Keywords: John Sealy Hospital; La Marque Independent School District; South Cobb Street
Subjects: African Americans--Housing; Galveston (Tex.); La Marque (Tex.); Texas City (Tex.)
Map Coordinates: 29.38287, -94.98683
Keywords: Academics; Business aministration; Delta Sigma; Demonstrations; Honor Society; Inequality; Marches; Non-violent protest; North Texas State University; Phi Chi Theta; Protests; Sorority; Student council; University of Texas
Subjects: African American educators; African Americans--Civil rights--Texas; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Education--Texas; Football; School integration
MAYFIELD: Today is Tuesday, July 19th, 2022, and we are in TexasCity, Texas at the old Texas City Annex Building. 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 Miss Bernia Hall of TexasCity. And I'd like to ask Ms. Hall, if you could introduce yourself, starting with my name is, and tell us a little bit about yourself.
HALL: Thank you. My name is Bernia, also known as Bernice Hall, and I am sohappy to be here, to be able to tell my perspective of life coming up 00:01:00in our Black community. It is a, a real privilege to do this. This is something I had wanted to do in terms of historical document for some time, and this came along at the right time. I am retired, and I have one son and I have a granddaughter, grandson. I have a few, uh, little stair steppers. Okay. But we are somewhat separated right about now because of Covid, which is--, doesn't seem to want to go away. But I just wanted to say on behalf of myself and my classmates, I consider it an honor and a privilege to be able to document this interview.
MAYFIELD: Thank you so much.
MAYFIELD: Well, we're going to kind of go back in time a little bit. Um, can youtell us when and where you were born?
HALL: Yes. I was born in Galveston, Texas. Uh, the famous John Sealy00:02:00Hospital. And I had, --I grew up there until I was about age four. And we moved to Texas City, which we primarily knew as La Marque because we were in La Marque's school district. But, in actuality, it was what we call West Texas City.
MAYFIELD: And what year did you move to Texas City?
HALL: We moved here in 1952. I remember that so well, even as a little girl,because when we poured the sidewalk in front of our house, I etched in the sidewalk the year, (laughs) 1952. And that stayed with me. And it's always been with me. And I was so, so excited to be in our first house. We had lived in apartments and tenement buildings in Galveston, uh, for some time, I 00:03:00guess, as far as I could remember as a child. And it was glad. It was just a happy, happy day to have our own, our own place. Our own house with a picket fence.
MAYFIELD: Is that etching still in the sidewalk?
HALL: It's still there.
MAYFIELD: What address was that?
HALL: That's 12 South Cobb, C-o-b-b Street, Texas City, Texas.
MAYFIELD: What are the names of your parents?
HALL: Well, my mother, her name is Wilma, uh, was Wilma, and she was a Polkbefore she married. My stepfather, that's who I grew up with, his name was Wilchie Gray. My mother was from El Campo, Texas. My stepfather was from Grambling, Louisiana. And that's, --I always, I always will remember that name, because it was, it was very unusual. I've never met another Wilchie, 00:04:00W-i-l-c-h-i-e, in life. But that's nothing unusual for people from Louisiana. Also, my real father's name was Rufus Gordon, and he was from Hemphill, Texas.
MAYFIELD: So, is that Garden or Gordon?
HALL: G-o-r-d-o-n. Gordon.
MAYFIELD: Okay. And what brought your family from Galveston to Texas City?
HALL: Um, during that time, most of the people were in Galveston seeking work.Well, Galveston had the wharf. They had the waterfront. And many of the men were longshoremen. They came from far and beyond, you know, to come work on the waterfront. My mother was there because she worked on the wharf, uh, 00:05:00packing seafood. They cleaned shrimp and boxed it up. Shipped it all over the world. And that's primarily why she was there. Most of the time, either the people worked on the waterfront, like I said, or they worked on the, you know, as longshoreman, or worked on the wharf, or worked at the hospital. You know, Galveston was the big employer. They had the UT System, and then John Sealy Hospital and St. Mary's. So they, they came for employment reasons.
MAYFIELD: So, what kind of employment did they have while in Texas City?
HALL: In Texas City?
HALL: I cannot tell you. We, we, no one that I knew worked in Texas City exceptfor a cousin of mine, and he worked for the police force. And that 00:06:00was a few years after we moved here. But in terms of employment, oh, I really don't remember very much about the people working here in Texas City. Some people worked at the plants over the years, but not when we, when we first came here. Not too many people worked at the plants that I knew. But that opened up a little bit over time, working at the plants.
MAYFIELD: So, did your mom, --was she a stay-at-home mom at that point then?
HALL: Yes. Yes, yes. Uh, she, --oh, I'd say after my sisters were born. That'sthe year that they were actually born in '50, '52. And that was on, like I said, a monumental year for us. I had two. I had twin sisters that were born that year, and so that brought her home and pretty much she was a, a homemaker. 00:07:00
MAYFIELD: I can imagine it's pretty busy with twins, I know. I'm a twin, so.
HALL: Oh, really? Okay.
MAYFIELD: Yeah, they can keep you on your toes. Plus, if, um, do you have, uh,is it twin sisters that you have or twin brothers?
HALL: Twin sisters.
MAYFIELD: And what were their names?
HALL: Well, we, uh, it's, it's a real issue with birth certificates. For somereason or other, the people at John Sealy Hospital, they didn't have a real appreciation for our names. And I don't know who decided to write what on birth certificates, but they wrote. --I named my sisters. My sisters would call, oh, their names were Sandra and Vondra, and I was four years old, and I thought that was just the greatest thing to be able to name my baby sisters. But on their birth certificate, it came out Sanderia and Vonderia. 00:08:00
MAYFIELD: My goodness. It's completely different.
HALL: How can you screw up, you know. Excuse me. How can you mess that up(laughs) Vondra and Sandra. But they did. And so that's what they were stuck with. But we always knew them as Vondra and Sandra. But on their birth certificates, that's how they are, Sanderia and Vonderia.
MAYFIELD: Uh, are they your only sisters? Do you have any other sisters or brothers?
HALL: That's it.
MAYFIELD: So, are you the oldest of the three?
HALL: I am.
MAYFIELD: And what was your relationship like growing up with your siblings?
HALL: Oh, well, uh, well, that's, that was, that's something to think of. Um, Iwas the older, oldest of the three of us. And so it was my job to take care, actually take care of my sisters and to look out for them. I had one sister, Sandra, that was born with polio. That was a big factor during that 00:09:00time period. Polio was something that, --they started a campaign against polio and tried to eradicate polio. But she was born with polio, and she had, --was affected on her left leg and pretty much on her left side. Okay? And so, I had to do a lot of things to help her, uh, in terms of helping her do her exercises to build strength in her legs and help improve her hand movements. And so that was a responsibility. Then trying to kind of keep them in, keep them in order. Especially when my mother would leave home, if they would, --she'd go to church or go to the market or whatever. That was my responsibility as the 00:10:00oldest child. And I had my chores as well. I had household duties and my studies and my sisters. And we had a dog. So, I kind of felt like, really the person in charge most of the time. I had my chores. I had to help my mom. She was a great cook, but there was always, oh, diapers and washing and cleaning, et cetera.
MAYFIELD: So, you were kept really busy?
HALL: Really busy.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. What was your family's economic circumstances like growing up?
HALL: Well, I don't think we, --I, I didn't think of us as being poor, and maybewe were by other, you know, other people's standards. But I thought we were just like everybody else in our community. I would say we were middle class and for, for me, my father, my stepfather worked on the, uh, as a 00:11:00longshoreman, and they would have times when there would be down times, and then they would be on strike. And when they would be on strike, that was always stressful because we didn't have money coming in. We then had to stretch everything; had to be very, uh, careful in how we spent our monies and how we supplemented things. And my father, stepfather always had a garden. I just call, --I always knew him as my father, so I just, yeah, I'll say that quite a bit. My, --he was from Louisiana, and he knew how to grow things. He knew how to, from the country, so he knew how to, how to garden, and he knew how to raise chickens. And we had ducks and my neighbor next door had ducks and Guinea hens. And it was quite an experience coming up. It was more rural than 00:12:00what we know of now. My neighbors across the street had a hog pen and they had hogs. And, uh, we'd have to, we'd, we'd watch them feed the hogs. Uh, uh, my job was to uh, feather and clean and pluck the, you know, pluck chickens when my father would, --they would, they'd kill chickens. And my job was to, you know, pluck feathers and get it dressed and ready to, to cook. So, I tell you, it was really, --it was really scary to see chickens running around with his neck cut off, chopped off.
HALL: I watched (laughs) that and they were just running wild across the yard.But at some point, in time, they, they would die, and I'd have to 00:13:00learn how to dip them in boiling water and pluck their feathers. And I learned how to cook, uh, at an early age. And they did a lot of fishing and crabbing, and they'd bring home the spoils. And I'd have to be the one out there cleaning crabs and deveining shrimp and shelling shrimp and everything that, that pertained to getting things ready to, you know, prepare to, you know, to serve. So, I, I observed. I didn't maybe learn as much as I should have, but I observed everything from the seedlings to, --from baby chicks to the hens, the ducks. My mother was a great cook. A great, an absolute great cook. So, we, --she knew, she knew how to cook roosters, she knew how to cook, you know, hen and dumplings. We just, --food was always great and fortunately we had, 00:14:00as I said, these things to fall back on when times got hard.
And neighbors shared, they would have hog killings, and what they call um,rendering. And they'd make, uh, cracklings and we'd get cracklings. That that's when you fry the rendering, you know, the hog skin and that which is left after you get all that fat out of it. You use that in cornbread mix, you know, and make, you know, crackling bread.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. Okay. What about hog's cheese?
HALL: Hog head cheese, you mean? (laughs)
MAYFIELD: Yeah. (laughs)
HALL: Hog head cheese. No, we actually didn't make hog head cheese, but we had,we, we ate plenty of it. I think there's an extra process in there that, oh, well, we didn't do, so we didn't make the hog head cheese. But we definitely kept our freezer, uh, filled. They'd go and to the meat market and 00:15:00the guys and the men would buy maybe a side of beef and they divided up amongst themselves. And so we had that. And like I said, we had the hogs. We had the ducks. We had the chickens. So--
MAYFIELD: You had enough.
HALL: --we did okay. We did fine, you know, in many regards. But when it came todown to having the money to pay the bills, that's where the challenge came.
MAYFIELD: Especially if your father, if there was strikes going on or--
HALL: --Right. Right.
MAYFIELD: The work was tight. Did he travel a lot for his job? Like, have to goto different--
HALL: I don't remember any of that. He, other than you know, driving back andforth to, you know, to the wharf, the waterfront. No, that's if we would travel on, uh, for personal, things visiting families and relatives. But that's that. That's it.
MAYFIELD: What, um, what other relatives did you have contact with?00:16:00Like, were you close with?
HALL: Well, we, we had relatives, but they were a ways off. As I said, mystepfather was from Grambling, Louisiana. And, uh, home of the famous Grambling University.
MAYFIELD: How do you spell that?
HALL: G-r-a-m-b, as in boy, l-i-n-g. Grambling.
MAYFIELD: Grambling. I see.
HALL: Uh-huh, and that's in Grambling, Louisiana. And, you never heard thefamous Grambling marching band and the Grambling football team? Oh, where are you from?
MAYFIELD: (laughs) New York.
HALL: (laughs) Okay. Well, Grambling is well known, yeah, for, uh, theirathletic teams. And it was, --it's a small town, small college town. 00:17:00But they're, they're well known. I'm trying to think of Eddie. Eddie. Eddie, oh God, I'm trying to think of the name of the coach, the famous football coach. It just escapes my memory right about now. But anyway, my cousin had a, --owned one of the neat businesses, nice businesses there in Grambling. He had the bus station, uh, he owned other properties there. My, my stepfather's brother had, --was over the sanitation department there in Grambling, so, they were fairly immersed in the, uh, business sector of that town.
MAYFIELD: Pretty well known in the community there?
HALL: My, yeah, they were. They, they were. And they still are. Okay. Um, Idon't see as much of them now as I had in times past, but uh, the 00:18:00boys, you know, grew up and they all went their different ways. And there was one sister. Her name was Classie Mae, and she died several years ago. Yeah. After, I think, after childbirth. Anyway, that was, that was one of my most heartbreaking experiences because we were very close coming up, and we didn't see each other often, but when we did, we saw each other really well. We--
MAYFIELD: --She was your cousin?
HALL: Mm-hmm. Well, I mean, I adopted her as my cousin. She was, Stepfather's niece--
MAYFIELD: --Ah. Mm-hmm. How, how, --what was the age difference between the twoof you?
HALL: We were very close to that same age, you know, interestingly enough. Wewere close. And say, hey, I don't think there was, I think maybe there might have been a year difference. We really didn't talk age much at that 00:19:00time. So, yeah, but there was only maybe a year or two difference in our age.
MAYFIELD: What about your grandparents on either side?
MAYFIELD: --Were you, um, able to see them often or were they still alive atthis time?
HALL: We, yes and, yes and no. My grandmother, --we are still, we're working onsome things right now in terms of our, our family history. My grandmother was oh so awesome. I never really knew her. I knew of her, but I did see and visit her on occasions when I would go. But she was up in age at the, when I was coming up, and she was advanced years and bedridden.
MAYFIELD: And was this your mother's mother?
HALL: This was my mother's mother.
HALL: Her name was Mary Polk and she's the mother of ten children.
MAYFIELD: Oh, my goodness.
HALL: It would've been eleven, but I guess you could say eleven. One00:20:00died when very, very young. Her name was Mary, Mary Polk, and her, her husband was the, he was the principal of the, of the, uh, Black school there in El Campo, Texas. And he was one of the founding fathers for the AME Church there. And he was so powerful in the Word and in his life. But he died. He was, --he had died when, uh, by the time I came along. And Mary was advanced in years, and she was bedridden and in, in end of life. And that was the first time, as a child, that I ever remember a doctor doing house calls. And I remember, we'd come, --he'd come in with that black bag and he'd examine her, and she would have this, uh, pass this bloody flux. I didn't know what that was as a child. But anyway, she was, uh, she didn't live much longer after. I 00:21:00guess, maybe, somewhere she may have died when I was somewhere around about nine, you know, years old. But she has an interesting story of her own, because she and her siblings came from Tennessee. And I remember my aunt used to always tell me they came on the back of an old buckboard. And they went, uh, from, came across from Tennessee up to Matagorda County and they dropped them off at, you know, each of the siblings from one plantation to the next plantation. So, they were all separated as children. And my grandmother was the last of the children to be dropped off. And that was in El Campo, Texas. And there she's, --is where she, she raised her family. And I don't know how she came to meet Robert Polk, her husband Robert Polk, but that's where they made roots and uh, 00:22:00and raised a family.
MAYFIELD: Did the kids ever meet back up again? I mean, you said they, they weredropped off at different plantations. Were they ever able to come together again?
HALL: Well, that's the problem of being a, with slavery and oh, in thatoppressive lifestyle. And the children were considered, you know, uh, chattel, chattel. They, they were owned by that plantation, uh, the owner of the plantation. And so, uh, they had no real means of, uh, connecting with one another because they were spaced so far apart. And I remember back in those days, a lot of the people, a lot of the children worked on, uh, pick cotton. And they worked on the various plantations, you know. And they had big 00:23:00rice mill there and they, they grew rice. But they didn't have any real, --oh, this is several years ago. I was, as I said, I was born in '48. So, I remember, you know, they were, of course, were born before me, so, they didn't really have a car. They did have cars, but I don't think our family really had one. They usually got around by horse and buggy, and so it was more than a notion to try and go visit one another and they lost track of one another. Uh--
MAYFIELD: Is this the early part of the twentieth century that you're talking about?
HALL: Mm-hmm. Uh, the late eighteen-hundreds.
MAYFIELD: The late eighteen-hundreds?
HALL: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. And this, you know, as, and then we were, we are piecingtogether that history right now. I have a cousin that was born in, we 00:24:00were, I was looking at his obituary. He was born in 1914. I had two. And those that weren't in El Campo, they was just, they went--; started at Matagorda County. They were dropped off in Bay City. They had some in Bay City. You had some that wound up in, uh, Van Vleck. You had people, some that were Brazoria. They lost track of one another. So, it's hard to maybe conceive of it now, but it did happen. And a lot of them, for instance, we are looking for right now for Spillers that are in, out of Bay City. I had a cousin, my, my grandmother had a sister, one of those she did manage to connect with one of her sisters. And her name was Beauty. And her children were able to connect with, uh, my 00:25:00aunt and uncles and those are the only ones that I can remember that were Edens. Edens and Spillers in Bay City. Now, they knew one another and they were connected with people in El, uh, family in El Campo. But there were others that--. They were called Tymes, uh, T-y-m-e-s. We've not located them. I met one, uh, when he was working in Galveston on the waterfront. And before I could really meet up with him face to face, he moved back in that area. And I've never been able to find him since, but I talked to him over the phone and we are still trying to put our family tree together.
MAYFIELD: So, you're, is this your great, great grandmother who was00:26:00still part of slavery or was it an, I mean, --
HALL: --She came as a, --you know, they--
HALL: --as I said, from Tennessee, she and her siblings. Okay? They were soldand, you know, and, and, and brought here to Texas.
HALL: And I can't exactly tell you what year that was. We are still piecing thattogether. Uh, but I do know from oral history is what I'm giving you. They were separated as children and divided up among different plantations and they never, as far as I know, um, the bulk of them never came back together again. I don't really remember how many children there were, but there were few.
HALL: She then married Robert Polk. They started a family in El Campo, andthat's the only, other than the ones in Bay City, intact family that 00:27:00I know of.
MAYFIELD: Okay. I see it now.
HALL: On my mother's side.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. I see it now. Um, so, in your house, it was just you, your twosisters and your parents? Did anyone ever else live with you guys in your home?
HALL: Mm, yes. But this was after my, uh, stepfather had died. Um, I had, --wehad someone to live with us briefly and yes, that's, that's it. Except when my mother died. My mother, my father, --stepfather died when I was twelve. My mother died when I was sixteen, so, excuse me. Yes. Okay. That's right. My mother died when I was sixteen, and I was still very young, and my sisters were even younger. So, my maternal aunt, my mother's sister, she was a 00:28:00single lady working in El Campo. She then came in to live with us. She moved. She left her home and, uh, boarded it up and, or pretty much locked it up because she had family members there in El Campo; kept an eye out on the house. She came to live with us, and she was there and with us, raising us until I know I graduated, and then a while after that. And then my sisters graduated. She moved in with this cousin, one of those Spillers, that had also lived in, uh, here in Texas City. And after living there for so long, she finally did go move back to El Campo, to her home.
MAYFIELD: What was her name?
HALL: Her name was Maybelle Polk.
MAYFIELD: Maybelle Polk.
HALL: Maybelle Polk. Yes. She was a short order cook at one of the restaurantsthere in El Campo. She was well loved, well known, and you know, I'm 00:29:00just so amazed at how good Yahweh is, how good Yahweh is, because she made that sacrifice to come and live with us, to raise us. She got a job working at the Holiday Inn here in Texas City. The Holiday Inn was out there on the dike. And she got a job out there because she was a great cook. And she, she had such spunk and spontaneity. All the people who really liked her. The guys that would go fishing and, and they'd all come there and they'd bring their catch. Some of them would bring their catch for her to cook. And she got on, got along fabulously with, with the people. And because of her sacrifice, when she retired, she had benefits she would never have had, had she stayed in the little, you know, the little cafe where she was working in El Campo. 00:30:00And one of the benefits was that she could stay in any Holiday Inn, and anywhere, you know, for, you know, for free.
MAYFIELD: Oh, that's a wonderful benefit.
HALL: Yes. Yes. And she, --we did. We, we visited San Antonio and we stayed atthe Holiday Inn there. And I think, uh, I can't remember now if she was free and we had to pay a little something, but it was very minuscule. It was a wonderful benefit. I thought, how awesome is Yahweh, okay? And she is, like I said, I said, "I, well, I needed that benefit myself." But anyway, she earned it. She, well, more than earned it, and I think there may have been some other things, but I don't remember. That's just what stands out in my mind.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. So, in your neighborhood, what was the racial, I'd say,economic makeup of your neighborhood? 00:31:00
HALL: Well, you had, --I came up in an all-Black neighborhood. But, we hadmostly people that were, you know, from Louisiana, as I said. And a lot of them were from, uh, what we call French part of, you know. They spoke Creole, and they spoke, --they were French part of Louisiana, southern part of Louisiana, uh, on this end. Whereas our family, my stepfather's relatives, they were from northern part of Louisiana. But we had a makeup of mostly people from Texas. And maybe people from other small towns, but mostly from Texas and from Louisiana. And we, --it was a wonderful culture mix, because we learned how certain Creole dishes and Creole terms, and we tried to learn how to speak, uh, that 00:32:00so-called French, (laughs) uh, Creole French. But it was always a challenge, but they knew how to speak both languages, so we didn't have a problem with communicating. But the older people, the older people in the households, those are the ones that some of them only knew French and, and that's what they spoke when they, you know, where they came from. And so, we had to, --we picked up a few words here and there. But the kids that we came up with, they all learned, they all knew English and we all had a great time. They all were Catholic. (laughs) Maybe not all of them, but several of them were Catholic. So, we learned to, --that they on Fridays, they, they ate fish. They didn't eat anything, you know, any meat on Fridays, and they had to go to confession. And it was just a cultural exchange. So, can learn Catholicism. As a matter of fact, I did join the Catholic church for a while coming up. 00:33:00
MAYFIELD: Because of your--
MAYFIELD: --knowledge of the Catholic church through your neighbors?
HALL: I think that's going to be addressed, you know, a little bit further downin these questions. I'll say that when you talk, when you get to the--
HALL: --about the church.
MAYFIELD: So, what your neighbors seem like a lively bunch right? Of, of folks,right? Really sort of down earth--
HALL: --Oh, I had the best, you know. We came up, maybe we didn't have much,maybe as much as financially as other people. But we were not an, uh, an impoverished group of people in our neighborhood. We had a thriving neighborhood. Everybody owned their own home. And or was in process of buying their home. We had our own schools, uh, uh, in La Marque Independent School District. We had our own, --well, we didn't have a, --we had a few businesses. We had on my street especially, U-Drive-In and we had the, what we 00:34:00called at the very end of our street, Teenage Place where kids would gather and then play music, play new music and dance. And you know, --you'd--. It was kind of like, it's kind of like Sonic, you know. But something on that order. But they had a place where you could dance and to, --and play music and sit and sit down and eat, and, uh, talk and socialize.
MAYFIELD: What was it called?
HALL: We, well, we just referred to it as a, that's the best I can remember,Teenage Place and where the teenagers gathered. And it had another name, but I can't even remember now. I'm sorry.
MAYFIELD: No, it's okay.
HALL: You know, maybe it'll come to me before it's all over with.
MAYFIELD: Did you and your family and your neighbors, uh, do, um, eventstogether, uh, for holidays or--
HALL: --Not so much. We didn't. Maybe others did, but we didn't. My00:35:00dad would, uh would barbecue, you know, for holidays. And we were always excited when family would come and visit. And when we would go and visit families. So, we visited family. And we knew each other and we might, as neighbors, we might walk across the street and talk or we might share a bounty, whatever they caught in terms of fishing or whatever. And a lot of the guys worked on the waterfront together, so they, we, they knew one another. Like I said, we, but in terms of just visiting, visiting, it was just more like in passing for me. Okay. But we had a great respect and, you know, for one another and a great love for one another. But people didn't quite, --and they were not over, you know, over in this person's house a lot or that persons. They didn't do that during 00:36:00that time as much. Okay. Unless you were family, the neighbors just didn't come. And, you know, we would sit out in our front yard on Fridays. That was something, --maybe some other days, but usually it was Friday. We'd sit out in the front yard, and we'd talk to one across the, --one another across the street or we'd, you know, somebody walk over, and we'd talk. And in the cool of the day, we'd just sit out and on the porch or in the yard. Back in those days, we could, uh, we could even sleep out on the porch. You know, we could, --nobody would bother you.
MAYFIELD: No mosquitoes?
HALL: Oh, I'm sure there were mosquitoes. I don't know why--
HALL: I don't really remember that much in the mosquitoes. I'm sure we did, but,uh, we had, oh yeah, we had with little, some little candle thing, sort of, that you burned. That smoked. We'd sit near that smoke that would keep the 00:37:00mosquitoes away. And we had, oh, mostly we had, --we lived, uh, near the baseball park. So, we always were out there watching the game. We'd walk over to the park. Uh, sometimes we'd sit in the yard and watch the game, but you really couldn't see it that well. So, we'd just walk over there and catch the game. Oh, you talk about incredible baseball. We came up at the time when baseball was king. And yes, as time progressed, as we got further along in school, football became the, the big attraction. But there was nothing like a good old baseball game. And they, they, --oh, man. We had folks who knew how to, knew how to hit. But they, when they would start putting, you know, flying at, throwing that ball or putting folks out on there, oh, it was a, it was a work of art to see them out there. Uh-- 00:38:00
MAYFIELD: --So exciting.
HALL: Oh, they'd run those balls down shortstop. You know, and they'd pow! Pow!(Mayfield laughs) They'd fire those balls off. Oh, man! Before you could bat your eye. This one's out! Out! This one's out! This one! Oh, man! It was just so exciting. I, you know, it was, I don't know. Baseball was king. Okay. And that was when I was a little girl. My mother used to take me to the baseball game. And I remember, I was seeing Jackie Robinson--
HALL: --and Roy Campanella and we had the Negro, you know, Baseball League. Oh--
MAYFIELD: In Texas City, there was a Negro Baseball League?
HALL: No, in, you know, in--
MAYFIELD: --Oh, in the nationals?
HALL: In the country, yes. But in, but they would come and play. You had folksin Texas, I had an uncle who played in the Negro Baseball League. His name was Dick Crawford, and he was, --they were good. These guys made a 00:39:00baseball just come alive. And even when my son was young, baseball was so, so, so exciting. So much fun. It was never dull. Uh, these guys could hit. They could, they could catch. They could run them, and they were fast and they were furious. And it was just exciting. (laughs)
MAYFIELD: You don't find it exciting anymore, do you? (laughs)
HALL: Actually, I don't know. I don't. I don't watch as much baseball as I usedto. But I still, if it's a good game and you've got good hitters, and you got people who really know that, you know, how to play their, you know, position. Then still today, nothing is more exhilarating than a great baseball game. And you don't have the, the fear of trauma, you know, people you know, tackling, breaking, you know, this body part, that body part, you know? Yeah, 00:40:00maybe somebody might get hit with, hit with a ball here and there, but those guys knew how to play ball. They, --you didn't have all those injuries like that. And there was great respect for the, for the game and just sheer fun. Sometimes they wouldn't be, they wouldn't work at it. They'd just make it playing fun. And you'd see them out there with all the antics, joking and carrying on. And, oh man, you just got into it.
MAYFIELD: It was fun.
HALL: Yes, but I, uh, like I said, I remember seeing Jackie Robinson as a childplaying ball and Roy Campanella. And probably, I don't remember Hank Aaron so much, but there were others. And it was just live fun. Because we could all relate. Because, you know, at the church you could play baseball. Everybody got into the game, so everybody knew how the game was supposed to go, and, you know, who would walk and who would, you know, That's a strike! Then, you 00:41:00know, because everybody came up with the school playing baseball. So, yeah, that was one. It was great. It was wonderful.
MAYFIELD: So, you mentioned church, which church did you attend growing up?
HALL: I actually, --I remember starting out years ago at West Point. My motherwent to West Point Baptist Church in Galveston. And, and I remember as a little kid, six years old you know, trying, trying to hold out. (laughs) Sitting in those pews and trying to, you know, trying to listen, trying to hold out. Sometimes squirming, sometimes not, you know, doing so good. But, uh, actually the most, you know, that I remember is when I was in church, when I was a member here. Because once my mother moved from Galveston, we moved from Galveston. We joined the kids and I, because we had to go to, we had to go to 00:42:00church. I mean, there was no way of, you know, not nobody could stay home on Sundays. We joined Rising Star Baptist Church. Pastor that Reverend D. N. Benford.
MAYFIELD: Who's still there.
HALL: He's still there.
MAYFIELD: Who's still there, yep.
HALL: And I tell you what, that man could bring a sermon. He could, oh mygoodness. He could bring a message. If you couldn't get saved under, you know, his service, you weren't going to get saved. You, --it was just like, as a child, I mean as a kid coming up, when he'd talk about the cross and he'd talk about Calvary. I mean, it was just like we were transposed right there to the Promised Land. To the Holy Land. Yeah, we, because we called it the Promised Land mostly, and it was like, you could, you could feel, you could 00:43:00see everything that, you know, the scripture talked about. He made it so real; it was so vivid. And when they talk about the, you know, --and the choir was singing about the blood that came streaming down. Oh, I mean, it was just like being transposed, as I sat in there. And I could feel it. You could feel the river Jordan. You could feel, I mean, it was so--
MAYFIELD: Impactful to you?
HALL: Surreal. That I had to go see for myself. It was like I could see it in myspirit, but that day would, I said, the day is going to come. Maybe, I could see it from, --and I think about walking the road to Emmaus and the Sea ofGalilee. And when they would bring those messages, it was, like I said, it was 00:44:00just as though I was transposed to right there. And I was in the midst of it. I couldn't, --I mean, I sometimes, I couldn't come down off of that high. It would, you know, you would just be overwhelmed, you know, you know, and caught up in the spirit. And, I would just be, sometimes I would just cry and sometimes the message would be so inspiring and so, alive. You, --it just, you couldn't hold back your feelings. You couldn't hold back the shout. You couldn't hold back the tears. It was just surreal.
MAYFIELD: It seems like the church really touched you, you know, being a part ofthat church really touched you.
HALL: It did. It has. It always has. As a child coming up, that was soreal to me. I spent so much of my childhood reading the scriptures. 00:45:00And I had this big tree in the backyard. And I'd get up in that big tree and I, and I'd talk to God. And I would pray to him. And I would just, I would share, share with him. And I would sing praises. And some of those old gospel songs, they were so stirring, I tell you, they would bring you to tears and, bring you to seek him, to draw closer to him, to have a, you know, an intimate intimacy with him that you can't compare it with anything. It was just awesome. And the day came when I was older. I was much older and I was visiting my 00:46:00aunt. My aunt Maybelle after she had moved back home. She asked us to come for a church, what they call, and not an, --it wasn't anniversary, homecoming. No. Homecoming, I'm thinking, --what they been. Uh, Uh, that they had. Okay. And so, she invited us to come, and that's when I found out that my grandfather helped to establish the AMH, the AME church there in El Campo. And they had people who came from all over. And there was a girl on the organ who was playing, whatever this is, it won't let--, (sings) whatever it is, it won't let me hold. And I tell you, whatever that was, it got hold of me really good. I 00:47:00just, I found out what it was to have that experience with. I found out what salvation was all about. All of a sudden, it was like I was transposed to a place. All I can tell you is that I was listening, and she was singing that song, Whatever This Is, it won't let me go, and whatever that was that day, it grabbed hold of me and all I know is that all of a sudden, I was transposed into a room that was all white. This was an experience I had never had in my life where I was in the spirit realm. I was in a room and everything in it was white. And there were white curtains on the windows. And the windows were 00:48:00open. And the, this wind came in through those windows. And the curtains were just dancing on that wind as it rushed into that room. And all of a sudden I was just filled with the Holy Spirit, the Ruach. I just was filled. I don't even remember any of what happened though, but I just know I felt like I was a room. And I was that. I was the room. And some way or another, the Holy Spirit came rushing in. And when I came to myself, I was outside. Outside on the, you know, on the front of the church. My aunt and my son had carried me out there. I don't remember going out there. I don't remember. I just remember being that room and just this wind just going through me, going through the room, just 00:49:00filling. It was a remarkable experience to receive the Holy Spirit.
MAYFIELD: How old were you that you remember?
HALL: I probably was thirty, I want to say thirty-five maybe. I'd have to stop.I didn't, I'd have to stop and think, but about thirty-five maybe. Yeah. Somewhere there, thirty-five, thirty-seven, somewhere there. And I remember when my aunt invited me to come, I kept thinking, what can I wear? I asked myself because she was going to speak about our family history and about her dad, you know, having uh, having established, established that church. And I kept thinking, what else? And so I was thinking about it, and I was led by the spirit to go buy this skirt. This top and I went to, --at that time it was 00:50:00Eiband's in Galveston. I went and purchased and I wore that to the service. And it was so special because I was prep, --I didn't know that I was preparing for what I was going to receive. And oh, it was an incredible experience. I think I've only had maybe one or two something similar to that in my life, but I received the Holy Spirit. And--
MAYFIELD: Well, it seems like the church, I mean, uh, had deep impact with youas a person. What about your neighborhood? How, how did the church fit in with your neighborhood?
HALL: It was our lifeline. The church was our lifeline. Other than work, it waschurch. And, you know, for our parents and other than school, it was a church right? We--, it was our lifeline. We learned everything practically 00:51:00that, --at least I did, and so many others that was going to set us on a course for life. In church, we learned how to speak because we had to have plays and we had to have our parts in the play. We had to speak about different things, uh, uh, in the church, so, we all had, uh, had to prepare for that. We learned to, --we sang in the choir. Uh, we learned to harmonize. We learned to appreciate great music. We had great gospel groups and great, uh, singers in the church. That's really one of the reasons why I love Mahalia Jackson so much. She edified the Father so much in her songs, and in her life and all that was--, since--, began in the church. That was that for the Black community that was our, that was our center. We, uh, we, --not only did we have, (sighs), we 00:52:00had Vacation Bible School. We learned. We went to Sunday school. We learned the truth. We learned the Bible. And sometimes, you know, a lot of times we had to memorize passages. But that's how we got to know the Father. That's how we got to know the Son and the Holy Spirit; studying the scriptures, and, um, sharing with one another. We had, um, --we learned to play instruments, you know, those who could play the pianos. Oh, they had fantastic pianists in the church. And organists, oh my, Yahweh. Oof! That's where we learned so much of everything, and it went from the church out into the world, because people who 00:53:00learned and knew how to sing and how to play, they later on began to come into their own. And they had, uh, --you had great, great singers, like I said, like Mahalia Jackson. Mattie Moss Clark. Moss Clark. And you had, um, Shirley Caesar. I don't know, are you familiar with Shirley Caesar? Oh, my goodness. (Mayfield laughs) We, had, uh, all, you know, we had Sam Cooke. You heard of Sam Cooke? (Mayfield laughs)
Started in the church. Everybody, everybody got their start in the church. Andthat's how they overcame their, uh, --I guess any, fear of, you know, performing in front of an audience. They learned all of that was in the church and we had sometimes back in the country. We would have picnics on the ground at 00:54:00church and we'd have church buffet and dinners and, we'd have church, you know, dinner sales and, and everything was, like I said, was centered around the church. It was awesome.
MAYFIELD: I know you said you did plays in the church and, and you got up infront of the church and, there was a lot of music in the church. Um, but for you, for kids, what, what did young people do in the church? Like what kinds of programs?
HALL: That's what we, we did.
MAYFIELD: That's what you did?
HALL: That's what we did. We started off as kids. We had to have, --we had, --wewere in church plays whether we wanted. (laughs) We had our little part to play, uh, and our little part to say, and our part to play in church. Even if it was, --you know, don't do, you know, --on the piano, we started out and, uh, is learning how to play some of us in piano. And a lot of the, the, the ladies in church taught pi, --taught music. Okay? And so, we would go to piano 00:55:00lessons in their houses, at their houses. And we, --as we learned, we then took it to the church and, and the church honed it and developed it. And wow. We did--, like I said, it was our lifeline because, where could we go as Blacks? There were a lot of places we could not go. There are a lot of places, you know, no Blacks allowed. Okay. And no colored folks as they say. And we, we understood that our suffering, you know, uh, we could, we could come to terms with our suffering because we would get encouragement when we go to church. And, uh, things that we were facing, uh, in, in life. Uh, the church gave us some relief and it gave us promise of a better day. And we just, --and as Yahweh 00:56:00has allowed us to continue, we are learning, still learning more and more; but we found out how Christ suffered. And, uh, how the enemy works. And how, you know, the, the devil sets you know, you know, entices you to do it, do with sin. And to do the, --we learned the difference between, the, you know, right and wrong. Uh, we learned how to take our, our, our, our cares and our woes to the Lord and you know, and prayer. And we had wonderful men who could pray. Men in the church who could pray. They would have prayer service and testimony service. I'm trying to tell you, nobody wanted to leave. When you would have testimony services, someone would start talking and sharing about their trials. And then we'd, then we'd, we'd, we'd start singing those old, those old 00:57:00spirituals and those songs that brought us over, uh, as Mahalia would sing, "You know?" I, --we look back and we wonder, how did we make it thus far? And we'd know that uh, it was only Yahweh under the Lord who had brought us safe thus far. And we sing those old spiritual swing and swing low sweet chariot, coming--. One day, we knew that we were going to leave this place and it wasn't, you know, there was a better, a better home on the other side. We just--.
MAYFIELD: --So, I, I would say that then the leader of the church really has animpact on the community, right?
MAYFIELD: And then on, on you. So, for you, um, which pastor stands out the most?
HALL: As I said, Reverend Benford. Reverend Benford, as I said, he00:58:00would bring a message and he still does. If you can't get saved from Reverend Benford, (laughs) you probably need to check yourself. (Mayfield, Hall laugh)
He, uh, was mighty in the word, and he knew how to deliver a message. And hewould just grab hold of you. And he would just, --and he would bring you and he would be so powerful and so en--, you know, gaging you, engaging, you just, you know. And, uh, if you know, people who didn't want to, didn't come to with the intention of, you know, giving their lives to Christ, would find themselves walking up that aisle, giving their lives to Christ because the power of the anointing that was on his message and the father truly, has, has gifted and anointed him to preach the gospel.
MAYFIELD: Well, how did, how did you go from being, um, at Rising00:59:00Star Baptist Church, Baptist Church to, uh, becoming a Catholic? How did that happen?
HALL: (laughs) That happened because, I had, uh, an experience in an unpleasantexperience at church. After, after all of that, something went amuck and, uh, I, I, there was something said, and I didn't, I didn't like what was said. I, I had a friend of mine who belonged to the Catholic church, and I had so admired her. And so I said, "I think I'll go in and check this out." And so, I, I did, and I tried to embrace that. And I, and I did, Mother Mary, and the different things, you know, getting, --"What is that?", uh, the Lord's Supper. 01:00:00Well, that was in the Baptist Church. But confession and all of that, you know? And I confessed. And I, and I, I did, I, I was, as a matter of fact, I taught CCD, you know, classes in, in the Catholic church.
MAYFIELD: Well, how old were you when you switched to, in, to the Catholic church?
HALL: Oh, I guess I probably was, I had maybe my last year in high school, Ithink somewhere like thereabout. I was, yeah, was old enough to know what I was I was doing when I made the switch. And I stayed within, in Catholicism for several years. And I, I, I think that, um, it became so ritualistic. And I said to myself, --well, what, what, what really was a deciding factor was 01:01:00that one of the things in teaching my class, with my CCD class. I wanted them to know what would, what happened to the soul once a person dies. And I was not. --I didn't want to run into trouble with anyone, so I did not want to teach that myself. So, I asked one of the priests if he would teach that, because I didn't want to do any false doctrine. And I asked him to teach that, to come and speak to our class and tell them, tell us what happens to the soul, what happens to the spirit, man, when a person died. I was never so disappointed in my life. He came in, he addressed the group, and he says, "Well, you stop breathing. And when you stop breathing, you know, your heart stops. And they pronounce you dead. And, and, and in other words, they bury you." And I went, 01:02:00"That's not what I", --and I pulled him over. I said, "I need to know because I'm not, I, I know what I've read. I know what happens. But I am not qualified, you know, in, in, in to teach this. And I need you to tell them the truth. I need you to give them the spiritual aspect, not the physical in aspects of death, the spiritual." He came back with that same message. I said, "That's it. I'm out of here." They're not going to, --we're not going to get this teaching. And they're not, these kids are not going to get this teaching. You know, and this is not, this is not it. And so I, uh, I left, and I never went back. I have, --I now do Hebrew studies. And as I said, it's uh, it's been a journey. It's been a journey, 01:03:00
MAYFIELD: Certainly seems like that. You've had, --you've seen all aspects ofdifferent churches, right? So it--
MAYFIELD: --it gives you perspective, I guess.
HALL: Yes. Yes.
HALL: And, uh, I found out though, when the Father started showing me himselfthings in scripture that he wanted me to know. I went, wow. When the Father opens up himself to you, it's on a whole nother level, a whole nother plane for him, a plane that you will see nowhere else when the, when the Father himself visits you and shows you things, the deep things in him. I was so, so, so, so, so moved that he would take time to come visit me. And I, I, I thank him every day, every day. 01:04:00
MAYFIELD: Well, um, what about your educational experience? What, what wasschool like?
HALL: School was great. But I, I, but as, uh, I was tired of school by the timeI finished 12th, you know, 12th grade or got, got into high school after all those years ago. I was tired. I wasn't, but, but school was, uh, school was great. I, I took it seriously. We had some great teachers. I, I'll never forget Mrs. Hogue. Annie Hogue. That was, that was the one that first made an impression on me. Ms. Hogue would see kids come to class, come to school. Some of us didn't have lunches. Some didn't have lunch money, and Miss Hogue was always going into that purse of hers and buying lunch for this one or 01:05:00that one. And I would, --wow, that touched me. She was, she was a disciplinarian. But she had a heart, you know, of compassion and nobody was going to go hungry that day, whenever they would come and they didn't have a lunch. And I so admired her for that. Um, school, coming up in the school system we came up in, it was fantastic. We had great teachers. I mean great teachers. Teachers that prepared us for the next level. I mean, they just didn't. --we just didn't graduate. Maybe some people did, but the bulk of us, we had real scholars. We--
MAYFIELD: How did your school system work?
HALL: I started off at elementary school at Woodland Elementary01:06:00School. And I think it was maybe about the third grade or fourth grade somewhere. I, --they transferred us, some of us to Lake Road Elementary School. And when I got to Lake Road, oh my goodness, that's where, Mr. Moore was the principal. And Mr. Moore was from big time New York. And we saw things, experienced things. And during that time is when Dr. Drake had moved to, uh, to Texas City, and that was the first time I'd ever, I think, maybe seen a Black, um, knew a Black doctor, that was such a thing as a Black doctor graduated from the University of Texas. And it was so exciting. And he would, sometimes come and do presentations. But Mr. Moore had us doing things, on a, on a 01:07:00scale that we knew they didn't know. That like in New York, some of the New York plays and what have you, and Broadway productions, he had us doing. It was like, you, we know, it was a big time. Okay. And Mrs. Swanson, Florence Swanson, she was our choir director and, uh, music, you know, and, and music director. Oh, she was fabulous. She taught us songs and, uh, we sang. Oh, what's the woman's name? Uh, anyway, we sang Broadway productions. And we had a phenomenal choir. And she was young and, and she had been exposed to, you know, a lot of stuff and we then got exposed to, uh, more contemporary music and sometimes a little bit of jazz. And it was, it was incredible experience. We had, we, you know, different genres of music that we had. Uh, and that was like when we 01:08:00were in this, what, sixth grade even. And finally when we got to the ninth grade, they transferred us, uh, over to Lincoln High School in the ninth grade. So you know, so I went from as freshman until I finished, uh, at Lincoln High School.
MAYFIELD: Well, so you stayed at Lincoln High School, your entire senior, uh,your, your entire high school education? Okay.
HALL: Yes. Yes. Yes.
HALL: From junior high. Uh, we didn't have a junior high at that time. We, wejust had the elementary school and then everything was from there was a junior high and, and in high school at, uh, at Lincoln.
MAYFIELD: And how did you get to school? Did you walk, did you take a bus?
HALL: Hah! No buses. (laughs) We walked. We, we took out every day. We walked.And fortunately for me it was pretty much right up the street. But it was still a good walk and rain come, rain or shine. And sometimes we get a, 01:09:00--somebody would stop and give us a ride. But by and large, every day we struck our walking and every day we, you know, we came home walking. And we'd have a lot of fun joking and playing up and going up and down the streets, you know? Just, you know, what the kids do, play, you know, playing and, and talking and sharing. And after school sometimes I would stay, and watch the, the cheerleaders, you know, go through their routine and the band, --oh, we had an incredible band. We'd, --I'd listen to the band and watch them perform and go through their routines and that, but that was in high school. But before that, we, we had a corner, a store. It was near Lake Road School. And we'd, --when after school, we'd kind of congregate in the store and we'd have our little money. That's where we got those big Jack's Cookies. You probably don't know anything about big those Jack's Cookies, (Mayfield laughs) but we had, --they were kind of like, (laughs) like this big. They were, and you could 01:10:00get, you know, for, at that time a nickel, a quarter. You could get a good bit of stuff, you know, if you had quarter, fifty cents. And we'd play music. They had the jukebox in there. And then I tell you, Benny King, (sings) "when the night has come and the moon is" (laughs) you know, anyway--.
MAYFIELD: What store was that? Where did you guys go? What was the name of it?
HALL: It was the store. It was old. I think Ms. Williams owned that store. I'mtrying to think of Miss William's first name. That was one of my classmates, Jackie Williams, her mother owned that store, I believe. If she owned it or ran it, but I think she owned it. And we'd go in there and get snacks and we'd play that jukebox and we'd--(sings) stand by me, stand by me. Oh man. (sings)When the night has come, (Mayfield laughs) and we'd just listened to all the, all the hits and, oh man, the music was just so awesome. It was live and we 01:11:00enjoyed every moment. (Mayfield laughs) And then after we, you know, listen to music for a while and get a snack, we'd make it on home, because we had to be home at a certain time. Back in those days, you just didn't meander around. Okay. You, --they expected you to be home at a certain time because you had chores to do. Okay. So, I had to get home, and I had to, uh, --my mother was, if she was cooking and I had to try to set everything up. And I, --my job was to, you know, after we would eat, I'd have to wash the dishes and I had to get it done because I had studying and homework to do.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. So, what was your favorite subject in school?
HALL: Oh man.
MAYFIELD: Music? ----(?)(?)(laughs)
HALL: It's hard to say. I loved choir. I loved choir, but I loved science.I love science as probably more passionately than I did choir. And I 01:12:00loved social studies. And I loved, you know, English. English, oh my goodness, you know, the reading, the novels and social studies, I could go anywhere in the world through books. And I enjoyed that. I was not all that great with math. That was a real challenge for me, but trigonometry for some reason or another clicked with me, and so, I did well with that. But man, I had several classes that I liked. But I guess science was probably as hard as they, --you know, they were probably almost equal footing English and science, social studies, 01:13:00 but science especially.
MAYFIELD: Was there a teacher that, I mean, you mentioned, um, Ms. Hogue? H-o-u-g-h?
HALL: Annie Hogue. Uh-huh. She was elementary. They, they taught--.
MAYFIELD: She was elementary, but in high school--
HALL: Oh my word.
MAYFIELD: --who stood out to you as a teacher?
HALL: Oh, my word. Martha Ann, Henry. Martha Ann Henry was to me the epitome ofwhat any, what a teacher should be. She, she was young. She was kind of tall. She was just so, so well built. And she was smart. She was so smart. She had us doing term papers, research papers. We had book reports. We had, we wrote everything that can be done. We did it in English. We had of course 01:14:00the grammar, the reading, but we did research, we did footnotes. We did, you know, everything to the letter. She would get our papers, and I tell you, when we would get them back, they would be bleeding. Man, I said, "Golly." They would be bleeding. But by the time she, she worked with us, with our grammar, with our punctuation, with our spelling, everything. When we got a paper back from Ms. Henry that didn't bleed, we knew we had made it. I loved her because she did not give us, she didn't let us skate by. She held us, you know, to a higher level, and we had to rise to the occasion. And that's what we did. And I, I 01:15:00owe a great deal to her. I will, you know, because I learned some things about life. Life lessons that I would have to really, if I wanted something, I really had to apply myself to get it. And that, --this was, this was me at some point in time. What I learned had to come forth, okay? What was in, she put in me, had to come out. And it was only going to help, help me. It was going to be to me, you know, to my benefit. And so, I took it seriously. And all through school, I never got another bleeding paper after Ms. Henry. I never, and people used to ask me, who taught you English? I said, "Martha Ann Henry." That 01:16:00woman was incredible. She held us to a higher level, and we had to, we had to, we had to rise up. And so--
MAYFIELD: --What grade did she teach?
HALL: Well, she taught, as I said, we went there in the ninth grade, so shetaught reading and grammar. And then as we went through, she taught, English one and two, English right on up until graduation, because we took English all--
MAYFIELD: So, she taught in different levels of the, of high school?
MAYFIELD: Okay. I see, okay--
HALL: --Yes. And she made scholars out of us. She really did, because we learnedhow to study. We learned, as I said, how to do research, but we learned how to write research papers. And everything, you know, had to be, everything had to be just right. 01:17:00
MAYFIELD: Did you play sports in high school?
HALL: I didn't. We didn't have much other than cheerleading and, you know, maybetennis. Now, I played tennis, but I didn't actually play for the school. I played for myself. And I never really, --well, I guess I was foolish because I, when I was playing my arm and my, this right arm in tennis got so large and I thought, "I don't know." I never really talked to anybody about it. And I, that's what discouraged me. I said, "How? Why is it this arm?" And I looked, I looked like a misfit, you know, one arm is bigger than the other (Mayfield laughs) and I never really talked to anybody. I just decided secretly to myself, I don't want to be a misfit. (laughs) And so, I stopped playing tennis. That was not good. But we all played. We had gym. We, so we played basketball, we played, you know, as I said, baseball. But tennis was my, that was my sport 01:18:00of choice.
MAYFIELD: Tennis was your sport of choice?
HALL: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. I like it because it was very athletic. You had to, youhad to run. You had to, you had to jump. You had to, you had, --it worked every part of your body.
MAYFIELD: Did you--. What about your college aspirations? What did you want todo after high school?
HALL: Well, we were all inspired by our teachers to go forward, to go hirer. Butmy family was really a big encouragement to me. My parents and my ancestors, and they never got, no one ever got to go to college. And my family used to always say to me, "Get an education, because we couldn't, we couldn't go to school." They, --and that was true. A lot of them had to work. A lot of them, 01:19:00said people didn't allow us to go to school district. I said to myself, "For my sake and for my sake of my family, I'm going to, I'm going to, you know, climb this hill. I'm going to, I'm going to be the one that's going to open doors and set the standard, you know, raise the bar for the rest of my family." And so, I did. I didn't, --my mother, as I said, died when I was twelve. My father died when I was, stepfather died when I was, uh, excuse me. Stepfather died when I was twelve. My mother died when I was sixteen, and I didn't have any money. I didn't have any money. I didn't have any. But I had a desire to go. And I applied for a student loan. And I had no idea how I was going to pay it back. But I started out with a good student loan, and I worked my, or 01:20:00worked all, you know, all while time I was in college. And as a matter of fact, I think it was after my, it was junior year, I had to, I had to drop out. I had to stop going to school to work in order to have the money to finish. And that's what I did. I worked full-time and then I went back, and I finished.
MAYFIELD: What college did you go to?
HALL: I graduated from North Texas State University. It's in Denton, Texas.
MAYFIELD: University of North Texas is what they call it now?
HALL: North Texas State, I guess they do call it University of North Texas, butat that time it was North Texas State University, and it was the premier school to go for music and for business. And so, I went there with the hopes of getting a degree in business. Which I did. I got a bachelor's degree in 01:21:00business administration. I had personnel management as my major and psychology as my minor because I wanted to work with people. And I thought maybe I could do something (laughs) in, uh, with business in that aspect. But at that time it was really difficult because, especially for me as a woman, getting into business. And I ultimately wound up going back to school because during that time the Father (Ed. Note: God the Father) had already talked to me about going into nursing, all this time. But I was morbidly afraid of blood. And I didn't, I didn't, I didn't obey. I heard Him say that. I heard Him say nursing, but I, my fear of blood was greater than my willingness to obey at that time. But eventually I did, because I wound up, --He sent me right back around 01:22:00that same mountain. He said, "No, this is," and I wound up going back to school after I graduated and in getting a degree in nursing. And I was so happy that I finally, that I finally obeyed and gave in. And the first job, one of the, (laughs) was so funny because one of my very first job was working in dialysis.
MAYFIELD: With blood? (laughs)
HALL: With blood all day long, all day, every day. (Hall, Mayfield laughs)
MAYFIELD: Oh boy.
HALL: I said, Yahweh has a--
MAYFIELD: That's a joke.
HALL: --some kind of sense of humor. That was my very first. I worked indialysis for several years and even (laughs) taught and trained staff to do dialysis. I mean, I said, "You know, Yahweh is just, He's so 01:23:00awesome", and the very thing that I feared was the very, very thing that opened doors for me. And that's how I was able to save enough money to get a little place to live because I worked overtime and super time and every time (Hall, Mayfield laugh) I could. And it was, Yahweh's, just, uh--
MAYFIELD: Well, growing up, you know, um did you have a best friend? Do youhave, you know, girls that you hung out with? That, you know, your buddies?
HALL: Oh, had friends. Not a lot because as I said, I was, I had a lot of homeresponsibilities, so I couldn't get out and go and do and be with my friends. I had my sisters to care for and I had my homework and my chores and study. So, but most of my friends, we spoke, we talked over the phone. We'd 01:24:00just get on that phone and we talked for hours and I--
MAYFIELD: --Who were they? What were their names?
HALL: Well, there was Charlene. And there was Janetta. Well, well, Janette. Ijust say. Uh, well, there was Bessie; uh, Rosie. Uh, I even had a, you know, good friend, Booker. And those are the ones that, you know, really I was, you know, pretty close to. Uh, Wilma. And for a while I went to school in my, in El Campo until my aunt decided to, you know, move back with us. So, I had friends in school. But we got on the phone, and we would talk all the time. We would sing and harmonize. And we were so, so, --you know, music was such a 01:25:00big part of our lives. And so was, so was the Lord. Back then, people, the kids, you know, I came up with or that I was close to, we esteemed the Father highly. And as I said, that's why church was always a big--
MAYFIELD: A big part of your life.
HALL: --factor amount in my life, you know?
MAYFIELD: What about for fun? Like what kinds of things could you do on theweekends for fun?
HALL: Well, I didn't do a lot of thing, fun things on the weekends. As I said, Ihad a lot of obligations and sometimes they would be church events, you know, that I would go to. Like I said, the park was across--, down the street. I'd go over there and so I'm kind, you know, watch games and what have you. 01:26:00We had sock hops after, you know, school on Friday nights. I sometimes would go to, go to, go to those. And we--, I went to movies, but it was very rare. We had an outdoor theater.
MAYFIELD: A drive-in theater?
HALL: Drive-in theater when I was coming up. We really did. Right out there. Theremnants of, it's still out there on 45, uh, feeder road on 45.
MAYFIELD: What's it called?
HALL: What was the name of it?
HALL: Oh, I, I can't, I can't remember what was the name of it, but it was adrive-in theater, though. Uh, it's right. -uh, it's an open field now, but you can still see the, the concrete driveway in the way into the movie. And that was where you had to get the speaker at the time and put it on the inside of your car door. And listen, we'd watch the movies. Oh, and then we would 01:27:00sometimes would go to the, uh, there was a Martini Theater in Galveston. And what's his name? Eddie? [Audie Murphy] Uh. Uh. Some of those war movies, whatever it is. I, --but anyway, sometimes I would go over there to the movie theater, but not--, I didn't have a lot of recreational time. I mostly, I was there at home working with my sisters and doing chores and learning things. As I said, yard work and then, and then my studies.
MAYFIELD: How much did a ticket cost you to get into the mov--, drive-in movies?
HALL: Oh, I mean, I can't remember at all. Oh, that's been so many years ago. I can--
MAYFIELD: What about a car? Um, do you remember when, --did you01:28:00always have a car in the family?
HALL: We always had a car, a truck. Uh, my dad drove the old pickup truck. Hehad of one of those old International pickup trucks. He would drive to work. And my mother had a car. Um, and I usually drove the car after my, after my mother died because I couldn't get a license until I was sixteen and she died when I was sixteen. So, uh, that was really my aunt that I would drive to and from work.
MAYFIELD: Did she teach you how to drive?
HALL: My aunt?
HALL: No, (laughs) that was why I was driving her because she couldn't drive.
MAYFIELD: (laughs) Oh no. Who taught you how to drive?
HALL: I took driver's ed in school.
HALL: Uh-huh. Driver's education. Mr. Brown taught driver's ed. And my aunt,bless her heart all those years she worked, she always took a taxi to and from work all those years until, as I said, she came to live with us. And 01:29:00then is when she learned how to drive. That was amazing to me that she, at that age, at her, she would learn to tackle driving. And she did. And she, she would drive at, you know, eventually. But when she first started out, I would have to, when she came first, came to live with her, I'd have to take her to work at two and pick her up at ten. Okay. And if I wasn't, like I said, of course during the time I was in school, a lot of stuff, at two o'clock, but some way or another, I'm trying to remember how she got there, but she did, I think she maybe took a taxi. Yeah, a taxi. But I would pick her up for certain when at 10 o'clock I drove her up and down. I did that for years. Mm-hmm, until--
MAYFIELD: --very experienced driver at sixteen? (laughs) Mm-hmm.
HALL: (nods) And I didn't want to drive.
HALL: I didn't. I did not like driving.01:30:00
HALL: Because every weekend, every, every weekend almost, I had to take my auntto El Campo.
HALL: And so, I could never do a lot of things. I could. Couldn't do andcouldn't play. Because every weekend she would want to go check on her house or visit family or whatever. So, I was always the one who had to do the driving. Yeah. And that just kind of put me out with driving. I never did really like driving because, whether I wanted to go or not come rain or shine, I, we were going to El Campo.
MAYFIELD: Took up a lot of your time when you could be doing something else probably?
HALL: Yes. Yes. Yes.
MAYFIELD: Did you leave your doors locked in your house, generally?
HALL: Yes. We, we locked doors when we left the house. But many times,I guess it's like here now, when we were at home, we didn't lock the 01:31:00doors. And as I said, we sometimes slept out on the porch. And at that time, we didn't have central air and heat. So, we always had big fans in the windows, and we'd have to just kind of leave the doors open, so we'd have some cross currents of air come through. So, we, we'd, you know, --it wasn't so much a thought of people burglarizing. And it wasn't until I was like, I can't remember what age I was. But at some point, in time there was an incident that happened in Galveston, on the beach, where some guy had gotten bludgeoned to death with the, --with some kind of, I don't know if it was a crowbar or whatever it is, and that struck fear in me. I had never heard of anything like that 01:32:00happening in all the years coming up. And then is when we started having to lock the doors.
MAYFIELD: Started feeling a little nervous about it?
HALL: Yeah. It was just the idea that someone would, you know, kill someone.Crime. We didn't know anything about crime, coming up. This was, this was when I was, you know, way older, you know, that, uh, that this incident happened on the beach. Coming up, my mother and father would go to the store what they called, we call making groceries. They'd go to the store on the weekends and we'd, --we were supposed to be cleaning, washing clothes and, uh, cleaning, house, cleaning, what have you. And they'd leave us at home by ourselves. I was the oldest one in charge. And we never heard of crime. And the first time 01:33:00I personally came face to face with crime was when we left our house and we came, -- and we were coming back home. My dad used to have one of those old push mowers, lawn mowers with just the blades, and you just had to use muscles to push it. He had an old push mower. And the guy that wrote insurance, an insurance man, that was throughout the neighborhood, right? We saw him leaving our house with that push mower, with that mower in the trunk of his car. And my dad was, you know, we were all upset. We're trying to figure, and I said, "What was it?" And we went, and sure enough, when we got the house and looked in the [garage], --it was nowhere to be found. It really was him. He took it, took our lawnmower.
MAYFIELD: That was your first experience with some kind of criminal activity?01:34:00
HALL: Yes. But then the idea he would take it from us Black people, we were poorand, uh, he was white.
HALL: And I couldn't understand that. He had a job writing insurance and he had,--and I can't remember if I, --we never got it back. You know, we didn't have any rights as Black people. Yeah. And, uh, I don't, I, I know we finally, at one point in time, got another lawnmower. But that was devastating to me that someone would take from poor people. And, uh, what I mean when I say poor, but I mean from just ordinary, you know, hardworking people and somebody that you should have, you know, you thought would, you know, was working for you. The insurance man. I never will forget it.
MAYFIELD: Yeah, that's very strange. That's very strange.01:35:00
HALL: To see that lawnmower--
HALL: --in the back of the trunk of that car driving off. And my daddy, ofcourse. Really? You know, what could you do? You try. Anyway, that stayed--
MAYFIELD: What about--
HALL: --with me.
MAYFIELD: What about disasters? Do you recall any disasters growing up?
HALL: Oh, do I. Uh, I think there was something about Carla?
HALL: On there, I remember.
HALL: I remember Carla.
MAYFIELD: Did that impact your family? Uh, Carla?
HALL: Yes, because we, we had roof damage. I never will forget it. It was a man,there was a man, a couple of men that went through the neighborhoods that were talking to families about their damage and their loss. And I don't think this guy was an insurance person. I believe he was a good Samaritan. And I remember it became a conversation about a roof, our roof. And I, and I do 01:36:00believe he gave my family money, my father money to fix the roof. Now, I don't know if, I, --I don't know what his credentials were, (background noise) I just know that he and another gentleman, they had a book. And they were going in and writing up everything and what have you. And I remember something about a roof getting, you know, something pertaining to our roof. And all I know is that, uh, there were--, we were coming from Galveston and the high waters, we could see snakes (background noise) hanging off the fence, you know?
HALL: Yeah, yeah. Coming from Galveston, uh, making that, uh, was it [I]45coming? And they, that was about that time, they had that old, uh, the suspension bridge. The one that you know. Oh man, we'd come across there and I think mileage was like 55 miles per hour, something there about that time. And when we slowly come across that part where, uh, --what is that, uh, 01:37:00when once you cross the overpass, coming this direction, you know, they had, you know, fence over there and I could see snakes, them, some snakes hanging off of those fence. Oh, we actually wound up, at that time, going to El Campo and, uh, staying with, um, uh--. And one of the--, wound up having to stay in one of the high, the high school there in the gym at El Campo. They evacuated everyone and got about as many people in there as possible. So, we drove all the way there, but at least we didn't get, you know, caught in flood. And then, I remember Alicia. Alicia was really devastating because I was at home and I never heard such winds and, you know, howling and never heard anything quite like that in my life. 01:38:00
MAYFIELD: What year was Alicia?
HALL: Oh, now, no, it was eighty-something. I'll have to Google it.
MAYFIELD: It was in the eighties? Mm-hmm.
HALL: Okay. But that was when we all, we had trees in our backyard and treeswere falling. And I remember looking outside, my window, bedroom window. Scared me senseless. There was a big tree in our backyard that had been uprooted by something, whatever it is, and it sliced the screen on my bedroom window. The very tip end of it. Had our house been a few feet further over, or the tree been a few feet longer--
MAYFIELD: It would have crashed?
HALL: --it would have caved into that same house, that whole side of the house.I said, "Oh, I'm not going to look outside anymore." I could hear 01:39:00trees, you know, cracking and falling, and limbs were all falling, and the winds hollering. The water was rising. Alicia was a booger bear.
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm. It was a monster storm, right?
HALL: It really was.
MAYFIELD: What if you were sick when you were growing up? Um, uh, did you go tothe hospital? Did you have a doctor come to your house? What happened when people were sick?
HALL: No, no, no house calls that went out with, like I said, with mygrandmother. So, we were, uh, if we had, we had, uh, clinics. We had Beeler-Manske Clinic, and uh, I remember, um, going to the doctor there. They had pretty good doctors that were really caring about their patients. Um, I'm trying to remember what the one particular doctor's name, but anyway, that's where I usually went for healthcare. And because there was John Sealy Hospital, but thank Fath--, thank the Father, I didn't have to have treatment 01:40:00at John Sealy Hospital. But my, my stepfather, that's where he died, was John Sealy Hospital. And, uh, my mother, no, when she died, uh, these are, she had a stroke. And my stepfather, I'm not sure, but I think he had a stroke, too. But, uh, it was something he got sick at. He, he got sick at work. He was working on the waterfront and he never came home. So.
MAYFIELD: I see, sorry.
HALL: Yeah. In terms of storms, those stand out in my mind, Alicia. And ofcourse since then, we know in our present day we know Ike and, uh, Harvey. But back those days, Carla was very, uh, destructive, but we didn't have 01:41:00a lot of--. But Alicia did a lot of damage.
MAYFIELD: Was there any flooding going on in, in your area at the time? Likewhat did it affect? How did it affect your neighbors? Uh, Carla?
HALL: Well, we had, most of us had houses on, you know, on, on pilings, I mean,uh, on blocks, you know. They, --so we were up off the ground. So, that was not an issue, water getting into our houses. At least none that I know of. Okay. So, I think we had pretty good elevation, but I'll never forget when I was, --this is much later. This has been more recent times when the Lord told me about getting some, some insurance that, because we never had flooding, but he told, talked to me about getting some flood insurance. So, I, I wound up getting flood, but, well, other than hurricanes though, and this 01:42:00unforgivingness heat, the heat is ---------(?)(?).
MAYFIELD: The heat's right here, now. Mm-Hmm.
HALL: Yes. And, you know, and when you didn't, when you don't have a central airat all, you remember every summer. I had, I suffered a lot from heat rash.
HALL: Oh, I dreaded summer.
MAYFIELD: So, when you're--, when you guys were growing up, um, where did yourfamily shop for food?
HALL: Well, that was, at that time when I was very young, I can remember CPEvans. That was a grocery store. Bogatto's--
MAYFIELD: Mm-hmm, Bogatto's. Yeah.
HALL: --was a grocery store that we shopped at, that they were here in LaMarque. Uh, over in La Marque, uh, over there. And then over in, uh, Texas City, I think it was, was it Piggly Wiggly? I believe. And there was another store over there where we used to get, we used to shop over in Texas City. 01:43:00But La Marque is where we, --that was closest and I could, I would walk to Bogatto's.
MAYFIELD: Oh, so close to your house?
HALL: No. (laughs)
HALL: (laughs) No, it was not.
MAYFIELD: But you would still walk? (laughs)
HALL: I still walked. Uh-huh. That was because I couldn't drive at the time. Andmy aunt, well my aunt couldn't drive or what have you. So, it was, like I said, it wasn't until after I was sixteen, well, I take the back here. My, at that time I'm either, for some reason my mother wouldn't drive or whatever. Anyway. I know I walked, I walked. We did drive there sometimes, but many times I walked to get things from the store.
MAYFIELD: Did your family, um, eat a lot of meals around the dinner table?
HALL: We did. We did. We, my, --as I said, my mother was a great cook. Shealways prepared great food and we, we ate, you know, at the dinner 01:44:00table. And, uh, of course after that, my job is to clear the table and, you know, wash up the dishes and what have you. Not a lot of conversation at the dinner table. Uh, it was mostly us, the kids that here at the dinner table. My mom, and they would sometime have a TV tray and they would watch, they would eat while watching TV or something like that. At other times, and they would be in and out. But, uh, it was mostly us kids, you know, the kids sitting and eating together. My dad would, you know, stepfather would join us a lot of times. Some conversation, but a lot of times he would be at work, and we'd try to wait for him to come in from work to eat, so we could eat. But a lot of times they'd watch TV while they ate at the TV tray. So, we, --but on Sundays, Sundays were different. Sundays, my mother went all out to cook on Sundays. And so, we had wonderful meals on Sundays, and we had, --so we'd eat at the dining 01:45:00room table. And during special, you know, holidays, what have you, we'd have family coming and we'd eat at the, at the dinner, --well, it started out, the kids ate it together at their little table, and then adults were at theirs. But then eventually when you grew older, you could get to join the older people. But we had fabulous, you know, holiday meals. My mother would go all out. She would make, you know, turkey and dressing and she'd have a rooster she would cook, and she would have all the sides, uh, greens. And, we'd have rolls. And 01:46:00we'd have pie and cake, and it was squash. As, as a matter of fact, like I said, my stepfather was a, you know, he was a country boy, so he always had a garden. We always had a garden. And we would, there was never any question about whether or not we ate vegetables. We ate vegetables. We knew vegetables. And we knew how to cook vegetables. So, I have--, I had to get, along with my other chores, I had to get out there and I had to pick, you know, corn and the green beans and the okra and cucumbers and whatever we, we had out there. And then in the summertime especially, it was my job to wash it all up. To cut it all up. To bag it up. To put it in the freezer.
MAYFIELD: You were a busy young woman in chores--01:47:00
HALL: --I never got to go play. I see the kids out there playing--
HALL: --because I was there either shucking and, uh, corn and shelling corn, uh,shelling peas or chuck and bagging them up and, putting it in the freezer. So, we always had fresh vegetables. We always had fresh meat. We, -- I thought we had the best of everything when it came to food. And we did.
MAYFIELD: It was all fresh.
HALL: It's all fresh right from the garden. And, uh, we just, and we learned toenjoy a variety and stuff. But it was no such thing, I don't like this, I don't like that. Parents didn't want to hear that. Okay, so I, you know, we learned cucumber salads. We learned cantaloupe. How to fix the, --we learned how to, beets, you know. I mean, everything, you know, we ate. Okay? So there was no such thing, I don't like this, I don't eat this. No. Okay. 01:48:00
MAYFIELD: (laughs) All right. Come on. There has to be something you didn't like.
HALL: If it, if it was, I never, I never found out. We, we ate it all. Squash.Uh, I was saying, um. Oh, I can't think of anything, even to this day, in terms of vegetables. I love vegetables. And there's nothing that I could think of that I don't eat. I thought I didn't eat. The only one, maybe was cauliflower. To me, cauliflower just was so bland it didn't seem to have any real taste to it. But I learned how to fix cauliflower to where I'd like to eat it. So, I like to eat it. So, uh, we ate it all. Broccoli, squash. Oh, how many, what kinds of squash? We had eleven dozen it seems--
MAYFIELD: Oh, my gosh.
HALL: --(laughs) types of squash.
MAYFIELD: How big was your father's garden? It must have been huge.
HALL: It was a big garden. It was a big garden. And I, to this day,don't know what we did with all of that food. But we had rows of corn and rows 01:49:00and rows, at least two rows of corn and rows of okra and peas and greens. And I mean, washing up greens and cooking up greens. And it was always something. There was always work to do. We had an old wringer type washing machine. And, and we'd wash and we'd roll that roll and wring those, you know, clothes out. And I'd have to hang them up on the line, and then I'd have to go out and take them down. And then, you had to cook your starch on the stove. And then you'd have to, you'd have to dip yourself, you know, and starch your clothes. And then you have to, until it was time to, uh, iron, sometimes you put it in the freezer or whatever it is. But then you get your clothes, you have to sprinkle them down, and then you'd have to start ironing. So, we had a whole day for washing. Whole day, uh, or two for ironing and everything had to be so, so. 01:50:00The pleats and crease had to be just right. And it was, there was always work.
MAYFIELD: Well, well, what about um, you lived during the civil rights era inTexas City. So, what was it like being an African American in Texas city during the civil rights movements? What did you see?
HALL: Well, we experienced what everyone else saw and experienced only probably,maybe not to the same degree, but there was always discrimination. There was always segregation that was to deal with. And I remember as a child going to places and seeing the sign, you know, For Whites Only, you know? And then have the bathrooms with COLORED on them; be labeled COLORED, you know. And 01:51:00the other one be labeled WHITE. I remember, hmm, I've had some, you know, really personal incidents where I was called things by other, you know, the white kids. I was called nigger. And, ah, just the overall attitude that people had towards you. It was negative attitude. It was uh, --but that's the reason why we stayed in amongst ourselves so much. We didn't venture a lot outside. At least we didn't, outside of our neighborhood. And so that, that's, --we kind of come up having our own thing, doing our own thing. Having our own music, having our own everything. And so, when integration came along, that's another story 01:52:00there, though. But I remember one of the few things, the few, you know, few things that was surprisingly, that surprised me is that in El Campo. And I remember I was in high school and I was trying to make money because I wanted to go to college. And I, --so I accepted this, this lady. I can't remember how I came to know her now to think about it. She had two, uh, two children, two little, two little fellas, one little girl, little boy that she needed someone to care, you know, to watch for her while she was at work. So, I, I took on the job as a babysitter and I would go to her house, and I would babysit her kids until she came home. But she was very nice. I can't remember her name now, but she was very, she was decent to me, and I never had any problems with her. And I tried to do my very, very best to take care of them and have them 01:53:00clean and whatever she left to have for them to, you know, to eat. I would feed them and watch them and, uh, I was very fond of them. And she was decent. She was decent to me. And I--
MAYFIELD: And that was in El Campo, right?
HALL: That was in El Campo.
MAYFIELD: When you started hearing this talk about integrating schools in TexasCity, how did you feel about that?
HALL: Well, let me tell you my experience. We came up, we had a, we had a senseof camaraderie and, and, and appreciation and love for one another as students and, you know, kids coming up in our schools, in our community. But we had books that were, --we never had new books. We had all left, --you know, hand me down books. We all, and we had, you know, hand me down furniture, you 01:54:00know, you know, furniture. We had some rickety old desks. And you know, we are paying tax, you know. We were paying tax, you know, taxpayers paying monies. But we didn't have the, you know, the nice things that, uh, --I never went into any of the white schools, so I don't know exactly what they had. But I know what we had. And, we never had new books. We just sort of said we're doing, so, --and it got to a point where I remember when we had some, some kind of leaders in our school body. We had wonderful organization. I was a member of the student council. I was a member of the choir. And I was a member of the Honor Society. And after school, we would talk and share and what have you. And we had a principal who was very stern. And they were very, they were 01:55:00disciplinarians. We didn't, uh, we didn't, --we knew not to act. We had some bad actors here and there, but as across the board we knew that, you know, there was something come that was a consequence for us acting out. And then, plus the fact that we were encouraged to do right in school, to act ??, to be good citizens. And for the most part we were. Uh, it was, uh, it was just the fact that we didn't have, you know, we got the leftovers and so we had some folks that decided that, you know, we needed better. So, they made a, they made a decision to, to demonstrate. Okay? And this was back in, um, I guess mid-sixties, middle sixties or somewhere now? No, maybe a little bit before that because we graduated '66. And so, I didn't, but a lot of the students 01:56:00demonstrated because they wanted better for our schools.
MAYFIELD: How did they demonstrate? What did they do to demonstrate?
HALL: They did a protest march.
HALL: March. They marched. Okay.
MAYFIELD: Around the school, down the streets, in the city? How did they protestthe march? What was the march like?
HALL: Yeah. The, uh, out in front of the school. Okay. And, I guess that gotpeople's attention. It was during the early, you know, during that sixties, during that civil rights movement. It, it caught fire a lot of places, you know. And so we, you know, we, we were on board. You know, some of us were on board with that, too. And it, however, uh, --we had a great school. We, --you know, and the spirit in our school was, was high. And we were all determined, determined, you know, to, to make something of ourselves. We were encouraged by our students, our families, our teachers. And we then competed with 01:57:00one another. We challenged one another to, you know, to be excellent at whatever we did. And that was a, that was the basis for our school pride, you know?
HALL: You know, everybody wanted to be an Eagle and, okay. And we werefiercesome on the, on the football team and fiercesome in sports, fiercesome in academics. We had some very smart and gifted students. We had students that during our generation were sometimes, we were the first or second generation to go in, -- to integrate a lot of, you know, maybe some integrated for the first time or the second generation to integrate schools, uh, colleges, uh, jobs. And during the, --as the civil rights movement, you know, moved on and we 01:58:00purposed to make sure that we would make, uh, leave a door open so others could follow behind us. So, we, we strove for excellence. Excellence was always on our mind. And those that graduated before us would come back and share their experience, and we could do nothing less than they were doing. So, we, we had kids that, golly. I had classmates that, you know, worked for NASA, even though they started doing the NASA, the program at, at NASA. We had, for the, --we had people that were maybe the second generation going into college in a University of Texas. And, uh, I chose, like I said, North Texas because, you know, I wanted to go into business. And we had kids that were, uh, the first in a 01:59:00lot of areas. And we knew that we had to, we had to maintain or, you know, take it, like take it higher, okay?
HALL: And so we took on that responsibility and we did, we, we, we did. I, andI, am I getting too far from the question? What was the--
MAYFIELD: No, no, no. You're fine.
MAYFIELD: You know. You're fine. I see. I see. Where--. Yeah. No. I understand. Mm-hmm.
HALL: Okay. And uh, I was at North Texas State, and I was able to--. I wasinvited to join Phi Chi Theta. Okay, which is the Business Woman's fraternity. And I also was a charter member of the Delta Sigma, uh, uh, Sigma Theta, sorority. I, uh, was a charter member. I could never, uh, pledge because I didn't have the money. I, I, I worked hard to try to get the grades, 02:00:00but I didn't have the money, so I was not able to ever able to pledge. And then as I got further in life from my studies of the Word, the scriptures, I chose not to, to join, you know. But I did get the sorority on, help get the sorority on campus there.
MAYFIELD: Did you, did you first vote when you were on campus or did you votewhen you, when you first had an opportunity to vote? For example, did you vote here in Texas City? Were you up at school?
HALL: No, I was, uh--. I graduated from college, you know, and so I was livingin, --I think I remember voting in Houston, but I was here, because I moved back home and then I found, finally moved to Houston. But I, I don't 02:01:00really remember voting. I thought I voted first in Houston. And then when I moved back here I voted and I've been voting ever since.
MAYFIELD: Who were, um, in Texas City, who do you think were the importantleaders for civil rights movement in Texas City?
HALL: Oh, my goodness. We had some very, uh, forceful men, and they wereaccustomed, they were, because I said, working on the, uh, waterfront, you know, as longshoreman, they probably, they were primarily, uh, they, they had the union and they were the primary, uh, impetus, you know, behind the, the, the movement, civil rights movement. We had, of course, Reverend Benford. Reverend Benford was an integral part of that. And I never will forget, and I still miss it. He would have that van, he had that church van or however, and he 02:02:00would go up and down all the streets in the neighborhood with that, you know, with that speaker on, "Vote for this. Go vote, go." Encouraging everybody to vote. And he, every election he was there to, you know, encourage, vote people to get out to vote. And then some of them, the people running for office wanted our votes. And they would come to the park [Carver Park] and they would speak and they would have to give out, you know, they, a little bit of something to eat, food or whatever it is. But, uh, um,
MAYFIELD: What about--
HALL: --We had, we had Claude Murphy.
MAYFIELD: Okay. Who was Claude Murphy?
HALL: Claude Murphy was, --also worked out there in as longshoreman. He was fromDickin--, excuse me, from Hitchcock. He was very vocal. We had, uh, Wayne Johnson. We had Robert Hoskins. We had, uh--
MAYFIELD: --I hear the name Johnnie Henderson a lot.
HALL: We had Johnnie Henderson and, uh, his brother. Okay. RooseveltHenderson. Um, um, those are ones that come to me. And my neighbor was also, uh, 02:03:00very, very, --she was one of the secretaries down there at the ILA Hall. That's where they--, out of--, working out of the Local. That you--
MAYFIELD: I-L-A Hall?
MAYFIELD: What is that?
HALL: International Longshoremen's association.
MAYFIELD: Oh, okay.
HALL: Mm-hmm. And so, uh, and Robert Hoskins was very, you know, --he spoke welland was a leader. And his son, I think his son is dead now, but he was a lawyer. And through it, we had, uh, we had that working for us. And we had, um, there was, there was a few others, but those are the ones that come to my mind right off the bat.
MAYFIELD: Was there an NAACP chapter here?
HALL: Not at that time. If there was, I don't remember it, but I later on,we got a chapter here. 02:04:00
MAYFIELD: Do you remember what year there was a chapter?
HALL: I don't remember what year. I don't remember. I don't, I think it startedout in, in Dickinson with Mr. Woods. Oscar Woods. And then I think they got a chapter here and then I think they were trying to merge or whatever, one point in time. But I can't remember exactly what date the NAACP, because like I said, I was going away in college. Uh, and, uh, I lived in, uh, Dallas for a while. So I was, --when I got back here, things had moved all along.
MAYFIELD: Do you remember where you were when Martin Luther King died?
HALL: I absolutely do. I was a freshman in, excuse me, a sophomore in, --I wasin college when he died. I was, in the, uh, in the common area in our dorm. Okay? And I was watching television and I, --that's when the announcement came. And that was in April the fourth of 1968. 02:05:00
MAYFIELD: What were your thoughts on that when that happened?
HALL: How is it that anyone can hate so that they would take a man's life. Aman, a peaceful man, a man who, you know, spoke the word in truth and with power. Uh, a man of integrity, a man of Yahweh. And he was a, like I said, peaceful protesting. He, uh, he was part of that non-violent movement, uh, he only gave, what the Word, you know. How could, you know, --I just said was how could you any kill him? And he had done everything to bring the races, two races together. And he was full of the Word and full of the Spirit. I just 02:06:00couldn't understand it. It was just, you know, I was just torn by that. He was not a, he was a man of excellence, of, of, uh, excellence of speech. He was a man of excellence in, you know, and everything he put his hand to do. And he, --when he said, you know, he would look forward to the day when people would be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin. Who could see anything wrong with that? It was just so. It was shattering. Hurt, you know? It was just, I was just shattered and heartbroken. A great man. A great man in my opinion.
MAYFIELD: Yeah, he was--
HALL: Non-violent movement.02:07:00
MAYFIELD: Yes, exactly.
HALL: I said that's, that's the thing, you know. He wasn't kicking in doors andhe wasn't calling for that. And he was calling for people to rise up, you know, to, to do that which is right. You know, that's all he is asking. Do that, which is right. You know, and, um, treat, treat each other right. Love. If possible, love will win. I don't know. But anyway.
MAYFIELD: Well, we are at the end of our interview pretty much.
HALL: Are we really?
MAYFIELD: Yes, ma'am. Uh, um, is there anything that you'd like to share that wehaven't touched upon before we conclude?
HALL: Well, um, I think that, let me see if I just kind of look over and see ifI had any, any notes, uh, here that I might wanted to, to bring out. 02:08:00Um, in summation, I think that our community, and I just want to say this to whoever is, you know, who's following after me, is that the truth of the matter that what we are experiencing, and all the, all the hatred, all the discrimination, all the hostility. So much of that is because of who we, who we are. We are a people, okay? And I'm not saying that we deserve any of that, but I said, --but it goes all the way back to, to the Book of Exodus. It 02:09:00goes all the way back to the Book of Exodus. And I just want those who follow after me to know that we are a people. That we were called to serve the Most High, and to be a light to the nations. We were called to, uh, to carry the gospel to the whole world. And because of our disobedience, this is why we have been scattered among the nations. This is why we have been scattered here in this country. Because in, --of our disobedience, there was a day and a time when we didn't, life was not like this for us. We had, Yahweh, He said, He 02:10:00said, "I, I said, I people, I, I want a people, a holy nation, a nation of priests." This is what He was calling for. And yet, we then backslid because when He brought us out of Egypt and brought us to Mount Sinai in the Book of Exodus, He made a covenant with us, His people, that if we would obey His commandments and keep His statues, and do the things that He has given us to do. Then He said He would, we would be the head and not to tale. He would set us above and not below. And we had great and exceedingly great promises. What we were supposed to do was to serve Him with all our heart, and all our strength, and all our mind. That was what we were supposed to do, and we were supposed to be an example to the rest of the nations. But, we didn't keep our 02:11:00part of the bargain. We didn't keep our part of the covenant. That was a blood covenant, He established with us. And when we started worshiping other gods and He sent correction. He sent his prophets. He sent his apostles to talk to. And yet we still kept going off the beaten path off the, you know, the, it, it, it just something, I don't know, it was the flesh or whatever it is, but we would not obey. He has said, He described us as a stiff-necked people. And I am saying this to say that if ever we decide we are going to get right with the Father, our circumstances will change. And until we do that, we are going to be out here in this wilderness, suffering. Until, you know, until he comes back, 02:12:00until Yeshua comes back. But if we would turn, He said, if we would just turn from the way that we are going, turn back to Him and worship us in, worship Him in spirit and truth, He would turn our circumstances, our situation, our condition. And --but there's a set time coming when He will make things right because, He is a god of love. And all the hatred and all the, uh, the, the killing and the maiming, all of that is going to be judged and it's going to have to be judged or He's not who He says He is. But we would hasten His return. We would hasten if we would be the people that He has called us to be. And if we would walk upright before the Father, then he would take care of all of our, our issues, our issues. And He is going to, but it's going to take a lot. 02:13:00It's taking a lot longer because he is getting us and He's, He's sifting us, sifting us. And He's calling for the true believers. And when we decide that we are going to make Him, Yahweh, He's going to be, we are going to be suffering. And I'm just, uh, and all of our best efforts are not going to work because what to turn this world system around it is going to take something higher than the Bill of Rights. It's going to take something higher than, you know, than the governments of this world. Okay? So, until we decide that we are going, you know, honor Him and always, okay, that we agreed to at Mount Sinai because we entered into a blood covenant with Him. Our situation is not going to 02:14:00change. I mean, we are slowly changing, but you know, I said by the time He gets, the world, He'll be here before that. Okay? So, I am just, I just want to leave that thought.
MAYFIELD: Thank you so much, that's all for that. Um, those inspirational words.Um, and, and this concludes our interview with Ms. Bernia Hall. Uh, I really appreciate you sharing your stories with us, um, and taking part in Moore Memorial Public Library's African-American Experience Oral History Project. Um, again, thank you so much.
HALL: Thank you for allowing me, to have my say. (both laugh)