Robbie Jones and Carolyne Edwards

Recorded January 24, 2020 Archived January 24, 2020 37:29 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby019589


Community members and friends Carolyne Edwards (79) and Robbie Jones (62) share memories of growing up in Virginia Avenue Park community.

Subject Log / Time Code

RJ asks CE about her upbringing.
CE describes her favorite teacher.
CE recalls educating RJ's son.
CE discusses the development of the first school for African Americans in the community.
CE discusses an organization she and RJ are members of.
RJ recalls her connections to the organization.
CE discusses the impact of the construction of the I-10 freeway.
CE discuss a neighborhood center called the Belmar Triangle.
RJ and CE discuss the segregated beaches nearby their community.
RJ and CE discuss their respective historical preservation efforts.


  • Robbie Jones
  • Carolyne Edwards

Recording Location

Virginia Avenue Park

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type




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00:03 Hi, my name is Robbie Jones. I'm 62 years young today's date Friday, January 24th, 2020 location, Santa, Monica, California.

00:20 Name of my interview partner is Carolyn Edwards and relationship to my partner is I know her through family friends and community.

00:34 Hi in my name is Carolyn Edwards and I am 79 years young and today's date is Friday, January 24th. 2020 location is Santa Monica, California, Virginia Avenue Park in the name of my interview partner is as previously said Robbie Jones, and I know her through Community for many many many years 25 plus years.

01:08 Okay Carolyn, so, let me just start by saying when and where were you born? Well, I was born here in Santa Monica on July 4th, 1940 and a little side note was it my brother was born 7 years later on the same day July 4th, but 1947 and I in between my brother and my sister my mother had twin girls. So out of four children, we only had two birthdays. Wow. Wow, that's that's really interesting. What was it? Like then when you grew up in the 40s, were there a lot of black people here yet. In fact, I grew up in this community the neighborhood and it was wonderful. We had many friends our age and we we would go out and roller skate and we would ride our bicycles up and down the

02:08 Read then we weren't confined to the yard or to the house. And we just had a wonderful time is as young people. So, you know, I do the Black Santa Monica tours, and we often start out talking about Douglas aircraft were most African-Americans. I guess when the influx came in the forties they came here to work. Do you remember anything about that? I like I do. I remember I will call though. I was a child, but I do remember that my mother had a victory garden as did a lot of other people in the community and the city just because of the war efforts and I do remember that every once in a while. They would have air raid drills and my father was an airway air raid drill.

03:04 Person, he would be out on the airwaves and I do remember that Douglas aircraft the roof was covered with camouflage and out there and that's for obvious reasons of you know, so that if they were aircraft enemy aircraft overhead, they would think that it was feels wow. So you talk about school. And did you attend Santa Monica High School as I did? I did had a high school you waited in Winter 58 and I was just talking about this the other day. I always mine was one of the very last winter classes and they cut that out because we had 98 students to graduate. And so I guess they said well, it wasn't worth the time the effort so then they just combined all the classes and

04:04 One graduation in June. I never knew that and so what kind of things were you involved in school?

04:13 Well in grammar school elementary school, it was pretty much just going to school and going home and doing your homework. Oh, I remember after school. We had play clothes. We had to go close. So if you got home, you took your school clothes off and your school shoes and you put on your play clothes and you play shoes when I got in the junior high school in high school, then I got involved in student government, and I enjoyed that but it wasn't something that I wanted to make a lifelong career out of so I do know that you were teacher was there a teacher in school in that you particularly or fond of or had a strong influence over you?

05:08 I did have a favorite teacher and she was either at McKinley or Grant and I never will forget her name was Miss Vetter and she was just so attentive and such a nice lady. I took a lot of time with all of her students teaching us how to read and you know, she will always stand out in my mind. I can't remember the other ones but I remember her well that explains it then because I know that you and I have like a couple of couple of or if not more connections and one of them is that you were my son's teacher in elementary school. And so I feel the same way about you that you work very good teacher for Brandon and very attentive to him. And so that kind of explained because that's what you received in school so I won't ask you about Brandon.

06:08 There's something that stains your mind and you will always remember them because not because of the good behavior, but unfortunately of behavior that you're not happy about but Brandon was a great student and I appreciate it all your support and we just the family support. Thank you. That's nice. But let me ask you this since you talked about family. I know that your uncle is was that was dr. Alfred Quinn the late great. Dr. Alfred Quinn. I remember so many remarkable things about him at Santa Monica College. He was very influential over my life. So I like to ask you did he influence you and going into teaching was that?

06:58 He did he did he did influence me along the way not all of all of a sudden and not at one time, but I do know that we as kids when we were growing up my aunt and uncle of dr. Quinn and his wife Sylvia. They live right across the street from us. In fact right around the corner from here and whenever I had homework problem, my mother would always send me across the street go ask your uncle out. And so he he was very patient with me and he would help me with my math homework until 4 until 1 and then as the years went on and he became

07:35 I an administrator and teacher over at Santa Monica College. I used to take classes in the evening after I left work and I took a couple of his classes and I was just really impressed with the way that he was able to teach him relate to the students and I asked time went on. I just decided that I wanted to go back to school and so he was very influential in helping me and I'll go through the red tape and you know pointing out which schools I should transfer to do and the classes that I needed to take at Santa Monica College in order to transfer.

08:18 And it was eventually eventually I did want to become an elementary teacher. Well, like I said, and he was very kind and very supportive and very influential to you know, African-American students there that I could see especially myself. I know he has a connection to one of our first schools here for African American that African-American students went to and that's Garfield. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Yes Garfield was it it was located right at 16th and Olympic here in Santa Monica and it is currently now the headquarters for the Santa monica-malibu Unified School District the district offices.

09:14 But at that time when my uncle started and by the way, he was the first African-American teacher to be hired in Santa Monica and he taught mainly 6th grade and he was very influential when it came to a lot of his students and his their lives and I'm thinking in terms of one student Alva nose who was a native Santa Monica and

09:51 He influenced her and encouraged her to pursue her interest in love of Art. And that was something that stood out in her mind after he's many many years and several years ago. She created a portrait of my uncle and it's a beautiful portrait of her just because of her love for what he inspired her to do. Wow. This is really interesting to me as I researched the street, but as I hear different stories, I mean, I've been here long enough in Santa Monica now that I've heard quite a few stories, but when you talk about Alva, I remember a portrait she made of Bernie's hodnett who happens to be a club member of ours and we'll talk about that a little bit but

10:49 She you know, it's that album became an artist. She did a portrait of Bernie's Hartnett and Bernice Hartnett was one of the first African while she was the first African American president of the PTA here in Santa Monica. So parent-teacher Association, so, you know, it just connecting the dots is just so exciting to me when I hear all the stories. So saying all that. I just kind of want to talk about for a minute filling made another connection that we have which is the philomethian charity Club. So let's get into it. What is the philomethian?

11:32 Will do the film avian Club is an organization that was formed in 1921 and November of 1921 here in Santa Monica by 5 African American women.

11:50 And they're there their main focus was to help people in the community who were in dire need I say if they are were lacking funds or money to in order to be able to buy food. They would help them later on. They became interested in helping women who were pregnant and they needed assistance with acquiring the basic needs for a baby back in those days. It was called layette which consisted of cloth diapers which we don't know about any more but they were cloth diapers and and baby powder and primary primarily things that they would need to care for their newborn.

12:45 Later on years many years later. They also became interested in providing scholarships for African American students and that has can continued over the many many years and it still exists as of now has and as we speak in 2020 at that's what I love most about the organization as I said we were so amazing and sisters as we call ourselves. I love belonging to that organization and my grandmother brought me and you know, it's a sponsorship organizations someone sponsors you in and was the scholarships the club members individual eats sponsor a student and I love that and to know that we give out these scholarships to deserving students every year and is just amazing. I think not lot of organization.

13:45 Really do that, but I really love the commitment of this organization being almost a hundred years old and they're still giving they're still together. I mean will the original ladies of course or not, but they continue to have the same gold mission and goals and they continue on that path, which I know that other ladies that originally started. It would be very pleased. I'm hoping they would be absolutely and I have to agree with you. There are Robbie and also to add to what you said about the scholarships. We're one of the few organizations that will carry a student for their entire four years of college, which is incredible and my hat goes off to

14:40 The founders I'm sure that they would be very pleased with what we're trying to continue and carry on their legacy. Yeah, I'm very proud to be a felony this and just really excited about the work they do to you know, let me ask maybe even back when they started or before is you do oral histories. Was there another female organization during that time you heard of that as as far as I can as far as my research has carried me to notice. I haven't seen anything like that except that recently you and I did learn about another organization that just happened to have been discovered that happened in that took place in Venice around that same time, but around that. Of time that the film Athens words

15:40 There their career or their organization. It was mainly the fraternal organizations in the women's fraternal organizations. I think they were the Eastern stars and the men wear the Masons. And and in the the Masons also do have a building here in Santa Monica that was originally built around the time that the film Macy's began. So right and their buildings are down the world couple of doors from each other. The Masons is just a few doors from where the philomethian charity Club on their property which is beauty shot consist of beauty shop barber shop, which I work in the beauty shop, but beauty shop barber shop and a school which was their original meeting Center and I remember that place when I was little they also had receptions. I remember

16:40 My uncle and aunt had a wedding reception there and waste to make the little flowers with tissue paper. Sometimes toilet paper generally toilet paper and tie the string around and they would make these beautiful bows that you would try on the car. And then you go up and down the street and is the guys call it throwing blocks and letting people go letting the rest of the wedding party go by so that's that's one of my find memories of the weddings at the Philadelphian charity club. And then here years later. I become a fellow Mason and dumb is this, you know, it's connecting the dots again, but let me just did you have something that you want to say about that?

17:27 Refresh my memory about those those wedding parties going up and down the street to page are hanging on them too. Cuz I know that you do oral histories and you were talking about Venice, you know, we talked about, you know, I do the tour you do or always streets and you know people always asking Venice. What is the connection with the African Americans in Venice in the African Americans in Santa Monica? And I know that I was you know, probably maybe not quite 10 years old when the 10 freeway came through but I want to ask you do you remember when the 10 freeway came through and what that caused in the community and how we have this connection?

18:27 Juventus as one of our sister cities like I do know that Venice and Santa Monica were very very close. They were interconnected people in Venice would come to Santa Monica to church to do their shopping and so forth and so on it was like it was very much like all one city and it was just a matter of you know, transfer transportation between the two I do remember the 10 freeway, although the 10 freeway didn't disconnect.

19:04 The relationships between the people in Santa Monica and Venice / say when it came to travel patterns, but what happened was that with the 10 freeway a lot of the friendships that had begun between people in Santa Monica and Venice were interrupted because the people that were displaced by the freeway had to move to other communities for instance like to Inglewood or Los Angeles and after awhile, you know, when you have to start traveling, you know for. Of time they up to maybe an hour 45 minutes around in there. Then you become discouraged when you want to visit somebody and we used to call it pop calling you and and my parents and and my sisters and brothers and I will get in the car on a Sunday and we drive.

20:04 To visit people. That's what you did on Sunday. I remember that that was another fond memory. It was going pop calling. I know they don't do that today, but that's how you got to visit your relatives and his relatives came from out of town on Sunday. That was just a done deal. I mean, that's just what you did course food was good to every house. We went to we have food and it was just wonderful being able to eat all those caramel cakes and everything that was made for us. But yeah, so if I can have some more questions, I want to ask you the Civic Center when the Civic Center was built. Do you remember that and what impact it had on the community?

20:53 I vaguely remember when the Civic Center was built it was based on that the

21:04 The auditorium there and I do remember people talking about the events that were eventually going to take place there. And I remember it was a big to-do. When the Academy Awards came to Santa Monica to have you know, the the the presentation and that that's mainly what I remember about the Civic Auditorium there. I do know that at at one time it was Barren land there and with their families and homes there cuz I know on the internet they have this home that's being burnt in that area to make and then the Civic Center came right after that. So do you remember anyting any families that lived in that area? I do remember some of the family's but incidentally while you're bringing up my father when he first came to, California.

22:04 In 37, he lived in the Belmont Community lived right around right down the street from the Phillips Chapel church right there at 4th and Bay and he live there along with two other men who came from Texas and he lived there until he and my mother got married and then they live there briefly together and then they moved to 18th Street here in Santa Monica and which is no longer here because the 10 freeway

22:41 Tokyo coffee again, but as you know, the nice thing about it is is that I have photographs of that house on 18th Street, which is no longer there and it varies so they call that area the Belmar area now, I was I don't remember because I guess I was too young. Do you know why they call it the Belmar they say the Belmar triangle Sanborn map on the Sanborn map. It was a Belmar of Street. It formed a triangle and it was bordered by 4th Street and 5th Street and

23:32 And also Pico and it form a triangle, so that's why they call it the Belmar triangle. Okay, and some of the other families that live there in that Community words the brunson's the Bronson Family and

23:48 The Harrington family. I know both those families, you know, it's now I know they have the big apartment buildings weather will big million-dollar condos that they now made some affordable housing which is good and they call it the Belmar for the Belmont condos or the belt Belmar apartments. And I know now we have a big project in the city all the Belmont art and history project what I'm so excited about. What do you think? What do you think about that project that's going on now?

24:24 Well, I I think it is wonderful that the the history of the community is finally coming out here to 4 like you said, you know of a lot of people were saying Belmar. Well, I don't know where that is or what what is that all about and now it's coming to the surface and people are learning more and more about it and that it was a real community and live there and I said my dad when he first came to California, that's where he lived in us and the beach is in that community in that area. It was very famous. And what was that beach call Doctor Inkwell, right, but it wasn't call the ink. Well, then I'll go back to back in there are days. It was just referred to as the beach going to have a picnic for right the July break, right? And that's what everybody knew what you know, I remember as a child.

25:24 Our family in Compton and Watson those areas when my grandmother would tell them to meet us, you know, they knew to come straight down Pico. You didn't dare deviate and go down neighborhood. Is there any other street because it wasn't too safe but I didn't realize as a little girl that The Inkwell or it as they call it now or the beach was called was a segregated Beach. I just thought that's where granny would telling people to come so they could meet us easily coming down Pico. I didn't find out until it was an adult that it was effective K Peach actually and you know the history of it but I'm like you I'm very happy that this project is happening and that the history is coming full circle a man's coming out and people will get to know about this beautiful little Beach City that African-American people had a great contribution, you know to the Sea

26:24 And I love that. I love that and speaking of contribution. So I know that you and your husband Bill had founded the Quinn Research Center. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Well, it's around ation or a it's a nonprofit for-profit organization that my husband Bill and myself we started maybe around in 2003-2004 and that came about because we both retired from school district in 2000.

27:02 And I tried substituting for a while, but that just wasn't that that wasn't something that I wanted to do and I've always kind of had a passion for living history not history that's in books in the history classes in high to him cuz I didn't like that but I've had a passion for just learning about communities and especially our surrounding community and after my uncle, dr. Quinn passed We inherited all of his books and papers and he was a great collector. He he even had his student ID from when he was in junior high school, you know, the details and and so anyway, so that's when we started thinking will you know if Uncle Al and Aunt Dottie and my mother was a collector like that too. So he said well if they were collectors in there have to be other collectors.

28:02 And so then that's when we started going around interviewing people and getting their stories and the oral history started. Do you know just influencing us and we got more and more excited. And so just one day we decided Well, we have to do something with all of this information. So we hired an archivist and she came in and organized everything. Thank goodness. She worked for the Getty and she was very precise and she helped us set up the foundation that we now have she helped us to obtain our 501 c 3.

28:43 Man, you know from there we just ventured out and we decided to you know, pay honor to our my my uncle. Dr. Quinn and that's why we call it the Quinn Research Center. If you'll notice on our little logo with the exact you for the Quin is an elephant and it has an elephant tusk because he was a collector of elephants never noticed that I never noticed it. Well will you know that is kind of you know, like at one of our third connection that I'm noticing is that I remember when you contact when I don't know, I don't know if you contacted me. I contacted you some kind of way we fell into trying to do the oral histories cuz right around the same time 2004 that I began to to have the desire to do the tours. I had just done it to work or actually I had done the tour for my family reunions back in the 80s.

29:43 They loved it so much and I brought in on mr. Arrendale who was a historian and he at the AME Church gave them this whole speech about oral histories and how important it was for them to write down their history. And so, you know, then it just I guess really then is when Black Santa Monica tour start to be born into me or it's hard to take form. And so you and I got together in 2004 start meeting at the different churches trying to bring the families in to give their histories. I mean, I remember the little paper that you had like Elementary School the little tree they could just write their family history on the tree and getting people to come out with like pulling teeth. I think we had food. We had cookies crackers soda pop everything to bring people out and they were just not ready to let go of the history.

30:43 And so but I think you know things are coming back now and I think more people at least I'm hoping that they'll come and bring their history and talk about their photos and talk about all these things that have happened here in Santa Monica a good bad and learn in different for them. And I guess I just want to say what do you think our ancestors would think about this coming full circle so to speak?

31:16 You know, I I think that they would be very amazed at at

31:22 How how things have changed in the city and the community? I'm still amazed every time I go downtown Santa Monica. It's no longer. It's it's not like I remember as a child there.

31:42 Are mini mini we used to call them skyscrapers games that are 5 and 6. So in that respect, I don't think they would be happy to see him. But I think they would be happy to see the modern conveniences and you know, they the dwelling that have evolved over the many years the modern conveniences in the apartments the homes and I I do and I'm thinking about when my mother and father had their Apartments built here in the 19th in 1945, and we have a letter from the city say that we hope that when you build these apartments

32:33 That they will not be little shacks and that they will have the latest and greatest when it comes to indoor plumbing. And this was back in 1945 and to look at the structures in the buildings. Now if it doesn't even know it's hard to imagine and see the two differences. So there's still a great asset to Virginia Avenue. I'm glad your family did build that I'm thinking of my husband of 36 years who is now deceased because I'm an activist I was you know from black student union at in high school and my husband being one of the first black student union to form the black student union in the sixties. He was in a freedom fighter activist, but you know you have before his passing in 2013, you know are being married for thirty-six years. We were constantly fighting for the rights.

33:33 Of our people especially here in Santa Monica and so on are but I remembered before he passed he also was not pleased with all of the changes. I remember hit when the street lights went up. They took the big bright street lights away, which he remember because you know, there's a street lights when your mama told you to be in before the street light came on. So he remember those street lights very well, but he didn't like the new kind of dimmer. I call it like a it's kind of like a bedroom light that they have on the street. Now, it's kind of a pinkish pinkish glow to it. And I remember him being so upset that those lights went in and now, you know, they're kind of nice, you know, I'm just gotten used to them but you know to be here in a see so many changes I agree with you. I don't know if the ancestors would be happy with all of the changes, but I know that

34:34 I particularly, you know, I've learned to live with it, but I could see my grandmother with her hands on her hips. Yeah, what is all of this? But I think that you know, something should be very pleased with and you know, maybe some others not but I want to ask you about particularly one ancestor. And that's Miss Thelma Terry because I know you are instrumental in putting a plaque on a building here at Thelma Terry Center in her honor. And what do you think she would think about this and don't tell me briefly she would be very pleased to see Virginia Avenue Park the way that it is now and and how how many young people and families utilize this facilities here?

35:31 She would not be very happy to see that. There aren't as many people actively involved in the lives and the structure and the forming of young people nowadays, but she would feel as though there is some hope and and I I do have to credit once again of Virginia park for having organizations like the parent connection, which is a move in the right direction and mrs. Terry would be pleased with that. Yes. That's as I felt she was pleased when I created out of a need in 1992 African parents do the staff support group with the log name all because we were supporting everybody at Santa Monica High School. And so then just came Parent Connection, so I have to say I'm very happy about that piece because to have it continue on

36:31 And just you know Branch off and take different forms. I'm really happy about that so stations in Silverthorne because you have done a wonderful job in the city of Santa Monica and with the high school working with the young people and their parents in so Kudos and a good work. We're proud it's a struggle, but I'll get through it. And when I look at that wall and see Thelma Terry's pictures looking over all the kids. She's my inspiration. So, thank you and you're my inspiration. So thank you for all that you do it takes it takes a village. Thank you for being part of my Village and and thank you.