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[Sound] Survival Stories
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Pointe Overlook Museum
CW: My name is Eugene C. West Jr. better known as Chip West. Today is June the 7th, 1994, and we are at the Point Overlook Museum.
MNK: I wanted to ask you where this profound interest in history comes from.
CW: Well, I guess my interest in history sort of stems from (11) looking at old photographs. When you look at an old photograph, and you see how things used to be, and you see the people and their dress and the way the city was configured, you have a kind of an interest to want to know more. And I guess in order to understand the photograph I guess you need to know more about the history. So, my interest seemed to (16) spark from photographs. And then, of course, learning more about the city, learning about different things as far as looking at photographs of street cars, or looking at photographs of Wheeling in the 40s and 50s, and going back even further. It, I guess history is one of those roads that once you start down it, it just seems to be more to see all (21) the time, so you continue to walk it, and so that is sort of what happened, through photographs I started down that road and it seemed to spark a real interest, and then again this is a city that has so much history in it, so again that's one of the reasons why that road, as I mentioned, has so much to see is because Wheeling is just full of history. I think that (27) the idea of a gateway city sort of sparked my interest a lot, and sort of captured the romance of a bustling city in that time period, the 19th century, this really is just extremely interesting.
MNK: What pictures or where were you when you first started noticing this story?
CW: Well, I guess looking through books as far back as in high (34) school and seeing a lot of the old photographs of Wheeling that were available at that time sort of sparked the interest as far back, as you know, my high school days. Didn't pursue it very much because of course right out of high school you've got to go into, well you don't have to, but you do go (38) back into school and you go back into different types of learnings, and it's to get involved in history I guess you sort of have to have a certain amount of leisure time from your every day job as far as making a living and things are concerned, and I got to a point to where it became a hobby in my life, when I was able to devote time to reading, and devote (43) time to looking up and researching different types of history; so it was something that sort of evolved over a period of time and interest and then, of course, that interest being, I guess you could say kind of an incubation period, and then of course coming out again in my later years, when there was more time available to do it.
MNK: So you where born roughly when?
CW: I was born 1952.
MNK: In Wheeling?
CW: Yes, born here in Wheeling. And also you know being born in (52) I can kind of remember Wheeling at a stage when it was a pretty bustling city. I can remember the downtown area when it was every store front was filled. Every core of the city (55) was basically had some type of business or industry in it. So, I guess you could say coming from that era has also sparked a history because I've seen, I've lived long enough in the city to see it go through a drastic change. So, that's one of the things that sort of has sparked, a helped, that interest along too, you know. I think if you witness a big (61) change it's always interesting, and I can remember, you know, one era to the next.
MNK: Can you describe that change a little bit?
CW: Well, I can remember when for instance my dad always worked as a waiter and a bartender as long as I can remember, and as far as childhood was concerned, and he made a fantastic living at
(66) that. He worked on the country club sets and, of course, for the very wealthy, and he was able to raise a family pretty much on those types of wages and tips and things. I don't think that's something that could happen today. And again that's kind of a cross section there, when you think of people working in an industry where wealth was spread around from a
(72) personal sense. In other words, working in a service business like that, people threw elaborate parties. The country clubs were crowded with lots of people. There was really no sense of the tightening of the belt, so to speak, and even today I am sure that there are dollars around, and there is a lot of wealth still in the city, but it's not visible as it was back
(78) in that time period, and it was not spread, and people could not tap those resources like they did back then. They can't do that today. And my dad working in that industry, that was one thing that I noticed a lot.
CW: Well, I can remember when for instance my dad always worked as a waiter and a bartender as long as I can remember, and as far as childhood was concerned, and he made a fantastic living at (66) that. He worked on the country club sets and, of course, for the very wealthy, and he was able to raise a family pretty much on those types of wages and tips and things. I don't think that's something that could happen today. And again that's kind of a cross section there, when you think of people working in an industry where wealth was spread around from a (72) personal sense. In other words, working in a service business like that, people threw elaborate parties. The country clubs were crowded with lots of people. There was really no sense of the tightening of the belt, so to speak, and even today I am sure that there are dollars around, and there is a lot of wealth still in the city, but it's not visible as it was back (78) in that time period, and it was not spread, and people could not tap those resources like they did back then. They can't do that today. And my dad working in that industry, that was one thing that I noticed a lot.[Return to Top] Now, as far as the industries themselves, we were never a part of the steel mills and the coal mines and things like that, so although I've witnessed a (84) change in the down slide of those industries, we were not personally related to those industries like we were to the service industry. So, that's sort of my observation of the differences between then and now.
MNK: Was that decline gradual or sudden?
CW: I would say it was sort of a gradual decline. When you live (91) in a decline, it's kind of difficult to say how fast it happened. All of a sudden, you realize that it has happened, but I would say it was more of a gradual decline. As people died off, their descendants did not get as involved in those type of activities as they were once. You figure well my dad in the 50s and 60s did well in that type of business. You (98) were talking about people who had made their fortunes basically after the war. People who had lived through World War II, which in a sense maybe had a little bit of a different attitude about enjoying life, things of that nature. I kind of think that people have a tendency to, because of what has happened in their era in time, has a tendency on how they live (103 their lives. My generation did not go through a World War. We have a different perspective on life, I think, than what people who went through the World Wars. You know just recently right here on the right at the anniversary of D-Day in all the images of the landing on the beaches in Normandy, and all of the fan fare, so to speak, and remembrances of the (110) particular time frame. I imagine a guy that would be 15 years old cannot relate with that at all, where I can relate to a certain degree because my dad was in World War II, and I grew up hearing a lot of the stories of him in Germany and the different things that, you know, he experienced over there. So when I see and hear them talk about the liberation of the (116) world, I can relate to that to a certain degree, but I'm sure as generations, younger generations, look at that it, you know, what does it actually mean to them. Probably not as much. So I think that people live differently as far as different eras are concerned. We live now in a society of credit where my parents didn't believe a lot in the credit (122) society, so to speak. It was you only had what you could pay for. That's not the case now. Why, because they dealt with depression, you know, came out of the depression, basically lived right after the depression, so those memories were instilled. Their parents instilled those depression memories in them so they were so closely related to that, closer (128) related to that, than what I would be. So, therefore, I wouldn't look at debt and things the way they do. I guess you know what I am trying to say. It's just a difference of how people live in comparison to what they've been taught, and what has been passed on to them, and those are just some examples: war, depression, and those type of things seem to (134) carry on. So, I don't know how you would classify my generation. I guess we are kind of in between the savers and the spenders, concerned about war, but not really preoccupied with it, you know. And as the generations get younger, not concerned with war, not concerned with that, you know what I mean, it just moves along that way. Which in a sense has kind of hurt the fabric of society in a way, maybe some of those (142) things should have been passed along, but instead normally the negative things like prejudice gets passed along opposed to the knowledge of how to live, and what's important. I kind of see that those type of things always seem to get passed along to different generations, but the experiences that they need to conduct their lives on more of an admirable basis does not (148) really get passed along, and that's just the problem. That's a society problem. So, I guess I have seen this change gradually from let's say the 50s to now, and I feel fortunate that I was able to live in a time frame where that change I can remember, and I kind of look back on. I remember Christmas, and parents saying you can get one toy. You got to (156) pick out one toy. And it was an important decision, and where now it's like kids get things all year long, and it's what one thing do you want. Well, there is no one thing I want. I want several things. And Christmas doesn't have the gift-giving meaning that it did back when I was little because (160) Christmas is every day. And it's fortunate that some people in our society are able to do those types of things, but then again there is always the down side, and I think we are a poor society. In general, I just think that our priorities are different now. We spend it opposed to, I don't think we have any more than they did then, but we just seem to spend more, (167) and credit is easier, and it is easier to obtain things than it was back then. I don't think that I have a whole lot more money than my parents did, just get more nerve.
MNK: Who were your parents, and when did they come to Wheeling?
CW: It's interesting, my father, I think his ancestors were in the Ohio area, a place called McIntyre, as far back as 1812. They (173) were a bunch of free slaves who had come out of the South, and, of course, the Quakers in this particular area did not cotton to slavery. And the Ohio was always a free state, and they settled over around an area called McIntyre, which is not far from here. And so they've always, in a sense, enjoyed their freedom, so to speak. We don't have or, at least from my (180) immediate understanding of our family tree, a big tie to the Southern slavery: more of a tie to the free Ohio territories. My mother also was from Ohio, and her family goes pretty far back. My great great great grandfather was a Civil War discharge I have hanging over my mantel, which is an interesting thing you may want to see at some point. So we've (187) always been a proud group of people that have always pretty much made their own way. There's never been a great deal of talk of oppression in my family you know. We were not, I mean I, my roots I don't trace back to the south and slavery. My roots trace back to McIntyre, Ohio, in 1812, which was pretty significant when you think 1812. And I have some newspaper (194) clippings and things about McIntyre, and the family reunions, the Smith and West family reunions, that they held over there. And my dad can remember,as a boy,being at some of those family reunions. So that's really where I think our roots are very much tied to the Ohio area. My father came here to work in Wheeling when he was about 14 years old from Bellaire, Ohio. (200) And back then he learned the trade of being a waiter and, of course, went into World War II and came back. He was trained as a lineman in the military, and he helped put telegraph lines up in Germany, high wire. BUT WHEN HE CAME BACK to Wheeling, around I would say probably around 1946, forty- sevenish around in there, he went to the electric company, (206) where I now work, to get a job, and because of the time in that era, it was just a blatant flat out no. I think he quoted that the foreman, or the hiring boss, so to speak, said, "You are very qualified, but if I hire you, every man on these crews will walk off tomorrow." So at that time, and of course you know talking about right after the war, there was (212) a very, I guess I want to use the word, very tight control over jobs, and, of course, minorities were not a real big part of those, after World War II job booms and things of that nature. [Return to Top] So he packed up his pride, and went to what's known as the Fort Henry Club, and started working there, and basically worked there for several years until he got on with the housing authority, which he finished out because of his (221) military time, and because this was a government type Civil Service Job, he was able with both his military time, as well as his time on the job, obtain a pension or whatever because there were no pensions and things like that in the service business. When I think back on something like that now, I wonder if my parents even had insurance because I'm sure that (226) places like the Fort Henry Club or something did not, you know, have insurance for their workers or whatever. I never asked my parents about that. It was nothing that I ever thought about to ask them, you know, were we insured back then, you know, when mom was having babies. How did that happen, how did you pay for that is just something that I (230) never really got involved in that was the time gone past and, you know, didn't interest me then, but it kind of interests me now. I wonder how they made it, how they did all that. My mother did day work. She was a maid of a sense that worked for two or three different people in the more wealthy sections cleaning house and things like that so, but they raised four (236) children.
MNK: What were their names?
CW: Eugene, which is I'm a Junior, my father's name was Eugene C. West, Sr., and my mother's name was Phyllis Irene West, and she was a Blanchard, which is a big family name in Ohio. She was an only child, and my father was one of four. He was the (241) oldest of four. Yea, it's very interesting to think about how they were able to survive. It's one of the things that I think that, again going off on a little tangent, but not to go off too far, it's one of the things that I find about the minority race that I think is a very positive thing, and I heard some stories about the times of the depression when the (248) minority race basically just took it in stride. It was no big deal. You didn't hear people, minorities, jumping out of windows or whatever because they had been living in a part of a struggle, so to speak, for a long time. I can remember there was an old saying of, you know, there were no more pork chops, but we were used to eating pork chop gravy so it didn't (253) make that big of a difference, you know what I mean. You never had the meat, so it didn't make that big of a difference when it was gone. There was just interesting things like that. But it was that fiber that strength and stability in the Black family, the minority families, because of their, their, self, not self, but their, the struggle that they were (260) basically put into because of the times. It's kind of in a sense gone, that, that ability to make it, that ability to survive. [Return to Top] I think we see that same ability today, but we see it in a different sense. We see it in a more of an unlawful sense, more than a lawful sense. When you see the young crack dealers and the guys who are surviving well and doing well and (267) making dollars, they are surviving in a time where say their parents and grandparents survived more from a lawful sense. They did the things they had to do to get the food to do the things. But I don't know if those opportunities are as available now as they were possibly back then. I don't know if I am making myself clear. I think the survival of (273) minorities is still there, but it just it's done a different way now. It's done more of a way in which society frowns down on as being unlawful, and it is unlawful--to make no mistake about it. But I think that it's, in other words, it's like a coyote you know how they say coyotes survive no matter what, and wolves you can throw them in the middle of the city, but (280) they will survive because they have a survival skill. I think the survival skills are still there in a sense, but now it's just a different way. It's done differently, you know. And again, I'm not condoning any of the violence, and the drugs, and that type of stuff, but I'm just saying that if one was to look at species strictly from a standpoint of take all the (288) unlawful out of it and look at the species as surviving, I think you would basically see that its survival skills are all still there. They're just done a different way. And again, you know, the jails are filled with young minorities, as well as all people that are basically unfortunate, or have had some unfortunate act happen in their lives. But, it in a sense all (295) has to do with their survival skills to a lot of respects as to why they are there and what they are doing. I think it is all different now, but again, that all goes back to talking about my parents and their parents and how they were able to, you know, try to survive. [Sound Clip]My dad, I remember my dad telling an interesting story once. It's about his younger brother (300) who's passed away now, passed away about two years ago. His younger brother was into a lot of mischief, and his younger brother stole a ham, and brought the ham home. And his mother cooked, it and they had it on the table there, and the police came. Apparently, someone had told, you know, that he had stole the ham, and so the police took the ham. It was cooked. (307) Took the ham because they weren't going to give them anything, and crated my father's younger brother off to jail. And they all sat there around this table, and when they speared the ham and took it, all the juice was laying there in the bottom of the platter. So they all took some bread and slapped it in the juice, and continued to eat dinner, you know. And of (313) course, you know they had the concern of getting, he was just a minor, and they, you know, they took him to jail, but let him go later on that day. But he can remember basically sapping up the drippings from the ham. They were hungry as could be, you know what I mean, and were not going to let the opportunity go. We don't have the ham, but we do have the (318) drippings here. I remember him telling that story, and he told that story in a comic comedic way, you know what I mean. It wasn't a story to make us all get teary-eyed and feel bad about how hard they had it. It was a story to be told for laughter, you know what I mean. He said I can remember they had, he told the story, he said the Sheriff had the ham in one (323) hand, and his brother's name was Hots, and Hots in the other, and crating them both down to the jail house. And I'm sure the Sheriff ate the ham, you know what I mean, and threw Hots in jail for a little while. But that was just kind of an interesting story, and we just laughed and laughed. [Return to Top] But then again, he told another story about kids their age and in (327) mischief. And he talked about how the road crews would go out and work on the roads, and they would leave their lunch at one spot. And they'd work down the road. And of course, they'd get a good several hundred yards down the road working, and him and a friend snuck up on their lunches, and they ate all the lunch they could possibly eat, sneaking it and eating it, (334) and then, what they didn't eat, they stepped around in and threw all over the place. He said they ran straight home after they did it, and ran straight up in the house and as soon as he ran in the house his mother had a belt there, a little miners' strap, and started whipping him. And he said to this day he doesn't know how she knew what he did before he (340) got home there, and he said he finally figured out it wasn't that she knew what he did, it was just that the way he ran in the house, she knew he did something, so she just gave him a whipping anyway. But that was that was those times, you know what I mean, and it was really interesting. And that's what they say when the news beats you home, that's how those old (345) sayings would come it wasn't so much that the news beat you home, your parents could just tell when you did something bad.[Return to Top] And that was an interesting story. Again, it was another funny story that we all sat around and laughed at. And again that's another thing that's missing today in a lot of places, Wheeling as well as other places. Children not being able to (350) have the benefits of the stories like that that their parents would tell or their dad would tell you know just give them a link with those times, and you know to gain a better understanding, you know what I mean. I saw my father as a boy from those stories and can see myself, you know, and what did I learn from those, a lot, you know, you just don't do those (356) kind of things, and it was his way of I guess just sitting around and, you know, being your dad, you know what I mean, and just really you know and those how many kids grow up without an experience like that. Those are the kind of, you know, family fiber stuff, and I can sit here and talk to you about those stories my dad told me because I have a family (362) fiber, you know, there's an essence here of that and it's important that those kind of things take place. And that kind of brings me to this. This was a way to tell a story sort of like.
MNK: This being?
CW: The Point Overlook Pictorial Museum. It's kind of that same (368) storytelling idea to give people a link with this city. And I guess we could say build fiber, build people's interest in the city. This is what this is, this is, this is my dad telling stories about his childhood. This is telling stories about Wheeling. Just you know there's just so much of a story to tell, you know, and that's basically what this is, I guess. (375) You know, telling a story of Wheeling.
MNK: Some sort of continuity.
CW: Yea, absolutely.
MNK: To get you from one point to another.
CW: Yea, absolutely.
MNK: Where did you grow up exactly in Wheeling?
CW: I grew up in East Wheeling. Probably not far from here on the (380) other side of the hill. I had a lot of friends, Black and White friends. Went to Clay School, Wheeling High School, Wheeling College, just Wheeling, Wheeling, Wheeling. Just an interesting growing up as a child, you know, doing all the things that, you know. I didn't stomp on the lunches, but I (388) did things very close to it. You know what I mean, and believe me news beat me home, too. I don't know how it happened, but it beat me home, too. But I always wanted to get a whipping from my mother, not my dad. My dad didn't beat us long, but he beat a lot harder. My mother, she beat longer but she wasn't as bad. And again, getting a spanking or (393) getting hit with a belt or something when you were little for something you did bad was not even a second thought. It taught us right and wrong in a way in which those kind of times condoned that. You know, parents didn't have a whole lot of time for, you know, reasoning was the reasoning that they understood. That they brought that reasoning along. Now (401) it's a bunch of different story, but I can't say that there's a single spanking, strapping, or whatever I got back then that I can look back on and say that it ruined me because I got it. I regret I got it, every single one of them I deserved. And as I look back on it now, I can almost say I was kind of glad I got them. Because if I hadn't of, growing up in a (408) relatively rough neighborhood, that type of stuff there's no telling, you know. I think the biggest thing that kept me out of trouble and things when I grew up had to do with the fact of respect for my parents. That was the biggest thing. Cause lord knows I never respected myself as much as I respected my parents. But that was my reason for not turning into a (414) hombre, so to speak. It was respect for my parents. So I guess there was some real meaning in all that you know.
MNK: Did you say a rough neighborhood?
CW: Relatively, yea. We had some pretty rough guys in the neighborhood, and after we had lived on this side of the hill, we moved right down over the hill to this public housing area,
(419) which is called Lincoln Homes. And that was a mixture of good and bad, you know. So it sort of, you know, kind of interesting. But up here it's worked hard then and I learned to respect that. My sister looked out for me when I was little because both my parents worked.
MNK: Was there a sense of community in these neighborhoods?
CW: Absolutely, strong sense of community. Parents looked out for
(431) other kids. I think there was a common bond through a common struggle. Everybody was behind the eight ball, so to speak, so there was kind of a bond there, in a way. There was a different type of a respect then, and I think there was a sense of community. If I was downtown and acting up, I could
(439) very easily get snatched from behind and it didn't necessarily have to be my dad or my mother. Somebody who knew my dad or my mother. So, you know, there was a, yea, I would say definitely a sense of community then.
MNK: Was there a sense of community in these neighborhoods?
CW: Absolutely, strong sense of community. Parents looked out for (431) other kids. I think there was a common bond through a common struggle. Everybody was behind the eight ball, so to speak, so there was kind of a bond there, in a way. There was a different type of a respect then, and I think there was a sense of community. If I was downtown and acting up, I could (439) very easily get snatched from behind and it didn't necessarily have to be my dad or my mother. Somebody who knew my dad or my mother. So, you know, there was a, yea, I would say definitely a sense of community then.[Return to Top] This housing project was built for Blacks. Do you ever notice how a lot of things that are built for Blacks are named Lincoln? He's still free (447) and he's still, he's still liberating these poor even today, you know what I mean, not as much of that is taking place as it did in the 60s, but isn't that kind of ironic. Have you ever noticed that? You know, Lincoln School which was an all Black school, Lincoln Homes, which was an all Black housing project, you know. Booker T. gets a lot of things named after (454) him, and I'm sure in different regions more people do, you know. But, yea, it's kind of interesting. Never even thought about that until now. But, you know, it would be interesting to look at how many places were named that, and for what reason. Kind of interesting.
MNK: Lincoln School for example?
CW: Was all Black. Was the first Black High School. I want to
(460) say that, but I can't. You'll probably get better information on that from other people. I know it was an all Black school.
CW: Was all Black. Was the first Black High School. I want to (460) say that, but I can't. You'll probably get better information on that from other people. I know it was an all Black school.[Return to Top]
MNK: Can you tell me more about your own Black school experience?
MNK: You started school in, when 52, then you started school after (466) the Brown verses Board of Education.
CW: Right, I was always in integrated schools.
MNK: What was that like here in Wheeling?
CW: Well I didn't, I never knew of or experienced segregation in schools, so my memory only stems from in an integrated school. I can't really speak on that. I know my parents dealt with
(474) integrated schools or segregated schools, but I didn't deal with anything like that, so it was kind of difficult and my sisters went to Catholic school, which was also integrated. So, really my experience with that was just it was always pretty much on an equal keel never thought of it. We always thought that the schools in the Pike area would not, always
(483) had better football equipment than us and different things like that, but other than that, I didn't notice much of a difference there. The kids, and of course we're talking kids, who were growing up third-grade, fourth-grade, fifth-grade, you know what I mean? There wasn't as much room for prejudice I don't think when you all started in integrated schools, you
(489) know what I mean? It was kind of difficult opposed to you know throwing Black kids and White kids together, you know what I mean, where the prejudices were already been built. We were building friendships. You know what I mean, and I have a lot of friends right now today that were in school. Was just really enjoyable time for me. I enjoyed school. Had a
(496) lot of fun.
MNK: What was that like here in Wheeling?
CW: Well I didn't, I never knew of or experienced segregation in schools, so my memory only stems from in an integrated school. I can't really speak on that. I know my parents dealt with (474) integrated schools or segregated schools, but I didn't deal with anything like that, so it was kind of difficult and my sisters went to Catholic school, which was also integrated. So, really my experience with that was just it was always pretty much on an equal keel never thought of it. We always thought that the schools in the Pike area would not, always (483) had better football equipment than us and different things like that, but other than that, I didn't notice much of a difference there. The kids, and of course we're talking kids, who were growing up third-grade, fourth-grade, fifth-grade, you know what I mean? There wasn't as much room for prejudice I don't think when you all started in integrated schools, you (489) know what I mean? It was kind of difficult opposed to you know throwing Black kids and White kids together, you know what I mean, where the prejudices were already been built. We were building friendships. You know what I mean, and I have a lot of friends right now today that were in school. Was just really enjoyable time for me. I enjoyed school. Had a (496) lot of fun.[Return to Top] School was fun, you know it was somewhere to go. It was, you know, the sports and all those different things, you know. I always say that that's the one time in your life when everything is done for you. When you're in school, you know. It's when you get out of school, and you're not one of the kids any more, and you're not a student any more, that you (503) find that the world has a lot of walls and hard, a lot of tough things to deal with, but when you're in school, you know high school, grade school those are great times you know . That's the time when you know I always say to kids cause I'm a partnership in education for Wheeling Power with Wheeling Middle School, and I always, you know, when they say they say (512) well were going to postpone school, or we're not going to be able to have school this day and the kids go oh yea, yea, yea, yea great, and I always tell them I say well you know I said don't you know it's not that great because really you know school's one of the best places you'll want to be, believe me. When this is all over, you'll wish that you're back in those (518) times again so I think that's kind of, I think, the opinion of school is changing now. You know kids are enjoying it more. I think education is changing a little bit more. It's looking at people. It's looking at people, kids, and their personalities closer now, opposed to the rigorous three R's and the way they were taught in the 1-2-3 manner, more of a (526) broader sense. More psychology is brought in the school now than it was back in then you know you had either vocational or college preparatory where now there is a broad range of different things that a high school student can choose to move off into. Doesn't have to, you know, choose between being a laborer or a college student now.
MNK: I guess I've heard a lot of African American people who came (537) up in the decades that you did talk about the school system in Wheeling. They had a lot of disappointments about it, and apparently you didn't have so many of those. But I did hear you say the other day that when your dad came home from the service, he'd been to Normandy?
CW: No, he was not in Normandy. He was a technician in the (547) service. (He) Worked on lines. He didn't land on the beaches or anything. My dad was not one.
MNK: But he served his Country.
CW: Oh yes, he served in Germany, yes. He was in Germany in a probably a group that went over after a lot of liberation had (552) taken place. And went over in a rebuilding capacity. It was the Corp that he was with that did a lot of that type of stuff.
MNK: But when he came home, he still couldn't go to the movies or?
CW: No. When he came home, I remember another interesting story he told. They went to, him and my mother, went out to the (560) movies, and at at that time Blacks were not allowed to sit in the main part of the theater. It was called peanut heaven. I'm sure you've heard the term, which was the balcony of the movie house. And he can remember standing in line to get in to see a particular movie, and there was a gentlemen in front of him, apparently, he said he was German, and my dad being in (568) Germany probably knew he was, you know, knew a German or German accent when he heard it. And the man could not count American money. So the cashier at the movie house counted out the amount of money from the man that she needed for him to go in and watch the movie. And he could go in and go right to the main section of the theater, and sit down and watch the (575) movie. Where my dad and mother were both well-educated people, paid their money, and had to go upstairs. Those are just a few of the stories. My parents never dwelled on that a lot, and I guess I can almost say because my dad worked so closely around wealthy people and things like that, he was never really one to talk on an extremely bitter stage. I mean (584) he always talked to you about watch your p's and q's, look out for these particular things, don't get in trouble, because the law, there's two kind of laws and those type of things, but he never talked very bitterly about any race of people. I guess that's why I don't feel profound prejudice like some people do. It's all a part of how you're brought up. Malcolm X said (593) that if prejudice, if the government wanted to wipe out prejudice, he could do it in a minute, because the government has more propaganda power than any other entity there is. And if they wanted to wipe it out, they could. Prejudice is carried on by generations, and that's where that all comes from. And I was never really, never really, made to feel that (603) way. I was always made to feel cautious, but not to hate. And I'm sure you've heard different stories where people were taught to hate other races. I was never taught that. I have to thank my parents for that. Because believe me a fair prejudiced person, is a miserable person. Because the way this world is evolving now, they can only feel as though they (613) are being closed in on. Really, and so that's one of the worst things I think you can pass on to a child, is profound prejudice.
MNK: With your parents there was a certain attitude of acceptance of the situation?
CW: Acceptance more from a side of work to overcome it. You know (622) what I mean. I was always taught that you're blessed that you were born with this, not negative, because it'll make you a better person all the way around. You'll always have to fight and work harder for everything you get. So take that as a positive, not a negative.
MNK: To come out as a stronger person.
CW: Yea, absolutely. And isn't that strange, I don't know how (633) many people have told you that, but that's the way that they were. Oh yea, it's going to be tough for you, but you just make sure you mind all your p's and q's and you'll overcome, you'll triumph, you know, not just aw, they'll never give you a break, so forget about it! It's amazing different (641) attitudes, different teachings. How one will change one's mind you know. "Give up attitude" was never something that I was taught. It was always think, be clever, be a fox, look at the fox. He is hunted all the time, but he always seems to come out of it, you know what I mean. Sly like a fox. Clever like a fox. He didn't get that for nothing. You know what I (652) mean? When you have twenty-five, thirty hounds chasing you, you've got to be smart. Great, you got to be clever. You got to be, and I guess that is important. I would like to teach that to my son. You know, yea, it's going to be tough, it's going to be, but always get around it. Be tough. Don't take no crap. Don't be a whipping post. But in the same respect (662) too, don't be afraid to get in a fight. Don't be afraid, you know. If they tell you you can't, show them you can. And it can be done, you know. When I bought this building, all my friends (said), "Your nuts, public housing up there." "It will never make it, forget it, your nuts." Well, here we are. And if you had seen this building when we bought it, you would (674) have probably went, "your nuts." But I saw, and I, again this is not, I'm not trying to brag or anything, but my wife always tells me this: I have an ability to see past, you know I would come in this building to Point Overlook here, and there was an opening right there. This was all wide open. Birds (were) in here. This was a shack. And I would come in here (687) after work sometime, and I'd just stand in here and look out at the view. You couldn't see as much as you see now, but you could see a good bit of the view there. And I'd just stand there and I'd look at this. See, I tried to buy this building six years ago. They wanted too much money for it, so I waited, and I waited, and then finally it came to the price (696) that was, you know okay. Good, strike now. But I could see this potential, where a lot of people walked in here and said "potential? You've got to be kidding me. This is a big bird house. It's, what is it? It's a shell, it's nothing." It was commercially zoned, you know one of those zones that can never be changed until you change it, the owner, you know what (707) I mean. This can happen, and I see a vision of this entire hill, this entire area, becoming a great commercial area for office buildings, restaurants, overlooks like this, you know, just a new commercial era for Wheeling up here. Cause let's face it, you've been around and most cities, this is where the money is. Views like this. In most cities, but in Wheeling, (721) West Virginia, it's public housing.[Return to Top] Heard an interesting story you know why there is so much public housing is on the hills? Because way back when, when there was a lot more pollution than there is now, all that pollution went up high, so they said put the Public Housing up there.[Return to Top] I heard that. I don't know how true it is because I was talking with a gentlemen, trying to get a sense of, you know, why public housing was normally built on hills, and a lot of the older public housing...