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Black settlement in San Diego, part 2

As far south as I've ever been

Cynthia May Hudgins was born in Coronado and grew up there in the 1920s and 1930s. The Hudginses had moved to Coronado from Logan Heights. Her grandfather, Amos Hudgins, was in the 2nd Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War. Cynthia May knows little about her grandparents, other than that Amos had a Cherokee mother and Grandma Cynthia was the daughter of an Englishman and a slave. There had been a picture of her Cherokee great-grandmother, but Cynthia May’s father had thrown it out.

Amos and Cynthia Hudgins (grandparents of Cynthia May), 1874. Grandpa Amos was very light but had Negro features. Grandma Cynthia’s father was English— her mother was perhaps mulatto as well.

On April 25, 2000, I conducted an oral-history inter-view with Cynthia May Hudgins. Her good friend’s daughter was present at the interview. Cynthia begins by telling me:

My great-grandfather was probably mulatto. Grandpa Amos was very light but had Negro features. Grandma Cynthia’s father was English— her mother was perhaps mulatto as well. Grandma Cynthia was light brown and did not have Negro features. Both my grandparents spoke perfect English as well — no patois. Their son, my father, was a member of the old East End Gang and attended the old Lowell School in South San Diego.

Amos Hudgins (Cynthia May's grandfather), 2nd Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry. Amos had a Cherokee mother.

While I am of black ancestry, both my father and I appeared, and could have passed for, white. For many years I did. This is the reason I could not as a child understand why I was treated differently from the other children, by them and by my teachers. My Scottish mother left me to live with my grandmother. Coronado was a small town in the ’20s and ’30s, so everyone knew I was “colored” except me. I didn’t know until I was 11 years old and my friend told me about the one-drop-of-black-blood rule.

Coronado railroad, c. 1910. A train that came over to Coronado every Thursday. It came around the strand and down Pomona. They turned on First Street and went to North Island, carrying supplies for the Navy.

Her mother was the only mother who let her child be friends with me, until I was in junior high and another woman let me associate with her kids and come into her house — when I went to live with my parents after my grandma’s death. The Tsuneyoshis lived on our block and Fusako became a friend. In high school, another woman let her daughter be friends with me too.

Christ Episcopal Church (Ninth and C), Coronado, 1910. My grandmother worked for Reverend Spaulding at the Episcopalian manse.

My grandparents were married at Richmond, Ray County, Missouri, on June 19, 1874, by John W. Anderson, minister of the Methodist-Episcopal church. My grandfather signed up for the Civil War, giving his credentials as “farmer.” That’s all I know. And he was only just 18 years old or so.

Amos Algernon Hudgins (Cynthia May's father), c. 1916. He was a pioneer in early radio.

This is the story that I read at a Memorial Day thing. I saw it just this afternoon when I was going through this stuff. Amos Hudgins was born in Missouri in 1844. Joined the 2nd Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry, Company K, when he was 18 years old. Fought mostly in Arkansas. Mustered out in Kansas.

Eva Crawford, c. 1960s. "I was to do long-term substitution work here in San Diego, which I did until after VE Day in 1945. And then I got a regular job at Central School."

Fought admirably. After the war went back to Kansas. Starving. Ragged. Barefoot. They ate the mules’ food, and then ate the mules. Amos was wounded by a mini ball in the left knee. Married Cynthia Ann Renfro in Fay County, Missouri, in 1874.

Dennis Allen had gone around the room, you know, and had given everybody in that room a job — from sorting nails to doing the cleanup in the bathrooms with the three shifts that they had.

Cynthia was born in Maysville, Kentucky. She was a slave until age 12. Lived in Topeka. He rejoined the Army, 7th Cavalry, as a Buffalo Hunter and Scout, with Reno. Grandma had a millinery store — my mother told me that. Moved to San Diego County in 1887. My father was born in 1891 in Logan Heights.

Memorial to Eva Crawford's husband

My grandfather was hauling for a time with a team and wagon. He homesteaded in the El Cajon Valley. Homesteading didn’t work out. That was when they came out here. He couldn’t handle it, because of the knee. So he came into town with his team and wagon. He was offered the corner of Fifth and Broadway, where Walker Scott was, in exchange for the wagon and team, but he couldn’t do it. He was a teamster — it was his livelihood.

So then he went off up to the Yukon, to the Gold Rush. He came back with three nuggets. My grandmother did hairdressing and sewing for ladies while he was gone. Probably straightening hair. She was very talented. They moved to Coronado in 1905 — maybe 1903?

He came back to San Diego and joined the California Naval Militia, because of the Spanish-American War. He was one of the three founders of the Masonic Fidelity Lodge No. 10,1903. He was senior steward. Two members told me he was senior steward. In 1905, he was in Arizona, working on the San Diego and Arizona Railroad track.

He was barbering when Poppa was a little boy, but that probably didn’t last too long. Poppa used to remember being in his shop and seeing the important men of the day come in — you know, Father Horton and some of those other people, shop owners and wealthy men.

The shop was around the corner from the old Golden Lion restaurant, between Fourth and Fifth on Broadway. The barbershop was on E Street, between Fourth and Fifth. I thought he might have owned it, but he just owned a chair in it, because the shop was William’s shop.

In 1905, a Mexican hurricane came up. There was beach down along the oceanfront in Coronado, just like there is now. This Mexican hurricane came up and washed the beach all out. And the houses all along the oceanfront were inundated with water. Some of them were moved to other locations. Dr. Kneedler’s house was moved from there to A Street.

So then the San Diego and Arizona Company decided to put in this seawall, and that was what my grandfather was working on. They were putting in these great rocks with horse and wagon. And one of those fell off the wagon and fell on my grandfather. The horse moved, and the rock rolled off and fell on him. It crippled him for life — he was really wrecked with this one, because he never worked again. As I remember, he was bent over and walked with a cane.

The beach washed back in again, because they dredged the bay to let the big ships come in. And they dumped the sand off Coronado. It washed in, so now we have a seawall and a beach.

We lived at 845 B Street. Because he was working for the San Diego and Arizona Railway, they gave him the job of night watchman down by the old ferry building. They kept stuff there, railroad ties and such, because there used to be a train that came over to Coronado every Thursday. It came around the strand and down Pomona. They turned on First Street and went to North Island, carrying supplies for the Navy.

At that time, my grandmother worked for the Babcocks and for Reverend Spaulding at the Episcopalian manse. I only knew that she worked for the Babcocks because Poppa told me he would go up there and play with the Babcock boy while she was working. I don’t know what she did for them. I think she was a cook for the Episcopalian manse.

We were Episcopalian. Grandma and I went to church. We always sat way in back. I didn’t know why, of course. I always wanted to head up to the front and sit up close, but she would pull me back and we’d sit in the back.

She was a lovely lady. Everybody in Coronado admired her. White men on the streets tipped their hats to my grandmother. Nobody ever called her by her first name. She was Mrs. Hudgins. They’d tip their hats and say, “Good morning, Mrs. Hudgins,” or “Good afternoon, Mrs. Hudgins.” Madame Schumann-Heink, the world-famous opera star, used to sit outside on her front porch. “Mrs. Hudgins, Mrs. Hudgins, wait for me.” And she’d hoist herself up off of that big rattan chair she sat in and come down and stand on the sidewalk and talk to Grandma while I messed around on the sidewalk, until I got bored and said, “Come on, Grandma, let’s go, let’s go!

What is your first memory?

Being waked up in the middle of the night, late at night, and taken outside to watch the Shenandoah come over, the zeppelin, you know. All the ships in the bay — the bay used to be full of ships because this was a Navy town—had their searchlights planted on it. And it was going to dock at North Island. And Grandpa got me up and was holding me. It must have been Grandpa. I don’t see how he could have. Maybe Poppa came up. I was only four, and I was sleepy.

Well, it scared me, and I turned my face like this, and they said, “Look, look.” This big silver thing went over, and it was so low, you could almost touch it. It was huge! As long as this house, and maybe longer. And then everybody went in and said, “Wasn’t that wonderful. Wasn’t that something.” And they slammed their screen doors as they went into the house. So that was my first memory.

What is your next memory?

The night my grandfather died. That was just a few months later. I woke up, I guess. I was still sleeping at the foot of my grandmother’s bed. And the lights were on in the house, and I heard people talking, and I heard my father’s voice. So I called out. Somebody came in — it wasn’t Poppa — and they said, “Shush, your grandfather’s dying. Go back to sleep.” And the next morning, of course, he was gone. That’s all I remember. He was gone. Grandma was crying.

And I went to the funeral at Benbough Mortuary. There was a black mortuary in town, but he didn’t go there. The Benboughs were friends.

Grandpa came to me after the funeral, and everybody said he was gone and he wasn’t coming back. I had gone to bed. The bedroom was dark. The light was shining in from the kitchen. By that time, we had moved from the big house to the little house in the back, in my father’s radio shack [Cynthia’s father was a pioneer in early radio], so we could rent the big house. My grandmother didn’t believe me when I told her Grandpa had come to me.

Grandpa didn’t get around too well. He always wore that old campaign felt hat with the insignia on it — the Buffalo Soldier hat. A lot of people were at his funeral. We sat in a separate room with a sheer curtain. I could see the coffin, see the minister, hear the voices, and smell the flowers. There were a lot of people. I was four, so it was 1925.

He was friends with Captain Hines, who I think was in the military. And of course our Dr. Kneedler. He had been in the war — it had to be in the Civil War.

At our church we sat in the back. I had never heard anybody tell us to. Now, grandmother was never treated separately. That’s why I couldn’t understand why people treated me the way they did. She was friends with the streetcar conductor. She was friends with the men who worked on the ferry. Everybody respected my grandmother.

Like I said, white ladies stopped her on the street to ask about the family. We were never followed around in stores. I was, though, when I got older and went to the store by myself.

The kids at school called me “nigger” and threw dirt in my face. They wouldn’t let me play on any playground equipment and wouldn’t let me use their bathrooms, so I wet my pants in class. In first grade, there were four girls that used to beat me up every afternoon. And I’d go home, cry on the way home, dry my face, and nobody’d ever ask about school, so I never told anybody.

Do you know whether your grandfather was discriminated against?

I don’t think so. People would always ask my grandmother, “How is Amos, and how is your son and his wife?” We went to visit at the big house on the corner, at Eighth and E. We’d go to visit the lady and go into the kitchen and sit — a white lady. Her daughter was the telephone operator — there was only one telephone operator in Coronado. Then we went to visit down at Ninth and B. There was another white lady, and we’d go to her house and sit in her kitchen. And sometimes she and my grandmother would go into the living room, where she had a big cast-iron stove that was always lit with fire, and I was fascinated by that stove.

Then, we would go and see Mrs. Wilson. Coronado has those funny little jogs, where streets go off at an angle. Now, Mrs. Wilson was a lady who wasn’t—she wasn’t very dark. She lived at Olive and at one of these angles on Olive. She had a son named Tommy, who was a chauffeur at the Hotel del Coronado.

Who else did we go to see? We used to go see the Alcaraz family. That was a white family. Mrs. Alcaraz never invited Grandma into the house. They sat on the porch. Oh, and then Mrs. Holmes. She was another little old lady. She had a son that my father used to play with, and we’d go and visit her and would go into her house. I didn’t go into' her house, I played outside, but my grandmother would. So she was invited to visit white ladies.

What about black servants? Where did they live?

Some of them commuted every day, and some of them lived in apartments over the garage. I don’t know whether they actually lived in the house or not. They usually wore their uniforms — green or white heavy starched uniforms. They commuted by ferry or by streetcar. In the late afternoon, they’d be sitting in the park with their kids or charges, because the Navy wives went over to North Island to play cards in the officers’ club or swam in the pool.

Navy people were separate from the other people. They rented houses all over Coronado. But these were not sailors, these were officers. It was elite.

Did Navy people live west of Orange Avenue?

No, there were some nice houses east of Orange that they probably rented.

There were at least three Mexican families and three Japanese families. Regarding where they lived, I couldn’t tell you. One of the Silva families lived along here. There was Silva and Israel. There were Japanese, the Takashitas. They’re all dead, gone. Fusako was my friend. She was a Tsuneyoshi. Heidi and Horuki, they were cousins. So there were two families. Their fathers were gardeners.

I never saw Japanese kids or Mexican kids being harassed. Never. Me, I was the target until the fourth grade.

What else did the children say to you?

They said, “My mother says I’m not supposed to have anything to do with you.” “My mother says that I’m not supposed to play with you.” That kind of thing. And they’d call me over and throw dirt on my face and run away laughing. Or they’d get me on the teeter-totter and drop me. It’s a wonder I don’t have a ruptured spine! I got so I wouldn’t come when they called me.

How did you cope?

I read. As soon as I learned how to read, I poured myself into books. There were a few girls that would play with me, like the girl on my block. She would play with me if there was no one else around. Several would walk home with me from school once or twice, and then they would drop me if someone whispered to them, and they would leave me alone. So I didn’t really have any friends until I met my first friend when I was ten. This was in grade school, which was K to the eighth grade. I went to high school in Coronado too, graduating in 1939.

I can brag about myself. I had the highest IQ in my graduating class. In the fourth grade, when we did the Standard Achievement Test—I didn’t find this out until after I was gone and married — my test was so high at the school that they said a high school student’s test had gotten mixed up with the fourth graders’ by mistake.

And that was when my life changed. The teachers started being nicer to me. My fourth-grade teacher — I didn’t really like her, because I thought she was prejudiced. By that time, I had figured that out. They were next-door neighbors. Her mother was the sister of the Father at the Catholic church, and she lived with him, right next to us. She was pleasant to Grandma, but she wasn’t to me. But I think she’s the one who stopped the harrassing.

At that time, I lived at 845 B Street. We lived in the little radio shack in the back—little teeny kitchen, two bedrooms, and a bath. That’s all it was. It was torn down 10 or 15 years ago.

The front house was a two bedroom. This house— the radio shack — was on the property when we bought the house. It was all shingles. I was in that house until I was 11 or 12, until Grandma was killed, or died as a result of her injuries.

I wasn’t born in that house. I was born in the front house in 1921, and I was about three when we moved into the radio shack, about 1924. I don’t remember the actual rooms, but I do remember when the front house was rented. So I was in the back house with my grandmother and grandfather.

Grandma wasn’t doing anything by that time. My father sent the papers so they had the pension from the Civil War. I don’t know the amount they got, but after Grandpa died and she got his pension, it was only $43 a month. And when President Roosevelt took office, he cut the pension by one-third and really knocked those old ladies for a loop. And that’s when she started going downhill.

She had lost Grandpa and the Depression hit. The house was sitting vacant, her pension had been reduced, and she began to fail. I know that now — I didn’t know that then. It was so slow. I went to school hungry and dirty. She wasn’t taking care of me. But the teacher knew that.

Why did your parents leave you at your grandparents’ house?

My mother moved across town and took my dad with her. They let Grandma come on Sundays for dinner until maybe I was four or five years old, and then that stopped. My mother was cold. I communicated with a Scottish cousin, and his mother was the same way. Not loving. My father met my mother on a street in Glasgow. He was on liberty in WWI, in his chief’s uniform.

He was walking down a street and saw a shipmate coming towards him. My cousin and I had talked about this in recent letters. This fellow had a woman on either arm, and she thinks that the other girl was my mother’s sister — her mother — and she was chaperoning my mother, more or less, because my mom was only about 17 or 18, and Poppa was about six or seven years older than her. Anyway, he stopped, and he was introduced to the two girls.

He watched my mother walk away and heard this little bell ring in his head. He told me this — that the voice inside his head said she would be the future Mrs. Hudgins. When he got back to the ship, he said, “Which girl is the one you have claim on?” And his shipmate said it was the other one. So he got my mother’s address and corresponded with her for two and a half years. Told her about his ancestry, asked her father’s permission to marry her, saved the money, and sent for her to come.

They met in Kansas City. Traveler’s Aid brought her to Kansas City and stood up for her at the wedding to make sure that it was okay, that she was married. They spent the night in a hotel, and the next day, they came out to California. There was no prejudice in Britain in those days. She knew that he was part colored and had received a picture of my grandmother and all that. And the first time she went out on the streets — it was being stopped on the street. They said to her, “Why did a nice white girl like you marry into that nigger family!” That’s all I know. One of her friends told me that.

That did it. She didn’t have a phone in the house, and she got closed into herself.

She came with an empty trunk—she brought a steamer trunk, but it was empty. I think she thought all Americans were rich. Father was well-to-do by normal standards, you know. He worked for a tide insurance company as a poster. He started out as office boy, took classes and became a surveyor, then he became a poster, and eventually, he was head of the posting department, and I think that just before he retired, he became an officer of the company, but I’m not positive.

So she arrived at 845 B Street and I was born in the back bedroom. The only thing she ever told me was that when she stepped off the ship — she was so seasick the whole way over, and when she stepped off the ship, if she had been able to get back on it and go back, she would have. But she was too sick.

The Traveler’s Aid lady was there to take her, and there was nothing she could do. She told me that her mother was a cold, cruel mother. There was a brother that she had favored over the two girls. They lived in Glasgow, Scotland, in a tenement building. My grandfather was a switchman for a railroad, not well-to-do at all. And they thought all Americans were rich, you know. Look at how good-looking my father was, in his uniform, especially.

Coronado then was a very small town. Everybody knew everybody. Every other block in Coronado was owned by the Spreckels Company, and they were all vacant and kids could play. You could run all over. I lived on the beach. Everybody lived on the beach in the summer. The wealthy people came out and stayed in the hotel and stayed at tent city, in the tent buildings sitting off the Hotel del Coronado, or they rented a big house.

Did your mother ever join anything?

No, I don’t think she was shunned. She just withdrew. My father introduced her to some ladies from the office where he worked, and he was in the Foreign Legion and tried to get her with those ladies. They were having one of those things that ladies had — a little tea or something — and people were supposed to bring things. She baked a cake. She knocked at the front door and the butler came to the front door and told her to go around to the back. She thought that it was a personal thing, not realizing that the food went into the back and came out the front later.

She had two friends. One was a policeman’s wife, and the other was a Canadian lady. I don’t know how she met them. They were her friends until the day that she died.

We all lived on B Street. So then my parents rented the house on J and then they bought it. I don’t remember anything about their moving out, because I was too little, about two or three. All I remember was sleeping in my grandmother’s bedroom, in the crib at the foot of the bed. I was taking a bottle, so I was pretty little. I remember that. And when she weaned me, I hollered a lot about it. So did my son when I weaned him.

Every Sunday my father would come and get me, and I would go over to J and then back. I’d stay there until the day was over and then would go back home. They finally found out through some grapevine that my grandmother was neglecting me and I wasn’t being fed properly. They decided I was old enough to come to their house after school to have dinner. And then my father would drive me home at ten o’clock and I would go to sleep at my grandmother’s house.

Mother only had two friends. Well, she would be friendly with the next-door neighbors. They were rentals, and people would come in, and she would be friendly with them. There were some Joneses living next door to us. At this time, I was five, six, seven, or eight.

Did the kids in elementary school ever start to like you?

Not really. There were two schoolteachers. They saw the situation. They were Campfire Girl leaders, and they asked if I would like to join the Campfire Girls. And I asked my mother, and she didn’t have any money, so the two teachers chipped in to pay the money for the dues. My friend and I joined the Campfire Girls. But the other girls didn’t mingle with us, so we dropped out.

My grandmother died when I was 11, and I was 12 when I started junior high. I went home to Grandma’s every day from school to see if she needed anything, and then I walked back to my mother’s.

You were still commuting back and forth?

Yes. I had my bicycle by then. I stayed late at school that day for some reason and hopped on my bike and rode to Grandma’s. I see that she is okay, and I started to leave, and she asked me to go to the store to get some food for my cat. And I said I couldn’t, that it was too late, and that Momma would be mad at me if I wasn’t there to set the table. It was probably in the early part of the year, because Grandma died in the spring.

She was just an old lady. She wore a long, black dress, usually. Wore an apron, a white apron. She wasn’t doing laundry by then or cooking. She wasn’t doing anything, except sitting in her rocking chair and holding her Bible and falling asleep. She was a Christian person. She read her Bible religiously. I remember saying my prayers at my grandfather’s and grandmother’s knees. They both sat in their rocking chairs side by side in that little kitchen.

Anyway, she wanted me to go to the store, and I said, “I can’t, Grandma. 1 can’t. If I’m not home to help Momma, she’ll be mad at me.” And I took off. I was supposed to be there to do what I had to do. And I went to the movies that night. They gave me the dime or 25 cents, whatever it was. And I heard sirens. And I thought, it has nothing to do with me, and I went back to watching the movie. Then I rode my bicycle back to my parents’ house. And when I walked in the door, I knew something was wrong.

Mom was sitting on the couch, and my father was awake in his chair. Usually he was asleep. I walked through the door and Momma said, “Grandma’s been hit by a car.”

And I said, “You’re joking.” And she said, “Why would I joke about a thing like that?” And I said, “Where was it?” She said, “It was at the corner at the Episcopal Church.” She was cutting catty-corner, crossing in that black coat she wore with a black satchel and a black hat.

It was during the movie. You know where the church is, because you’ve seen it. On the corner of Ninth and C. She was crossing the street to go to the store, to get food for my cat. The neighbors on the corner — they had been our neighbors and now lived on the corner near the church — heard her scream. She was thrown 15 feet. The kid was speeding. He had his father’s car without permission.

What kind of car was it?

I don’t know. It was a Navy officer’s son, so I’m sure it was something better than a Model T. And the police took her to the county hospital in San Diego.

My mother had her taken back to Coronado, and they put her in the Coronado hospital. But they put her in a little room that was kind of — it had been a storage room, I guess. It was discrimination, because I wasn’t allowed to come through the front of the hospital. I had to go back down the side and go in that door. And she was sort of comatose.

I don’t know where she was hit. She was badly hurt. There were broken bones, I guess. She was thrown 15 feet. She murmured to herself, but she didn’t really know anybody or anything. In the beginning, when they asked her where she lived, she gave the address on Julian Avenue [her earlier home in Logan Heights]. She was doing that reverse thing that people do when they are getting ready to die.

And so the hospital— I don’t know how Poppa found out that she was close to death, because they didn’t have a phone. I know when I came in that night from the movies that the police had finally gotten around to coming and letting them know about it, because it happened about 7:30 or 8:00. It was an hour or an hour and a half before they were notified. And then they had taken her to San Diego. I don’t remember. She lingered two or three months before she died. I know that I was there. Momma left. Poppa said that he had better get to town to sign some papers before she dies, before she’s gone. And so Momma took the car keys and drove Poppa down to the ferry, so I was alone with her when she died. She was just lying on the bed there breathing hard. And the nurse came in to look at her and went out again. Three times the door opened for no reason, but nobody was there.

And just before she died, her eyes rolled up, and she looked like she was seeing something she feared. And the nurse came in just at that moment and looked at her, grabbed her arm and felt it, and she ran off and came back with a hypodermic and slipped it into her arm. And then she said, “She’s gone.” And I sat there 10 or 15 minutes before Momma got back.

The coroner here in San Diego said that she was old and she was going to die anyway— that she had had a brain tumor. Dr. Kneedler said her injuries were due to the accident. The boy wasn’t cited, and nothing came of it at all.

I didn’t go to her funeral. I figured it was my fault that she had gotten killed. I felt pretty terrible about that.

So I went down to live with Momma and Poppa. And I lived in a little room off the back of the house. It was a little house. And that was when Poppa started saying, “We need a bigger house.” And he had gotten their $500 wartime bonus, and they bought half of a lot Then he began negotiating with Cal-Vets.

He got all the specifications for what constituted a house. And that room I was sleeping in had a door that opened to the outside, and they put it off as a bedroom. So he got the okay to go ahead. Then they had to come up with the $1000 for the lot. Cal-Vets wouldn’t pay for the lot. They’d pay for the building but not the lot. So he borrowed the money from some people at work.

How were you treated in high school?

Pretty much the same. Of course, my friend and I did not mingle. Well, if somebody would say “hello,” I’d say hello, but I wouldn’t say hello first. I wouldn’t be rebuffed.

“Well,” Cynthia’s friend’s daughter says, “my mother was the one that told her why she was being rebuffed, because she didn’t know.”

Was it because of the lightness of your skin that you didn’t know?

Um-hum. That was in the sixth grade. By that time, my friend’s mother let me come and play at their house. And I guess she took a lot of flak from that. Especially from—what was the name of that woman who used to tell everyone that my father was a “big black nigger”? I forget what her name was.

Did you have a boyfriend in high school?

No. There was a boy in sixth grade that I was really smitten with. And the first time I went to the Saturday afternoon matinee, he came down and sat alongside me. And then, some of those other kids, they called him up. And I saw him go and I knew that was it. And I started dating boys that I met in San Diego, when I discovered skating rinks. This was in Ocean Beach, and they didn’t know anything about me either.

I was in a skating club. We had trips and went up to L.A., to one of the big skating rinks up there on one of the movie lots. I saw Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. Anyway, I had a boyfriend there, a sailor. I told him about me and he said good-bye. Nicely though, very nicely. The streetcar conductor, every time he saw me with a guy, he would tell them. I’d meet them, they’d take me home, and they’d make a date. And then I would be stood up. They never showed.

He never got to tell my future husband, though. He always walked from the ferry to the door of our house. It was just three blocks, or a couple of blocks away. He never got to tell him. The conductor waited until we were married and then told my husband, “Well, you can’t have any kids!” But it was too late, because the first month, I was already pregnant and I had a boy. Eleven years later, a girl.

I met him at the skating rink at Ocean Beach, down at the end of Newport Avenue. My friend came out on the floor and said, “There’s some Marines over there and one of them wants to meet you.” I said, “Okay.” My friend always called me “Cynny.” She’s the only person that I ever allowed to do that, until much later in life. I know that I’m Aunt Cynny to that family.

So she introduced me to my future husband and the other two fellows he was with. He fiddled with my name about three times, and I was thinking, “What a dolt.” He was in the Marines. He went through boot camp at the Marine base. He had just made PFC. He was from L.A., born and raised. He was a PFC when I met him, and when we were married, he was a sergeant.

After he floundered over my name about three times, I said, “Oh, to heck with it.” They offered to drive us home. One of the other guys had a brand-new Willys-Knight, and they offered to drive us home around the strand. So we drove home with them. Boys didn’t do anything in those days. They were gentlemen. But my friend and I were together that night. We made a point when we went out that we would never separate. I met him before college. When I went off to college, I dumped him.

Why did you go to college out of town?

Looking back, I think that’s why my mother did it — to get me out of town. I think somewhere along the line, she woke up to the fact that I was being ostracized. I think that they thought my skin color wouldn’t make any difference. My grandmother never told me anything and never asked me anything. Momma never asked me, but one time she looked funny when I came home from Valentine’s Day and only had about three valentines. And she looked at them and said, “Is this all you got?” And I said, “Yes.” She said, “Did the other kids get more?” I said,“Yes.” And one of them was one of those penny, nasty ones. And she said, “Oh, this isn’t very nice, is it?” I think that’s when she got wise. I was eight or nine years old when that happened.

I went to college. My major was art That was one thing — by the time I got high school, I would always have a bevy of people standing around watching me draw. But by that time, I wasn’t very friendly. I couldn’t tolerate people. I didn’t say hello first if I passed them on the street.

I made a couple of friends at college, but I’ve lost track of them. There were few people from Coronado at the school. The school told my mother that they wanted people of “your child’s caliber” at Woodbury college, on my grade level and all that, and my mother bit it, hook, line, and sinker. She borrowed money on my father’s insurance — didn’t tell him — and shipped me off. When I came back, and after she s dead, I said, “Why didn’t you say something, Poppa?” He said, “I thought that you and Momma had talked it before and that it was all right with you.” And I said, “No, it wasn’t. I wanted to go to State.” State had one of the better art programs at that time. I wanted to be a dress designer and illustrator. I did sew for myself, but the clothes were all for me.

I didn’t finish, because I got so sick that I had to come home. I lived with people for room and board, And I got so sick that I scared an old lady and she got in touch with my mother somehow through the school—Momma wouldn’t have a phone. And I came home and she was mad at me, of course. The money had been spent, and I guess we couldn’t get it back. When I was up there, I was homesick. And I remembered that my future husband would come up every weekend to visit his folks. So I looked in the phone book and found his family’s name and I called him.

He wasn’t too thrilled first, but I started crying and that got him. So I came back to Coronado. I learned that there was a vocational school that had a couturier class. I knew how to sew, but I wanted to design clothes. That’s what I wanted do. So I went to that school.

I got hornswoggled into marriage on New Year’s Eve. I was going to class and dating my future husband again. We went to visit some military friends that he knew. In the meantime, I had accepted a ring from him. She noticed that I had the ring, and she said, “Oh, you’re engaged.” They had a new car and they wanted to go on a fairly long trip with it to break it in. And she said, “Let’s take you to Reno and get you married.” I said, “No, no, no.” And they all started in on this. Her brother was there, and so on.

My future husband thought it was great. So I said, “All right. If you’ll take me right this minute, I’ll go.” And they all jumped up, saying, “I can get off work,” because they had to work a half day the next day. It was the night before New Year’s Eve. And they had to drive to the depot to get permission. And the commanding officers were all having a good time because of the holiday. They said okay.

I knew the night I met him that it was meant to be. I fought it for two or two and a half years. It was a comic thing, I know. We then lived in San Diego and moved down in a canyon off Park Boulevard at University. We didn’t want to live in Coronado. We couldn’t afford it on $60 a month. We paid $25 of that for rent and received $15 a month for rations in-kind from the mess hall. I did live in Coronado again, after my mother died, for six years. Then we were shipped back East, and it was back and forth. We moved in here in 1955 and we’ve been here ever since.

My dad stayed in Coronado until he had a stroke just before his 78th birthday. My mother let herself die of cancer. She knew she had it and didn’t have anything done about it. Her own mother had died of cancer. My mother was taking care of her when she was 18 or 19 years old, I guess. Her mother had had surgery, but they didn’t get everything. And in her dying agonies, they couldn’t give her enough morphine and she would scream, “Oh, if I hadn’t let them operate on me, I’d be dead now.” They believed that once you got a cancer and they opened you up and the air hits it and they didn’t get it all. There seems to be some truth to that.

My dad lived on alone after that. She was only 49. Poppa had a stroke. He was 78 or 79. So he came to live with us, and I had to take care of him. He was some-what paralyzed. He was good-looking until he died. He was a beautiful man. He had a beautiful spirit. He was sort of a father figure to all of the young girls at the office. He had a wonderful sense of humor. Dad was in the Foreign Legion. He also was a Boy Scout leader. But my mother wasn’t a joiner. And neither am I.


Eva Crawford came to San Diego in l942. She and her husband built their house in Mountain View, just east of Logan Heights.

Arthur Casey interviewed Eva Crawford on February 19,1993 (interview transcript available at the San Diego Historical Society Oral History Interview Collection). Mr. Casey introduces the interview by stating that Eva was born in Topeka, Kansas, and did teacher training at Washburn University and Kansas University. She taught for several years in Oklahoma. During World War II, her husband heard about the “wonders of California” and came here for a visit. After he’d been in California just one summer, he sent back to Oklahoma for Eva to move out too. She spent her first night here in the storeroom of a grocery.

Eva, what kind of people did you find in San Diego who could help you? I understand you had no friends or relatives here at all.

Mainly the church. I didn’t have a background of knowing about anyone else. Then I went to the priest to ask, and Father Madigan was right there on 32nd and Imperial.

And the first little house that we built was right there across from Stockton School. And he came every day. So I talked, and I just asked him, “What would you do about this?” and “What must I do about that?” and it was just a matter that those people there at the church were my closest friends, and still today are....

You were telling me that it was only a day or two days after you arrived in San Diego that you had an occasion to meet Dennis Allen, and how did that go?

You know, when I went in, I liked the house so very much, having spent my first two days in California in that produce room that I could smell all the onions and the potatoes in. And then, to go into this lovely home that the Allens had. They had a very nice and quite a lovely home. And there must have been at least 25 or 30 black people sitting around the floor. Those who could find chairs were sitting in chairs.

So the lady that I went up there with that day — she spoke broken Spanish and English — made him understand that she wanted a job. Well, everybody said Mr. Allen gave you jobs, so I assumed he could almost do what a senator could do. I didn’t know anything about Mr. Allen. But I found out that Mr. Allen had gone around the room, you know, and had given everybody in that room a job — from sorting nails to doing the cleanup in the bathrooms with the three shifts that they had. I didn’t know anything about that I didn’t know people worked at night like they did.

Coming from a small town, and Topeka was quite a small town, you were limited, even though the state capital was there. We could always go to the representatives and senators. You always made everything that they had. You knew the governor. He lived on the same street with you. Well, what difference did it make? But when you get to a place like this, it’s quite a lot different.

But Dennis Allen was sending people to Cortvair to work?

Yes, Convair to work.... So when he came down, he looked at me. I kept looking and he said, “Well, what did you come for? Now what kind of job can I fit you with?” And I said, “Oh, thank you so very much. I would like to have a job teaching school. That’s all I’ve ever done.” And he looked at me and he said, “Well, where did you come from? Maybe you’d better go back.” He said, “I’m not giving out jobs teaching school. They don’t have black teachers here.” “Colored teachers.” “Colored” is the word that he said. And I said, “What? I didn’t know that.” And he said, “No.”

I thought that California really and truthfully was quite a lot different. I did not know. I was as far south as I had ever been J when I got to San Diego. And that is being very truthful. People were more prejudiced. I had not lived in the South farther than Oklahoma, but I’m sure that there’s no place yet that I would say that is more prejudiced than it is right here in San Diego.

So he just told you to go home?

“Go home.” But before we left, his wife came in with the nice little cool mint drink of iced tea and she passed it around. I just knew I liked that lady. As a matter of fact, I did. We became very good friend. Dennis Allen, I’d say, was one of my very best friends before he passed. He used to laugh about that time and say,“When you walked ' through the door, I told myself, there’s something odd about that woman — the way she throws her head and hair.” I said, “Well, I just thought that maybe you was ‘it,’ you know, that I was going to come out of that hole at the store.” But it all turned out to be all right.

Well, you were telling me earlier that you went home and thought about not having a job, and then you went on your own to go to Convair.

I decided to go to Convair and ask those people, “Now, wait, you must have a job for me.” And they did have a job for me. They told me that I could be a storekeeper.

This is in 1942, and Convair is, of course, overwhelmed with work.

Oh, yes! Oh, my. They had day shifts and midnight shifts and all kinds of people working and walking. As a matter of fact, you did not find the crime situation that you find right here today. I didn’t ever know anything about a person going to snatch my purse or anything like that. And now, you’re always warned—of course I’m older now—to keep your purse, and for senior citizens to be sure, “Now you put your purse up under your arm.”

At that day and time, why, no. Any time of night the bus driver would let you off, he’d say, “Well, good night,” and you were free.

You had two small children or three children by now?

Two small children.

And how did you manage children and work?

Well, my husband was to take care of the children in the mornings early. I had to be at work at 7:00 a.m. And then he would go to work late at night when I came in, supposedly. Then in the meantime, he left the kids with Mrs. Hancock, the lady that took care of them and gave them their dinner, for the first part of the night.

But that meant coming in in the evening, bathing a baby, washing clothes, bathing the little girl — oh, she could splash in the tub, mainly — but the baby had to be fed. Bottles had to be boiled and washed. Everything. And then to prepare yourself for the next morning to leave the house at 6:00 a.m. so that I would be on the job by 7:00 a.m.

Makes you tired now!

Just to think about it. I don’t know how I got off and on the buses that passed then, but I never missed a day. No.

So how long did you stay with Convair?

I stayed with Convair until 1942 or 1943. It was about a year and a half that I worked as a storekeeper, keeping inventory of the parts coming in and out of the planes.

So then, what was your escape from this airplane manufacturing business?

My husband and his brother went to an NAACP meeting, and they met Dr. Will Crawford, who was superintendent of schools. He came home and told me Dr. Crawford said that anything that he could do for him, he would be very glad to do it....

So I went back to Crawford’s office, and the secretary said, “Good afternoon.” I said, “Oh, yes, I’m Eva Crawford, and I’m from Topeka, Kansas.” And she said, “Did you have an appointment?” and I said, “Oh, no, just tell him Eva Crawford is here.” And her mouth fell open and she looked at me, and she went in and she told him. I’m sure on it of curiosity or amazement or whatnot, he got up and came out to see who Eva Crawford was.

Well, we shook hands, we talked, and I rather liked him. And I’m sure that he rather liked me, because he offered me a job. I was to do long-term substitution work here in San Diego, which I did until after VE Day in 1945. And then I got a regular job at Central School, which I wasn’t really prepared for. But I got that job, and I kept that job.

Did you talk, you know, with other teachers? Was there anger in the community about coming to California and being qualified to teach and being just ignored by a school district which was in desperate need of teachers? I mean, I know this is 45 years later, but…

You know, people weren’t qualified. We didn’t have that many black people going to school. The ones who came in here that were qualified had come from Texas or come from a Southern area.... There were not that many people. Northern people didn’t come this way, and the people — I guess it was a little difficult to go to school. You didn’t have enough money, and there wasn’t anything like those federal grants and things of today. You did the best you could to go.

Now, there had been quite a lot of dissatisfaction about Lorraine Van-Low, and that was written up in the little black paper that he had called the Light House, and they had marched down there.

This was the native San Diego teacher who had gone through the San Diego school system but who still was refused a full-time job.

Uh-hum. That’s right.

And so there was community resentment and protest.

But there was no community resentment.

About you outsiders, non-Californians. You just didn’t deserve a job in California.

No. They thought it was just wonderful if they had jobs as mail carriers. Well, at one time, I thought that wouldn’t be such a bad job, but I wanted to hurry up and get a job teaching school.

But even the job that Crawford sent you out to was a really rough, tough job.

Very.

The children you encountered at Central School were problem children, and you had how many of them?

Twenty in the classroom to begin with, and then they weeded them down until I had 15. They took 5 of the older ones out of the class. I mean, at the same time he started a class of upper-division mentally retarded children. That was on the other side of the class building.

And it was sink or swim. You had no preparation for this.

No-o-o-o, not at all. But I didn’t sink. I swam. I started right out to State College and I found out exactly how to work with those people. Then, from there, I went to USIU and got my master’s degree, and I just continued

And at this time, you’re raising a family of your own.

Yes. I had eight of my own children.

Your husband had gone into the contracting business?

My husband went into the contracting business and was the first black contractor that ever passed the board. He had to take a test, and the test was for three days. Every day he was up there, moaning and groaning about the test, the test. But he made it, and he had made it in buildings. Later he went in for lathing and plastering, and still later, he passed a test similarly for plumbing.

But then, you know, when he first came and there would be jobs [posted] on the board downtown at the union hall, and it would say, “We need lathers.” You know what a lather is — when you put the paper and the wire up, and so on. No white man would work on the same boards with him. And this was in San Diego, in 1945…

And he would come home. Oh, he would be very disillusioned and upset And I said, “Well, let’s go home!” “No I’m not going. I’m going to prove it right here.” Well, it wasn’t long before, when I started and did my first long-term work at Washington School, that the people from down in that area found out that he could build, and they hired him, one after the other. All the houses went up. And he was doing very nicely.

We got some rough ways to go on things. Every house would just be fine. The people would be renting the house, the money was coming in for them. But what, “Oh the man that put the roof on left that, and it’s leaking.”“Well,” he would say, “I wasn’t on the roof, I didn’t have nothing to do with the roof.” He would say, “I’m not a roofer.” But, “Well, maybe some of the mud that you were mixing up sprayed up.” Oh, no! And do you know, he could not find an attorney that would take the case and beat them fair and square.

Well, that’s, yeah, so the whole system…

The whole system as well.

... rejecting, first of all black people, and especially black people from the Midwest or from out of California, which most people were.

Well, the ones that were here weren’t doing anything. I have to admit that. Because, I mean, you would run into people that had lived here for 25, 30, or 40 years, and I’d say, “Well, where is your house, why didn’t you own something?” “Well, I.. .1 just never had a chance to.” Um!...

So your career, then, was with San Diego School District. You just stuck with it. You’re saying you did special education preparation at San Diego State and actually got a master’s degree with USIU.

I got the master’s degree in guidance and counseling.

Oh, you were looking for a way out of the classroom?

That’s right.

How many years were you actually there with those children?

Well, not just in the classroom, because you never got out of the classroom, even while you were counseling. I ran a counseling group. I thought that it was nice to know my people, and so, in the mornings, I always called six children in every morning out of whatever the end of the alphabet was. And we sat around and talked.

And the first thing in the afternoon, I called in six more, and we sat around and talked. And I always served them a little cookie or a little something that kind of opened them up, you know. And they would confide. And you could say, “Well, let’s don’t do this. That isn’t the good way, I don’t believe. Now, I don’t want you to take my values, but I want you to think about it.”

I ran into a girl just Monday whose grandmother died, and when I walked in the house, she didn’t speak. So I didn’t really recognize her. And so, when her mother said, “I know Jackie has been asking when was the teacher coming by.” And I said, “What teacher?” I didn’t think she was talking about me. They know that I am a teacher in this area, you know. And Jackie walked out and she said, “You don’t remember me.” And I said [her name].

“All of that time... Do you know, I’ll never forget what you told me. On Sundays, go to church. Every Sunday, go to church. I don’t care what church you go to, but you go to church. Don’t go to that park.” This very park here that turned out to be the worst park in the world for a while, but it’s one of the best now. She said, “I’ll never forget that.” She said, “I was in your group.” So she was one of the ones that I’d passed a little Kool-Aid and cookies to, and she remembered then that she must go to church. And she said, you know, “I go to church every Sunday.” So, some thjngs do rub off on the children.

So you were counseling young teenagers in San Diego during that Civil Rights chaos time, the Lyndon Johnson times, War on Poverty times.

Nineteen sixty-six. I was counseling when they had the Watts riots.... I had gone up to retrieve some children from up there and didn’t know whether I was going to be able to get back when I saw all these fires going up every place. So it’s something that you lived with. It’s something that you try to make a lesson out of — everything that goes wrong. It’s not really “wrong.” You’ve got to look at it like the other man sees it too.

Sometimes we feel about people on welfare: “They’re here, now they’re getting more than I’m getting. I’ve worked all my life, and they’re taking it all.” You don’t realize. They may be taking it all, but they aren’t taking the good that you have gotten out of life. I can feel sorry for them no matter how much money they get. Money is not everything.

In the last of your school work, you were at O’Farrell, which was a new school, I think, in the 1960s.

Nineteen fifty-three.

Nineteen fifty-three. So you stayed there a long time, about 10 years or 15 years or so at O’Farrell Junior High School?

Until they closed down O’Farrell. I was there 20 years.

...Maybe we should talk a little bit about the park. You say, when you came here, Mountain View Park [at 40th Street and Ocean View Boulevard] was pretty undeveloped. It was probably an abandoned piece of city property.

Yes, there were no houses below the park.

This was the end of the city. You were right on the very edge when you built here?

That’s right.

When did your husband build this house?

Nineteen forty-three.... This street out here was mud. There was no street. And this was the end of the bus line. It was just right for us. The children and the park. And they had two wonderful, wonderful park people that were at that little house. A woman and a man. And you know, their names escape me. They were both Caucasian. Wonderful people. They’d take the children to the zoo. They took the children — oh, anything that they had — the State Fair. They just took the children. Oh, they were wonderful.... But there was nobody hardly at the park. Maybe they could put all the children in one car. A Mexican man lived across the street, and he had two children. We had the most children. Nobody around, much. All of that was vacant No houses over there. None back here. And we had goats, chickens. We had an old cow. A garden.... And now I see the police go through. Why, I didn’t ever know they had policemen, hardly. What did we need a policeman for here? Everything was pretty good.

It really was country?

Yes, they didn’t have any problems.

How far away did your kids have to go to get to school?

Eight blocks up here to Catholic school.

Oh, they went to St. Jude’s?

Uh-hum. From there they got scholarships and went to Saints, and from there, the oldest one went on and got another scholarship.

Let’s talk a little bit about San Diego history and Mountain View Park right here. As you said earlier, it did go through a very rough, tough period when there was a major drug exchange here in Mountain View Park.

Oo-o-o-oh, that’s right! Do you know, between about 1964 and 1968, on a Sunday morning, for example, the park would be just like you see it now, nobody there. Everybody going to church. At one o’clock, you couldn’t walk. It would be just like that. Crowded. Just a crowd. Everybody would have a broken glass to try to get somebody. There was dope being sold. There was a band that sat out there that played and danced and oo-o-o-oh, just about ran you out of your mind.

They’d park double-parked in the street. You couldn’t go past. You couldn’t get home. Fortunately, we walked, so we were just going that way anyway. And I guess in about 1967, I just begged my husband, “Please, let’s move!” and he said, “No, we’re not going to run.”... He would say, “We’re going to stay right here.” Do you know, once I got up and there were 22 bullets that had been shot right there in the front yard. I had a grandchild here that was three and one that was five that was just screaming to high heavens.

The policeman came to the bathroom window and said, “Get in the tub! That’s the place to stay safe.” I said, “I want to get out of this house.” He said, “Stay in. Get in the tub.” And we did. I’m sitting almost where I am now when a woman walked up and gave a gun to her son — they told me it was her son after he was killed — to shoot a policeman, and he got shot. That boy wasn’t more than 15 or 16 years old. Fell right out there.

There wasn’t anything. My husband got up one morning and one was laying right over there. The reason that my husband’s got this monument that people built for him was that he went to the park every night, circling the park, to see if everybody’s all right — he and a man named Mr. Williams. I said, “Somebody’s going to kill you. They’ll kill you and leave you out in that park.” He said, “Nobody’s going to kill me. Nobody’s going to bother me. They don’t want to. I just walk with the Lord, and we just go all around the park, and that’s how things are.” And I said, “Well, bless you and God, but I’ll tell you!...”

Do you know, now they send people from the GR, which is General Relief, or they send people to work on their food stamps, and you see how clean it is along there, and everything is nice and clean and picked up. It wasn’t so then. They didn’t have any programs like that. They had one man that came down, and, poor man, he would sweep this and try to get all that up that they’d left out there.

Every night, my husband and old man Williams would get that broom and go sweeping along. They kept up everything, that is, after they got the pavement in. But of course, when we came down here, we didn’t have any walks. We didn’t have sidewalks all the way down here. We had that piece in the front, and they didn’t have any over there. They didn’t want any. He said, if he had to pay for it, he didn’t want to.

Did the neighborhood eventually change?

Well, people began to move....

Except you?

Yeah. No, he wasn’t moving. He’s going to stay right here, he said. And if they had all stayed here, we would have had a better community. We would have stayed together! Well, I guess so.

You never know.

You never know, because the community now is solidly Mexican, and I’m going to stay because I’ve got no place else to go now.

This is a phenomenon which I’ve watched myself driving down Imperial Avenue. I’ve watched the commercial world change from black to Mexican. Here we are clear out at 40th Street.... The black community has just scattered. There really is not, in your perception, a black community in San Diego anymore?

No. I guess down around 30th and Imperial, maybe, would be three or four blocks in there where all the business is Mexicans....

At St. Jude’s, you only have one English-language mass in all the masses here — otherwise they’re Spanish?

Yes, and he has 500 or 600 people at each one of them.

Well, so, this is a new idea. This is black flight. I mean, we’ve talked about white flight, but this is black flight?

Uh-hum.

And it was blacks running away from the violence of the drugs, the chaos of the Vietnam protests, and the craziness of repressive police in those years. And meanwhile, here you are.

Yes, and I think I may as well stay.... [My children and grandchildren] like the old house. They come for breakfast. Twice a week, I have two that are dentists here that will drop by. First thing, they put up the bars — you know, have somebody put the bars up, and the garage door opener, and a dog on the back porch, and he’s big as I am, and he wouldn’t bite anything other than a cup of coffee and a biscuit. Now, what good is he, I don’t know.

But, they’ve all said, “Mom, we have a room, you know, you can move right in with us.” And I said, “Well, now, I couldn’t see out all over to meddle into everybody’s business…”

When you were at O’Farrell you had probably mixed white and black out there?

At O’Farrell, I’d say, I had a slight mix. I had very few Mexicans. I had mostly whites and blacks. The whites were just on their flight seat because...they were just moving out, so there were quite a number. But, as it moved down to around 1969, they were mostly black. Not Mexican.

And so, were you a counselor for racial integration. I mean, were you trying to teach human relations in your counseling?

I had a son to do that. He had a doctorate, and so he knew.... [I was trying to keep] them in school and not bring all of the things that happened at home to school. And there was a time when, “Don’t touch.” That was during the time that Bob was there. “Don’t put your hand on me, don’t touch me.” No!

Black pride.

Yes. That came out of the Muslims, and that kind of stuff. “Don’t touch me!” And I used to love to go up to one. He was the blackest one that we had at that school. But he didn’t have—they weren’t wearing the beads, those head things. And I just loved to go up and put my arms around him, and say, “Don’t touch me. What are you touching me for?” He’d have to laugh, and he said, “I don’t like these old farts touching on me.” I said, “But you look so go-o-o-od, and that purple shirt is just beautiful.”...

But I saw him on dope after that when I was working here at the hospital. I volunteered at the hospital for the next 12 years. And they’d pass and say, “Hey, Teach,” and I’d say, “Yes, this is ‘Teach’ all right, and Teach didn’t bring no dope to school or have you interested in it.” He said, “I’m getting off it today. That’s why I’m up here in this new ward — this new building they’ve got up here. Now, I’m off of it, Teach, I’m off of it.” Going into it farther then than he had been before.

So this is another aspect of your life. This was at Physicians and Surgeons Hospital.

Yes.... I worked in the gift shop, and I was president of the board there.

You were just hoping that the hospital would make it and be a community resource.

Yes, because, see, every hospital board met with every other hospital board throughout the whole county down to El Centro, because our little president is from El Centro. So, you’ve got to see people. And some of them would look at me and say, “You know, you look like some, oh, that is.” Well, they might be all white and you wouldn’t be maybe but two blacks there, myself and somebody else. But it didn’t matter, because when they looked up on the head table, I’m up there and I’m on the board voting. It was something that I liked.

The Eva Crawford oral history is copyrighted by the San Diego Historical Society Research Archives, Oral History Program.

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Dress up with cork wedges from Aerosoles and a necklace from Pier 1

“For three months, I existed only on yoga pants and sweatpants.”

Cynthia May Hudgins was born in Coronado and grew up there in the 1920s and 1930s. The Hudginses had moved to Coronado from Logan Heights. Her grandfather, Amos Hudgins, was in the 2nd Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War. Cynthia May knows little about her grandparents, other than that Amos had a Cherokee mother and Grandma Cynthia was the daughter of an Englishman and a slave. There had been a picture of her Cherokee great-grandmother, but Cynthia May’s father had thrown it out.

Amos and Cynthia Hudgins (grandparents of Cynthia May), 1874. Grandpa Amos was very light but had Negro features. Grandma Cynthia’s father was English— her mother was perhaps mulatto as well.

On April 25, 2000, I conducted an oral-history inter-view with Cynthia May Hudgins. Her good friend’s daughter was present at the interview. Cynthia begins by telling me:

My great-grandfather was probably mulatto. Grandpa Amos was very light but had Negro features. Grandma Cynthia’s father was English— her mother was perhaps mulatto as well. Grandma Cynthia was light brown and did not have Negro features. Both my grandparents spoke perfect English as well — no patois. Their son, my father, was a member of the old East End Gang and attended the old Lowell School in South San Diego.

Amos Hudgins (Cynthia May's grandfather), 2nd Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry. Amos had a Cherokee mother.

While I am of black ancestry, both my father and I appeared, and could have passed for, white. For many years I did. This is the reason I could not as a child understand why I was treated differently from the other children, by them and by my teachers. My Scottish mother left me to live with my grandmother. Coronado was a small town in the ’20s and ’30s, so everyone knew I was “colored” except me. I didn’t know until I was 11 years old and my friend told me about the one-drop-of-black-blood rule.

Coronado railroad, c. 1910. A train that came over to Coronado every Thursday. It came around the strand and down Pomona. They turned on First Street and went to North Island, carrying supplies for the Navy.

Her mother was the only mother who let her child be friends with me, until I was in junior high and another woman let me associate with her kids and come into her house — when I went to live with my parents after my grandma’s death. The Tsuneyoshis lived on our block and Fusako became a friend. In high school, another woman let her daughter be friends with me too.

Christ Episcopal Church (Ninth and C), Coronado, 1910. My grandmother worked for Reverend Spaulding at the Episcopalian manse.

My grandparents were married at Richmond, Ray County, Missouri, on June 19, 1874, by John W. Anderson, minister of the Methodist-Episcopal church. My grandfather signed up for the Civil War, giving his credentials as “farmer.” That’s all I know. And he was only just 18 years old or so.

Amos Algernon Hudgins (Cynthia May's father), c. 1916. He was a pioneer in early radio.

This is the story that I read at a Memorial Day thing. I saw it just this afternoon when I was going through this stuff. Amos Hudgins was born in Missouri in 1844. Joined the 2nd Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry, Company K, when he was 18 years old. Fought mostly in Arkansas. Mustered out in Kansas.

Eva Crawford, c. 1960s. "I was to do long-term substitution work here in San Diego, which I did until after VE Day in 1945. And then I got a regular job at Central School."

Fought admirably. After the war went back to Kansas. Starving. Ragged. Barefoot. They ate the mules’ food, and then ate the mules. Amos was wounded by a mini ball in the left knee. Married Cynthia Ann Renfro in Fay County, Missouri, in 1874.

Dennis Allen had gone around the room, you know, and had given everybody in that room a job — from sorting nails to doing the cleanup in the bathrooms with the three shifts that they had.

Cynthia was born in Maysville, Kentucky. She was a slave until age 12. Lived in Topeka. He rejoined the Army, 7th Cavalry, as a Buffalo Hunter and Scout, with Reno. Grandma had a millinery store — my mother told me that. Moved to San Diego County in 1887. My father was born in 1891 in Logan Heights.

Memorial to Eva Crawford's husband

My grandfather was hauling for a time with a team and wagon. He homesteaded in the El Cajon Valley. Homesteading didn’t work out. That was when they came out here. He couldn’t handle it, because of the knee. So he came into town with his team and wagon. He was offered the corner of Fifth and Broadway, where Walker Scott was, in exchange for the wagon and team, but he couldn’t do it. He was a teamster — it was his livelihood.

So then he went off up to the Yukon, to the Gold Rush. He came back with three nuggets. My grandmother did hairdressing and sewing for ladies while he was gone. Probably straightening hair. She was very talented. They moved to Coronado in 1905 — maybe 1903?

He came back to San Diego and joined the California Naval Militia, because of the Spanish-American War. He was one of the three founders of the Masonic Fidelity Lodge No. 10,1903. He was senior steward. Two members told me he was senior steward. In 1905, he was in Arizona, working on the San Diego and Arizona Railroad track.

He was barbering when Poppa was a little boy, but that probably didn’t last too long. Poppa used to remember being in his shop and seeing the important men of the day come in — you know, Father Horton and some of those other people, shop owners and wealthy men.

The shop was around the corner from the old Golden Lion restaurant, between Fourth and Fifth on Broadway. The barbershop was on E Street, between Fourth and Fifth. I thought he might have owned it, but he just owned a chair in it, because the shop was William’s shop.

In 1905, a Mexican hurricane came up. There was beach down along the oceanfront in Coronado, just like there is now. This Mexican hurricane came up and washed the beach all out. And the houses all along the oceanfront were inundated with water. Some of them were moved to other locations. Dr. Kneedler’s house was moved from there to A Street.

So then the San Diego and Arizona Company decided to put in this seawall, and that was what my grandfather was working on. They were putting in these great rocks with horse and wagon. And one of those fell off the wagon and fell on my grandfather. The horse moved, and the rock rolled off and fell on him. It crippled him for life — he was really wrecked with this one, because he never worked again. As I remember, he was bent over and walked with a cane.

The beach washed back in again, because they dredged the bay to let the big ships come in. And they dumped the sand off Coronado. It washed in, so now we have a seawall and a beach.

We lived at 845 B Street. Because he was working for the San Diego and Arizona Railway, they gave him the job of night watchman down by the old ferry building. They kept stuff there, railroad ties and such, because there used to be a train that came over to Coronado every Thursday. It came around the strand and down Pomona. They turned on First Street and went to North Island, carrying supplies for the Navy.

At that time, my grandmother worked for the Babcocks and for Reverend Spaulding at the Episcopalian manse. I only knew that she worked for the Babcocks because Poppa told me he would go up there and play with the Babcock boy while she was working. I don’t know what she did for them. I think she was a cook for the Episcopalian manse.

We were Episcopalian. Grandma and I went to church. We always sat way in back. I didn’t know why, of course. I always wanted to head up to the front and sit up close, but she would pull me back and we’d sit in the back.

She was a lovely lady. Everybody in Coronado admired her. White men on the streets tipped their hats to my grandmother. Nobody ever called her by her first name. She was Mrs. Hudgins. They’d tip their hats and say, “Good morning, Mrs. Hudgins,” or “Good afternoon, Mrs. Hudgins.” Madame Schumann-Heink, the world-famous opera star, used to sit outside on her front porch. “Mrs. Hudgins, Mrs. Hudgins, wait for me.” And she’d hoist herself up off of that big rattan chair she sat in and come down and stand on the sidewalk and talk to Grandma while I messed around on the sidewalk, until I got bored and said, “Come on, Grandma, let’s go, let’s go!

What is your first memory?

Being waked up in the middle of the night, late at night, and taken outside to watch the Shenandoah come over, the zeppelin, you know. All the ships in the bay — the bay used to be full of ships because this was a Navy town—had their searchlights planted on it. And it was going to dock at North Island. And Grandpa got me up and was holding me. It must have been Grandpa. I don’t see how he could have. Maybe Poppa came up. I was only four, and I was sleepy.

Well, it scared me, and I turned my face like this, and they said, “Look, look.” This big silver thing went over, and it was so low, you could almost touch it. It was huge! As long as this house, and maybe longer. And then everybody went in and said, “Wasn’t that wonderful. Wasn’t that something.” And they slammed their screen doors as they went into the house. So that was my first memory.

What is your next memory?

The night my grandfather died. That was just a few months later. I woke up, I guess. I was still sleeping at the foot of my grandmother’s bed. And the lights were on in the house, and I heard people talking, and I heard my father’s voice. So I called out. Somebody came in — it wasn’t Poppa — and they said, “Shush, your grandfather’s dying. Go back to sleep.” And the next morning, of course, he was gone. That’s all I remember. He was gone. Grandma was crying.

And I went to the funeral at Benbough Mortuary. There was a black mortuary in town, but he didn’t go there. The Benboughs were friends.

Grandpa came to me after the funeral, and everybody said he was gone and he wasn’t coming back. I had gone to bed. The bedroom was dark. The light was shining in from the kitchen. By that time, we had moved from the big house to the little house in the back, in my father’s radio shack [Cynthia’s father was a pioneer in early radio], so we could rent the big house. My grandmother didn’t believe me when I told her Grandpa had come to me.

Grandpa didn’t get around too well. He always wore that old campaign felt hat with the insignia on it — the Buffalo Soldier hat. A lot of people were at his funeral. We sat in a separate room with a sheer curtain. I could see the coffin, see the minister, hear the voices, and smell the flowers. There were a lot of people. I was four, so it was 1925.

He was friends with Captain Hines, who I think was in the military. And of course our Dr. Kneedler. He had been in the war — it had to be in the Civil War.

At our church we sat in the back. I had never heard anybody tell us to. Now, grandmother was never treated separately. That’s why I couldn’t understand why people treated me the way they did. She was friends with the streetcar conductor. She was friends with the men who worked on the ferry. Everybody respected my grandmother.

Like I said, white ladies stopped her on the street to ask about the family. We were never followed around in stores. I was, though, when I got older and went to the store by myself.

The kids at school called me “nigger” and threw dirt in my face. They wouldn’t let me play on any playground equipment and wouldn’t let me use their bathrooms, so I wet my pants in class. In first grade, there were four girls that used to beat me up every afternoon. And I’d go home, cry on the way home, dry my face, and nobody’d ever ask about school, so I never told anybody.

Do you know whether your grandfather was discriminated against?

I don’t think so. People would always ask my grandmother, “How is Amos, and how is your son and his wife?” We went to visit at the big house on the corner, at Eighth and E. We’d go to visit the lady and go into the kitchen and sit — a white lady. Her daughter was the telephone operator — there was only one telephone operator in Coronado. Then we went to visit down at Ninth and B. There was another white lady, and we’d go to her house and sit in her kitchen. And sometimes she and my grandmother would go into the living room, where she had a big cast-iron stove that was always lit with fire, and I was fascinated by that stove.

Then, we would go and see Mrs. Wilson. Coronado has those funny little jogs, where streets go off at an angle. Now, Mrs. Wilson was a lady who wasn’t—she wasn’t very dark. She lived at Olive and at one of these angles on Olive. She had a son named Tommy, who was a chauffeur at the Hotel del Coronado.

Who else did we go to see? We used to go see the Alcaraz family. That was a white family. Mrs. Alcaraz never invited Grandma into the house. They sat on the porch. Oh, and then Mrs. Holmes. She was another little old lady. She had a son that my father used to play with, and we’d go and visit her and would go into her house. I didn’t go into' her house, I played outside, but my grandmother would. So she was invited to visit white ladies.

What about black servants? Where did they live?

Some of them commuted every day, and some of them lived in apartments over the garage. I don’t know whether they actually lived in the house or not. They usually wore their uniforms — green or white heavy starched uniforms. They commuted by ferry or by streetcar. In the late afternoon, they’d be sitting in the park with their kids or charges, because the Navy wives went over to North Island to play cards in the officers’ club or swam in the pool.

Navy people were separate from the other people. They rented houses all over Coronado. But these were not sailors, these were officers. It was elite.

Did Navy people live west of Orange Avenue?

No, there were some nice houses east of Orange that they probably rented.

There were at least three Mexican families and three Japanese families. Regarding where they lived, I couldn’t tell you. One of the Silva families lived along here. There was Silva and Israel. There were Japanese, the Takashitas. They’re all dead, gone. Fusako was my friend. She was a Tsuneyoshi. Heidi and Horuki, they were cousins. So there were two families. Their fathers were gardeners.

I never saw Japanese kids or Mexican kids being harassed. Never. Me, I was the target until the fourth grade.

What else did the children say to you?

They said, “My mother says I’m not supposed to have anything to do with you.” “My mother says that I’m not supposed to play with you.” That kind of thing. And they’d call me over and throw dirt on my face and run away laughing. Or they’d get me on the teeter-totter and drop me. It’s a wonder I don’t have a ruptured spine! I got so I wouldn’t come when they called me.

How did you cope?

I read. As soon as I learned how to read, I poured myself into books. There were a few girls that would play with me, like the girl on my block. She would play with me if there was no one else around. Several would walk home with me from school once or twice, and then they would drop me if someone whispered to them, and they would leave me alone. So I didn’t really have any friends until I met my first friend when I was ten. This was in grade school, which was K to the eighth grade. I went to high school in Coronado too, graduating in 1939.

I can brag about myself. I had the highest IQ in my graduating class. In the fourth grade, when we did the Standard Achievement Test—I didn’t find this out until after I was gone and married — my test was so high at the school that they said a high school student’s test had gotten mixed up with the fourth graders’ by mistake.

And that was when my life changed. The teachers started being nicer to me. My fourth-grade teacher — I didn’t really like her, because I thought she was prejudiced. By that time, I had figured that out. They were next-door neighbors. Her mother was the sister of the Father at the Catholic church, and she lived with him, right next to us. She was pleasant to Grandma, but she wasn’t to me. But I think she’s the one who stopped the harrassing.

At that time, I lived at 845 B Street. We lived in the little radio shack in the back—little teeny kitchen, two bedrooms, and a bath. That’s all it was. It was torn down 10 or 15 years ago.

The front house was a two bedroom. This house— the radio shack — was on the property when we bought the house. It was all shingles. I was in that house until I was 11 or 12, until Grandma was killed, or died as a result of her injuries.

I wasn’t born in that house. I was born in the front house in 1921, and I was about three when we moved into the radio shack, about 1924. I don’t remember the actual rooms, but I do remember when the front house was rented. So I was in the back house with my grandmother and grandfather.

Grandma wasn’t doing anything by that time. My father sent the papers so they had the pension from the Civil War. I don’t know the amount they got, but after Grandpa died and she got his pension, it was only $43 a month. And when President Roosevelt took office, he cut the pension by one-third and really knocked those old ladies for a loop. And that’s when she started going downhill.

She had lost Grandpa and the Depression hit. The house was sitting vacant, her pension had been reduced, and she began to fail. I know that now — I didn’t know that then. It was so slow. I went to school hungry and dirty. She wasn’t taking care of me. But the teacher knew that.

Why did your parents leave you at your grandparents’ house?

My mother moved across town and took my dad with her. They let Grandma come on Sundays for dinner until maybe I was four or five years old, and then that stopped. My mother was cold. I communicated with a Scottish cousin, and his mother was the same way. Not loving. My father met my mother on a street in Glasgow. He was on liberty in WWI, in his chief’s uniform.

He was walking down a street and saw a shipmate coming towards him. My cousin and I had talked about this in recent letters. This fellow had a woman on either arm, and she thinks that the other girl was my mother’s sister — her mother — and she was chaperoning my mother, more or less, because my mom was only about 17 or 18, and Poppa was about six or seven years older than her. Anyway, he stopped, and he was introduced to the two girls.

He watched my mother walk away and heard this little bell ring in his head. He told me this — that the voice inside his head said she would be the future Mrs. Hudgins. When he got back to the ship, he said, “Which girl is the one you have claim on?” And his shipmate said it was the other one. So he got my mother’s address and corresponded with her for two and a half years. Told her about his ancestry, asked her father’s permission to marry her, saved the money, and sent for her to come.

They met in Kansas City. Traveler’s Aid brought her to Kansas City and stood up for her at the wedding to make sure that it was okay, that she was married. They spent the night in a hotel, and the next day, they came out to California. There was no prejudice in Britain in those days. She knew that he was part colored and had received a picture of my grandmother and all that. And the first time she went out on the streets — it was being stopped on the street. They said to her, “Why did a nice white girl like you marry into that nigger family!” That’s all I know. One of her friends told me that.

That did it. She didn’t have a phone in the house, and she got closed into herself.

She came with an empty trunk—she brought a steamer trunk, but it was empty. I think she thought all Americans were rich. Father was well-to-do by normal standards, you know. He worked for a tide insurance company as a poster. He started out as office boy, took classes and became a surveyor, then he became a poster, and eventually, he was head of the posting department, and I think that just before he retired, he became an officer of the company, but I’m not positive.

So she arrived at 845 B Street and I was born in the back bedroom. The only thing she ever told me was that when she stepped off the ship — she was so seasick the whole way over, and when she stepped off the ship, if she had been able to get back on it and go back, she would have. But she was too sick.

The Traveler’s Aid lady was there to take her, and there was nothing she could do. She told me that her mother was a cold, cruel mother. There was a brother that she had favored over the two girls. They lived in Glasgow, Scotland, in a tenement building. My grandfather was a switchman for a railroad, not well-to-do at all. And they thought all Americans were rich, you know. Look at how good-looking my father was, in his uniform, especially.

Coronado then was a very small town. Everybody knew everybody. Every other block in Coronado was owned by the Spreckels Company, and they were all vacant and kids could play. You could run all over. I lived on the beach. Everybody lived on the beach in the summer. The wealthy people came out and stayed in the hotel and stayed at tent city, in the tent buildings sitting off the Hotel del Coronado, or they rented a big house.

Did your mother ever join anything?

No, I don’t think she was shunned. She just withdrew. My father introduced her to some ladies from the office where he worked, and he was in the Foreign Legion and tried to get her with those ladies. They were having one of those things that ladies had — a little tea or something — and people were supposed to bring things. She baked a cake. She knocked at the front door and the butler came to the front door and told her to go around to the back. She thought that it was a personal thing, not realizing that the food went into the back and came out the front later.

She had two friends. One was a policeman’s wife, and the other was a Canadian lady. I don’t know how she met them. They were her friends until the day that she died.

We all lived on B Street. So then my parents rented the house on J and then they bought it. I don’t remember anything about their moving out, because I was too little, about two or three. All I remember was sleeping in my grandmother’s bedroom, in the crib at the foot of the bed. I was taking a bottle, so I was pretty little. I remember that. And when she weaned me, I hollered a lot about it. So did my son when I weaned him.

Every Sunday my father would come and get me, and I would go over to J and then back. I’d stay there until the day was over and then would go back home. They finally found out through some grapevine that my grandmother was neglecting me and I wasn’t being fed properly. They decided I was old enough to come to their house after school to have dinner. And then my father would drive me home at ten o’clock and I would go to sleep at my grandmother’s house.

Mother only had two friends. Well, she would be friendly with the next-door neighbors. They were rentals, and people would come in, and she would be friendly with them. There were some Joneses living next door to us. At this time, I was five, six, seven, or eight.

Did the kids in elementary school ever start to like you?

Not really. There were two schoolteachers. They saw the situation. They were Campfire Girl leaders, and they asked if I would like to join the Campfire Girls. And I asked my mother, and she didn’t have any money, so the two teachers chipped in to pay the money for the dues. My friend and I joined the Campfire Girls. But the other girls didn’t mingle with us, so we dropped out.

My grandmother died when I was 11, and I was 12 when I started junior high. I went home to Grandma’s every day from school to see if she needed anything, and then I walked back to my mother’s.

You were still commuting back and forth?

Yes. I had my bicycle by then. I stayed late at school that day for some reason and hopped on my bike and rode to Grandma’s. I see that she is okay, and I started to leave, and she asked me to go to the store to get some food for my cat. And I said I couldn’t, that it was too late, and that Momma would be mad at me if I wasn’t there to set the table. It was probably in the early part of the year, because Grandma died in the spring.

She was just an old lady. She wore a long, black dress, usually. Wore an apron, a white apron. She wasn’t doing laundry by then or cooking. She wasn’t doing anything, except sitting in her rocking chair and holding her Bible and falling asleep. She was a Christian person. She read her Bible religiously. I remember saying my prayers at my grandfather’s and grandmother’s knees. They both sat in their rocking chairs side by side in that little kitchen.

Anyway, she wanted me to go to the store, and I said, “I can’t, Grandma. 1 can’t. If I’m not home to help Momma, she’ll be mad at me.” And I took off. I was supposed to be there to do what I had to do. And I went to the movies that night. They gave me the dime or 25 cents, whatever it was. And I heard sirens. And I thought, it has nothing to do with me, and I went back to watching the movie. Then I rode my bicycle back to my parents’ house. And when I walked in the door, I knew something was wrong.

Mom was sitting on the couch, and my father was awake in his chair. Usually he was asleep. I walked through the door and Momma said, “Grandma’s been hit by a car.”

And I said, “You’re joking.” And she said, “Why would I joke about a thing like that?” And I said, “Where was it?” She said, “It was at the corner at the Episcopal Church.” She was cutting catty-corner, crossing in that black coat she wore with a black satchel and a black hat.

It was during the movie. You know where the church is, because you’ve seen it. On the corner of Ninth and C. She was crossing the street to go to the store, to get food for my cat. The neighbors on the corner — they had been our neighbors and now lived on the corner near the church — heard her scream. She was thrown 15 feet. The kid was speeding. He had his father’s car without permission.

What kind of car was it?

I don’t know. It was a Navy officer’s son, so I’m sure it was something better than a Model T. And the police took her to the county hospital in San Diego.

My mother had her taken back to Coronado, and they put her in the Coronado hospital. But they put her in a little room that was kind of — it had been a storage room, I guess. It was discrimination, because I wasn’t allowed to come through the front of the hospital. I had to go back down the side and go in that door. And she was sort of comatose.

I don’t know where she was hit. She was badly hurt. There were broken bones, I guess. She was thrown 15 feet. She murmured to herself, but she didn’t really know anybody or anything. In the beginning, when they asked her where she lived, she gave the address on Julian Avenue [her earlier home in Logan Heights]. She was doing that reverse thing that people do when they are getting ready to die.

And so the hospital— I don’t know how Poppa found out that she was close to death, because they didn’t have a phone. I know when I came in that night from the movies that the police had finally gotten around to coming and letting them know about it, because it happened about 7:30 or 8:00. It was an hour or an hour and a half before they were notified. And then they had taken her to San Diego. I don’t remember. She lingered two or three months before she died. I know that I was there. Momma left. Poppa said that he had better get to town to sign some papers before she dies, before she’s gone. And so Momma took the car keys and drove Poppa down to the ferry, so I was alone with her when she died. She was just lying on the bed there breathing hard. And the nurse came in to look at her and went out again. Three times the door opened for no reason, but nobody was there.

And just before she died, her eyes rolled up, and she looked like she was seeing something she feared. And the nurse came in just at that moment and looked at her, grabbed her arm and felt it, and she ran off and came back with a hypodermic and slipped it into her arm. And then she said, “She’s gone.” And I sat there 10 or 15 minutes before Momma got back.

The coroner here in San Diego said that she was old and she was going to die anyway— that she had had a brain tumor. Dr. Kneedler said her injuries were due to the accident. The boy wasn’t cited, and nothing came of it at all.

I didn’t go to her funeral. I figured it was my fault that she had gotten killed. I felt pretty terrible about that.

So I went down to live with Momma and Poppa. And I lived in a little room off the back of the house. It was a little house. And that was when Poppa started saying, “We need a bigger house.” And he had gotten their $500 wartime bonus, and they bought half of a lot Then he began negotiating with Cal-Vets.

He got all the specifications for what constituted a house. And that room I was sleeping in had a door that opened to the outside, and they put it off as a bedroom. So he got the okay to go ahead. Then they had to come up with the $1000 for the lot. Cal-Vets wouldn’t pay for the lot. They’d pay for the building but not the lot. So he borrowed the money from some people at work.

How were you treated in high school?

Pretty much the same. Of course, my friend and I did not mingle. Well, if somebody would say “hello,” I’d say hello, but I wouldn’t say hello first. I wouldn’t be rebuffed.

“Well,” Cynthia’s friend’s daughter says, “my mother was the one that told her why she was being rebuffed, because she didn’t know.”

Was it because of the lightness of your skin that you didn’t know?

Um-hum. That was in the sixth grade. By that time, my friend’s mother let me come and play at their house. And I guess she took a lot of flak from that. Especially from—what was the name of that woman who used to tell everyone that my father was a “big black nigger”? I forget what her name was.

Did you have a boyfriend in high school?

No. There was a boy in sixth grade that I was really smitten with. And the first time I went to the Saturday afternoon matinee, he came down and sat alongside me. And then, some of those other kids, they called him up. And I saw him go and I knew that was it. And I started dating boys that I met in San Diego, when I discovered skating rinks. This was in Ocean Beach, and they didn’t know anything about me either.

I was in a skating club. We had trips and went up to L.A., to one of the big skating rinks up there on one of the movie lots. I saw Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. Anyway, I had a boyfriend there, a sailor. I told him about me and he said good-bye. Nicely though, very nicely. The streetcar conductor, every time he saw me with a guy, he would tell them. I’d meet them, they’d take me home, and they’d make a date. And then I would be stood up. They never showed.

He never got to tell my future husband, though. He always walked from the ferry to the door of our house. It was just three blocks, or a couple of blocks away. He never got to tell him. The conductor waited until we were married and then told my husband, “Well, you can’t have any kids!” But it was too late, because the first month, I was already pregnant and I had a boy. Eleven years later, a girl.

I met him at the skating rink at Ocean Beach, down at the end of Newport Avenue. My friend came out on the floor and said, “There’s some Marines over there and one of them wants to meet you.” I said, “Okay.” My friend always called me “Cynny.” She’s the only person that I ever allowed to do that, until much later in life. I know that I’m Aunt Cynny to that family.

So she introduced me to my future husband and the other two fellows he was with. He fiddled with my name about three times, and I was thinking, “What a dolt.” He was in the Marines. He went through boot camp at the Marine base. He had just made PFC. He was from L.A., born and raised. He was a PFC when I met him, and when we were married, he was a sergeant.

After he floundered over my name about three times, I said, “Oh, to heck with it.” They offered to drive us home. One of the other guys had a brand-new Willys-Knight, and they offered to drive us home around the strand. So we drove home with them. Boys didn’t do anything in those days. They were gentlemen. But my friend and I were together that night. We made a point when we went out that we would never separate. I met him before college. When I went off to college, I dumped him.

Why did you go to college out of town?

Looking back, I think that’s why my mother did it — to get me out of town. I think somewhere along the line, she woke up to the fact that I was being ostracized. I think that they thought my skin color wouldn’t make any difference. My grandmother never told me anything and never asked me anything. Momma never asked me, but one time she looked funny when I came home from Valentine’s Day and only had about three valentines. And she looked at them and said, “Is this all you got?” And I said, “Yes.” She said, “Did the other kids get more?” I said,“Yes.” And one of them was one of those penny, nasty ones. And she said, “Oh, this isn’t very nice, is it?” I think that’s when she got wise. I was eight or nine years old when that happened.

I went to college. My major was art That was one thing — by the time I got high school, I would always have a bevy of people standing around watching me draw. But by that time, I wasn’t very friendly. I couldn’t tolerate people. I didn’t say hello first if I passed them on the street.

I made a couple of friends at college, but I’ve lost track of them. There were few people from Coronado at the school. The school told my mother that they wanted people of “your child’s caliber” at Woodbury college, on my grade level and all that, and my mother bit it, hook, line, and sinker. She borrowed money on my father’s insurance — didn’t tell him — and shipped me off. When I came back, and after she s dead, I said, “Why didn’t you say something, Poppa?” He said, “I thought that you and Momma had talked it before and that it was all right with you.” And I said, “No, it wasn’t. I wanted to go to State.” State had one of the better art programs at that time. I wanted to be a dress designer and illustrator. I did sew for myself, but the clothes were all for me.

I didn’t finish, because I got so sick that I had to come home. I lived with people for room and board, And I got so sick that I scared an old lady and she got in touch with my mother somehow through the school—Momma wouldn’t have a phone. And I came home and she was mad at me, of course. The money had been spent, and I guess we couldn’t get it back. When I was up there, I was homesick. And I remembered that my future husband would come up every weekend to visit his folks. So I looked in the phone book and found his family’s name and I called him.

He wasn’t too thrilled first, but I started crying and that got him. So I came back to Coronado. I learned that there was a vocational school that had a couturier class. I knew how to sew, but I wanted to design clothes. That’s what I wanted do. So I went to that school.

I got hornswoggled into marriage on New Year’s Eve. I was going to class and dating my future husband again. We went to visit some military friends that he knew. In the meantime, I had accepted a ring from him. She noticed that I had the ring, and she said, “Oh, you’re engaged.” They had a new car and they wanted to go on a fairly long trip with it to break it in. And she said, “Let’s take you to Reno and get you married.” I said, “No, no, no.” And they all started in on this. Her brother was there, and so on.

My future husband thought it was great. So I said, “All right. If you’ll take me right this minute, I’ll go.” And they all jumped up, saying, “I can get off work,” because they had to work a half day the next day. It was the night before New Year’s Eve. And they had to drive to the depot to get permission. And the commanding officers were all having a good time because of the holiday. They said okay.

I knew the night I met him that it was meant to be. I fought it for two or two and a half years. It was a comic thing, I know. We then lived in San Diego and moved down in a canyon off Park Boulevard at University. We didn’t want to live in Coronado. We couldn’t afford it on $60 a month. We paid $25 of that for rent and received $15 a month for rations in-kind from the mess hall. I did live in Coronado again, after my mother died, for six years. Then we were shipped back East, and it was back and forth. We moved in here in 1955 and we’ve been here ever since.

My dad stayed in Coronado until he had a stroke just before his 78th birthday. My mother let herself die of cancer. She knew she had it and didn’t have anything done about it. Her own mother had died of cancer. My mother was taking care of her when she was 18 or 19 years old, I guess. Her mother had had surgery, but they didn’t get everything. And in her dying agonies, they couldn’t give her enough morphine and she would scream, “Oh, if I hadn’t let them operate on me, I’d be dead now.” They believed that once you got a cancer and they opened you up and the air hits it and they didn’t get it all. There seems to be some truth to that.

My dad lived on alone after that. She was only 49. Poppa had a stroke. He was 78 or 79. So he came to live with us, and I had to take care of him. He was some-what paralyzed. He was good-looking until he died. He was a beautiful man. He had a beautiful spirit. He was sort of a father figure to all of the young girls at the office. He had a wonderful sense of humor. Dad was in the Foreign Legion. He also was a Boy Scout leader. But my mother wasn’t a joiner. And neither am I.


Eva Crawford came to San Diego in l942. She and her husband built their house in Mountain View, just east of Logan Heights.

Arthur Casey interviewed Eva Crawford on February 19,1993 (interview transcript available at the San Diego Historical Society Oral History Interview Collection). Mr. Casey introduces the interview by stating that Eva was born in Topeka, Kansas, and did teacher training at Washburn University and Kansas University. She taught for several years in Oklahoma. During World War II, her husband heard about the “wonders of California” and came here for a visit. After he’d been in California just one summer, he sent back to Oklahoma for Eva to move out too. She spent her first night here in the storeroom of a grocery.

Eva, what kind of people did you find in San Diego who could help you? I understand you had no friends or relatives here at all.

Mainly the church. I didn’t have a background of knowing about anyone else. Then I went to the priest to ask, and Father Madigan was right there on 32nd and Imperial.

And the first little house that we built was right there across from Stockton School. And he came every day. So I talked, and I just asked him, “What would you do about this?” and “What must I do about that?” and it was just a matter that those people there at the church were my closest friends, and still today are....

You were telling me that it was only a day or two days after you arrived in San Diego that you had an occasion to meet Dennis Allen, and how did that go?

You know, when I went in, I liked the house so very much, having spent my first two days in California in that produce room that I could smell all the onions and the potatoes in. And then, to go into this lovely home that the Allens had. They had a very nice and quite a lovely home. And there must have been at least 25 or 30 black people sitting around the floor. Those who could find chairs were sitting in chairs.

So the lady that I went up there with that day — she spoke broken Spanish and English — made him understand that she wanted a job. Well, everybody said Mr. Allen gave you jobs, so I assumed he could almost do what a senator could do. I didn’t know anything about Mr. Allen. But I found out that Mr. Allen had gone around the room, you know, and had given everybody in that room a job — from sorting nails to doing the cleanup in the bathrooms with the three shifts that they had. I didn’t know anything about that I didn’t know people worked at night like they did.

Coming from a small town, and Topeka was quite a small town, you were limited, even though the state capital was there. We could always go to the representatives and senators. You always made everything that they had. You knew the governor. He lived on the same street with you. Well, what difference did it make? But when you get to a place like this, it’s quite a lot different.

But Dennis Allen was sending people to Cortvair to work?

Yes, Convair to work.... So when he came down, he looked at me. I kept looking and he said, “Well, what did you come for? Now what kind of job can I fit you with?” And I said, “Oh, thank you so very much. I would like to have a job teaching school. That’s all I’ve ever done.” And he looked at me and he said, “Well, where did you come from? Maybe you’d better go back.” He said, “I’m not giving out jobs teaching school. They don’t have black teachers here.” “Colored teachers.” “Colored” is the word that he said. And I said, “What? I didn’t know that.” And he said, “No.”

I thought that California really and truthfully was quite a lot different. I did not know. I was as far south as I had ever been J when I got to San Diego. And that is being very truthful. People were more prejudiced. I had not lived in the South farther than Oklahoma, but I’m sure that there’s no place yet that I would say that is more prejudiced than it is right here in San Diego.

So he just told you to go home?

“Go home.” But before we left, his wife came in with the nice little cool mint drink of iced tea and she passed it around. I just knew I liked that lady. As a matter of fact, I did. We became very good friend. Dennis Allen, I’d say, was one of my very best friends before he passed. He used to laugh about that time and say,“When you walked ' through the door, I told myself, there’s something odd about that woman — the way she throws her head and hair.” I said, “Well, I just thought that maybe you was ‘it,’ you know, that I was going to come out of that hole at the store.” But it all turned out to be all right.

Well, you were telling me earlier that you went home and thought about not having a job, and then you went on your own to go to Convair.

I decided to go to Convair and ask those people, “Now, wait, you must have a job for me.” And they did have a job for me. They told me that I could be a storekeeper.

This is in 1942, and Convair is, of course, overwhelmed with work.

Oh, yes! Oh, my. They had day shifts and midnight shifts and all kinds of people working and walking. As a matter of fact, you did not find the crime situation that you find right here today. I didn’t ever know anything about a person going to snatch my purse or anything like that. And now, you’re always warned—of course I’m older now—to keep your purse, and for senior citizens to be sure, “Now you put your purse up under your arm.”

At that day and time, why, no. Any time of night the bus driver would let you off, he’d say, “Well, good night,” and you were free.

You had two small children or three children by now?

Two small children.

And how did you manage children and work?

Well, my husband was to take care of the children in the mornings early. I had to be at work at 7:00 a.m. And then he would go to work late at night when I came in, supposedly. Then in the meantime, he left the kids with Mrs. Hancock, the lady that took care of them and gave them their dinner, for the first part of the night.

But that meant coming in in the evening, bathing a baby, washing clothes, bathing the little girl — oh, she could splash in the tub, mainly — but the baby had to be fed. Bottles had to be boiled and washed. Everything. And then to prepare yourself for the next morning to leave the house at 6:00 a.m. so that I would be on the job by 7:00 a.m.

Makes you tired now!

Just to think about it. I don’t know how I got off and on the buses that passed then, but I never missed a day. No.

So how long did you stay with Convair?

I stayed with Convair until 1942 or 1943. It was about a year and a half that I worked as a storekeeper, keeping inventory of the parts coming in and out of the planes.

So then, what was your escape from this airplane manufacturing business?

My husband and his brother went to an NAACP meeting, and they met Dr. Will Crawford, who was superintendent of schools. He came home and told me Dr. Crawford said that anything that he could do for him, he would be very glad to do it....

So I went back to Crawford’s office, and the secretary said, “Good afternoon.” I said, “Oh, yes, I’m Eva Crawford, and I’m from Topeka, Kansas.” And she said, “Did you have an appointment?” and I said, “Oh, no, just tell him Eva Crawford is here.” And her mouth fell open and she looked at me, and she went in and she told him. I’m sure on it of curiosity or amazement or whatnot, he got up and came out to see who Eva Crawford was.

Well, we shook hands, we talked, and I rather liked him. And I’m sure that he rather liked me, because he offered me a job. I was to do long-term substitution work here in San Diego, which I did until after VE Day in 1945. And then I got a regular job at Central School, which I wasn’t really prepared for. But I got that job, and I kept that job.

Did you talk, you know, with other teachers? Was there anger in the community about coming to California and being qualified to teach and being just ignored by a school district which was in desperate need of teachers? I mean, I know this is 45 years later, but…

You know, people weren’t qualified. We didn’t have that many black people going to school. The ones who came in here that were qualified had come from Texas or come from a Southern area.... There were not that many people. Northern people didn’t come this way, and the people — I guess it was a little difficult to go to school. You didn’t have enough money, and there wasn’t anything like those federal grants and things of today. You did the best you could to go.

Now, there had been quite a lot of dissatisfaction about Lorraine Van-Low, and that was written up in the little black paper that he had called the Light House, and they had marched down there.

This was the native San Diego teacher who had gone through the San Diego school system but who still was refused a full-time job.

Uh-hum. That’s right.

And so there was community resentment and protest.

But there was no community resentment.

About you outsiders, non-Californians. You just didn’t deserve a job in California.

No. They thought it was just wonderful if they had jobs as mail carriers. Well, at one time, I thought that wouldn’t be such a bad job, but I wanted to hurry up and get a job teaching school.

But even the job that Crawford sent you out to was a really rough, tough job.

Very.

The children you encountered at Central School were problem children, and you had how many of them?

Twenty in the classroom to begin with, and then they weeded them down until I had 15. They took 5 of the older ones out of the class. I mean, at the same time he started a class of upper-division mentally retarded children. That was on the other side of the class building.

And it was sink or swim. You had no preparation for this.

No-o-o-o, not at all. But I didn’t sink. I swam. I started right out to State College and I found out exactly how to work with those people. Then, from there, I went to USIU and got my master’s degree, and I just continued

And at this time, you’re raising a family of your own.

Yes. I had eight of my own children.

Your husband had gone into the contracting business?

My husband went into the contracting business and was the first black contractor that ever passed the board. He had to take a test, and the test was for three days. Every day he was up there, moaning and groaning about the test, the test. But he made it, and he had made it in buildings. Later he went in for lathing and plastering, and still later, he passed a test similarly for plumbing.

But then, you know, when he first came and there would be jobs [posted] on the board downtown at the union hall, and it would say, “We need lathers.” You know what a lather is — when you put the paper and the wire up, and so on. No white man would work on the same boards with him. And this was in San Diego, in 1945…

And he would come home. Oh, he would be very disillusioned and upset And I said, “Well, let’s go home!” “No I’m not going. I’m going to prove it right here.” Well, it wasn’t long before, when I started and did my first long-term work at Washington School, that the people from down in that area found out that he could build, and they hired him, one after the other. All the houses went up. And he was doing very nicely.

We got some rough ways to go on things. Every house would just be fine. The people would be renting the house, the money was coming in for them. But what, “Oh the man that put the roof on left that, and it’s leaking.”“Well,” he would say, “I wasn’t on the roof, I didn’t have nothing to do with the roof.” He would say, “I’m not a roofer.” But, “Well, maybe some of the mud that you were mixing up sprayed up.” Oh, no! And do you know, he could not find an attorney that would take the case and beat them fair and square.

Well, that’s, yeah, so the whole system…

The whole system as well.

... rejecting, first of all black people, and especially black people from the Midwest or from out of California, which most people were.

Well, the ones that were here weren’t doing anything. I have to admit that. Because, I mean, you would run into people that had lived here for 25, 30, or 40 years, and I’d say, “Well, where is your house, why didn’t you own something?” “Well, I.. .1 just never had a chance to.” Um!...

So your career, then, was with San Diego School District. You just stuck with it. You’re saying you did special education preparation at San Diego State and actually got a master’s degree with USIU.

I got the master’s degree in guidance and counseling.

Oh, you were looking for a way out of the classroom?

That’s right.

How many years were you actually there with those children?

Well, not just in the classroom, because you never got out of the classroom, even while you were counseling. I ran a counseling group. I thought that it was nice to know my people, and so, in the mornings, I always called six children in every morning out of whatever the end of the alphabet was. And we sat around and talked.

And the first thing in the afternoon, I called in six more, and we sat around and talked. And I always served them a little cookie or a little something that kind of opened them up, you know. And they would confide. And you could say, “Well, let’s don’t do this. That isn’t the good way, I don’t believe. Now, I don’t want you to take my values, but I want you to think about it.”

I ran into a girl just Monday whose grandmother died, and when I walked in the house, she didn’t speak. So I didn’t really recognize her. And so, when her mother said, “I know Jackie has been asking when was the teacher coming by.” And I said, “What teacher?” I didn’t think she was talking about me. They know that I am a teacher in this area, you know. And Jackie walked out and she said, “You don’t remember me.” And I said [her name].

“All of that time... Do you know, I’ll never forget what you told me. On Sundays, go to church. Every Sunday, go to church. I don’t care what church you go to, but you go to church. Don’t go to that park.” This very park here that turned out to be the worst park in the world for a while, but it’s one of the best now. She said, “I’ll never forget that.” She said, “I was in your group.” So she was one of the ones that I’d passed a little Kool-Aid and cookies to, and she remembered then that she must go to church. And she said, you know, “I go to church every Sunday.” So, some thjngs do rub off on the children.

So you were counseling young teenagers in San Diego during that Civil Rights chaos time, the Lyndon Johnson times, War on Poverty times.

Nineteen sixty-six. I was counseling when they had the Watts riots.... I had gone up to retrieve some children from up there and didn’t know whether I was going to be able to get back when I saw all these fires going up every place. So it’s something that you lived with. It’s something that you try to make a lesson out of — everything that goes wrong. It’s not really “wrong.” You’ve got to look at it like the other man sees it too.

Sometimes we feel about people on welfare: “They’re here, now they’re getting more than I’m getting. I’ve worked all my life, and they’re taking it all.” You don’t realize. They may be taking it all, but they aren’t taking the good that you have gotten out of life. I can feel sorry for them no matter how much money they get. Money is not everything.

In the last of your school work, you were at O’Farrell, which was a new school, I think, in the 1960s.

Nineteen fifty-three.

Nineteen fifty-three. So you stayed there a long time, about 10 years or 15 years or so at O’Farrell Junior High School?

Until they closed down O’Farrell. I was there 20 years.

...Maybe we should talk a little bit about the park. You say, when you came here, Mountain View Park [at 40th Street and Ocean View Boulevard] was pretty undeveloped. It was probably an abandoned piece of city property.

Yes, there were no houses below the park.

This was the end of the city. You were right on the very edge when you built here?

That’s right.

When did your husband build this house?

Nineteen forty-three.... This street out here was mud. There was no street. And this was the end of the bus line. It was just right for us. The children and the park. And they had two wonderful, wonderful park people that were at that little house. A woman and a man. And you know, their names escape me. They were both Caucasian. Wonderful people. They’d take the children to the zoo. They took the children — oh, anything that they had — the State Fair. They just took the children. Oh, they were wonderful.... But there was nobody hardly at the park. Maybe they could put all the children in one car. A Mexican man lived across the street, and he had two children. We had the most children. Nobody around, much. All of that was vacant No houses over there. None back here. And we had goats, chickens. We had an old cow. A garden.... And now I see the police go through. Why, I didn’t ever know they had policemen, hardly. What did we need a policeman for here? Everything was pretty good.

It really was country?

Yes, they didn’t have any problems.

How far away did your kids have to go to get to school?

Eight blocks up here to Catholic school.

Oh, they went to St. Jude’s?

Uh-hum. From there they got scholarships and went to Saints, and from there, the oldest one went on and got another scholarship.

Let’s talk a little bit about San Diego history and Mountain View Park right here. As you said earlier, it did go through a very rough, tough period when there was a major drug exchange here in Mountain View Park.

Oo-o-o-oh, that’s right! Do you know, between about 1964 and 1968, on a Sunday morning, for example, the park would be just like you see it now, nobody there. Everybody going to church. At one o’clock, you couldn’t walk. It would be just like that. Crowded. Just a crowd. Everybody would have a broken glass to try to get somebody. There was dope being sold. There was a band that sat out there that played and danced and oo-o-o-oh, just about ran you out of your mind.

They’d park double-parked in the street. You couldn’t go past. You couldn’t get home. Fortunately, we walked, so we were just going that way anyway. And I guess in about 1967, I just begged my husband, “Please, let’s move!” and he said, “No, we’re not going to run.”... He would say, “We’re going to stay right here.” Do you know, once I got up and there were 22 bullets that had been shot right there in the front yard. I had a grandchild here that was three and one that was five that was just screaming to high heavens.

The policeman came to the bathroom window and said, “Get in the tub! That’s the place to stay safe.” I said, “I want to get out of this house.” He said, “Stay in. Get in the tub.” And we did. I’m sitting almost where I am now when a woman walked up and gave a gun to her son — they told me it was her son after he was killed — to shoot a policeman, and he got shot. That boy wasn’t more than 15 or 16 years old. Fell right out there.

There wasn’t anything. My husband got up one morning and one was laying right over there. The reason that my husband’s got this monument that people built for him was that he went to the park every night, circling the park, to see if everybody’s all right — he and a man named Mr. Williams. I said, “Somebody’s going to kill you. They’ll kill you and leave you out in that park.” He said, “Nobody’s going to kill me. Nobody’s going to bother me. They don’t want to. I just walk with the Lord, and we just go all around the park, and that’s how things are.” And I said, “Well, bless you and God, but I’ll tell you!...”

Do you know, now they send people from the GR, which is General Relief, or they send people to work on their food stamps, and you see how clean it is along there, and everything is nice and clean and picked up. It wasn’t so then. They didn’t have any programs like that. They had one man that came down, and, poor man, he would sweep this and try to get all that up that they’d left out there.

Every night, my husband and old man Williams would get that broom and go sweeping along. They kept up everything, that is, after they got the pavement in. But of course, when we came down here, we didn’t have any walks. We didn’t have sidewalks all the way down here. We had that piece in the front, and they didn’t have any over there. They didn’t want any. He said, if he had to pay for it, he didn’t want to.

Did the neighborhood eventually change?

Well, people began to move....

Except you?

Yeah. No, he wasn’t moving. He’s going to stay right here, he said. And if they had all stayed here, we would have had a better community. We would have stayed together! Well, I guess so.

You never know.

You never know, because the community now is solidly Mexican, and I’m going to stay because I’ve got no place else to go now.

This is a phenomenon which I’ve watched myself driving down Imperial Avenue. I’ve watched the commercial world change from black to Mexican. Here we are clear out at 40th Street.... The black community has just scattered. There really is not, in your perception, a black community in San Diego anymore?

No. I guess down around 30th and Imperial, maybe, would be three or four blocks in there where all the business is Mexicans....

At St. Jude’s, you only have one English-language mass in all the masses here — otherwise they’re Spanish?

Yes, and he has 500 or 600 people at each one of them.

Well, so, this is a new idea. This is black flight. I mean, we’ve talked about white flight, but this is black flight?

Uh-hum.

And it was blacks running away from the violence of the drugs, the chaos of the Vietnam protests, and the craziness of repressive police in those years. And meanwhile, here you are.

Yes, and I think I may as well stay.... [My children and grandchildren] like the old house. They come for breakfast. Twice a week, I have two that are dentists here that will drop by. First thing, they put up the bars — you know, have somebody put the bars up, and the garage door opener, and a dog on the back porch, and he’s big as I am, and he wouldn’t bite anything other than a cup of coffee and a biscuit. Now, what good is he, I don’t know.

But, they’ve all said, “Mom, we have a room, you know, you can move right in with us.” And I said, “Well, now, I couldn’t see out all over to meddle into everybody’s business…”

When you were at O’Farrell you had probably mixed white and black out there?

At O’Farrell, I’d say, I had a slight mix. I had very few Mexicans. I had mostly whites and blacks. The whites were just on their flight seat because...they were just moving out, so there were quite a number. But, as it moved down to around 1969, they were mostly black. Not Mexican.

And so, were you a counselor for racial integration. I mean, were you trying to teach human relations in your counseling?

I had a son to do that. He had a doctorate, and so he knew.... [I was trying to keep] them in school and not bring all of the things that happened at home to school. And there was a time when, “Don’t touch.” That was during the time that Bob was there. “Don’t put your hand on me, don’t touch me.” No!

Black pride.

Yes. That came out of the Muslims, and that kind of stuff. “Don’t touch me!” And I used to love to go up to one. He was the blackest one that we had at that school. But he didn’t have—they weren’t wearing the beads, those head things. And I just loved to go up and put my arms around him, and say, “Don’t touch me. What are you touching me for?” He’d have to laugh, and he said, “I don’t like these old farts touching on me.” I said, “But you look so go-o-o-od, and that purple shirt is just beautiful.”...

But I saw him on dope after that when I was working here at the hospital. I volunteered at the hospital for the next 12 years. And they’d pass and say, “Hey, Teach,” and I’d say, “Yes, this is ‘Teach’ all right, and Teach didn’t bring no dope to school or have you interested in it.” He said, “I’m getting off it today. That’s why I’m up here in this new ward — this new building they’ve got up here. Now, I’m off of it, Teach, I’m off of it.” Going into it farther then than he had been before.

So this is another aspect of your life. This was at Physicians and Surgeons Hospital.

Yes.... I worked in the gift shop, and I was president of the board there.

You were just hoping that the hospital would make it and be a community resource.

Yes, because, see, every hospital board met with every other hospital board throughout the whole county down to El Centro, because our little president is from El Centro. So, you’ve got to see people. And some of them would look at me and say, “You know, you look like some, oh, that is.” Well, they might be all white and you wouldn’t be maybe but two blacks there, myself and somebody else. But it didn’t matter, because when they looked up on the head table, I’m up there and I’m on the board voting. It was something that I liked.

The Eva Crawford oral history is copyrighted by the San Diego Historical Society Research Archives, Oral History Program.

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