• PAAM Founders Circle

Eleanor Stimpson - Evans Shares Her Experiences Growing Up in Historically Black Community

Updated: Feb 14

Listening to Learn:

Dollie Thomas, James Thomas, and Eleanor Stimpson - Evans talk about early life in the Douglass Community. This casual interview is transcribed from audio with local Texan speech patterns.



Dollie: Okay, I'm gonna ask you some questions about your childhood. Your early childhood. What do you recall about your early childhood? What's the first thing that comes to your mind? For


Eleanor: My early childhood The first thing that comes to my mind is when I started school. I started school at four because my brothers were all in school and I was at home by myself, so I'd slip off every day and go to school. So finally, my dad agreed and the superintendent agreed to let me start school as my dad paid for it. So I started first grade, we didn't have no kindergarten at the time. That was this. This was a blue line no. Name of the school name of the school was Plano colored High School, and it covered all the greats. Okay.


Dollie: How about your social life in and out of school as a child, what was your social life like?

Eleanor: Wonderful. I had a good social life. I we play on what we call the school campus is now where the Boys and Girls Club but then that's where our school was in school campus. And during recess, I always had five but that was fun. And, and we, we play different games, you know, inexpensive games, sports, sports, basketball, we play jacks, we play football, cuz I could play football with my brothers when they couldn't find nobody else to play. They will let me play. Okay, so I had a fantastic. So

Dollie: speaking of your brothers, what did you and your siblings do in your spare time? Well,


Eleanor: My dad didn't let us have a lot of spare time. Okay. our spare time at home was doing Bible trivia. Bible study. And then we extended sports. We kept sports we would play on the side of the house football basketball. On Saturday night back then. Well, on Saturday, it's back then. They would let us like folks go to the movie. We couldn't go remove and all the time, but we could go on Saturday. So we went to the movies on Saturdays and then naturally all day Sunday was church. Funk stole my Sunday school church. middle of the day service b y p you then church again? Yes, we got I feel the church. Sunday. Right.



Dollie: So the Saturdays that y'all went to the movie? Did y'all have a full run of the movie theater? Or


Eleanor: Oh, no, we had to go. You bought your ticket in the front. And then we had to go around the side and go up the stairs. We could only go in the balcony. And then the other people sit down on the floor. All right.


Dollie: What are some family traditions that you remember?


Eleanor: Huh? family traditions, we have so many. Of course, the one of the traditions was we always had to sit at the table to eat. We couldn't go all around the house and pull in, you know, TV trays and all that we had every meal. We had to sit at the table and one of the things that we did at the table was everybody hate to say a Bible verse. We all had to say my dad made us all say a Bible verse. And you couldn't say the same Couldn't incite a live one the next day. Come up with a different one in my mind. He remembered that remember? He said, didn't you just say that one yesterday? said that one two days ago. Come on, man. So that was one of the traditions because that way, my mom and dad found out what we had been doing all day, what we were involved in what we needed to do, what homework we had, what grades we made, I found that all about I love sitting around the dinner table.


Dollie: What about holidays, how did you celebrate them?


Eleanor: We're always spirit at our house. We had holidays at our house, and we had the big traditional dinner at Thanksgiving, you know, and we had family that came over and shared with them play dominoes and different games at Thanksgiving. And it was pretty much the same at Christmas. Except we were when we woke up Christmas morning, it was just family. So we got to open all of our deals, you know, and then I guess about three o'clock or so. Mother's Day will give us up and then we will go take gifts to our other relatives that we had gotten gifts for. One of my grandmother's lived with us. But the other one we have down the street. So we would have to go take granite car hook gear, you know, at Christmas and Valentine wasn't such a big date till I got wrong because my brothers wouldn't let me have no boyfriend. No wait for brothers and their friends. Their friends, we had a place called Blue Room. Right? Everybody knew about the Blue Room. Anyway, I was trying to slip off to go to the Blue Room because I had found out where each one of my brothers were. So it's safe. I can go to the Blue Room. room and the first thing I'm meeting two of my brothers fine. They want to know, look everywhere you go. You need to turn around and go home and they show me back.

Dollie: Let's see. Is there anything your family did the past that you passed from generation to generation as far as your other traditions or even the same or something that you did like heirlooms?


Eleanor: A bible. The past kept passing around, you know? Yeah. Yeah. And the other heirlooms, you know, we were we weren't really financially stable enough to abandon them. So that, say your mother or your great grandmother made that just will go down and down again, right. I'm trying to remember. I know we had some things that was passed around. But most of the things that were passed around to us was oral stories. And yes, Lori's My dad was a big proponent of education. Right? Okay, you know, and we had even sometimes create a story. We had to create a story and we, it was my turn one day to do the story next day, one of my other brothers, you know, so pretty much, pretty much and I kind of enjoyed it. But I tried, I really tried. But in the other tradition that we had, was civic duty, serving. My dad had the first house for what they call it domestic violence man for women. And he had a little bear picture of a bear that sit in the window. So that light is and their families would know that this is a safe So we had that, you know, and he, he encouraged us to always look out for somebody else, whatever we could do. And he also encouraged us to get involved in civic things other than voting. You know, that was a standard. Yes. Because he would tell us how he had to pay poll tax in order to vote he had the right to vote, right. You know, and it, it really meant a lot to him. So he pushed it on down into us. And we, and I'm pushing that into my children, I gave them a start on getting involved in the city, the community, helping others ban available, you know, and they're doing a very good job at doing an excellent job. As far as your religious upbringing, or your


Dollie: How did that play a part in who you are today in your life today?

Eleanor: Well, religious over lay the poor. Because I know that my mom and dad carried me to church, this church shallow, the baby when I've had enough walk, came to church, we had to be involved in all the church activities. And I could be involved in everything that was going on in the church except saying, I cannot carry on to this day. But I would be up if you believe Yes, so charge was a big, big core of my life growing up. I remember when I was about 14, I guess I tell him I'd be so mad at my dad, you know, because he Hurry up, girl Eat your breakfast. We got to go. We got to go to Sunday school.


And I tell him when I get 18 I'm not going to nobody Sunday school. And nobody not gonna make me go to Sunday school. He said, Why don't you live in? Where are you gonna be live in? comes in. That won't be here. Right? Right. Right. Yeah. So we had to not only go to church, we couldn't be no bench member, right. We had to participate in whatever was going on. And because of that, because we want to church been exposed to everything being in different programs, Easter and Christmas, and all that. It. It gave an I can't say it gave me the courage because I never did really like that. But it gave me enough confidence that I'm stand up anywhere and speak to anybody and talk on any subject again, if it's something I don't really know about, I know to go do me a little research, you know, and find out. So church really gave my life structure and gave me enough confidence and faith. To know that if I work hard enough, try hard enough. I can step out on faith. Yeah.

Dollie: How was your early childhood different from your adult life?

Eleanor: I stayed at home until I was 16. I graduated from high school at 16 and went to college. I was one of the first of 17 black students that integrated the undergraduate program at North Texas. It was not Texas State College at the time. Then it went to North Texas State University. But I I had wanted to go to school out of state right you know, get away from home mom, but my day wouldn't have been any That. So my cousin was my mother's he was my mother's first cousin. Anyway, he was at the University of Texas, getting another doctorate degree. When he met the President of North Texas. And the President of North Texas told him well, in the fall, we're going to be integrating undergraduate schools. So he told him, I got the very first person.



Dollie: what was that? Like? I know, culture shock, not not really well, maybe cold shock. Like, what was that like?


Eleanor: It had different facets to it. First of all, we couldn't live on campus. So the community, people made arrangements to rent a room in their houses, you know, because we couldn't live on campus. So that had us go and we had to ride the bus to school.


There was not a lot of evilness at North Texas compared to other colleges, like we would hear a bad word, or learn someone was dragging people behind the cars, you know, and they would do all kinds of ugly things, but that did not happen here. The most devastating thing that happened to me was I was going to one of my business classes. And I mean, the sidewalk had something written on it with chalk.


So, I thought "Whoa, the sidewalk has writing all over it, you know?"

So I asked this guy near me and said "What is a maw-maw?"

He said, "Well, What it says on the sidewalk is "All you maw-maw go back to Africa!"

I said "What is a maw-maw?"

He said "It's a slang term that they (racist people) call..."

Ands I said "Really? I didn't even know that!"

He said, "Sorry, that's all I know..."

And anyways, one of the guys that had the chalk writing on the sidewalk said "Oh, well didn't do us no good. They don't know what it mean! "


We didn't have to be bothered... making up words...we went to the lesson learned! (both Dollie and Eleanor laugh)


Then another time, We we were on the campus late one day. And at the administration building, all these people are yelling around. So me and my roommate said, Let's go see what's going on. And so we will go on up there. And this guy said, you don't need to go up there. I see ya, I'm going up, see what's going on. See what they gonna do. So he was on the football team, calling booger Ray. Anyway, Lucas, I don't need to go up there. We, you know, got a mind down. So we went on up there when we got to the end. And you know, as metal, they will burn in the crowd. As scared and nervous. That was the first time and I guess, but the only time that I really got scared and nervous. But because Atma Haynes was on the football team, and Leon King, the other football guys knew us because every day when we got out of class, we would have to go down the fats field, so that Leon and Abner could walk us safely to the bus stop. So it wouldn't be any problems like that. So because of that all the other guys on the football team would look out for so let's have a look at four. So he took me on his shoulder wrap around the waist and walked us out of there. Because we have no idea what was gonna happen or anything but they would burn in a class. And that that was the only time I was ever really fearful during the time I was at North Texas.


Dollie: So let me know what are some of the skills that you learned from growing up that have impacted your life and made you who you are today? From 40 gone through, you know, certainly got a lot of courage.

Eleanor: I don't know, maybe it was because we had structure? And because of that structure, we were allowed to decide who we wanted to be. And that kind of impacted my life and then one to North Texas. And going through that experience, you know, and finally, being able to kind of just be safe, but then it kind of died down a little bit, you know, and, and then I started to work for the Citadel. And the groundwork for the city of Dallas, I started as a clerk. But then I wanted more. And the man that I worked for, I told him, I said, I won't be like you. I won't miss take home call and tell radio, I want all of that. And I want to be the boss. He said, If you serious, then I'll help. I said, I am serious because I want your salary. So anyway, he started mentoring me. And this was in the street department.

So in the street forum, and he mentored me, and it was still service job. So the first time Java supervisor came open, I went to J. Pass. So he promoted me do that. Well, he didn't give me no take home card and all the perks, you know, and that that he had that I want it. So they had supervisor, manager, well, they call them superintendents, they in and then evolved in the managers. But they had a superintendents position, I was open. So I went and took that test, I was qualified, you know. And they had an opening, had an opening for the field, the position in Oklahoma. And it took them six months to hire me for that position. Because I was the only one that was really qualified for it. But they did not want a woman no matter management position, and did not want no black woman in the street department. So here I go. And when they gave me the job, it was like it was their idea all the time. Yeah. You know, in my life with my father and my brothers gave me enough confidence and everything to know that I didn't do that. Name. Phil had some papers. You know, a lot about that. I can do that. So I was hired to be a manager and I had like 1,000,003 in the budget. And 136 employees. Oh, that's what I started off with. Yes.



Dollie: So you didn't have like a job when you were growing up or anything? Because things like the media handle time has gone college? Did you have a job in college?

Eleanor: No, I my very best friend, Mary Owls - Drake. I call her "Ally" that was my best friend. Still my best friend. Anyway, Ellie had a job babysitting and working for this woman lack of may teenage well she got sick and she said this is your chance to go to work because I wanted to go to work so bad but education and religion was prominent in our house. So I went to work in her place and gather fat lady told me don't don't do come back normal. And you tell Morales don't come back? Yes. Is it in pretty much the only job I had, you know, growing up because we didn't have the fast food places you know, and that's where you didn't get a job like that. You know, most of the jobs will kind of life like Josh took one for the for the duration. Right, right.



Dollie: Was there any natural disasters that happen in Plano growing up? Like tornadoes? Bad weather?

Eleanor: We didn't have in in a major disasters that I remember no natural disaster. We didn't have any that I know of natural disasters



Dollie: As far as political changes, what was the one that affected you the most the political climate and, you know, changes in policies and things like that.


Eleanor: I didn't really get affected by politics until I started working with the group called Douglas Visions. And they had the city of Plano had decided that we didn't need a recreation center, not a recreation, community service. So they would take in the community center away and giving it to the Boys and Girls Club. Well, I got involved in that for several

months. And I could always remember that my dad told me when I moved to Plano with him when he was sick that moved here with him. He said, "baby if thing that happens city why you can always go to Muehlenbeck , he said and talk to him about well, I found that Muehlenbeck might have been my dad's friend. But he will not anybody else's friend. And I got so upset throughout that process. Because it was deception from the beginning. They let us think that we could save the community center. One out the time, they knew we couldn't we gave them projects on how we could bring money into the community center. Because Community Center is completely sponsored by the sitting in a recreation center. You had to buy membership or do whatever. So we tried some every lane, we had meetings after meetings, we had meetings with council people, and they all kept telling us the same law. And that's when I really began to realize what politics really was. You know, it just shattered my faith there.


Yeah, you know, and I, it took me a while to get over it and realize that everybody that is a politician is not definitely a liar or a bad person. You know, and some of them when they're campaigning for office, they have good intentions, and they tell you what they're gonna do. And they're sincere about it. But what they don't realize and what the public and we didn't realize was, they can't do this by themselves. So all the good intentions and the promises, you have to realize that they have to do them as a group. So it doesn't mean that all politicians are liars, most of them are though (chuckles). You know, they're just saying it...


Dollie: Tell me how has Douglas change the community? Oh, you lived through quite a few seasons in Douglas.


Eleanor: Right. There was a time that the community was together on just about everything. Next door, was a funeral home, Samson's funeral home, a system and a funeral home. And when I was growing up, he had the only telephone in the community. And if you would get a call, you know, everybody gave you the number to tool again, and if you got a call, even if you lived all the way back on Avenue air, somebody would go he would get somebody to go down there and tell you you had a phone call. And he would keep that line open until you got there to answer that phone call. Or if you needed to call somebody, you know, and this was like, community. Right, right, you know, the whole community. And another,


Dollie: You told the story one time about the bell, the community bell.

Eleanor: When, and I can't remember the numbers now. But when somebody died up there or birth right, something else

there would be a bell and the number of bells that were range communicated that happened. That was the way it was the way like the community was notified. Yes, yes, yeah. Yeah. And we were like the Indians, yeah, we had to have a way to communicate, you know, and, and as they race of people were very creative. You know, we don't stumble and fall at the first big problem, we figure out how to solve that problem, or go around that problem and come back and get it tomorrow, or whatever. So the drums in the bail were Torah, the communication for the community. The other way that the community has changed is, there were a lot of houses that were back in the 18 1900s. And they were livable, and everybody lived in a house, you know, everybody had a house or whatever. And then all of a sudden, I guess 50s or 60s, whatever. Fox & Jacobs came along and built the neighborhood on East & Parker Road in that area there. So a lot of the people in the community moved out there. So it left a lot of vacant places and habitat, I love them to death, glad they saw fit and want to provide houses for people that could afford them. But they do look at your wonder Nancy version, your team, you know, that's how close they are. And then it brought in a diversity in races. But most of those people that they brought in, did not feel that


they were a part of the community, they don't participate enough. And they you know, I mean, it's like an apart living in an apartment building, you know, you don't know your neighbor on the third floor, you know, you might run into them in a laundromat. But this is the way that they are. As far as the habitat people, they have taken most of the community out of the community. And it's just people living in houses, you know, and those that were here you know, back in the community still know each other and still associate and everything and we still try to give invitations to those people that have moved in. And they still tend ignores so we just kind of move on.



Liesbeth: I wanted to hear a little bit about you spoke how you work with the city down this and all this. But other than the community center, have you been involved in you know, cleanout city working?


Eleanor: Yeah, I'm the prison democratic precinct chairperson for this precinct. And that's how I'm involved in in. In politics. I've been involved I voter registrar for Dallas and Tarrant County trying to get everybody signed up to vote, you know, as many people as I can. So I'm still involved in the political arena, just not as much as before because I have a took my son or With me to hold a meeting than all of that, and I've gotten him involved in the political part of it. And in the city of Dallas, I worked with street department and that meant contact from city council people and you know, who don't want to hear? No, you know, they don't want to hear I can't do that, because that is not city property. Private property. So, you know, we we had to do that quite often with the council people, they thought they would counsel people pick up the phone call, you know, fix Miss Duda driveway. driveway is not city property, and you're not gonna have me on television and in jail.


You know? So, you know, it was there for me to begin with, it was definitely a challenge being a woman and being the only woman in this group of 13. Man, you know, and there was a lot I had to overcome. Like, they would even Thank you, you know, I was stupid. Tell me to go get Can you give me a left handed wrench? And I thought about it. I said, Okay, so I went and found one and put some tape on and put an ale on and took it back. I say go you know, look at real stupid, it backfired on him, you know? So there are a lot of challenges that I went through. Yeah.



Liesbeth: Did you choose to come back and live in this? Or did you ever leave?

Eleanor: Yeah, I when I left when I went to college. And then I got married and lived in Dallas, Arlington girl. And when my dad got sick, 25 years later, my mom and dad were getting old and getting sick. Well, then I moved back to play now. Move back so I could be with them. And there was that gap of 25 years from the time I left because I never did leave back here after I left going to college. Except for when I moved.






Liesbeth: And so what was it like to see that childhood neighborhood differently? 25 years later on?


Eleanor: No, I tell you the whole city the whole city hit chunk and never get lost! Yes, city head Wow. No faces the city has grown. You know when it was just it was kind of fun. And it was kind of overwhelming. And you know, I got aggravated. Yeah. And my dad's brother, my uncle told me one day. I said, Come on, I'm gonna take you to the Spaghetti Warehouse. And we're gonna have lunch. He said, Oh, no. I said uh huh. He said now that's on the freeway and I don't go over there. I'm not going on the freeway. So you know, either just the whole city had really changed the neighborhood and change you know, in the city and change ahead to they. I don't remember when. Valley y'all and maybe you probably remember, but right, dude, dude, do you remember when they stopped putting in sidewalks? You remember? There were not sad. Well paved streets Really? Yeah. And I paved the street. Remember that?


James Thomas: Because I used to drive on our motorcycles. There was no Street. Yeah, right. One of the sidewalls was right there.

Eleanor: We came through all of that. Yeah, there okay. Oh, and I was delivered by me at one We had to have midwives back then, even though we had a Dr. Thomas Thompson was the doctor that was upstairs at his office upstairs going with a lot going on oh, by the way, he would, he would, he would see us. And then he and Dr. Mitchell would see us and Dr. Thompson even went so far as the give me wholes in my ears, you know, because the doctors didn't necessarily normally see us and treat us. You know, so for him to be available. You know, and Dr. Mitchell, raised Do


llie in there. Yeah, well, he, they saw us. So it was a lot of different things that all the younger people now call them younger people take for granted. You know, that. We didn't have that. But it did not bother us that much. We as a matter of fact, I tell everybody, I didn't know I was poor. And I didn't know I was told. being poor, I have food places stay toys, you know, I might not have been the best toys, you know, whatever. But we had these things. So you know, and we had food in if if I pass by somebody in the neighborhood TAs and they were eating them after going to table D. You know, I mean? That's That's how community was.


James Thomas: I remember in the 60s, kind of mid 60s, I asked our grandfather daily jam about a young teenager, how he was impacted by the depression. And he said there was a depression. We will we've always been more right. Before the depression. We were poor. During the Depression, we were poor. After the depression, we will never lose it. He said that happened to the rich people that wasn't the right stop to be whatever that is. We just we got our own food.

Dollie: that's the one thing that just like Eleanor is talking about, as far as community goes, we that's how we survive. Because we work with one person to help that other person, right? The person, the other person, nobody was left out. Right? If it wasn't for us, as a human being, we wouldn't have to take care of one another. Right? Yeah.

It's gone. It's completely gone. As a matter of fact, when my dad was in the Navy, as they their gear man Willis has more than I did at home. Because baby mama was my godmother, and she would come get me and I would stay a week down there. Fast and fight and everything and then I'd go back home and stay a few days you know, and staying it with mom will and dad Jim was just like being at home. You know, somebody was passing by. I said, Can you give me a drink of water? Yeah, come on, man. Yeah, you want something to eat? You know, and that was the spirit of the community then.


But then, eventually. I don't know if I want to say that. And integration kind of change the neighborhood. Change the city or the community. I don't know how I'm gonna go that for but it played a part in the change. You know, it played a part in the change because, like, Duty (James Thomas) in Dallas said, we didn't know we were poor. But once integration came along, we got to see some stuff that some other people Hey, you know, whoa, wait a minute. I know that, you know, so we got expose. We can expose to more things and then it kind of suddenly came upon us that we need to do a little bit more. So we can have a swim bicycle. You know, we had a bicycle, but it was a no name bicycle. But


then all of a sudden, we got to see that there was more than what we were exposed to. But we were still having it saying this and that didn't take away, you know, any of our happiness or joy. We were still pretty much a community until they took school away and was late to the school away. Then the kids had to go to Plano High School and Mendenhall and different schools Wilson Yeah, they split. They did some kind of split in the community where four of them on this went to school over here and pull them over here went to school over there. So that kind of separated that community spirit to an extent.


James Thomas: We were also concerned about what would happen to our teachers and wale, the African American teachers in the neighborhood. I want to know the whole Mr. High Caliber ROI is higher. As we integrate and go to the different schools, all the Caucasians are going, what what would they do that they have position? Because this was the principal of our school and our white neighbor? What would these people do what are and they were very fortunate that almost all of them got a position or had a role. Not only that, today in the room, because Natasha has a schoolmate Roy lamb doesn't Mr. Roy down doesn't have a smooth manner to him. But all Yeah, but he I think he has a record on 50 plus years. He is. And he's on so many wishes, so many award regarding the impact of a city so but we were really concerned. And if you ever watch a movie called remember the time you visit Washington when integration happened, it impacted his impact impacting everything. What what happened to all of us. We had a with the camaraderie that we had in our neighborhood with a basketball team, and our football team.


Wonderful and as a rookie, and I used to go and watch all people like me, we ended up getting integrate becoming integrated in with just a brand. We continue that winning position and we integrated we got better and we want to stay. But we have some wonderful athletes and we're in pretty good aspects over there. And we got to get out. What was the glue? Because most of the coaches in the neighborhood in Texas wouldn't wake up. Yeah.

Dollie: The Coach John Clark and coaches were the glue!

James Thomas: Yeah, he he. I don't know that story written about coach called young quarterback for the world was man played on immigration because he had a dilemma and you may have heard this. He had an African American quarterback named Alex Williams, who was supposed to be here today. They always have white quarterback. Alex was a young quarterback. And I know that he had a lot of pressure from the white neighborhood not to play Alex. Alex played a little bit but he didn't store they had another white kid senior story. Alex got hurt, he won a game. They put the white quarterback in the hall. And everyone in the stands out put Alex in the put accent we came down again. He never had an issue with Clark said he attributes that to this community how wonderful this community was the Douglass Community is for making a pathway for him to get the players those players and the path because got to have a family to believe in him and his methodology as far as doing something good for the community and winning and so we became the winners. Because of that being in that one way and the superintendent And the community leaders in the dynasty. So, remember the time will come, we integrate, we want to stay. It was like the movie, Remember the Titans.



Dollie: And you have to understand that in the 20s or earlier or something like that the Douglass community was all the African American community had all of them down this street. Businesses go up town and value their businesses, hotels, restaurants, gas station, everything.

James Thomas: every day was here. Yeah, I remember when JFK was assassinated. I remember a teacher running out crying and Dan Kennedy was assassinated. It was I'm sitting in the classroom, and of course, going on and talking to you, you want to talk to me? A really young fourth or fifth grade, I'm thinking every single with a new one. We saw him come up, basically. And they have a picture of the accused assassination person. Every white person I saw everybody I have my kid my kid is 25. And he used to play high school football and he told me said you know what? And hi to all of us get together after the game when we go over to water burgers, you know all the players but the girl that Chili's has now he said when you run a funny job me job after the game and, you know, the handout when I said he said the Java MacDonald. I said, Dan emitted McDonald's from Louisiana.


He said, What about one of them? I said, No. I said, Yeah, they did have like a little, they have a couple of little restaurant places. But we couldn't go in we were prohibited from going inside. We could go up to the front and order like hamburger on it, but only our white friends can go in and we can do it. And he's he said that you're making this up?

I said, No, this is legitimately what you said there. What about the law? I think that the we had to go on one day. One day, and we went to the top of we have to say about black which we were almost killing you know, Valentine's Day, we had one day to go to the top of the way I want a kick.

Eleanor: You know one of the things that I really did appreciate about going to the school was people like massage. She was homemaking teach. And she taught us skills that would take us through the rest of our lives. If she taught us how to sew boys too, because we could take some old clothes and remake them, you know into what we needed or what we wanted. She taught us how to make cookies from scratch. Okay, corn bread, you know, she taught us skills that we could take for the rest of our lives so that we wouldn't be dependent on everybody for everything. We could be independent and a lot of my classmates in school might be independent, you know, as they are now and one of them they didn't know how to cook a dish, no matter what my bag.

See right over his head where it says the memory of Eleanor & Hugo. That was my grandmother and grandfather. My mother's mother, my mother's Mother's Day. Yeah, that was this family, right? People coming out of this community.

And that grandmother was my grandmother's sister, Mom, Willie, and my grandma was just but that was when they decided to build this church in order to bring some funds of whatever and families both a window. And as you can see, all of them have somebodies name on the app app. Thank you one.


James Thomas: Thing is obvious. To me as overtly obvious, as Dolly was interviewing her, she alluded to the education factor, you know, graduated from high school with 16. Dolly said, basically the root of our lives in our school, too. But you can tell how ticular just normally as educators here that's one thing that regardless of what happens before we go, no one can ever take that promise, and we're educated, you will have a way to take that next step to know to know. And we've been blessed in this community. Not only that, even at immigration and even blessing, some wonderful teachers and some wonderful mentors, and family members even who provided us with insight as to take that next step to educate them differently. That is all because I wanted to be like her. I want to be like, brothers. Brothers.

Eleanor: Most of the kids in the neighborhood back then when my brothers were coming along graduating from high school, most of them went to parents sacrifice my dad sacrifice three kids in college at one time. And we didn't know we never knew but he sacrificed. And when my youngest brother was they were all older than me. But when my youngest brother was graduating from high school when the first time my mother ever took a job. She wouldn't work. Her friend convinced her to go to work at the cleaners. First time my mother ever worked outside the home and she when she went to work she loved. She was like I and I was the same way I had never worked, you know, but when I finally got my first job you know, it was a sign of independence.

James Thomas: Have you seen the movie "The Help"? Okay, my mother was one she was the maid man. My mom was amazing.


Dollie: My dad was a chauffer. We were able to get some assistance from the family.


Eleanor: My dad worked at the Veterans Hospital in McKinney. And oh, we will read. We got rich then he worked at VA hospital and he bought 49 forward for that for the wiggle ran way. And my uncle lived in Ohio. And he had I don't know what year it was. I think it was 50 maybe 50 or 50 or somewhere. But anyway, he sent us First television, and everybody on mash breed and RAM would come over and watch TV and especially on Monday night nearby came over to watch the wrestling match.


The wrestling match. sandwiches, you know, and it was just a good old time on Monday night. And it was black and white TV. But he had sent it to us from Ohio. And we will so we will first have TV by Blue Ridge. It was something but it was a beautiful life. Beautiful Life, I had a beautiful life. And it was because it was all in the spirit. It wasn't in a stir. You know, kids nowadays are so wrapped up in the stuff. You know, you now like get some stuff. You know, that way, somebody's willing to let you sign your name for 30 months. You know, I mean, you can always get stuff and kids stuff on stuff. And we were raised with the spirit, you know, community and each other ninja and and Sharon and, you know, it has evolved into a lot different. You know, because they put a lot on, on the value of things, you know, I got an iPhone dollar got an Android, you know, so man better than dollars, you know, and that's the way the kids are, man. And it's hard to, to break them from that, because that's what they're exposed to when they walk out the front door. You know, so it's really, really hard, you know, to try to impress upon them that stuff is but feelings, emotions, sharing, and all of this is a whole lot more rewarding. But as far as our family and all connected, we were tough to give back. And we teach our kids to do that.


Dollie: Even if it's not to the extent it was when when Elena was growing up from San Diego, Jay and then, but we still teach them community is everything and it doesn't necessarily mean your community around your house. But it means we were always taught that service services everything.

James Thomas: Another aspect is unlimited transition and integration and all of that. Somewhat blessed because the transition has been relatively seamless, in the sense that we only been one African American three to 5% of us here would not have been possible without a big population.


In 1979, the city of Plano this Saturday was a school after Blackie. It was a second that we went up to city how Catholic only two, three hours to fight the city said it.

Humanitarian not because he was great, he wasn't perfect. But they named the city of Plano that it was important to have something in history and legacy because of all the things that he did not just for his neighborhood, but out of the white neighborhood. So our transition hasn't been is when I got to college, I saw him have a lot of other friends were African American who didn't go to that seamless transition are they hated, Black folks, they hated White Folks, like they've been done wrong and they just I'm thinking every one of us to be intelligent. We have black and white standing outside. So we were blessed to thinking about that. I work at the Cox building and add them with the school district for 40 plus years. But when I got my job at the Cox, when I wasn't, I wasn't able to attend the community when I was going to segregate four years later they make me go because he came to be unfair, so relaxing console can't remember anything he got growing up.

Liesbeth: So, you know, me names you've mentioned, you know, they've become, you know, the name on the bill ball. So maybe kids go into that head about realizing that person is someone you knew or grew up with. I like to share those people are me.

Eleanor: But they're not nearly as interested in that, like they should be. Like, I always say it's like a throwaway society, they're not interested in the history or, you know, how to learn in school, or whatever, you know. You don't like sat around and talked to parents and grandparents. Like for them, you know, but even my kids right now don't necessarily, yeah, time on there to hear me talk about things that went on with me that I would like to have you know, he came along after hours. But they mentioned more lamb. He was their coach, a science teacher, a teacher, you know, I mean, massage teachers back then.

You know, and, and also, company with you, man, teachers, were coach for the girls basketball team. Like to go over with them and give them some history on it. But I've decided I did this, we had a project, I seen you grow. Take this little book, and, and write a short biography of our life. And this was mine, and I want first, but it's a lot in here what I've been saying today, you know, it's a lot in here. And a lot of so do you think projects like this, like what you're doing today? Does that help with preserving history?

It really does. You know, we only get 10 kids to read it or know that, whatever you know. And that's something they can do on our own. You know, you often hear people say, well ask the you know, she stood on Maya Angelou show verse, she knows where she is. Well, it's the same thing in the neighborhood. Kids learn the history and they can know your children.


Exhibit Activities & Discussions:

  1. What are some of the life lessons we learned about building community?

  2. Why is the community important?

  3. Who is responsible for the community well being?

  4. Why is education important?

  5. What can we learn about one another when we share experiences?

  6. Do you have an elder, or someone older than you? Try interviewing them with the questions that Liesbeth and Dollie asked Ms. Eleanor.

  7. If you completed an interview (see question #6), how were the experiences different? How were the experiences the same?

  8. Why do you think it's important to spend time with older generations?

  9. What can we do to support our own communities or expand our community to include others?

  10. Why is it important to include everyone?

  11. What is one thing you can do intentionally to make others feel included?

  12. In what ways can you celebrate the history and accomplishments of your own family and community?

  13. Draw a picture of Ms. Eleanor's early life as a child. How do you think the Douglass Community looked based on the businesses and childhood memories she shared?

  14. What role did the church have in her life?

  15. One tradition that Ms. Eleanor loved, was that her family sat at the dinner table together and talked. Do you have family traditions like the one she mentioned? What family traditions do you share?


Learn more:

Plano Art Walk

Plano Magazine: Growing Up in Douglass



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