Commentary

Discovering family ties often stopped at the color line – Part 2

BP: The European American folks couldn't ever get anything to work right until they got Brown in there. I used go around with him, thread pipes and things. I could've been plumber if I had stayed with Brown. BP: The European American folks couldn't ever get anything to work right until they got Brown in there. I used go around with him, thread pipes and things. I could've been plumber if I had stayed with Brown. He was all right, just had his faults. He kept Doll pretty.

Aunt Annie Mae Ford: I didn't get to know her too well, but while he was out, she was sitting on the porch with a baby in her arms. She was a sweet woman and she loved her children. She loved you all.

After her husband died, Good Mama (Ada Willis Ford) took her and the children in the house with her.

PF: Doll didn't come. Doll stayed somewhere else.

Aunt Annie Mae Ford: But all the children stayed with your mother.

AM: How many bothers and sisters did John Ford have?

PF: I never knew. Somebody told me daddy had a brother. I never knew him. They say he was awful smart. But, I knew his sisters.

AM: How many sisters did he have?

PF: Let's see. Alma, Aunt Bert, Aunt Bertha. He had three sisters. All of them died.

AM: When did you and Aunt Annie Mae meet?

PF: We met when we was about this high.

AM: Three or four years old?

PF: Five or six.

Aunt Annie Mae Ford: Before we ever started school, there was Paul.

PF: Annie Mae would go to George's house…

Aunt Annie Mae Ford: And we'd wade in the lake. Every time I pass that lake, I remember us wading in that lake.

PF: My brother left home in 1937. He went to the service…to the South Pacific. I went to the service. I went to Europe. We didn't see each other for 30-something years.

AM: Sixty-six, sixty-seven?

PF: Yeah. Brother always told me, "If I had more education, I'd have been a big man." See, he didn't have a lot of education. He married a girl in Washington, D.C. She died. He moved to New York to work for man that had 350 cabs or more. And the man liked him. He had Brother making deliveries. The man was in the rackets. He asked Brother did he want to get in.

AM: Once you're in, you're in.

PF: Yeah. Brother said, "I believe not." We came up good. Back in the day, when the sun went down, you didn't walk the streets at night. You had something to do when you got home. We used to have pine floors. We'd scrub them. Cut the grass in the yard and sweep it off. Keep it clean.

BF: How long have the two of you been together?

PF: Since 1942.

BF: What's the secret to your longevity?

PF: You have to love each other. I never bother about where she wanted go. One thing I always ask, when she gets ready to go somewhere, "You got any money? Put some money in your pocket. I don't want you to have to ask anybody for anything."

I'll tell you something. I worked for a man named Johnny Pritchard. If he’d see me anywhere, he might ask, "Paul, you got your tools? You want to go to work?" I never worked for anybody I couldn't go back and work for.

AM: How'd you learn how to be a brick mason?

PF: I came out the service, we had two colored bricklayers in town: Hollis and Otto. I took apprenticeship with Hollis. I made mortar. He almost worked me to death. When I pushed him up to put a trowell in my hand, he went told a man named Sullivan, a European American man, that I wasn't any good. Mr. Sullivan came to my house and said, "Can you get to Jackson State University by Monday morning?" He put me in a class. I got my little diploma.

AM: What did you do in the service? Where were you stationed? When did you go in?

PF: 1942.

AM: You were already married.

PF: I got married the same day I went in the service. I was sent to the European theater of operations. Landed in Glasgow, Scotland. Went to Vienna, Austria. I was

August 25, 2003
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