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Listen in on History: Untold stories of African American experience in Austin preserved in oral history project

Dorothy McPhaul: Interview Transcript

The Project in Interpreting the Texas Past
Dr. Martha Norkunas, Project Director

African American Texans
Oral History Project

Interviewee: Dorothy McPhaul

Interviewer: Amber Abbas

Date of Interview: February 21, February 28, April 7, 2005

Place: Mrs. McPhaul's home 1708 32nd Street Austin, Texas

Recording Format: 16 bit .wav file recorded using a Griffin iTalk microphone adapter plugged into a 2004 20GB Apple iPod.

Transcriber: Amber Abbas

Questions developed by Erin Murphy, Summer, 2006

1) Race, Racism, and African American Business Owners: Austin During Segregation

Ms. McPaul came from a long line of antique dealers. Her grandfather, her aunt Teresa, and her mother were all in the business. How did her grandfather address issues of discrimination? How has the antique district changed in Austin? How have location and taxes directly effected this change?

Running Time: 8 min 28 sec

AA: So did she have a separate shop from Theresa's shop?

DM: Well, no. Well, at that time Theresa was already in business because she had taken over. After my grandfather passed she took completely over that shop on Red River. Well, adjacent to her shop, she built another little part of it on the side so my mother could have her shop there. So that's how the two sisters had their shops. Now, Red River today is nothing like it was then. Because it was, at that time it was only my auntie's shop on one corner and the old bakery was still there, but no Brackenridge Hospital, there were no concert, symphony buildings on that street, there were no parks or anything because where the park is, that's where our shop was.

AA: Waterloo Park.

DM: That's right. That's where the shop was. And at that time there used to be Victoria's Antiques which is really, really highly known, too. She was a lady that had fine antiques also. And at the time, you remember the time when they had that, that, at the Tower when they had the sniper? Was shooting? Well, at that time I was keeping the shop.

AA: You were right there!

DM: Right there! And we could've gotten shot! Mmmm, hmm. So going back to that time and we have old pictures of Red River, what it used to be. But that's how my mother got started. That, that would've been, my auntie was the second generation in antiques, and just like I was telling you, all those houses up around the Capitol and around the Governor's mansion and all those old houses over there, a lot of those antiques and things came from our shop! And there are stories of people where they used to, my grandfather, to get fine antiques, when he would go to the house to take them antiques or buy stuff. To keep him from coming in and buying stuff from in the house, they would set a table outside, but he would always carry something that he knew that they wanted, to get inside the house to buy something (both laugh). So we would buy the stuff that they had outside, plus he would get something inside also (both laugh). So he was a, a, shrewd, and everybody around the county called him Simon. And so he's known and Theresa took over his business. But my auntie, first she was going, mother was going to start in just used stuff because see we was all raised up in antiques. I just know antiques now.

AA: I know that the city of Austin didn't always make that very easy.

DM: No. They don't. They don't. You have a hard time being a small business in Austin. Because in the first place, the taxes is too high, in fact you can't afford the insurances hardly on the business! And it's tax over tax. Just like, okay now, when, when, just like take Red River, okay? That was a productive street where hundreds, thousands of people enjoyed that location of antique shops. Alright, now they changed that, they took all that property for a park where hardly no one goes to. So they killed a part of history when they did away with Red River. What they should've done was to maybe have them to upgrade the shops and refine that area and kept that a part of history, because it dates way back. And you talk with any elderly person here in Austin and even some of the ones that's like in their sixties, they remember Red River. And mostly all of them can, their parents can tell you about Red River. Where, you see? So they should've just re-vamped that place. So now they have a few clubs on one end, which they could've had clubs on Sixth Street. You see? So, to me they just destroyed a part of history. Where they should've upgraded that, because they had antique dealers, it was convenient for the people to go on one street, they could go from one antique shop to the other, to the other. And if you notice, a lot of these different cities and towns are doing it like that.

AA: Sure.

DM: Having the whole street, well see, that's been destroyed.

AA: Wow.

DM: Now they've started on Congress, you know, the far end of Congress they have one little, but it's nothing like Red River. There's maybe seven or eight shops where Red River was all antiques.

AA: Do you think most of the businesses on Red River were White owned or Black owned businesses?

DM: It was mixed. There was two Blacks and all the rest Whites. And they got along good. You know they traded with, you know, from dealer to dealer. We are our best customers (laughs). So it's just, buying from one another. Because see, you have something, they might have something that your customers and clientele want, so you buy from them. And that's a part of history that I think the City of Austin kind of destroyed.

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