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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Riverview Oral Histories #3: James Swafford

THE PICTURE ABOVE: The Riverview Business District on Lincoln Street, 1963.
From left: Rev. Edge's Place, The American Legion, McClintock's Barber Shop, B.P.O. Elks, Curry's Mortuary, Masonic Hall, Collin's Grocery Store.

JAMES SWAFFORD: Well, when I first saw, came here, we used to live on Dale Street, Ithink these projects were here and we moved over here in 1942 or 1943, we moved in Apartment 20 and that's where we were until 1951, until we built the house over here on Dunbar Street. I remember having a little wading pool over here in the back the field over there, back of Douglass, after they built Douglass. We used to have to walk from Riverview across town to old Douglass. Wasn't too much going on then you know. We had a little candy store down there, Mr. Collins. Rev. Edge had a store and Mr. Collins had a store, you remember Mr. Emmit Collins? Yeah, he had a little store down, a little grocery store, we all participated and I remember Mr. Jason Taylor had a little ice cream parlor down there after they built the swimming pool. Later on come Mr. Paul Taylor, he had a little store down here on the corner, he had a little candy and a little stuff in there for you know, he mostly catered to the guys that worked in the "brickyard," you know, with the lunches and things. He had a little dry cleaners or something. I worked down there for him and Rev. Joe Whiteside when I was real young. When the projects were built, we had first a little sprinkler, right down there between the apartments, right there where 19-25-28, right in that little circle there, they had a little sprinkler they would turn on everyday when the summer time come. It was just as good as a swimming pool youknow, because old and young was out there, everybody wanted to stay cool. We had the Elks Club down there, a white wooding building, and Mr. Kiser and 'em built the American Legion during that time. They had a little school, called it a Mason School, I think they got some kind of grant to train these guys through the G-I Program. And they went in there and trained them how to be masons and things like that. All of them there,Stevens and all of them, they taught there, Mr. Kiser was over it. Black people during that time were Rev. Edge, Alex Gilmore, Paul Taylor, Jason Taylor, yeah, Mr. McKnight, he had a little candy store up to his house. Up here on Louis Street. We used to all run up there and get candy. Mr. Hodge sold coal and vegetables. My grandfather just plowed, did a lot of farming and plowed people gardens. He raised chickens and sold them. They kinda cleared off one end of the junkyard (on Lincoln and Wilcox)and made a drive-in movie theater. We all used to slip over there and go through and look at free movies. They tried to run us out, but they couldn't run everybody out. My grandfather had bought a lot down on Lincoln Street and the"brickyard" wanted it, so they swapped a lot at 225 Dunbar Street for it,and he built the house there. Ms. Lillie Smith was one of the first houses on Dunbar Street. Then I think Mr. Dewey Long, Mr. Preston Collins, he had a house down there in the corner, but I think that came a little later. These are some of the older people that were here, you know, that I remember. 'Cause Sneed and all those houses, they came later after the school was built, in fact we used to kind of farm that hill up there, my granddaddy, the "brickyard" let him plow that hill over there, put out corn and stuff like that. You know, I think basically we got along better back then than we do now,because I don't think our culture is respected. But we do pretty good over here, it's not bad, I think it might get better one of these days. Of course, I'm glad that we did integrate things because you know, we got better opportunities. But you know, the thing that hurt us, not just here,because you know I have been all over, it's the drug traffic, because when we had whiskey and beer, it wasn't as bad as it is now. People didn't get ripped off, beat up and all that old stuff. Just like a man said, "the kind and the wicked will do things in equal quantity. You can act nice and all that, but when you get those drugs in you, you're subject to do anything to get them drugs, you will steal or whatever it takes to get them drugs." That's a big problem that we have. All of us are affected by that.