Keywords: Bostick's Café; City of Texas City; Contruction; Domestic; Holman Lilienstern; Lake Road Elementary; Latch-key; Lincoln High School; UTMB; West Texas City; Woodland Junior High School
Subjects: African Americans--Economic conditions; African Americans--Education--Texas; African Americans--Employment
Keywords: AKA; Congress Junior High School; Intermural sports; JC Penny's; Nicki Porter; North Texas State; Physical Education; Prairie View A&M College; Sara Miller; Scholarship; Sororities; Student loan; Teaching
Subjects: African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Employment; African Americans--Segregation; Race relations; School integration
MAYFIELD: So, today is Tuesday, March 30, 2021, and we are in Texas City, Texasat the Nessler Center. This is Theresa Mayfield, the Local History Librarian with Moore Memorial Public Library. I am working on the African American Oral History Project, initiated by Moore Memorial Public Library to aid the African American community in building the historical narrative and to fill in the gap of the historical record. Today, we have the distinct pleasure of interviewing Commissioner Thelma Bowie of Texas City. Commissioner Bowie, thank you so much for being here today. And, would you mind, very much, introducing yourself?
BOWIE: Yes. My name is Thelma Smith Bowie. And I'm presently CityCommissioner-At-Large. And I'm truly humbled by this opportunity just to share my brief journey, um, in this lifetime. Uh, it's just, it's just something I never dreamed I would be involved with and, it's truly a pleasure having to collect the information required for the oral history project. It really took me back down some paths of, of rediscovery of, of, feelings at 00:01:00different times in my life. Uh, my growth, my progression, and uh, it's been a blessing to me to have been able to take this walk. And had it not been for this project, the oral history project, uh, I wouldn't have done it, probably.
MAYFIELD: Well, we are so glad to have you here today. Thank you, so much.
BOWIE: Thank you, so much.
MAYFIELD: Well, uh, we're going to start some little bit with your family. Um,can you tell me when and where you were born?
BOWIE: I was born in Temple, Texas. October the sixth, 1949. Um, we were a smallfamily. When I came along, I had an older sister, two older sisters and an older brother. And uh, it was a, a fun time. We played. We had fun. We didn't have sibling rivalry at that time. (laughs) But, uh, it was amazing how 00:02:00much fun we had, and, and not knowing how poor we were. Uh, we lived in a small, small house. Uh, we later transitioned to a, a project, Crestview Project. Um, the neighborhood had lots and lots of families and kids who played together. Um, and the, the school that I attended was very close by, so I was able to walk to school, uh, in the first grade. Never knew anything about kindergarten. As I said, what, what was kindergarten when you don't have money?
BOWIE: So, I'm sorry. So, would you repeat your question? (laughs)
MAYFIELD: No, it's okay. So, when did you move to Texas City?
BOWIE: We moved to Texas City in '57. And the reason we moved to Texas City wasthat my parents were both looking for economic opportunities, jobs. Uh, at the time, if you didn't work in the hospital system in Temple, Texas, you 00:03:00know, you pretty much were out of luck. So, there were uh, sisters and brothers living in the La Marque-Texas City area of my father. So, we were easily able to transition, get situated. We moved to our first home in La Marque at 122 Lake Road and that just so happened to be right adjacent to Lake Road Elementary school, which is no longer there. It was recently torn down due to, uh, Hurricane Harvey.
BOWIE: But that was the best place to be in the whole wide world. I mean, whoelse could go next door to, to roller skate, you know. To, to run home and get my teacher some iced tea from my mom, or some snacks that they wanted, and they knew my mom and my dad both cooked. So, it was always a fun place to be. It was centrally located. All my friends lived up and down Lake Road, and all of the, uh, streets that were tributary streets. So, it was the best of times 00:04:00for me.
BOWIE: And again, I never realized how poor we were because we always had food.
BOWIE: We always had clean clothes. They weren't like the clothes of some of myfriends who did dress better and, and I began to notice that, but, you know, my mom and dad, um, placed importance on substance and not on materialistic things and, --so, I got to wear all of the hand-me-downs from Laverne and Wilma, and then Jackie got to wear my clothes. The only sibling that, that really had it made in the shade, was my baby sister, Debra. Uh, she had new everything, you know. We kind of--(laughs).
MAYFIELD: --She got lucky.
BOWIE: We took a position and kind of decided against her a couple of timesbecause she was Mama's baby doll and we were just regular Thelma, Jacqueline, Laverne, Wilma, and Joe. So, yeah, baby, baby sister took, took a 00:05:00beating [Ed. Note: verbal beating] a couple of times.
MAYFIELD: So, you said that your family came from Temple. Is that where they'reoriginally from?
BOWIE: My mother grew up and was born in Roby, Texas which is far west Texas.And then her family later transitioned to Chappell Hill, which is not, which is between Brenham and Independence. My dad was born and raised in Independence, Texas. So, Chappell Hill and Independence came together, they met, and the rest was history.
MAYFIELD: The rest is history. Um, so, you have, --uh Laverne, is your oldest sister?
BOWIE: That's correct.
MAYFIELD: Is Joe the second oldest child?
BOWIE: No. Uh, my sister Wilma, she's, my sister; my special needs sister. Shehad Down Syndrome. She was the second, uh, born child in the family. And then my brother, Joe. And I was in the middle. And I complained at every family reunion. Middle children suffer tremendously, traumatic experiences because there are no cute baby pictures of me, anywhere. That, --I think I have a picture 00:06:00of me at three years old. It's the first time you see a picture of me as a little kid. And that was at a birthday party with my brothers and sisters. No other kids. Uh, but the others have cute little pictures in ballerina outfits, and sailor outfits. I don't have one. And I let them know every time we get together. Why didn't I deserve my own baby picture?
MAYFIELD: That's what happens when you're stuck in the middle, right?
BOWIE: Absolutely. Absolutely.
MAYFIELD: So, uh, you said that your, uh, that you guys wore hand-me-downs, butdoes, how was your family's economic circumstances when you came to Texas City?
BOWIE: My dad worked sometimes, up to three jobs a day. My mom worked two jobsevery day, except the weekends. What I remember, is that she was a domestic. She worked in the homes of influential people in Texas City. Holman 00:07:00Lilienstern, being one of them, who was an encourager, and a motivator, and a mentor, in terms of getting her to look at improving her educational status and enhance her job opportunities. Um, my dad worked construction. And I would see him, you know, go out in the cold, and the rain. And he never complained. He was a great provider. He later started cooking at Bostick's restaurant. Old-timers (laughs) will know Bostick's as one of the finest, uh, restaurants in, uh, West Texas City on FM 1765. And uh, it was amazing. We loved him working there because we would wait for him to get off from work and he would come home with these white boxes. Huge boxes loaded with hamburgers, french fries, fried shrimp, steak. And we'd be up at twelve o'clock (laughs) every night, 00:08:00"Okay, what do we have? What do we have?" We'd eat and then we'd go back to sleep, of course. But it, it was, it was, it was difficult for them. I understand, um, which is why I think being so close to Lake Road was, was, was a great deal, --a strategic move. In that, by the time we got out of school, Lake Road, and Woodland, --and my sister was at Lincoln, at the time, our mom had already cooked dinner for us. And so, I guess we were latch-key kids?
BOWIE: And so, we went home and we ate. Uh, Laverne and Jackie were insidegirls. I was the outdoorsman. I was the tomboy. So, I was ripping and running, walking from one end of Lake Road all the way down to Jackson Street to play with my friends. So, uh, they did what they had to do to put food on our table, and to make sure that we had a roof over our heads. So, they worked those jobs, 00:09:00 uh, until things began to change. And I, I mentioned, earlier, that my mom, at the age of thirty-eight, was forced to make an, uh, important decision in her life, between home and Lilienstern, and also my oldest sister, Laverne. Laverne encouraged her to go back to school. You know, you have a ninth-grade education, you're not going to find the kind of jobs that you are worthy of, unless you go back to school. She did attend Alvin Junior College. She got her GED, and she was hooked on learning. She went on for the next two years and she got her, uh, Associates degree. And it was very soon after that that she applied at UTMB for a unit clerk position. She started out at the bottom, but she worked herself up to a unit manager over the years. And I began to see her dress better. I began to see the cars look a little bit better. And 00:10:00even our clothes got to look a little better. And we were truly blessed at some point and time the city of Texas City offered my dad a position in public works. I think it was in the streets department. And so, this was his very first job with benefits. Both my parents had benefits. Which was, --it meant insurance. It meant security. And so, I guess we were no longer poor, but we were, by far, not wealthy people. You know, we, we were comfortable in our skins. We didn't have a lot of extravagant things. We didn't have extravagant clothes. Everything was functional and for a purpose.
MAYFIELD: About how old were you when your parents' economic circumstancesstarted to change?
BOWIE: It was probably going into the fifth and sixth grade that things began tolook better. So, they put, they put the time in. They did the work to 00:11:00improve their economic situation. And, they motivated us, because I would always watch them and just wonder, you know, here my dad is going out to work in the cold and the rain. That means he loves us, you know? He wants to take, you know, care of us. And the same thing with my mom working multiple jobs. You know, why are you cleaning houses for other people? Why don't you just stay? "Well, I have to work." And you begin to understand the sacrifice that they made. And for that, I will be forever grateful.
MAYFIELD: Well, your, your parents must have come from, you know, really strong people.
BOWIE: They did. They did. Um, my grandparents on my father's side, I00:12:00spent every summer. Even as a senior in high school, I would still go up there and visit. I just, --I loved being outdoors. I loved picking the eggs and getting the vegetables, and helping my grandmother prepare meals. Wash clothes in the strange machine, that, that (laughs) I wasn't familiar with, and wringing them out. It was a fun place to go and visit. And if you think my parents worked hard, --my great-parents, Jackie and Maggie Smith, I, I don't know how they did it. Yeah.
MAYFIELD: Did they live on a farm, or--
BOWIE: They had their own farm. They raised everything from their meats to theirvegetables. I think the only thing that they purchased was sometimes, sugar, because they had sugarcane. But um, they didn't purchase toilet tissue, either they had magazines.
BOWIE: We won't get into that. (laughs) The outhouse, we will not forget the00:13:00 outhouse.
MAYFIELD: That's a story all by itself.
BOWIE: The outhouse was a scary place. You don't dare go to the outhouse unlesssomebody's standing in the little trail. And one time, I just didn't want to go in it by myself. And I just took my little position and looked around to make sure nobody was watching. I should have been looking for the red ants that were right below me.
MAYFIELD: Oh no.
BOWIE: And I got up and ran, and screamed and uh, I never did that again. But itwas a great place to be because they worked hard and they celebrated every Sunday. Every Sunday, a huge meal was prepared. We went down at the church. If walls could talk, --I used to sit in that church, Liberty Baptist, and think, this is church. When people can make music with just the cadence of their feet 00:14:00 on the floor, on the wooden floors, it wasn't like the church that I attended in Texas City, Rising Star, which is where I grew up.
BOWIE: But, the church in, in, Independence was magical. It was spiritual. Uh,you could see that they were so thankful for their freedom. They were thankful for the food that they could share with their neighbors. And my grandparents did a lot of that, you know. If they slaughtered a, a hog or a cow, then everybody in the neighborhood was going to eat good. If they had a over-abundance of crops then everybody else was going to be able to put away for the winter their vegetables. They started off as sharecroppers. And eventually were able to buy their own land. And their land just happened to be next to the church.
MAYFIELD: Oh, how convenient.
BOWIE: Yeah, yeah. It was, it was great. So, so, you ate a good breakfast, and00:15:00you walked a little short trail to the, the church. And actually, it's, it's a highway, and I'm sorry I cannot remember the name of the highway, but it was a short walk. And we spent the day their praising God, being thankful for everything that we had. And then we would come home and wait for the minister to come, because the minister and his wife would always eat at different homes. And it seemed like he ate at my grandparents' house a lot more frequently he did other homes.
BOWIE: And, uh, we wondered "When is he going to eat and pray, bless the food,so we all could eat--
BOWIE: --and, and get this over with." But he would just drag it out, and dragit out. And we learned to be patient.
MAYFIELD: (laughs) I guess that you'd have to have patience.
BOWIE: We learned to be patient.
MAYFIELD: Um, so, you said you grew up, --growing up you lived next to Lake RoadElementary. You lived there for about how many years?
BOWIE: I lived there until I entered the sixth grade, which would put00:16:00me at Woodland Junior High at this time.
BOWIE: And once again, it was probably one of the most strategic places myparents could have put us, because we were right across the street from Carver Park. And all of these streets in this area and Carver Park were a part of the 1867 Settlement. And it was just a short walk down the sidewalk to get to, to Woodland.
MAYFIELD: And what was the address?
BOWIE: Uh, originally, it was 625 Algeria. And at some point, Texas City annexedthat area because it was La Marque. Texas City annexed it. And when they did, the address became number 14 South Algeria. But Carver Park was great. I mean, you had the playground. Um, and later tennis courts. And that became one of my 00:17:00sports of choice. And I would stay until I had to come home. But lots of fun.
MAYFIELD: So, I had who lived in the house with you. So, it was your parents andyour brother and your sisters. Um, and you said your neighborhood was located near Carver Park. Did your neighborhood have a name?
BOWIE: No. No. I mean, every, --that whole area was called the Settlement.
MAYFIELD: Oh, okay.
BOWIE: Was, was grouped together as the Settlement.
BOWIE: But each street had its own little identity. And so, you know, AlgeriaStreet kids would, would, would challenge Rose Street, or Hemphill, or kids from South Acres to softball. And we would meet at Carver Park. Or we would have races to see who had the the fastest runners on the street, or who could play football. And I was always playing with the boys, and racing with the boys. And 00:18:00my sisters couldn't understand it. But I just liked being in the air. I liked being out in the sun. Hence, I was always a little bit darker than everybody else in my family. And (laughs) they don't seem to remember it, but I did. But they used to make fun of me.
MAYFIELD: Your sisters?
BOWIE: Oh, absolutely.
MAYFIELD: For like--
BOWIE: --Being darker.
MAYFIELD: Oh, for being darker. Oh, okay. Okay. I thought maybe for being atomboy and liking being outside.
BOWIE: Well, that too. But that too. But they also made fun of me because I wasdarker than them. And they were pale. They were very fair. Uh, sort of like my mom, on the lighter complexion side. And I was, --I called myself the black sheep of the family. Which is another reason why I, you know, I, I had to succeed in everything that I did, -- because, okay, you guys, you're going to regret teasing me. You're going to regret calling me some of the names that you did, because I'm going to make you remember who I am. I'm going to make you value me as a person. You're going to be proud of your sister. Okay. 00:19:00At the end of the day, how do you like me now? And they're going to hate me for saying this. (laughs)
BOWIE: They're going to hate me for saying that.
MAYFIELD: They're going to want to come and, and, and, and be part of the oralhistory, too, so they can have their say, right?
BOWIE: Uh, that would be interesting. (laughs)
BOWIE: That would be interesting.
MAYFIELD: So, um, what was the racial and economic make-up of your neighborhood?
BOWIE: I, I lived in a predominantly Black neighborhood. The school that Iattended was of course, elementary, and junior, and the first year of high school were, were segregated. The only time I saw white kids was when I would walk all the way down to Jackson Street. On the other side of Jackson Street, there you had a mixture of some white families and Black families. And I would see this little boy playing in his back yard by himself. And I'm wondering, you 00:20:00know, why isn't he playing with us? But it never, it never dawned on me that there was a reason perhaps his family chose not to allow him to play with the --with Black kids, you know? I, I can't even begin to guess what their thinking was.
The first time, and I think I mentioned this to you on our first conversation onthe phone that I knew there was a difference in skin color, was the day that I went to Bogatto's, which was a fairly large grocery store located on Hwy 3. And with the windows down, I, I stayed in the car. And there was a, a little white boy about my same age. And I just happened to glance in his direction. And he let me know that I was a, a Black nigger. And, it, it, it stunned me. Not what he said, it was his facial expression, of the look of hate. The look of discontentment. And I still didn't know what a nigger was. I had 00:21:00never heard that word, in my life, spoken in my house, in my grandparents' house. I'd, I'd never heard it. So, my mom returned to the car with her groceries, and on the way home I said, "Well, Mom, what, what is a nigger?" And she gave me the talk. And then I had that first awakening of racial differences in La Marque, which was my world at the time. That's as far as it went. I continued to, you know, go to Woodland, which was segregated. My first year at Lincoln, it was segregated. And after my freshman year, I was pretty much, just, decisive that I wanted to transfer to La Marque High School for a couple of reasons. Um, one of my best friends was there.
Wynette Johnson. And a lot of the girls that I played with on Jackson00:22:00Street. They were going to, they had to go because of the physical location of their home. Um, I didn't have to go, so it was purely a choice that I made. And it was number one to be a part of high school with the people that I was closest with. The second reason, I had a teacher, and I will not call her name, or the subject that she taught at Lincoln. And the first day in her class, she said, "Smith, you will never be as smart as your sister, Laverne." And she said it with the same contempt as this little white boy many, many years earlier. And I thought. "And you're not as pretty as she is, either." The bell rung. I went to the counselor's office. I got out of her class the same day. And I 00:23:00never looked back at her, but I had a point to prove to her as well.
MAYFIELD: Why do you think she talked to you like that?
BOWIE: You know what?
MAYFIELD: It seems strange.
BOWIE: I, I, it was weird. It was very, --it was unsettling.
BOWIE: I mentioned it to my mom, and she kind of played it off. She said, well,some people are like that. You know, people loved your sister, she was, she was real popular. She was a drum major. You know, she was very smart, but I was smart, too. I don't, --to this day, --but every time I saw this lady, and she's still alive, she would look at me with that same contempt. And I would smile. And I would be cordial. I'd be polite and respectful. I don't know, to this day, what I did to put her in that position or mindset to try to break me down. 00:24:00
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. It's very strange. That's very strange. You seemedto do a lot with the kids in your neighborhood. Uh, did families get together in your neighborhood a lot, like for holidays, or like, Juneteenth, or Memorial Day?
BOWIE: You know, we celebrated with our immediate family. My dad has, --hadsisters and brothers, so I had first cousins. And so, we would get together for birthdays. We would get together, and we all went to the same church, so we always saw each other, you know, at church. The reunions didn't start. I think I have a picture of one of the first family reunions that I went to in Fort Worth. It was at my Aunt Tassie's house. Aunt Tassie was a sister to Maggie O'Neal Smith. And they had the, the fine china set on the table. And I'm 00:25:00looking at the dishes and the glasses, and I'm going the goblets, and I'm going, we don't have stuff like this at our (laughs) at our house. But it was a grand time and I think of the picture, (Ed. Note: picture of family reunion) my mind was focused on the food on the table. Once again, I was waiting for the elders to bless the food so that we could eat.
BOWIE: And uh, everybody sees that picture, my family, my aunts, they say, "Lookat you, you look like a hungry little child looking at that food and not paying attention." And it was true. I was hungry.
MAYFIELD: Children, that's what they, that's what they go for.
MAYFIELD: Um, so you said, you attended the Rising Star Baptist Church. Is that right?
BOWIE: I did. I did. I joined church. Rev. D. N. Benford baptized me and all ofmy siblings. Uh, my mother was active matron working with the youth in the church. It seems like I was in church maybe three, four days, or slice, 00:26:00 uh, nights a week. And, that's where a lot of social activity went on for a long time.
MAYFIELD: Yeah, I was going to say, like what influence did the church have on you?
BOWIE: Well, it kept me out of trouble, because I was first of all, scared Godwas going to, uh, (laughs). I would be cursed to Hell if I did something that I wasn't supposed to do. A lot of my friends were, were, --had boyfriends and stuff and I was in, --I think I was in junior high, I still thought you could get a person, pregnant by kissing a girl. I hadn't had that talk yet with my parents and I really wasn't fixing to get pregnant, by kissing any boys. So, I was a late bloomer in all aspects of life. Uh, but church was a wonderful place, especially in the summertime. Because what would happen, is we would have Vacation Bible school for two weeks. And so, one church would schedule their Vacation Bible school this two week. Uh, Bell Zion would schedule 00:27:00theirs two weeks later and so forth, so that, that our parents had a safe place for us to go pretty much all summer long. As we went from church to church to church, learning about the Bible, doing plays, singing songs, refreshments, and then putting on a program at the end of the, --each vacation Bible School for each church. So, then, my, my spear of friends began to grow because then I began to fellowship and have friends from other churches in the same neighborhood. Uh, between Bell Zion, Rising Star, Progressive, and some of the smaller churches, First Baptist, uh, it, it was amazing.
It was, it was a simple time, but it was such a pleasant time. We could walk up00:28:00and down the streets. We didn't have to worry about being kidnapped. I remember, one time, we had a discussion at school about stranger danger and we were told, never, never, never, accept rides from a stranger. And this was Principal Moore at Lake Road Elementary. And for some reason, Maxine, Vanita and myself wanted to go to Bogatto's, and we walked there. And we were good, but we kind of got tired coming back. And, uh, some Black guy in a truck, pulled over and said, "You girls need a ride?" And, uh, Vanita says, "Yeah, let's ride. I'm tired. I don't want to walk." I said, "Oh, no. I don't know, we don't, --do you know this man?" She said, "It's okay. It's okay." And we assumed that when she said, "It's okay", she knew him. So, we're in the back of the truck. He's taking off with us in the back of the truck. And I said, "So, what's your uncle's name?" And she said, "My uncle?" I said, "Well, you said, you knew 00:29:00him. Is he your uncle or something?" She said, "I don't know him." And I started knocking on the back of his window and I told him, I said, "This is where we're getting off. Thank you." And he did stop and he left us off. But for God, he was not someone who intended to do harm to us. Again, it was a time where, you know, we shouldn't have accepted that ride. It was a time where we didn't have to worry. I thought about people, uh, doing evil things to children.
MAYFIELD: Well, that's very lucky. That's very lucky.
BOWIE: We were.
BOWIE: And I remind Maxine. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland. And I remind her,every time she comes home to visit her parents, "Do you remember that time we took that ride?" And she says, "We were stupid." I say, we were very, very--
MAYFIELD: And don't you forget it. Mm-hmm.
MAYFIELD: So, for your Vacation Bible Schools, were they different programs for00:30:00each church?
BOWIE: They had a similar format. Sometimes the music changed from Baptist toMethodist. But it was all the same format. You know, where you study scripture. You study prominent people in the Bible. And then, you have a program at the end. Um, and then you have a picnic outdoors at the following day after the program. The program is usually on a Friday night, and then on Saturday there's a big picnic at the church. Or sometimes they would have the picnics at Carver Park. The old Carver Park, which at that time, was segregated, so you had a section for Black people to picnic, and then you had the much larger section for everybody else to have their picnics.
MAYFIELD: There were two Carver Parks?
BOWIE: Not Carver, not Carver, Oh, what is it?" Uh. Over in La Marque it's acounty-run, Carbide. I've got the C's. It's Carbide Park. That was the 00:31:00segregated Carbide Park, and then a section of Carbide Park that was for the Anglos. And ours was smaller, but you know what, not going over there knowing what they had, we thought we had the world.
BOWIE: We really did.
MAYFIELD: Did, so you had an opportunity to see different pastors, uh, did anypastor stand out in your mind more?
BOWIE: We all were, were just mesmerized with Rev. Dunn. Rev. Dunn was pastorat, uh, Bell Zion Baptist Church. He had a voice that made you remember what he said. The way he enunciated. Just the, the richness of his voice played on your mind, so that you wanted to learn more about what he was saying. And you tended to pay attention. There were some churches we went to, we, we were 00:32:00not as attentive as perhaps we should have been. But with Rev. Dunn, he was monumental in that I said, "You know, one day, I want to be able to talk like that", fearlessly and just speak eloquently. And so, he impressed a lot of us. A lot of us.
MAYFIELD: So, other than Vacation Bible School, as you got older, were there anyother programs for teenagers, um, young adults at the churches?
BOWIE: Oh, every church had, had programs for each age group, so, you, youdidn't get out of it as you aged. You just had to go to a different set of matrons, who dealt with the older girls, --until I went off to college.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. Okay. And so, you said that you, went to Lakewood Elementary--
BOWIE: Lake Road.
MAYFIELD: Lake Road Elementary--00:33:00
MAYFIELD: --and Woodland Junior High School?
BOWIE: That's correct.
MAYFIELD: Uh, and, uh, you went to Lincoln High School in ninth grade?
BOWIE: I went to Lincoln my first, --my freshman year.
MAYFIELD: And uh, how did you like high school?
BOWIE: High school, ninth grade was fine, with that one exception of theteacher, for some reason. I joined the tennis team; I had a couple of friends. We all played tennis. And we all had the same coach. And (laughs) it's, it's funny that I think about it. Uh, we went to a tennis tournament and the three of us, --actually, we were the three freshmen, and then there were some seniors. But, when the freshmen played, my girlfriends played, the, the tennis coach, --and she's a dear friend of mind, she's passed on, Dorothy, Washington Mitchell, --she watched them. And you know, she was coaching them. I 00:34:00think, maybe, she was tired by the time my set came up, because she went and got in her car and went to sleep.
MAYFIELD: Oh no.
BOWIE: (laughs) And I just felt like, well, darn. Of course, I lost. (laughs) Ijust didn't feel, I didn't feel, --I didn't have the motivation. And I was a much better player than what I played that day.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm, Well, you know, it's going, I, I'm sorry, we need tostep back a bit because, I remember you told the story about Superintendent Black when you were, uh, in--
BOWIE: This was, uh--
MAYFIELD: --elementary school, correct?
BOWIE: This was at Lake Road, and Mrs. Geraldine McGowan was my third-gradeteacher. Her husband would go on to be the principal at Woodland by the time I got there. But she called me out in the hallway and there's this tall white guy, and I'm not really understanding what that was about. I went out there and I stood and looked. And then, I was told I could go back to my desk, and I 00:35:00 did. And it was many, many years later. I think I was grown, when my mom, --we were just sitting around talking, and she said, "Of all my kids, you gave me the most headaches. You got the most spankings. But you were the most giving and caring and you were perhaps my smartest child." I said, "Well, Mom, Laverne was smart." "No, no, no, you were different. You were different. You were different." I said, "Well, I don't remember that." Uh, she said, "Well, when you were in third grade, the superintendent came because when the test scores were tabulated", --it was a standardized test that was given every year. You had the highest score of all the kids in La Marque Independent School District, white and Black. And he just had to lay his eyes on you to see who that person was that had the scores so high." I don't ever remember him 00:36:00 congratulating me. I just remember him looking at me and then walking away.
MAYFIELD: What were your thoughts in your head?
BOWIE: At that, at, --in the third grade, what do you think?
MAYFIELD: Well, in third grade--
BOWIE: It, it didn't, it didn't register, first of all, that he was a superintendent.
BOWIE: He was not introduced to me, so that I would know what his title was atthat time in the third grade. So, I just, --I was wondering did I do something wrong, to be honest. And, and I knew I hadn't done anything wrong, because there was only two times in my lifetime that a teacher has ever had to spank me. Uh, the first time was in the second grade at Lake Road, and I can't even remember what I did, but I, I must have been talking when I shouldn't have. The first time I caught a spanking was at Crestview Elementary in Temple. And my teacher, Ms. Rambo, she sent me out to the principal's office to see what time 00:37:00it was. We didn't have clocks in our room. And she wanted to know what time it was. And she didn't give me a hall pass. And somebody caught me in the hall without a hall pass and I got a spanking. And I was trying to explain, "But Ms. Rambo sent me to get the time." But it really didn't matter, uh, I got the spanking. I told Mama about it. She said, It's bridge under the water, get over it." And I got over it.
MAYFIELD: But when you're an adult and your mom tells you this story aboutSuperintendent Black, then what were you thinking?
BOWIE: He was motivation for me to go to La Marque High School. And, and what hedoesn't understand, the fire that he lit in me, in my heart, fueled my aspirations. It, it fueled, every step that I took. Most of the decisions that I made were always strategic in terms of how do I make my life count. 00:38:00Not for him. But how do I make my life count? And in the meantime, it would demonstrate to him and anybody else that judges you because of your skin color. That, that's, that's not kosher. You know, you look at your, --you look at a person's heart, their spirit, and, and just based on that, but not because they are different from you, because of skin color. And so, I, I kind of had, grew up fast. Um, when I went off to college--and I know I'm skipping ahead, so I apologize. High school and college, I came, --became more aware of racial division and racial hatred. High school, we just took the approach that if you don't want us at the senior high, at the prom, we're going to get 00:39:00dressed up and we're going to go to Galveston and, we're going to have our own prom. And we did.
MAYFIELD: So, you weren't invited to your own prom?
BOWIE: Oh, we were invited, we just weren't welcome. I mean, there were, therewere some kids who didn't, --who made comments that they hoped we didn't show up. And rather than show up and be somewhere where you weren't wanted, and this wasn't all the kids, because I had some white friends who were really great friends. In fact, one of them was crazy enough to let me drive her Mustang all the time and I don't understand what, what was wrong with her. (laughs)
MAYFIELD: I was going to ask you about that, later. (laughs)
BOWIE: Yeah, I, I don't know why she let me drive her car, but I thought, sure,I want to drive it. But we went to the Gus Mount, --Gus Allen Café in Galveston, it's on the beach. Used to be. It's not there anymore. And we all dined on shrimp and baked potatoes. And we later went down the beach where you'd 00:40:00actually drive down to the sand and played our music. We danced. Nobody was drinking at that time, that I was aware of. And once again, uh, uh, the guy that I went with was a friend of mine. And Butch said, "Well, hey, you want to drive?" And once again, I said, "Yeah, sure." Now, I didn't know that my vision at nighttime is not what it should be sometimes. And I wound up bumping into the car in front of us. And they, to this day, anytime we get together, --Roy James, who owns Roy's Car Salon, --I bumped into his car. His wife, Barbara, and I are thick as thieves. We're great friends. But, I bumped into his car and we laugh about it all the time. "Remember our prom? How much fun we had?" And we didn't have a band, you know. We got dressed up. We put on our formals. We had our corsages. We ate a great dinner. We, we listened to music. We danced in the sand. We had the best prom, --the Blacks that, that 00:41:00chose to participate in our private prom. We had our private prom.
MAYFIELD: Did you have your driver's license at the time when you were driving?
BOWIE: I'm trying to think. I think I did. I think I did. But driving on thesand when the sand looks like the water, it's just so--
MAYFIELD: A little confusing.
BOWIE: Exactly, exactly.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. Uh, so what was your favorite subject in school?
BOWIE: My favorite subject was English, because it came for easy. Grammar wasextremely easy to grasp. Uh, literature, I loved, because you could escape in characters, and then you learn things. Your vocabulary grew because of your reading. Um, so, I would have to say English. And then second would be physical education. Once again, being a tomboy, I loved any kind of sports. 00:42:00And I had one really wonderful teacher at La Marque High that, that went over and beyond in recognizing some of my talents. And pulling me aside to encourage me, to motivate me. She tried to get me into golfing. She tried to get me into bowling. In fact, she did get me into bowling. She said, you just have too much time and you need to this, and when you go to college, do this and do that. And major in physical education and come back and be a P. E. teacher.
BOWIE: I listened to her and I minored in P. E. And I thought, at least I keptin shape. (laughs)
MAYFIELD: Would you be interested in sharing her name?
BOWIE: Her name was Sara Miller.
MAYFIELD: Sara Miller.
MAYFIELD: Okay. And, uh, so, since you're very physical, I'm assuming you played sports.
BOWIE: Uh, I --at Lake --at La Marque High School, no. In our00:43:00physical education class, I excelled in everything. And back then, you had, --John F. Kennedy had like a physical fitness, [challenge] --I think I have a badge or something that I received, where the top five, the top five percent who score the highest in all these different skills challenges got recognized. And I won that every year. Every year. Every year starting from Lincoln all the way to La Marque High School.
MAYFIELD: That's a, an accomplishment. That's amazing. Did you have peopletrying to beat you, you know, since you were holding the record, they wanted to--
BOWIE: --And they, they tried. Everybody wanted, --some girls don't, don't likeP. E., you know that.
BOWIE: They didn't want to sweat. But, you know, playing with boys in myneighborhood, it was, it was easy breezy.
MAYFIELD: So, as you're going through high school and you were thinking about00:44:00college, you know, what were thoughts about, about that?
BOWIE: Well, I looked at my older sister and she had gone to Prairie View andgraduated, with an engineering degree. And she was another mentor who encouraged me. "You need to go to college, Thelma." Just like she encouraged my mom, she encouraged me. So, I decided that I would go, thinking I was going to get a scholarship. My grades were, were good. Um, I never received a scholarship offer, you know, and I was wondering about that. But I went on, got a student loan, and graduated in four years from North Texas State. The times when I was there at North Texas State, African Americans had just been allowed to stay in the dorm three years before I got there. So, there was, again, 00:45:00racial, racial tension in the dorms with some people. And we had one girl, I don't think she wanted to, to be on the floor with my roommate and I. And she would make little comments (laughs). And we got mischievous one night and we got some red ink (laughs), we took a cross, and we spread it like it was blood, and we (laughs)
MAYFIELD: Oh, no.
BOWIE: We laid it outside her door. And we never heard a thing from her, ever again.
MAYFIELD: Oh, she was quiet after that, right?
BOWIE: She was good.
MAYFIELD: So, she knew it was you guys.
BOWIE: I think she did.
MAYFIELD: Oh, okay. Okay.
BOWIE: And I regret that, afterwards.
BOWIE: But at the time, it was a troubling time at, at North Texas State. Thefirst year I got there, it's like, --come on, we want you to pledge at, uh, AKA. All my girlfriends, older friends, who had attended North Texas prior 00:46:00to me, Ann Simmons, who went on to be, uh, the first Black school board member in Galveston. Uh, Nicki Porter, Dr., Dr. Porter's wife, were all AKA. So, I didn't know what a sorority was, to be honest with you. But I went to the pledge, --to the rush party and they chose me as well as my roommate. And I go, "What are we doing here?" Here I'm with my pink dress on, and you know. And then I realized my grades had a lot to do with being selected. And I was athletic. And that helped in that we had intramural sports between sororities. And so, myself and some of the other P. E. majors that were AKAs, we took first place football, badminton. You name a sports, we took first place.
BOWIE: And, and that was the extent of my, (laughs) my promise to00:47:00Sara Miller in La Marque High School, because I never taught physical education in, when I did become a teacher.
BOWIE: I never was offered a, a position as physical-ed. I was offered plentypositions as teacher. In fact, my first two years I stayed at North Texas, once I got my Bachelor's. And I started working on my Master's. And I started working at, Congress Junior High School teaching English.
BOWIE: And I loved it. I truly loved it until I saw my paycheck.
BOWIE: I saw the paycheck and I kid you not, I cried from the office where Iwalked to pick it up. By the time they took my teacher's dues, my insurance, I didn't have enough to pay rent. So, I went and got a job at JC Penny's. And worked two jobs. And made, made it do what it do. And I thought, You 00:48:00know, I don't know if this teaching is for me." I love teaching kids, but, if this is how you are going to reward educators, then maybe I need to, down the road, look at further options.
BOWIE: And further options came to me.
MAYFIELD: So, they, you didn't change, like think, all of a sudden anopportunity came to you. Is that what you mean?
BOWIE: Exactly. I had, I had gotten married while working on my master's to, --afriend of mine from the La Marque area. We all went to school together. And you never know someone until you marry them. He went to Vietnam and served the country proudly. However, like many, young men who went to Vietnam, they didn't come back the same way.
BOWIE: And uh, over time, it became obvious there was, uh, an addiction.00:49:00
MAYFIELD: Oh, okay.
BOWIE: And so, being very immature, I walked out of the, the marriage. I'mteaching. I'm teaching in La Marque and I come home and, you all are doing heroine in my house? I left pots, pans, furniture. I got my clothes, and that was, I didn't look back. I regretted that I left North Texas State because I only needed six hours to finish my master's up there.
MAYFIELD: Oh, so you--
BOWIE: --And I walked away from that because he wanted, --and I didn'tunderstand why he wanted so badly to come back here, because he was doing great up there. And he certainly wasn't doing the hard drugs.
BOWIE: Uh, but we were able to talk about this on his death bed some years ago,00:50:00and he apologized to me. And, I said, you know, you're forgiven. I just want to know if you're right with Christ. If you're good with Christ, then I, I'll be with you till the end.
BOWIE: And uh, I went, uh, to his funeral, was in Louisiana. And I think the,the young nephew that was in charge of his services, my ex had told him, "Here's funds. I want you to reserve a bus and take my whole family up there because a lot of them won't have transportation." And so, I brought his son, who I didn't know, --was out, out of terms with the uncle. The son, I grew up with him. I knew him as a little toddler when we first moved back. So, he was always someone I nurtured and--
BOWIE: --at the wake the night before at Progressive [Church] in Texas City. Wewere going to get up and they, they were going to catch the bus to Louisiana, 00:51:00Opelousas for the funeral. I wasn't going to go. But that night, at the wake, I noticed this kid. He's a young man now. And he's standing by himself. And I said, "Well, Kevin, are you okay? Do you have some place to go tonight? Are you staying at your dad's" And he says, no, I'm not allowed there. I said, "Well, where're you going to stay?" and he said, "I don't know." So, I invited him. Took him home. He stayed at my house. And I got him up the next day. Now, mind you, I've got on something that you wear to the grocery store and some flip flops. And I take him up to where I think presently Constable Derrick Rose is located on, um, Vauthier (Rd). And I drove up and I said, "Well, okay, Kevin", and then the op, --the, the nephew [Vernell Joseph] to my ex, he said, "He can't get on this bus." He said, "He didn't treat his dad right." And he didn't do this. And I said, "But that's his dad. Let him take this last ride to 00:52:00see his daddy put in the ground", --to do that. He said, "Only if you get on the bus, too." That's the only way he can ride. I got on the bus.
MAYFIELD: Well, I was just going to ask. (laughs)
BOWIE: I was sitting up in the funeral, looking like -- (laughs)
MAYFIELD: (laughs)-- Like, wasn't expecting to be here.
BOWIE: Oh, I'm not dressed, I, I apologize. I'm not funeral worthy. But, but I'mglad I did because Kevin got to see his dad to the end. And I don't know if they ever made up the, the two or not. I just did what I felt was the right thing at the time. That if it took me, you know, getting on this bus, making this unplanned, unscheduled trip that I was not dressed for, uh, then that's what I'll do. And the, the kid, to this day, you know, he will, he will check in and ask how I'm doing. And I'll ask how he's doing. And he's got kids and he's doing well. So, it turned out fine.
MAYFIELD: You never know how things are going to turn out.
BOWIE: You never know.00:53:00
BOWIE: You never know.
MAYFIELD: So, um we'll go back a little bit in time. When you were growing up,what kinds of things did you do in your spare time?
MAYFIELD: --When you weren't at church or school.
BOWIE: Well, when I wasn't at church, and I wasn't at school, and I wasn't onJackson Street playing, and I wasn't playing in the neighborhood, my most, --and it wasn't in church, --my most favorite thing in the summer was to come to Texas City Sander's Pool. It was the segregated pool for Blacks that I learned to swim. I learned to dive. And about that time, boys are looking at girls, and girls are looking at boys. And so, it was a place to go and, and meet, young people. And show off on the diving board. And, and, and race in the pool. And do 00:54:00those kind of things. And being athletic, that was just, it was still in my groove. So I would have to say, swimming and then later, playing tennis, once Carver Park got tennis courts. You know, being able to just go out there and play until the lights went off, which was usually about eight-thirty, nine o'clock.
BOWIE: And it's just walking across the street. It's just too easy.
MAYFIELD: Right there.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. And you mentioned Waynette. Is, --who was your best friend,growing up?
BOWIE: My best friend was Waynette Johnson. And she came from, what I thought,well what I know, was an affluent Black family. Uh, her mom was a stay-at-home mom who had hot cookies waiting for us afternoons when, you know, I went down there. Uh, she had magazines and books, and they had toys and puzzles and games. And I didn't, we didn't have things like that.
BOWIE: We couldn't afford those kind of things, but, she always made00:55:00me feel welcome. Her father, Mr. Johnson, was a prominent person in the political arena. And his son, Wayne Jr., wound up being, --I want to say the first Black county commissioner. Uh, yeah. And he subsequently died of a heart attack while in office. And then Stephen Holmes ran for and got that position. But, uh, the Johnsons were, very, very nice to me. They were very, very kind to me. They made me feel a part of the family. And they never were condescending. They never seemed to be bothered that I was there, Monday through Friday. (laughs)
MAYFIELD: Oh, okay.
BOWIE: Again, once, once I got home, got out of my school clothes, ate thedinner my mom had prepared, because she always had food for us. My next step 00:56:00was, school, --was to go down there. And then Waynette and I, we would play in their driveway. They had a covered driveway and we would play out there. And then sometimes we would walk down the street and play with some of the other girls that lived on the street.
MAYFIELD: And you know, you guys, you said you, uh, played together, um, and youspent a lot of time at her house, what kinds of things did she have at her house that you liked doing?
BOWIE: Well, the puzzles. And I just took advantage of the books and themagazines that were around the house. I guess she was kind of bored that I wasn't then more physical with, with playing with the dolls. But, you know, I, I didn't have many dolls. We made our own dolls out of Coca-Cola bottles, my sisters and I. And rope. We used rope for hair. And we were able to put it in the bottle, and then we would plait the hair. And just pretend it was a doll. (laughs) It's a Coca-Cola bottle. We're broke. 00:57:00
BOWIE: But, you improvise and you do what you have to do.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
BOWIE: Christmastime for us was like, okay, everybody's going to get one gift.One toy. And that was it. And you might get a, a piece of clothing. And then the neighbor next door, Mr. Kidd, would always give each of us a bag of hard candy and fresh fruit. We'd look for that every Christmas. So, we had a wonderful landlord in the Kidd family in that sense. There were some good, good times on Lake Road.
MAYFIELD: How long were you and Waynette friends?
BOWIE: We were friends until we went off to college. Both of us were at LaMarque High at the same time. We were both academic achievers. Uh, Waynette was fortunate in that she did get the scholarship. And she went up North to a scholarship, up to college on a musical scholarship and academic. And again, I 00:58:00had no clue, why I didn't get offered one, but I thought, "Okay, I'm in the National Honors Society. I'm a National Merit semi-finalist." You know, I've done this. I've done everything. I've jumped through all the hoops, but I would come to find out because there's always a circling back. When I left Denton, Texas with my husband. My short-lived husband. I was hired by La Marque Independent School District as a social worker and a counselor. Being a counselor and a social worker, I said, "You know what, let me look at my file." And I looked in my file, and this was at La Marque High School. The current new location, not the old La Marque High School, which was, --has been torn down. And in there was a post card from the National Negro Scholarship Fund offering me a scholarship. 00:59:00
MAYFIELD: There was a scholarship in there and you had no idea thatit was there?
BOWIE: That would be correct.
MAYFIELD: Why did you not learn of this?
BOWIE: The only thing that I could, --could determine of substance, that wouldbe based on facts, --our first year at La Marque High School, in the tenth grade, we were in the auditorium. We were taking a standardized test, which for me is, you know, is really kind of boring. So, I finished early and I'm just sitting back in my chair in the auditorium. And I'm looking around. And my eyes focus on this kid. And he was, --we called them goat ropers at that time. They were the cowboys, you know, because they had the boots on. They had the big [belt] buckles. And he was saying something to me with his lips. And 01:00:00---------(?)(?). I could be wrong, but the face gave him away, because it was the same hate filled contentious face I had seen on other occasions. And what he said was, was saying was, "You Black bitch." Okay. I'm really not believing this is happening. And I'm sitting next to one of my friends. My Black friends. And I said, "I can't believe this." And he says, "What, what?" I said, "What is that guy saying over there? Can you tell?" "Oh, he just called you a Black bitch. Unh-uh. Unh-uh. We're going to take care of this." He said, "Nope, don't worry about it." Once we finished the test and it was the end of school at the same time, three-thirty. And the two groups, my friend and other, other tenth grade Black boys, there were about five or six of 01:01:00them. Roy James being one of them, even though he was a grade above us, he joined in to defend my integrity. And they were all expelled. The following day, I was called to the office and my mother was sitting there talking to Principal Llewellyn, Jim Llewellyn. And he was informing her that he was going to expel me for being part of the incident, because it was a small little race thing.
MAYFIELD: Were you part of that incident, I mean, it no--
BOWIE: --Absolutely not. Absolutely not.
BOWIE: And she said, "Well, why are you expelling her? I don't understand. Shewasn't involved in the fight. She didn't throw a lick. She didn't take a lick. I mean, she wasn't involved, so, I don't think you have a legitimate means to, to expel my daughter, and I will fight this." And I think she put enough pressure 01:02:00and enough threats to where he backed off. But I don't think he forgave her, nor me. And I could be wrong. Maybe it was an innocent mistake that I didn't get the notification about the scholarship offer. But I don't think so. But again, you use that to fuel and motivate you to not let anything, nothing, stand in your way.
MAYFIELD: So, when you saw that in your file, you were like, that's it. Youknow, I'm not going to uh--
BOWIE: --I, I wish I had removed it. I left it. And I confided in someoneseveral, --uh, a few years down the road, when I was elected at-large to the La Marque School District board of trustees.
BOWIE: Thank you Mr. Llewellyn. I appreciate you for motivating me. And I shared01:03:00this with another person, I trusted, about the card. And I was still in the business of being a social worker and had access to files, so I said, let me go back and get that. It was gone.
MAYFIELD: Somebody took it?
BOWIE: Oh, I'm sure he told someone. And someone took it out and destroyed the evidence.
MAYFIELD: I mean, interesting, I mean, how much, how much time has passed atthis point, that they felt it was necessary to take it out of your--
BOWIE: I don't think they, --I don't think they ever thought I would see that.
MAYFIELD: Oh. Okay.
BOWIE: You know, who would have thought I would come back as a social worker andhave access?
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
BOWIE: Open access to the files of students that I was helping, knowing that myfile is sitting there too. You know, being from a poverty-stricken home. 01:04:00Whatever. I was a part of, Upward Bound and La Marque High did push me, and I was exposed to a lot of things at Prairie View for two summers in a row. Um, I did work an internship program at IBM one summer, um, because of my grades. But I don't think they ever expected me to know that that came in. That offer came in. And in telling another school board member, I learned that you can't trust people just because they look like you.
MAYFIELD: Hmm. Well, I'm sorry about that.
BOWIE: That's life. I have sucked it up so many times. That's life.
MAYFIELD: Well, um, maybe we'll switch gears a little bit and talk a little bitabout your social life. I mean, as a young person, you, you're playing on, --outside with your friends. You're, um, playing tennis, the tennis 01:05:00courts. Been going swimming. But what, what did you do on weekends with your friends for fun?
BOWIE: Uh, growing up? Now, my mom would allow us to go to the dances at LincolnHigh. Uh, they used to have dances every Friday night. That was it. There were some teen clubs in the Settlement area.
BOWIE: The Teenie-Weenie and I couldn't go to those places.
MAYFIELD: But what's the Teenie Weenie?
BOWIE: It used to be a, an old building that was converted into a, a place whereteenagers could come and dance, and socialize. And they sold sodas and soft drinks, uh, chips and stuff like that. But, that was a place I couldn't go.
MAYFIELD: Your mom wouldn't allow you to go?
BOWIE: No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I could go as long as it was atLincoln and my brother was going to be there. And he was going to walk there and 01:06:00walk me back. Then I could go.
MAYFIELD: What did your brother think about that?
BOWIE: He hated it.
BOWIE: And I can't blame him.
BOWIE: Because he had a girlfriend, so he would just say, you wait for me here.Or, I'll be home in twenty minutes, so walk slow. (laughs)
MAYFIELD: (laughs) What about movies? Um, were you, did you have movie theaters?
BOWIE: We had, we had drive-in theaters. We didn't have a movie theater becausethe Showboat here in Texas City was segregated at the time. But the drive-through, there was one located on Hwy 3, which is where I saw The Ten Commandments.
MAYFIELD: Is that the Bayou Drive-In, or a different one?
BOWIE: I don't, I can't remember what it was called. Because I was a little kidwhen my parents took me there. Um, later there was another drive-in theater on, on the northbound feeder.
MAYFIELD: Oh, that's the Bayou. That's the Bayou Drive-In.
BOWIE: Northbound feeder I45. And I was dating then, so, she would let me go ifthey came. If they lived on Jackson Street, she trusted them for some reason. 01:07:00She trusted them.
BOWIE: And so, at the time, I was dating a young man who lived on JacksonStreet, and she allowed me to go to the movies with him. Mm-hmm.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. Okay. How much did you pay for a ticket?
BOWIE: I don't know. He paid for that.
MAYFIELD: Oh, smart girl. Okay. Um, were there any places in your community thatwere considered trouble spots, where your mom said, --I mean, other than the Teeny Weenie?
BOWIE: Well, that was the uh--
MAYFIELD: Not really trouble, but--
BOWIE: The NGM, which was a nightclub, so to speak. [Ed. Note: Clarifies thecorrect name] The G & M, the G & M.
MAYFIELD: The G & M.
BOWIE: The G & M. And it was located on Washington, and entertainers would comeand perform there, Black entertainers. I never got to see any of them perform. We would sneak over there and listen on the outside when my mom was at work and 01:08:00my daddy was working. (laughs) And I would, I would, --I got a lot of whippings. I was the smartest, but I was also probably the boldest child she had, in that she would say, "Okay, y'all stay at home. Don't go anywhere." As soon as she would leave, then I would venture off and you know, find out, well let's go over and get a hamburger. We'll get somebody to order some food, food from, uh, the club on Washington. And that was fun.
MAYFIELD: How old were you, then?
BOWIE: I was probably between the tenth and the twelfth grade.
MAYFIELD: Okay. What about places where there were gossip or politicaldiscussions going on. Were there any place that you remember?
BOWIE: Not growing up for me. At the time, I didn't know that Mr. Johnson waspolitically involved until I came back from North Texas State and worked at Ann Simmons' campaign over in Galveston. She lost the first year, but she was able 01:09:00 to win the second year, becoming, like I said, the first African American female board member over there. And, and, she encouraged me, "You need to run for the school board in La Marque." And I, --you got me in the sorority--
MAYFIELD: You got me doing, --she's got you doing a lot of stuff.
BOWIE: She's got me running for school board. You need to do what you need togive back to your community. She would always push, and push, and push to give back, to be involved in your community, to, to, to, to bring somebody else up behind you. And she was a great friend. And she was a great mentor. I went to her funeral. It seems like all my, my truly, truly great friends have, --they passed fairly early. Uh, Waynette, while in college. Ann Simmons died uh, I think my daughter was maybe seven or eight years old when she died. My roommate, 01:10:00my first roommate at North Texas State, Carolyn Ellis, she died. My daughter was still in elementary school. And I remember going to Ann's funeral and being told, --after I sat down, I was speaking. "When were you all going to tell me I was going to be speaking at this woman's funeral?"
MAYFIELD: Oh. The day of the funeral?
BOWIE: I came to grieve.
BOWIE: Not to put her on the scene. And I, I had to just suck it up and, and,and speak from my heart and say what I knew. Speak my truths about Ann Simmons. I did the same thing for Carolyn. The only person that I regret that I wasn't able to attend the funeral is Waynette. I was in college and she died. She had a brain tumor and died. And my parents felt it was best if they didn't tell me until after the fact. And I discovered a couple of months when I came 01:11:00home that, that she had passed. And--
MAYFIELD: --Why do you think it was that they didn't want to tell you?
BOWIE: Oh, I don't know. I, I, you know, I still ask myself that question. "Youknow, why didn't y'all tell me?" And they just thought, we, we thought you'd be real sad. Well, yes, I'd be sad, but you know what, I've seen too many people. Uh, David Medlock, we all went to school together at Woodland. And the Medlock family owned a cleaners. And that building still stands on FM 1765, across over on the other side of Willis is where the Front Door Club used to be. Well, that building on the opposite side, is where the funeral was. And he had an older sister and he had an older brother. And he and his older brother were working the funeral. I mean, not the funeral, but the cleaners. And they found their father's gun. And the older brother, --the gun went off. David died. So, it was 01:12:00like, in junior high, there we are singing at his funeral, the choir from Woodland. So, I, I was questioning God about death, and I was able to read a book, The Bridge Over San Luis Rey.
MAYFIELD: What was it called?
BOWIE: The Bridge Over San Luis Rey. I can't, I can't think of the author'sname, now because I know you're going to ask me that. And I can't remember.
BOWIE: But it speaks about the journey of these anonymous people who cross abridge that they crossed millions of times. And on this one particular day, the bridge, the land bridge, a rope bridge, fell. They all plunged to their death. And the author takes the lives of five of those characters and goes into in-depth character development. And at the end, my, my takeaway is, 01:13:00what is predestined is God's way of allowing things to happen in your life that you can't explain. So, sometimes you don't look for explanations. You look for acceptance and you appreciate the lives that were lived.
MAYFIELD: It is what it is at the time.
BOWIE: It is what it is. But it was a great read for me at that time in helpingme deal with death.
****interview briefly paused for equipment check***
MAYFIELD: So, tell me your story.
BOWIE: So, on Lake Road, you know, my parents worked. We were latchkey kids. Mymother did take her father in and, and we took care of him until he died. In the house over on Algeria Street. But, people move in and out of your neighborhood, right? There was one day, both my parents were at work. I don't know where my siblings were. But, actually, this was the first year we moved to 01:14:00Lake Road. The very first year. And they were working. And I'm in the garage. And this young man walks in the garage. And I don't, --I, I know he lives behind us in one of the rent houses behind us. A fence separates us. And he corners me and he puts his mouth over my mouth. And I know what he's doing is wrong. And--
MAYFIELD: --How old were you at this time? Because this is when you first movedfrom Temple?
BOWIE: Six or seven. Six. Yeah. [Ed. Note: She makes clarification the yearswere seven or eight.]
BOWIE: And uh, I, I started screaming and he ran off. And that was myfirst glimpse that there were people that do evil things to little kids, you know? Life is not as perfect as one would think. I told my parents about it when they came home. The next day, that whole family was gone, lock, stock, and barrel. I don't know what my daddy told his mama and daddy, but we never saw 01:15:00them ever again.
MAYFIELD: Really? How old was the young man?
BOWIE: He had to have been eighteen or nineteen.
MAYFIELD: Oh, so he's a man.
BOWIE: I'm telling you this, you know, to smother me. I can't breathe. You'recovering my, my face with your, --and I'm just glad I, I screamed.
MAYFIELD: Uh-huh. That must have been, I mean, I can only imagine what was goingthrough your mind at the time.
BOWIE: I didn't, I didn't know what was happening to me. To be honest, I didknow, I just knew it wasn't supposed to be.
BOWIE: And uh, I never ever spoke about it to my mom and dad, but Ithank them so much because if he felt comfortable enough doing that to me, who else? And would he have come back, you know? Knowing that he had to have been watching the house to know that they weren't there, you know?
MAYFIELD: Right. And so, but, but for the most part, the community was, was01:16:00safe. I mean, did you leave your doors unlocked in your house?
BOWIE: We did. We did.
MAYFIELD: Well, okay. I mean, so, a random situation?
BOWIE: It, it, well?
MAYFIELD: Not so random?
BOWIE: Not so random. While we were on Algeria, and I'm a teenage now, probablythe eleventh or twelfth grade, and again, mama's in school, daddy's working. And one of their friends comes by. And I'm going, "Yeah?" "Your parents here?" and I said, "You know my parents aren't here. Their cars aren't here." And he said, "What time do they get off? I'm going to, I'm going to come in and wait." He's never given me reason not to trust him ever before. But this time he did something. Touched me in a way that was disconcerting, and I ushered him to 01:17:00the door. I found my voice and told him, "You will never do this again because I'm telling my daddy. So, I don't know what kind of friend you are, but you're not a friend. You have three sons, and you will come here and try to do this to me?" I didn't keep my word and I didn't tell my parents. I thought, you know, they play cards together. His wife is related to my daddy down the road, you know, fourth, fifth cousins removed. I didn't say anything. I came back home from North Texas and I'm sitting there with the two sisters below me. And I said, "Y'all remember so-and-so?" And they say, "Yeah." And I could see their look when they said yeah. I said, "Well did he ever try anything with 01:18:00you?" And he had. He didn't succeed, but at that point, now he's an old dirty--. I'm not going to say what he was. At that point, we did tell our parents, collectively, the three of us that was still there. Laverne was gone. Wilma, of course, God forbid that he would try anything with her, but that wasn't happening because we always had to watch her. Uh, he never came back to the house again.
MAYFIELD: So, from the time that it happened to you to the time--
BOWIE: Several years went by.
MAYFIELD: Several years went by. So, you had to, you were forced to sort of facethis person either when your parents went over there or they came over to your house. Hmm. I can't--
BOWIE: --Strange, but I guess we were--. I was never--. My parents never had thesex talk with me. I, I mean, --what I know, I had to learn from friends, or 01:19:00experiences. But that was just not something they felt comfortable talking to us about. But that was one thing I was going to change about myself and my relationship with my daughter. Because I want to know if anybody--. And then, when I had a grandson, I had the same conversation with him. I need to know if anybody, anybody says or does anything to make you feel uncomfortable or touches you. I need to know because I'm going to prison.
MAYFIELD: (laughs) Right.
BOWIE: (laughs) I'm, I'm not going to allow that. I'm not going toallow it to happen to anybody else in my bloodline. This curse is going to stop.
MAYFIELD: So, you put an end to that curse. Good. And I'm glad it didn't have tofollow your family. Such a, such a situation. Um, you talked about your dad a 01:20:00lot. And you know, how your parents worked. How did they get to work?
BOWIE: My daddy could fix any kind of old, broke down vehicle. And he'd, hewould buy her, my mom, used cars when they could afford it. And they would pay on them in installments. In fact, Don's Used Car Lot on FM 1765, it's a, --it's still a used car lot, but that belonged to Don. But he could, he could get anything running. So, for the longest, you know, they, they made due with used cars until they were, --became more affluent and had more excess money for those kinds of things. Uh, my mom bought her brand new car one day. And I was driving and I asked could I, you know, I had this thing about driving, right? And she allows, she says, "Sure", you know. (laughs) I get in front of Don's Car Lot and this huge cream-colored Labrador runs in front of her car. Her 01:21:00brand new car. And he hits it. He bounces off. He gets up and he's okay. But I pullover and look at her brand new car--
MAYFIELD: --Oh, no.
BOWIE: But you know, I went home and showed it and told them. My mother is anavid animal lover. I don't know what happened in her childhood, but she said, "Don't worry about, is the dog okay?"
MAYFIELD: (laughs) She's going to ask you; she was more concerned with the dog.
BOWIE: Is the dog okay?
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
BOWIE: And I think, where's my whipping I usually get? (laughs)
BOWIE: Where's the beating?
MAYFIELD: I've been sitting here for so long worrying to talk to you. (laughs)
BOWIE: I don't believe it, but thank you, Jesus. (laughs) Thank you, Jesus.
MAYFIELD: Thank God it was a dog, you know, right? Mm-hmm.
BOWIE: Now, I don't know if I ever mentioned to you, my sister, Wilma?
MAYFIELD: You did mention to her, her to me.01:22:00
BOWIE: Wilma, yes.
BOWIE: Uh, she was a great joy to our family. I didn't realize Wilma wasdifferent with Down syndrome, really understand the differences until, maybe, like, I was in first grade. I knew she couldn't say certain words. And she couldn't say Thelma. Uh, because she could say, Whaba. And I got stuck with that for the rest of my life. I loved her to death, but I hated being called, Whaba! (laughs) I'd be in Lake Road in my classes and I'm in the second, third, fourth, fifth. Starting about the third grade, fourth grade, she started her monthly cycle and would come in, crying, snot, tears. And her teacher, her special ed. teacher, they would escort her to my classroom as if I could stop the cramps. And here I am, in the third grade, and she's yelling my name. And everybody's going, "What's wrong with your sister? And they had this look in their face, like condescending and I, I said, "That's my sister. She, she has, 01:23:00she's, she's mentally retarded. And if you've got something to say, we're fixing to fight, okay?"
BOWIE: Don't talk about my sister. That's not going to happen. And we rockedalong until Wilma aged out of special ed. And my mother felt like she needed to create an opportunity for her to be around people who were like her. So that, you know, we would be limited in terms of what we had to do in terms of care for her while she worked. Because she did work nights. And somehow or another, she wound up taking her to Austin State School. And they told us, don't come back for thirty days. We need to get her adjusted to a new location. And we thought, "Okay." And so, we go back thirty days later, everybody. And we have our lunch packed and everything. And they said, "Well, here she is." And we're 01:24:00going, "Where, where is she?" And she was standing in front of us. But to make their life easier, --my sister had long beautiful hair, but they had cut it so short. She had deep scratches in her face, on her arms from others. And we looked at each other. Laverne was the one, she said, "Unh-uh-uh-uh, Mama, Mama, go sign her out of here. Uh, we're going to take her home. We're taking her home, now." And we took her home and we never looked back at that place. That was the most tragic place. And we can only imagine what she must have felt. But we were not going to give up on giving her a place where she could work, play, and have friends. And we would talk about a group of people who sponsor, uh, a non-profit for Down Syndrome. And they suggested, please don't 01:25:00give up, try Mexia State School. It's night and day from Austin State School. And my mom did. She didn't wait thirty days. She went back in two weeks, just to check. And my sister was thriving. She bragged as best as she could communicate. She had a job. And she wanted to go buy a hamburger because she had her own money. And I said, "Well, what's your job?" And then they explained, well, they put the little salt and pepper, and the knives, and the forks, and packaging. Then it goes down the line and they seal them up. But that was the best place for her. She truly loved the girls in her dorm. They loved her. We would go get her four or five times a year. Laverne and I would take turns, you know, picking her up, bringing her back. And she would get home and she would be 01:26:00happy to be home. But by the third day, on the third day, she wasn't ready to rise, but she was ready to get up out of that house and go back to Mexia State School. So, we were able to say, you know, okay, we've got a good niche, where she's comfortable. She's being well-cared for. And she is thriving. And, and so, we finally had a happy day for her.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. She knew it. There was, um, you know, a place whereshe was kind of treated like an adult, right?
MAYFIELD: Because she is having a job.
BOWIE: And she had her purse. She put her little money in her purse.She had her bedroom. She had her roommate. She had her own furniture. She was able to pick out her, her bedspread, and, and decorate it. Now mind you, her mentality was that probably, six, five or six-year-old.
BOWIE: Uh, but she was a sweet person. She was gentle and could dance. Oh, my01:27:00God. I have two left feet. Two left feet. I've tried to embarrass myself by dancing, but my sister, Wilma, could dance. Could dance for days.
BOWIE: I remember one Christmas, she loved Christmas. And we hired a friend ofours to come. He had a costume. And he came to the house, and what we had done, we had taken her Christmas presents from the tree and put in his bag. Well, before he got there, she noticed her presents were gone. She knew which ones were her presents. She was livid. She was fired up. She was stomping around, "Where are my presents? I want my presents!" But when Santa Claus came, and he gave her, her presents, oh, my goodness, she was, she was elated. So, we tried to share as many really great memories. Create great 01:28:00memories for her. Whenever she came home, because those were special moments for us. And they were special moments for her--
BOWIE: --as well.
MAYFIELD: Right. Well, um, she sounds like she really kept you guys on your toes.
BOWIE: She did. She did. And while she was home. I didn't mind watching her. Ifthat was going to be my task for the day, then I was going to make sure nobody harmed her. That was for sure.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. How much older was she than you?
BOWIE: Uh, she was now what year? I have her birthday somewhere and Icould tell you, but I'm not going to rumple through these papers. She was probably about four or five years older than me.
MAYFIELD: Four or five years, okay. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. So, when did you learn todrive? Like, when did you officially learn to drive?
BOWIE: I officially learned to drive when I was in the ninth grade. I dated a,01:29:00an older guy at Lincoln who had a '55 blue Chevy. And I just wanted to learn how to drive a stick shift. I, you know, I, I couldn't drive anything. But he, he was patient. He taught me. And, and he would, he would let me drive his car. And he would come over and visit me at my mom's house. Of course, she,-- that was one of the few guys that she allowed to come visit, because she liked his family. And he was a, he was a nice person. He was a very nice person. Just, --he went off to college, and you know, long distance relationships don't generally last.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. So, um, you know, La Marque is I guess, like a small town, right?
MAYFIELD: Where did you get your local and national news?
BOWIE: Uh, Jet Magazine, Ebony Magazine, The La Marque Times. They were my news01:30:00source. TV.
MAYFIELD: When did you guys get a television set?
BOWIE: We got a television set when we moved to Lake Road. There were limitedchannels. And I have to blame my vision, my need for glasses on being too close because I would sit on the floor, prop my feet up on the little table where the TV was, and watch some of the greatest cartoons ever made. And because I don't remember having the problems in the first grade that I started having. And by the end of the second grade, you, I've got pictures of me, light blue glasses.
BOWIE: That were god-ugly. And I, --I blame that on television.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. They always said, "Don't sit too close to the television."
BOWIE: They did. That's a truism.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. Um, so, for health and safety, uh, you said that you left your01:31:00doors unlocked.
BOWIE: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
MAYFIELD: Uh, and you pretty much felt safe walking around your community. Um,were there any fires, or disasters, um, in your community. I know that you came after the 1947 disaster.
BOWIE: Uh, yeah, that was after the uh, Texas City explosion.
MAYFIELD: Yeah. Yeah.
BOWIE: Uh, not that I can remember. Weather-wise, Hurricane Carla came and went.A lot of rain, but we lived there on Lake Road. We, we didn't get flooded. We didn't get any damage to the house, so it was just another day with a lot of rain for me.
MAYFIELD: So you guys stayed in the house.
BOWIE: We didn't, yeah, we didn't evacuate.
MAYFIELD: So, I guess it really didn't impact you or your neighborhood. Did anyof your neighbors have any issues?
MAYFIELD: Oh. Good. Good.
BOWIE: No, none of us.
MAYFIELD: Uh, what about when someone was ill or injured, what, where would you01:32:00go to see a doctor or to hospital?
BOWIE: Uh, my mother had us treated by Dr. Hook and Dr. Tree. They wereprominent physicians over in Texas City.
MAYFIELD: Hook and Dr. Tree?
BOWIE: Yes. That's where we went to get our medical treatment. Our vaccinations,--there was like a health, a small health district. And sometimes we got vaccinations at Dr. Hook's and Dr. Tree's office.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. And how would you get there? Would you guys drive?
BOWIE: Uh, drive.
BOWIE: Because I, --we would have to leave Lake Road or Algeria anddrive, way over to, --I don't know if you know, what is this street where Bradshaw's Florist is?
MAYFIELD: I don't know the answer to that.
BOWIE: You don't know that? Y'all are not from Texas City? (laughs)
MAYFIELD: (laughs) Sorry.
BOWIE: Well, it's a, it's a funny shaped building. You can't miss it. And01:33:00someone bought it and made it into a house. It looks horrible now. But it was the neatest doctor's office because I'd never seen any kind of architect that looked like that. And right down the street from there, there, --is where, Texas City, the annex is located.
BOWIE: Building Inspections used to be located.
BOWIE: There's a, if you go back the opposite way like you're going toward SixthStreet, but--
MAYFIELD: --Is that that sort of strange, kind of, oh, okay.
BOWIE: Yes, yes, that's it.
MAYFIELD: Oh, I know exactly what you're talking about.
BOWIE: That's Dr. Hook and Dr. Tree's medical office.
MAYFIELD: Oh, okay. Yes, I know. Yep. Exactly where you're talking about. Yeah,that is a very strange sort of architect. I was, hmmm. That's very strange.
BOWIE: Well, that's where they housed and practiced their medicine.
MAYFIELD: Okay. Okay. Um, so where did your family shop when they went grocery shopping?
BOWIE: Oh, well, there was Bogatta's on Hwy 3. There was Slaton's Grocery, whichwas right down of the street, off of Algeria on uh, FM 1765. There was 01:34:00Weingarten's. Uh, pretty much--
MAYFIELD: --Was Weingarten's in Texas City like off of uh--
MAYFIELD: Oh, okay, 1765.
BOWIE: Yeah. Uh, let's see, where else? There was uh, businesses. There was,let's see. Where did we shop? Oh, my daddy eventually became a Lincoln owner. He shopped at Bob Higgins' Lincoln Dealership, which was Black-owned. We used Dr. Brantford, was our dentist. Uh, of course, Mainland Funeral Home was where most of the Black families did their business. Uh, Mapp's' Pharmacy was right across, right down the street from Algeria.
MAYFIELD: Shirley Mapp's' husband owned that?
BOWIE: Yes, my oldest sister, Laverne worked for him before she went off tocollege. O. C. Matthews, whenever we had plumbing problems, they would come and 01:35:00take care of those issues. We had a neighbor who was one of the smartest guy in the world, Mr. V. A. Change. And he did HVAC work for neighbors at, at very nominal costs. We would walk while at Lake Road to Cooper's Bar-B-Q Pit. Best barbecue in the world.
MAYFIELD: Was that your favorite restaurant?
BOWIE: No, this was a little joint, a little barbecue spot off of Lake Road. Um,but let's see. I'm trying to find where we shopped. Okay. Ah, here it is. JC Penny's, downtown Texas City. That's where the old museum is located.
BOWIE: We did a lot of shopping there. Uh, across the street from there wasZale's Jewelry Store, and so, all of our class rings, we bought from there. Of course, we bought them on lay-away. But, we, we nevertheless, we all, I don't 01:36:00know where mine ever turned up. I don't even know where my college ring is, to be honest, I think I left it when I was leaving that, that apartment. (laughs)
BOWIE: I left everything. There was also a nice women's clothing place calledEve's. And it was in a strip center uh, it's a dilapidated apartments now. The Bostick's used to be in that same little strip; Bostick's restaurant. But Eve's had fine women's clothing. My mom would coordinate her little church hats and her little church suits. I could never understand the church hat thing, because I just don't do them.
BOWIE: Uh, you know? But she would have her little hat collections, and shewould get them from Eve's. Um, we also shopped at Sears and Roebucks. Mm-hmm.
MAYFIELD: Were there any places that you wanted to shop but couldn't?
BOWIE: Oh, there were lots on Sixth Street. Lots. A lot of places on Sixth01:37:00Street. I even, --when I worked at La Marque ISD as a social worker, I had a unique experience in that, one of the students that I was given to mentor to, that was having some difficulties, her mother was a prominent lady, and she owned a business. And she had two daughters. One with learning disabilities and another, just, pageant-ready beautiful. And she didn't treat the kids the same. And so, the one child would come to school not clean and not taken care of every month. And as a social worker, it became my job to do the investigation. Get people involved to talk to the mother to try to remediate the situation. And she, she didn't like being told that she wasn't taking care of 01:38:00her daughter. And she was going to report me. And she never did. But it, it just, --it hurt me to see kids, being mistreated. And she was one of several kids that I came across at Bayou Road Middle School who, whose lives were not as bright as they should have been.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. It must have been difficult for you to, when you're, sometimeswhen you feel like your hands are tied, you know.
BOWIE: It, it, it is. But you do the best that you can.
BOWIE: And you make the people aware, who need to, to be--
BOWIE: --made aware, the profe--, the professionals beyond La MarqueISD social worker.
BOWIE: Uh, and you sleep good at night knowing that you've done, you did all ofthe steps that you could do and then you turn it over to other people who--
BOWIE: --have a little bit more power.
MAYFIELD: That's all you can do.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. When you guys were, were young, uh, were younger, uh, did you01:39:00eat um, I know your mom worked a lot and your dad worked a lot. But what about family meals? Did you have opportunities for family meals?
BOWIE: You know what?
MAYFIELD: Eat on the go?
BOWIE: Monday through Friday, everybody did on the run. I'm coming in, taking myschool clothes off, eating, and I'm jetting off down the street if I don't have Wilma that day. Uh, my brother's out playing with his friend, so, everybody ate at different times. The times that we sat down together was Sundays. And sometimes Saturdays and holidays. But the traditional family meal where everybody sits, and blesses the food, and everybody talks about how, --what a lovely day they had, um, no. We were trying to survive.
MAYFIELD: So, even on the weekends, did you guys talk about things, or was itstill sort of --
BOWIE: --Everybody was tired from working two or three jobs. And we had to clean01:40:00house. We had to wash windows every Saturday. Why? I don't know because the windows weren't dirty every week. But we had so many chores on Saturday, we were too pooped to parley in family dinners, I'm sorry.
MAYFIELD: (laughs) Um, so you're growing up and the schools are segregated, whendid you start, getting the inkling about civil rights movement? When did that start coming, sort of, salient for you?
BOWIE: The first day I walked into La Marque High School.
BOWIE: That day in the auditorium. The next day being called in and beingthreatened with expulsion knowing that academically, and I was not a 01:41:00troublemaker. People judging you based on your skin color and not wanting to be around you, uh, at a prom. Come on, dude. For real? So, by the time, uh, Martin Luther King was assassinated, April the fourth, I was not a nice person to be around in gym.
MAYFIELD: In Gym?
BOWIE: That day. I, I played a little rougher than normal. I apologized later.Not that that makes it acceptable behavior. But I was a little bit rough on the basketball court. And if someone said something, you know, my thinking was, you killed this man that just wanted people to get along? And you want me to respect you? Today, it's not going to happen. Now we'll be okay tomorrow. But today, I'm grieving and I'm grieving in my special way. It may not 01:42:00be right, but this is what, this is what I'm going to do. And then you see John F. Kennedy. And I'm began to learn and look and listen to Malcolm X and read about him. And by this time, I'm, you know, going off to college. And you get up there, and you know, we're not being treated right at Jack-n-the-Box. Come on. Your food isn't that great, anyway. And, and, and so we boycotted. And, and I, --peaceful boycott. We have sharpshooters up on the fifth floor with guns pointed at us. And it's like, you know--
MAYFIELD: Is this when you're at college?
BOWIE: I said, well, you come to realize that the world is not perfect and it'sfar from being perfect, still today.
MAYFIELD: Did you participate, participate in any sit-ins or boycotts, here inTexas City? 01:43:00
MAYFIELD: Was there, was that happening?
BOWIE: There were boycotts. Uh, there was, small boycotts from people I wouldn't follow.
BOWIE: I think you have to pick and choose and know when you're on the side ofrighteousness, and when you're being used. And I don't like being used. At North Texas State, I was like in a struggle between my close girlfriends who wanted us to do the sorority thing, and then my call for Blackness, which meant, no. I'm going to join the African Student Union. We're going to feed people in the hood. We're going to tutor kids and we're going to mentor these kids on the way?? So, all my time, extra free time, was spent in what we were told is called, the other side of the railroad tracks, Shack Town. So, several 01:44:00of the football players had apartments over there because it was cheap. But we would cook in their kitchen and, and feed the kids. We would tutor them. And, so I began to dress different. You know, I would have my fatigues. I would have my army jackets. My 'fro was bigger than my body.
BOWIE: I was very vocal. Um, and my sorority sisters, they had a meeting. Theyhad an intervention. You're not dressing, you're not representing us, you know. You used to dress and, and put your stockings on. That's just--. You've got to be kidding. First of all, I don't have money to buy--. I, I went in debt to pledge. Okay? These clothes, I came up here with jeans. I had plenty of jeans. But the jacket, yeah, I bought the jacket. Okay. I'll give you 01:45:00that. But I didn't spend money on frilly, sorority, it just, it wasn't me. And I said, "I'll tell y'all what, this is not a good fit for me." And, I moved out because we had our own little dorm. And I moved out and I didn't look back.
MAYFIELD: Hmm. So, you quit the sorority at that time?
BOWIE: I, --you can't, you never quit. You can always be an AKA. But thatparticular group of girls, after they did the intervention, I went back to intervene on them because my younger sister, Jacquelyn come up there. And for some stupid reason, she wanted to join the AKAs and I knew the legacy I left with them was--. It, it didn't end well because while I was pledging, and I'm not supposed to discuss this. They did some things to me that I didn't take. Being a tomboy, I fought back. 01:46:00
BOWIE: And some [one] of the bigger sisters that I punched--
BOWIE: --held a grudge. And so, when my sister finally comes up there andpledges, she's black-balled.
BOWIE: Because of me. So, I go back into their little ceremonial area and givethem a piece of my mind. And, and I told my sister, "Now take your butt home and join a grad chapter when you finish. Forget these girls."
MAYFIELD: Did she listen to you?
BOWIE: She did.
BOWIE: I said, forget these girls, are a holding onto something, thatno matter what you do, they're going to make your life so miserable that you will want to quit. And that's what they will do. They will try to break you. They tried to break me and I wouldn't allow anybody to do what they did to me that particular night. And my face with contacts in my eyes, I wasn't having it. 01:47:00
MAYFIELD: Hmm. I hear stories about--
BOWIE: The hazing is --
MAYFIELD: Hazing. Mm-hmm.
BOWIE: --is, is real.
BOWIE: And that's, that's not sisterhood to me. And as Dean of pledges the nextthe semester, I had a young lady, --I come to discover, she was pregnant.
BOWIE: And they were trying to do things to her, and I, I almost thought I hadto come to blows and say, "You're not going to put your hands on her. You're not. I will report you to law enforcement." I don't care about the sorority. They allowed her in. But when she was pinned, they turned, --some of them turned their back on her. I just walked out. I, I was done at that point. And I could have done great things in that organization, but I would rather be in Shack Town helping poor Black kids learn how to read, --cook breakfast for 01:48:00them, than to be with a bunch of pretentious heifers.
MAYFIELD: (laughs) Okay.
BOWIE: And, and this is, --has nothing to do with grad chapters. Please, AKAsout there in the universe, I'm not talking about y'all. I'm talking about one particular chapter and one particular small group of girls from Houston, Texas. That tried to make my life miserable, and I just, --you don't slap me in the face. You don't do that. In my eyes? No, you don't do that. Not from where I come from. On 14 Algeria and, and 122 Lake Road? It's going to be a scuffle.
MAYFIELD: (laughs) You're tough. You were tough.
BOWIE: I, I didn't lose the scuffle.
BOWIE: I had to run and jump out the window because, (laughs) her and her crewwas after me. So, the big sisters, my friends, Ann Simmons, they hid me for a couple of days, till thing--. I said, "Why do I have to hide? I, I didn't do 01:49:00anything wrong." "Would you let somebody do what she did to you?" "Well no," I said, well don't tell me what I should have done. She shouldn't have done what she did. And, she wouldn't have suffered her consequences.
BOWIE: But those girls held their grudge for the longest and took it out on my sister.
MAYFIELD: Hmm. Sorry to hear that. Well, so, one of the things was thedesegregation of schools, right?
MAYFIELD: So, you, you attended Lincoln High School in ninth grade. Um, and thenyou attended La Marque High School in tenth grade, or did you leave half-way through ninth grade?
BOWIE: No. I finished my ninth grade, my entire year at Lincoln High School. Istill go to their reunions. I go to La Marque's reunion every now and then. Not so often. But I think I'm going to go the next couple of ones because, now it's about seeing those same people who was truly, truly friends, good friends. So, I 01:50:00could just thank them.
MAYFIELD: When did you, like, learn about the vote? Did you--
BOWIE: My mom. Oh, my God. She got involved with the Wayne Johnsons and, uh, theHenderson's who were political activists in the Black community. Rev. Benford. And I, I always saw her involved with the registration process. Get out the vote. Picking up people and taking them to the polls, you know. Speaking up and endorsing candidates, things of that nature. And I admired her, you know, from a distance. And I never told her, and I think I've told her since I, I've become an adult, that I really appreciate the example that she set up for, for 01:51:00all of us kids, that you did things that most people wouldn't do.
BOWIE: So, I think my first taste and exposure to political activism waswatching my mom.
MAYFIELD: How old were you when you first voted?
MAYFIELD: Were you still in Texas City at the time, or did you go up to votewhen you were in Denton.
BOWIE: I voted in Denton.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. Um, you were mentioning that Rev. Benford and Mr. Jackson wereimportant leaders in your community. Were there other, uh, people in the community that stood out?
BOWIE: Ah. The movers and the shakers at that time were, were the Henderson's,Roosevelt Henderson, and his brother, (Ed. Note: Johnnie Henderson) uh, Wayne Johnson. Um, also, uh, there was another gentleman. He worked on the wharfs, but 01:52:00he, uh, think he ran for city commissioner before Porter, Mr. Porter. David Porter is his name. And, you know, you read. You pick up the paper and you're reading about people that look like you. And I'm thinking, oh, okay, this is pretty neat. I kind of like that.
BOWIE: Ah. I can even remember picking up the paper, and this has nothing to dowith the era, but reading about Dedrick Johnson. And I'm thinking, this dude is, --he's young. He's making things happen. But the newspaper put into full force who was doing what in the Black community from a political standpoint.
MAYFIELD: Okay, so, um, you use the newspaper as a way to find out what washappening in your community. Who were the, you know, what, what sort of important topics, were on the agenda. Oh, one of the things that I heard was 01:53:00that Mr. Henderson was a very important person in the community because he helped bring the College of the Mainland to the area? Or like--
BOWIE: Yes, he was.
BOWIE: Now, I, I made the cardinal sin when I decided within, --and enoughpeople, Dr. Porter's wife, Nicki Porter, Carolyn Ellis, Ann Simmons, said, "Hey, you, you need to run for school board. You're an educator. You'll be an asset. We're going to help you get elected". So, I had my, I had my campaign team preformed. And I didn't go through the machine. (laughs)
MAYFIELD: What's the machine?
BOWIE: The machine is the Henderson's, and the Porters, and Rev. Benford, and afew others. I didn't get their permission. So, I went to a meeting to introduce myself, and now they were there. And I was told by one of my sorority sisters, 01:54:00and we're friends now, "You didn't get permission from us to run for school board." And I was a different person then. I was respectful, but I said, "I'm sorry, I didn't know I needed your permission to do what God led me to do or what my heart felt it was right for me to do." You know? I would hope that I have your support, but if I don't, God bless you. (laughs)
MAYFIELD: (laughs) So, you circumvented the machine.
BOWIE: I, I didn't have their support, but I was the top vote-getter. At thatwas at-large. And I think it was over fourteen hundred votes. Uh, which was an accumulation of not just Black voters, but I got a lot of white votes from teachers, from educators who knew that I was an educator, who knew I had been involved in La Marque. But we, we got to, all got to be good friends. 01:55:00And they embraced me after I won. And we've been on the right page since. But I don't think people need to get permission. Maybe I should have, have. And my mom said, "You should have told Rev. Benford." Why? Was he going to give me a donation? No, I'm joking. (laughs) I'm joking, everybody!
BOWIE: I'm joking. I do advise people, now, if you're going to run for office,be sure you cover all the bases. You talk to all the people who, who are politically elected, so they don't feel disrespected.
MAYFIELD: Okay, okay. So, so during the time of the civil rightsmovement here in, in, in, our area, and I know that Martin Luther King was an important national figure, was there anyone else that you were following who was an important national figure? 01:56:00
BOWIE: Um, Barbara Jordan, of course, uh, you know.
MAYFIELD: Barbara Jordan?
BOWIE: Shirley Chisholm.
MAYFIELD: Oh, so these are women?
MAYFIELD: So, uh, that was going to be my question. Were there any women whoplayed a role in the movement that, that you followed.
BOWIE: Those two.
MAYFIELD: What was, um, so, you said Shirley--
MAYFIELD: And who was the other?
BOWIE: Barbara Jordan. UT graduate.
MAYFIELD: Why were you compelled, to, um, to, you know, follow them,I guess?
BOWIE: They were, they were dynamic women who worked tirelessly to represent theunrepresented. They didn't have personal agendas like some politicians. There's some politicians, regardless of color, who have agendas, and you know, I kind of 01:57:00like to just see what they're about before I can embrace or accept. But those two clearly captured my imagination and gave me thoughts of one day, you know. You know, what's going to be my legacy? You know? How are people going to remember me? How's my daughter's children and their children going to remember me? What's going to be my legacy?
BOWIE: I think, uh, um, Chuck Doyle talks about the gap, you know, from thebirth year to the year that you, you, you die and make, make it count. And so, I'm consumed with that. Particularly lately, because I'm getting older.
MAYFIELD: Oh, right. Okay. Uh, did churches play a role in the movement that you noticed?
BOWIE: Yes, because you had all of the min, --all of the ministers. Their01:58:00ministerial alliances, different alliances were influential in getting the vote out with their, uh, congregation. And so, people tended to listen to the recommendations of the ministers. And, and, that was good, for a while. But at a certain point, when you go off to college, and you start looking at life through a different set of lenses, and you want to formulate your own opinions as to who you'll vote for, uh, things change a little bit. There's a little shift.
MAYFIELD: Do you think that when a minister said you should vote for thisperson, mainly the congregation voted for that person? Or do you think that there was sort of a political discussion within the church?
BOWIE: Mostly, they mostly voted for those people. And I vote for a personbecause of their work ethics, their character, their contributions to the 01:59:00community, and sometimes they're white, and sometimes they're Black, and sometimes they're Mexican American. But I believe that, uh, to be an educated voter, you have to do your research, and discovery, and find out as much as you can about a person that that wants to represent you. People can tell you anything.
BOWIE: That doesn't mean that they are going to do right by their position onceelected. Actions tell you everything. Talk is cheap.
MAYFIELD: Actions speak louder than words.
MAYFIELD: Did, um, Texas City have an NAACP in the, like a representative in the community.
BOWIE: Uh, my mother was a member. And I joined. But then I went through thatphase at North Texas State, and the NAACP Alright. Always doing what you're 02:00:00told. But I have great respect for the NAACP now. I think you go through different phases in your life, you know.
BOWIE: As a young adult, then you realize, okay, they've accomplished a lot. Itmay not have been the way I would have gone about every little detail, but look at what the, look at the good.
MAYFIELD: Did any of your friends join the NAACP?
BOWIE: Ah, several of them did. In fact, my sister moved back here. Uh,Jacquelyn moved back here to the Houston-Texas City area from Indianapolis after her husband passed. And one of the first things she did, was join the N, NAACP chapter, the Mainland branch.
MAYFIELD: Um, did you, were there any other, like groups here, um, you know,fighting for civil rights that you belonged to other than, like the national chapter? 02:01:00
BOWIE: Well, there was a time I was a, --I'm not a present member of the NAACP.But there was a time when I was. And I was active. But, again, you evolve. Your, your life changes when you take on other responsibilities. I'm involved in a lot of civic organizations that are impactful in terms of providing scholarships to young people. My, my avenue has just kind of shifted. And in order to do some of the things that I want to accomplish, I have to be a part of a broad city-wide organization. And so, I don't limit myself to just Black organizations. I'm a member of the rotary club, and--
MAYFIELD: I mean back, back in the day.
BOWIE: Back in the day, it was all segregated.
MAYFIELD: Okay. Okay.
BOWIE: And, and to some extent, it's changed tremendously. You see more people02:02:00involved with, uh, Texas City ISD foundation, Rotary Club, Lion's Club, Optimists Club, things of that nature. But when I first retired from, uh, Amoco-BP, I started joining. I joined the Optimist Club. I joined the Lion's Club. I, I just began to, to, because I wanted to know how other people see, think, and do things.
And when the Nick Gary Foundation was formed, and I'm out here soliciting moneyfor scholarships; you have to know everybody. And you needed to get along with everybody. And not be divisive. There was a time in my life where I was divisive, in college.
MAYFIELD: Put the hammer down?
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. Well, I think we're getting close to the end of our interview.
MAYFIELD: And uh, I was just curious if there was anything else that you'd like02:03:00to share that we haven't really touched upon. I mean, I remember, you were talking in our preliminary interview about the Bostick sisters.
BOWIE: (laughs) Let's see. And Barbara Bo-- they were good friends. They,--because of them and their connection to my dad, and they knew my dad, loved my dad, loved his food, they loved me. So, when I hit the campus of La Marque High School, they were there. "We got you. Let us know if anybody mess with you. But we got friends and they're going to be your friends too, okay?"
BOWIE: So, I, I, I long to see them sometime, that's why I say I've got to goback to some of the La Marque High School reunions. So, I hope and pray I get to see some of those kids. Especially, the, --I can't remember her name, whose car 02:04:00I used to drive, but she had the cutest blonde flip hair. And she just had perfect teeth. And I thought, how, you're just too cute. Yes, I'll drive your car.
MAYFIELD: (laughs) Well, you know, I was going to ask you, when you attended LaMarque High School, where --how many other kids attended with you from Lincoln High School? Was this the first year that, um--
BOWIE: This was the first year of integration.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. What year was that?
BOWIE: Okay. Uh, let's see. Now you're making me flip.
MAYFIELD: I think it was like sixty-six, sixty-seven?
BOWIE: Uh, La Marque High School, nineteen sixty-- 1965 is when I went to LaMarque High.
MAYFIELD: Okay, in 1965.
MAYFIELD: Did you want to go to La Marque High School?
BOWIE: Oh, absolutely.
MAYFIELD: Did you want to stay at Lincoln?
BOWIE: I wanted to get the heck out of Lincoln because there was one teacherthat didn't like me and I, I needed separation. And again, I wanted to be close 02:05:00to my friends that I grew up with from the Lake Road days. And they were all forced to go. They were--
BOWIE: --forced to go, because of the physicality to the school. Those of us onthe other side of 1765, there was a busload of us. So, I don't know, maybe forty of us--
MAYFIELD: Hmm, that's a lot of--
BOWIE: --who went over there, but we were in different grades. There were somethat were ninth graders. There were some who were tenth graders like myself.
BOWIE: And eleventh and twelfth graders. And we became a unit. Aunit, being a cohesive group that looked out for each other.
MAYFIELD: So, um, because I heard stories that, you know, why do we want to goto La Marque, right? So--
BOWIE: Well, you talk about boycotts. There were boycotts. Some of the parents02:06:00boycotted Lincoln. And they wanted everybody to go to La Marque High. Uh, I didn't boycott, because I knew I was going, so.
MAYFIELD: What were your friends who did? Like, were your friends given achoice, at some, like, at that time. I mean, you, you wanted to go because your friends were there. And then you had friends who had to go because of the district, you know, the way the zoning is. Right?
MAYFIELD: But you had friends that were in Lincoln--
BOWIE: Who wanted to go as well as myself. Whose parents wanted them to go to LaMarque High. They thought they would receive a better education. They thought there would be greater resources available. And all in all, there were greater resources over there. But we had some great teachers at Lincoln as far teachers, if you compare apples to apples, both sets of teachers were awesome, except for one.
MAYFIELD: Did any teachers transfer from Lincoln High School over to La Marque?
BOWIE: Eventually, over time.02:07:00
BOWIE: They moved principals around, and, and teachers. But it was over time.But the first couple of years, it was, we were being taught by an all-white staff, period.
MAYFIELD: Hmm. And did that, like, register with you that it was an all-white staff?
BOWIE: Oh, I knew what was happening.
BOWIE: You know, once, once my mother had to talk, leaving Bogatto's, Iunderstood that life will never be the same. That there will always be some people who feel a certain way and for those people, there's nothing you can do without a dialog with them. And some people are not willing to entertain, or sit down and dialog to discuss differences. And for those that, that don't, you, you just, you know, that's out of your control.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. That's true. Well, is there anything else that you would liketo make sure to mention in our oral history before we conclude?
BOWIE: No. You asked me if I had some final thoughts and I pulled together three02:08:00sayings that are monumental for me. And so I would like to share them.
BOWIE: Oh, I've unplugged myself. Okay. Good. When I think I can't handlesomething, or do something, I think about the things that I have done in spite of setbacks. Number two: you won't be distracted if you're captivated with a purpose. And finally: the things you do for yourself are gone when you're gone. But the things you do for others will remain as your legacy.
MAYFIELD: Oh, I really like that. I really like that. Well, Commissioner Bowie --
BOWIE: --And I have enjoyed this opportunity. You made me pull stuff together.Put down dates.
BOWIE: And now I've got a little something here I'm going to put in book-formfor my grandson, and pictures, and that will be something he can pass down to 02:09:00his great grandkids. God keeps staying the same. And, and he will be able to let them know that Thelma Smith, she was a little quirky, but she was pretty decent.
MAYFIELD: Decent and a tough woman, and uh, energetic, and caring it seems.Every, all of those things. And--
BOWIE: Thank you.
MAYFIELD: I just wanted to say, it really was a pleasure for me to interview youand uh, and I'm so appreciative of the fact that you're taking part in our oral history project for the African American Experience.
BOWIE: It is my pleasure.
MAYFIELD: Thank you so much.
BOWIE: It's my pleasure. Thank you.
MAYFIELD: This concludes our interview with Commissioner Bowie, um, for theMoore Memorial Public Library African American Experience Oral History Project. Thank you so much.
BOWIE: Thank you.