Gloria Weston-Smart, Joyce Thomas, and Joann Bynum Johnson

Recorded October 24, 2021 Archived October 24, 2021 32:23 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby021180


Sisters Gloria Weston-Smart (66), Joyce Thomas (64), and Joann Bynum Johnson (61) reminisce about their childhood together, remember family members who have passed away, and express gratitude for the tight-knit community that they grew up in.

Subject Log / Time Code

GW explains why she and her sisters have decided to come together and record a conversation.
All three sisters express gratitude for the tight-knit community that they were part of growing up.
The sisters remember their Uncle Jessie.
The sisters recall pieces of advice that their mother gave them.
The sisters recognize various members of their community who supported them as they grew up.
GW describes how her older brother, Bobby, played the role of a father figure when she and her sisters were children.
All three sisters remember their sister, Linda.
The sisters talk about the school they attended growing up and the school staff that cared for them.
The sisters share some of their favorite memories from their childhood.


  • Gloria Weston-Smart
  • Joyce Thomas
  • Joann Bynum Johnson

Recording Location

Mildred L. Terry Public Library



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00:01 I'm Gloria weston-smart 66 years old and today is Sunday, October 24th, and I'm here with my sisters Joyce, Thomas and Joann Johnson.

00:18 Hi, my name is Joyce Thomas and I am 64 years of age. Today is Sunday, October 24th of 2021 and we're here in the great, Columbus, Georgia.

00:34 And I'm Joann Bynum Johnson. I will turn 62 next month, excited. And today is September 24th 2021. I'm here in Columbus, Georgia with my sisters, Gloria and Joyce.

00:56 You know, I am just so excited about the three of us coming together to just reflect upon, growing up and Columbus Georgia with a single parent and the struggles that we had and a relationship that Mama Foster wanted us to Foster as we grew up. So some of the things that I think about when I think of growing up in public housing is, I can't imagine to have five children as a single parent other our that was in our lives for a short. Of time that we were all in grade school when they divorced or separated. And so I'm just reflecting on that and I don't want to see find out what kinds of Reflections that you have a tattoo. I would like to ship first and it was five of us. Linda was our oldest sister Bobbie, the only brother and then I was the middle child Joyce.

01:56 And then Joanne, and just being there is thinking about growing up in public housing. And and all of us really not having to get into any trouble. I have all that productive lives and have been productive citizens in this community. So those are some of the things that we can talk about.

02:21 And I think when I think about growing up, I think about Warren William. This is that truly what, you know, when they say it takes a village to raise a child, Warren Williams raised us with a mom, in addition to uncle and his wife. And so, we did have that family connection, but we had support in in, in growing up as we did, when I don't think we knew we were poor, cuz we never felt that way, but, you know, there was strong but we had people there whose shoulders that we could fall back on when those troubles came. And I also remember the times when you know, like families would share if something happened, you could go here and get something or you could go to the next person's house. And we were just like one big happy family and out there in the projects.

03:21 We were like you did wrong. Wherever you did it at whatever. Was there then you know, you got a whooping and then when Mom and Dad got home, you got another with it. So, you know, and there was so much respect mama always taught us to respect people and to respect one another and she's always told us that at the end of the day that we only have each other so that we should always love each other and be as one. And I think you know, even at this age that we have managed to do that, you know, we do have some differences like anybody else but at the end of the day that love kind of just pull us all together. And not only that, you know, we were talking about the community and the love that we shared in Warren Williams. I remember every thinks giving because Mom was a single parent the people got

04:21 Yeah, there and gave us Thanksgiving basket, so that we will have enough to eat. I remember. Mrs. Heller's. Fueling up the street whenever she made a cake or cookies or cinnamon rolls, you know, we all had opportunities to eat and then whenever mama had enough to cook in the share, people in the community came, you know, around and we all ate for my tables and enjoy one another, and it really was truly like a family. And then I think about what mama always said, said she wanted us to be closed because her family was broken and she wanted to make sure that as we grew up that we could depend on one another and not, I just think about that even today. I know that in any situation that I might have anything that may come up. I know that I can count on my siblings to be there for me. I feel the same way.

05:21 Does the people that was so pivotal pivotal and allies Uncle? Jesse, you remember every weekend Saturday morning. He will come knocking on the door and knock on the window seat at this, beautiful deep voice and everyone used to run downstairs. We're in the bed Saturday morning, but we knew he came, he, we knew he was there because he knocked on the window, is he knocked on the door and he had their voice and it was just so you know, good and you're just happy when he came around. But the relationship that Mama was talking about was that her mom was always out trying to find ways for them to survive and Uncle Jesse grew up together as brothers and sisters, but they were not and mama and her brother George Smith where the two that was there. And for many years, Mama Uncle, Jesse.

06:21 And Uncle Bubba. George stay there in the house, but they weren't what's Grandma married to Uncle Jesse's dad. That was the family for them, but it wasn't necessarily the family for Mom. I remember her saying that she didn't really want to get married when she got married. But Grandma kept telling her that you need to get married so you can move on you know, and then that Uncle Jesse like a bubble. They decided that he would be the one to go into the army so that he can live a fruitful life and then Uncle Jesse was there and he always was there to take care of us. He was really like a father to us and I can't remember a Christmas that went by that. He wasn't there bringing us.

07:07 You know, that the fruit, the nuts that it was at the candy cane and oranges and those looks you remember it wasn't so much about getting a real good. But you remember those of stockings that they will fill up with oranges apples and nuts and candies and that was our Christmas gift, you know, and I just I will always remember that we're so far away from that now and you know that talking about Uncle, Jesse. I remember that, you know, a lot of things that we got a chance to do like go to Callaway Gardens and stuff like that. He would swim with us. He would skate with us. He would, you know, do a lot of things but he just had that Spirit about him that not only us, but all the other kids in the project called him Uncle Jesse to. So, you know, it was it was a great childhood for me even though you know, I was kind of

08:07 Like that to be off to myself, but I just the love that Mama them showed me. I'll try to move it on to my children and I tell them now is, do you know you might fall out bout something, but don't let it last and that's what Mama used to always tell us if you fall out, that's okay, but don't let it last year. And another thing she would say don't go weeks without talking to each other, you know, and I know of some families or friends that they have big go years without the siblings. Connecting, you're talking to one another and I'm thankful that we have followed her directions in the way that we always get together. You don't have to wear coming to Florida to see you and visit the family, most of the time, three times a year. Or you're coming up here at least three times a year and it just makes a difference for us to have that kind of bonding. But you know what, I think about when William

09:07 I think about missiles that were refueling that introduced me to Christ and it's amazing that all of us. Now, I have this love caring relationship with God. And in a lot of it, filtered through people who we knew that, you know, reached out to us that took us to church and now we're in positions where we can influence someone else's life that way. But, you know, I would like to mention another person that was really strong and our life was mr. Henry. Mr. Henry was so good to us and he was so good to Mama and he really helped us a lot of things that we had. We wouldn't have had if it wasn't for. Mr. Henry.

09:58 And, you know, I wanted to go back when you were talking about Uncle Bubba and Uncle, Jesse, and Mom. And I didn't know this and for a long time. I didn't know this for a long time and Uncle. Bubba told me this is that when they were, I think they would have 7th grade. He said, is that

10:22 Sat down and decided who would stop going to school and which would not. And that's when they decided that Mama and Uncle, Jesse with quit school and start working and Uncle, Bubba would stay in school. So he stayed in school and then he went into the military and I didn't know that until he told me that before. And when you think about the seventh grade, that's such a young age and such a time where we're just beginning to understand a little bit more about life and then to make a decision about who was going to do that. And I Remember Mama talking about washing clothes for people in iron and them and taking care of their kids. And I remember we're living in one William and sheep. Mama work for the Garrett studio. And I remember her by putting cardboard box in the bottom of her shoes because the bottom half.

11:22 And then I remember, I really wanted some other Oxford shoes, the black and white and I cried and I cried and she finally gave me some and they never would I remember sitting on the porch that Ed Clapp, Elementary School. I was just trying to tear them apart, but it really started thinking about that. You know, what? There was a mama was putting a cardboard tape cardboard in the bottom of her shoes. And I'm over here trying to tell if my shoes because they wouldn't wear out. But you know what? And I don't know if you all know about it, but there's a on Facebook. There's a warm Williams. I live the one where in this group so I do go on there. So I do see some of the people that we grew up with it and see what's going on with them. But what I remember to most of all Miss Harvey, remember Miss Harvey.

12:22 Recreation Recreation Center in all the intramural sports between the other project and traveling to those facilities. Are you playing basketball? You played it all?

12:51 Ms. Harvey was the the recreation for the city of Columbus. And she was the person that was there. That was responsible for planning activities, for all of the community be engaged. And she actually kept us in line for my parents and she would tell us what we needed to do. And if we gave her and it back voice is about it. She would, she wasn't going to take that. But we went on a scavenger hunt, we learn how to square dance. We learn how to do different kinds of activities. It was just something that was really good for us. And, you know, today that is taken out of public housing. And it's so much needed because when I think about the influence that she had in our lives and we were coming up. We probably, we would not be the people that

13:51 We are today, had it not been for Miss, Eva Harvey and I I will love her until the day that I die for it, but she actually was there for us. But what about the people that worked in the Housing Authority, talk a little about some of the things that they did, you know, I remember there were times when Mama couldn't make the rent and they would get together and collect the rent, so that I rent will be paid. And I remember that if it was anything that we needed. It was just very supportive of us have if they were including items or food items and just, you know, the Guardians that they wouldn't give us from the office. And they were extended family, you know, they cared about us. And, you know, today, we just don't have that kind of connection with our neighbors.

14:49 And a lot of times even with families, we don't have that connection cuz I also remember Miss Missy, Missy. Missy was our next door neighbor, Miss Missy. She actually kind of introduced me to cries cuz she took us to Ward Chapel and she would always get up on Sunday morning and she be out there knocking on the door and, you know, she's coming.

15:18 Did you know that the kid we would come on out? And, you know, go to church with her and people like Miss Missy and Miss Greenwood, which was another one of our neighbors, but I'm is green with useless all the time. You remember and Miss Noonan Miss Noonan was she was awesome. She sit with Mama and her last days. She was she was taken care of but you know, we would like like we said one big happy family. I was telling

15:51 I was telling this story yesterday to Randy's relative, and I was telling her we're talking about snuff, dude. It was her miss sweet. And how they took to Bobby, everybody love their brother about it, and they called him Uncle Bob sweet. Was that written? And she will get Bobby to go buy her, some snuff and get it and he would get it back to her and how dumb is doing. And never could figure out where she was dead and it's not going to get it for. I don't know how she figured out. Let me sleep past, you know, but Bobby was so I liked about you know, he everyone really cared about him because he was very mannerable. He would go back and forth to the

16:51 Stores all the time forum and anything that they need it for him to do, he would do it. And I wanted to just reflect on on him as a young boy cuz without having a day at their, he actually filled in a roll of the age. I'm just a little over a year younger than he is and what he always took on that Father Figure making sure that if there was something that he could do, he would go to work with mr. Kelly and with mr.

17:28 Put something we just spoke of.

17:32 Mr. Can I put the Henderson used to go out with them to mr. Henry? Mr. Kelly going to, to write yards to earn money, coming back and working with Uncle Jesse at night at the movie theaters. Just bring the money back to help her meet her needs and also Linda oldest sister, the running start working. She was in junior high school and then when she got when she started going to Spencer in the 9th grade, actually, she started going to work at the store and I remember we would always have mullet fish on Friday and I only thought it was one type of fish and that was mulling and then we have G and we went over to Grandma's house. So it was too.

18:18 Define Leah, but you know, I was when I, when I started eating catfish, I didn't really know a whole lot about all of the different fish, you know, that we could have had access to until then, to start working at the store and working in the meat department because, you know, our meets with chicken neck, bone, a pig feet ham pork chops. Those were the meats that we we ate a whole lot of, you know, and ground beef, you know, it's so basically we didn't get a chance to. We weren't introduced to a whole lot of different Meats of, you know, until Linda start working. And I remember the first first furniture that we had that was new furniture Linda bought it.

19:06 Remember how it's he bought it from Maxwell furniture and it was that long, pretty table, and a orange chair. And then the lady that Mama was working for Nicholas, Miss Hirsch. We got that sofa that was off light. Yeah, and then let about that lamp that had the big globe on it. And then the first TV the first color tv Linda Linda was so special to me, you know, SS sisters. We loved each other, but we kind of

19:41 Split me in. London would close very close and Joann and Glory was real close. Then, when Linda passed it. It, it just kind of deals a lot to me. And I know, but me and Linda was always, if she had a nickel, I had two and a half cent. And so and and that's the way me and her lived with whatever we had.

20:08 We split and whatever we stayed together whatever bills we had we split it one could make it the other ones. They don't worry about. So, you know, there's not a day passes that I don't think about Linda and some capacity because she was not only my sister. She was my best friend and she was the one that I could share anything with Butler. Linda was a good-hearted person. Although she struggled most of her life with sickness and stuff. They pass by Linda with casket.

20:47 You know, Linda had measles mumps, German Measles and then their kidneys fail, you know, she was always sick, but she was strong in the Lord. And you know, they told me it's heard said the day that Linda don't come through that door. It's going to be a sad day at new Mount Zion. They said cuz you tell us little in intensive care and we look up, listen to Moana here. She come to the door. So you know, she she to me, what's the best friend I ever had 12 years.

21:23 Still sitting in London. Oh, yes.

21:28 And because your legs was too long, they were touching the ground when she will really be all way down to the bottom of her feet. And I was like, really not my two fingers and I will have her in and I was just have myself a ball. And you know what? One thing that I do appreciate about us when we get together as family is that we always reflect on our family and it's so important. Now, particularly with this age of Technology, if we don't share with our children and grandchildren about her lifestyle, you know, it'll be lost, and we need to continue to do that because there's an appreciation for knowing who you are and where you came from and today, a lot of the kids don't know that and we've got to do a much better job of doing it too, and that's why I enjoy it when we were doing a family reunions.

22:28 Although we know it was a tight-knit at first but we all knew each other and could appreciate the background of each other. And so I just appreciate the times when we get together and that's why I really wanted to do the segment here. It's just so that we can just reflect, you know, on growing up and public housing and Joyce. And I was talking on our way down here. Help. Mama never did like being on welfare.

22:59 And I remember there was times that, you know, she was struggle and then we would go on and off with her. But there was nothing that was continued for us to be on welfare. We just have to struggle and make it, you know, she just she felt like she wanted us to learn to work for the things that we needed to get. And and she didn't want to depend on having with us for us, you know, and then having at Community Support really kind of help to meet the needs, you know for us as we were coming up. We called out some of the names and Warren Williams, but there was so many other people that was just instrumental and getting us where we are. Now that I can eat.

23:48 Even begin to call some of those other names and I feel remiss that I can't call their names, but it won't be too long. I am just thankful to all of those people who cared enough about us to make sure that we did the right thing as solutely. Absolutely. And then, you know, what, as I started in the work field and I'm working for Girl Scouts and going from one place to another, I actually went to a serving Tuskegee and when I went there and was going to the schools to recruit for girls getting it, just brought back so many memories because the community was still very closely knitted together and our teachers and school show, love towards us, you know, they were very professional-looking and if we came in and if we had a hose in our socks and whatever, you know, the next thing, we know someone that has

24:48 Gone and got some socks for us. Or if we needed anything, if we got out of line, they were there for us and it was just that connection. And so when I start thinking about, also if you know growing up and public hasn't I think about what those teachers meant to us, when we were growing up. It's like, you know, going to a HBC school, you know, when, when you were there, you knew that you could go to your instructors or the professors and in the end, they will take you into our arms and make sure that they could have dressed whatever issues that you have. And that's the way it was when we were in school, you know, we had a respect for them and they respected us and they wanted us to, to grow, to be somebody to be a contribution to this community. Hope everything's. All right. Miss Right, Miss right across in God.

25:48 Something else. She was really well. She's but you know in reality she loved us. She'll be fussing and

26:00 She was, she was dressed to the teeth. She has always.

26:06 And the makeup with les. And that's, that's what I think I missed when I go in and out of the schools of, while I was working, you know, the dress code for teachers of change to go into the classroom. And you can't tell the students from the teacher. It just, it just seems like that professionalism, that was there when we were coming through. School is just not there anymore. And one of the things that they would teach us was that speak correct English, but they tell you that you're trying to be proper. You don't have to worry about that. You just speak correct English because when you start to take your test, do you not going to hear some of those words that you all are or used to do you say? And, you know, and so it's so important for. I understand that, you know, they need to speak correct English so that they'll be able to read and keep it in. I would apprehend or people

27:06 I don't understand it. So those are just some good things to reflect on, but you know, we had a close connection from the church to the schoolhouse to the community at home and to just being together as families. I have a question for you. All enjoyed. What was your favorite memory of me?

27:32 You know, you might not want anybody to know that, it's okay. Wait a minute.

27:43 Jo-Ann's nickname was buche.

27:48 And she was everybody's baby.

27:52 And everybody love Boosie because even as an adult Joanna, is she soft-spoken.

28:02 She have a low tolerance for nonsense and

28:08 If you wrong, she'll sit there and listen that you said, okay, you know, but my favorite memory of you is that you are always so lovely and my children say that about you.

28:25 And you kind of person that anybody can talk to, so,

28:30 But it was just that, you know, how you can eat them, french fries. You tried to steal my husband, you know, you was cooking and french fries and braids in his hair.

28:41 I should have let you care for. But you know, any way that was.

28:49 My favorite memory of you and then to how you knew people with spoiling you and you just you just let them. You just lay back and watch it. Just let it flow. And my favorite memory of you is that, I remember because you stayed with Uncle Jesse and I lay, you have so much more than we had. You know, you had a new Easter clothes always and it wasn't anything that you wanted that you couldn't have because they would provide that for you. But then he were a good little baby girl cuz, you know, everybody, you was the baby and you was mama's baby and you will Linda baby and my brothers baby. And so you are babies. So I just remember those times that though, we can put on your hair water and grease and you didn't have to get a straightening comb.

29:49 And my hair was always nappy as a matter of fact, whether but nickname was nappy top and my sister Linda, it will have to straighten my hair, so that she could put in some kind of shape or something. And I remember her burning me so bad. She got mad and she just left it. So that's what I learn, how to do my own hair. Yeah. We had some fun times. We had some fun times, a lot of different things. Hell. And this last thing I did was I stole Bobby's bike. Everybody bought him new things from Christmas and I still that bike and rode all the way over in the bottom and came back with a flat tire. And no mama beat me so bad, but it's just been good reflecting.

30:46 Car, I know. I know. I know something.

30:51 Sleeping and you got in the car with me and we was right. I have no license and I come back in there and I was driving with one finger and pulled up to park the car and hit the car beside. And you may remember when she used to take that medicine and I thought I was going to die. Are you going to die? Because, you know, she's just drink the whole bottle of Creole motion. Yeah, I was the one who would probably do the most stuff to do anyway, but this is a good time to end this discussion because you always talking about me, but she was bad. You didn't get really bad and then when I went to when I got done tomorrow, so they said how many more y'all got to come down?

31:40 So, you know, I thank God for being the God that he is, and thank him for his faith. His love, his mercy and his grace that he gives us every day that we are where we are. And we know that it was by his grace that we can sit here today to just reflect and talk to each other about throwing up. I love you all so much. I love you more.