or kind of a little store there. Thrower is like more modern day. I really appreciate this, and I appreciate all those names that you gave to me because I'm going to find those people. I just thank you so much. Now, when you want to know about that store, ask Barbara Cole because she would know. Like Aunt Nina and Uncle Harry, her mother's sister and her husband, when we first came here, they lived behind where the plaza and the railroad—the railroad had some little houses. Basically where the new outlet mall area is now, that's where Aunt Nina and Uncle Harry lived. When you said the Sweets lived behind the garage, it seemed like it was maybe where—not Industrial but farther out—31 It's back over in that area. Alta, maybe that far out? No, they weren't at Alta. They were out like behind where—because even if you go there now and you're traveling on—I don't know if it's Industrial or what that street that is, but you go through like a little underpass and then take— It wasn't that far out, then, huh? Ruth Sweet was out there. We used to have hayrides from Ray Christianson over here off of Owens Street where the defunct Guy medical building is. You know, where they've closed down the veterans building up there, we used to—all of that was just desert kind of thing. My mom used to send me over to—well, it was an older couple and they raised chickens, so you could buy fresh eggs from them. You know, I used to have to go over in that area to get those eggs. But anyway, over where that medical center, we used to rendezvous over there on hayrides because there was an artesian well. That's water that's running close to the surface. And somebody had stuck a pipe in it, and it was just gushing over. And we used to rendezvous over there on hayrides. One other question, as a young couple, what kind of entertainment activities did you and your husband participate in? We had what is known as house parties. You invited people over to your house, and you went to their house. Or you went to the movies. But it was mainly centered around family or friends. And naturally, I was in the sorority, so we had functions. And I was in Les Femmes Douze. As we got into those things, you know. Is your husband in a fraternity, too? Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. My daughter is an AKA. My son is non-Greek affiliated.32 Where did your kids go to high school? Craig went to Valley, and Allison went to Clark. Okay. Both bussed, right? Um-h'm. Well, this has been wonderful. You've given me information that—and La Femmes, I didn't know about this organization, and this is so important. If I wanted to find papers or if I wanted to do historical research on this organization, Les Femmes Douze, who would have it? We used to keep very accurate photo albums. I don't know. When I say I don't know, I know we still have them someplace. But it's like the fallacy of a lot of black organizations that we don't have properties where we can archive things. And when they go from the president here to the president there to the historian here, you lose them. So I'm not exactly sure where some of that stuff is. But because this is our 40th anniversary, I'm not sure what they're writing up or what they're doing. But you have Esther at the university. That's right. Esther might have some information. And then that could be your contact close-up to follow through or calling me because we have a meeting—today is Friday. We have a meeting tomorrow. So I could probably—but they're so involved with getting, you know... Yes. But just tell them that— And then there are newspaper articles. We've had a hard time with the newspapers. Now that's the truth. With the R-J? We've had a very difficult time with the local newspapers from the onset trying to get the 33 publicity that we think is due this because they will publicize everything negative. And then this has been and continues to be a very positive thing that's come from out of the black community. We will present any girl who fills out an application. We are not prejudiced against any other ethnicity. We've had Hispanic young women who've come to the tea. White young women who've come. But we ultimately end up presenting those who stay. And it's their choice if they come and find out that this is being done by African-American women and they don't want to stay. But we have presented—because she was my little sister. The girls get to pull our names. And then we become their big sisters. So a couple, three years ago, my little sister happened to be a little young white girl. So we've had at least one. I don't think we've had any Hispanics. But that's their choice because it's open to all girls who are finishing their junior year, entering their senior year. So we've tried with the newspapers. And one year the social editor was out of town, and that's the only year that we got the whole page spread with the girls in their white dresses and everything. Now, let me tell you what happened as a result of that. The Mesquite Club, which is an old, old white civic social group, they started to have presentations, cotillions. They had it about three years. When they ran out of nieces and granddaughters and grandsons and nephews and those to present and escort, it fizzled. So we're the only group in the city who does. And we have been doing it for 40 years. And I'm ready to buy a ticket right now. Well, I will have my tickets tomorrow. I have a grandniece here who needs that kind of training. And all of the ladies who are in Les Femmes Douze are college grads, and we're in diverse occupations. I mean, it's just been interesting to start out 40 years ago not knowing what the 34 holy heck we were doing organizing ourselves. But it's stayed. Well, I appreciate all of this. Thank you so much. You're welcome. I am honored that I was chosen. We're honored that you said yes. I do have a cassette tape around here someplace where my son interviewed my mother. I will try to find it. He has asked me—I remember it was a project. I think when he was college, he had to interview somebody, and he chose to interview his grandmother. So let me listen to it. 35 Index Abbington, Edith, 8 AKA - Teen, 14 Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, 9 Austin, Maybelle, 8 Bates, “Peg Leg”, 22 Beckley family, 6 Bolden, Lois, 12 Boulder City, 6, 8 Cadillac Arms, 25, 27 Casper Park, 26 Christianson, Roy, 2 Clark County School District, 10, 28 Cole, Barbara, 15, 30 Crawford, Jenny, 14 Crawford, Margaret, 12 D Street, 3, 5, 21, 30 Davis Jr., Sammy, 25 Davis, LorayWhite, 25 Doolittle Center, 10 Duncan, Ruby, 30 El Portal Theater, 2, 4 Fifth Street Grammar School, 3, 16 Fitzgerald, H.P., 27 Fletcher, John, 22 Foley Building, 3 Fremont Street, 2, 26 Gold Strike, 6 Graham, Ida, 1, 3, 6 Guy medical building, 31 Helldorado, 26, 27 Hicks, Ruth, 12 Hoggard, Jerry, 8, 9, 23 Hoggard, Mabel, 8, 23 Hoggard, Sr., Jay David, 22 Horne, Lena, 22 Hughes family, 21 Huntridge Theater, 4 Irby, Dick, 28 Ivy Reading Academy, 10 Jackson Street, 20, 21, 25 Jackson, Gwendolyn Bennett, 11 Jameson family, 6 Johnson, Lubertha, 5, 6 Kirkland, Allison, 26, 32 Kirkland, Craig, 26, 32 Kirkland, Donald, 24, 25, 26, 28 Kit Carson Elementary School, 11, 27 Langston, Esther, 12 Laquette, Lucy, 8 Las Vegas High School, 15, 16 Les Femmes Douze, 11, 13, 14, 31, 32, 33 Majestic Theater, 2 Medellin, Columbia, 28 Moulin Rouge, 22 NAACP, 23, 29 Nellis Air Force Base, 24 Payden's Barbeque, 21 Plaza Hotel, 2 Railroad Pass, 6 Rayford, Billie, 10 Rhythmettes, 15 Richardson, Jack, 6 Richardson, Virginia, 6 Ronald McDonald Charities, 10 Ronzoni's department store, 2 Shaw Apartments, 21 Shreveport, LA, 1, 2, 3, 7, 16, 23, 24 Simmons, Eva, 12 Southern University, 7, 936 St. James Catholic Church, 24 Stuckey, Evelyn, 15 Sweet Ranch, 5 Sweet, Ruth, 3, 4, 31 Taylor, Dorothy, 12 Toliver, Atha, 1 Treniers, 22 Trinity Life Center, 19 Warden Ranch, 5 Wendell P. Williams Elementary School, 10 Westside, 8, 15, 20, 27 Westside School, 8 Zion United Methodist Church, 5, 8, 19, 23ii Preface On a sunny day in 1946, the train from Shreveport, Louisiana, stopped at The Plaza hotel in downtown Las Vegas like it always did. But on this particular day, Atha Toliver and her only child, twelve-year-old Barbara, stepped off the train and onto the dusty Western street of Fremont. Narrator Barbara Bates Kirkland recalls that event and living in Las Vegas for most of the next seven decades during this 2004 interview. Like many others who migrated from the South, Barbara Kirkland’s mother would find employment as a maid. A friend who already lived in Las Vegas had told her of the good paying jobs as private maid. So Atha who was determined that her daughter would get an education and a finer future saw this as her opportunity to achieve this for her daughter. Later, the entrepreneurial and creative mother opened Eva’s Flower Basket, a floral shop that Barbara operates in her retirement from teaching. Barbara returned to Louisiana for her senior year in high school, attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, and then returned to Las Vegas to teach first grade at Westside School. Barbara was active in the community, was a founding member of Les Femmes Douze, involved with Zion United Methodist Church and was friends with many of the early African American community leaders at the time. She talks about these, describes various neighborhoods where she lived and about raising her own two children in Las Vegas.
- Kirkland, Barbara, White, Claytee D
- Contributing Institution
- University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University Libraries
- African American women
African American businesspeople
African American teachers
- This material is made available to facilitate private study, scholarship, or research. It may be protected by copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity rights, or other interests not owned by UNLV. Users are responsible for determining whether permissions are necessary from rights owners for any intended use and for obtaining all required permissions. For more information, please see the UNLV Special Collections policies on reproduction and use (https://www.library.unlv.edu/speccol/research_and_services/reproductions) or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Chicago citation style
- Kirkland, Barbara, White, Claytee D. Transcript of Interview with Barbara Kirkland. 2004-11-12. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://utah-primoprod.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlDisplay.do?vid=MWDL&afterPDS=true&docId=digcoll_unl_14ohr/637. (Accessed November 17, 2018.)
- APA citation style
- Kirkland, Barbara, White, Claytee D, (2004-11-12) Transcript of Interview with Barbara Kirkland. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://utah-primoprod.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlDisplay.do?vid=MWDL&afterPDS=true&docId=digcoll_unl_14ohr/637
- MLA citation style
- Kirkland, Barbara, White, Claytee D. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America <http://utah-primoprod.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo_library/libweb/action/dlDisplay.do?vid=MWDL&afterPDS=true&docId=digcoll_unl_14ohr/637>.