Charlotte Hill Frye
Interviewed by Leonard Monroe and Reta Cosby
Present: Nancy Hiebert and Virginia Hamm
March 22, 2006
MR. MONROE: Good morning. This is the twenty-second day of March, 2006. We will be interviewing Mrs. Charlotte Frye. Charlotte, what is your full name, including your maiden name, and what is your date of birth?
MRS. FRYE: My full name is Charlotte Arlene Hill Frye. My date of birth is April 23, 1937.
MR. MONROE: Where were you born?
MRS. FRYE: Leeton, Missouri.
MR. MONROE: How long has your family lived in Lawrence? When and why did the first family members come here?
MRS. FRYE: I've lived here since I was two years old. My dad was born and raised here, out near Clinton Lake. Clinton, Kansas, was where he was born, and that's why we ended up coming back. After my mother and dad married and lived in Missouri, they came back when I was two years old.
MR. MONROE: Did your family have any good storytellers, or what was some of the favorite family stories that you might have remembered from your childhood?
MRS. FRYE: I don't know. I can't think of anyone being a storyteller (laughter).
MR. MONROE: Were there people in your family that weren't talked about, like black sheep, or how did your family deal with these people and their circumstances?
MRS. FRYE: I don't think we had any black sheep. We might have, and I didn't know about it.
MR. MONROE: I've known you all of your life, too, and I don't remember any either (laughter). What parts of Lawrence did you identify most closely with when you were young, and were there parts of town where you were restricted or forbidden from going to? Or what topics were hushed up or forbidden in the family conversations, birth, death, illness or anything like that?
MRS. FRYE: We grew up in the west part of town [Old West Lawrence], and mostly we stayed in that area. But when I went to junior high, I made friends with a couple of girls. One lived on the east side, in fact, right across from this church, and one from North Lawrence. Shirley Wilson and I were good friends, and I still hear from her. She lives in Colorado.
MR. MONROE: She's in Colorado now?
MRS. FRYE: Yes. In fact, she came back for our class reunion.
MR. MONROE: When was that?
MRS. FRYE: Just last October.
MR. MONROE: I remember her talking about that.
MRS. FRYE: October, our 50th school reunion.
MR. MONROE: I had my 50th a year ago, so don't feel bad about that (laughter). What was your grandmother's role when you were growing up, and what about the grandfather's role? Have these roles changed?
MRS. FRYE: Our grandmothers died when we were very young, so we didn't know our grandmothers. I only knew one grandfather. He had a farm out west, and had horses. I remember that.
MS. COSBY: What was his name?
MRS. FRYE: Noah Hill.
MR. MONROE: Did your family ever take in any boarders and, if so, what do you remember about it?
MRS. FRYE: No, we didn't have boarders.
MR. MONROE: As far as I know, I'm about the only one that's ever answered that question. We had two Jamaicans staying with us during World War II.
MRS. FRYE: Oh, you did?
MR. MONROE: Yeah, they worked at the Sunflower Ordinance Plant.
MRS. FRYE: No, we didn't have boarders. But our next door neighbor had two girls that went to KU that roomed with them, but we didn't have any boarders.
MR. MONROE: Where did you attend elementary school?
MRS. FRYE: Pinckney School.
MR. MONROE: Everybody knows Pinckney.
MS. COSBY: What year did you attend? Do you remember?
MRS. FRYE: No, I can't remember the year. I went all through Pinckney.
MR. MONROE: How many grades?
MRS. FRYE: From kindergarten through sixth.
MR. MONROE: Was this a segregated school?
MRS. FRYE: No, it wasn't. It was always integrated when we were there.
MR. MONROE: I went to it, too, and it was always integrated. And, of course, elementary school really didn't have no teams segregated.
MRS. FRYE: No.
MR. MONROE: Were any of your teachers or coaches African American?
MRS. FRYE: No, we didn't have any African American teachers or anything.
MR. MONROE: There were no administrators. What about class officers?
MRS. FRYE: In grade school?
MR. MONROE: Okay, let's go on to junior high or school then.
MRS. FRYE: No, not that I remember.
MR. MONROE: Did you belong to any organizations or clubs in junior high or high school.
MRS. FRYE: Uh-huh. Pep club and...
MR. MONROE: And, of course, they were segregated.
MRS. FRYE: No, they were integrated. The pep clubs.
MR. MONROE: Oh, yeah. I guess they was when you went.
MRS. FRYE: Yeah. You wore a little red and black jacket in pep club. It was integrated, but I mean there weren't any black cheerleaders or anything. I think one year Lorna White was a cheerleader in junior high, and I think Mae Hurst, too. Wasn't she? But she was younger than I was. She was a cheerleader.
MR. MONROE: I know it was segregated when I first went out there, and we had our own black pep club and all that kind of stuff. Our cheerleaders and everything.
MRS. FRYE: No, we were integrated.
MS. COSBY: Were any of your teachers or coaches African American in junior high or high school?
MRS. FRYE: No.
MR. MONROE: Did you interact with any Native Americans in Lawrence when you were growing up? If so, what kind of interactions did you have?
MRS. FRYE: I might have interacted with one or two in school, but not closely. We weren't close.
MR. MONROE: What do you feel about your teachers' attitudes toward your education? Did you offer you support? If not, why not?
MRS. FRYE: Oh, quite a few of them offered me support. Some not so much.
MR. MONROE: And, of course, you graduated. What year did you graduate?
MRS. FRYE: 1955. My class was the first class out of Lawrence High School now. Not Lawrence Memorial.
MR. MONROE: The new one?
MRS. FRYE: Yeah. That was the first class out of there that graduated, 1955.
MR. MONROE: What was your overall opinion of your educational experience in Lawrence?
MRS. FRYE: It was good.
MR. MONROE: That's what I always said, "it was good," because we had the same opportunities. We was in the same classes that were segregated.
MRS. FRYE: Right.
MR. MONROE: If you didn't get it, it was your own fault.
MRS. FRYE: Right.
MS. COSBY: Do you remember any teachers in particular who offered you support or didn't offer you support?
MRS. FRYE: Yes. I had one shorthand teacher, but I can't think of her name. She offered a lot of support. She was very, very outgoing and a real good teacher.
MS. COSBY: And what about the ones that didn't offer you support? Do you remember any of those in particular?
MRS. FRYE: Yes. One was a biology teacher and she didn't offer any (laughter).
MR. MONROE: Showed nobody support.
MRS. FRYE: Pearl Carpenter did not offer much support for anyone.
MR. MONROE: No, but she was the same with all of us. I mean black and white, it didn't make any difference.
MRS. FRYE: She was good teacher, but not much support there (laughter).
MR. MONROE: You got that right. Everybody that had her, old lady Carpenter was something else.
MRS. FRYE: (Laughter). Right.
MR. MONROE: What did you do after high school?
MRS. FRYE: I went to KU, then married.
MR. MONROE: Who did you marry?
MRS. FRYE: Arthur Frye (laughter).
MS. COSBY: While we're talking about family names, I don't think we got the names of your mother and your father.
MRS. FRYE: My mother's name was Armeta Marguerite Lewis, and my dad was Thomas Irving Hill.
MR. MONROE: And they were quite some people, I tell you that.
MRS. FRYE: Yeah, they were big workers in the church, both of them.
MS. COSBY: In St. Luke Church?
MRS. FRYE: Yes.
MR. MONROE: Yes, right here. Matter of fact, Mr. Hill is the one that recommended me for a trustee.
MRS. FRYE: He sure did.
MR. MONROE: And, at that time, I was the youngest trustee ever in this church. And their mother was simply one of the loveliest persons you'll ever meet.
MRS. HIEBERT: Vernell Spearman brought me over to the church in '82, I think, and I remember your mom from those early days.
MRS. FRYE: Yes, I'm sure.
MRS. HIEBERT: And Barbara, your sister, Barbara Jordan, was always working a lot with the tea every January or something.
MRS. FRYE: Yes. Virginia and I worked with the teas plenty times. Didn't we (laughter)?
MRS. HAMM: Yes.
MRS. FRYE: We sure did. That was a long time ago.
MS. COSBY: Do you remember some of the organizations that your parents belonged to here in the church?
MRS. FRYE: Prosperity Club was one my mother belonged to, and Richard Allen (Club).
MS. COSBY: What did those clubs consist of?
MRS. FRYE: They were really kind of a civic type of club, but it was to help the church, both of them. Most of the money they made went to the church. They had like fashion shows. I remember being in many fashion shows with Richard Allen Day. Big fashion shows at the community building that everybody was in, not just St. Luke members.
MR. MONROE: Right. I remember when Reverend Washington had one big tea down here in the basement. It really went over big. Everybody dressed up in tuxes and formals, and it was quite a success. And, of course, Mr. And Mrs. Hill also belonged to many organizations in the church too, as officers I mean. They did it all. What are your first memories of St. Luke?
MRS. FRYE: In Sunday school, I don't remember exactly what age. My mother joined St. Luke in 1937, which I was two years old, and she took us to church with her. But I remember joining in the '40s under Reverend Fant. It was 1946, I think. He was such a great person, and his wife also. We really enjoyed them.
MS. COSBY: Were there any changes in the church under Reverend Fant? Any remodeling?
MRS. FRYE: Yes, he dug this basement out. He and a lot of the men. My dad was one of the men that did it. It wasn't dug out, and he was the one that orchestrated that, and all the men got behind him and dug it out.
MR. MONROE: At first I think the basement was about where that deal (pillars) is there. And then they went on and extended it.
MS. COSBY: Where these columns are?
MRS. FRYE: Yes.
MR. MONROE: Everybody and my dad and brother. Everybody worked down here on that.
MRS. HIEBERT: How long did that take?
MRS. FRYE: Oh, I can't remember, but quite a time digging it out.
MR. MONROE: Are you actively involved in your congregation now, or were you in the past?
MRS. FRYE: Yeah, I was in the past because I sang in about three choirs (laughter). Two as children, and then we had that woman's choir, Voices of Faith, which was a good choir.
MR. MONROE: I think that's something that St. Luke has really been remembered for. They had choirs all the time. They had all kinds of programs and different things like that.
MS. COSBY: Who was the musician?
MRS. FRYE: Mrs. Ruth Jeltz was the musician here then. She was quite a musician.
MR. MONROE: She knew her music.
MRS. FRYE: She really did.
MR. MONROE: She would have you up in that choir, and you'd better hit that note. If you didn't, she wouldn't have to say anything, she'd just look at you.
MRS. FRYE: Look at you and glare (laughter).
MR. MONROE: What was the Sunday forum? Did you participate in Sunday school and different things like that?
MRS. FRYE: Oh, yes. We all went to Sunday school every Sunday. My aunt by marriage was the superintendent of the Sunday school.
MS. COSBY: What was her name?
MRS. FRYE: Pearl Hill. For a long time, several years, she was the superintendent.
MS. COSBY: Who was your Sunday school teacher?
MRS. FRYE: Different ones. I think Dorothy Harvey taught Sunday school.
MS. COSBY: Taught you Sunday school?
MRS. FRYE: She taught Sunday school.
MR. MONROE: Funerals and things like that I don't think were ever segregated or nothing like that. When we grew up in the church, wasn't nothing segregated about the church. Do you consider your faith an important part of your life?
MRS. FRYE: Yes.
MR. MONROE: In so many ways.
MRS. FRYE: It's just part of my life. It always has been.
MS. COSBY: How has faith played a part in your life?
MRS. FRYE: I don't exactly know how to word it.
MR. MONROE: That was one thing, you might call it a religious family. Her mother and father, her sisters and brother were all just St. Luke members for ever and ever. Matter of fact, her mother and her aunt were deacon emerituses.
MS. COSBY: Did your children attend St. Luke?
MRS. FRYE: Yes, they did.
MS. COSBY: Do they still attend?
MRS. FRYE: No, they don't. They are members. They were all members, but my oldest daughter goes to St. James, which was a sister church to St. Luke, and Michelle, she used to come every now and then, but she doesn't come very much anymore. And then I have one girl that lives in Topeka, and my youngest daughter lives in Omaha, and my son lives in Lawrence.
MR. MONROE: How many children do you have?
MRS. FRYE: Five. Four girls and one boy.
MS. COSBY: Do you want to give their names?
MRS. FRYE: Dylyn is my oldest. Michelle is my second. Derrick is my third. Shawn is my fourth and Latrice is my fifth.
MR. MONROE: One of Michelle's boys is number 35 on the KU Jayhawk football team.
MRS. FRYE: Brandon. He got a four-year scholarship to KU. We are quite proud. We just tell him, "Get that degree."
MS. COSBY: How many grandchildren do you have?
MRS. FRYE: Ten.
MRS. HIEBERT: What is his name?
MRS. FRYE: Brandon McAnderson, number 35 (laughter).
MRS. HIEBERT: What year is this for him?
MRS. FRYE: He's a junior, but he was red-shirted the first year.
MRS. HIEBERT: So he'll have two more?
MRS. FRYE: Yeah.
MR. MONROE: He's quite a football player, I'll tell you that.
MRS. FRYE: Yes, he is.
MR. MONROE: Of course, him and his brother was number one and two stars at Lawrence High.
MRS. FRYE: They were.
MR. MONROE: They did it all.
MRS. FRYE: Devin just got kind of cut down out of his career, because he ended up having some of kind of blood disease. But he's doing fine now.
MR. MONROE: Yeah, he was the quarterback for Lawrence High. And his brother was the running back, and I mean they run through everybody.
MS. COSBY: Devin still takes part in the sports at Lawrence High School.
MRS. FRYE: He is assistant football coach at Lawrence High.
MS. COSBY: I work with him in special education.
MRS. FRYE: I know you do, and he's a paraprofessional there. We hope he goes on with his career there.
MR. MONROE: That would be great. What role has your church played in Lawrence history?
MRS. FRYE: Lawrence history?
MR. MONROE: Langston Hughes and the Underground Railroad?
MRS. FRYE: I met Reverend Oliver Brown way before Brown versus Board of Topeka. When his daughter was a young girl, Linda, we used to go up there and have some kind of youth group. The parents took us up there, and that's where we met them, at his church. So, I knew him and his daughter before Brown became history.
MS. COSBY: Brown versus the [Topeka] Board of Education?
MRS. FRYE: Yes. Oliver Brown was a minister. In fact, we used to exchange pulpits a lot years ago. Different churches. The large churches from Kansas City and the big churches from Topeka. All the churches from Topeka, we all would exchange pulpits.
MS. COSBY: During that event, did the churches support Reverend Brown in Brown versus Board of Education?
MRS. FRYE: Yes.
MS. COSBY: How?
MRS. FRYE: I really don't know.
MR. MONROE: They used to exchange pulpits, they used to do that a lot.
MRS. FRYE: All the time.
MR. MONROE: And the only time they do it now is when we're invited to go somewhere, then pastor will do the preaching at that church.
MRS. FRYE: And the choir.
MR. MONROE: And when we invite them here, it's the same thing.
MRS. FRYE: Right.
MR. MONROE: We still do a lot of that, but nothing like it used to be.
MRS. FRYE: Nothing like it was.
MR. MONROE: Everything back then was different.
MRS. FRYE: Oh, it was different.
MR. MONROE: Church was actually number one on your list mostly.
MS. COSBY: Was Linda Brown older or younger than you?
MRS. FRYE: She's younger than I am. She still lives in Topeka.
MS. COSBY: Do you have any interactions or did you have any interactions with her?
MRS. FRYE: Not really after we grew up. I just know we had those meetings when we were young, with my minister and her dad.
MR. MONROE: You know St. Luke Church history has a lot to do with Langston Hughes. When did you first hear about Langston Hughes?
MRS. FRYE: I heard of him, but I didn't really know that he was tied in with St. Luke until just a few years back. I'd always heard that his aunt, wasn't it? Brought him to church.
MR. MONROE: No, it was his grandmother. He got a lot of his inspiration to do what he has done just from the services that he got from St. Luke.
MRS. FRYE: I always heard of him being a wonderful poet and stuff, but I didn't really know that.
MS. COSBY: Did you know the Reeds?
MRS. FRYE: No, I sure didn't.
MR. MONROE: A lot of Langston's inspiration came from the sermons and the singing that he heard right here in St. Luke.
MRS. HIEBERT: Some of the Langston family were really well known nationally in 1840s and '50's, in antislavery activities in Ohio. They had a lot to do with helping push towards the Civil War, and to some extent, I think, like in the '60s, African-Americans helped push along with others who were committed to more civil rights finally getting realized. But the Langston family, and his grandpa and grandma lived right out at Lakeview. He had a wonderful heritage. But, in addition to the church, some of that was local. Did you come to the breakfast that morning that Alice Walker was here?
MRS. FRYE: No, I didn't.
MRS. HIEBERT: I couldn't remember, but I know that a number of people were at that.
MR. MONROE: The basement was full that day. Congressman Moore and all of them was here that day. What are some of the names of African-American businesses in Lawrence that you might remember? Or their locations?
MRS. FRYE: I remember my dad talking about, in fact, I can vaguely remember the black barber shop on Massachusetts because my dad got his hair cut there.
MR. MONROE: The mortuary?
MRS. FRYE: Yes, Bowser Mortuary over on Vermont.
MR. MONROE: Blues Bucket?
MRS. FRYE: Yeah, I didn't ever have any (laughter). That was way before my time, but I heard of it. In fact, the man that ran Blues lived on the corner by us on Michigan. What was his name?
MR. MONROE: The man that I thought lived out there on 59 highway, on the hill out there.
MRS. FRYE: Who was that?
MR. MONROE: I don't know, but he ran the Blues Bucket Shop for a long time. Maybe that was later.
MRS. FRYE: I thought they bought a home over on Michigan, but I can't think of their names.
MR. MONROE: I can't either right now.
MRS. FRYE: They did live on the corner on Michigan.
MR. MONROE: But those were black businesses in Lawrence, the Blues Bucket Shop, Greenwood Inn, Green Gable.
MRS. FRYE: Yeah, I remember that.
MR. MONROE: The mortuary. Also, there was hairdresser there on Vermont Street, too. I can't remember what her name was now.
MRS. HAMM: Her name was Mrs. Laury.
MRS. FRYE: I didn't remember that one.
MRS. HAMM: Frankie and...
MRS. FRYE: I remember Frankie and Jessie.
MR. MONROE: You remember a kid named Wardell? He lived there too.
MRS. FRYE: He was my brother's age, I think.
MR. MONROE: He was younger than me, but I knew him.
MS. COSBY: How many sisters and brothers did you have?
MRS. FRYE: I had two sisters and one brother. There were four of us.
MR. MONROE: Did your family shop at any of these establishments or patronize them?
MRS. FRYE: Oh, yes.
MR. MONROE: I know they did, because the Blues Bucket Shop, you could get some pretty good chow there. Chili and beans and, of course, cold beer. Do you remember any of the doctors or nurses back in those days.
MRS. FRYE: The only one I remember was that one doctor that came here, but he wasn't here very long.
MR. MONROE: Was that on Kentucky Street where that doctor was?
MRS. FRYE: Kentucky or Vermont.
MR. MONROE: I think it was Kentucky Street.
MRS. FRYE: But he wasn't here long.
MR. MONROE: No, he wasn't here long. And we also had an attorney.
MRS. FRYE: He wasn't supported.
MR. MONROE: We had an attorney.
MRS. FRYE: The attorney was Leroy Harris. He lived here in Lawrence anyway.
MS. COSBY: Where was his office located?
MRS. FRYE: Was it downtown? I don't really remember.
MS. COSBY: Was he African American?
MRS. FRYE: Yes.
MR. MONROE: Years ago it used to be quite a few professional African Americans in Lawrence. None of them seemed to stay around here all that long though.
MRS. FRYE: Only Leroy Harris. He married a lady that was from here, Bertie was her name. Bertie Harris. She was in club with my mother.
MR. MONROE: Who was your physician? Can you remember?
MRS. FRYE: When I was child?
MR. MONROE: Was he African American?
MRS. FRYE: No, he was not.
MR. MONROE: Because I know that we're not that far apart, but none of those professional doctors or attorneys, it was nothing when we were kids growing up. Because most all of our physicians were white back in those days.
MRS. FRYE: Yes, and they still are (laughter).
MR. MONROE: Yeah, because none's here. We've seen many in Topeka and Kansas City, but not in Lawrence.
MS. COSBY: Besides Dr. Bremby.
MRS. FRYE: She is the only one here. I forget about April. She went to school with my son. She's about the same age. Her mother and I had a class together at KU, Daphne.
MS. COSBY: Daphne Payne?
MRS. FRYE: She's quite a lovely person.
MS. COSBY: She is.
MR. MONROE: Were you or any of your family ever hospitalized in Lawrence and, if so, were there separate headquarters?
MRS. FRYE: I heard about it, but I never encountered that. Luckily, I guess, because I never was in the rooms when I had my children that my sister was. Barbara was in one of those rooms where all the black women had to be. But I never had that problem.
MS. COSBY: Is Barbara older than you?
MRS. FRYE: Two years.
MR. MONROE: When I had a knee operation, they took cartilage out when I was a senior in high school, and I swear I was in an integrated room. I'm pretty sure I was Maybe it was earlier.
MRS. FRYE: Oh, they did have rooms. It was two-something, I remember Barbara being in that room. But I never encountered it. And I remember when my brother broke his--I don't know what happened to him. Anyway, he was in the hallway because they said it was too crowded at Lawrence Memorial.
MR. MONROE: Back then it was kind of a small hospital.
MRS. FRYE: Right. They hadn't extended it like it is now.
MR. MONROE: Because I know I was in a room, and I do not remember it being segregated, though it may have been. But it's been so long ago, I really can't remember.
MRS. HIEBERT: I know both Joanne Hurst and Alice Fowler talked about this.
MRS. FRYE: Yes. Joanne's my age and Virginia's.
MRS. HIEBERT: At some point I know that they either experienced it personally, because the thing of having to be out in the hall, or they knew people that did, because they talked about that.
MR. MONROE: I know Dr. Zimmer was my doctor that operated on my knee. I wasn't in there very long. I was an athlete, too, at the same time, so I don't know. But I just don't remember being in a segregated room. I may have been, but I just can't remember it. What about African-Americans being allowed to attend the movies and hear performances in Lawrence?
MRS. FRYE: Oh, definitely yes. Because we went to the movies every Sunday after we got out of church or Sunday school. It was the Jayhawk, that is Liberty Hall now. We sat upstairs, and it was painted white where you couldn't go past it. Then Patee was private. Blacks could not even go to that.
MR. MONROE: I remember going to the Patee.
MRS. FRYE: No, no, no, no. You went to Granada.
MR. MONROE: That's the one we didn't go to.
MRS. FRYE: No, we went to Granada. You ask Art. Art and I went to the movies many times at the Granada. It's the Patee we could not go to.
MR. MONROE: Oh, I remember going to the Patee.
MRS. FRYE: Oh, no.
MR. MONROE: I remember the serials there was Fu Manchu and, also, the Voice of (Ink?). But we had to sit up in the crow's nest, as we called it.
MRS. FRYE: Yeah, the Varsity. No, we could not go to the Patee. Now, Virginia, do you remember?
MRS. HAMM: , I don't remember.
MRS. FRYE: We couldn't go to the Patee. Granada you could go to, but you had certain areas you sat it. Just like the Jayhawk.
MRS. HAMM: Yeah, but I just don't remember the Patee at all.
MRS. FRYE: The Patee was in the middle of the block, down on Massachusetts.
MR. MONROE: The eight-hundred block?
MRS. HAMM: Black people didn't go to it. I just don't remember going to it.
MRS. FRYE: As I remember, we never went to it because you couldn't.
MR. MONROE: I definitely remember going to the Patee.
MRS. FRYE: Well, you're a first (laughter).
MR. MONROE: Because they had serials, of course, every Saturday and one series they always seem to have at the Patee was Fu Manchu. I'll never forget that.
MRS. FRYE: We went, Barbara and Eloise and Phyllis and I, but we sure didn't go to that one.
MR. MONROE: But I know we had to sit in the crow's nest, regardless of what one you went to, except the Granada didn't have a crow's nest.
MRS. FRYE: Right. The Granada was all on one level.
MR. MONROE: But they had a line painted.
MRS. FRYE: Lines painted and only certain areas. Usually towards the back.
MRS. HAMM: The back only.
MR. MONROE: What about swimming pools ? You couldn't go to the swimming pool?
MRS. FRYE: No. Jayhawk Plunge, no. Because my brother and some of his friends used to go down there on Halloween and throw rocks in it (laughter) and all kinds of things. We remember that well.
MR. MONROE: What about the restaurants and different things downtown that was owned by whites? Could you go in those places and eat?
MRS. FRYE: No, we couldn't. Like when we used to walk home from Sunday school with Barbara Spearman. We called her our big sister, but she lived behind us. We'd go in and order a coke. So, one Sunday Barbara decided, "I'm just going to order a coke and sit down." She did sit down. They told her to take her coke and leave. So, we left, but she left her coke on the counter. She said, "I don't want it."
MR. MONROE: I know one place I remember. Of course, you didn't go to LMHS though, did you?
MRS. FRYE: I went two years.
MR. MONROE: Remember the drug store across the street? We could go in there and get a cherry coke, but you couldn't stay in there.
MRS. FRYE: Right.
MR. MONROE: But you could go in there and get it.
MRS. FRYE: You could get it in a lot of them, but you had to take it out.
MS. COSBY: What business was that?
MR. MONROE: It was a drug store on Fourteenth and Mass.
MS. COSBY: You said, "LMH?"
MRS. FRYE: Oh, that was the Lawrence High School. Lawrence Liberty Memorial was the high school. And it's now Central Junior High.
MR. MONROE: Just like you could go in the Varsity Velvet. You could buy all the ice cream you wanted, but you couldn't even take a lick off your ice-cream cone while you were in there.
MRS. FRYE: No, you had to get out and eat it (laughter).
MR. MONROE: How did you feel about living and working in Lawrence? Were you happy? Was life good?
MRS. FRYE: Yeah, I thought it was great.
MR. MONROE: I really think Lawrence is a good place to grow up in.
MRS. FRYE: Right.
MR. MONROE: It was a fun town.
MRS. FRYE: It was.
MR. MONROE: We had all the things to do of course, but we had fun doing it.
MRS. FRYE: Oh, yes, we did.
MR. MONROE: Actually, we had a lot of white friends growing up.
MRS. FRYE: Yes. I had white friends up to junior high. But once you get to junior high, they went their way and you went yours. But she still would wave and talk.
MR. MONROE: Unless she was an athlete, then we was on the same team of course. Except for the basketball team--we had our own basketball team.
MRS. FRYE: Right.
MR. MONROE: But it integrated in 1950. And I know that your husband, Art always was the parent of orders . By the time you got there, it was integrated, so he had to play with Lawrence High.
MRS. FRYE: Right. He was the second black to play.
MR. MONROE: Have you got any comments you want to make on anything we've talked about or think about in the past?
MRS. FRYE: One thing I did hate at Lawrence Liberty Memorial High School was the separate assemblies that Neal Wherry called. He was the principal, and he had separate assemblies. He would have the white first and the black second. I hated them. Don't you remember, Virginia?
MRS. HAMM: I don't remember.
MRS. FRYE: We sure did. But, once we went out to the new school and he was still the principal, that ceased. He never did that any more out there. They were integrated.
MR. MONROE: But he was a good principal, as far as being the principal goes.
MRS. FRYE: I guess he was. But that's one thing I did not like. It wasn't necessary.
MR. MONROE: No, it wasn't, but that's the way it was. That's one thing growing up in the Lawrence, we got so used to that, what we could do and couldn't do, that you never really bothered about it until later in life when we realized that different things had gone on.
MS. COSBY: Were there things shared maybe in the white assembly that weren't shared in the African American assembly?
MRS. FRYE: I don't know because we never was in their assembly, so I don't know what went on it.
MR. MONROE: The only assembly that I went to when it was really integrated was when did our awards ceremony. Letters for track when we were in sports.
MRS. FRYE: Well, there wasn't much of that even going on back then because there weren't many black kids getting awards. There wasn't any that I know of.
MR. MONROE: Well, we were in football, basketball, track.
MRS. FRYE: Football.
MR. MONROE: Not basketball because it was segregated. We had our own
ceremonies for that.
MRS. FRYE: The only thing I think was integrated was football.
MR. MONROE: And track.
MRS. FRYE: Yeah. Art was in track, but I don't know.
MR. MONROE: And Donald Wilburn.
MRS. FRYE: Yeah, he and Don were together.
MS. COSBY: Besides not being able to eat in establishments or sit where you wanted to in the theater, how did segregation effect you growing up?
MRS. FRYE: I will say this, it did affect me riding in the back of the bus. I didn't like that. When we went to junior high and high school, we rode the bus every morning to school because my mother didn't drive, and my dad had the car. So we rode the bus, my sister and I did, and we always had to sit in the back.
MS. COSBY: So you experienced the Rosa Parks event. How did you feel about Rosa Parks?
MRS. FRYE: When she wouldn't give up her seat, I thought, "Yea! (Laughter)." It's time.
MS. COSBY: Were there any similar stances taken here in Lawrence?
MRS. FRYE: Not that I know of. We just rode it and went on to school.
MS. COSBY: When they were having the bus strikes because of Rosa Parks, did you all have bus strikes here?
MRS. FRYE: No, we sure didn't.
MR. MONROE: We were never really affected by anything like that here in Lawrence when we were growing up.
MS. COSBY: Did you have any of the sit-ins around the restaurants when the sit-in movements to integrate restaurants happened?
MRS. FRYE: No, sure didn't.
MS. COSBY: Like Leonard said, you all just went along?
MRS. FRYE: Went along with it, more or less.
MR. MONROE: That's the way we were brought up.
MRS. FRYE: Not to make waves in other words and just go along with it.
MS. COSBY: Were there any African American leaders who were trying to force change here in Lawrence.
MRS. FRYE: Jesse Milan was one.
MS. COSBY: What did he do?
MR. MONROE: I think they started the NAACP here in Lawrence.
MRS. FRYE: Right.
MR. MONROE: Matter of fact, right here at St. Luke is where it started.
MRS. HIEBERT: I think Dorothy Pennington said that she had researched it, and some of the NAACP began as early as the 1920s. Because at that time, evidently the times began to get worse and surrounding events, and she said that was a reaction to help overcome the effects of something like that. And in the '60s and things, I remember reading about efforts with the swimming pool, although that may have been before the '60s, and then just trying to help with the whole civil rights thing that began to form.
MR. MONROE: Jesse Milan was big in all that stuff.
MRS. FRYE: Right. He was. He and his wife, Alberta.
MRS. HIEBERT: He was the first black teacher?
MRS. FRYE: He was. The first black teacher.
MS. COSBY: Jesse Milan was?
MRS. FRYE: Yes.
MS. COSBY: Did you join the NAACP?
MRS. FRYE: Yes, especially when my kids were younger. I was a member then.
MS. COSBY: Do you remember when you joined or why you joined the NAACP?
MR. MONROE: The black churches were really involved in desegregation and stuff.
MRS. FRYE: I remember joining. Someone talked me into it, so I did (laughter).
MR. MONROE: All in all, though, I think life in Lawrence wasn't that bad although really.
MRS. FRYE: No, not really. It could have made a few changes, but I don't regret growing up here. I think I was happier here than I would have been down in Missouri where we lived. It was a very small town. It was a country town where I was born.
MR. MONROE: But all these kids got a good education growing up here in Lawrence, that's for sure.
MRS. FRYE: They sure did.
MR. MONROE: Because Lawrence is really famous. This was the best educational system in all the United States.
MRS. FRYE: Exactly.
MS. COSBY: Even though you had segregated education, was there equal education, do you think?
MRS. FRYE: Yes, I think so.
MR. MONROE: You took the same classes. You could get anything they got.
MRS. FRYE: Right. There were different schools that didn't have as good of books. Like East Heights or somewhere like that.
MR. MONROE: But for Pinckney, I think were real fortunate going to Pinckney School also.
MRS. FRYE: Right. It was one of your better schools at the time.
MR. MONROE: Right. Good teachers and you got every chance to do. Matter of fact, some of the things they tried to get us to, I didn't want to do. Like old lady West always wanted me to sing in the choir and get into play acting and all that kind of stuff.
MS. COSBY: So Lawrence was one of the best examples of separate but equal, do you think?
MRS. FRYE: Yes, I think so.
MR. MONROE: I really believe that.
MRS. FRYE: I do too.
MRS. HIEBERT: The thing that I know Alice Fowler had talked about at other times and things, when you look at how many, or how few is a better way to put it, black kids stayed in town. There's a reason that that happens.
MRS. FRYE: That is true.
MRS. HIEBERT: And we talked this morning about black doctors might exist somewhere else, but it's still an issue. There was one on staff for a little while, but he was connected with a Topeka group, and I think that was several years ago, not long ago, but I don't think he's there any more.
MR. MONROE: Alice might have had a little different outlook too when she was younger, because she did go to a segregated school in Lawrence.
MRS. FRYE: Yes, she did. Lincoln.
MR. MONROE: Lincoln Elementary was a segregated school in North Lawrence.
MRS. HIEBERT: I think she was talking about kids being able to find jobs here too. Not her age, but her kids' age. But for so much better jobs.
MR. MONROE: You speak of integration, I know that they talked about boycotts and demonstrations and all this kind of stuff. I know that when we was kids, in Pinckney School as a matter of fact, that they tried to get all the blacks to go to Lincoln School.
MRS. FRYE: Yes.
MR. MONROE: But her dad, Mr. Hill, and my dad and Mr. Kimball, all the parents in West Lawrence jumped up and raised cain.
MRS. FRYE: They went to the meeting.
MR. MONROE: And we never did go.
MRS. FRYE: Yes. We lived on the west side—why would we, and my mother didn't drive. How would we get there? Boy, my dad really just raised cain about that: "We're not leaving."
MR. MONROE: My dad raised pure cain.
MRS. FRYE: "My kids are not going over."
MR. MONROE: "And we're not going to cross that cold bridge in the winter time either."
MRS. FRYE: Right.
MR. MONROE: So, we never did.
MRS. FRYE: No. They let that go after that.
MR. MONROE: They dropped that.
MRS. FRYE: They tried to make all the black kids go to Lincoln, and the families stood up for it.
MR. MONROE: You can call that one of your first demonstrations or whatever.
MRS. FRYE: I guess that was a demonstration (laughter).
MS. COSBY: Did segregation decrease or increase after that?
MR. MONROE: I don't really know, because that was the only time, in elementary. When you went to junior high, it was all integrated. Junior high and high school was integrated.
MRS. FRYE: It was, yes, as far as going to school. But in certain programs, you weren't allowed to be in.
MS. COSBY: Like what programs?
MR. MONROE: Well, I was in a play in the eighth grade, I think. Old lady Six.
MRS. FRYE: Barbara was too. But I'm talking about, like especially your sports. It was an understood that you didn't play basketball or whatever. They were separate.
MR. MONROE: Even at the high school.
MRS. FRYE: And there were no cheerleaders. I only know of two, one of which was 'Bumpy' as we called her, but her real name was Lorna White.
MR. MONROE: I didn't know Bumpy was a cheerleader.
MRS. FRYE: Yeah, in junior high. Wasn't she, Virginia?
MRS. HAMM: She was a real good one.
MRS. FRYE: And she was a really good one. That's the only one I know. And Ronnie Hurst's sister, Mae. But she was younger than us.
MR. MONROE: The first black cheerleader in high school got killed in an auto accident.
MRS. FRYE: That was Mae Hurst, and she was in junior high. That wasn't high school.
MS. COSBY: What about other extracurricular activities, like FHA?
MRS. FRYE: No. I don't think very many would have wanted to be in it though (laughter). No, none of us were in that.
MS. COSBY: Can you remember some of the other activities that they had that blacks didn't participate in besides sports and FHA?
MRS. FRYE: I can't really think of any because, like I said, in the pep clubs you were allowed to join.
MR. MONROE: That was during her time, not in my time though.
MRS. FRYE: Yeah. We were allowed to be in the pep clubs.
MR. MONROE: But we had our own pep club, cheerleaders and things.
MRS. FRYE: No, we didn't have that. We were integrated.
MR. MONROE: And when they integrated in 1950, I still don't think they had any black ones that was in the pep club or anything, because it was just that first year. Because I was still in high school, in 1950 is when I graduated.
MRS. HIEBERT: When Leonard and Reta interviewed Bob Kimball, he talked about how there was a little bit of difference by being a guy too. Because, with his age group, sports and because he was good at sports, that was the way that he did get to do some things. But he said that he was aware that his sisters didn't have that same access because of sports.
MS. COSBY: Was there a band?
MRS. FRYE: Yes, there was a band.
MR. MONROE: I don't remember anybody that was in the band though. I don't know if James Simms was in the band or not.
MRS. FRYE: I don't know. He was Tommy's age.
MRS. HAMM: Joanne Hurst was in the band.
MRS. FRYE: I think there were a few blacks in it.
MRS. HAMM: She's the only one that I can remember right now.
MRS. FRYE: Paul Coleman. Paul Coleman did play in the band, now that I remember. I remember at the parades, he would be marching in the band. So, yes, they were in the band.
MR. MONROE: Charlotte, I really want to thank you for this interview. This is all interesting. One reason why we're doing this black oral history group, because a lot of things I tell my kids are just hard for them to believe that really happened when I was kid.
MRS. FRYE: My kids couldn't believe it either.
MR. MONROE: That's why we want to try to keep this history of what did go on in Lawrence years ago. Uptown today it's still going on in a lot of places.
MRS. FRYE: Oh, yes.
MR. MONROE: But things have gotten a lot better, and hopefully they'll even get a lot better.
MS. COSBY: I just want to interject at this time that Mrs. Frye was interviewed by Leonard Monroe and Reta Cosby. Present are Nancy Hiebert and Virginia Hamm. Thanks, Mrs. Frye, for a wonderful interview.
MRS. FRYE: You're very welcome.