Partial Transcript: Harvey Pikenton 1955 in Griffin, Georgia...
Segment Synopsis: Pilkenton talks about growing up in the rural areas of Griffin, Georgia, as the child of a disabled veteran and cotton mill worker during the 1950's. Pilkenton explains that much of the life around Griffin was centered around working for the cotton mills, and describes the situation as being akin to slavery.
Keywords: Griffin, Georgia; construction; cotton mill
Partial Transcript: Your life, in early childhood ...
Segment Synopsis: Pilkenton talks about how his experience with the cotton mill-owned housing of his childhood has inspired his work in the Griffin Housing Authority. Pilkenton describes the legal segregation of his childhood community. Pinkenton details the integration of public schools during the 1960's.
Keywords: Biracial Committee; Fairmount High School; Griffin Housing Authority; Griffin, Georgia; integration; projects
Partial Transcript: We did have even before that ...
Segment Synopsis: Pikenton talks about racial inequalities he witnessed while in the workforce. Pinkenton relates an occurrence he witnessed as the dishwater at a restaurant. Pinkenton shares his racial take on the work he did throughout his life. Pinkenton describes the work he did as a young man to procure wealth.
Keywords: Cotton Mills; integration
Partial Transcript: And I can say, Griffin's been good...
Segment Synopsis: Pinkerton talks about his work in the Griffin Housing Authority and the reason behind his decision to choose Bob Dull as the chief executive of the Griffin Housing Authority.
Keywords: Bob Dull; Griffin Housing Authority; Meriwether Homes
Partial Transcript: I would have to say that I...
Segment Synopsis: Pikenton talks about the fact that he faced few obstructions to get to the position that he has today. He explains how saving has helped him throughout the years. Pinkenton shares some stories about his family's work in the moonshine business and talks about the benefits made through the Griffin Housing Authority's education initiatives.
Keywords: Griffin Housing Authority; Griffin Technical Institute; moonshine
Partial Transcript: But it don't seem that way ...
Segment Synopsis: Pinkenton about his take on the fact that many tenants have become dependent on the resources offered through the Griffin Housing Authority. Pinkenton talks about the racial makeup of tenants he interacts with through his work with the Griffin Housing Authority.
Keywords: Griffin Housing Authority; Griffin, Georgia; Section 8
Partial Transcript: What do you suggest that we can ...
Segment Synopsis: Pilkenton talks about efforts that can be made in the Griffin Housing Authority to remedy the provision of substandard housing around the Griffin Housing Authority.
Keywords: Griffin Housing Authority; landlord; regulations; substandard housing
Partial Transcript: Have you done a lot of that ?
Segment Synopsis: Pilkenton talks about some of the difficulties that come with demolishing or repurposing substandard housing. Pilkenton explains the process of addressing substandard housing provision from private landlords.
Keywords: private landlords; substandard housing
BE-ATRICE CUNNNINGHAM:--nningham, and I'm joined by --
JEWEL WALKER-HARPS:Jewel Walker-Harps, president of the Griffin Branch NAACP,and part of this oral history project.
JOHN CRUICKSHANK:John Cruickshank, librarian, Griffin campus, University of Georgia.
CUNNINGHAM:And today we're speaking with Mr. Harvey (Pinkleton?) at theUniversity of Georgia, Griffin campus in Griffin, Georgia, and we're conducting this interview as part of the Griffin African American oral history project. So thank you Mr. Pilkenton -- am I pronouncing it right?
CUNNINGHAM:Pilkenton. Thank you for being here today to share your story. So ifyou can just start off, for the record, by stating your name, your birth year, and your birthplace.
PILKENTON:Harvey Pilkenton, 1955, and Griffin, Georgia.
CUNNINGHAM:Great. So we just want to start off, and if you could tell us alittle bit about your early childhood.
PILKENTON:Okay. I really don't know where to start.
PILKENTON:But like I say, I was born in Griffin, Georgia, and we00:01:00lived on the west side of Griffin out in the rural areas. My daddy was a disabled veteran, and my mother worked in the cotton mills. Raised 10 kids, two of them actually deceased young.
PILKENTON:So she raised eight kids, and I was the youngest of them. So it wasjust across the highway, what was referred to as (Aiken?) subdivision. Where I was raised was right behind where Walmart is now. We were considered, you know, looking back, we were poor. But happy and didn't know it.
PILKENTON:Like I said, daddy was disabled, so he had a lot of medical problemsand stuff. But we -- you know, we done okay. We didn't know that we were poor. And I remember finding out we were poor, actually, it was in grammar school. We brought canned goods to school to take to the poor family. 00:02:00
PILKENTON:And I brought -- and got home, it was on my porch. So I was ashamed togo back to school. Now you all done told me I was poor! (laughter) So but anyway, everything was fine. We had a four-room house with a lot of kids there. Finally added an indoor bathroom to it, and like I say, didn't have any problems with any of that. And I don't -- didn't have any childhood regrets or problems that I even remember. No -- but then when I got about 13, I went to work. And it was, like I said, it was kind of my destiny to -- at the time, you felt that it was your destiny to quit school when you were 16 and go to work at the cotton mill, because that's what mom did, and all your brothers, and everybody else did. So I was lucky that I never did that. Because once you get -- 00:03:00back then, if you ever got to working in a mill and you made what they considered a prime salary for this area and you got your bills and things set under that amount of monies, then you kind of were trapped there.
PILKENTON:So I never went to work in the mill. I went to work just washingdishes and different things, but saved monies, and finally, you know, just done okay for myself, just buy myself a car, and got 16 years old, got married and had a baby.
PILKENTON:You know, and I don't really know what direction you want me to talkabout today. Anything specific you want me to tell you about, or --?
CUNNINGHAM:Well, let's go back a little bit. So were your parents also fromGriffin? And did they tell you anything about what life was like for them?
PILKENTON:Well, you know, when I say they were from Griffin, they00:04:00were from right around, like maybe Meriwether County and not in the suburbs, so right around Griffin, sure.
PILKENTON:Mm-hmm. Well, I mean, it's stuff like making liquor, trying to do thebest you can to survive, type stories, you know, that -- of course, mama just always worked in the mill, far as I ever knew. But, you know, daddy would do different things. And way back before my day, you know, it was things like making liquor and carrying sugary down the creek to the stills, and stories like that. But it was never in my lifetime.
CUNNINGHAM:Okay. So you mentioned that you considered yourself poor, but youdidn't realize that until they brought the groceries to your yard. Can you provide us with some type of visual tour of what you thought Griffin was like, outside of just your community? What do you think the community was like? 00:05:00
PILKENTON:Well, it felt like that everybody worked for, and was kind of enslavedto the mills.
PILKENTON:Because all my aunts and uncles lived in the surrounding millvillages. We did not. We lived just outside, but in a house the same, or less. But it was not in the mill village. And all of them had originally rented the homes from the mills.
PILKENTON:And they did not have bathrooms. I think -- the story that Iunderstood is that some agencies, governments, whatever, finally came in and kind of demanded or mandated them to sell homes to the tenants, and to add bathrooms to them. So, you know, it felt like to me that even though the mill's important, we didn't want to do without them. We had to have them, it felt. But it felt a little bit like slavery, like, you know, we worked for and under the mills.
PILKENTON:And like I say, I'm glad that I never did go to work there, becauseI'm afraid that I'd have been stuck there.
WALKER-HARPS:Was that in your mind at the time?
PILKENTON:Yep, you know, it was getting close to getting 16, and you've got toquit school and you get to go to work, at the mill. So I was glad to just get a taste of another world, just out working in the restaurants and stuff like that.
PILKENTON:And that's when, you know, I did meet some guys that are inconstruction at the restaurants that I worked for, and got introduced to the construction business, to the construction world at the time.
PILKENTON:And so I quit that and went to work for them, and different ones, andkind of learned a lot about construction. And by the time I was 18 years old, I was self-employed and in the construction business. Griffin has been good to me. So I don't have sad stories to tell you. 00:07:00
PILKENTON:Just reality, you know, the way it was. But they were not sad or badtimes to me, at the time. Looking back, it may sound that way, but it wasn't.
PILKENTON:So you know, I didn't -- Griffin, like I say, has been good to me.I've done a lot of business in Griffin, and I feel a debt to Griffin, just like right now, I'm serving on the Griffin Housing Authority. I want to get off sometimes, just because it's time-consuming, but at the same time, I owe a debt back to the community that's been good to me. And so I've been involved with a lot of different areas, you know, different boards and planning and zoning, and Board of Appeals and Development Authority and now the Housing Authority, just because I feel a debt back to the community.
WALKER-HARPS:Your life, your early childhood and your life, and what00:08:00you experienced, does that have any -- well, do that have any -- what does -- did that have any impact on your attitude toward housing today? Does that make you push, knowing that all around you were houses in the mill village, and typical of a mill village? So when you became grown and you got on the Housing Authority, did any of that --
PILKENTON:Well, it's had a lot of impact on me. I've been really an advocate ofthe Housing Authority, and upgrading the housing, minimal housing in Griffin, and tearing down houses that people live in. If you let them exist, people will live in them.
PILKENTON:So we're trying to get those done, and been -- in our memory as a kid,going by the apartments that I was just a part of tearing down -- back then we called them the "projects."
PILKENTON:And, you know, you go by then, (inaudible), I wish we couldlive there. 00:09:00
PILKENTON:So today, as you know, I'm chairman of the Housing Authority, and wejust tore them down rebuilt them and upgraded them.
PILKENTON:And they are nice units that we just built. And this -- I am reallyproud to see people live in them and enjoy an upgraded home. And I think the best thing that you can do for any person is to upgrade them, such as offer education, jobs and housing, those are the three main components. You know, I guess I learned the hard way, and I didn't have anybody give me anything. But at the same time, I like making it available for people to have an opportunity to upgrade themselves.
WALKER-HARPS:Now the what we call "Sunshine Apartments," I don't know if that'sthe original name, or -- in Fairmount. Fairmount was in the black 00:10:00neighborhood, so that was strictly -- was it legally segregated? Or people just happened to live -- or choose to live --
PILKENTON:No, I think they were originally built to be segregated.
PILKENTON:Whites and blacks.
WALKER-HARPS:Fairmount was black.
WALKER-HARPS:And Sunshine wasn't. There was a name for it other than "Sunshine,"I think, I just don't remember what it was.
PILKENTON:That's the only name I know was the projects, or Sunshine.
WALKER-HARPS:Well, maybe it was Sunshine. Maybe it was. Why was it "Sunshine?"Don't know?
PILKENTON:Don't know. Hmm-mm.
WALKER-HARPS:And they were -- okay, what was really different about them? Or wasthere anything different, other than the fact that they were inhabited by different races of people?
PILKENTON:Well, I mean, today, if you ask me my opinion today, but my opinionsin those days were different.
PILKENTON:Because I never even know Fairmount was over there.
PILKENTON:And I didn't know it until the school were integrated with my kids.
PILKENTON:And so then I took my sons to Fairmount to grammar school.00:11:00
PILKENTON:Well, I mean, it had integrated when I was in school, but it was -- Iwas in middle schools.
PILKENTON:So I didn't know Fairmount, and the segregation of that wasn't obviousto me.
WALKER-HARPS:Mm-hmm. You lived basically in an all-white world.
PILKENTON:Sounds like it, don't it?
CUNNINGHAM:But you did mention the integration there in the middle school.
PILKENTON:Well, when I was in the eighth grade, schools were integrated. Andthey took the high schools, the black high school, wherever that was, and brought it to our school, and whites to that school --
PILKENTON:-- and integrated them. And I was in eighth grade at that time.
CUNNINGHAM:What was the climate like? The racial climate during that?
PILKENTON:It was a lot of tension.
PILKENTON:A lot of tension in -- and it wasn't so much that they wereblack, it's the fact that I was white. You know, it's the tension, they were -- 00:12:00the blacks at that time were kind of gangs, you know, they walked together and stayed together, and the whites did not in our schools at that time. And so, you know, it was just fear of that, what's going to happen because of the integration. But because of the black or the white. It's just the fact that were going through this era, and how we're going to get through this.
CRUICKSHANK:So when integration took place, whites actually went to theFairmount School, or they just went to a different place, did they?
PILKENTON:Different grades, you know, some -- these -- my high school was, like,the eighth and ninth now.
PILKENTON:And then the high schools was where the Griffin High --
WALKER-HARPS:Yeah, when they fully integrated --
WALKER-HARPS:-- they did not necessarily -- they integrated grade levels more sothan schools. All seventh graders had to go to unit one.
WALKER-HARPS:All eighth graded doing it two. All ninth graders had to go -- whatever.
WALKER-HARPS:Unit three. Yes.
PILKENTON:I thought the only people who ever went to Fairmount High00:13:00were African Americans. But there were whites there as well?
WALKER-HARPS:Oh, yeah. Yeah.
PILKENTON:There were whites there too?
WALKER-HARPS:But now if I recall, I'm not sure -- it wasn't called "Fairmount."They changed the names also, as I said. Unit one, two, and three. And then your high schools. And you had only one high school. That was probably one of the things that made it as easy as it did. People did not have a choice.
WALKER-HARPS:If you were a seventh grader, as somebody said when they came inhere and did an interview, if you were a seventh grader, you didn't have a choice but to go to unit one, which we know as -- knew as "Fairmount."
WALKER-HARPS:Yeah. That was Fairmount to us. But you didn't have to go toFairmount, so to speak. When you tell your story, it wasn't Fairmount that you went to in the seventh grade, it was unit one.
CRUICKSHANK:So there were white people that had to go to the Fairmount School?
WALKER-HARPS:If you went to school --
CRUICKSHANK:They didn't have a choice.
WALKER-HARPS:-- a public school, and you didn't -- because there was no otherpublic school.
CRUICKSHANK:But you didn't go to the Fairmount, though.
PILKENTON:No. I went right here, what they called at the time it was a junior00:14:00high school. And that's when I was in the eighth grade. And I did go to the ninth grade, and then I did quit school and get my GED. So there wasn't very much of that. But you know, and they -- as I kind of suggested, there might be a problem, there never was.
PILKENTON:Around me. So it just wasn't a problem for my perspective ofintegration. I'm sure you've had other interviews with different opinions and different thoughts on that, but it never was with me.
WALKER-HARPS:Well, system-wide, we were told in interviews that integration herewent fairly smoothly --
WALKER-HARPS:-- and that was because of the biracial committee that was formed,and made sure of that, they stayed as calm as possible. The Crossfields and (inaudible), and others who -- Vera (Stenson?) and others who were 00:15:00part of that committee, they shared that things remained as calm as they did. But, well, we fully integrated, prior to that time, there were persons pulled from -- and mostly pulled from black schools and sent to the white schools, what they considered to be the better of the teachers were pulled from the black schools and placed in white schools. This was token integration. And even with the students, there were students that we -- remember we had the young man who came in and talked about -- he was picked to be one of those students and went to a white school.
PILKENTON:Mm-hmm. We did have, even before that final integration time, we didhave two or three blacks in our schools. So it wasn't just none.
WALKER-HARPS:And they were picked. They didn't just volunteer to go.I mean -- 00:16:00
PILKENTON:But I don't remember it ever being a problem.
WALKER-HARPS:-- it wasn't open to everybody. It was -- they were specificchildren who were asked to transfer, specific teachers who were asked to transfer.
PILKENTON:There's a --
WALKER-HARPS:What were you? You were a West Griffin -- were you at the WestGriffin school of --
PILKENTON:No, right here behind the water works.
PILKENTON:Okay. Okay, that would have been --
PILKENTON:We called it junior high at the time.
PILKENTON:Okay, yeah, junior high, they had a student -- they did have a juniorhigh school. And then one high school integrated in Fairmount, with Griffin High. Made a compromise. I don't remember exactly. They compromised the colors and compromised the mascot --
PILKENTON:Yeah, the Eagles and the Bears.
PILKENTON:Mm-hmm. The Bears was the black mascot, and we took the Bears and gaveup the Eagles, yeah.
CUNNINGHAM:Well, it sounds like you entered the workforce pretty early, you said00:17:00at age 13.
CUNNINGHAM:So when you entered the workforce, did you notice or observe anyracial inequalities, even in the workplace?
PILKENTON:One time it was bad. It was a restaurant on the north side of town. Itwas a chain restaurant. It wasn't just a mom and pop thing, it was a chain restaurant. And I was a dishwasher, and they hired a black waitress. Great lady, no problems, no problems. And then one day a man came in that did not want a black lady waiting on him, and it was ugly. It was bad. So it broke her heart, and everybody's. But got him out of there, and I haven't seen anything like that before or since, you know. But he just was adamant, wasn't going to wait on him. So other than that, I don't remember. The things -- the movies that you see on TV and all, I was never around any of that right here in Griffin, 00:18:00Georgia, other than that one incident.
CRUICKSHANK:What happened? There wasn't any violence or fist fights or anything,were there? You just --
PILKENTON:No, just got -- needed killing. He was actually a Ku Klux man.
WALKER-HARPS:Yeah, the Ku Klux Klan was very visible around here.
PILKENTON:And this guy was.
PILKENTON:And I know she sat the water down, and he just slapped his table, andthe water and the dishes went everywhere.
PILKENTON:And he just said, you know, "You're not going to wait on me," andcaused a big scene, you know? And there wasn't anything her nor me or nobody else could do about him.
PILKENTON:But then it was finally over and he was gone. She continued to workthere. It didn't run her off.
CUNNINGHAM:It sounds like somebody stood up, though, and had something to say,if you said the man was escorted from the restaurant, basically. 00:19:00
PILKENTON:Yeah. And I don't know about how he got gone, but he did get gone.But, you know, I remember the rest of us employees, she was the only black lady that worked there, and we supported her.
PILKENTON:And you know, we couldn't apologize for him, but we could apologizefor the way things were.
WALKER-HARPS:Would you say that because were you rural, you lived in a ruralarea, that you were less exposed to racial tensions --
WALKER-HARPS:-- than you would if you lived --
PILKENTON:That's exactly right, yes, ma'am.
WALKER-HARPS:-- in a city.
PILKENTON:We were just out a little bit away from city life, I guess. Now theywere, obvious to us and everybody, you knew where the black area was and the white area was.
PILKENTON:But, you know --
WALKER-HARPS:But everybody respected that.
PILKENTON:Sure. No, but we had some different people that would workwith us and would go in black areas. And it wasn't like fear of that, not at night. 00:20:00
PILKENTON:Not because they were black, because I was white.
PILKENTON:But it never had the reason or opportunity to do it anyway, so it justwasn't a problem.
WALKER-HARPS:Were there African Americans in the mills working at that time? Or,if I remember, when I first came to Griffin, the mills were basically all -- or basically white, except for Pomona Products was different. But the mills were, if I remember correctly.
PILKENTON:I think so. But I say again, I never went into one. And it's the bestthing I ever done, was not going into one.
WALKER-HARPS:So you had a pretty safe, protected --
PILKENTON:Racial life, sure did. Mm-hmm.
WALKER-HARPS:Racial life. Yeah.
CRUICKSHANK: But you hardly ever interacted with black people, didyou? Growing up? 00:21:00
PILKENTON:No. I mean, not growing up. But since in my construction world, a lot, sure.
PILKENTON:And I've never had any kind of racial problems. You know, no more thanI got disagreements with employees and subcontractors and all kinds of things. But it's never been determined black or white.
PILKENTON:You got it with both. I mean -- and I don't know, I say again, I'vebeen really successful in Griffin, Georgia, to have not had a formal educations and colleges and stuff. I did get a GED, and I remember when I went to work, up then I was saving every penny, just making less than a dollar an hour, and I finally got up to a dollar and a nickel an hour. But anyway, I saved $2,000 back there, and that was a lot of money. I put it in a bank. And when I got 16, I had to hide it from my family, you know, they would want that 00:22:00money. But I went to the bank and borrowed $2,000 against my $2,000. And then I waited 90 days and went down and just paid it back off, just to establish credit. What made me know to do that, I ain't got a clue.
PILKENTON:But then it did establish credit for me at 16 years old. And like Isay, I went into construction around 17. And when I was 18 -- no, when I was 17, I went down and I bought a house. My first house. And it's got to the closing at the bank, and they found out I was 17. You've got to be 18 to own a house in the State of Georgia. I had to go get my mama (laughter) and bring her to the bank to sign a note for me, to be on the deed. She didn't even know I was buying a house. I was on my own at that young age to buy a house. You do what 00:23:00you got to do, so I went and got her. Closed to the house, you know, and I've sold my houses and build houses, and kind of grow from there. You know, I guess that's a strange story to tell you, but I say that because there's so many young kids in Griffin that have opportunity, and it ain't just about having a college education. It's about determination, and not to feel and to think that you are depressed, that you've got the opportunity if you take it.
PILKENTON:And not just saying, you know, Griffin's been good to me. I'm gettingjust about ready to retire, a few more houses, I'm in. 00:24:00
WALKER-HARPS:Hmm-mm. You had an interesting life. Or you have an interestinglife, which means that your early childhood has helped you become a giving, caring person, and a person who saw success where others could not have seen success, who were driven towards success. And that's a part of your story that's going to inspire some other young man, a young boy, who did not grow up with the stars in his hand, but grew up with the attitude and the feeling that if you reach for it hard enough, far enough, they could be yours.
PILKENTON:I've had several people tell me that I was dead lucky. And I said,"Yes. The harder I worked, the luckier I get."
WALKER-HARPS:Yeah. Now how do you assess the housing situation here today? And00:25:00what would you suggest that we continue to do? I know you're with the Housing Authority, and Bob Dull have made a tremendous turnaround with houses. We'd never dream that it would be this way. Matter of fact, you are a model. We often get calls from other areas requesting assistance or information, or demonstrations or what have you, because of what exists here. Kind of walk me through that. How did all this begin? Or were you with the Housing Authority before Bob came on board?
WALKER-HARPS:Oh, you were?
PILKENTON:I was. And I was, you know, instrumental in hiring Bob. And we sat andinterviewed several people when they came to apply for that job. And I kept telling the board that we needed somebody that would step out in the 00:26:00community, and be involved with the community.
PILKENTON:Of course, I was in a learning state at that time too, I had beenthere only three, four years. And we did interview several qualified people. But to me, Bob was the one that stood out the most, that could present himself out in our community. And I hope it's okay to say that Miss Eula didn't want to hire him.
PILKENTON:And she was kind of in opposition to me to hire Bob.
WALKER-HARPS:What did she see in Bob at that time?
PILKENTON:I'm going to leave that part out of the story.
PILKENTON:Just -- you know, I just don't want to involve somebody else.
CUNNINGHAM:That's fine. So what did you see?
WALKER-HARPS:But what did you -- (laughs)
PILKENTON:Well, I seen that Bob was the person to get out in the community andpresent himself, and to represent us and to move us forward one more step.
PILKENTON:Because the Housing Authority was going through it hadalready came out of some really bad times and some bad -- 00:27:00
PILKENTON:-- directors and just misdirections and confusions about what theHousing Authority even is. So that was over, and we're growing past it. But now it's time to move forward and step out more. And to me, Bob had it, the years of experience, with housing, anyway, and so his knowledge. But Bob's not like me. He wouldn't sit here and stutter through this. He'll tell you -- he can present himself in front of public. Now, this is about as many as I can speak in front of. But that was what I wanted Bob to do. Today, we're trying to get him to fall back a little bit. His, you know, his health a little bit, and he's done what we directed him and requested him to do. And he's got a lot of things and programs and things that we've all involved with, and got him operating. And now, so like you and I were talking about earlier, it's time for him to delegate 00:28:00this person, you be in charge of and oversee this area, and let his staff take over some of it, and him be still in authority and director of us. But it's time for him to step back some. And it's hard to get him to. He's a good guy. He wants to hands-on.
WALKER-HARPS:Did he arrive in here, tell you his story, his background, thehumanistic side of him, that perhaps created what we see in Bob Dull today.
PILKENTON:Not during his application part, he did not.
WALKER-HARPS:Okay, you didn't know that then.
PILKENTON:Now I do know a lot more of his history, and he knows a lot more ofmine just from being a lot of years together. But it wasn't so much, you know, the fact that he was raised in a house, in projects himself, and that type thing was not spoken at the application, job application times. But I know those things today. You know, we had already been involved with rebuilding 00:29:00Meriwether, and we got to a stumbling block that we couldn't get over, as far as our authority. And Bob's answers to some of the questions, letting me know that he was the one who could get us over this hump and make this happen.
WALKER-HARPS:He broke the barrier, somehow, having lived in the deprivedenvironment when he was young, to come up and achieve as much as he has achieved, and had to deal with the system of communities, as he has had to deal with. I'm sure it was typical of the strength that the man had internally. But now let me ask you this. How did you have barriers to break through? You came from, well, sort of a deprived environment, but you moved on up through the ranks. So did you have any -- did you encounter any tremendous 00:30:00barriers as you moved and interacted with the system, but particular with Griffin? Were the doors open for you to come in? Or were you treated differently, and you had to maneuver your way around? Were you accepted as an equal, I guess is what I'm saying?
PILKENTON:Mm-hmm. I would have to say that I definitely was. You know, and someof my directions and roads that I went down to get to where I am today, I guess, I have manipulated some things, and presented myself to know more than I know. But I just don't really know of any barriers other than, you know, I guess it would have helped me even more to have more education.
PILKENTON:I know now, my daddy, I was saying earlier, was a disabled veteran, soI was able to go to Griffin Tech at the time, and took a night class of carpentry. And since I was working to support my family during the day. I had to do it at night, but I was being paid by the VA, a supplement, paid for the school, to where I could attend school at night to take carpentry class. But I don't say that that really helped me that much. I don't know that it forwarded my career that much, other than it was a good opportunity offered to me through the VA for a disabled veteran's son. No, you know, I have to give a lot of credit to my wife, I guess, you know, because she obviously supported 00:31:00me. We saved our monies and we understood the principle that money saved -- a 00:32:00dollar saved is two dollars earned, you know?
PILKENTON:So she's been a penny pincher and coupon clipper, and it's helped usmanage our monies that we did make to be more than it actually was, because we didn't go out and waste money. We kept our money. And then we put our monies to work for us several more years, and invested in our home, and then finally got our home paid for. Then after a lot of years of not having a mortgage payment, then you know you just grow more and more financially stable. I don't know of any stumbling block to tell you that I ever hit, other than, you know, everybody wants it right now, and you can't get it right now. You've got to work for it, and let it accumulate for you, and manage it properly. But I just don't --
WALKER-HARPS:That's a message in itself.
PILKENTON:I just don't know of anybody that said, "Harvey, you can't do this."00:33:00
WALKER-HARPS:On a comical side, was moonshine a very prevalent business duringthat time? I ask that because I hear my husband talk about it often.
PILKENTON:Yeah, it was, but, you know, I --
WALKER-HARPS:(inaudible), or (inaudible)-somebody. Oh, yeah, I hear, I hear --
PILKENTON:That's a (inaudible), yeah.
WALKER-HARPS:Yeah. I hear all sorts of stories about that kind of --
PILKENTON:Oh, I can tell you some moonshine stories without calling names.
PILKENTON:Because they were people that I know.
WALKER-HARPS:We've had somebody in here who did that, who talked about -- notnames, but interesting tales.
PILKENTON:Mm-hmm. Well my daddy, you know, he would definitely -- and my uncle.He drank it about as fast as they could make it, but (laughter) they were, like, out in the rural again.
PILKENTON:And so more moonshine was made out rural than it was in the city, obviously.00:34:00
PILKENTON:You know, you got the creeks and different things in the woods, andthe revenue agents. And I knew the revenue agents and stuff. They come up and bust them and blow up their stills. This one guy, a family, and back then the trucks had little running boards.
PILKENTON:Old trucks. And the revenue agent got out to them and they run, andthey got the truck, and they was in the truck, him and his brother. And the revenue agent jumped on the running board, stuck his pistol in the truck and shot Bob in the gut. And so the other brother driving the truck had to get him against a barbed wire fence to rake him off the truck. And so they spent more time in jail for the revenue agent than they did making liquor. (laughter)
WALKER-HARPS:Yes, I can remember very well the revenue a-- everybody (inaudible)00:35:00in rural areas would pass. But wherever I -- "Do you know the revenue was in here?"
WALKER-HARPS:Revenue -- I wonder what -- and when I got grown, and I heard -- Isaw the word written, I said, ooh, that's what they were talking about, the revenue people, because they were making -- they weren't paying taxes on there, it was not legal.
PILKENTON:That's right. Unbonded liquor.
WALKER-HARPS:It wasn't legal.
PILKENTON:And a lot of people died. You know, they'd filter that moonshinethrough lead radiators.
PILKENTON:That's dangerous stuff.
WALKER-HARPS:I lived in the country. I had alcohol you run through the fields,dodging the revenue man. (laughter) Okay. Be-Atrice?
CUNNINGHAM:Yeah. Earlier you mentioned that there were some programsthat were established through the Housing Authority. What do you think has been 00:36:00the most impactful program that's been established so far?
PILKENTON:Well, eduation, prosperity, you know, where they happen -- with theeducation. And I don't know the technicalities of the whole program.
PILKENTON:You know, being just a director. But --
WALKER-HARPS:We got Bob's heart, where it's somewhat because of him.
PILKENTON:Yeah, she can probably tell you more about how it was implemented andthe success of it than I can, but making it available to him. Just education, and sometimes, you know, you just want to get more basic with him and talk forget the education for a minute --
PILKENTON:-- and just kind of try to encourage them to take your life and buildit around what you do know, and learn as much as you can, and all. But then don't expect a handout. Save and earn your own. You just kind of 00:37:00want to get him over here and just talk to them a minute.
PILKENTON:But you know, I own a lot of rental property today, and I've got a lotof rental-assisted Section 8 homes. And I got blacks in them and I've got whites in them, and I don't see any difference in the people that live in my Section 8 houses. But I have had some thoughts that the people that are living in them have come to depend on that. You know, you they don't seem to be motivated anymore to get past that. And it's -- to me, it's something -- you need it at one time, I got you. And here it is for you. But then go ahead and save your monies with the opportunity that's been presented to you financially, and save whatever you can and try to get past that and get independent. 00:38:00
PILKENTON:But it don't seem that way to me today. But I -- just two weeks ago,and I had a couple of different tenants call me and say they've been living in my house Section 8 10 years. And when they come out and inspect it, I say, okay, let's go do this. I get out there, and this black lady is the best, well-kept rental house that I've ever had. And she was Section 8. So now that confused me more. Here she is, I was just kind of accusing her -- not her specific, but --
PILKENTON:-- Section 8 tenant that they had become dependent and complacent. Butthis lady was proud of her home. And she kept it clean. So that kind of confused me, was, it was clean, well-kept, worn. And she wanted some new carpet. Ten years old, okay, you got some new carpet. What else you want, lady? If you're going to keep my house this way. But see, I profited. And she's good 00:39:00with it, and it's a nice home. But I wish it was her home. So I don't know how to differentiate that.
CUNNINGHAM:Do you think there's anything that we as a community can do to helpalleviate that issue? Because right now we have a lot of --
PILKENTON:That issue is growing. It's getting bigger and bigger and bigger every day.
WALKER-HARPS:Well, would you like -- I would like to see more landlords requiretraining programs -- participation and training programs, participation in self-preservation and all of those kinds of things. I don't know, since they're not government facilities, well, those that are, that still happens with the Housing Authority that's encouraged and promoted, do you see a 00:40:00difference? You have private rentals, and then you know about the Housing Authority.
WALKER-HARPS:Is there a difference in the attitude of those who rent from theHousing Authority, and those who rent in the private sector toward self-improvement?
PILKENTON:I don't know that I could say that I've actually acknowledged or eventried to look at, is there any difference than that. But the Housing Authority and our apartments -- and I still sometime want to call them "projects," but I don't like that so much, they are apartments and are homes -- we're pretty strict on them.
WALKER-HARPS:Yeah, I know.
PILKENTON:We don't allow loitering, and we don't allow smoking.
PILKENTON:And you can't be late on your rent. And it's -- in a lot ofways, it's encouraging promptness and one notch higher quality, at least, grow 00:41:00today, at least one notch better. So we're pretty strict on them. In a private world, I cannot monitor every one of my houses to that degree.
PILKENTON:You know? We go out and if they called us like that lady did, andanother lady did. And it was a white lady. And they -- one white and one black, and they were both -- the Section 8 tenants, not white or black, but the Section 8 tenants were as good as any tenant I've ever had, whether it was $1800 a month or $1,000 a month, or $800 a month, which is about their rent, $900 or so. And so it wasn't -- not black and white at all, as far as being on Section 8, and -- but I would have to say, you know, I have noticed that even 00:42:00with the Housing Authority, we do have some whites in some of our units, but it is, in Griffin, Georgia, a higher percentage of black in our apartments.
WALKER-HARPS:Is there a reason for that, do you think?
PILKENTON:Yeah, I mean, I don't know a specific reason to say, other than theevolution that we kind of have identified of, the mills were white.
PILKENTON:And then the mill villages were white. Then these mill villages rightacross the street, right here now are -- well, I don't want to say something I don't know factual, but I would say that they are 80 percent black.
PILKENTON:Then the other side of town toward East Griffin, the mill villagesthere are -- that were white are now black.
PILKENTON:So there's some evolution going on right there.
PILKENTON:So where did the white people go?00:43:00
PILKENTON:More rural, I guess, moved out.
PILKENTON:Mm-hmm. Yeah, that -- it ain't our city living anymore, it's morerural. And subdivisions moved out. I would say we were getting to a point about that.
WALKER-HARPS:Yeah, you were --
PILKENTON:Why there are more blacks moving today, that is what moving out ofthose -- I'm going to call them "dilapidated" -- they're third generation homes.
PILKENTON:So now, to move out of one of those into a nice unit like the HousingAuthority has built would be an upgrade, because you would be renting it either way. So even if you pay a market rate for one of our units, and, you know, you'd move in one of our units as the Housing Authority based on your salary. Out in the private world, you get what your money will buy you, what you got. 00:44:00
PILKENTON:And Section 8, I've heard landlords say, other investors, I'm going tocall them, that they want Section 8 housing. Section 8 is -- they come out and inspect the house annually, and they make a list for the owner and a list for the tenant, you know, and it may just be for her to clean up a little bit better, and/or replace the lightbulbs, and the owner's got to replace the screens or broken glass, they make a list. So they hold you to a little bit higher quality than just a privately-run unit.
WALKER-HARPS:That brings me to my last question. The quality of the standard ofhousing, private housing in this city has not gotten much better. 00:45:00What do you suggest that we can do, or put in place, or what is it going to take to raise the level of rental housing? Some of these houses that people live in are just awesome. I mean, they are just awesome. It's my feeling that I know we tear up, or we don't maintain, or we don't keep. But somewhere along the line, there has to be a medium, there has to be a coming together, between the landlords. There are houses for people to live in that the investors are whatever, whatever you might call them, would not even -- should not even want to rent. But they could easily rent them because they're older people, more than likely, or handicapped or sick people who can't go anywhere 00:46:00else. And that's the sad part. But I drive by and I see, now why do you still live here? Because he only charges me, what, $20 a week. And I can't go anywhere else for $20 a week. But here, conditions nobody should live in. And I know we're trying to with the lend bank, we're trying to get rid o them. But I'm not sure that we're getting rid of the mindset of the landlords who continue to do it.
PILKENTON:I don't think it's any miracle to this. It's going to be an evolution.You know, and I've been involved with (Toussaint?), with the City of Griffin on several occasions.
PILKENTON:And we kind of -- a lot of conversation, and Toussaint's doing a goodjob, too. Not just Bob Dull in the Housing Authority, but the City of Griffin. And upgrading and raising the minimum standards. So when they go out, 00:47:00if a house goes empty, just implementing every rule that they can without literally kicking a person out of their home, either, you can't do that, you know? So if the house goes without power for more than six months, then you've got to bring the entire house up to a minimum standard. That means new heat in there, new insulation, new windows, I mean the entire -- electrical, everything has to be brought up to building code. So that one implemented rule in itself is going to be part of the evolution of upgrading homes. It's the mindset. The City of Griffin can only -- and the Housing Authority, and the programs that's put out there, the financial burdens of furnishing these homes and making them available can be done by just anybody. But to change that mindset.
PILKENTON:And to tell them -- it's like I was saying earlier, I just want to get00:48:00them over to the side. I mean, you can do this, you know? Be determined and save your money and know that you can. And that's the mindset.
WALKER-HARPS:It was a miracle when Edgewood was torn down.
WALKER-HARPS:No, here. Parallel to Boyds Row. We just call it Boyds Row, it's D.F. Fuller Drive now.
PILKENTON:Oh, yeah, yeah. That little cul-de-sac running eachway?WALKER-HARPS:Yes. Yes.
PILKENTON:That was awful.
WALKER-HARPS:Yes. That was awful.
PILKENTON:No, that ought to have been against the law.
WALKER-HARPS:That was awful.
PILKENTON:Now see, this brings our conversation to a whole nother level, and no-- I could defend -- you can't kick a person out of their home, but those people needed to be out of those homes, and then something better than that.
CUNNINGHAM:What were the conditions like?
PILKENTON:They were living like a dog.
CUNNINGHAM:What was the conditions like?
PILKENTON:You could see daylight through the floor. Little shotgun house. Littleshotgun house.
WALKER-HARPS:It was unbelievable. Unbelievable.
PILKENTON:Underneath you could see all the way, no heat or air.00:49:00
WALKER-HARPS:No (inaudible), it was awful.
PILKENTON:This was just last year. This ain't when I was a kid.
WALKER-HARPS:And I understand that McKneely was almost as bad.
PILKENTON:Well, all of that was part of the evolution. That's because ofToussaint, the City of Griffin, the Housing Authority pressuring them to raise that minimum standard.
CRUICKSHANK:Are there still any areas like that around?
PILKENTON:There's still houses like that, but this is a whole street that she'sreferring to. I didn't know it by name, but -- so they're still shotgun houses. And the Housing Authority has tore down a lot of them just right there on Westwood, right there across the building that we just put in, on the golf course right there?
WALKER-HARPS:Oh, okay. Okay.
PILKENTON:We just tore down a bunch of them. We had torn down a bunch of themeven before that, across the street. There are still some around, but they're kind of more spotted now. We have to be a little bit careful about 00:50:00targeting an area. We have so many rules and regulations to -- you got good intentions, but you can't step on nobody on the way.
CRUICKSHANK:So what process do you have to go through to get the approval totear a place down? You have to send an inspector in, and then he goes and talks to some board, or something?
PILKENTON:Yeah, see, he has to -- you start putting pressure on the landlord,and you can't do that -- you know, these houses across the street here are mill village homes, and they do have restrooms that's been added on. And they're not anything like as bad as this. But, you know, they would still -- you and I would consider them low income or poor, and poor quality. But it ain't a bad way of life. I mean, they're not hurting and punished, and anything. But now that was a different thing. That was really bad. 00:51:00
PILKENTON:So pressure from the city to invest in them, and to hopefully pressurethem to -- I think they finally bought them. And the landlords has got a good point, too, you can't just take their property. And so he values them, like Ms. Walker was saying earlier, on $20 a week. Not that they got physical to bricks and sticks value.
PILKENTON:They got cash flow value as soon as somebody living in it. So but you-- when you start pressuring them a little bit to upgrade that to insulate 'em in the houses, you can't spend the kind of money to upgrade them. They don't have that value, you can't even invest in them. So it's depress them and keep it that way, or sell them to the city. 00:52:00
PILKENTON:You can condemn them. So the Housing Authority, the City of Griffindidn't even know that they could do that. The Housing Authority, and Bob Dull's expertise through the years, and our chartered authority will allow us to do some condemnation.
CRUICKSHANK:Have you done a lot of that?
PILKENTON:No. We actually right now are doing some, but it's not for that exactpurpose. It's to redevelop, so it's the same thing, it's just that a lot of homes were on two streets there that were depressed, and bad -- poor qualities, and people still living there. So we want to redevelop it into a new senior facility, and not necessarily senior, but a new housing development. And we can't put a project in there without owning them all. So we paid fair 00:53:00dollars for most of them. But then people find out -- it's the Housing Authority, they start going up on the price.
PILKENTON:So you pay until it gets over what you can pay, and then you've got tostop, because they go too high. And then you got to do a condemnation where, you know, you're not trying these investor's homes -- it's mostly investors. But you want to pay them a fair market value. And so you've just got to do a condemnation, and that's just pretty much a process of getting it to a court and letting a judge decide what that value is. You're still going to pay them for it.
CRUICKSHANK:So what happens to the people who are living in those terrible places?
CRUICKSHANK:And where do they get the money to stay anywhere?
PILKENTON:If the Housing Authority is ever instrumental in displacing somebody,then we have to monitor them for, like, five years, and go talk to them and interview them, and how has this impacted you, and support them. That's 00:54:00for a minimum of five years.
CRUICKSHANK:Does that mean Welfare, or --?
PILKENTON:Well, if that's what they need. Guide them towards that, whatevertheir needs are, and make sure that this specific action has impacted them.
PILKENTON:It may be for the better, most of the time it is, because it can't getmuch worse than where you were.
PILKENTON:But just -- these things can get expensive. And now you're dependingon the government for funding just to implement these programs, and the government for the subsidy of each person's rents.
CRUICKSHANK:So this never pays for itself, is that right?
PILKENTON:No. That's losing.
PILKENTON:You know, the units that we built are self-supportive. I know -- youknow, we still funded and supplemented with HUD. 00:55:00
PILKENTON:But we operate pretty lean.
WALKER-HARPS:All right, I hope we can fully utilize the Housing Authority -- thereport that came out last year, and target some of these private landlords who are deliberately misusing or abusing, or people who -- and they can do better. So the practices that exist, I understand there is some of the -- these wouldn't be private land owners. Somebody saw the agencies, the rental agencies, that have been allowing several people to make deposits on the same facility. 00:56:00
WALKER-HARPS:And then not returning everybody's money. You get it, and I can'tbelieve that I've not tested it yet, but I'm going to test it. That's terrible!
PILKENTON:Yeah, well, the condemnation that we're doing is two or three housesthat were sitting right there.
PILKENTON:And they were out of state owners, not -- I don't know of any localowner that would do that, or have face enough to stand in front of somebody and do that. So most of the time, are out of state owners. And they were doing that. And I don't know how that scam works. But they were getting three, five hundred dollars down, and tell them they own that house.
PILKENTON:And they never do. And it's just a scam. And the houses are notlivable --
CUNNINGHAM:-- in the first place. But somebody that was trying to helpthemselves were deceived to think they were going to be homeowners, for a small amount of money. And they ought to be in jail. 00:57:00
CUNNINGHAM:Well, do you have any other stories, or anything else you'd like toshare with us before we wrap up today?
PILKENTON:I don't know of anything specific. I'm sure when I get out of here,I'm going to think of a lot of things I should have said. (laughter)
WALKER-HARPS:You know, you've done well. It's an interesting experience -- interesting.
CUNNINGHAM:Thank you so much for coming out and sharing your stories with us.
PILKENTON:Oh, thank you.
CUNNINGHAM:We appreciate you.
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