Georgie Walker and Sonia Walker

Recorded July 26, 2008 Archived July 26, 2008 01:08:20 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBX004119


Georgie talks with her daughter Sonia Walker about growing up in Buffalo, the illnesses Georgia has suffered and the strength and perseverance they have learned as family.

Subject Log / Time Code

Georgie tells Sonia that she was not an accident, but a miracle child.
African Americans could not get jobs in the war plants except sweeping. Georgie got a good job.
Georgie became a Sunday School teacher at the Lutheran church. 20 years of love. Remembers a kid saying, “I cried when my mother did not bring me to Sunday school.”
Sonia tells her students, “We can’t change history but remember we come from people who struggled to continue after slavery, if you choose not to get an education you are enslaving yourself. Honor you ancestors legacy.”


  • Georgie Walker
  • Sonia Walker

Recording Location

MobileBooth East

Partnership Type




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00:03 Hi, my name is Sonya Walker. I'm 47 years old today is July 26th. 2008. We're in Buffalo New York, and I'm going to be talking with my mother. I'm her youngest daughter.

00:18 Good afternoon. My name is Georgie Walker my age of 84 and today's date is July 26th. 2008 and we're in Buffalo New York and I'm going to speak with I'm going to speak with my daughter Sonia my mommy, you know that I've been really interested in family history a lot. And so one of the things I wanted you to tell me about was when you and Grandma first came to Buffalo like when did this happen and who you stayed within and what was it like growing up?

00:52 I came to Buffalo with my mother and I was four months old.

00:58 And I stayed with my aunt Sylvia and a group of other people who would come in from Calhoun Falls South Carolina need to have any brothers or sisters know I was an only child. So what was it like growing up with your cousins? Then I had a great time always like to be over to their house because there was my aunt had seven children and all we had fun. Everything was fun over there. I was marvelous being around them to spend the weekends with them or how did you know today is only I would spend the night with him or spend a few days with them and I will date we all got along great together. What kind of games did you play when you were growing up? Well, I guess we can't if we played Hopscotch and Jax and we play hide and go seek we play jump rope.

01:59 You had a good time. All right. Did you all go to the same church at that time?

02:04 Yes, we did. And what church were you going to them when you were we went to a Baptist Church St. John's Baptist Church, and it was in Buffalo.

02:16 And how about school? What what school were you going to will eventually when I start a school I was going to school 75 and it was on Monroe.

02:30 Drum, it wasn't fired. We could walk to school. You are always in my neighborhood School. You always walk to your school's. Yes. And then when did you know what high school did you go to Hutchinson Central High School? It was downtown on Chippewa and Elmwood and we walk to school with the fair. But sometimes we would take the bus if it was real snowing now that when you are taking the when you were at school, did you graduate from high school graduate from high school when I got out of high school? I got a summer job. I was like babysitting and doing a little light house work and I love the position and they love me and I was just like one of the family I mean some days when I could come home, I'll stay and go with them when they were going there were wonderful people tell me about

03:30 That you were working for I was the man that I work for he was some.

03:41 Greek was he he was Greek and his wife was polish and they had two restaurants down on Main Street and it was great everyday about 3, he come home with a lot of donuts and things for us to sit down and eat and we played a lot of cards. It was just a marvelous experience. And then they knew you were African-American make your light skin. And so I think sometimes people aren't able to tell that you know, we're African-American but they didn't know you were African-American ahead and they had three children. They had two girls and one boy and I used to curl one of the little girls have curly type hair like mine and I used to take a glass of water stick it in and make her some Shirley Temple curls. You look beautiful. The other one has straight hair.

04:39 But they were great people. I mean they had a Greek Easter and my relatives came out to see me cuz I didn't go home and they said if the place is like they were company. We had a wonderful Greek meal has great people. Sometimes it seemed like that the neighborhoods you lived in were less segregated. Then we see now in Buffalo Hino Buffalo is one of the most segregated cities in the country, but it seems like your neighborhood weren't really set up that way well on my street

05:21 There were mostly African-Americans but in our schools it was the neighborhood school. So everybody all kinds of people Jewish Chinese version.

05:38 Spanish everybody came to the school that you had a pretty integrated experience. That was a 30s. For example. Yes, very different than if you had grown up grown up in in South Carolina now, when did you meet Daddy?

05:55 I met your father. I was about 12 years old and

06:02 One of my cousins my mother had a few of the relatives that live with us and one of my cousins went to school with him and he came to visit his cousin. He's six years older than I was and of course, I was just a child as far as he was concerned, but that's when I first met him. When did you start courting as you would say? Well, I think I must have been about 17 and I we started, talking to one another,

06:37 Going a little while and I know.

06:43 What time we went to Woodlawn Beach? My mother was I went in the water. They didn't my mother was sitting there and he was sitting there, but we are nice relationship.

06:57 Thought you were basically a war Bryce or because Daddy went into a World War II in 1942 and then you married in 43 and

07:10 Actually, I guess that would be your second trip down south then because you had gone down south when you were 12 for the first time. So when you and Daddy married tell me about where you lived and What was that experience like going from an integrated North to a segregated South?

07:27 Well, I went down South Carolina he was stationed in.

07:36 South Carolina, Fort Benning, Georgia, Fort Benning, Georgia, and when we got there it was on a honeymoon.

07:46 And when we got there wrong, we had to find some housing for me because she didn't expect to be bringing me home bring me down there. So we finally we got for his on on the camp and the but we stayed one night with a lady until we it was arranged that I could go to the champ.

08:10 And though it was it was pretty nice. I enjoyed it, but it was it was segregated down there. They say they came back up after that after your honeymoon back to Buffalo. And how long did you stay up in Buffalo before you went back down there?

08:28 Why Can't This exactly remember but I did go down in a few months I went back down there and when did you first meet Grandma Walker was up on the first trip who was on the first trip that my mother-in-law what was she like what she already crazy and dementia and because she was my husband was a late her all of her children were just about going when she had Samuel she was 47 when she had daddy and so she was already in her late sixties when you marry probably

09:14 And when she was nice when she was a little small lady and very talkative.

09:23 And she like me. Okay. So then when you came back to Buffalo you and Daddy and Grandma my grandma told your mother who I am with only Grandma I ever had you bought a house in Buffalo in 1946 by then my sister and brother Sandra and and man were born and you moved into one house. And what was that like having you know everybody in what house and what was that experience like for you all? Well it was it was pretty tight because we kind of shared one bedroom.

10:02 What time my husband?

10:06 And the two children, really I didn't know that Grandma was in another bedroom. She was in another bedroom and she had another bedroom and I was occupied. She had a rumor. Okay, and we were trying to get the people that live downstairs and read it from us to move because I was very eager to get into my own place. I have realized that you were all upstairs at one time. So I know that in your life, you've had some some serious bouts of illness and I was one of them has some in the 50s and and you had tuberculosis and what was that experience like because Sandy a man wear a little can you tell me something about that when I had to go to Perrysburg it was a sanatorium

10:58 In Perrysburg. Oh New York, and I had to get a babysitter to move into my house to take care of the two children. They were going to school and

11:15 My mother helped out. She did the laundry from for her grandchildren and she took care of like watering the plants and things because your daddy worked on the Railroad and he wasn't home all the time.

11:33 Awesome

11:36 We made out and I had a very nice lady and her husband who took care of the children and sent them to a Lutheran Church for Sunday School.

11:49 Which I was joking about how how how we got to be a loose front because you know, most of those normal black people are either Baptist or Methodist and all of a sudden we were we were Lutheran Lutheran. And also when I was in Perrysburg, if you were catholic that a Catholic priest, but if you were proud of him your services were conducted by yum yum Lutheran, so I was very I really got very close to Lutheranism.

12:22 And so it wasn't any problem for me to when I came home to join my children and join eventually Lutheran Church, right? And then of course, I always say I'm too accident on The Late child because man was 15 and Sandy turn 17 and then the month after I was born and of course, I remember was what year your second major illness when you had the gallbladder surgery and I was about 10 to 12 and I didn't think you were going to live and of course, you know, Grandma never told me anything and daddy never told me anything and everybody was keeping secrets.

13:11 And I was really hard and I think. That's probably why I got interested in the hospital because I figured if I could convince them. I was old enough and mature enough they would let me go in and see you and and the

13:25 I know that was tough. Well, it was tough because your grandmother had you meet her at the hospital every single day. She got off from work. She showed you how to get on the bus and come to the hospital wait for her and it was a very trying situation. I had three exploratory surgery is I have all I have to and eventually I was I thought I wasn't going to make it either and I can understand how your

13:57 Teacher taught anything to you because I would get such a wonderful midwell notes and pictures from your class and then straighten up my days and you were in an accident. I'm telling you I think now.

14:15 You're a miracle child. You have no idea how much I often think of that now with Grandma's gone and you living upstairs and watching out for me taking care of me if I'm not there and it's doc cell phone mother or are you getting ready to get in the car right now? I'll be home in a little while.

14:43 But I think we do things. I guess God plans our lives for us was very difficult one your father.

14:54 Past passed in 2001

14:58 And to think that my mother lived until 2006 and she was a hundred and one if she could have been here for this tell you some stories. Yes. I always felt I was very lucky I really was.

15:21 Things were pretty quiet around our neighborhood.

15:26 And I finally

15:28 Became interested in well, when I was 18, my mother took me to vote before that though. I mean one of the things that it that you know, what miss me doing the family history research and I got Grandpa's pictures. I found that editorial that you had written in 1943 and was clearly stating that the me grow should be, you know be able to work and the war effort and it's important open up these jobs. Like why all this is where I get my radicals. I from my mother the radical in 43 like this and so my daddy was, you know down there. What were you doing during the War? What was grandma doing during the eventually your grandmother did get a job in to work plant and most of times you could only get a job sweeping. So hurry. She had a part-time job. She was sleep and when the wing of the plane can you buy she would put it was very cold why they got to take to dkl out and put the decal onto the wing of the plane.

16:27 Anthem

16:29 So I eventually got a job and on the water plants too and the money was great. And that's what I'm saying. All these people were getting all this money and the African-American people weren't getting the chance to go to those jobs, but they finally just start hiring them.

16:53 So I think that you you always set really incredible examples for all of us with the expectation that we would, you know, be faithful to you know, our beliefs and be interactive with our community and and make sure we got good education's. I mean, I think Daddy would have killed us if we didn't get college degrees because you and him didn't have an opportunity and I want to share some of the things you did about our neighborhood and we've been in that same house now you for 61 year and being the first African American in the block and the changes we saw on the, you know, the fires and 68 my personal opinion of the things when the reasons why that happened was at the neighborhood was going downhill so fast and the city was not responding and getting the whole house is torn down and the only way to make that happen was to get him.

17:52 Down and but then after that tell us about the work you were doing. Well. I was invited to a meeting it was called buffalo Community Development Corporation and that they were talking about doing work to improve our neighborhood and getting people to help us get these terrible how to slow down and eventually there was so many houses on the street. We don't have driveways at that time. And so I decided to join this group of people and it was marvelous they had good ideas when they finally got people to listen to us and we find ahead I could text it to work with us and help us get our neighborhood together and it's great because it's like almost all owner-occupied were in the heart of the east side of Buffalo.

18:53 And people look out for each other on the street and it's made a huge difference there just have a few more houses. We have to get them down and then we'll be in because we have a few more houses going to be but the best part is having garage has Wheel of Fortune is because when the lady next door had to move out and we were able to go down to a random sale and buy that piece of property and have enough land there to put two cars off the street to have a big yard my mother Planet lots of flowers and my husband did a lot of gardening and it was very very relaxing to be out there. So I was proud of was that we never left the city we could have moved any sub.

19:53 Like other people could have because you know, Daddy worked hard save money and but it was like a commitment to making sure that our neighborhood survived and grew and flourish than I was proud of the fact that you did that and I think that's that that tied into my commitment. You know, it's going to be are going to Africa in the Peace Corps and then I'll still coming back and deciding finally become a teacher and stuff in teaching in the inner-city. I had to get back. I mean when you think about having raised us if you look at you know, what you did with us. Is there anything that you would have done differently in raising us needs a man army. There's no difference. I'll tell you your father always said that I had to stay home because he was on the Railroad and if anything happened and I was on a job somewhere.

20:50 Who was there to take care of the children? And so he always insisted that I stay home. I think I did get a job when not Sandra was 13 for a hot second to you. If you want some Independence and then the money, you know, it was kind of difficult to for one paycheck to take care of all of us. So I just get a job and I enjoyed the job.

21:25 I guess I was a little independent and dumb.

21:29 But working with the b c d o and

21:36 Was a Triad board. We really went to town once we got that first house up and I can remember my mother asking Tamara Griffin.

21:49 Mrs. Muir.

21:50 I heard you have money to renovate.

21:55 The bus garage over there across from my house.

21:59 And he said yeah, he's a black and I want to know when you're going to get started and so he told I need next to me. So I want you to take her name and address and telephone number. I'll get back to you in a few days later. He called me his architect told me exactly what they plan because it was a Metro Bus Garage across the street when we moved it was A Streetcar at the streetcar will come in the middle of the street in about five-thirty turn into the garage. And in the morning, they go out meaning Michigan not waking up us up and it wasn't we didn't have any problem with it. I even had a solid sidewalk if you walked right down the line and Beyond Main in Michigan to get your bus to something else. He corrected walk right through drive-thru and so

22:55 I think that's all that was really young. My mother was very wise in her me she always wanted to know things and she wasn't afraid of asking right so afraid of speaking her mind either know she was no she was true, but I think that it was it was just great to see her as old as she got to be to still be able to speak her mind because when we went to

23:31 Our family reunions

23:34 I was two years ago. She says, you know, I don't like to travel and she's as I'd like to go to the family reunions to ISO a mother. I said you can't go this time because by then I had found out I had a serious heart trouble myself and I had to put her in the nursing home in 2003. It was hard but it was in the neighborhood and we was there everyday.

24:02 Solo

24:06 It was hard because you know, she was she was so used to going, you know, it's like we're blessed to have her for a hundred and one years, but you still miss her. I absolutely I miss her and I miss you daddy.

24:21 Matter fact, I have a place out there for as long but I haven't put him out there yet. I have just because you guys are you both decide to donate your your body to the med school that's part of the commitment to the doctors in your help to take care of you and and you made that commitment to give your body's up. I told my doctor that was when I had that trouble gallbladder. I should maybe if you take my body and you have young doctors may be taken.

25:03 Find out what actually went wrong or help some other people if they get into this situation, my bile duct closed. All the bile was coming into my system. I was just fortunate that we found a doctor in Buffalo could straighten me out. All right, but in your in your later years, you did become a Sunday school teacher to tell us about that because I know that was a if your life that was twenty years of blue cheer love when the Sunday School Superintendent asked me. This is Walker. I want you to do something for me and I said what with your life, but I'd like for you to teach a kindergarten Nursery Sunday school class. I couldn't do that.

26:00 I should so yes, you couldn't do it and then I thought about my grandson would be going in the Sunday school that year as a while. I guess maybe I could keep an eye on him and it was 20 of the most wonderful years of my life. It was just so I have your children come in and Tableau voice of Miss Walker. I cried because my mother didn't bring me to Sunday school last week and I found that to him.

26:36 I had two wonderful AIDS.

26:40 And they could do everything. I had one that she could do the Silhouettes. We're going to have a Mother's Day and do what you do some silhouette so we can make them a Mother's Day card them on the floor, but butcher paper and traced around them had them sold it up put paper in them. They had a big doll of themselves to take home all we didn't talk was things I did my mother come downstairs and say what are you doing? I'm kind of running late, but I'm getting my Sunday school crafts together. Can I help you?

27:24 We were just to help and family. That's that was nice about growing up here. Not only that you throw up with everybody, you know here and we had all the cousins and we have any other picnics at the houses and then the whole air of an extended family was so so important to our experience and then to see that some of the kids I had in Sunday School.

27:49 Still in church raising their kids. It was a most marvelous thing, right? It was an extended family as well. That's nice.

28:04 What is it that you're most proud of?

28:08 Well, I'll tell you I'm most proud of my children.

28:12 The love of my life

28:15 There's no way I would do anything different very an Ender City. You worried about your kids, but mine just turned out. Okay, you're going to beat us if we didn't that's right. That's right. It was an old school. We believe they put a little on you. If you couldn't do what we told you to I mean you could just look at my mother look at me and I know not to say what I was going to say, right and I just got it from her.

28:47 Well, how would you like to be remembered Mommy?

28:52 Well, I would like to be remembered as a person who was kind enjoy people enjoyed talking and could help anybody that could help I willing to do one or two cuz I always see you as a peacemaker among your cousins and The Peacemaker in the family. And as you know, I as you know, I've been doing our family history and I've gone back over 200 years now to Tracing Our enslaved ancestors out of South Carolina and it's becoming a real strong passion of mine and you know, one of the things that bothers me most is that because they were in but if we don't have anything

29:42 Any memories really of their lives, you know so much at Grandma was so little when her parents died, you know, and she didn't have for grandparents when she was growing up. Now, you have no senses papers and stuff. I don't want to be left for our next Generation. I know there's if you think you know right now you have David and Gabriel and Christian your great-grandson and in 50 years, they're probably going to have 50 or 60 years. They're going to have their own grandchildren. So we're not going to be here to give them a message. But what would you like them to know?

30:17 Well, I most important than Subs would like for them to know is how much I love them and how much I enjoy them and how much I want to see them do well.

30:29 Anthem

30:31 That's just it. I want them to try to do like they seen us through.

30:38 Their grandmother and she's a wonderful teacher. They're honest a wonderful teacher and we try to instill know that it's very important to get a good education to get a job. And that's what I mean me. I like for them to be kind.

30:56 Is there any message that you want to pass on to their grandchildren that you know that anything important that you think it would be?

31:05 Well, I'd like to tell him that they grew up in a family that loved them. We instill love in them. We enjoyed to have them around us and it was a blessing that you're great grab that your father was able to spend some time with his first Grand great Graham and how his first Grand remembers him and he often I said to him so well.

31:37 Your grandfather was having a birthday today if he was living.

31:43 Ethereum the biggest birthday party up in heaven. He's eight years old and he knows that we love him.

31:55 So it is it's wild to me that he has such clear memories of daddy, even though he was so I'm so little and daddy dad died and I'm grateful for that time too because it helped me to see a different side of daddy. That was very very loving and it was important for me to see the person who always wanted to be and I could see that with his real relationship with little David. I think one of the things I would say to them is that it's important to remember our history and to know that we come from people who struggled in slavery and after slavery they had this desire to

32:42 To continue to better themselves and one of the things I tell my kids at school is that and that we can't we can't change what happened in the past for example, but if you choose not to get an education that you're enslaving yourself and we can't afford to let that happen with you know, our kids and our family room with the kids that I teach and I want that to be a message that way we don't remember the past and gone to honor our the legacy of her ancestors and keep going one of things. I want to tell you a sudden. I'm really thankful that you're my mom.

33:19 Until you've made me very happy and getting me a lot of opportunities.

33:25 And appreciate all the sacrifices that you and Daddy did good life.

33:33 Thank you. I thank you.

33:37 I am

33:39 I like to tell you that to remember that I told you okay, you've been going to Africa enough now Daddy and I are getting old. You better get a job so you can start saving for a pinch.

33:54 Yep, and hopefully we'll just keep going on with everything. But thank you for a great life, Thank you.