Partial Transcript: Well I was raised up right here...
Segment Synopsis: Caldwell talks about his childhood growing up in Springfield, Georgia. Caldwell describes the poverty of his neighborhood, as he grew up in a segregated African American community. Caldwell relates how his father provided food for his family as a child.
Keywords: farming; mill; poverty
Partial Transcript: When the crop got ready, when the hogs...
Segment Synopsis: Caldwell talks about the community of his hometown, Springfield. Caldwell relates his experience as a golf caddie and talks about one of his friends, Jim Cercy. Caldwell explains how his understanding of World War II influenced the way he saw himself in regards to the daily racism he encountered.
Keywords: Jim Cercy; Springfield; World War II; caddie; racism
Partial Transcript: I'd join the Marine Corp., plus I told...
Segment Synopsis: Caldwell talks about his time serving in Vietnam, and how his experience brought insight after returning home during the Civil Rights Movement. Caldwell explains how he went to Griffin Technical Institute and worked in automobile repair and welding, and how he eventually came to work at General Motors.
Keywords: Civil Rights Movement; General Motors; Griffin Technical Institute; Vietnam
Partial Transcript: And I tell them, how I did it...
Segment Synopsis: Caldwell talks about how once he got out of the Marine Corps he worked to help young men freshly out of the Marines get jobs. Caldwell shares stories about the people who influenced him as a young man, including some of the teachers he had. Caldwell describes the ways in which the Vietnam War mentally effected his emotional state, as well as that of community members returning from war. Caldwell explains how he dealt with his PTSD following the war.
Keywords: General Motors; Griffin Tech; Joe Baker; Vietnam War; William Walker; post-traumatic stress disorder
Partial Transcript: We were partying so hard at the time...
Segment Synopsis: Caldwell talks about how he decided to join his community's church. Caldwell describes the impact teachers had on his upbringing as a kid. Caldwell shares stories about his children, Ophelia and Demarcus. Caldwell talks about raising his grandson.
Keywords: Demarcus Caldwell; Just Wings; Ophelia Caldwell; Savannah State University; church
Partial Transcript: Do what you can to help...
Segment Synopsis: Caldwell talks about the ways in which he helps take care of his family. Caldwell explains how his father influenced the way that he raises his own children. Caldwell relates stories of his grandfather and how he made money making syrup and bootleg whiskey as opposed to accepting the life of a sharecropper.
Keywords: children; church; plantation
Partial Transcript: She wouldn't let him buy land...
Segment Synopsis: Caldwell describes his grandfather and the uses of syrup during his childhood. Caldwell recalls the impact that the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. had on his decision to join the Civil Rights Movement.
Keywords: Civil Rights Movement; Griffin High School; integration; segregation; syrup
Partial Transcript: They would tell us to go...
Segment Synopsis: Caldwell talks about resistance methods used by Civil Rights activists in Griffin, Georgia shortly after the death of Martin Luther King. Caldwell shares stories about the actions some members of the white community would take to stop integration. Caldwell relates a story about a pool in Griffin.
Keywords: Civil Rights Movement; segregation
Partial Transcript: When we was in school...
Segment Synopsis: Caldwell talks about the integration of Griffin High School, especially the integration of the football team. Caldwell explains how many black students were not able to play on the football team after integration. Caldwell relates how the integration of football teams resulted in better performance across many universities.
Keywords: Alabama State University; Griffin Eagles; Griffin High School; football
Partial Transcript: I said, 'You taught her that, mam...'
Segment Synopsis: Caldwell shares his belief as to the origin of racism in the United States. Caldwell explains how he was often discriminated against by police as a child. Caldwell recalls how black police officers were not allowed to arrest white people shortly after integration.
Keywords: Sam Bass; discrimination; police; racism
Partial Transcript: All of them wasn't like that...
Segment Synopsis: Caldwell talks about some of the positive experiences he had with white people growing up, and the importance of white people in the Civil Rights Movement. Caldwell talks about the importance of taking care of others in the community.
Keywords: Civil Rights Movement; discrimination; religion
ART CAIN:We are here at the University of Georgia on August the 30th, 2018 inour oral history project. We have several folks who are here who will be interviewers, and we will have the privilege of interviewing --
JEWEL WALKER-HARPS:Mr. Larry Caldwell.
CAIN:Mr. Larry Caldwell.
LARRY CALDWELL:Yeah, Caldwell.
CAIN:We will first introduce each of the interviewers and then let Mr. Caldwellstart to tell us a little bit about himself. My name's Art Cain. I'm with the Office of Continuing Education here on the University of Georgia campus.
JOHN CRUICKSHANK:I'm John Cruickshank, and I'm the librarian here at the Griffincampus of UGA.
BE-ATRICE CUNNINGHAM:I'm Be-Atrice Cunningham. I'm a project manager in theassistant provost's office here at the University of Georgia, Griffin campus.
RICHIE BRAMAN:I'm Richie Braman. I'm an administrator and developer00:01:00with the Center for Urban Agriculture.
WALKER-HARPS:I'm Jewel Walker-Harps, president of the Griffin branch NAACP, anda lifelong friend of Larry Caldwell.
CUNNINGHAM:Mr. Caldwell, thank you so much for being with us today.
CALDWELL:You're welcome. You're welcome. I've been looking forward to this. I'vebeen notified about this weeks ago, and we were just trying to get a date and a time set up. Believe me; I'm busy too.
CUNNINGHAM:(laughs) Well, we are so glad to have you. So we're going to startoff by you just telling us a little bit about your background, your family background.
CALDWELL:When I was raised up right here on the south side of town, in which iscalled Spring Hill, and that side of town was beyond poverty. That's where I was raised up at. Our streets probably were the last streets in Griffin that they actually paved. Spring Hill and Boyds Row were dirt streets because 00:02:00they were black neighborhoods. I could go up to the road one block, and and over to Pamona products the cannery. When we were little kids, we got skates for Christmas. We had to go up the street just one block away because the cannery was there, and that's where we skated at because it was concrete. That's as far as that went because the cannery. You understand how deep (inaudible) is? That was on concrete. That's about what it was like when we was coming up in my neighborhood as a young boy. And my daddy, he worked at Dundee Number One for 44 years. And after 44 years, his retirement was 44 dollars a month because the 00:03:00negroes weren't allowed unions inside the cotton mills. Back in the '50s and '60s, no way there's going to get a union in the cotton mill. They didn't know the scale of wages they were making, and they didn't understand at that time that they didn't have benefits at all. He just had a job. When I was a young boy, I had to work. My daddy got me a job at the mill -- me and my brother. We worked at the mill 40 hours. The wages back then was a dollar and a quarter an hour. For one-week wages, 40 hours, I brought home 40 dollars because the quarter was taken out in social security and taxes. I only got a dollar of it. Every week, my check was 40 dollars. And I knew as a young boy then, I got to -- something got to be better for me. Daddy drove truck up there all 00:04:00them years, and that's all he got: 44 dollars a month for 44 years. And the only way we survived, my daddy was a farmer. On each side of my house on Spring Hill where we lived, this man would come around during the spring of the year with his mule and his wagon. And he would plow up the yards on both sides of the house, and that's where Daddy had his garden. We didn't have any money, but we had plenty to eat because he raised it. In our backyard, it was a big tree back there. Daddy would raise so many onions, he would line them up around that tree and that's where they hung. We had a smokehouse full of meat because he cured hogs, and as a young boy, I could never understand. Now, I do. How could salt preserve meat? I would watch him put this meat in these boxes of salt 00:05:00and it would be there till next year or the next year because the salt preserved it. That's where they get those hams from -- that salted ham -- because they pack it in salt; they cure it. They learned this up here, not after, because they know all this stuff. Daddy didn't go to school, but he could raise more food than we could eat for agriculture. He gave away his beans, his peas and stuff. The crop was so big, he would tell us, "Go put this bag of beans on the porch and just walk off. Just leave them," because the neighbors got tired of him giving them that stuff. They couldn't eat it; we couldn't eat it. Mama and them canned it as much as they could. That's how we was brought up. Daddy provided that way. Money, we didn't have -- very little -- but he made sure we ate. We had plenty to eat. We wasn't hungry; we wasn't that hungry. I used to go out to the hen house when I was a little boy, and I would get eggs out of the hen house out the nest. And I would hold them in my hand and go 00:06:00straight to the kitchen, which was a wood stove that you already had prepared to cook on. And I would crack that egg in my hand in the pan. You don't get no fresher egg than that from the hen house to the pan. That's the way I was brought up. We had, in that smokehouse, Daddy would make sausage. Can't get sausage like that today with the sage and all the hot peppers and stuff the way they made it. (laughter) And I can remember all I could do was reach that pot, what it was in. And as a little boy, I would stand on my toes and put my hands in there and just reach down like a dip and just get as much sausage as my hand could hold. And I would go to the store and put it in the pan. And that was the best sausage. Can't find it like that no more. Every now and then, you'll take one of them hot sage, that hot pepper and that sausage. It was good. We had homemade syrup. Homemade butter we bought from a man in Orchard Hill; 00:07:00he made butter. We got our butter from him. Everything was homemade. We bought very little. That's why I don't care for syrup today, and butter today because I was brought up, as I said, on the real stuff. This stuff don't taste the same. If you ever had a biscuit with some homemade butter on it, you could understand why we come up just eating butter bread. Our kids tell her, "How you snack on that all day?" I tell them, "All day, all we ate was butter bread, and sometimes just syrup and bread." But they didn't understand. It wasn't this quality bread and butter that they have in the store today. It tasted better.
WALKER-HARPS:Did you make the butter? Did y'all make the butter?
CALDWELL:The guy in Orchard Hill made it. We would buy butter from differentpeople. Different farmers had a gift of different stuff they would make for his food. This one man, he made syrup. We would go by his house and buy the syrup. This one man, he made buttermilk. We would go by his house and buy 00:08:00buttermilk by the gallon. And that's the way it was. If you didn't have the money, you could pay him a dozen eggs, and he'd give you so much buttermilk. I mean you'd trade it out. You got any eggs? Yeah, I got a dozen eggs. Well, I'll give you a gallon of buttermilk. That's the way it was back then.
CUNNINGHAM:Sounds like a cooperative, yes.
CALDWELL:That's the way it was, yes. And if you needed -- like, for let's say atthe store. Even at the stores back then, they would allow people so much credit. If you didn't have the money to pay the guy that owned the store, and let's say at the end of the year you owed him maybe, say like, "Well, we got a grocery bill from this year." "Well, I got stuff on credit." My daddy was sent 200-some dollar bill. If he didn't have 200 dollars, he'd go out there and get him a hog. Daddy had a yard full of hogs. He'd give him a hog. Let's sit on a deal. See what I'm saying? But everybody paid their way, and they cared. They traded it out like that, and they call that a shake-of-a-hand deal. Wasn't 00:09:00no paper signed; wasn't no agreement, no contract, just your word of mouth and a shake of a hand. He said, "By the end of the season." I didn't know what that mean when I was a young boy. He was talking about when the crop got ready, when the hogs was full grown. At the end of the season, we're going to square off, whether it be money, meat, or whatever, vegetables. We're going to square off at the end of the season. A lot of times, that's what they'd done. That's what -- I don't know what they got charged to plow those fields up, but he would go from house to house if you want it plowed up. And that's the way I was brought up as a young boy. And we used to caddy on the golf course. We would put clothes on layaway to go to school. And all summer, we would caddy on the golf course to pay for them because Daddy had nine children. If you got nine kids 00:10:00working at the mill, and when you go to school today, in my day and time, we was wearing Levi's and Converse All Stars, which they called Chuck Taylors. That's what the young guys was wearing, and that's what I wanted to wear -- the Levi pants and the Converse All Stars. I had to buy them, though, because Daddy couldn't afford to do that with nine kids, so I would caddy and put my clothes on layaway. That's how I got clothes to wear to school when we was coming up.
CUNNINGHAM:Well, tell me about your experience as a caddy. I mean during thattimeframe, was that a positive experience?
CALDWELL:It was in a way, it was. In a way, it wasn't because Daddy told us towork for a living, and we carried the golfer's bag. And they had a wage decided what they paid the caddies, and the guys would pay it, and it was 00:11:00like two dollars and a half for 18 holes. The guys out in Atlanta always paid more. They would give you four to five dollars, sometimes even ten dollars, to carry their bag. I don't know why the guys out in Atlanta paid more. The Griffin guys only paid 2.50. They wouldn't pay any more. But the guys out in Atlanta, they always paid more. I had a friend -- y'all might know him -- Jim Sersa. I'm sure y'all know Jim Sersa, real estate fellow. Been in real estate forever. Jim was my friend at that time of segregation. The Griffin Drive-In is still there. Caught up below the library here by the cemetery, but that's all. Right below Mount Zion Church.
CALDWELL:Memorial Drive. Griffin Drive-In, still now, they sell the best chilidogs, best chili burgers in town. As a young boy, blacks weren't 00:12:00allowed to go in there, but when I was a little boy, I ate in there because I was with Jim Sersa. He would take me in there with him and wasn't a word said because I was with him. And he would buy me hamburgers and hot dogs and he would set them in front of me as a little boy, knowing I couldn't eat them. He would buy me four hamburgers and two Coca-Colas. It just tickled Jim to watch me try to eat them because I did work for him around the house. And he was just good to me like that. He was my friend. Jim's my friend today. He is today. Things like that I remember coming up as a little boy, people like Jim Sersa that really weren't racist. He took me aside this restaurant where blacks weren't allowed. But with him, because he was a big man at that time -- the Sersa family -- nobody said a word, because I was with him. But this is what bothered 00:13:00me caddying on the golf course coming up as a little boy, a young man. In school, they taught us the history of this country. And I always have been military minded; that's why I joined the military. I always have liked the military. I always wanted to be a soldier, and I would read a lot of stuff about the war and stuff like that. And I read about Japan, the war we had against Japan, how they bombed Pearl Harbor and so many Americans was killed at Pearl Harbor that awful day. And them two nuclear bombs they dropped on Japan because we would never beat them in that war. We had to do something to stop them, so our leaders decided to drop two bombs on them. It took two nuclear bombs to stop Japan. We heard about this in schools. But as a young boy, I'm at the 00:14:00golf course caddying. I'm not allowed to play golf on the city golf course. I wasn't allowed to go inside the clubhouse as a black boy in the city golf course. But Japanese could play golf; the Japanese could go inside the clubhouse. And you look at that with a bitter taste in your mouth. You'd be thinking, "What's wrong this picture?" My brothers ain't -- they wasn't military like me. I was just -- even as a younger boy, I read about the military. I would just read military history. And I would tell them, "Do they realize how many Americans," -- these guys playing golf didn't, but the country as a whole -- "probably killed?" The Japanese? "And they have better rights than we do. They have better privileges than we do." That's what I looked at coming up as a young man. When I got of age in school, I realized school's not working out 00:15:00for me. Wasn't making good grades. If I ever finished school, I never would have went to college even with a -- all I would ever got was a high school diploma. I said, "I got to do something to make a positive move in my life. Always had loved the military. I want to join." They drafted me in the Army; that's what they did. After they drafted me, I realized I was going in the Army anyway, but I always wanted to be a Marine because it was a lot of black guys back then, which was very rare having been in the Marine Corps. And Sam Bass was one of them. And Sam Bass's sister, her name Deborah Bass, she was my friend -- not good friend, just a friend. And in ninth grade, by me having a job, I had my own car. Boy, that was something popular back then, to have your own car. 00:16:00That car got me in more trouble (laughter) just being in the ninth grade. God, that's trouble for a ninth-grader to have his own car. And I would pick the girls up because they rode with me, because I had a car, on the weekend. I had a car. All of those were my friends. Mr. Oliver Hewitt's wife -- I'm trying to remember her name now. Oliver Hewitt's wife. I was schooling with his boys; all of us went to school together, and she would come over there every evening and pick her boys up. And I would leave the house going in that car. I had on blast six to four, tires spinning, burning rubber. And she'd call Mama every day and tell on me. "Larry left school acting crazy in that car, just showing off." And every time I'd get home, Mama would be waiting on me. Boy, that car got me in a lot of trouble. But her brother was the reason I joined the Marine Corps. I joined the Marine Corps because I told my mama -- I said, "If I'm 00:17:00going to Vietnam, I want to be trained by the best," and I did. I spent a year in Vietnam during my service of time, and during that year, which was in 1969, was also during the Civil Rights movement. That was going on before I went in service, and even after I got out, it was really hard to deal with. I have spent a year in Vietnam for this country. The last thing the government told me to do. Watched a lot of my friends die, black and white, in this war zone, in a war we shouldn't have never been there. But we went because the government said we should go. That's like the worst scenario as a black boy. When you 00:18:00come home from Vietnam, a war like that, and your people are still fighting dogs and hoses and polices for their civil rights, and you asked yourself, "Where do I go from here? Should I be mean and angry? Should I fight? Should I kill somebody? What should I do with this now? I gave all I got. I have nothing else for this country to give. But now I got to come here and fight the dogs and the hoses, pipes, and the polices just because I want to come to a place like the University of Georgia," where we are now. This place was here then. I wasn't allowed on this campus. It was here then. The University of Georgia 00:19:00was there then. We wasn't allowed on the campus. But I could go to Vietnam and fight for this, and that was really marvelous for I was only 20 years old. God almighty. I talked to Mr. Kendall, which was a teacher at that time, Mike Kendall's daddy. Some of y'all might know him. And he was telling us -- he said, "Caldwell, you can come out here and go to Vocational Tech. You're a veteran, and they have benefits for you, and the government will pay you." I said, "Pay me to go to school?" He said, "Yeah, they would pay you to go back to school." I got a second chance. I went back to school at Griffin Tech. It took me three years to finish a two-year course. For one reason, I broke my leg 00:20:00riding horses during that time I was in school. Plus, I wasn't the smartest kid in school. I had a learning disability which, back in the '60s, they didn't see that like they see it now. It was a struggle for me. When some kids studied a couple of hours, I would be up all night just trying to grasp the basics of this project. That's what I went through through high school. Guys like Freddy Champion and Larry Ferguson and different friends I had like that, all of us were real close, and we went to class together. And they would tell me, "Caldwell, we're going to help you through this. We're going to work together on this." Anything I didn't understand, they were like my tutors. They 00:21:00helped me anything I was -- they worked with me. They was my friends. That's how I finished those two courses at that Griffin Tech -- welding and auto body repair. During the auto body repair, Mr. Walt Pitts with old Pitts and Carter's grocery store. We had to have projects to work on at the school. He wrecked his truck; I was at his store one day, and I asked him could I take his truck to school and fix it. It'd give me a project to work on. He said, "How much it going to cost me?" I said, "Very little to nothing because the school just wants you to pay for the material." When I repaired his truck, he paid the school, and gave me some extra money too, and I realized I could make a living at this. It's some money in this for me. For years, in that little alley right 00:22:00downtown Griffin, I had me a little body shop back there, me and Reverend Frank Wright. He has his own church now; we were young boys back then. For years, I had my own body shop back there making pretty good, honest money; I really was. I made good money, and that's how my career started as making a living. I stayed there in that body shop. I would work in the body shop during the day. I would work at the mill at night. I was constantly putting in applications at General Motors, and that's where I ended up at, at General Motors. After three years at Vocational school, with body and fender training with welding, I had landed, through the grace of God -- I had a job working in the largest body shop in the world, which was G.M Assembly Plant. And I stayed there 31 years. 00:23:00After 31 years, because of my vocational training, I landed the highest paying job on the assembly line in the whole body shop, which was head of repair. And I didn't work on that line. I had a job off the line. They send the cars to me. I fixed them; I repaired them, and I sent them back to the line because of the training I had at Vocational Tech School. That's how I struggled to really make my way through life, is making a living. But I tell the guys all the time, a lot of young boys. They used to tell me, "When is General Motors hiring?" They always want to work with General Motors. And I'd tell them, "I was working at the mill when General Motors called me. What are you doing now?" A 00:24:00little work is better than no work. A low paying job is better than no job. They want to have no job and think they can step off the corner inside of a big company like General Motors, and they have nothing to offer. And I tell them how I did it. They don't want to go to school; they don't want to be trained. They just think they can just walk in there and say, "Hire me." I tried to explain to them, "We have to have something to offer." I went through that a lot when I was coming up because I was a young man when G.M. hired me, and that's how I made my living for 31 years, at General Motors. And I took applications in forever trying to get young guys jobs when I worked there.
CUNNINGHAM:Well, it sounds like you've been trying to influence the nextgeneration, and it sounds like Mr. Kendall played a big part in 00:25:00influencing you to go to Griffin Tech.
CALDWELL:Mr. Kendall did.
CUNNINGHAM:Mr. Kendall; that's what I meant; I'm sorry. So were there otherpeople that influenced your life as a young man growing up here in Griffin?
CALDWELL:Yes. When I was in junior high school, Miss Harps was one of myteachers. She was always very nice. She always had patience. I remember her having patience with me because I wasn't the smarter person. I wasn't the one that sat right in front of her desk. I wasn't an A student; you hear me? I got back as far as I could because I was a slow learner, but she always had patience with me; I remember that. Her -- Mr. William Walker were the principals and they sit up on top of the hill at junior high school. He was a kind and gentle man when we was in school, and he treated us with fairness and kindness. 00:26:00Although he was the principal -- he was the principal -- he wasn't a mean man. All the way through elementary school and stuff, most all the principals were real mean. If you go up to the principal's office, it ain't like the school that it is now. As a young boy, they beat the socks off you. Any little thing you done, you got a whooping. Amen. Mr. Walker wasn't like that. He didn't believe in the belt. He'd talk to you; he'd lecture to you. "Young man, come here. Young man, just, young man, let me tell you something. Young man, this is what you're going to do. You're going to come up fine." You know, he just -- Mr. Walker broke you down and made you feel conscious about what you did because he let you know there was a better way. He wasn't a disciplinarian; he was a teacher. He made you see your faults. He made you think about it. He made you want to be better. He embarrassed you for getting in trouble. That's the way Mr. Walker were. He was that kind of man. He made you feel ashamed for getting in trouble, and you didn't want to go there no more, because you wanted him to 00:27:00respect you and look up to you. I don't want to go to Mr. Walker's office no more because he don't like that. He don't like that trouble.
CRUICKSHANK:Now, this was at Fairmont High?
CALDWELL:Mr. Walker was up there on the hill at junior high school. That wasjunior high.
CALDWELL:Kelsey, yeah. People like him, Sam Bass, a lot of military guys wentin. One of my church member's sons got killed in Vietnam. Joe Baker, a friend of mine, he was in the Navy. He came home from Vietnam. It shows you how the war can mess a man up so bad. He killed himself, Joe Baker. Me and him were going to Griffin Tech together. And almost killed his wife -- he tried to kill his wife and himself. Hey, Miss Walker, you remember Mrs. Dobbs?
WALKER-HARPS:Mm-hmm. I remember.
CALDWELL:She lived and he died. That's how the military was sending guys homeback then, Vietnam. From the first ten years I came home from 00:28:00Vietnam, all I did was drink alcohol and head around to clubs for the first ten years, not knowing I was suffering from post-traumatic stress, war fatigue because my medicine was alcohol. That's the way I came home from Vietnam. I didn't know this until I talked to the psychiatrist. I was telling her I had been out of service ten years before I started having nightmares about Vietnam. And she asked me, "Well, what happened between the one and ten when you came home?" I told her, "I stopped drinking." As I grew up and got older, I put all that foolishness behind me. I stopped drinking, stopped hanging around the clubs every weekend, stuff like that. I saw this young girl I wanted to 00:29:00marry, which went to their church I had invested in. I had turned my whole life around, and I started having nightmares because I wasn't drunk.
WALKER-HARPS:Did the church play an important role with you at that time or not?
WALKER-HARPS:That was Reverend Harris?
CALDWELL:Reverend Harris was my pastor. Reverend James was my friend. My wifewent to Eighth Street where Reverend James was preaching. Pastor Harris was my preacher, my pastor on Boyds Row. I spent about as much time at Eighth Street than I did Boyds Row because I really loved this young girl. Well, she's my wife today. (knocks on wood) Jesus Christ, we've been together for 40-some years, been married 30 of them. And I got to be good friends with Reverend James and the deacons because I spent so much time over there chasing my 00:30:00wife. Reverend James would tell me when he was out of town, "Larry, bring me the choir to me," because at that time, the church didn't have a van. I had a van because I working at General Motors. I was using the van and partying to chase girls. (laughter) I would bring the choir to him. Every weekend, he out of town, I'd load the choir up in my van. I'd been saying, "Get all the beer cans and all that stuff out of my van," before I took the choir, still chasing behind my wife. A lot of them beer cans were hers too. (laughter) As time went on for years, that went by. One week, Reverend James was on revival. And you know, when you're a friend of a preacher, it's like, "He ain't talking to me; he's talking to y'all. I'm his friend. He ain't preaching to me. Me and him 00:31:00buddies; I know his little secrets and he knows my little secrets." You know what I mean? I listened to him one week. I actually listened to that man preach. It changed my whole life; it changed my whole life. And that's when me and my wife both -- I told her, "We got to get saved. We got to turn our lives around. What we're doing ain't going to work." We were partying so hard at that time, I was afraid to go to her with that because I knew what we had to give up. And he said, "Seeing is fun. When you feeding the flesh, that's fun." She said, "I'm tired too." She said, "Let's go to church and get it right." Up under Reverend James and Pastor Harris, we both got saved. Reverend James married us, and we're still together today. They was going to make me a deacon at Eighth Street; all I had to do was join the church. And my pastor found out about that, 00:32:00Reverend Harris. He heard; he got wind of it, and he and he hurried up and ordained me as deacon. Yeah, he got me out of that claw before they got me, and I've been there ever since. And as time went by, my wife did join my church, and we're still together now serving under Pastor Sewell. Pastor Harris, he passed away. Reverend James done passed away too. They both dead and gone, but we're still in church. As did the lady sang the song, "You Yet Holding On," we yet holding on. And that was -- that played a big part in my life as people in the neighborhood. It was teachers like Mr. Tucker in high school. He was concerned about us. Mr. Tucker would fuss and raise sand about stuff, you know, trying to keep us in straight. Mr. Tucker would like this here. At Fairmont High School, we would sneak off 00:33:00campus, as they say cutting class. We would sneak off campus, and Mr. Tucker saw you, because he was a tall man, he would run you down. He'd come get you. If he caught you, he'd come get you. Mr. Tucker wasn't afraid of you, brung you right back to school. I look back at that and I realize he was concerned. Because he could have just looked at us and said, "Let them go off," but he brought us back, made us come back to school. Teachers like that, they was really concerned as we was coming up, really cared about us. I think about Mr. Tucker a lot. I remember Miss Harps as a -- back then she was Miss Walker, Miss Jewel Walker. All the boys in the room had a little crush on her -- my middle school teacher. (laughter) And she was good to us. You know what I mean? And we liked her. (laughs) And the boys said, "I like her." (laughs) That's the way it 00:34:00was when you was coming up. You had crushes on your school teachers. I mean you didn't know no better. You know what I mean? This lady ain't staring at you. You're just a child; you can't even feed yourself. (laughter) But we did as young boys, and I remember her and teachers like Mr. Walker like that when we was coming up. They played a big part of, you know, in school influencing us. They kept us going, and we wouldn't give up because of their kindness. And Miss Harps now, that's why she's the head of NAACP. She care about people -- still care about people. See what I'm saying? She's still stressed. She don't have to do what she's doing. She care about people. It's just the way she is. Some people --
WALKER-HARPS:Now, you've raised some children. How many children do00:35:00you have?
CALDWELL:I have two: one boy and one girl. My daughter, Ophelia, she graduatedfrom Savannah --
CALDWELL:Savannah State, yeah, and she's living in Atlanta. She's apsychiatrist; she finished school. I made sure she went to college because I didn't want her to struggle the way I did, and I realized she was real smart. She finished college in three years, 4.0 average. She called me that third year, and she said, "I finished all of my courses." She said, "They're going to make me come to school one more year to take one class," because they wouldn't give it to her. They made her come one year to take one class. I said, 00:36:00"Since you ain't got but one class for that whole year, you got my permission to take that one class and have you some fun because you've done everything that I asked you to do." She did that. She was Who's Who. She was on the Dean's List Cum Laude. She did everything she could do. And I can't remember how many ropes that child had around her neck when they called her name on that stage to get her degree. That was one of the proudest days of my life. And my son -- you ever ate at the chicken at this business downtown, Just Wings? That's his business. He owns that chicken place, Just Wings, and he did all right. He come up crazy. It took a long time, a lot of praying for that boy to get him out of the streets dealing with the drug dealers and dealing with drugs and stuff like 00:37:00that. But by and by, he realized going to jail ain't what it look like. It's best to work for a living. Couple times going to jail, he straightened up then. Now, he got two businesses. A lot of prayer and love for that boy, that boy of mine, that Demarcus Allen. He own Just Wings and he got a trucking company. They just bought a house in Heron Bay, and he won't pay for the golf privileges because he don't play golf and I play golf. And I said, "What good's going to do you living in Heron Bay if you ain't going to let me come up there and play golf?" (laughter) You moved up on the hill but you ain't taking me up on the hill with you. You know I want to go with you. They don't think about that, little kids.
WALKER-HARPS:Now, you've got some grandchildren I admire. There's somebody inthat you raise or help raise I see you with all the time, some grandchildren. 00:38:00
CALDWELL:Joshua, my little grandboy Joshua. He live with me. We practicallyadopted him because I saw him as me as a little boy coming up. His situation wasn't the best. It wasn't the best. Family, poor income, living in the worst scenario a child could live in at his age. That was my son's boy by another girl. And we just practically took him in our home and raised him because I could look at him coming up and the situation he was in. I could only see myself. I said, "Somebody's got to save this child. Somebody's got to do something for him." And me and my wife, we took it on myself to keep him. He live with us right now today. He's in middle school now. And I have three more grandkids by my daughter Ophelia. Ophelia's oldest boy, the one that 00:39:00goes to Mount Zion, the psychiatrist, apparently they call it a profession. What they call that when somebody want everything perfect?
CALDWELL:Yes, perfectionist. He can't stand it. It's got be lined up. It'sreally got them two lined up. (laughter) It ain't right. That's the way he is. He's that way about his homework. He'll come home crying because he made a B. He thinks you're supposed to get an A in everything. I tell him, "Boy, you ain't Einstein. You're not going to get all A's all the time, but you're passing." Right now at the school, they are testing him because they literally don't know exactly what is IQ is because he's so beyond the grade level that 00:40:00he's in. In the summertime when school closed -- I forgot which University is in Atlanta. One little college that my daughter was telling me, that's where he goes to school during the summertime. He goes to some school with the college kids. What they be testing him on, I don't know how they do that, but just how they -- because he's so smart. And my one daughter by my son, Shebria, she done finished college. When she was in high school, they would pay her to let them test her. She was getting paid to take tests. And I asked her, "Don't you get," -- she'd spend all her salaries up and down taking tests. And at the end of the section, then they'd go and write her a check. And I said, "Bri Bri, 00:41:00don't you get caught up here, Bri." Shebria was her name. "Don't you get tired of that anxiety?" She said, "They give me these tests, just which is so easy, and they're paying me." She said, "I don't mind doing it." And I asked the lady one time, I said, "Why do y'all test? Why you want her? Why you choose her to be tested?" She said, "Because we look at her grades and how she do on these tests and we use that to test other kids. It's because she's extraordinary smart." And I didn't understand the strategies behind that, but they would look at her grades and how she made on the test, and somehow they used that to test other kids with. And they paid her for that. I was proud of her. That's what she did every Saturday. She would go there and took little tests. Little grandkids -- I'm proud of all my grandkids, and I love them, and I don't have to 00:42:00tell them. I don't have to tell them. I was sitting on my deck and I was playing; Ophelia got two twins. I was just playing with them. And he asked me -- he said, "Granddaddy, why do you love us so much?" Them children, that's one time I was speechless. I looked at that boy and I said, "How can I explain to you how much I love you when there's no limit to it?" That's what he didn't understand. It's no limit to how much I love you. I can't -- and they said, "This much?" I don't know. How can I count it? Before is east from the south and the south is from the north. The kids wouldn't understand that. I will love you as long as I got breath in my body. He asked me, "Why do you 00:43:00love us so much?" And I do; I love them. I love them so much, my daughter, my kids, my family.
WALKER-HARPS:You, you had a rough life, rough childhood sort of, but you cameout to make a success out of it, and you've got a testimony. So I have to say that that is what happened to your children. There must have been something in your home or in the environment surrounding them for them to turn out. They didn't automatically turn out to be a success. Even the young man Joshua came to realize what he needed to be.
WALKER-HARPS:So would you -- am I right? Would you think that you experiencesled you to be the kind of man that could direct them to the point 00:44:00that they would be the kind of children that they are today?
WALKER-HARPS:Had you been different, perhaps they would have been different.
WALKER-HARPS:But you have lived, as my mama would say, through all of it, andyou've sowed all your seeds so you were ready to be a father and a grandfather.
CALDWELL:My mother -- I think I got it from my mama. When I was just a youngboy, when I first started working at General Motors, I lived with my mother before -- excuse me -- before I got married. Living with Mama, working for a company like General Motors, I had no bills, no debt, making more money than I needed, just having a good time with it. My sister had three kids, and they was in the worst scenario that a child could be in. And that really 00:45:00bothered my mama a whole lot. It really did. And I told her to go get them. I said, "Go get them, Mama, if that bothers you. You take them from her, and I dare tell you, what you eat, they going to eat. I will make sure it's a plenty there for all of you." And it was no problem for me because I was single with a good job. I bought -- at that time, I was paying two car notes: one for me, and one for my mama. No problem. I had nothing else to do with my money; I was living with Mama. I made sure she had everything she wanted, and when I saw her concerned about those kids, I told her to go get them. And I took care of those kids and my mama. I think I got that spirit from her, to always reach back for your family members that you can take care or help. Do what you can to help your loved ones through their struggle. Just because you've made it 00:46:00through the gap, you always have to help others get there. You just can't think about self all the time, and that's the way I was brought up. I took care of Mama and my sister's kids.
WALKER-HARPS:Okay. I hope Doctor Sewell is using what you have to offer therewith those children who are still coming from Spring Hill and Edgewood and whatever. I've not been -- I've not talked to him lately. I know him and I will be talking to her, but what I'm saying to you, you have a testimony, and I'd like to think that you are using it to help. You've helped your children, your grandchildren, but I'd like to think that somebody is using you and allowing you to have that kind of influence on some of these other children out there. 00:47:00
CALDWELL:Okay. I have three little boys that belong to the younger churchmembers in my church. They're young boys that can still have babies -- not my age. They got three little boys, and every day, every Sunday after church, they're looking for me. They want to come up there with me because the deacons have to sit where the pastors can see us. If something's going wrong or whatever, we're right there and it's a small church. They don't know they can't come up there during church services, but they want to. As soon as church service is over, here they come, all three of them. Bam, they're all over me because I spend a lot of time with them and I play with them and I talk to them. As kids, if you can get on their level, they'll listen to you. You can't go up to a child all the time being an adult. Sometimes you got to think on 00:48:00their level. And everybody ask me at church, "Why those boys crawling up your leg every Sunday and you can't move from them?" Because I get on their level and talk to them, and I play with them. And I understand as a little boy that kind of attention because I had a strong, big daddy, and he was a big man, and he wore overall pants. And he would get off work when I was a little boy at the mill, and he would buy raisin cakes for me on the way home. But I had to find it. He had so many pockets in them overalls. I had to climb all over to find that pile. It would just tickle him to death for me to look for it, you know, because he was such a big man. And I treat the kids like that today, you know. Even at my church, I would ask their parents, "Is it all right if I give them 20 dollars or whatever?" Because I know they're in school and stuff, and I'd give them money and stuff like that and tell them, "You know you have to work, you know, to earn your money." I said, "I'm going to help you, but you 00:49:00got to go to school and work, you know?" And I try to be as good as helper for them. And I teach them; I catch them cutting up in church. I stop them, talk to them about it, but they love me, and my grandboy gets a little jealous of that sometimes because he don't want to share me like that. But those little boys, they are -- I tried to to set an example for them . But I told one young lady. She fussed at her son all the time because he wanted to sit up front. I said, "Leave him alone." I said, "If he wants to come up here, just leave him alone." I said, "You never know; he might be a preacher. He might be a deacon. You don't know what reason it is he's got this burning desire to come up here. He wants to be up here." I said, "Let it run its course. We'll see what will come from it." Said, "Let it run it; let him come. We'll see where he goes with it." Might be a preacher; you never know. Might be a preacher.
CAIN:So since this is going to be around 100 years from now, would00:50:00you want to say a little bit about your grandparents or great-grandparents if you know them?
CALDWELL:My grandparents -- my grandfather -- I didn't know about grandmother;she died when my mother was a little girl. And I did see my grandfather. His name was George Washington Vandergriff, and him and Mr. AC Testone, which I know some of y'all probably remember him; he's passed now. Him and Mr. Testone was good friend as young mans. And Mr. Testone told me one night, because I had got in some trouble, and Mama sent Mr. Testone to get me out of jail because she knew him. I was just young and wild. He said, "Man, I knew your grandfather." I said, "Papa?" He said, "Yeah, I knew your granddaddy." I go, "Tell me something about him." He said, "When we was young men," he said, "your 00:51:00grandfather would not farm. He would not sharecrop because he knew there wasn't no fairness in sharecropping. They weren't going to treat him fair." I said, "Well, how did he make a living?" He said, "Your granddaddy made syrup and he made bootleg whiskey. That's how he made his money." He said, "George Washington Vandergriff had so much money because he didn't farm. He didn't work on the farm. He made syrup." Back then, not just making syrup for himself, he would go around to every farm and make everybody syrup because he knew how to cook it. That was a gift he had. On every plantation otherwise, he would cook the syrup for them. And he sold white whiskey. He said my granddaddy had a wagon, which they called a surrey. Was sharper than any car that you could have 00:52:00bought at that day and time because he had the money. He said he had a motorcycle. Back then, didn't too many guys ride a motorcycle. It probably was an old 88, Harley. It had to be. He was telling me some things back then about my granddaddy, and I was telling him, "I wish Papa had bought land with all that money he was carrying back then because if he had bought the land, we'd have been like Mr. Testone into the land." He bought land. That's why he got his wealth; he bought land. And our stepmother wouldn't let him buy land. I learned that through him because his children wasn't her children. She carried the money on her on a money belt under her dress -- his money. She wouldn't let him buy land, but he owned everything else: cars and motorcycles and... He said a surrey is a wagon you see on TV. You see the little balls 00:53:00hanging around it and stuff like that. The seat real decorated. It's just not an ordinary wagon. It's a sharp wagon. And he said my daddy had one that looked better than any car that was on the road. That much I learned about my granddaddy when he was coming up. He was a little-bitty man, but he was a tough little man, you know. He wore overalls and he carried a big old pistol. And Mama noticed him. He had a pistol so big it would just pull his pants down from behind. And he would leave the house walking back to Orchard Hill the way he had been drinking. He'd gotten back drunk, and my daddy told him, "George, you got to straighten up going through town like that. You can't go through town drunk like that. The police is going to stop you." He told him, "I'm going 00:54:00straight through town, and I ain't going to walk no better," because he didn't care. That's the way my granddaddy was. He didn't care. Said he's going straight through town. A little bitty proud man, but he made his own money. We didn't farm; he didn't sharecrop; he didn't crop; he didn't pick the cotton and all stuff like that. He made syrup and made white liquor, and he had plenty of money. I learned that about my granddaddy and I always wondered when we were little boys, he always would buy Mama cars. Papa had money. He always would buy Mama a car, make sure we had something to ride in. We would go see him in Orchard Hill. He always kept her a car. That's what I remember about my granddaddy. And I was just a young boy standing beside his bed when he took his last breath. That was the first time I ever seen a person actually 00:55:00die. You can hear him breathing all over the house. I knew something was wrong because Mama and everybody was there, and I knew it had something to do with Papa. But I didn't know he was going to die that night. I knew he had been sick, but I was standing by the bed just looking at him. And I'm like, "Why Papa be in such a quiet mood?" And he was breathing so hard. And I just got to the point where I was just staring at him. I never took my eyes off him. And then just out of nowhere, he just took his last breath.
CRUICKSHANK:What year was that?
CALDWELL:I can't remember. I was so young; I was just a boy, just a little boy.I was probably about 11, 12 years old, if I was that old. I'm 69 now. That was about, oh, 60 years ago, yeah. I was only about eight, nine years old 00:56:00when that happened.
WALKER-HARPS:You've talked about syrup a lot. What was it used for other thanthe biscuits?
WALKER-HARPS:Mm-hmm, and did they use it to make bootleg whiskey? Or what wasit? What was the main... I grew up with syrup too, but we just used it for cooking.
CALDWELL:Most of the syrup was for cooking, and different types of syrup, theywas using for sweetener. And this -- I'll think of it in a minute. It's an old fashioned syrup they used for cooking, but the regular syrup, it was just for consuming, like bread or eating it for breakfast on your pancakes and stuff like that now. And they got this syrup; they use it now when they make 00:57:00baked beans. It's -- I don't like to use it, but it's a black syrup.
CALDWELL:Yeah, one of them like that they used. They put it in baked beans andstuff like that. Now, depending on what you were cooking, they would pour that syrup in it. But to tell you the truth, there wasn't no syrup companies really, back in the early days. Most all the syrup was made at some farm somewhere because you couldn't afford to buy cane patch out of the store, different brands like that. You couldn't afford to buy that syrup. They sold their homemade syrup, which was better. It tasted better.
CUNNINGHAM:I'm going to backtrack a little bit to talk a little bitabout the Civil Rights Movement. Were you a participant or how did you 00:58:00participate in the Civil Rights Movement?
CALDWELL:I remember when Dr. King was assassinated, and as a young boy, thatnight, all over Griffin, the skyline was lit up. Everything made out of wood was burning. If it was made out of wood, it was burning. They was -- the black was so mad when Dr. King was assassinated. They began looting; there were riots and burning. It was a few black businesses in the black neighborhoods, but the only one they didn't burn down, because you needed that store -- that's where you'd buy your groceries. those were was the one that survived that 00:59:00night. That went on for several weeks before they got law and order. Every night, it was burning. I remember that as a little boy. Every night, it was burning. I remember when Jesse Jackson came to Griffin. I remember when Hosea Williams came to Griffin. They came down here on a march. Remember that wagon and mule? Hosea Williams, you know, we was just young boys that year. And they had a movement where all the blacks left the school and they marched over to Griffin High School because of integration and segregation. At that time, I was in Vietnam. I was about 19 years old when all that was going on. I was in Vietnam then. I didn't see all that. I heard about it when I come home. Stuff like that was going on, and they would tell us to march. They would 01:00:00tell us to go march this store, like Woodward, downtown Griffin. Woodward had a water fountain in the back of the store, had the back of it clear as day. White and black: white only water fountain, but you could buy their product out of the store. I remember stuff like that coming up during the Civil Rights Movement. And they would put the kids out there because if we went to jail, we were just somebody they had to feed. But if they locked my daddy up, he couldn't go to work, the bills couldn't run, you know, stuff like that. So they just didn't picket; they used different strategies on them. We'll put the kids outthere. (inaudible) have something with no kids. All you got is a mouth to feed. They ain't got to go to work Monday morning. You know what I mean? You ain't hurting nobody. You just got to bust your kids free. And they stopped 01:01:00locking them up because of that because they realized, "This? We can't win like this. Locking the kids up don't work." That's what we was going through during the Civil Rights Movement. We would get out front because our parents couldn't afford to go to jail. They couldn't be locked up and stuff like that. When I -- where I grew up there on the south side, what they called Spring Hill, it's right next to the golf course and the city park. They had a pool down there, an Olympic-size pool. We used to be canning and watch those kids go swimming in that pool, but we could not get in that pool. There were three black guys that went down there one day. One of them was named Ben. Ben was rough cut, didn't back off from death for nobody. I can't remember who were the guys with him. They walked into that pool and got into that water with nobody's 01:02:00permission. When they saw that happen in Griffin, they knew then the blacks were going to follow suit. They're coming; they're coming just like these two, three guys boasted their way into here. They're coming. The city commissioners and all of them in Griffin began to meet. They buried that pool. It's a football field down there now where they practice football. Up under that ground is an Olympic-size pool. They filled it with dirt; they filled it with dirt before they let us swim in it. And I'm going to share something that a lot of people in Griffin probably don't know about the city of Griffin's swimming pool. The pool we have today, me, Willie Lewis, John Arthur with the police department -- he was a police officer. He was our supervisor at the pool. We 01:03:00were the first lifeguards to work at that pool. I think one guy they called him Muletrain; worked for the fire department. He done passed now.
CALDWELL:Y'all might know Muletrain. All of us was fighting; all of us waslifeguards, young boys working at the pool. And I could never understand; in front of the pool, it didn't have Griffin Pool. It was Greek letters hanging over the door like a sorority. I'm saying like, "What this got to do with the city pool?" And every year, when we'd open the pool up, this well dressed gentleman -- you know how some people just look like when they got money? Driving this black Buick, big deuce and a quarter Buick. He would come in there and he would ask us, "How you like your job down here? How do you like working down here? How the conditions are?" I said, "Oh, man, we love it. It's easy money. It's no problem. Being a lifeguard is easy." He said, "What you like about it the best working for the city as a lifeguard?" I said, "It's a 01:04:00good job and you're real popular with the girls when you're a lifeguard." (laughter) And he just laughed. He said, "I bet y'all are," just like that. "I bet y'all are." And that guy, when he left, I noticed the front of his tag had those same Greek letters that's hanging over the pool. They done moved those Greek letters now. They're not there now. So we start asking questions about it. What connection this guy got with the pool? We found out the city of Griffin did not build that pool. Technically, that pool is not in the park. Think about it. You know where the pool is in Griffin? It's at the entrance of the park; it's not in the park. It's at the entrance when you enter the park. They never did build it back in the park because the city did not pay for it. That young gentleman that came down there from that little Greek that was on his car 01:05:00-- I can't remember what sorority it was -- they paid for that pool. The city financed the land, and the city did want us to manage it. The city paid us to lifeguard, but that Greek organization that he was in actually built that pool and put it there for the blacks to have somewhere to swim. That's why those Greek letters were hanging over that door. We couldn't understand what these Greek letters got to do with the city pool. They done moved them now, though. They grown. They not there anymore.
WALKER-HARPS:So you have no idea who the man was?
CALDWELL:We never -- all I knew the white gentleman come in, dressed real nice,and he always questioned about how we liked working, how we was being treated. And he would ask those questions every year. He'd done that several years. He stopped showing up, and we found out that they were the ones that built the pool, that sorority he was in. They built that pool there, not the 01:06:00city. They'd done that so the blacks would have a swimming pool.
WALKER-HARPS:Hmm. Never heard that before.
CAIN:Was this a black person who -- was this the person black or white?
CALDWELL:The guy was a white gentleman, but he built the pool for everybody. Butthey wouldn't let him put it in the park because they didn't want the blacks then swimming in the pool in the park. So right there where it sat down, that's the closest he could get it -- the entrance of the park. It's really not in the park. It's right there next to it. It used to be the old health department. And we found that out and we worked there as lifeguards. They sent us out to the S club to get certified because they had guys out there that could certify lifeguards. We went out to the S club to get certified as lifeguards. But the pool was there for blacks and whites really. But it was a Greek organization, this Greek club. These boys with them Greek letters, this 01:07:00sorority, they were the one built that pool, not the city of Griffin. All the city of Griffin did was they overseed it. They paid us to lifeguard, stuff like that, but the city of Griffin didn't do that. Sure didn't. They didn't do it. How they come about doing it, I don't know, but they had to have a lot of money. It took a lot of money to build that pool. It's a big, nice pool.
WALKER-HARPS:Was that the same time that they filled the one on over at Fairmont?
CALDWELL:Yeah. Yeah, they filled both of them up. They covered them both up,sure did. They covered the one we did have up and the one in the park because they said, "They can't swim in the one in the park." They was going to cover them. You can't cover up one; cover up both of them, and that's what they'd done to keep us from swimming together. They keep us from swimming together. Just like, when we was in school, Griffin High School football team 01:08:00was never really heard of or known. They were the Griffin Eagles, and we used to talk about them all the time. They just wouldn't win. They just wouldn't beat nobody. They were just the Griffin Eagles. We were playing schools like Atto, Fairmont High was. Atto was a farm school. All them guys were old enough to be in college, but they were just for farm school because they was in trouble. Might well had to sit in jail, but they had a football team. Forget about playing teams like that; them boys didn't take no prisoner. We were playing different schools from different places all over town; it was tough. Griffin High didn't have that kind of competition because just back then, all those schools was all black, and they were playing schools that was all white. They 01:09:00integrated Griffin High School. Y'all won't believe this, son. The guy's alive right now today. He was the first black guy to put on Griffin High's uniform. His name is Marvin Martin. I could go put my hands on him right now. Marvin Martin, he was the first black guy to play for Griffin High. We used to go up to the game just to see Marvin play because he was the first black to be an Eagle that played after they integrated schools, after the Eagles. They would set down and Griffin High were losing. I mean just flat out losing, and he was on the bench. We sat there and we would chant, "Marco, Marco, Marco," because his name was Marvin Martin. The coach would put him in. Marco outran them. Down the field he would go. (laughter) They'd catch him on the ten, 01:10:00five-yard line, thats where theyd tackle him at. Coach put him out. Put him out because none of thoseboys in the backfield get that ball in across that goal line. They'd take him out the game. Wouldn't even score. Wouldn't let him score. Take him out the game, and Griffin High were losing. We watched that week after week after week. They would give that boy that ball, and this is the sad part about it. They did not block for him. They did not block for him on purpose. He was just that fast. When he got that ball, he was on his own, and he made it work. Down the field he would go. Get in his scoring position. Instead of them giving the ball to him and letting him score, coach would take him out the game, and we would sit there and boo and raise all kind of sand; it didn't make no 01:11:00difference. Griffin High were losing. Had one of the best running backs to this day, Marvin Martin, and we're losing. Wouldn't let him play; wouldn't let him play. They came up out of the recreational department, a young boy named -- they called him Q Ball. They discovered this boy in the recreational department playing rec ball. He could throw the football from one end of the field to the other with no effort at all. Couldn't nobody run that distance and catch it, but he could throw it. Got to Griffin High; wouldn't let him play. Wouldn't let him play. If they let that boy play, with his ability, he would have graduated All-American. They're losing; Q Ball's sitting on the bench.
CALDWELL:You know him; you remember Q Ball.
WALKER-HARPS:Yeah, I remember. Yeah, he's (overlapping dialogue).
CALDWELL:He's sitting on the bench; they're losing. One of the best quarterbacksin high school; wouldn't let him play. They didn't want him to graduate All-American. That's what would have happened because he had that kind of a talent. He could flat out throw that ball. They would not let him play. We sniffed that stuff like that coming up. It was after the school was even integrated, the athletes that were there, they wouldn't let him play. The coaches wouldn't do it because just like now, if you're an All-American athlete in high school today, you get a full ride to college. The scholarships, the money was there, even back then. If you graduated All-American, you were black. The colleges then was integrated, trying to be. A few of them was. Colleges were looking at black ball players. They didn't want that to happen because he'd have been All-American. Somebody would have picked him up. If not 01:13:00white colleges, one of the blacks was. Sure would. I remember watching a movie about Bear Bryant when they -- first time they played as a college that had black ball players. And Bear Bryant told them -- this was a true story of Bear Bryant -- and we saw this. I witnessed this as young boys coming up. I can't remember the name of the school. They beat the socks off Alabama. Them boys in the locker room called the n-word this and the n-word that because they was all white, Alabama. Bear Bryant stand back and just looking at them in the locker room. And he told them -- they had this in his movie -- he said, "Y'all are sitting there with your head down complaining, how they're n-word this and their n-word down." He said, "Next year, half of y'all jobs going to be 01:14:00replaced by some black ball players." He said, "I got to win." He said, "I'm going to replace y'all. Half of y'all going to be gone next year." He said, "I got to get them black boys if I'm going to keep winning." And that's what Alabama done, and they never looked back. Even he saw it -- Bear Bryant saw it -- the athletes that the black guys were. He said, "We can't beat them, not with an all white team. We can't beat them boys like that." They was black and white. There was too much gifts out there; too much talent. Beat the socks off Alabama. Bear Bryant saw it too. He said, "I can't go out there like this. I'm going to lose my job." And we saw all of that coming up, integration and how the blacks had to struggle to try to make it, how they really had to struggle. I was reading about Mahalia Jackson, one of the greatest spiritual singers ever lived. Everybody knew Mahalia. Her husband had a college degree. Back in that 01:15:00day and time, the only job he could get with a college degree was a bill carrier for the post office carrying bills. That's the only job he could get that paid pretty fair wages, a bill carrier. You don't need a college degree to deliver mail. If you can read and count one through ten -- that's somebody's address -- you can deliver mail. See what I'm saying? That's the only job he could get with a college degree. Blacks have struggled, even the ones in higher positions. You'd think that they would have it pretty good until you read the history and what they went through and how things were. But the most baffling 01:16:00thing to me was Pearl Harbor. And we sat there and watched those Japanese play golf, go in the clubhouse, buy them a cold soda, drink out the water fountain. These people have killed Americans. These people have brought tears to this country, and they have better rights and privileges than we have. All that coming up as a young boy, it was pretty rough. Even in the Marine Corps, we were called names and all kind of vulgar names. And during training, the training was hard enough as it was, but being verbally abused and physically abused, about as bad as one about as bad as the other one. They wouldn't put their hands on us, but the thing they would say to you was worse than a whip 01:17:00because they wanted you to quit. The Marine Corps was like this; they felt like wasn't nobody good enough to be a Marine, black or white. You had to earn your way in there. You had to fight your way to be a Marine. You had to show them that you were qualified to be a Marine. And if you was black, you had to show them two times that you could be a Marine because you caught twice as much hell being black -- twice as much hell. But black guys made it; they made it. I'll never forget; one day I was coming from the PX and I saw this one black guy. He was an officer, black Marine. He had one star. He was a one-star general. I looked at that boy till he got out of sight. I couldn't believe it. I 01:18:00said, "It's hope for us. It is hope for us out there somewhere." He had one star, but he did have a star. He was a general, and I just couldn't believe it. It was just amazing. I'd look at that young man and realized he was hope for me. I said, "It's hope for us out there." He was a one-star general. Sure was. I'd never saluted a man with so much pride in my life when I walked by that boy. Sure did. Things like that -- now we got guys in the military, black guys with all kind of ranking, all kind of officers. They take it for granted, but they don't know the struggle, even in the military, to get where they are today, what the guy that was there first, what they went through -- what they went through. 01:19:00
CRUICKSHANK:Where does all the hate come from?
CRUICKSHANK:Where does all the hate come from?
CALDWELL:What we could see when we was coming up, it didn't make no sense. Like,you don't really know me, but you hate me because I'm black. I couldn't explain that, just because we were different colors back in the '60s. We didn't do nothing that no other, young teenagers do. All my daddy did was work like any other man worked, but we was just black. How could you hate a person because they're black and you're white? That we didn't understand. The hate, where it came from, I don't understand it because it has to be taught, in a way. You have to be taught because... I saw a commercial one time on TV, and they was 01:20:00trying to sell this product. And their floor was full of babies -- black babies, white babies, Mexican babies, all kind of babies. And they were selling this product they were trying to sell. All these babies was playing and hugging and kissing on each other because they knew no hate. They were innocent at that time. But somewhere in their life, somebody got to tell them, had to teach them this hatred. When I was a young man at the store, at the Kroger's -- old, old Kroger's store before they moved -- this young lady was in line with me and had a baby in her arms that was old enough to talk but it was just a baby. 01:21:00And I'm in line standing behind this white lady and her baby over her shoulder looking right in my face. You know how babies stare at you anyway; they're going to do that. And I'm saying to myself, "I hope I ain't the first black man that she's going to see." She was just staring at me, and she let me knew she wasn't the first black baby. That baby raised her head up off her mama's shoulder and looked right at in her mama's face because that's what her mama taught her. She said, "Mama, it's a (language) back here." Everybody in the store heard it. I said, "Oh my God." She was telling the baby, "Hush. You hush your mouth. You hush your mouth." I told her just like this, "You taught her that. Now, you telling her to hush." I said, "She don't know what she's saying because she's just a baby." You see what I'm saying here? I said, "You taught her that, ma'am. Now you want to make her hush." It embarrassed her more than it 01:22:00did me. Everybody in the store heard it. That little baby said, "Mama, there's a (language) back here." I said, "Good God." She taught her that. Sure did. When you -- that's why Mama would tell us, "Don't curse around kids. Don't curse; them children hear you cursing and staying stuff because they pick it up then learn it from you." If you curse, your children are going to curse. If your drink, your kids are going to drink. They're going to have your habits. A baby can drink more beer right now than you can. I don't know why babies love beer. Babies love beer. If they see you drinking it, they can pick it up easy. They like it anyway for some reason. But God almighty, you know, that hatred thing is being taught just because. I don't know what it is. Back in the '50s and the '60s, the days, the times I remember, it was so much hatred because you was black. What was so wrong about being black? It makes no sense. I bleed like 01:23:00you bleed; I hurt like you hurt; I love like you love. I get hungry just like you do. I get sleepy just like you do. I love my family and my kids and I work for them just like you do. I wouldn't harm your baby because I got babies. I'm not going to harm your wife because I have a wife. But by me being black, we was feared. Just being black, that made you dangerous. We couldn't understand that. We got locked up as young boys because the city park, going to the other side of town, we would walk through it because it was quicker to walk through the park than to go all the way around this big old place. And the 01:24:00police is out there security guard. Kids playing all over the park just like me. I was just a child, and they would stop me. Said, "Where you going, boy?" Just like that. I said, "I'm just cutting through to go to my friend's house." He said, "You better walk a little faster." And then we began to run because the police said, "You better walk a little faster," just because we were black.
WALKER-HARPS:Were there many incidents at that time in Griffin with the police?Were there many racial incidents with the police?
CALDWELL:Just like that, yeah.
CALDWELL:Yeah, yeah. We didn't have nowhere to go for us, the park andgoing to the pool and places the white kids had to go for recreation and stuff like that. We couldn't go the gym and play ball, down to the park. They wouldn't allow us at the gym, so we would stay in the cold under the 01:25:00streetlights. And we would sing and play ball or whatever right up under the cold because we wasn't allowed to go nowhere. And the police would ride through the neighborhood and lock us up because we were standing on the corner. We would go to jail for that. We saw the police coming before they got there. We would have to run, go hide till they go by. We wasn't allowed to even stand on the corner, but we had nowhere else to go -- nowhere else to go.
WALKER-HARPS:Now Samuel, your friend Samuel was one of the first blackpoliceman's hired, right? Sam Bass?
CALDWELL:Sam Bass and Love... Love.
CALDWELL:Love Maddox, Sam Bass, and Marvin Barrett, Pop Ellis, and HarryMullett. They were the first black police officers that worked for the police department, and they were not allowed to lock up white people. That was the rule. They could not lock up white people. They had to call a white officer. But one day, in the alley -- they call it downtown Griffin -- the alley was all black businesses in the alley, and Sam Bass was walking his route as a police officer. He was coming through the alley. Everybody knew Sam. Like I said, he was an ex-Marine, big as a bus, strong as a bull. White guy coming down through the alley drunk -- I don't know who told that man to hit Sam Bass, but he hit him because he was a black police officer. He had a bad day that day. He had a real bad day when he hit Sam Bass. When they got there to lock him up -- the white officers -- it wasn't much for him to say because he was knocked 01:27:00out. He hit the wrong police that day. I don't know why he hit that boy, big as he was, and he was a police officer. Sam put a whooping on that man in one way. He had a bad day. But he couldn't lock him up. Had to call the white officers to come and get him. It was like that a long time. As integration and segregation got better and better by the laws being passed, see that was not really right to hire a police officer but he can't lock a white man up. That didn't last long. That didn't last long because it really wasn't right. They did it for a while; said, "Well, we'll hire him, but he can't lock up white people." That's what they'd done. That's what they'd done. But they took the jobs under that situation and those conditions because somebody had to be first, and they 01:28:00were the first ones. They tried to get me to join the police department when I came home from Vietnam. And I told them, "I didn't... I got by one shooting, and I don't want to get killed over having a metal, toting a gun." I said, "I don't want to be no police officer, man. I would lock up -- who I'm going to lock up? My friends? Everybody that's around here I know. I don't want to be no police." I could only lock up my friends; I couldn't do it. I turned it down. But that word hate, I can't explain it when there was no reason for it, only because I was black. I was black. I was -- my daddy used to cut grass in Experiment when he got off work for this white guy up there. He had a little bitty bulldog. And we used to go up there early in the morning, and I would 01:29:00watch this man cook hamburgers. And he just didn't make the meat and threw it to the dog. He would fix a complete hamburger with all the trimmings, and his dog was black, and he would feed it to that dog. But me, as a little black boy out there cutting his grass, he'd never offer me a hamburger. Never asked me, "Are you hungry? Do you want a hamburger? Do you want anything to eat?" All of them wasn't like that because I would tell you about in Experiment about my first banana sandwich. My daddy was cutting grass in a house that lived down below that one because he had seven yards up there he cut grass on. This Saturday morning, this white lady was bringing in her groceries, and she asked me to help her. And Daddy told me, "Go ahead; help her take her groceries in the 01:30:00house," and I did. When I got in the house, she had a son in there, a little boy -- me and him about the same age. He watching cartoons on the TV, and I'm still unloading her groceries back and forth from the car. Every time I would walk by that room, I would glimpse at the TV. And I'd go back and get some more groceries. When I'd come by that door, I'm glimpsing at the cartoon. I think she saw me because she told me, "Go in there with my son and watch the TV." I said, "I got to go out here and work. I got to go help my daddy." She said, "Don't worry about it." She said, "Go in there with him and watch the cartoons." I ain't got no problem with that; it's hot out there. (laughter) I'm sitting there with the little boy watching cartoons and Daddy's out there cutting grass. Every now and then, I'd see his head go around the window with that lawn mower; I'm sitting there watching cartoons. This white lady was nice, you know. 01:31:00Everybody wasn't mean. And she had brought me a banana sandwich. I never had a banana sandwich. I'll just have a sandwich. I don't want bananas in it. I said, "Bananas and bread?" She said, "Taste it." Had mayonnaise and everything on it. I said, "Ma'am, I don't think it's going to come out right." She said, "Taste it." And her little son was sitting there eating his sandwich; me and him both had a banana sandwich. I bit that banana sandwich. Oh, man, I was introduced to a whole new world. I'd been eating them ever since. (laughter) Banana sandwich. But what was so funny, I'm sitting there with the little boy eating that banana sandwich, mayonnaise everywhere, and every now and then I'd see Daddy's head come by that lawn pushing that lawn mower. That was too funny. He said, "Boy, where you been?" I said, "You told me to help her." I said, "When I got in there, she told me to sit down and eat." (laughter) That was funny. Things like that I remember as a little boy. I laugh about it today. Like I watched them cartoons, eating that banana sandwich, watching Daddy's head go by 01:32:00that window cutting that grass. Boy, that was funny. Stuff like that I remember coming up as a young boy.
CRUICKSHANK:But doesn't that make you wonder, you know, why the difference, you know?
CALDWELL:Some people were just nice, and some people were just mean.
CRUICKSHANK:But why is that?
CALDWELL:I don't understand why that. She invited me in her house to sit downwith her little boy and eat, and she didn't have no problem with that. And she knew, as a little boy, she didn't want me out there with Daddy cutting grass. That's why she did that, so I could get out that heat out there. And she let me sit there with her boy and eat and watch the cartoons. She was a nice lady. Everybody white back during the Civil Rights Movement were not mean or we would not have our rights today. Look at the movies. Look at the tapes. When Dr. King was marching, when they was picketing, there was the whites out there too getting the hose and dogs put on them. Now, the whites was marching 01:33:00with Dr. King and they were throwing them bricks at him. It just wasn't everybody white hated everybody black. It was a lot of white people who marched with Dr. King -- a lot of them. And let the truth be told. I look at today where we have come from. We have a black president in the White House. Believe me; the white folks helped us got that black president in that House. Give credit where it's due. Amen. We didn't do it by himself, but we were so proud of him. Let you know all white people are not mean; all of them are not evil and racist. Some of them just want to live right and do the right thing because let the truth be told that we're all going to meet the maker one day. We all got to meet him, and they say he's in heaven. If you're not living right, if you're not a born again Christian, you're going to go before him. And you're going to see 01:34:00heaven, and you're going to have to leave. Some people know that, and they try to -- can you imagine seeing heaven, something that great, and have to leave? You cannot stay. That's enough right there to make you want to live right. But that's what's going to happen, and some people realize that. We have to live right regardless of what color you are. We have to love one another. We have to treat one another right. I got a phone call this morning. It ain't like I'm rich. One of my church members been real sick, and one of the deacons said they're trying to get 500 dollars for him, to give him. They're trying to raise 500 dollars. He asked me would I help, and I told him, "I will give him 01:35:00100 dollars." Behind me is a refrigerator that's not working. Our refrigerator been out for a whole two months because Lowe's -- the warranty they gave us -- they wouldn't fix it. I don't have any food that I can eat in my house as you would go in your refrigerator. I don't have a refrigerator, but I gave this boy 100 dollars. My stove that I cook on, that hole is empty because it's so burnt out. I'm replacing it with another stove, trying to get it hooked up. I didn't have 100 to give, but sometimes you have to do to help others when you're really not able. I'm eating and living out of a cooler on my back deck. All my water, sodas, milk and all that stuff -- perishable stuff -- is in the ice cooler. Been that way for two months, but I still gave him 100 dollars. See what 01:36:00I'm saying? You have to do things when you're really not able regardless of the situation you're in. You still have to help people because it's always somebody in a worse shape than you are. This man's been real sick a long time, real sick.
WALKER-HARPS:Well, that's just a testimony to everything else you have saidtoday about yourself when you were growing up. Uh-huh, that really is. It didn't just happen. We've got to close up now. It's late.
CUNNINGHAM:Well, do you have anything else you want to share with us before weclose out today?
WALKER-HARPS:You may go.
CALDWELL:If y'all need any more questions, like I said, my childhood and mycoming up was a long story. I tried to tell it short and brief as I could. And I just want to put on --
CAIN:It was a pleasure to meet you.
CALDWELL:I just want y'all to know, even when I was coming up, I hadsome young boys that was white and they would take me to their house. And their parents were working, and we would eat up everything in the house. God, we were 01:37:00friends. They didn't see me as black or white. We were just friends, and I met a lot of young guys like that. We got together. We were young boys; we hung out together. And that's just the way it was coming up. Because their parents might have been racist; they wasn't racist. God, we played together. We had fun together and everything back there on that golf course. We'd get butt naked and swim in the creek together. We did all that together because I couldn't go to the pool; he could, but he would swim with us in the creek and stuff like that. We was friends. And I'd tell you about Jim Sersa, still here today. Jim was my friend. Sure was. He never treated me like I was black or white. I was just his friend. I had a lot of white friends coming up in Griffin, a lot of them. Stewart, the sheriff, he was my friend. I used to tease him about it all 01:38:00the time. When Stewart first came to Griffin, he was a police officer. He wasn't the sheriff. I said, "Stewart, you never caught me," because we used to shoot dice under the streetlights. And they would pull up in their car and we'd run. And we found out if we leave the money, they wouldn't chase us. Wasn't about three or four dollars, no way. If you'd pick the money up, they would run us all the way through the woods, come and pick the money up. If we leave the money, they wouldn't chase us. They'd pick the money up. "Oh, we're going to get y'all next time." They'd pick that money up and get back in the car. I told Stewart, "Stewart, you never caught me." I said, "I was one of them black boys you was running on Spring Hill every weekend." He said, "What?" I said, "I was one of them." I said, "Boy, I got to play rough with you. You never caught me, Stewart. I was too fast for you." I was working for the Sheriff's department then when I told him that. We would laugh and tease about it all the time. I 01:39:00ended up there working for him at the Sheriff's department. I said, "Stewart, you never caught me." I said, "You couldn't catch me." He would laugh about that. He said, "I caught half of you though." I said, "But you never caught me." We would laugh about that tonight. When he died, I cried. I liked that Stewart. He was just an everyday guy. Grew up to be a sheriff, just like me trying to struggle and make it. He was the sheriff, but he still was the same old Stewart. I hate the way he -- I understood he got killed. But I had a lot of white friends like that, lot of them.
WALKER-HARPS: I hated that too. He knew I always thought he was a racist, but acouple of weeks before he died, he sent me a message. "Tell Miss Harps. I'm not a racist; I like her. I'm not a racist; you make sure you tell her." And I said, "I wonder why." I took it as a repentance. I took it as yeah, you know, sometimes things happen to people just before they die -- 01:40:00
CALDWELL:Yeah, I grew up with him, yeah.
WALKER-HARPS:-- and they want to make things right. And when I heard about,that's what entered my mind. He knew that I felt that way about him. I knew. I always thought he wanted to make it right.
CALDWELL:He wanted to make it right, yeah.
CUNNINGHAM:Well, Mr. Caldwell -- no, you go ahead.
WALKER-HARPS:We enjoyed your very, very wonderful interview from the heart. Igot a real good view of the inside of you today.
WALKER-HARPS:Yes, and you've got a testimony to give, and hopefully I'll becalling on you at other times when -- particularly with the young people --
WALKER-HARPS:-- because what you were saying is of value to them.
WALKER-HARPS:Thank you so much for giving your time and your effort to come andshare with us today.
CUNNINGHAM:Thank you so much.
CALDWELL:I appreciate it. I appreciate it. I've been looking forwardto this because I have so much respect for Miss Harps, you know? Anything she ask me to do, I try to do it. She called me, fussing me off, talking, "Have you 01:41:00paid your membership due?"
WALKER-HARPS:I do fuss at you.
CALDWELL:I already paid my membership through the year, but she makes us pay ourmembership due.
WALKER-HARPS:That's right. (laughter) That's right.
CALDWELL:Don't forget our membership due. And it ain't that I don't want to; Ijust have to remind me.
WALKER-HARPS:I'm coming over there.
WALKER-HARPS:I'm coming over to clean to house and you'll --
CALDWELL:Yeah, come over and clean the house with me and Shirley. She's in ameeting now. She's a commissioner. You see all these new high apartments you been around here in Griffin, the housing authority?
WALKER-HARPS:She's on the board.
CALDWELL:My wife is on the board. They're the one doing all that, tearing thisold stuff down, building these new houses. The housing authority's doing that. She's a commissioner. She's Miss-- that and Ms. Harps. She stay busy all the time. Miss Harps. We got to call her Miss Walker when I was a young boy because she was Miss Walker; she was our schoolteacher.
CALDWELL:She was my undercover girlfriend. She knew that I liked her so much.
END OF AUDIO FILE