Gloria Harris and Bernice Baker

Recorded August 8, 2007 Archived August 8, 2007 22:12 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: DDA000143


Bernice Baker interviews her friend Gloria Harris about her siblings, climbing trees and jumping trains in Petersburg, VA, and moving to California with her infant son.

Subject Log / Time Code

Gloria was one of eight children.
Gloria enjoyed playing on the railroad tracks, and climbing trees with the neighborhood boys.
In Catholic school, the principal would sing Gloria’s name when calling her to receive a report card.
Gloria believes you can’t tell people what to do.
Gloria’s father was first radio man in Petersburg, VA, and her husband was first television man.


  • Gloria Harris
  • Bernice Baker

Venue / Recording Kit


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00:00 I didn't Highway some kind of why song? Okay, I'm Bernice Baker. My I'm 50 years old. And today's date is August 8th night 2007. We're in Richmond, Virginia, and I'm talking to my friend Gloria Harris.

00:21 Gloria how old are you?

00:24 Yeah, 84 years old. Yeah, and today's date.

00:37 Today's date. I don't have the phone today. And where are we in Richmond, Virginia? Yeah. Okay. I always thought that was neat because you have a you've always liked Saint Francis and you have a statue of him.

01:00 Yeah, so

01:05 I one of the things that I was interested in as you've told me stories about growing up and about being in Petersburg, so

01:15 Can you name off your brothers and sisters for me?

01:23 Mary McCallum, Amy Patrick calling pad

01:29 Then it was me Ray Jean dancer Paul.

01:36 Method Tita Tita interesting you forgot she was wonderful.

01:47 So you all used to be like really settled kids and you never did anything dangerous or weird, right?

01:57 Did you guys do any Adventures when you were a kid? Oh my goodness for Mama.

02:09 Tree that I done did not climb and

02:18 Anything that was up there. I had to always go see what was up there.

02:31 Even when I met you you were still climbing trees a little bit. Thanks a lot. And who did you play with as a kid as a kid. There's so many of us. There were eight of us here and I came in the middle older sister and I poor thing she cleared all over hell and then then the next one was Pat and he thought he was God's gift to the entire world. Yeah, he was smarter. You are smart, but it was a

03:13 Not nice and then it was me then. It was Ray Jean dancing.

03:25 Cheetah and Paul used to tell me that that you did some girly things but you did a lot of boy things was more much more.

03:42 Interested in the things that boys did. Yeah. Yeah. I join the railroad track came to Ohio and I would wait no one but time the train was going to get that and I would wait at the bottom of it. And when the train came back I jump on it.

04:08 That's pretty Daredevil.

04:12 12

04:17 And I could I could go on downhill with the tree and then the train would pick up what it ever came in the pickup and then pull back at it again. So I just got my mother never knew what she had so much trouble but that's that's basically what was my life trying to see how much better I could get to be said to be with the boy. Yeah.

04:57 Then I went to the telephone company.

05:02 That was a disaster at the telephone traffic. I'm just kidding. You stayed with it a long time for disaster stage with a telephone company.

05:17 And that we did everything in the world. Yeah. Yeah.

05:23 We are.

05:27 Change the

05:33 The way everything was done before that time. I can't hear you. Saw a lot of Technology. Yeah. Yeah, and it was a whole lot of it was stuff that I did. Okay and could really

05:53 You know it was for them. Yeah, but it was me that was doing it. Now when you first started how was the telephone system? Would it people have to do to make a call?

06:10 Guy says, how would I remember you saying that people when people picked up their telephone? It wasn't like today Ono of course not it was

06:24 Universe just I'm thinking in terms of living next to the railroad track because the the railroad track and then

06:39 What were we just says to call telephone telephones all this was in in the same area and I was too young to go to work for the telephone company at that time, but I learned a lot okay with the boys riding around. What was your favorite way to get around and do those heels and feeders Berg. How about the roller skates? Oh, yeah. Well, we had roller skates, but they were second to

07:21 To Alfie really? Okay, because there wasn't a tree I couldn't blame and I couldn't I couldn't I could get up there and they would throw me stuff up there and then it then then they were born me to throw it back. It was not that we're going to eat it. So you are kind of like a steeplejack like your dad how you went to the highest area? Oh, yeah. Yeah, that's for sure. Yeah. I'm not I haven't really heard of a steeplejack till you tell me about what your dad used to do. That is not much he didn't do.

08:09 I think you did. The only thing he did do it do it. I was happy baby. Oh, well, there were few other things aren't they?

08:20 He was he was well-known, but and he's adored my husband after I got married. He should have looked the James was the

08:31 Most fabulous human head ever run across that's pretty neat. Yes, it was because James was smart, but he was not. Yeah and but if he wanted to do something you could ask Daddy. What was the best way to do it and then then he will go do it says to do it. He's just asking what was the best way to do it and that's the way it was always done. Is that how he's got started with the televisions?

09:05 Yeah, basically, yeah television communication everywhere with the radio and the television and the telephone company. That's right. Yeah.

09:22 Well as far as

09:26 Growing up

09:31 I spent so much time with sisters. I don't know what else you want to call him.

09:44 What are the Bernice well they there than that the Catholic nuns that teaching on school. We just called the sisters.

09:56 And how did you help the sisters? How did you help them out?

10:02 Some of it I can't even tell you. Okay, cuz I can't tell you because they're all dead man.

10:21 They were not allowed out on the street.

10:25 Like people were okay and they use me as the person on the street and I was just a kid, but I was big enough and evidently had enough sense to do whatever it was. They wanted me to do good and come back bring it back to the to the to the to the school. The school was like going here and there lived right here all of a sudden one.

11:01 Wall ball area you together all together. Yeah, and so it was just a matter of

11:12 I was I was kind of Junior and when it was time to give out report cards. How did the priests call you up for your report card?

11:33 Oh, he was singing he would because that was the one that was the way it was done in church, you know, they say

11:44 Gloria in excelsis Deo and I go up there with ya ass. That's where that came from. You've always had so many Adventures. I think it's neat that you and I as a young woman would leave Petersburg and go to California.

12:09 Yeah, I did it. I did leave and I left for California. I didn't stay too terribly horribly long, but my mother almost died of or before I got back but it was a beautiful beautiful beautiful place out there to live to to be and and and and I had to travel then yeah, and when I got on the on the on the train, they would just pass him around the young service men. So they thought it was great grandchildren.

12:58 So now all the way with different Virginia all the way to California, you know to play with kids and they bring the books for him to look at it. Right? Yeah, they every time of train stuff. They get more books. He was very smart and he knew how to read some of them didn't know how to read and he could point out the the airplane to adjust he would just lay back and I'll come and go and come and go as a wonderful trip. Wonderful.

13:45 Time of my life and I don't remember how long we stayed at home mom and dad and then X and watch you go out to California. Why did I go just so you could be near James when he was stationed there in the service. He was in that he was in the service, but he couldn't get it off.

14:10 The place to come home. Yeah, like the can now yeah, but we could get in touch with you. So that's all.

14:23 Ignorant, you know that.

14:31 That you do.

14:35 Growing up things when you're just kid.

14:41 Just real kid. That was now is not.

14:47 I would like in your late teens or early twenties know I would never know you were in your early 20s. Yeah, but you had courage I mean young people are their daring don't go do stuff and Mama had so many children that she was glad to get a ruler.

15:08 I don't know why she thought it was. All right, but I by that time I was working its telephone company.

15:18 And you were when you worked at Miller's you took a trip out to

15:23 The hot air balloon Ranch hot air balloon in the air.

15:32 I had a low.

15:35 I have I have my mother had more brothers and she had girls but I was the biggest brother that I did things the boys did the boys wouldn't yeah, but it sounds like you had things from both your parents cuz you sing and you said your mom saying so much when you were little girl. You just don't think about anything except what mom says. Yeah. I can hear her Thang Thang.

16:16 If mom wanted me she said, and then later, you know, that's part of the Gloria in excelsis deo. Yeah.

16:32 And that and that way but that's all.

16:37 But that's about it in now that you have grandchildren and great. Now that you have grandchildren and great-grandchildren, what would you tell them about being young people and going out into the world?

16:53 Oh, that's hard fear.

16:58 I don't think you can tell people what to do now.

17:03 You have you have a desire?

17:08 You have the brains.

17:14 You can go out and do things.

17:18 Your parents have never done.

17:21 Because it's new it's new and it's and it's

17:30 Something that

17:35 You don't have to.

17:38 You're not trying to make something or something or you just doing something? Yeah.

17:45 Is there anything you wish that you might have done that you didn't get a chance to do not hard and red. I haven't been grown as a girl with all the boys. Yeah, what what would

18:19 The roof I don't know what the the shed shed but the shed went over the railroad track.

18:29 And I would get up there and jump over the railroad tracks it is when you tell me that you that nobody had a broken bone as a kid. I am shocked. I know it and not not any one of us. Yeah, but that's the kind of kids. We were yeah, you were pretty active when you used to go to court for Miller's when you worked with the credit department. I used to think that maybe you would like to have been a lawyer if things were different when you grew up.

19:07 I think I think I would like to have been in law. I think I think I would have been eating good law.

19:18 And I don't know whether it's able it's possible to do that. Now, it's old.

19:29 That would be the last thing that that that

19:36 You know that I would try to do I'm not going to ever try to do anything else.

19:45 It's boring life is not as much fun. It was when I was a kid or when I was when I was most important thing when I was growing up was that I spent.

20:04 Just about all of my time with the sisters.

20:11 It made a big impression.

20:15 Because they were when I was down there with them they were playing. Okay, they were in the house nobody else, but me so yeah.

20:30 But I was in the house and they were playing among themselves, you know, and then that was a

20:38 Was a fun thing to do to us to live here them go.

20:49 I have had.

20:55 I can't think of anything else that I did. That was any more interested in than being with them. You know what that is special at that time, but you've done a lot of different things in your life and to be to have your dad be the first radio man in Petersburg and James to be the first television person. That's right, and then you did talk demonstrations for the telephone company and saw the change in technology. That's right. We were and and daddy thought it was wonderful.

21:32 Because that he felt because he felt like he was getting in between James and you know that it was interesting to him with what he was doing to get into to the area. You know that he had the James and now we're doing

21:55 I can't complain about any other they were all good special James.

22:06 Has the baby is okay?