Accessibility Navigation:

Interview with Walter Dial

Dial, Walter
Dial, Lillie
Murphy, Hope
Date of Interview: 
Dial, Walter, 1931-; Anderson, Marian, 1897-1993; King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; Robinson, Jackie, 1919-1972; Isabella Wyche Elementary School (Charlotte, N.C.); Second Ward High School (Charlotte, N.C.); Baptist Training Union; Lincoln Theater (Charlotte, N.C.); Mercy Hospital (Charlotte, N.C.); Western Union Telegraph Company; African American neighborhoods; African American children; Bicycles--Maintenance and repair; Lyceums; Manners and customs; Paperboys; School discipline; School lunchrooms, cafeterias, etc.; North Carolina--Charlotte; North Carolina--Charlotte--Second Ward; North Carolina--Charlotte--Third Ward; North Carolina--Charlotte--Blue Heaven; Interviews (Sound recordings); Oral histories
Walter Dial reminisces about his childhood and youth, growing up in Charlotte’s Third Ward and attending local segregated schools, including Isabella Wyche Elementary and Second Ward High School. Dial relates many anecdotes which conjure a vivid picture of Charlotte’s black neighborhoods, including Third Ward, Brooklyn, Blue Heaven, Cherry, First Ward, and Biddleville. He recalls numerous stores, churches, clubs, theatres, and other businesses that flourished in downtown Charlotte during the post-World War II period.
North Carolina--Charlotte; circa 1940 - 1959
Interview Setting: 
Walter Dial's home, North Carolina--Charlotte
Before Brown Collection
Collection Description: 
These interviews were conducted in conjunction with the Levine Museum of the New South’s award winning exhibit, "Courage: The Carolina Story That Changed America,” which was originally mounted in 2004. The interviews focus on the educational experiences of members of the African American community of Charlotte during the era of segregation.
Interview Audio: 
HM (Hope Murphy): This is Hope Murphy for the UNCC Before Brown Project. Its Wednesday May 12th around 12:15p.m. and I am interviewing Mr. Walter Dial at his home on Saint John Street [phone rings] in Charlotte. Mr. Dial if you could just tell me a little bit about your family, your parents' names and if you had any brothers and sisters.
WD (Walter Dial): Well, my mother's name was Nellie O'Neil, do you want the maiden name or do you want the-?
HM: Um hmm.
WD: She was a Rice.
HM: R-.
WD: R-I-C-E,
HM: C-E. and Nellie, IE- at the end or Y- at the end.
WD: Oh, Nellie.
HM: IE-.
WD: And my father name's it was Walter Dial Senior, I guess I should have been using junior there. Since he's been dead so long I just stopped using it [laughter].
HM: [laughter]
WD: My grandmother on my mother's side was named Minnie McGalwin.
HM: Minnie McGalwin.
WD: Minnie McGalwin, M-I-N-N-I-E.
WD: McGalwin. Cockrin. Oh I'm sorry not Cockrin before Cockrin would be Rice. Then Cockrin her father. She came to Charlotte Mecklenburg as a young girl, infant more or less with her grandmother from Chester County, South Carolina. A town called Blackstock.
HM: Blackstock.
WD: Uh-huh, B-L-A-C-K-S-T-O-C-K. Her father was a plantation owner by the name of, well his last name was McGalwin.
WD: That's were she got that McGalwin name, I forgot his first name.
HM: He was white.
WD: White, he was an Irishman and that's as far back as I can go. Now her husband was Hoszel Rice.
HM: H-O-S.
WD: H-O-S-E-L.
WD: I'm sorry H-O-S-Z-E-L. And when he passed she married again to a Cockrin, James Cockrin.
HM: OK and they lived here?
WD: They lived here in Charlotte.
HM: In Charlotte.
WD: Yes.
WD: That's on my mother's lineage, my father's lineage goes back further. His mother and father, his father's name was Rowland Dial. He was a minister here in Mecklenburg County.
HM: What denomination?
WD: Methodist, he was more or less a circuit type preacher. And his grandmother was named, I mean his mother's name Annie Dial. [pause] That's as far as I can remember.
HM: OK, that's great. Do you have any brothers and sisters?
WD: I have two brothers.
HM: Two brothers, OK.
WD: Next to me is James Dial he lives in Charlotte and born here. The other is Freddie Dial it's F-R-E-D-D-I
HM: D-I-, OK.
WD: E-.
HM: OK and he's also here in Charlotte?
WD: Yes.
HM: And are you the oldest or the youngest?
WD: Yes, I'm the oldest.
HM: Big brother, OK.
WD: Fred is the youngest.
HM: And you don't have children do you?
WD: I have two.
HM: Two, and they are-.
WD: A boy and a girl. The boy his oldest name is Guy, G-U-Y.
HM: G-U-Y.
WD: W initial Dial.
WD: He lives in California.
HM: Oh.
WD: Hawthorne, California to be exact. And a daughter named Deborah, D-E-B-O-R-A-H. I'm trying to get her middle initial named after her mother. I mean, her aunt. She's a B-A-R-R, Deborah Dial-Barr. That's the way she wants to keep the Dial name you know. She lives in Diamond Bar, California.
HM: And Mrs. Dial told me that you-. Well tell me you went to, where did you go to elementary school?
WD: I went to elementary school, I was born and raised in a area called Third Ward. Where the new, the football stadium is located now. It was on Jefferson St., J-E-F-F-E-R-S-O-N St.. That runs through Palmer and then Dunbar. You know how I was born in the house and not a hospital, midwife, raised there in that area on Jefferson St., until I started school in 1936. And I went to Isabella Wyche School. Which was located then on Poplar St., I went there through 6th grade. And was transferred to Second Ward High School.
HM: And you worked as a purchasing agent?
HM: Great, OK.
WD: That was after I went into service.
HM: And you serviced in which branch in the-?
WD: The army.
HM: Army, and what years were you in the army?
WD: 1951 through 53.
HM: OK, were you here during that period in the states?
WD: It was during the Korean War, where I never did go to the battle front.
HM: OK good [laughter].
WD: Very good.
HM: Great, tell me a little bit about Third Ward then.
WD: Third Ward then as a kid?
HM: Yeah, going out there and--.
WD: It was, during the time as a kid. The area that we grew up in it was rural, it wasn't rural. It was unpaved roads, no grass in the yards, and people didn't have that mannerism for taking care of lawns and things like that. We didn't worry about lawns or things like that. We had just about only, we had on the street we was raised on we had families that contributed to the livelihood of the area. Like growing vegetables, fruit trees, and then we had one man that lived near by, sold wood and coal for fuel. And [pause] we would as kids we didn't have like swimming pools or anything like that. So, we would go and get in creeks, find a deep creek to get in just to wade in and just things like that. We would go and slip in on the golf course sometimes and take our clothes off and swim in the ponds there. One day and this did happen that we got caught. The police came and took us all down to the jail house.
HM: Oh no, and this was when you were a small boy?
WD: Yeah, we felt that we could do it. We didn't realize that we were trespassing you know at that time. They did this to learn us a lesson about going on private property. And they wanted to punish us that way and our parents had to come and get us [laughter]. We weren't booked or anything. We had another incident that happened at this park. It's over off of Dilworth, it was over in Dilworth. Oh, what's the name of that park. The word had got out in our little area there that we could go and play in the park.
WD: Swings, the sliding boards, and things like that. It was about 15 of us from our little general area that went over there one day. And we were having a good time, half the police force came.
HM: [laughter]
WD: You know we just ran all directions and I don't think they caught any of us though. But, some of the neighbors saw us out there and complained us being-.
HM: And that's because you were African American children?
WD: Right, that's why we, our different race. So, we never did go back to that. Um the area that as a kid, a youngster it was a unique area in Third Ward at that time. Bound by South Tryon St. and the railroad track, Morehead St. and I'll say to--then it was Gold St. and now it's Summit Ave., in that boundary. We had bakerys, we had a bakery in that area that made cakes, and whatever in the bakery there. We had candy factory, that made candies, we had, we had a hardware there too. A little hardware, we had a baseball park called Warren Field at that time. That was the city baseball park, Warren Field. And as a kid we used to go down there and when they'd hit homeruns we find the ball and use the ball to come back in the game. Sometimes we'd keep the ball and use it to play our game. At that time we had streetcars, the streetcar would come down Mint St. and take people to the ball park.
HM: Was the ball park-?
WD: The ball park was off of Mint St. between Mint St. and the Southern Rail Rd. track.
HM: OK and were black and whites both on?
WD: Well, no they went but, in a different entrance.
HM: Oh.
WD: Different entrance, no even when they built the park over here called Griffin Park that was still segregated. I don't know what year they stopped that but, they used to have a section when they moved the park that Griffin off of South Blvd.. They had a section where blacks could enter and view the game not in the grand stands where the whites were. But, then like I said the uniqueness of our community was where the hospital, the Good Samaritan Hospital. Well let's see big black churches, that's naturally--you are going to have all the churches. The church that I am still affiliated with we say in the next street behind the church, which is we were on Jefferson St. and the church First Baptist West on Church St.. So, I've been a member there now going on about 65 years.
HM: Is the church still there at that location?
WD: No, it moved because of Urban Renewal, it's on Oaklawn Ave.. So, all those churches had to go, all those churches were demolished. And like I say we had the bakeries we had the candies, and we had, there's another. Well, it was a lady she was white that lived on Winnifred St. between Morehead and Church. That little section there was white. And this lady was connected with the farm that had cows so, she would have fresh milk and eggs that you could go and buy from--. You go to the back door and knock on it she would sell it so, we would go down and get our fresh eggs. Then in our areas on just about every corner there was a little grocery store and it had all of the staples that we need but most of them, think all of them were owned by whites.
HM: OK that was my next question.
WD: Yes, they were owned by white. We didn't have any black, only black establishments like that were little smoke-stands, candy stores you know. They would sell pops, sodas, cookies and things like that for a penny or a nickel something like that. My favorite goodies I used to like to buy once I got a nickel I would go and buy--at that time we had--. It was tall. It was a cola. Three cent cola, you pay three cents for it and take the other two pennies and buy peanuts. Yeah, you get the drink and take the top off and then you drink a little out of it. Then you two peanuts put it down in there and then you shake it up.
HM: [laughter] So, the neighborhood was--generally you had blacks and whites on the same side.
WD: Yeah.
HM: OK but, they didn't. Was it segregated block by block? Were there all white blocks?
WD: Well, the uniqueness about that is say for instance--we kind of surrounded some of the whites. They were there first but, as the blacks moved in back in the 20s and early 30s the white maintained their area and naturally their homes were much better quality then we what lived in. And so we were bordered--say about you live over here and I lived over here on this street. But, see we would play together and we would fight together but we didn't play that much. I think we fought more than we played because of how things were back then. But, then we had some friends that were real tight. I know one particular family by the name of Bakers and um they all are dead now. But, they were nice and we would play together. We felt more closer and comfortable with our own race of friends. We would, you know do what kids did back then. Use to play cowboy, bandits, and swing on the trees. And like I said the neighborhood provided us with fruits like you had apple trees, peach trees, and back then we had locus trees. You know what a locus tree look like?
HM: Huh-uh.
WD: It bared a fruit, it's a locus fruit it's long. A certain time of the year once it gets ripe it had something like a, it was a buttery-like substance. A lot of people that knew how to do it they made locus beer out of it.
HM: Oh funny, OK. [laughter]
WD: Locus beer.
HM: I never heard of Locus tree.
WD: Yeah, and of course back there is plums and wild, you know things like that. Our biggest hangout as a kid was the church. Not for the religious part of it but, that was the outlet we had. No television and a lot of us didn't even have radios but, you had programs going on at the church. Especially during the summer months, we called it back then in the Baptist Church, it was BYPU. It was Baptist training now they call it BTU.
WD: Baptist Training Union whereas the kids, it was designed for the kids, and have bible study on that level for the kids. And then they would give you freebee's like candies, sandwiches, and things like that. On Sundays that would take place and during the summer months we would have Vacation Bible School. As boys we would like to go because the girls would go. The girls was going to be there.
WD: And then we had our church picnic. Then we had several churches in the general area and it seems that each church would have their fair after the other one. So, that kept us going a little circle. Then that made us get to know more people, and then we all were going to the same school anyway, as youngsters in elementary school. Then when school start they would go. We had some good--coming up, then they had Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts programs in the church and I was involved in that. That was another outlet for us. So, we stayed out of trouble we didn't get in trouble. We had some kids you know that stayed in trouble, they would steal things and stuff like that. The crime rate wasn't like it is today, it was different people.
HM: [laughter], I didn't ask you what did your parents do for a living?
WD: We did service work, my father he was a chauffeur and my mother did service work, oh no my mother didn't work. My grandmother worked, she did service work. But, my mother she never did work.
HM: Really?
WD: No, it didn't take much to live off of then you know. She didn't never did work.
HM: Did your father enjoy his work? Did he work for a family?
WD: Well, he worked for a family they were the Scotts. They owned, back then it was a drug company. Scott Drug Company and he was the chauffeur for them and plus he also did hotel work and waiter.
HM: Which were good jobs back then right?
WD: Good jobs back then, and like I said it didn't take much. 'Cause you know the house that I was raised up and born in we had fireplaces. In the wintertime everybody would congregate, especially the kids, in the kitchen and we would go on in. Of course the stove, the big old stove would be warm you know for breakfast and everything. That's were we changed our clothes and I got scars on me now where I got to close to the stove putting on my clothes. Yeah, and bathroom was outside, eventually it came to the back porch and then eventually the back porch was enclosed where it wouldn't be just like going outside to the bathroom. Can you imagine that now? You had an outhouse out and then when they attached it to the back porch on one end you didn't have anything protecting you from the elements to get to it. Then as time came we had to enclose that, then it made it a little better going to the bathroom.
HM: I can't imagine that, it must have been cold [laughter].
WD: It was and then you see my chores were to cut wood everyday and kindling for the fires. By being the oldest I had more to do. Then when we got a stove we would burn coal then get coal and bring it in. Coal for the night, for the day. Cut the wood so it was an experience that I will never forget because of that era.
HM: Tell me a little bit about Isabella Wyche.
WD: Alright.
HM: Just about your memories of it, what it looked like?
WD: Well, it was a typical school back then in the 30s and 40s. Whereas you had your entrance from the front door you come in. It ran from grade one through six, and the principal was a woman. And she was a strong individual that looked at you with a mean look and you better do--. Another thing that happened to me when I was a young boy especially in my last year there. I was growing a mustache and she wanted me to, she wanted to think that I had drawn, you know used a pencil and she just couldn't understand it was growing. Just like the time when I went into service, well at the time when I went in service the sergeant told me several times to shave my mustache. I said "I been having it practically all my life", he said "Well its army regulations". But I went to the captain about that and I just didn't want to do it. They kind of let me slide. I never did shave it off.
HM: Causing trouble [laughter].
WD: Yeah, so, but then during that time it was back during the depression era. We got a lot of hand outs for school. We didn't have a cafeteria. The sandwiches were made by the teacher there. We had peanut butter sandwiches, you would get your slice of bread and you cut it in half, a penny a piece.
HM: OK so you would buy your lunch?
WD: You buy-no. Most of us brought it from home. And then they had a cinnamon bun, that they would sell a cinnamon bun for five cents. And then they would slice it and put peanut butter across it and that was six cents. A lot of time, as I was a boy I tell you like I said I used to do devilish things. We would buy the peanut butter sandwiches if I had the money, and put them in my pocket, old dirty pocket. Didn't think nothing of it then and sit in class and pinch off of it.
HM: [laugh]
WD: And didn't think of that old dirty pocket. I had everything you know, old jack knife and stuff like that. I remember one time I came to school, I don't know what year or what class I was in, pocket full of stick matches. And it messed around and it ignited in my pocket.
HM: You're lucky you didn't catch on fire.
WD: Right, I mean you know these kind of pranks you know. Like some kids would bring little pets you know like snakes, little boys, I didn't have those but I did other pranks. I didn't get in any fights because I guess I was chicken.
HM: Speaking of pranks and stuff like that do you remember any--how discipline was given or maintained? Tell me something about a punishment that a kid might get.
WD: Leather strap.
HM: Really, wow.
WD: Back then you know they could discipline you. Each one of these, I got whippings in all the classes.
HM: You did?
WD: Yes and see another thing happened to me. I was doing so bad in my first year that they held me back. I wasn't, everybody would say that I was the teachers pet. Ms. Perry, was my first grade teacher, she held me back a year. And then the next year I got sick. I think it was Typhoid. And I missed a lot of time so I had to redo that so I had two grades I had to make up.
HM: Do you remember that experience while been sick?
WD: Well, I was at home and whatever the remedies that the doctor--, my doctor at that time was Dr. Hokenman his name was Dr. Hokenman. He used to come and do whatever he could during that era.
HM: So, he made house calls? Was he black?
WD: No, he was white. No, I mean black not a white doctor. We had plenty doctors back then, the only way they could practice it was to come to your house. They couldn't go to the hospital, they go to the black hospital. But, I was born in the house my mother didn't go to the hospital. I don't know what stepped up on or what. But, I was born in the house.
HM: How far was your house from school? Did you walk?
WD: I would walk, it was about--. See back then we didn't have as much so we made a lot of short cuts. So, I would say back then it wasn't very far. I would say about two miles. And then did it very, you know they might have--. I would say on the cold winter night--days, snow. I would describe it up to my chest going through the snow. But, see I was small so you know but, I didn't want to stay home. The clothing that we had to wear back then was much thicker then what it is now. The heavy and all and I remember as a boy my mother used to dress me in nickels. We use to wear nickels and long socks, knee socks. I had a by-swing we used to call it by-swing coats. It had a little strap around and then it had pleats in it. Caps like I wear now. Then another incident happened when I was a kid. When the clothing we used to call them stove pipe pants. I don't know if you ever heard of that or not. They were the short pants that's all. We called them stove pipe. You had to be a big boy to wear some long pants you know. One Sunday my mother sent me to church and dressed me up went to go to church. This was during the summer months, and I refused to go in. I said "I'm a big man", I say "I ain't going into that church". I stood on the outside of the church just listening at the preaching. Rev. Moore at the time was the minister and he was preaching. The windows were up because we didn't have no air conditioning or anything in the church. And um I was standing there and a lizard went up my leg. A lizard went up my leg.
HM: [laughter]
WD: I shook and I hollered and I shook. And I think he just you know and he came out and then after that I went on in the church and sat down then. That was, pranks and things that went on you know.
HM: Did you like school?
WD: I liked school, my teachers were great and I enjoyed my teachers. I think that as I got older I got to enjoy it much better. The things we would do. The teachers that I had were great. They are all dead now naturally. But I enjoyed it. I was prepared when I left Isabella Wyche to go to Second Ward. I was prepared to go to the next grade which was the seventh grade. But the only thing that frightened me was over there with all those big kids because that was seven through twelve. And it was further away. I had to go pass one white school which was Alexander Graham at that time. It was located on the corner of Morehead and South Blvd.. But, it didn't bother me with the school buses passing by. But like I said you had kids coming from all areas and would meet on the way to school.
HM: You walked to Second Ward?
WD: Yes.
HM: How far do you think that was at that-?
WD: Well at that time you were going from Third Ward to Brooklyn and I would say maybe five, six, or seven miles something like that.
HM: Each way?
WD: Uh-huh
HM: And you walked everyday?
WD: Yes, yes we did.
HM: Do you remember how long that took you?
WD: Well, we would leave home I don't know exact time but, when school started. We were there on time, we were there on time. And then as I got older when I was in the ninth or tenth grade I played football. I joined the team, wanted to show my manhood you know. And at that time we did not have a practice field at Second Ward we practiced out there on the school grounds. At that time we had coal burning furnace, for to heat the school. And the janitor at that time, it was down in the basement. When he would get the ashes out he would bring them out on the grounds and scatter them around out there on the ground. That was the same area we would play football in. I wanted to be a running back so, when those big boys hit me I'm laying there just "Oh, Lord Have Mercy". I wanted to join but see that made me want to be great when I was on the football team. The girls were you know. I was too short for basketball so, when we would play our games we would have to walk from Second Ward to Memorial Stadium. You know where Memorial Stadium is now?
HM: Sure.
WD: We would walk now Second Ward is where, you know where Metro School is now? You know where the Charlotte Aquatic?
HM: Sure, right.
WD: You know the school board office building? Well across the street from it is that building where the Metro Building is still standing there. They take in the handicapped kids. Well that used to be the gym for Second Ward before they tore the schoolhouse down. We would walk from there to where Memorial Stadium is now, over there at Central Piedmont.
HM: Wow! And when you went to those games did you play other black schools or-?
WD: Yeah, no white only black schools. We would walk all the way over there with our uniforms on and then walk back after the game.
HM: After the game, after you used, all that energy that's funny [laughter].
WD: Right and you go through Brooklyn at that time. Brooklyn was standing and you go down the First St. to McDowell St., McDowell St. to 4th St., 4th St. down to where you cross over to get to the Memorial Stadium.
HM: So, all that walking around you're doing. I'm assuming you're running into some white kids. You're seeing white school buses.
WD: Yes, yes.
HM: Tell me a little bit about that. Did you ever think you know well maybe it's not fair that they have school buses or did it seem like that was the way it had always been?
WD: Well, see Central High we would go right by Central High School, which is right there where Central Piedmont is now. Central High School. And the uniforms that we were using came from Central High School, they were hand-me-downs.
HM: Oh the football uniforms?
WD: Everything-yeah.
WD: Everything back then was hand-me-downs from the white schools. The books, the furniture and everything. And so, we would go by. Yeah, they would pick at us.
HM: Really?
WD: Uh-huh, sure.
HM: Would they say racial things to you?
WD: Not, too bad. No, it wasn't too bad, if it did I can't recall any incident that took place. The trouble I had was when I went to North Charlotte. As a youngster I think I was around 14. The summer months I would work at then it was Western Union delivering telegrams. I had a bicycle that I made. I couldn't afford to buy one. My parents couldn't buy one so I made it.
HM: You made it from?
WD: From scratch, I'd buy a wheel over there, a wheel from over there, and a frame from over there. And I made it and I made it go. And then the chain was the key, the nucleus of it you know. Good chains makes the--. So the Western Union at that time was on the corner of 3rd and Tryon St. at the Wilder building. WBT was up on the second floor and Western Union was on the first floor. Anyway we would get telegrams to deliver to North Charlotte. North Charlotte was all white. They had a school over there called Technical High School, it's gone now. All white, which is all black now, I used to have to deliver telegrams over there and that was frightening because of the racial situation.
HM: Tell me what north, what was considered north. Because I think of like the university, is that not--.
WD: North is let me see, it would be northwest, northeast of Tryon St..
HM: What they call Noda now?
WD: Well, it's not that far up but Noda is not as far as Noda, that's North Davidson St. and area. Its several blocks back this way going towards the plaza. It's the plaza coming over to North Brevard St. down to Cecil Ave.. You got Pegram St., you got Allen. You got all those little streets over there.
HM: So, was it mainly middle class white folk?
WD: Trash.
HM: OK so like mill families.
WD: Yeah trash. And see they had mills over there in that area. You had mills so a lot of them worked over there in those mills.
HM: So, would they pick on you? Are would they-?
WD: Oh yes.
HM: Tell me what--.
WD: But, now no fights but, racial slurs. And then when my chain would break my pant's leg would get catch in the chain and the chain would break the leg. I mean the chain would break no repair kit, I had to push it all the way back. So, you go, it didn't it was summertime 'cause I was in school during the winter. In the summertime everybody was sitting out on the porch so, you could imagine what it was like. It was something I would be so scared. Cause they didn't physically harm you but, the slurs and all. I had a problem with that.
HM: Now were these young people or older people?
WD: Young and old.
HM: Oh, goodness. So, tell me about you get to high school and what was your favorite subject? Don't say football.
WD: History and geography, I think I could handle it. I think the reason why I liked that was they did a lot of film about it. And I liked to read and current events and things of that nature. My hardest subject was trigonometry.
WD: And the arithmetic, I still have problems with that, struggle with that right now.
HM: [laughter]
WD: Shop, we had a shop were we could do things with our hands and that was great. I liked that, we had a drafting class. You learned how to draw for architecture. Biology, it was OK.
HM: And so, in all those classes you had sort of hand-me-downs from the white schools.
WD: Yes, yes. Materials and things like that, we had a dual system at that time. We had two superintendents. We had a white superintendent that was in charge of black schools and rural schools. We had a superintendent in charge of the city schools. City schools were all white. Yet, the black schools was in the city.
HM: How interesting, OK.
WD: You understand what I'm saying?
HM: Right, exactly.
WD: Old Man Wilson was in charge of all black schools.
HM: All black schools and all rural schools.
WD: Mr. Garinger was in charge of the city schools and they were all white.
HM: Interesting.
WD: Wilson was a mean old man he, like I said we got the hand-me-downs from the white schools. Uniforms, desk, books, everything.
HM: So, you would have graduate in late 40s, early 50s?
WD: I was supposed to graduate in 48 but I graduated in 50.
HM: So, class of 50. That's getting towards, and then we will go back. So I want to hear more about activities and stuff at school because that's fun. But this about the time of the Board vs. The Board of Education and the decision came in 54. Were there any, do you remember any feelings of political, was there any rumblings. Were people saying this isn't fair? Do you remember any of that? Parents maybe, fighting for better amenities?
WD: Well, at that time I was married.
HM: OK but before when you were still in high school.
WD: When I was still in high school. Let's see, well when I was in high school we had political machines going on at that time. We had blacks running for political offices.
HM: Oh really, OK.
WD: They never could get there because the white machine would get another black person to run against.
HM: Oh, to split the vote.
WD: And it split the vote. So, we never did get anywhere like that. Not until Fred Alexander, I forgot what year he won, got on the city council. I forgot what year it was. And that was through a shot gun vote.
HM: What's a shot gun vote?
WD: Where everybody votes for one party, one person. That's the only way we could do it. All the blacks pulled their votes together and voted for one. We didn't have the precincts we have now so, it was easier to get it in. He stayed in until he went to become a senator for us. We had a funeral home operator back then ran by Mr. Grier, Arthur Grier he wanted to run on the city council. And the whites would get a man. We used to call him his name was I forgot his first name. Well, his first name was Bishop Dele, D-E-L-E. They would get him to run against Grier to split the votes. And we would always lose. But, we didn't realize a lot of this within the school because we had provisions. Second Ward did for all things that we had you know we would hear the teachers gripping maybe because we wanted new books and we would get old books. We had an auditorium that could be transformed into a gymnasium to play games basketball, take the chairs out. We would go off campus then we'd run up on some of the problems that you want to hear about. Like go downtown shopping.
HM: Can you tell me about that?
WD: There was a store there on the corner of Trade and Tryon by the name of Crests. We couldn't use the lunch counter to eat. They would sell us popcorn and they would sell us ice cream but we couldn't eat it in there. We had to take it out.
HM: Did you have a separate line to go through?
WD: I think it was a separate line I believe. In other restaurants and places like that there was a separate line. Back door.
HM: Oh, OK you came in the back door.
WD: But, they were more or less cafes. More the cafes. But then in the department stores they--the food a lot of them didn't serve you. Then they had cafeterias downtown like Piccadilly's and S & W. We couldn't go but we worked. Pot washers and stuff like that.
HM: Oh, OK but, not at the counters.
WD: No, couldn't go any counters, nothing like that. So, whenever we had events, now we had during that time when I was in school we had a home economics class, where girls learned to cook. And so, to be homemakers. So, sometimes when we had events where we had food they would, cause then when I got to Second Ward they were getting ready to open up a cafeteria. They made room for a cafeteria. When I first got there they didn't have anything like that. I saw a good chance to for me to get involved with it by working in the cafeteria and I got to eat free.
HM: Oh, OK.
WD: Washing dishes.
HM: Oh funny so, did a lot of students work in there?
WD: Yes, yes
HM: And you got free lunch?
WD: Free lunch.
HM: [laughter], was the food good?
WD: Oh, very good, very good.
HM: That's good, talk about some of the other activities you did there. Did they have clubs or-?
WD: Yes, we had some of the fellows established social clubs, I was involved in one called the Duke's, D-U-K-E'S. We were sophisticated like you know we would hang out together we would have our regular monthly meetings and things like that. We would, very popular at that time, and even some of the girls had their own groups. And then there was another group of boys got together you know they didn't want to be outdone. So, they formed there but, it was several groups. But, then when we had dances and special proms and so on.
HM: Those were held in the school or in the gym?
WD: Proms, in the gym. Now we didn't have a gym for a long time. We didn't get the gym, I think we got the gym about my junior year in school. Gym came about.
HM: So the late 40s.
WD: Most people playing basketball, most of the schools didn't have a gym and they would play basketball on the outside. Second Ward was an upstanding school here in Charlotte and then when they built West Charlotte that was our rival. Cross town rival. And they built West Charlotte they put a gymnasium where they could play basketball. Some of the other black schools at that time were rural like Torrence Lytle, J.H. Gunn, Plato Price, Sterling. They didn't have gymnasium they had to play on the outside.
HM: So, if there were a basketball game how did people get there? Did they--?
WD: They didn't have that much competition, no contest like that. They didn't have until a gymnasium was established and then we would, Second Ward built the first one.
WD: And then they would have tournaments and they would all come there and play. I got involved in it by being a team--being with the team--for water boy or whatever you know. Got involved with it, that's where Second Ward would have the county tournament. Because all the other schools didn't have anything like that.
HM: So, there was a basketball team, a football team, was there a baseball team?
WD: Track.
HM: Track.
WD: And baseball.
HM: Baseball.
WD: I played baseball.
WD: Yeah I got a scar there playing baseball.
HM: Were you any good?
WD: We used to play down at Pearl St.. You know where Pearl St. Park is now? You know where, this place there in Charlotte town now. Its an eating establishment they own a-- restaurant on Kenilworth. Across from Charlotte town mall--.
HM: Oh, I know Sundries or something.
WD: Yes Sundries, Midtown Sundries. Well just off from Pearl St. Park. They used to be all black in there.
HM: What kind of black neighborhood was it in?
WD: That was part of Brooklyn.
WD: It had another name too it called Blue Heaven.
HM: Blue Heaven, was it poor or was it mixed?
WD: Yeah, yeah poor. See it was established to benefit the white owners there on Morehead St., Dilworth for the servants to live so they could walk close to the jobs. That's how Blue Heaven came about.
HM: So, the groups at school you said you were the Duke's and they were more popular. How did groups kind of form? Did they form around were you lived or what color you were?
WD: No, it came about I think by hanging together. For instance, I lived in Third Ward. We didn't have any clubs but, the clubs were established by the boys that lived in First Ward. First Ward was at that time McDowell St. to Davidson, no College to the railroad track that would be the railroad track. We had two different railroads then. Anyway that's the way it was and then those kids they hung together. After school they hung together, then on sunday they you know so they formed their little clubs and then they would invite the guys they liked. Which I was a popular, I wasn't all that popular but I carried myself in a way that they would like for me to be a member of the club.
HM: So, you dressed well I mean-.
WD: Yeah, proper dress wear, clean, and then I didn't have a problem getting around Charlotte at all when I was going to school. I met friends easy and I didn't bother. Some of the guys probably disliked other guys, used the term "hitting on their girls". That mean that created a little friction there but, I didn't do and if I did I did it sneaky [laughter].
HM: Did you have a girlfriend in high school?
WD: Yea, she lived in the community of Cherry. Now Cherry is a different area, that's over there near Queens Rd.. It ran from 4th St. east to Morehead east and bound by Charlotte Town Mall. You know where Charlotte Town Mall is now? You know where that Sundries is I just mentioned?
HM: Right, the one across the street.
WD: Yeah, well that area east of it, go up the hill there. All that area there it used to be and it still is called Cherry. And it's a buffer there, and they talked to me yesterday about this. The lady said "Well I guess they are going to do away with Cherry because the houses that are left." I said "They won't do away with Cherry because Cherry is a buffer for the rich folk and poor folk down there." So, that was put there also for the same purpose for the servants.
HM: But, they still black folk that lived there.
WD: In Cherry.
HM: Up there right near kind of go up towards Randolph or is that not--?
WD: Randolph you could say but, it's before you get to Randolph. But see Randolph starts there at Presbyterian Hospital, that's 4th St..
HM: OK, right.
WD: Then you got your Queens Rd. there and the other side of Queens Rd. will come uptown and all that area is Cherry. Cherry was established the same way Brooklyn was for the rich folks.
HM: I didn't know that was Cherry, I happened upon it one day. I was like where did these folks come from?
WD: Yeah, that's what it's for and it's still there as a buffer. And it is going to be there because that's the dividing line there between blacks and whites, Queens Rd.. Brooklyn the same way [phone rings].
HM: You were going to tell me about your girlfriend? She lived in Cherry.
WD: She was in Cherry, her name was Gertrude at that time. Back then back in the 40s skating was a popular thing.
HM: Ice skating, roller skating?
WD: Roller skating, streets wasn't full with traffic like it is now and you didn't have a lot of cars, the cars they had were slow. As boys living in Third Ward cars come by and we would catch them. And cars would pull us they were going that slow. It was a daring situation though. I can't recall anybody ever getting hurt by it. Then during the Christmas season we would get skates for Christmas. Put the skates on, one of the worst whipping I ever had was my mother. I got a pair of skates, and a pair of new shoes for Christmas, I put my shoes on in the skates and went skating. She came out there, she had a broom. In front of my friends.
HM: How old were you do you think?
WD: I probably was about 10 or 12 something like that, and she beat me all the way home. That was embarrassing, those shoes she done work hard, she didn't work but, I mean you know. So, we would get on these skates and we would go from one section into the white I mean into the black section. We would leave Third Ward and we would come over in this area which was called Billingsville at that time. It was a one street that we would skate on, all the other streets just weren't comfortable for us.
HM: Were they not paved or-?
WD: They were paved just that Carmel St. at that time was the best street to skate on. It wasn't all that long, we would skate down there and then leave there and we would go. Now that's a distance from Third Ward, kind of over here in the Johnson C. Smith area. Right near Johnson C. Smith and then we would go to Cherry. We'd start at 4th St. and Baldwin Ave.. That's a long stretch, we never do it more than once because then we leave there go up Morehead St. and come back to Third Ward. There wasn't anything in Greenville at that time that we would skate. Billingsville, Cherry, Baldwin Ave., and Third Ward, Church St., and Palmer St.. But I used to go over there I remember, on Christmas I bought her a necklace for Christmas. I was ashamed to go to her house. I wasn't afraid there were three of us. And see we go now, here OK I was over there in a different area. These boys they knew me but, see I'm over there messing with one of their girls. I got enough, I got enough, what I want to say? Feeling you know where I could go and knock on the door and give her the Christmas present. She's still living but, we went together for quite awhile and there was others that lived in Third Ward but, she was the farthest away. I used to enjoy that. And then during school time we would hang out together you know.
HM: So, she went to Second Ward?
WD: Yes, she went to Second Ward also. She was a year younger, a class lower than I was. But, we had fun then there was other girls. Then my prom date she's dead now. I never will forget they had a club it was three of us, where there was three couples of us. One of the fellows of our group he was from Africa and his date was one of my classmates and she's dead also and I think he's dead. This other fellow he is still living but we went to a club that prom night something we'd never done before.
HM: After the prom?
WD: Yea, after the prom. We didn't know what to do when we got in the club.
HM: [laughter], do you remember the name of the club?
WD: Yea, the club was Club Sundae.
HM: Sundae
WD: S-U-N-D-U-E, I think it is. Just like a-.
HM: Ice cream.
WD: Ice Cream Sundae.
WD: It was over near the railroad track on Third Ward, Hill St..
HM: What was it like?
WD: Well, it was decorated up nice, the guy of the place. It was an old run down building that the guy fixed up on the inside to make it look presentable. Street chairs, tables, piccolos were you could dance. He had it fixed up the lights low you know [laughter].
HM: OK they served alcohol?
WD: Oh yeah, it was a club, it was a private club.
HM: Did you drink it?
WD: I don't know I might have got drunk. I don't know. That's been some years ago, we probably did, we probably drank the beer. During that era, during that time in Charlotte on Graham St. the building I think the building was torn down. We had a place it was called Charlotte Atlantic Ice, Beer and Ice Company. It was on Graham St., up the street from the football stadium going towards 4th St. and they made a beer by the name of Atlantic Beer. It was called Atlantic Beer NL and it was very popular in the black neighborhood because it was strong, a couple of them would knock you out. So, my senior year in high school this place across the street from the club where a lot of people hang out called J.C. Graham Sundrie. That word was used a lot back then identifying a place as sundrie. He sold beer and sodas also so, older guys and people would hangout there. Since I was graduating I thought I was the man you know so, I tried to smoke. At that time cause my father smoked and I think he was smoking Lucky Strikes at that time. And then there were Phillip Morris, Campbell's, and I believe those are the only two, three major ones. I think one of those I tried to smoke so, anyway this particular day this was near the end of the school year, graduating. I would go to J.C. couple of us guys go over there and see what we could do. Go over there get our Atlantic L smoke a cigarette and put ashes in the beer. You ever heard of that, concussion?
HM: Why?
WD: [Umm]
HM: Why?
WD: Get high.
HM: Oh [laughter]
WD: [laughter]
HM: Get sick.
WD: Yeah, that's right. That's what happened I got sick. Came back to school stumbling.
HM: Oh no, funny.
WD: Yeah but that was, you know look back on it--.
HM: Did you have a best friend?
WD: Yeah, he's dead. His name was Jimmy Clark. We were good friends from childhood up. We would hang together, we would go to each other's house, set at the table and eat, wore each other's clothes. We would stand up for each other in case we get in altercations. Now he had a girlfriend lived in Greenville area, now see he was one that liked to fight. He wouldn't back off but, I see would I was chicken. We were over in Greenville one time, Greenville is over here off Oaklawn Ave. in that area, Statesville Rd., and over in that area. Fairview homes were big at that time, they're sort of torn down now and he had a girlfriend there. We first had to duck in to see the girls and then see there was another girl there to that I liked too you know. Cause you try to have a girl in ever area you go. This particular day, it was evening Jimmy and I went to go see the girls. We were as we saw the girls at the house, we decided to go home well in the backyards back then all the back yards had clothes line, hang clothes up. These boys saw us so they started running us, we running through the project there and Jimmy messed around there and hit one of those clothes line back there. I kept on running.
HM: [laughter].
WD: [laughter] I kept on running cause I said, we had to run. Because we didn't use transportation and there weren't that much of transportation. We didn't have the money so we walked. But JimmyI saw him the next day he was hurting [laughter]. But I ran out of there, we laughed it off cause we young and we could withstand the pain and everything like that. We got a chance to see the girls but and then there was another time in Brooklyn. They had a picture show, we called it picture show then which was a theater called Lincoln Theatre, it was on Second St.. On Second St. between Brevard and Caldwell, Lincoln Theater. We couldn't go but, on Saturdays.
HM: Now you couldn't go-.
WD: We couldn't go because we didn't have the money. Parents would give us the money 25 cents to go. We would take that 25 cents stay almost all day see it over and over again. To get there most the time we would come up Tryon St. to Second and go down Second St.. At that time railroad tracks they had several tracks you had to cross over to get to Brevard St. because that was the main line for trains. There also was a lot of freight trains going and coming. We had another friend of ours get killed one day going to the theater. The train stopped and blocked the traffic and he--Bruno was his first name. He didn't want to wait so he climbed up and crossed over.
HM: Climbed up over the train?
WD: You know yeah, were they connected together. Just as he got up there, it jerked, the train and knocked him off and it ran over him.
HM: Oh, my goodness. How old was he?
WD: He probably was around nine or ten years old.
HM: Oh my goodness.
WD: James Bruno, was his name James Bruno? His sister died later. But, anyway we would go that route to get to the theater. The boys that lived in Brooklyn like I said I didn't have much trouble with them. The mean ones would meet us and take our money away from us. A lot of times we would stick our money in our mouth, you know we didn't think about dirty and stuff like that. And wanted to know where our money was and stuff like that, "We ain't got no money." Sometimes they would take our money and we couldn't go to the show. Go ahead.
HM: Was it all black theatre?
WD: Yes, all black.
HM: Black owners do you remember?
WD: Well black managed, I'm pretty sure it was white owned. Black managed. It showed second rated movies and there was a theater during that time in Billingsville which was called the Graham Theatre. The building is still standing there across the street-.
HM: Right, right.
WD: Now, it supposed to be historical. It showed a little bit better class movies and a little more expensive because of the people that lived over there were upper class. All the teachers, and the principals, and the professional people lived over there at that time. Beatties Ford Rd., the doctors, lawyers, teachers, they taught at Second Ward and some of the other schools but they lived over here.
HM: Did you ever visit any of your teachers or did they ever visit you at home?
WD: Well those that lived near were I lived I did. Like I told you I was teacher's pet. So, I could go, I'd get freebies, ice cream and stuff like that.
HM: What do you think was the most important quality to you in a teacher then? I mean was the prettiest teacher the favorite or-?
WD: I think the one that gave me the most was my favorite. It didn't matter the pretty teacher. I mean all boys had fascinations about the teachers especially the pretty ones you know. So, I did have that.
HM: So, you were getting toward, you had your prom, you were getting ready to graduate. Tell me a little bit about what you thought you'd do after and what you ended up doing? And what you thought maybe the careers that were opened up to you as an African American young man in the 50s?
WD: My desire at that time, see another thing I was doing, no I wasn't. My desire was to go to medical school. I wanted to go to medical school I wanted to be a doctor. And I wanted to go to A&T, North Carolina A&T College. Those were my desires, scholarships wasn't available back then, it didn't cost much but, my parents didn't have the monies. At that time nowhere I could go so, what happened? I did the wrong thing, I got married.
HM: Oh, OK.
WD: And we've been married ever since.
HM: [Laughter] And you're blessed cause you're a wonderful couple.
WD: Well see, it wasn't her. I married my first wife she died. That's who my kids is by the first wife.
HM: Oh, OK. So, where did you meet her?
WD: In Charlotte, and she went to A&T, so we had two kids.
HM: Had she graduate from A&T?
WD: No, she didn't get to graduate. My real interest was in going to medical school.
HM: And you felt like--.
WD: I wanted to be a doctor but I just didn't see no way going financing myself.
HM: Did your teachers encourage that?
WD: Well, they didn't know my desire at the time. I didn't express myself at that time.
HM: Did anybody tell you were teachers in general encouraging? Are did they maybe tell kids what they thought they could or could not do?
WD: Well I don't think they said it that way. Cause you know most of the teachers back during that school time would tell you, you could do anything you want to do if you put your mind to it. So, it wasn't that you were going to do so many things. We did notice that, those that were going to school were coming out as teachers and preachers. It wasn't anything else open for any professional field. If you were you were lucky to get something else other than preaching and teaching. And I definitely didn't want to be one of those. So, I started working at Mercy Hospital and I think that help me also to see I what I would like to be. Because been around medical facilities and seeing all the sickness and everything.
HM: What were you doing at Mercy?
WD: At the time, when I first started I was working in housekeeping. Then I got in the X-ray department, I worked in the X-ray department.
HM: Doing what?
WD: As an attendant and um I think the doctor the radiologist there was interested in me and I was expressing myself about that. Then the army called me and that's how I got in the army. When I got out, I went back because the jobs still was kind of tight. Nowhere to live you had to live with you in-laws, we didn't have any like they have now like apartments, homes to purchase you know things like that. So, jobs were very few, I think were people were getting on at the post office. Post office was the best thing going for a person back then, that didn't have a college degree.
HM: So, that was a good job with good benefits.
WD: Good benefits, good job at that time. I tried a few times but, I never could get a good qualifying score. That was discouraging, later on in my early married life, University Park right up here they were beginning to build that area up for homes, for low income around $9000 and less than $50 a month payment. So, I went over and talked to the representative about purchasing one.
HM: I'm sorry let me just stop the tape cause this is the end and I have to put in another tape. This is tape 2 of the Walter Dial interview for the Before Brown project on the 12th of May 2004, Hope Murphy is doing the interview. Your first year out of school and you joined the army.
WD: And came back.
HM: You joined or you were drafted?
WD: Drafted, no I didn't want to join because I had a family.
LD (Lillie Dial): That's the one.
HM: I think that's great, I love those pictures.
LD: See, what I'm doing it's not going to be a book like this.
HM: Yours is going to be great. I'm sorry oh, we were saying you wanted to be a medical doctor. But, you went to work for Mercy, joined the Army.
WD: Then when I was discharged I went back to the hospital to work because there weren't any jobs. I didn't have a profession when I came out the service. Some of the guys were lucky enough to get involved in something in service that they could come out in civilian life and continue that work. But, I didn't so, then I had a family. I had to stay with my in-laws because there weren't anywhere else to stay. Then later on University Park project came about where you could buy a home. They were very cheap at that time and so I made a down payment I forgot how much it was I think it was about $300 I think or may not been that much. This was in 1955, 56 something like that. After the house was completed, I went up to look at the house. I didn't like the way it was built. Because it was concrete floor and of course a lot of house now got concrete floors but they also got hardwood floors. They had asphalt tile all over. The heating system was in the hall, you had to leave your doors open to keep warm you know. So, I didn't like that floor, 30 years to pay for that.
HM: Right.
WD: The house didn't cost but $950. So, I just got my money back, didn't like it. Nothing came about so, I stayed there. I started living in Brookhill apartments that's down South Charlotte. And my first wife she got sick and she died.
HM: So, you were left with the children by yourself?
WD: Yeah.
HM: My goodness.
WD: That what happened on that era. Then of course Nellie and I we met in 1961.
HM: Where did you meet?
WD: At her house.
HM: What were you doing at her house?
WD: Friends of ours got us together. They brought me. She goes around telling people that I was her Christmas present because it was on Christmas day, Christmas night these friends of ours hooked us up.
HM: I just have one more question. And that is you're involved with the Second Ward Alumni Association and I know that's a very, they own their own house.
WD: I think the house came about through, we had connected with the Arts and Science Council. They through a grant keeps the house alive.
HM: Oh, really, that's great. So, what do you think accounts for that, that people are still really interested in keeping that alive and keeping together? Why do you think that was so important to everyone that those experiences there, that 40, 50, 60 years later they're still excited about Second Ward. What made Second Ward?
WD: Well if you look back on some of the pictures and movies that have been made on it. We used to have some grand times back years ago then in Second Ward, a lot of memories. Some of it was cataloged put in books, in pictures, so by having a place where all this can be in archives we can go back and reflect on this. Have you ever been there? We've got books on classes of each year, and you go back reminiscing. And then a lot of the classes those that are still alive are still meeting, they have class meetings. Just like my class we still meet.
HM: That's amazing.
WD: We had our 50th anniversary back here several years ago and we had a banquet. We rented the Urban League Building, where we had our banquet. We had about, I think our class, we had a large class the year we graduated something like 115 people graduated that year. I think a little over half of those people came to our graduating and some of them I haven't seen since I graduated which was great. Then you compare looks so you know that. Some "Wow" and some looked so bad. And since then some of them died and then we had a lot of them, to lose a lot of them before the 50th anniversary. I was fortunate to be president of the class at that time so, we had a wonderful time reminiscing and going over pictures, photos were taking back during that time, special events, and all. Talking about teachers and incidents that happened during that school year at Second Ward, it was great.
HM: Do you think that in some way that you were being in that, in spite of being segregated that kind of being around other black folk. Do you think that pride that you got somehow helped you in life? Are do you ever think about that experience?
WD: It taught us a lot of how to love each other and look out for each other and do for each other as life as it is. Once we leave our little area and go out into the big world that's where the problems come in. We don't know about the outside of Second Ward. We don't know about that. Just like when you first go off to school your first year it's a strange place and you don't know anyone unless you carried a school mate with you. And then you are tighter but, when you leave Second Ward family and you go away on the other side of town or anything like that, you don't feel close. You don't feel that comradery that we have when we were at school. And this is one the reasons why we have this here archives is because we can go there and feel and see some of the pictures, principals, some of the teachers, some of the events that took place just like you said. We had one year that I was there, Martin Luther King came to speak. Jackie Robinson when he became a baseball player. Notable people. Marian Anderson, things like that.
HM: Really!
WD: Uh-huh.
HM: So, they brought those people in for assemblies to-?.
WD: Lyceum programs.
HM: I'm sorry
WD: Lyceum is that the way you--?
HM: Oh, OK.
WD: For, culture.
HM: So, that must really have instilled a lot of pride in you--.
WD: Sure.
HM: And that you could do anything if you--.
WD: You could do anything.
HM: That's amazing.
WD: We had plays, we had brought in professional people came in. So, we were in a world our own at the school. The problem we had was when we had to go off campus to do things. I remember an incident as a football team. We played a team down in Camden, South Carolina.
HM: How did you get there?
WD: By bus.
WD: I forgot what kind of bus it was. Now this was back in the 40s and we got down there early so, we just mingled around the school there. Some of the fellows were kind of hungry and wanted something to eat so we went to this nearby store at that time. It was a white owned store. I never will forget this, only a few of us had money. The school would feed us after the game or before the game. Anyway this boy, went down there and he picked up a box of crackers. He asked the white store owner, how much are these crackers? He jumped all over that boy. He was going to get some cheese and crackers, hook cheese. He jumped all over that boy by using that word.
HM: Cracker, oh funny. So, what was he supposed to call them, oh isn't that funny.
WD: So, we were high school boys and we knew we were in the South. Further south then where we were and this happened so we felt not wanted, not accepted so, we left because the guy didn't like the way the term we used. So, we didn't mess with anybody. So, that instilled in us, we traveled to Asheville, Raleigh, but, it wasn't often to play in games but, that was one incident I remember. Getting back to the Alumni house I go down there a lot because a friend is a care taker down there, I go down there and talk with him. I can't find my yearbook of the school when I graduated, I don't know what happened to it but, I do have a class picture. So many of those people are dead now.
HM: If the library had an interest I know they do have interest. Could we scan it and make a copy for the archives?
WD: Well the archives has it--.
HM: No, for the Special Collections Archives at UNCC, no not taking it today.
WD: Well I can put my hand on it. Like I say we had a lot of, we had May Day. You ever experience that in school?
HM: No, I saw a picture of Biddleville's May Day.
WD: That's a big event, you know it's just like Christmas Play, Christmas something. The whole school participated on our side, and dressed up and things like that. I never will forget that when I was going to Second Ward I was on the school patrol I thought that was something else. You had your little strap and you had a badge. I was somebody. I got to get a chance to get in class late that day. You know cause I had to get out there and direct traffic and stuff like that. Yeah I was somebody.
HM: I love that, that's great [laughter]. Any closing thoughts or--.
WD: My years at Second Ward I treasure, the memories are so many of them. Some of them escape me now, some of the incidents but, I would not trade them for anything for what I learned from Second Ward. I use that word again comradery because there's nothing like going to school to get a degree or certificate saying that you graduated. Looking back on it just like the other day I ran up--. I was in Mississippi the other day and I saw a fellow that went to school with me. He was on the bus with me. It's been so long he say "Ain't your name Walter Dial"? And I said "Yeah" and he told me who he was. He lived right across the street from the school and I had forgotten. So we talked and brought back memories about there at the school. You had see Second Ward. Second Ward sitting here. Across the street over here was the funeral home Grier's Funeral Home. Across the street was a white grocery store. Over here another white grocery store. Grocery stores was plenty and service stations back then during that time. You had a service station on ever corner and grocery stores. The grocery stores didn't have to be all that big what they had was bread, meat, canned goods, what vegetables was available and they made it. Everybody made a profit. But one of the ways at that time I didn't particular care about it but, I see now that I hated was that all those business like that were white owned, the grocery stores. And the funeral home was black owned. But, all the grocery store were white owned in a black neighborhood, and they got along they didn't get robbed. 'Cause a lot of people respected them because they ran tabs on time. But they made a profit they made a living and then it was time to close up they would close up lockup and get in their car and go to other side of town. Nobody bothered them. You wouldn't do that today though. I really got a lot out of going meeting people living in various areas of Charlotte and seeing some of them now reminiscing about Second Ward then, that means a lot.
HM: Have they done well general?
WD: Yes, yes professionally yes. [phone rings] You got your doctors, lawyers, you know professional people. During industries that wasn't available back then, chemists. Jobs are more plentiful now and open too. Business people are beyond, what business back then we had long shots and book making, selling alcohol illegal, they were making money. Pool halls was making money because it was a means of recreation. We were very fortune in the city of Charlotte to have a black hospital, very fortunate. No service station, well we had maybe two, two black owned service stations in the city of Charlotte. One was Phillip Steed up here, Stenson's. And the other one was over in Brooklyn. Gas was very cheap at that time. We had black owned cabs 10 cents a ride, "Where you want to go?" The funny thing about when I was a kid, the city of Charlotte hired white men to pick up garbage, you don't see that now.
HM: No, [laughter] you don't see that now.
WD: White men used to pick up garbage.
HM: Interesting, even in the black neighborhood.
WD: Uh-huh, all black neighborhood.
HM: That's interesting.
WD: And I know we use to have, of course we had a black man that used to come around selling ice for your ice box. He came from a white-owned ice company but, it was a black man hauling it in a black neighborhood. Black wood yards, coal yards. What else? [pause]. Well, I was told see, I used to interview people. I don't know what they have on that tape. I interviewed a man. He's dead now. About black businesses in Third Ward. We used to have a black-owned construction company that built some of the buildings downtown.
HM: Was that Pfeiffer, do you remember the name of it?
WD: Or was it Pfeiffer or was it McCullough? I thought it was McCullough.
HM: Maybe, OK.
WD: Because the man that told me was his daddy, he told me he said it was his daddy and his name was McCullough. Because that was before my time, how big he was I don't know. You could imagine back then that the tools that were used were primitive like compared to what they do now. That's about all I can remember about successful blacks.
WD: We had on my street we had black conductors, portalmens they were called, you know they acted liked they looked like conductors. They had their caps on, their black suits with their vest and that big old watch.
HM: That's what my grandfather did, yeah.
WD: They lived good because I guess what they got they had nice houses. Cause the man lived down the street from me Mr. Douglas when I was a kid he used to get passes and I would ride get on a train in Charlotte and ride to Tennessee with the tag on me, office pass.
HM: Where were you going?
WD: Knoxville, Tennessee, my mother's cousin.
WD: The train would go up to Spencer, North Carolina and they got a big carousel up there where the train would turn.
HM: Turn around
WD: 'Cause you got to go West see, most of the trains leave and go north. We got to go West so we had to go to Spencer and then the train would turn and head West and go to Knoxville, Tennessee. I had a tag on me telling who I am and where I'm going. See those are the good times, you see how I wasn't a poor boy and I wasn't a rich boy so, I was able to, I came from a family that wasn't too poor. My parents kept me clean, during the summer months I was bare footed stumbled my toe, stepped on a nail, piece a fat back, and turpentine, those remedies back then and earlier. There was a shoe that boys used to wear back then we called brogans. I'm sure you've heard of those brogans had a piece of metal on the top, wore those. I didn't wear overhauls I think I wore mostly nickels, wear them out. Funny thing you used to wear it in the seams.
HM: In what?
WD: They would wear them in the seams and you would patch them.
HM: Oh, right.
WD: I don't know what I did wear, I don't think I did wear overhauls, I can't recall mostly nickels. It might have been overhauls. Then we use to have another shoe that we use to called tennis bomb. That was the tennis shoe, then it was the [phew sound] thing when you get to wear it. You ever experience that?
HM: I have a little boy yeah. [Laughter]
WD: They use to stink .
HM: Always washing his shoes in bleach. I don't know what that is.
WD: Back then it was worst, I'm telling you.
HM: Oh no.
WD: And then another experience I had, like I say we were very fortune on the very corner of the street that we lived on this man Mr. Cuetern, C-U-E-T-E-R-N, I think. He had a horse and the horse was named Mammie, and Mr. Cuetern had big plot of land there off from the house there. He grew his vegetables and on this lot he had, I think two or three different varieties of peaches. And he would grow his vegetables and then after the point where he could harvest them he would sell them. He would put them on a wagon, I would go with him. Tomatoes, string beans, potatoes.
HM: He grew this right in the city?
WD: Uh-huh.
HM: Wow.
WD: He would get on the wagon and Mammie would pull him. We would go down, now you know where Trade and Tryon St. is now.
HM: Sure.
WD: Well when I was a kid Trade and Tryon St. were there then. He would take Mammie, he would be going to HM: [laughter].
WD: Sometimes Mammie would turn on Trade off of Tryon. We would be back there eating sweet potatoes, raw sweet potatoes and going for a ride, First Ward. We would go down Tryon St. and he would go to sleep and Mammie would keep on going.
HM: You know this was the fun and the peaches he didn't get to sell many of those cause we were there eating them up.
HM: Eating them up.
WD: And we would go up there in the spring days when it rained and nothing to do. We go up there and play in the barn with Mammie, mess with Mammie.
HM: Poor Mammie.
WD: That's the name of the horse, Mammie. Nothing else to do just hang around.
HM: So, you made your own fun.
WD: Made our own fun, when kite season come we would make kites out of newspaper. We would get a sheet of piece of the newspaper and we would go in the fields and get us some sticks that grow it's from a vine and we would get us some thread and we'd tie it together. Lay it down on the paper and steal some of momma's, get some of momma's flour and mix with water and glue the paper over the string. Sometime we would take a piece of straw from the field and whip it in. We go and get rags to make our tail and fly our kite so, that's how we did. Then when the season when we would shoot marbles, that's a game that's lost.
HM: Right.
WD: Everybody had an aggie, aggie that was the marble that you shoot with, the aggie. Some of them we used to have a steel ball that you used to knock the ball. See you form a ring and you put your marbles in the center and whatever you could hit and it falls outside of the ring that was yours, like shooting pool or something. And then we would somehow or another we would have to buy a spinning top. It comes with the string and we would spin tops and it was a game. I've forgotten how you start it but, somebody top had to lay in the circle and then you got to hit it with your top. Some of the boys got smart and they would get a nail and sharpen the edge very sharp like an ice pick. Sometimes they would hit that top and it would split the top that was on the ground. Then we had yoyos, those were the games that we would play with, toys. Yoyos, tops, marbles, lot of time we go to school with our pockets full of marbles.
HM: Did you?
WD: Yeah.
HM: And if you got caught with marbles?
WD: Well you know.
HM: They take it?
WD: Sometimes you'd be out on the playground at recess playing marbles and stuff like that if you felt like taking them. What else?
HM: Was there anything on the playground besides flatland?
WD: No, just flatland that's all, go out there and rip and run. I don't think we could go out there and play ball see, then we played with a tennis ball, we'd get a broom handle for the bat. Sometimes we would make our ball. That's why I say when we go out to the baseball park we would fuss with. We would get a homerun ball sometimes we would used to go in but, most of the time we played with it. We'd get the broken bats put them back together, we nailed, and hammered, or either tape it. That's how we got the new-we would steal the gloves if we could you know if we find a glove. Another thing we used to do when we were boys, we would work on milk trucks. People that back then during that era were receiving their milk from the milk truck. We would go into the rich areas, town, toys laying out there sometimes and they'd be missing.
HM: [laughter] now this was white, black, domestic?
WD: No, that was white. Mostly white, blacks didn't have. There were blacks there that was in the house with them, the white kids-.
HM: You weren't scared?
WD: No.
HM: Why?
WD: Because they in the bed. You see milk was delivered early in the morning.
HM: Oh, I see.
WD: Milk was delivered early in the morning. See so whatever was there laying there, white kids had a chance they didn't buy, you know how careless they is about toys. Black kids like that now, you know laying out there, grab it if you see it you get it. Then as I got older about in high school before I graduated, I think up until I graduated I carried papers. That's was an experience carrying papers, it was a dual route. I used to get the papers to pick the papers up on the corner of Mint and Morehead. I would take one bundle and take it down to Graham and Morehead St. and then I'd come back and pick up the other bundle and put it in my bag and go up Mint St.. All that area I delivered and by the time I get down to the other bundle I'm out then I go to another area called Clinton Hill at that time it's off of Trade, Clinton Hill. I told you about the lizard, that's with me today. So, one day this was in the fall of the year I was going across this field delivering paper. And I had on two pair of pants it was cold. I stepped on the straw, somehow and another it went up in my leg a little bit and I thought about that lizard. I grabbed and I took my pants down right there, I mean you know, it wasn't nothing but, the straw and that was it. It's with me now.
HM: You probably still jump.
WD: Yeah, I jump when something. So I carried papers, I had an experience with that. I had a route that people were poor they wouldn't pay me their bill. Always had to borrow mother, money from my mother to make my bill.
HM: So, you paid their bill? You bought the papers?
WD: No, the people paid for the papers that were delivered to them. Then if any profit be made it's after what my bill was. If it cost me $15 for the whole route and I come up with $11 and I had to borrow $4 from my mother to make my bill I don't make nothing.
HM: Oh, I see.
WD: I think papers at that time was sold around 20, 25 cents a piece. Some people, boy they didn't have the money, some people just trifling and didn't want to pay. Here I am a little boy, a young boy out there cause my baby brother was born, he was born in 1947. My baby brother born in 47 and I was carrying papers then. So, I was about 17. I did it because, it just helped me to grow.
WD: A lot of times it was some of my friends delivering routes at the same time. We would meet a certain time after we finished. It was a Krispy Kreme, the only Krispy Kreme at that time was on Trade St., Trade and Cedar. Sometimes we would go down there and get a dozen donuts. They didn't cost much. We would go by somebody's house who would have two or three bottles of milk.
HM: [laughter].
WD: Sometimes we got our preference chocolate or white. So, we'd have milk and donuts. I mean you know these are things that actually did happen.
HM: Right.
WD: We would hit the same house all the time. Then we'd go home and get ready to go to school.
HM: Oh, so you did all this before school?
WD: Yes, in the morning.
HM: Y'all must have been skinny all this walking?
WD: Yeah.
WD: We were young boys. We did a lot of going and then see I was working at Western Union also delivering by bicycle. You stayed active, the food was a lot different then it is now. Eat a lot of greasy food and stuff like that but, we were active and doing things. Ripping and running, we would get a tire and run it behind it, push it. Back in the colonial days these boys used to have a hoop with a pallet. But, we did our hands and then we used to our skates that we wore out. We would take them in half, break it and we'd get two two-by-fours. I'd get a two-by-four and cut it in half and make us a scooter. One part of the skate appeared and the other side in, you go on down the street. Sometime we get sophisticated we would put a sit on it with another piece of two by four and sit on it. That keep us going and like I say we didn't get into any real serious problems as far as growing up concerns. We didn't say in trouble, the law was after us or anything like that. We just did things that boys would do and then we were starting, we were fortunate to live on a street that was, we had a supply of girls. You know, we played house and it wasn't that many houses but, we had everything. Another key element about that and all of the adults we mind them cause they would beat us.
HM: Sounds like a great childhood.
WD: Yeah it was. I think I had a good childhood. We didn't have a whole lot but, we had enough. It was my family was a respected family and still today. Cause everybody's gone, I'm the oldest of the family now.
HM: All your brothers have passed?
WD: No, I'm the oldest one in my family.
HM: Oh OK oldest brother, oldest in the family.
WD: My brothers are younger than I am, my mother and father all gone and all. So theirs no one left. So, I don't know whether I had told you is helpful--.
HM: No, it's wonderful and I think the interview was--. And that's the conclusion of the Walter Dial, for Before Brown interview.