African-American Oral Histories
Mrs. Dorothy McPhaul
Clip 5: Transcript
Kinship And Race
Running Time: 6 min 23 sec
DM: I had a good lifetime. When I was small my mother worked for the best people. They didn’t have any children so I was their baby. And I had a chance to go places where a lot of Blacks never went because they would carry me everywhere they went. They’d carry me to the movies, they’d carry me to the operas, they’d carry me shopping. They bought my clothes from Neiman Marcus. They loved me but my mother, they sent my mother to school, but my mother loved them. My mother took care of them until they passed. Because they were so used to eating mother’s food, Mother would take their food by the week and they’d put it and the people that worked for them at that time would fix that, you know, just warm it up. And just [share?] their supplies. And Mother took care of them, she loved them from the time, and I loved them.
AA: But she had not been a cook in their home, she’d been cooking for their business?
DM: She cooked in their home. This was a, these were private individuals.
AA: Okay, okay
DM: Uh, huh. It was the Ludecks and the Moores and the Northrups. So she worked for all of them.
AA: Tell me, tell me more about what it was like growing up here and what it was like with your family?
DM: Well, now with my family, we’re a real close knit family. Family was first. That was the number one, regardless of what the family member did, how the family member progressed. Whenever one family member was down, the next one helped them up. And we always helped one another. If you would go somewhere and see something that one family member might like you’d always try and get it for them. As far as, when one family member couldn’t pay a bill, another family member would get together and pay that bill. We’ve always been a closely knit family. And my grandmother made sure that all the family members stayed together. We had meals, big family meals every Christmas we’d have family dinners. Every, like first, my grandmother’s birthday. Everybody would have a big meal on her birthday. On Thanksgiving we’d have a family gathering. It’d be family gatherings and friends. And this would be not just for our family, it’d be close friends and at that time it was, and that was when there was a lot of prejudices going on, we’d have Whites and Blacks. Cause we, we had close friends in all races.
AA: Do you think that Austin was, I mean, was it friendly to that? Or did people look twice when you did that? I guess that’s what I’m trying to ask.
DM: Well see, when I was coming up it didn’t affect me that much for the simple reason that the people my mother exposed me, that my mother worked for exposed me to so much so I really didn’t see the prejudice part because they would tell me, “Dorothy, never think about race because all of us the same and we love you. Only things different between us is our skin color.” So actually, they wouldn’t let me, because they kept me while my mother worked.
AA: Okay, I wondered about that.
DM: Yeah, see, they kept me, mother was young. They kept me, they kept me while my mother did their work. I was just like a part, I didn’t know what race I was! I knew I didn’t have to fear anything so I really wasn’t exposed to a lot of that. And I’m going to tell what, what it did though. By not knowing, knowing any different and being able to go regardless whether it was White or Black. Now my mother never felt that because they was denied access to different places but I wasn’t. So I don’t know that thing. Now the first time that that came to my realization was in ’57. When I first started working in La Grange. Okay? On some of the stores they had fountains where it was “Colored Only,” “Whites Only.” Well, with me, I just ignored that! I wouldn’t let it, I just go and drink me some water, didn’t care, no one never stopped me. And I think it wasn’t so much, those were signs that had never been removed. And then one time I had an allergy, a sinus allergy [sudden noise] and I had to go to the doctor. Well, in the front of the doctor’s office was Whites only. To the back it was Colored. So you go into, but I never would let myself go in through that back entrance. I went right in through the front, sit down with the regular customers and nothing was ever said, never. And I think it was those signs and those habits had been there so long that they just went along with the program. They just didn’t think of no other way but they was always used to going to the back so they always continued. By me coming in town not knowing any better, I just went in, in through the front because I just, just didn’t want to go to the back.
“Oral Narrative as History.” Students received class credit for this work, and were under the supervision of Dr. Martha Norkunas, director of “The Project in Interpreting the Texas Past.”
Every effort has been made to transcribe the audio recordings exactly. On occasion a word, or phrase, was difficult to hear and this is indicated by a question mark in brackets.
Date of Interview:
February 21, February 28, April 7, 2005
Mrs. McPhaul’s home Austin, Texas
16 bit .wav file recorded using a Griffin iTalk microphone adapter plugged into a 2004 20GB Apple iPod.