Diane Gayles and Jennifer Gayles

Recorded August 15, 2008 Archived August 15, 2008 01:20:27 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBX004213


Diane Gayles speaks with her daughter, Jennifer Gayes about her childhood and family.

Subject Log / Time Code

Diane recalls attending a predominately white elementary school. She remembers the Civil Rights movement being the backdrop for this time in her life. She remembers Mrs. DeVaney an Melissa Tousley who both had a lasting effect on her.
Diane remembers meeting Jennifer’s dad. A story of mistaken identity.
Diane talks about Jennifer’s birth and childhood. She tells Jennifer that she thought of naming her Melissa at one point.
Meeting God, thankful for the gift of salvation.


  • Diane Gayles
  • Jennifer Gayles

Recording Location

MobileBooth East



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00:06 My name is Jennifer Gales. I am 30 years old. Today's date is August 15th. 2008. You're in Buffalo New York, and I am interviewing my mother.

00:21 My name is Diane Gayle's my age is 58 today's date is August 15th, 2008. And tomorrow's my birthday and we're in Buffalo New York, and I'm being interviewed by my daughter.

00:39 So Mom, tell me when and where were you born in Buffalo, New York?

00:47 And when

00:49 August 16th 1949 as I said before tomorrow is my birthday. So what is your earliest memory?

01:02 I can remember the earliest memory I have is back when I first started kindergarten. I was just 5 years old cuz my birthday is in August since school started in September.

01:18 And I am only I'm the only daughter and my family and so my mother always got very special dresses for me and I went to school and party dresses. I didn't wear the usual dresses like everyone else did I had these frilly party dresses and actually they came from New York. She had a friend who was a buyer in New York and she would send boxes of dresses to be so my earliest memory in this is very clear with the first day of school. I had on a yellow frilly party dress and when I went in to class everyone had to sit on the floor and I refused because I was wearing a party dress and so the teacher let me sit in a chair while everyone else had to sit on the floor. Do you remember what kind of shoes you had on?

02:18 Oh black patent-leather. Absolutely that was the rage back. Then I can just picture that.

02:26 Where did you grow up?

02:29 I actually started in Buffalo up until I was 7 years old and then my family moved to Lancaster New York, which is a suburb of Buffalo and I grew up there. Actually, it was on a farm. We lived on a farm with my brothers my mother and my father I had a farm life.

02:55 Can you tell me a little bit about that? Well, it was hard cuz this is back in the mid 50's and times were hard. We were not a wealthy family. Obviously the house that my parents bought was actually a run-down Shack and with a lot of hard work and my father's foresight. We were able to build it rebuild it and restructure it along with it came a lot of land which was really nice. So we had a home there was a huge barn and there was another building that we called the chicken coop, which eventually did wind up being a chicken coop and we had a large garden.

03:46 We work very hard because I had three brothers and boys like to eat and they eat a lot and the garden kept us in fresh vegetables and

04:00 Food and

04:03 At Harvest time we would harvest the vegetables and the fruit trees we had in the yard as well and make all kinds of jelly and jams and so on and also can everything that came out of the garden. So my mother candle lot and she taught me how to can I have to say to this day. That's why I don't can nor do I have a garden flower garden, but not a food card.

04:34 And then we had animals we had chickens and ducks and turkeys and we also raised them from chicks from babies and then we had to kill them. So we had a responsibility of getting up every morning and feeding these animals and taking care of them and raising them until they were ready for Slaughter and then we would kill them and my father and my brothers they did most of the The Killing and my mother and I we did the cleaning so they would kill the chickens and they would bring them in the house and my mother and I would be in the kitchen and we would be plucking the feathers and taking the knife and opening them up and that was quite a learning experience talk about learning about biology. And so I learned a lot and so then we would clean them.

05:32 And cut them up into packages and freeze them and that's how we were able to Saint sustain ourselves during the winter. My father was employed at Bethlehem Steel and he didn't make a lot of money and my mother was a homemaker. So it was very important that we had these animals and then it was very important that we have that large garden as well. As far as the garden is concerned every morning we had to get up and go out and water the garden and my father he gave all of us a row or two. So he knew who was supposed to water and weed the certain rows. So when he came back from home from work, he would check to see if they had been done and he knew who did not do their job it would happen. If you didn't do your job you want to go twice as much the next day. No tellin and weeding the garden was quite an experience because

06:33 They were garter snakes. So you'll be down on your hands and knees pulling the weeds away from this baby corn that's trying to thrive and something but run between your legs or your fingers and self-worth. We always made sure we had a hole with us just in case it wasn't a garter snake, but one of the other ones.

06:52 And my brothers sometimes would they thought it was really funny. They would get a garter snake and toss it because we were in different rows mind you so they would throw the snake over. So we had snakes throwing times to while we were supposed to been working.

07:09 That sounds like you and your brothers got into a lot of devilment. Yes, absolutely.

07:19 Oh.

07:21 Because we lived in the country. There was a lot of woods around where we lived and when we got home from school, once we completed our chores, we were allowed to go into the woods and so we would go in there.

07:35 Into the woods and we would build Forks.

07:38 And we would swing swing from the trees. We just and we thought we were of Daniel Boone and sweet just do all kinds of crazy things. It was quite a rich childhood. It was hard but it was a very rich childhood. The other thing that we would do in the winter time. There was a pond not too far from our home and it would freeze in the winter time and our father bought us ice skates from the Goodwill and we would put on those ice skates and go down to the pond and we would ice skates and he would get one of those big barrels and he would build a fire in there for us. And so we went ice skate on the pond had a wonderful time never did no one ever fell through because he always tested it before he would have before we were allowed to go out on there. So that's that's two of them. My most favorite memories from my childhood.

08:38 Yes, you do. And you do have those pair at that pair. There's one other thing that's very significant. I remember I'll never forget this. There was a farmer that lives not too far from us and he had a house and a bull and my one brother and I we always played on this old truck.

09:00 The one day we are out there playing on a truck and we made up this game and he said to me Diane you better get down and run and I said why and he goes you better get down and run. It's all know. I'm not going to run. You're just trying to make me it because no get down and run. Nope. I'm not moving. Well this all took place in the back of a the bed of a pickup truck.

09:26 Next thing. I know he jumps down and he takes off from where they someone at what's going on here?

09:32 I turned around and look here the bull had gotten out of the Chorale and he was charging for me. I'm still sitting in the back of a truck now mind you this is no truck the tires are flat. So the truck is practically on the ground. So the bull doesn't have to climb. He's just going to run right up. Well, that's what he did. He ran right up in the back of the bed of the truck and as he came up in the bed of the truck, I went over the cab. Oh my goodness. I flew off that cab and I started running and here and I turn around for a quick look and there was a bull coming behind me and just as I turned back around just in time. I just missed the tree. I almost kissed one of the apple trees in the yard and I kept running and kept running and he kept coming and made it to the house. I ran up the steps and slam the back door and just as I swam the back door, his horns came through the bottom panel of the door. Oh my goodness. I bet your heart was beating.

10:31 Very much. So I think my mother was madder than my heart was beating she came out with a broom and she beat that bull and then she got on the phone and call the neighbor farmer and told him if he didn't come over here and get that ball he be dead, but you did and he got his bull. Oh my God this so that's pretty good stories are about the Homelife. What kind of student are you?

11:05 A pretty good student when I was in Buffalo and kindergarten and first and second and third grade I was a very good student according to their system and I received all A's but unfortunately when I we moved to Lancaster, I did not have the grades that I had when I was in Buffalo the work was much harder.

11:33 It was a much more rigorous coursework. And so I didn't do as well initially. I didn't fail but I wasn't performing the a-level as I was before but that was a very difficult time as well because that was during the time of

11:53 Quite a lot of civil rights activity was going on and it was a very difficult time for us being the only black children and they Suburban white neighborhood, even though it was we were on a farm and that was a very difficult time and it but it taught me a lot and I think it made me the person that I am today. Do you have any specific memories of that time? I certainly do the first day of class. I was going into 4th grade. The teacher's name is Miss devaney, and she was asking everyone calling their names actually and having everyone to line their desk up according to the chart that she wanted.

12:39 And and she was calling off the different children's names. They were helping each other to move their desk and put them in the different rows. And then when she calls my name no one came to help me. So I had to struggle to move my desk by myself. The teacher didn't help either. She did a she said want someone help Diane and no one would so she did and she came and she helped me move my desk. So that was my first introduction to racism and how that make you feel o I was alone and I knew I was all alone and quite honestly, my father had told us that that was probably what would happen but

13:20 I was young. I didn't understand what that meant. But I experienced it firsthand, but then there was a bright light there as well. We went out onto the playground. This is back when you had recess and you actually went out on the playground and played and everyone was out there playing and I walk down and I just knew no one was going to talk to me. I was going to be all by myself and I was standing there watching the boys. They were playing rough housing and kicking a ball in the girls around the swings and they were chatting away. And so I just stood next to the building by myself.

13:57 And then this one girl in our class came up.

14:04 And everytime I think about it it.

14:06 Thanks, baby. Cry.

14:11 Do you remember her name?

14:14 Melissa Tousley, I'll never forget her.

14:18 Came up, and she said would you like to play with me?

14:26 Don't do that. You can make me cry. Sorry and really just invoke the very emotional response in me because

14:36 I never felt so alone until then.

14:41 But she came in.

14:45 Offered friendship to me when no one else did or would

14:50 And I never forgot her name Melissa Tousley. I don't know where she is, but she'll never know how much that meant to me.

15:00 And how long did you to stay friends for quite a long time all the way through grade school that was fourth grade and unfortunately though when we got to Junior High her they moved away and I don't remember where and so I never saw her after Junior High until we graduated from Senior High. I don't know where where she was or where she went. But would you like to find out how I'd love to know. I've always thought about that and have the shows where they said, they'll find someone for you. I would love to because I know she has no idea when she did for me.

15:45 Were there any teachers that really stood out in your childhood or high school? Well miss devaney. I think the initial one in the fourth grade teacher because of what she did and quite honestly the rest of the teachers. I vaguely remember their name, but I remember Miss Delaney. That was a very important time in my life and she really affected me as did Melissa.

16:19 So we'll switch gears are okay. How did you meet Dad? That's a good story. My one brother was working a summer job and a co-worker of his told him he was going to be going to college.

16:38 And my brother said which he's so is my sister and as it turned out we were going to the same college. So my brother came home, and he said Diane you want to make sure that you find.

16:51 Clark and I said well, how am I supposed to know what Clark looks like so he described them. So I said, okay, so I went on a walk to the college and I went into the cafeteria this one day and I'm looking around for this Clark and I thought I saw someone that looked like the description that he had given me so I walked over to this car. Can I said are you Clark?

17:16 Whatever his last name was I can't remember and this young man turned to me and he said no. Well me I'm one not to be out done. So I said so what's your name then and he said George Gayle and I said, oh well, it's nice to meet to George Gales. I'm dying Moody. And I said is anyone sitting in this chair? And he said no I said, what do you mind if I sit there? He said no, so I sat down and I had a conversation with him. No mind you my friends. Who is that a table at tables about three tables away. They knew that I was going to do this. So obviously I didn't want to be embarrassed. So I sat down and I had this conversation with him and that's how we met.

18:06 Would you say that your favorite memory of dad? Absolutely? Absolutely. Yeah, he he really made quite an impression on me, even though I wasn't looking for him, but he did make an impression on me. And what did he say when you told them the truth about that story? I didn't tell him that for some other time to myself for a while. And then I finally told him the story a little while later that he wasn't the person I was looking for him. But it all worked out. Absolutely. He was the right one and how long have you guys been married 37 years this year?

18:45 How did you know he'd be the one?

18:48 You know, I didn't it's really funny. I just knew there was something really different about him.

18:57 Just the way he talked to me the way he respected me. I think is more than anything else. He has such a respect for me and one of the things that my husband.

19:09 Insisted upon when we were dating and it is to this very day. I do not open any door. He always opens the doors and when we were dating the first day we went on I jumped out the car and he put me right back in and he said as long as you're with me, I open the doors. I haven't opened the door since then so sometimes it's a little odd because I'll be out with you or with friends and I'm standing waiting for somebody over the door lamp or that's right. He's not here. I think that would be a great idea. I remember one memory when I was a child and I don't remember where we were were somewhere as a family and you and Dad got into an argument and I remember I've gotten so upset because I never seen you guys argue before and I remember I asked you guys. Are you guys getting a divorce?

20:09 And I remember I don't exactly remember your response. But I remember it it wasn't it was no, but I think you kind of looked at me like why would she ask him a question? So I ask it now. Have you ever thought about getting? No not at all? Not ever?

20:29 Never thought about it. It never crossed my mind any married couple have disagreements. And that's what we call that. We call him disagreements. We don't argue but we've had a rule in our marriage and that was even raising you and your brother and that was

20:48 If we didn't agree.

20:50 On an answer to either one of you then the answer was no if I said, yes, and he said know the answer to you would be no if one said yes, and the other said know the answer was no so you need always needed to yes and do whatever you needed to do.

21:11 Do you have any favorite stories from your marriage?

21:17 Nothing really stands out except I know one thing that we used to do is really funny because when we were first married, we used to stay up all night and then early in the morning about to 3 in the morning. We would go to this basketball court around the corner and we play basketball or we would take the tennis rackets out and chorus. We are really softball players. And so you can imagine where the tennis balls wound up because we just couldn't control That Swing but we would do those kinds of things and then we would come back home and then we will play board games and then we would go out to breakfast and then we would go bowling and then we go to the movies and then we could come home and crash.

22:08 Why you guys go to bed so early?

22:14 We did and we crammed a lot of things in one day. We did a lot of picnics to we will go in a lot of picnics with family and then lot of times we had just go just the two of us.

22:27 But one, I know one memory I have of our early life when it was just us and we were on our honeymoon. We are just leaving to go and I was a co-pilot because he was driver and I was the co-pilot so I had the map and I was supposed to be reading the directions and I don't know how I did it but I got us off on the wrong ramp. I tend to do that now to come to think of it. But anyway, so I got us off on the wrong ramp, but he got us back on on our way back. There was such a downpour that the Thruway was flooded and they closed off the Thruway and guess where we had to get off exactly where I got us lost. And so we knew exactly how does go around it and get back on. Will you would see it you should have seen the car is that

23:27 Following us because we must have given the impression we knew where we were going. We had such a caravan behind us. So that's what that was a funny one cuz I know when I got us lost at first he said that's okay. Don't worry about it cuz we are newlyweds, you know, so you going to say that don't worry about it, but I felt really bad. How did you do that? I don't know but that was one that was funny.

23:57 So you guys were married how many years before George was born three years? That's right. And what was going through your mind when you first saw me.

24:12 I couldn't believe it. First of all, I couldn't believe that I had a daughter. I just knew I just knew you were going to be a boy. I don't know why I think because I always felt as though I because I had Brothers I always felt that I would never have a daughter. I would always have boys and obviously when your brother was born

24:35 And then when you came along so it's going to be another boy. Well, I was pleasantly surprised I just started think about all the things that we were going to do and how is going to dress you up and I have lots of plans for you still do outfits. Lutely guy dressed in property. Absolutely and how did you choose my name?

25:05 I didn't.

25:07 Your father chose your name, and I don't know if you know this, but I wanted to name you Melissa.

25:17 Because of Melissa Tousley I wanted to name you Melissa. So what made you say? Okay to Jennifer because for some reason that name just really I don't know is it

25:31 Your dad he just really wanted you to be Jennifer. So I said, okay, but I've never forget forgotten Melissa. And what about my middle name Erica now that came from the Soaps.

25:46 And it sounds nice Jennifer Erica the bat came from the Soaps.

25:57 What was I like as a baby you were a piece of cake you were just wonderful. It was so easy taking care of you. You probably was easy, but you were just was like you didn't even exist. You took care of yourself. You were quiet. I remember one instance when I had to take George your brother to the bus stop and it was we live about five to six houses from the corner and I had to stand on the corner with George waiting for the bus and George was 5 years old.

26:33 You were obviously too. So I left you in the house because it was cold. And I said Jennifer stay here in the crib. You stay here. Don't get out.

26:47 And I took George down to the bus stop. Now. We have been doing this for quite some time. No problem whatsoever. All this one particular day. I'm standing at the bus stop and I'm looking down at the house because I could see our son port and I see the curtains moving though. Why are the currents moving?

27:06 Oh, no, and I could just see them moving as oh my God. What am I going to do? I knew you had gotten out of the crib and here I got you out of the crib in the house. And I don't know what you're going to do. George is 5 years old standing on the corner. There's no one else around so I grabbed yours and run back to the house. Cuz I figure the bus is going to come any moment. I run back to the house. I go in the house and I said Channel 4. Why are you out of your crib? I told you don't get out and you said Mommy the phone ringing telephone operator at a young age.

27:45 So I put you back in the crib and told you don't worry about the phone. I actually took the phone off the hook and then took George back out. We caught the bus.

27:54 But you were a very easy child a very easy child and actually as you got older.

28:02 You were easier as you got older the only drawback to you, but you are a little clingy just a little clingy. You were my shadow. You were my daughter. You were my shadow. And when you were you were for and I said to your dad I said she has to go to Nursery School. I can't take it. She's driving me up a wall. He said what's the matter? I said, I can't go anywhere. She's right behind me. You don't know this. I almost knocked you down the stairs quite by accident. I was walking down the hallway and I quit turned cuz I remembered I wanted to do something and I'm not you.

28:49 Right you you went right off the ledge and I grabbed you and I just caught You Shook Me Up really badly because I all I could visualize what would you falling down the stairs and in being hurt and it really really scared my said she is got to go to nursery school and at the time he was the only one working so that meant we had to scrape some how to send you the nursery school.

29:14 Well

29:16 Like I said not one to be all done and I've lived on beans and rice. And so I changed our family diet then the groceries and I scrimped and saved and we got the money together. We sent you the nursery school. That was the best thing that ever happened for you and for me I wound up with peace of mind while you were gone and you met friends and when you came back you started telling me about your adventures at nursery school and then you went off and played by yourself. So I was it was at all anymore very well work. That's right. My shadow was gone Hallelujah.

30:02 Do you remember when your last child left home for good? Oh you are it now when you left and you were funny because you came home from college. And you said I'm only going to stay here about three maybe four months and then I'm gone and I really didn't think that would happen. But you did and it first it was like when you and your brother were in college at the same time house was so empty and that first week, I'll never forget it. It was so so empty and I came home and I just walked from one bedroom to the other and I was just feeling so depressed and I said I lost my kids, but I didn't lose them.

30:45 And then that lasted about a week and then I realized how free we were Martin Luther King free at last free at last and that's when I life really took off. Yeah, you guys are Globetrotters now, I can remember you and George calling and leaving messages on. Where are you two now, we are gone all the time. Do you have any other favorite stories about George and I

31:15 Well, I have a story about George and a story about you. The story about George was being an older brother. He loved to tease his younger sister you and I would always say George don't tease Jennifer don't tease her one day. She's going to get you back. Well, he came home from school one day and you had to be about 3, which would have made him about sex and he lay down in the TV room on the floor and he was watching either. Mr. Rogers or Sesame Street or something.

31:50 And he was fully engrossed and you went into the playroom and got one of those little wooden Hammers and you came back and he's lying on his stomach watching the TV and you climbed on his back and proceeded to beat him in the head with that hammer all I heard I was in the kitchen hair. Mommy, Mommy come get her cuz I'm running to the TV room and you were just beating him in the head. Well, I know I shouldn't have but I just sat down and laughing cuz I told him not to tease you but I did I pull them off of you and him off you off of him.

32:30 And I told George I said I told you don't tease your sister from that day forward, you know, he did not tease you and he certainly did at the story about you was really funny you had gotten into trouble and I said to you that I was going to give you a spanking and I had the special little belt that I kept in my kitchen in the drawer. And actually it was part of Dad's bail is the part that broke off and it was just enough that I could wind up around my hand once or twice and give you a couple of looks and I said Jennifer I told you not to do that, but you did it anyway and you're going to get it at I turn to that drawer to pull out the belt and when I turned back around the back door was closed and you were nowhere to be found.

33:22 Well, I can hear hear your dad out there yelling Jennifer where you going come back here when I laugh so hard I couldn't do anything to you. So that was that was your funny story about you.

33:47 If you could do everything again, would you raise us differently? Oh, absolutely not.

33:53 Absolutely not. I'm

33:57 I am so proud of you and your brother have the way that you have turned out.

34:05 Of what you display in terms of what we taught you and what we taught him and we see it everyday. No, I wouldn't change a thing very very proud of you two, would you say because of the way you raised us being in the church would you say that would be a big part of the reason why you went absolutely absolutely that that is exactly right. We did we raised you and the church and reiju according to what the Bible says and we had our difficult times as anyone does but I think the fruit has been produced.

34:47 Have you experienced any miracles?

34:50 Oh this one. I'll never forget your dad and I we had just bought the our home and we got a bill in the mail for something. I can't even remember if it was what it was for but it was $500 and back then that was a lot of money and we really didn't have them with us before George and I were born this was before you were born. So George was the little guy at the time and I wasn't working and the bill came and me. I always seem to Just Lose It oh my gosh. We have a bill. Oh my God, how we going to pay it and your dad he is, you know, he's the cool cucumber. Don't worry about it. We'll handle it.

35:36 And about 3 or 4 days later.

35:41 I went to the mailbox and I got out this envelope and I said what is this and I opened it up and it was a check for the exact amount of the bill.

35:54 And the check was escrow. We had paid too much in escrow taxes, and it was exactly the amount. We needed to pay the bill. That was the miracle. What did you feel when you saw that text? No, I knew this was a real blessing and I knew it was because that we had both prayed and and ask God to show us the way and I just didn't know that it would come in that form.

36:27 And that that was truly a miracle.

36:30 When you meet God, what do you want to say to him?

36:36 Thank you. Thank you for the gift of salvation.

36:43 I like that answer.

36:45 Well, I have to say I've learned quite a bit from you not just in this instance, but throughout my entire life, you're definitely a wonderful role model all the stories that used to tell about your childhood and even hearing them now still make me laugh and knowing how you felt about George and I and growing up and your relationship with Dad and just totally being in awe of that and of course wanting that, you know for myself and one day be able to you know, how to get married and have kids of my own and and raised them very similarly to the way that that you and and Dad raised George and I

37:32 But you definitely have been.

37:35 My favorite person play thank you. Thank you. So that mean you're buying lunch, you know, you have to vote.

37:54 Be on my own but I'm still broke. Oh, you are my daughter. That's cuz you're you're definitely my daughter.

38:05 And I am everything else you want to tell me.

38:09 Well

38:13 Just stay true to who you are and just continue to live your life the way you are living at your dad and I are so proud of you and you may not know it maybe you do but it always helps to to say it and it makes one feel loved and know that people are thinking of them. Stay close to your brother.

38:38 And now I don't be dumb in the head anymore. No more Hammer, you know that hammer story is the same story that you know, come to think of it. I beat my brother in the head with a hammer. That's right. My favorite things are westerns, right? Cuz you know, I love my Western and we have the whole ghetto cowboy hat the six shooter the holsters the horse we had everything and we'd always play Cowboys and Indians. So one day he was a cowboy one day. I was Indian and this one day I was a cowboy and we were running around in the house and I caught up with him hiding behind the couch and I took the butt of the gun and I hit him in the head.

39:25 Knocked them right out.

39:27 Had to take him to the hospital. He had a concussion and two that my mother took away. Our hats our guns are toy horses everything. So that was the end of our Western Affairs. No more concussion. She said

39:45 So, but now you you and I are very much alike, and I really appreciate you agreeing to take this time to come down here and to record this story of my life. You're such a large part of it, and I really do appreciate it. Thank you, Jennifer. You're welcome, Mom.