Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Riverview Oral Histories #9: Mr. Nathan and Mrs. Alma Bly
PHOTO AT LEFT: Nathan Bly remembers the old Underpath, and wishes the city would build a nice new, wider walkway, like they did for Eastman down the railroad tracks at Konnarock Road, and the PHOTO AT TOP RIGHT: At Central Baptist Church, Alma Bly remembers the Youth Choir directed by Mrs. Ethel Walton Daniels back in the 50's. The front building is the former Sanctuary, and the new Sanctuary is in the rear.
NATHAN BLY: My first memory of Riverview actually, I stayed over here with my grandmother. I wasn't a true resident yet, because I lived where we used to call across town, the Highway, with my mother. We also lived on Walnut Street. I spend most of my younger life with my grandmother in Riverview back during the 1950's, maybe a little earlier than the 1950's. I can remember when Riverview was first built. There wasn't a large number of apartment buildings such as it is now. If I'm not mistaken, there was just the section down on Lincoln Street, Carver Street and across. I believe it's Booker Street at the present time. That is all that was here, 56 apartments. At that time, there really wasn't anything else over here. All of that area was just open grassfields, sage grass, there were a lot of chicken coops, hog pens, things of that nature. That's the only thing people had to more or less survive back in those days. I can remember when the milk man used to deliver milk and they would bring milk in jars, and you would set your cans out on the porch and that'show you got your milk. I remember when the ice man would come around and sell you 50 pounds of a block of ice to put in our refrigerator, your so-called refrigerator, wasn't anything but an ice box. You put the ice up in the top and it kept everyting else cold. One of the good things back then, was no such thing as locking your doors. Everyone was family. Everybody knew and respected each other. There wasn't any stealing or any drugs or anything like that. It was an enjoyable childhood over here (in Riverview). We played in the field, which is now a parking lot that was the main playfield for all the kids. There is one thing that just about every kid in Riverview did when the sun set. You went home. Riverview wasa great place to live. I can remember in the younger days, when we were going to the Old Douglass (on East Sevier). My Aunt Virginia would take me to the Old Douglass. I wasn't even old enough to go to school. There were so many good times. It seems like there may have been people who lived what we called "across town," which we called "The Highway" (it was actually Sullivan Street). They were always into it with Riverview. When you go to Oak Hill, Sullivan Street, when you got to the bottom of Oak Hill, you were in Riverview territory, but when you got to the top of the hill, you were in the territory of "across town," which I didn't have any problem because I was part of both. There were some great times at Old Douglass on Walnut. We celebrated holidays like the Fourth of July, and also there was a Negro's Holiday we always celebrated on the 8th of August. That was when the communities from both sections of town where Blacks lived would get together. There would be croquet matches, checker matches, tennis, volleyball, badmitten, cardplaying, and everybody enjoyed those holidays. When we moved to the new Douglass, I think it was January of 1951, it was a state-of-the-art school. We had chemical labs, a home economics room, we had a library, history rooms, a cafeteria, a gymnasium and all kinds of nice classrooms. It was a good building, it was something we were proud of. When our school was built, that was the only new Black high school that was built in the whole Tri-City area. We had good teachers and a good place to learn, too. The most devastating eyesore was having to pass by the junkyard coming into Riverview. That was the only way into here. The only other way was the Underpath, and it was highly grown up, swampy and not that much improvement has been done to it as of today. They need to fix that Underpath, just as they did where the Eastman Research Building is and that underpass (beside Konnorock Road), a nice and clean dry area with the sidewalk and everything. It could be done the same way over there if someone would make the city spend some money to do this. It needs to be cleaned up, where it would be a better way for people who still have to walk through that area to go to town.
ALMA BLY: I remember Lincoln Street, I guess between the late 1940's and early 50's, it was the main Black Business District. We had the two-story Elks Lodge, on the first floor there was a nursery school. We had The Hut, theMasonic Hall and the Esquire Building. Later on, we had the Midway Grill, where I worked as a waitress. It was owned by Paul and Minerva Taylor. They also owned the Band Box Cleaners and I worked there, too. And then, there was the ice cream parlor owned by Jason and Nora Mae Taylor. Next door to that, Rev. Edge had a restaurant. We also had the Elks Club and Oscar McClintock owned a barber shop. Horace Curry had a mortuary, and Emmitt Collins had a store. Ethel Walton Daniels did hair on Saturday morning upstairs over the Masonic Hall. She did very, very good work, and everybody tried to get appointments with her. Even back before that, Ms. Ethel Walton Daniels directed the Youth Choir at Central Baptist Church. Rev. Parks was the pastor, and we were little children. She would get us all together, and we all wore little polka-dot blouses and black skirts. We practiced every Saturday and sang at functions. She was a very good director and educator for the youth. When we were teenagers, we used to always go down to Emmett's Confectionary. We would go at lunchtime. We would play the jukebox and dance, and I think he would stay open until 9 PM for the teenagers. Where the Eastman building is now located, was a drive-in theater. (The area where the Eastman Complex is now) had the junkyard, the drive-in, a plant that made potato chips, and an old store I guess you would call a Minute Market, but it was just a roadside store. It was located on what is now Wilcox Drive. Walking under the Underpath was always frightening, because you didn't know what was going to be on the other side. And like us two little girls having to walk under that Underpath early in the morning to go to school; it was very frightening.