Harriette McCauley and Rosemary Smith

Recorded January 25, 2020 Archived January 25, 2020 33:22 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby019593


Longtime friends Harriette McCauley (76) and Rosemary Smith (71) discuss the diverse environment of their upbringing in Santa Monica.

Subject Log / Time Code

RS describes how she knows HM and their community.
HM describes her upbringing and neighborhood.
HM talks about how diverse her neighborhood was growing up.
HM discusses the migration of Southern Blacks to California.
RS discusses her family lineage and the connection to Santa Monica.
RS recalls the Japanese internment.
RS discuses the segregationist housing practices of past and the present in Santa Monica.
RS and HM recall the affect the construction of the I-10 freeway had on the neighborhood.
RS and HM discuss their family histories.


  • Harriette McCauley
  • Rosemary Smith

Recording Location

Virginia Avenue Park

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type




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00:00 I'm ready for you to go. My name is Rosemary Smith. I am

00:06 71 years old by way of 29 today is Friday, January 24th 2020. We are in Santa, Monica, California.

00:19 The name of my interview partner is Harriet McCall in our relationship is lifelong. We've known one another all of our lives and we both grew up here in Santa Monica with our families knowing one another and intertwining.

00:38 Oh, my name is harriette McCauley. My age is 76 today's date is Friday January 24th. 2022 location is Santa Monica, California. And the name of my interview partner is Rosemary Smith, and she stated we are lifelong friends our parents knew each other. They enjoyed each other's company years before we were born because we were both born here. And so I would just say she's like a sister by another mother.

01:13 Absolutely. And I as a part of our introduction. And I did grow up here in Santa Monica together. I grew up on the westside of Santa Monica and Harriet and her family were located on the Eastside of Santa Monica and they were about as close as you can get to the dividing line of Santa Monica and West Los Angeles on my block where I grew up there were girls that I hung out with and grew up with and we were friends and we are still friends now. We went to school together starting with Will Rogers Elementary School through John Adams Junior High School to Santa Monica High School. Then some went on into college at Santa Monica College has well as I did and

02:13 Others went on to other colleges or universities straight out of high school, but we all grew up together and we were located in a community where we all attended. Basically the same church. That is one of the reasons why we all knew one another is because we all attended a church called Calvary Baptist Church of Santa Monica One of the oldest black churches here in Santa Monica as well as or attended.

02:45 First AME Church, which was is located at 19th and Michigan and Calvary is located at 20th and Broadway here in Santa Monica All Through The Years our families knew one another they socialized together. They church together if there was a church function that went on it when Church the members from One shirt also attended the other Church to support the family. We all the young children grew up together and we ran the streets of Santa Monica together on my block there were about seven or eight girls and three or four boys that were on our block and it was a mixture a well Blended mixture of every nationality and we were all in and out of one another's homes.

03:45 Through the years we were friends as I said, we attended the same schools same church. We're part of the same youth organizations through the church and through the schools. And when I got married my husband and I were married Clyde my husband he grew up here in Santa Monica as well and he grew up.

04:08 Two blocks from where I grew up and his family in my family knew one another and people that were in our wedding. We're people that we had gone to school with and had been raised with an a lot of a number of them of those members of our wedding party are still here and then they are so certain others who have made their Journey on to a higher plane. We have always had a good time together. We had a good time together. We attended the same parties up and down the streets our parents knew that we were going to be going either on a Friday night or Saturday night down to someone's home for a party and it was okay as long as our parents could walk there and then when they felt it was time for us to come home. They would walk down to the party or over to the party and walk us back home. We always had a

05:08 Time always had a good time. I know that Harriet's family is I said, she lived on the east side of Santa Monica and her growing-up years were a little different than mine. I mean my conglomeration of friends and extended family. We're still all some of us are still living in the same house is that we grew up in or we're living a matter of blocks from where we grew up with Michelle Michelle and Ross. My cousin's group is Rosemary because they lived on that side of town. We moved from close to Rosemary around the corner from where her family was removed in 1952 Franklin a bus. We were living with my grandmother on 19th Street, and she suggested since we were going family that it would be easier if we had our own home cuz it was getting

06:08 A lot of people saying delivered there. So my parents used one of our local Realtors and they bought a home in an area that we were the first few blacks in the neighborhood. We won the first move there and grew up with but then shortly thereafter as always the neighborhood you do more blacks moved to the neighborhood, but we had a mixed neighborhood like with rosemary was we had Mexican Americans. They weren't called Latinos then they were Mexican Americans coming fans over the Mexico. And so a lot of our history is also associated with the Mexican-American hear my uncle spoke Spanish fluently and back one of my uncles end up becoming a notary bilingual notary for the State of California because of his ability to speak Spanish. My mother mother cooked soul food and our neighbors cook Mexican food, so we had both that kind of energy, but we also knew who we are.

07:08 Where and who we are it was something somebody mentioned about the fact that

07:15 All the people in the neighborhood Asian Americans made the Japanese American Mexican Americans African-Americans at that time. We used to call negro or colored, you know changes just depends on what year was We all mixed together. That was just the way it was there wasn't that stings to start happening later with the gang situation. We have that like Rosemary said when you went to a party chaperone, but you went to party no one was worried about walking the streets in the evening course. She had to be home by 11, but that's a whole other story but you still were not concerned about anything happening it we were small community lot of people didn't even know we existed here to Mine by Rosemary's family came in before that and they migrated for Better Lives, but also one of my uncles my grandfather's brother's open up cm

08:14 Churches and so he was helping open up to see me church here in Santa Monica. I was African-American Methodist Rosemary's Calvary Baptist. Like she said what when we had Gatherings everybody supported each church, we went to the Catholic we belong to the Catholic Youth Organization. That's how close we were to everyone. It was absolute fun.

08:39 We didn't have show me where black somebody asked me did I know I was black. I said I looked in the mirror everyday, of course. I did and the thing that's interesting though. We didn't learn black history in school. We learned black history in churches. That's how I got my background in African-American history all the way back, but we'd surely didn't know as much as we know today. My grandfather's. Oh my mother's father was wanted to share information about the background of both his wife. My grandmother's family From Slavery to now and his mother's family From Slavery to know you sure had a lot of that. So we had a lot of people African Americans coming from the same states that are our parents and grandparents came from you don't like, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee.

09:37 Texarkana and migration was for work.

09:45 If it's easier to find work here, although my grandfather work for the city, you know, the city dump trucks why we want to call trash. He was one of the first blacks to work for the city. There are a lot of stories like that the people talk about your cards Mister Ricardo's what was one of the Carpenters and contractors who built st. John's Hospital. Although we didn't think about it. It's just was happening and they had their own businesses. They didn't work for anybody a lot of them. It's just a wealth of information about African Americans here, and we wanted to be a part of this because we want our children and children's children to know because they're curious. Why can't we know ours even back to slavery? It's important to know that we are people of survivors.

10:42 Did they survive what they had to go through the children need to know why? Well, I know that my as you mentioned my uncle and my aunt the brunson's they are part of a long-standing here in Santa Monica. My my uncle Vernon he and his family he when he came to Santa Monica, California Santa Monica their family came in a covered wagon, so they came in a covered wagon from the south all the way to California and Uncle Vernon was born here in Santa Monica.

11:23 In his brother Donald Bronson had been born already and

11:29 Donald Brunson who was the eldest he worked for Santa Monica post office.

11:35 And my uncle Vernon became an architect and he was one of the Architects that helped to design at that time during the war the new city hall for city of Santa Monica. Now, they're getting ready to do something with it. What I don't know but he was part of building and designing Santa Monica City Hall. Also my uncle Vernon Was An Architect that was very well-known and renowned here in the city of Santa Monica. He worked along with Paul Williams who designed homes for the stars and Uncle Vernon had part in that as well my Aunt Amanda who was

12:21 A Latin woman who was my mother's sister. She was one of five sisters and @manda. She did not speak any English at all until she came to the United States when she was 26 years old and my aunt Lena who was also a sister. She was 24 and they did not speak any English at all when they came here because my family from my mother's side they're from

12:54 Texas there along the Rio Grande that's where they were. That's where they were born and raised some of them across the border and then some of them were on the other side of the Border in cities called Del Rio and Brackettville, Texas little one-horse towns with dirt roads, but that's who they were when that man that came to an aunt Lena and then my aunt

13:24 Rose and my aunt Mimi and my mother came to Santa Monica to be with their sister.

13:32 They are all moved into the same area, which is the area where I am still living now and where Harriet is in her family there still living now, the brunson's lived on 19th Street the Evans and the Thompsons lived on 18th Street growing up with their four children. My cousin's we would run up and down the alleys to one another tone. I knew her cousin because I grew up with them first moved to Franklin so I can call to Aunt Amanda and when you hear her speak she talked to you in this very Spanish accent. It was not unusual for us to see a black woman speak in Spanish two houses down from my grandmother. So we all cut everybody just knew everybody. It's just that's the way it was and everybody was a successful person everybody Aunt Manda.

14:32 My Amanda because she could speak limited English, but she did well with what she could speak she became a midwife to the Latin families in the community and she became the translator for them because they were moving they were here in Santa Monica, but

14:55 There were times and situations where they did not trust the establishment but working through her and with her they were able to move a little further ahead and when it came to birthing babies and man that would be the one that they would call it 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 in the morning to come bring forth a new child. Bring forth a new baby into the world. My Amanda had four children at man and Uncle Vernon had four children their eldest daughter passed away many years ago of brain cancer.

15:32 Then there was Celine and Julie and Ernie my cousin Ernie passed away a number of years ago around the time the same time that my husband passed with now is 11 years ago, but we were just a family and as it as Harriet had mentioned the the Asian-American in this community and when they were picked up and taken to internment camps, they turned their properties over to

16:10 The black families in the community and they knew that their property would be taken care of until they came home and they're giving back and they their families were take the properties were taken care of.

16:25 And when they did come home when they were finally released and they came back there found that the properties were turned back over to them so that they could continue on their life and their growth and even though they had to go through the horrendous situation if they had to go through it was a lot like the

16:50 The black community understood what slavery we had to go through and what we had to what steps we had to take to make it in this life and in this world and they did not want anything taken from anybody the way that things had been taken away from him from them who's lived around the corner and rosemary is now you called was it named her family lived in the neighborhood? I did not know that she was born in a camp until both of us went to military together. We went into the Marine Corps during the Vietnam war and they asked you have to put down where you were born because I kept it from us meaning those of us who were born the same time. We did not know that my mother knew and my dad knew and because my mother is Valedictorian from Santa Monica High School 1939 to 1940 was a JAP.

17:50 American woman and as soon as the war hit when they took them away, that's when everybody just sort of embraced everyone so when I found out from yatchy that she was going to camp.

18:01 I'm saying nobody's talking about that. Why isn't anybody talking about that now they are because we realize how important those groups were and Argos what were you put just say one thing my dad?

18:15 After being drafted in the World War II from here course, I was born and then they whisked him off to Italy. He was either Tuskegee Airmen ground crew. My dad watches uncle was part of the 442nd the Japanese-American most decorated unit. These kids don't know that because until we start sharing our history. There's no Pride. There's no price because they don't know the history. And so I said when we were talking about they were talking about doing this and I love Rob because Rob he's really into this and Carolyn.

18:53 I think we have more stories and there's more stories here. My dad used to tell the story of father would talk about Italy to my brother and I when he came back and he we were really young. I remember thinking. Oh, okay, Daddy. Okay, okay until

19:11 After he passed

19:13 They contacted my mother through my knees and said we have the Medal of Honor we want to give to your family and so my mother was able to receive that people need to know that here. We need to know all this stuff, which is this important to the city of Santa Monica. Has anybody whoever else was hit? Nobody wanted to be on the beach. Nobody want to live down there more whites and Asians and Mexicans live down there. You can't buy half a garage down there now. It's so expensive but people don't know we live there. We were there. They don't know also a large number of people don't know that we were burned out.

19:55 We will find out if the property was just stolen and to fix us and fix those people they were burned out so that they could not come back.

20:10 And that kind of thing has gone on and it it it it continues to go on now. They will say something like I'm going to put our families in there. Well, that's not happening. I could give you examples but I can't cuz I don't so you put the people out you say you going to put your father and mother in there cuz that's the way you can get people in here because we're in control but then you don't put them in there. So it can you raise the rates the the the rest and the rents go up sky-high to the triple quadruple whatever it is just because people now it's about money but they'll come into your neighborhood and knock on your door and say are you thinking about selling your property? Yes. I've never heard of that entire life. I have that happen. I live.

21:00 Next door to the park to Virginia Avenue Park, and I know that I I get letters but I also get people who were canvassing the neighborhood knocking on my door finding out if I'm interested, you know in selling my property and if I am interested here's our card and we are certainly open to talk with you if you would lie to us or to well, I know that I'm a friend of ours someone that I grew up with grew up knowing she was my mother's best friend Fable read they both had property. That's right across the street from the park.

21:47 And right after they both passed away her property was sold by her stepson and it was it sold for something that they both said. She never wanted to be on our property which was Condominiums. She never wanted to see Condominiums built on her property. But I mean after you're gone who's going to you can you can't stop them but she was all and totally and completely against putting in Condominiums within this commit Community because she knew she felt even back then that what would start happening is the people who build condominiums or the townhouses they will build him for whatever they choose to build them for and they will sell them for whatever they choose to sell them for an essentially that is what has happened.

22:44 Rosie about the city planning. I remember when the people work in the city of Santa Monica where people who lived here when we were growing right and then when we get on commissions and Boards in the cities, you know, if not on tight lies and telling and I remember having conversation with a young man who works for the city of the time saying that we know they're looking for people who've gone to school for City Planning I suggest going to school for City Planning, but they don't ask the neighborhood people who have been in that neighborhood their entire lives. I'll buy how they think the city but should be there just come in and go well this Santa Monica's Hair. Look at all this property. Look what we can do. But look at this area where we can do I ask him I said if you go on a bus at San Vicente or Montana and ask those people over another color, are they interested in selling their homes know you've targeted and you know what it is though more important.

23:44 Really? Don't get everybody keep saying. Yes, they know they don't they don't know if you knew really how that impacted your thinking about money and a piece of paper and it looks looks good on paper all these people leave if that's okay. We'll give them what they want and they can move some place else really we're talking about people who we have your garden in the backyard of my grandma's house. We didn't eat store-bought food. We raised and grew all of our food the Mexican Americans exit had goats to have pigs we dip. We we have neighborhood stores and the neighbors doors you go get the regular stuff or we had the Milkman drop in milk or we had the Helms Bakery. It was a community and then we started getting a supermarket. We had the markets in our area Wilderness dry clothes in nose.

24:34 And we had to fight to get one back to her husband and I were on a we had to go to City Hall and they look you guys you take it out. You make people bables age in my parents a school way up here to go to the market when we had a very viable Market in our neighborhood now. Guess what who's coming back to our neighborhood Whole Foods and all the big stores, but they're less price because they know we shop we look for good stuff and we'll buy it and we'll go into the store and their start. They're all trying to get back into the neighborhood. Now, you should see them quite interesting, isn't it? Yes it is. But, you know also we could talk about the freeway. Okay, but if we get on the freeway it may take too much.

25:24 The freeway came and broke up our neighborhood completely and tell them where they wanted to go first before they from what I understand. I did not read this on a piece of paper, but I was told that it was to go through Beverly Hills and down San Vicente and down syndrome sent it and they stopped it. They stopped it. They stop. Don't wait. No. No, we don't want to do that. Let's just go they'll be okay and my mother's we were talking earlier by businesses that we own and this is more Christine Moore on the beauty shop on another lady were some of the first half black beauty shops here in Santa Monica. What Christine my mom said just built her dream house just built her dream house.

26:11 But eminent domain of manifest destiny can it in her house was one of the first to go and so she had to move the Baldwin Health, but it literally she went downhill. She didn't she could make it's just it was just the story and my all the families. Did you just split it just went straight through the neighborhood and there was nothing anybody could do and they told me what there's nothing you can do about it.

26:35 How are Beverly Hills and San Vicente do something about it? But we didn't know one of the thing somebody said which is true. We did not know we had the ability to stop it because we didn't know what the powers you know, you keep people can find in an area. Don't let him know what they have. We had the covenants. We couldn't move here. We couldn't move here. The covenants are still on the books for whites blacks and Asians. Anybody. That wasn't

27:04 We're Irish people in our neighborhood cuz they couldn't get places above was just quite quite a history.

27:16 And there's just so much we could talk about right? Well, you know our community.

27:24 We were with borderline.

27:27 We're on the on to the north is pico.

27:33 On to the north is is Santa Monica Boulevard to the South is Pico to the east was his Centinela and to the West.

27:48 Well, that's to the beach until they went to move this out and we can go up to 5th Street Main Street. Go to figure out a picture of it. Probably 19 late 1920s. I think must be early twenties of my mother's sister sitting on the Palisades Park, which is at the Pacific and there is a palm tree. That's a probably at maybe a foot or more taller than she is to let you know. We were always down at the beach or on Pacific on the Palisades. That's what we did. That's what we went and there's that picture and if you see it at palm trees probably about 30 feet high, but you realize how long we have been in that neighborhood there a lot of photos like that floating around lots of them.

28:42 If you can't share very true, our families have wonderful. Wonderful Rich histories. Not just here in Santa Monica not just here in Santa Monica. But all over I know that my family we're Seminole Native American Seminoles, and we traveled the one of my great-great-great-great-grandfather is there's an article which I will pull together at another time and for you he led a group.

29:19 Former slaves

29:22 Along the coast from Florida all along the coast of those States and led them into Mexico and up into California. And the article is absolutely wonderful. It was in the Smithsonian and our family is very proud of proud of that. But there's so many there so many rich and wonderful bits and pieces of history that just aren't known known about about the people right here in this community or that were here in this community in my one of my mom's sister's the reason a lot of African-Americans Wentz pushed for education.

30:12 Higher education was because course my grandparents both sides. They didn't have the education that most people had so they had to work in service. So one of my aunt Stella who was very influential. Dr. Quinn. Just tell me the story about when she went to college and came back and she was going to be a teacher of English and social studies. It sound like a high school, but she died just before she was hired a 1940-41 and but she stressed the importance of it because to get her money to save money to go to college to Wilberforce in Ohio. She had to work in you no answer she worked in the movie house at the Dome Theater on Pacific Ocean Park pier and then one of her brothers who had his own business helped her go to college and she came back. She said that's it. Everybody is going everybody's going to go as high as they can go and do whatever they can do. That's what we've all done. We've all been higher education. You know, I'm Rosemary teacher. I have my master.

31:12 French bread, you know and I teach but other things to other creative things she just pushed us she pushed us.

31:21 Yes, there's a lot.

31:23 Where is the Rock you for allowing us to be here? Absolutely and I look forward to the time when my eldest granddaughter can come. She's getting ready to graduate from college this year and she can come and share her life experience here in Santa Monica.

31:47 Harriette has Generations that have been here and are still here? I have generations and generations from the late 1980s into the 19 hundreds and Clyde and I work generational here and we raised our children here and our grandchildren now or being raised here going through some of the same schools that we went through and they're doing the same things that we did except we're pushing for them to do just a little bit more just a little bit more with

32:24 The fact that some of my family doesn't live here now, but one of my nieces who lives in Las Vegas has a masters in social work, and she what we have supported them in is Skip going further than we have we went as far as we could go and we're not dead. So we're doing other things but we want them to excel even more and we can see if we can do we can see the info they're excited about doing more. They don't want to just work for somebody just to work for somebody they want to participate in support and give a place where we're happy that we're the elders were happy. We don't have to work like we work before but we still creative I still have to do crazy stuff when I get home to a minute. I'm stressing.

33:15 Thank you.