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00:00:00

´╗┐Name: Ruth Edmond

Date of Interview: April 16th, 2021

Location: Phone Interview in St. Louis, MO

Interviewer: Katie Lade and Tori Fenemor

Project: UMSL Digital Humanities: Oral History

H/M/S Topic

00:01:00 Discussing strategy before interview

00:02:00 Introduction

00:02:30 Name (Ruth Marie Edmond), Occupation (Retired school teacher)

00:03:00 Ties to the St. Louis area -- Born and raised, married, mother of two kids, taught at

St. Louis Public Schools, now retired

00:03:30 Middle school connections

00:04:00 Areas lived in St. Louis -- born in Mill Creek area until "they came through and

tore it down," there until '58. Later moved to fringe of Central West End, two

blocks from Euclid

00:05:00 Childhood in Mill Creek Valley -- wonderful, community, village, churches,

beauty shops, drug stores. Lived 3419 Walnut (couple blocks from Grand).

Remembering carnival and the Veiled Prophet parade. Everything was in the community, high expectations from teachers that looked like their students. Her parents did not have a formal education, but she had good counselors that pushed students to be the best they could be. Attended elementary school within walking distance of her house (now torn down) and then Vashon High School. Graduated twice at Harris Stowe Teacher's College -- initially Vashon High School and then HSTC. Rejecting stereotypes of "ghetto, rat-infested" homes

00:08:00 Reunion every year in neighborhood -- her kids did not believe what she said

about communities until her daughter met the rest of the neighborhood. This area

made her the person she is today; still in contact with many of the people from the

neighborhood today.

00:10:00 Contact with people from her pasts; feelings of reconnecting with people from the

past. Talks about the neighborhood and Mill Creek Valley all the time with

friends, such as Lois Conley. Remembering friends from the neighborhood that

she would meet up with in St. Louis and reminisce all the time

00:13:00 Summertime memories going to get ice cream and men playing dice

00:14:00 Raising kids today is scary, never had that fear growing up. Would walk to the

Public Library on 14th street, two blocks, every two weeks

00:14:30 Summer camps and day camps -- different camps for boys and girls. Great place

to be for children, no one bothered you. Always had to be home by the time the

streetlights came on.

00:15:00 Get dressed up and go to the South Grand side of the bridge to see the boys, later

went to high school with them

00:16:00 Connections with Lois Conley, always talked about the good memories from Mill

Creek Valley

00:17:30 Local influences growing up in the community -- schoolteachers, theater,

Saturdays gave away free groceries, chapter plays (end one week and you'd have

to come back next Saturday to find out what happened), the library

00:20:00 Discussing famous author from the neighborhood --cannot remember name.

Award winning playwright, Janet Jackson was in the movie version

00:22:00 Love for the library

00:22:30 Reasons for becoming a schoolteacher -- great schoolteachers growing up

00:23:00 Learn how to socialize during high school -- relationships, friendships,

classrooms, learning

00:23:30 Siblings -- oldest of five, one brother passed at 18 months. One brother and two

sisters (youngest sister passed December of 2017). Brother is five years younger,

living sister is six years younger. Brother retired from post office. Sister went to O'Fallon Technical High School and worked for insurance companies and management. All retired. Brother went to Sumner High School (first Black high school, Vashon was second). Possible closure of Sumner High School because of finances.

00:26:00 Other areas lived -- raised in Mill Creek Valley, discussed other homes lived in

with her family until she moved in with her husband. Married in '65, stayed all

her life until '58 in Mill Creek area

00:27:30 When noticing the neighborhood changing -- people suddenly moving out and

couldn't figure out why. Lots of the residents weren't homeowners, they rented.

00:29:00 Living in rented houses. Her mom cleaned white people's houses, one family

gave Ruth tap shoes. She used to use the tap shoes upstairs until her dad stole the

tapping part of the shoes out of the shoes because it was too loud; she found the

parts in his toolbox years later

00:30:00 No homeowners, no one could stand their ground and refuse to leave.

Homeowners just sold the buildings without concern for the tenants.

00:31:30 Segregation in restaurants in downtown St. Louis -- had to sit/stand on opposite

side of restaurants like Woolworths. "Reality of the time." Everything they

needed was in Mill Creek, though

00:33:00 Shock from adults after moving -- not sure if parents/adult neighbors were

surprised they had to leave abruptly. Never had the conversation with her parents

about people leaving

00:34:00 Eccentric neighborhood -- everyone afraid of her. "Mailman disappeared when he

came to deliver her mail." Tried to sneak into her backyard one Halloween to see

if there were bodies buried her backyard. Ruth was too scared to go, but no one

saw anything. Her name was Ms. Johnson, used to call her Old Crazy Lady

Johnson.

00:36:00 Something she wished more people knew about the neighborhood -- the sense of

community the neighborhood had. Don't read about intricacies that make a

neighborhood, the neighborhood was a community, and everyone watched over

everyone else. They didn't even lock the doors to their houses. No one talks about

community like how the community actually was.

00:38:30 Memories that resonate the most with growing up in Mill Creek Valley; a family

down the street, the Tatums. Mr. Tatum drank liquor, and so did Ruth's father.

Mr. Tatum wore dress suits every day, and once crawled out of a cab that arrived

at his house one day. He was stumbling and his son had to help him out while

everyone laughed. Recognized her dad crawling out after him from the cab

afterwards

00:41:30 What parts of Mill Creek Valley have remained historically relevant? Harris

Stowe University is still in the area, and the service station is still there on Cardinal and Olive. The community has changed, but some of the buildings are still there, like St. Louis University. Highway 40 decimated the area and none of the residents were expecting highway 40 to destroy everything.

00:44:00 Torn down apartments because of St. Louis University building parking

lots/garages

00:45:00 Meaning of community; it is a sense of comfort, where everything you need is

close to you within walking distance or a phone call. Churches, grocery stories,

neighbors

00:49:30 How has Mill Creek Valley shaped the person you are today? She was raised

around people who always encouraged them to be the best they can be; high

expectations and always striving to live up to those expectations. All of her

teachers knew she would go to college, or that others would go to the military.

Everyone knew they had to do something in order to become successful.

Occasionally heard about people eventually turning to bad things, like drinking

and fight. She noticed this happened when the neighborhoods were destroyed

because everyone lost their community -- they no longer had connections and the

support system.

00:53:00 Commuted to Vashon High School, didn't transfer schools. Noticed others that

did transfer struggled because they were in new environments and had to create

new connections.

00:55:00 Way she talked to her own students; always ask students if they were ready to

Rock 'N Roll in the mornings; would say they needed to speak by the fish tank if

they were having a rough morning. Ruth tried to bring a sense of community to

the classroom and get rid of negative emotions in the mornings before the day

started

00:58:00 Connections to her students, second-generation students--taught the parents and

then the kids

1:01:00 Final closing remarks -- wish they had photographic evidence of the period's

sense of community, but they don't have any photographs

1:05:00 Request to stay in contact once all the Mill Creek Valley oral histories are

recorded so she can hear them

1:06:00 Conclusion -- casual chatter about new car, tattoo appointment, aging, technology