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Okay, my name is David Jones, David Jones Junior. I say David Jones Junior because I have a son David Jones the third and then my dad was a David Jones. So, I’m David Jones Junior, I was born November 22, 1935. I am 85 years old and hopefully look like I have lived a lot longer. That’s my hope.
I was living on Cherry Street, over near Clingman, in that area, that’s where I was born. But we moved to Morrow Street and I lived all my young life at 53 Morrow Street and it was home. A little bit about the neighborhood: when I say it was home, in the middle of the Historic Montford District but set off to itself as an independent little town, called Stumptown. And, out of Stumptown came some of the world’s most renowned leaders. Everybody did well that came out of Stumptown, everybody.
So, where we sit down is where it used to be the Weaver’s big, three story house. Their house sit here and right down the street there was Mr. Young. Mr. Young was the elder at the time but we grew up in a neighborhood that we were all poor but we didn’t know we were poor because the neighborhood was there as support for us.
Where the empty lot is down there was our basketball. All of the weeds and snakes and everything would be there around this time of year. We would go down and we would start a football game and we were pretty healthy guys. My cousin was in the Marines and he we would meet there and he would get us in shape, and we would warm up and then we would have two football teams and get all those weeds and all that stuff, we would chase the snakes and stuff out and then all the weeds, we would tear them down with the tackles and everything that we were doing. And then we would fill a basketball goal and we would chip in and we would buy a basket and everything to put up and then we all played basketball.
Right below here is a house I saw that used to be Welfare Baptist Church, that’s a house now. But, they would be praying and preaching at the church and we would be playing basketball in the hallway. So, we played in that home.
All of the elderly men would come at the bottom of what we called Red Hill and it’s right over at the bottom here before you hit going down Jersey Street, at the Red Hill. And they all came, all of the gentlemen would get together, they’d come and they could pitch those horseshoes. We would be watching as they were playing horseshoes and some ball and then they would, Mr. Howard, which was an uncle of my wife, had a stroke in that little corner house, I see it sitting down there now, he would do a pig. He would roast a pig all night long and then we would, he would sell barbeque sandwiches and everything, he had a store there, he had a store that we all went to. So, we were there to get our drinks we had, but we were a close-knit community. Close-knit community.
Well, there was just a little mom and pop store there. We had to walk, I told you that when we got married we moved into a place at 42 Morrow and we had no hot water, as I said, we did have a bathroom, but we had to order hot water quick. It was an electric thing that you put in the tub of water and we put it in there and it heated the big tub that we had. We had a tub in the bathroom too, but it was too cold in there, there was no heat in the place. And so, we would put the hot water in, the heater in, and get our stuff, but we had to go all the way to the purity market on Lexington or Downtown to the store. And, we had to get off at the top right where the Montford school is at, where the school is, right on that corner is where the bus stopped, so we would have to get off there and then walk to our neighborhood down here on Morrow Street.
So, no it was not easy, we had to get around but nor was it easy to get to school. We went to Stephens Lee High School, my wife and I ended up being the Romeo and Juliet of our class.
And, we would line up up there on Montford, we would all do our exercises and we would, I don’t know what we did because we would warm up up there and then we would walk to Stephens Lee all the way from Montford, our jog, a lot of times we would just jog all the way there. Almost like a military jog that people do, we would do that all the way. So, it was not easy getting the food in and out, but we all managed. But then anything that you ran out of, if you ran out of flour or sugar, and I’ve gone many-a-day over here off Jersey Street to Edifield and borrowed some black pepper and some salt. And, during the wartime, when there was rationing of sugar and stuff, my momma and someone at Edifield would let her have a little sugar, but you could do that anyplace.
Sophie Dixon, her brother, Clayton Webb is his name, he was one of my best friends, and Phyllis’s big brother, Big Jones, he was called, was one of my best friends. So, I had, we were called the three Stooges. We did everything together and we looked out for one another all the way through.
a magical place, a safe place, a place where you were just secure and everybody, everybody loved you, everybody loved you and you loved everybody.
Well, I was just telling her, things change, and conditions were bad, especially for black people. We had no neighborhoods, except these neighborhoods. We had just each other and the neighborhood itself, but as far as any nice houses and cars, all of the niceties that you have in the apartment complex, you know, these neighborhoods did not have that. None of them had it.
But, I was telling them that it’s sort of that the neighborhood has had to go through a whole process and that process had, it had to be first approved by the City Council. That’s missing in a lot of the information I heard when I went to some of the meetings, that it was approved by City Council as a blighted neighborhood. Now, be it the white men that wanted to call it that so that they could get the neighborhood don’t know, and in cases, won’t say.
I know that I didn’t want to live there until they built Hillcrest. When they built Hillcrest, my wife and I were still at 42 Madison and we were applying for housing at Hillcrest and we both cried when we turned, when we were turned down because we were over-income. And, I was making at least $68 or $78 dollars and she was, you know, not making much, but we wanted housing so badly and would have given anything to have gotten into that housing.
But, the main point is that it had to have city council approval and the blight was a clear definition from good. You couldn’t just make it up, it had to be bad.
Well, the neighborhood’s changed and I guess I was responsible for some of that because I did a lot of the relocation, moved the first black families into Montford. Established the first neighborhood communities with the doctors from Canton and places there where they would go in before me all down around Tacoma Circle and all in there, they would go and they would apply for a house and they would be available. I’d send my client in to apply for the house and it would no longer be available and then my team came down heavily on them and the community.
Well, I’m wondering what’s going to happen to the rest of Stumptown. Because part of it is going to Jersey Street, Mr. Orin (?) used to let us ride his horse down at the bottom down there. One of my classmates lived in the corner, top of Jersey Street, up in there, Clarita Thompson, Thomas. So, I know deep down in me that there will be more gentrification. I don’t know where it’s stopped in any place.
All where in Shiloh, where we built a house, as I say, that’s our goal, we are going to build a house before we were 25. We were moving into a brand new house when we were 25. That neighborhood now has gentrified til there is not many people left. So, I don’t know, I don’t know what you can do about gentrification. I see Lee Walker Heights is gone now and I know what it looks like, all of the plan looked like a beautiful plan, if it works out that way. A lot of the people don’t get to get back into housing, that concerns me because I’m a housing person and I’m a neighborhood activist because I’ve been trained in the neighborhood, you know all of that. I’m certified by Howard Fuller, so I know all of that. But so, I don’t know what you can do because all of the people have to have some place to live and I don’t know what you can do about the gentrification.
It troubles me though, when I go into a neighborhood and I can just see it changing and I know that it’s going to change more and I don’t know the answer. I don’t know what you do.
But I do say: give the people an opportunity, get them together like you’re all doing, let them have some say-so, and listen to that say-so. Listen to that say-so, they know.