Sharon Moore and Nathaniel Moore

Recorded January 2, 2020 Archived January 2, 2020 51:25 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: chi003221


Sharon Moore (53) asks her father Nathaniel Moore (91) to recall his childhood, moving to Chicago, and his experience raising a family.

Subject Log / Time Code

Sharon asks Nathaniel about his childhood in Wilson, North Carolina.
Sharon asks about Nathaniel's egg story.
Nathaniel talks about going to school.
Sharon reflects on how different her childhood was from Nathaniel's.
Nathaniel remembers being young and often thinking about his deceased other. And at one point received an epiphany.
Nathaniel talks about working at the ship yards in his early 20s.
Sharon asks Nathaniel how he got to Chicago
Nathaniel discusses COIN
Sharon says Nathaniel describes himself as a loner. He agrees.
Nathaniel and Sharon recall the families first home.
Sharon and Nathaniel talk about how Nathaniel moved to Chicago.
Nathaniel first black electrician in Chicago
Nathaniel remembers shopping around for a house and difficulties of redlining in Chicago.
Nathaniel made sure to always have books at the house for the kids.
Nathaniel liked to take the kids for trips and activities. He thought it was good for the, and he enjoyed it too.
Nathaniel and Sharon reflect on the American dream.


  • Sharon Moore
  • Nathaniel Moore

Recording Locations

Chicago Cultural Center

Venue / Recording Kit




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00:03 My name is Nathaniel Moore. My age is 91.

00:10 Today date is January 2nd 2020, Chicago, Illinois.

00:18 My location is this location?

00:28 My interview is at my name is Sharon Moore. My age is 53 today's date is January 28th, January 2nd, 2024 in Chicago. I'm interviewing my father and his name is Nathaniel more so Dad. I've been trying for a while to get you to come down to storycorps so that we could have this conversation and basically the idea that you were born in 1928. So you have lived through pretty much all of the history in the last century and it's pretty remarkable that in and of itself is pretty remarkable But ultimately, I want your story to be told because in my head you've lived the American dream

01:26 Just written small. And so I'd like to kind of talk about that. So I'll start with the very simple thing, which is when and where were you born and what were the circumstances of your life circumstances like when you're born I was born and Wilson, North Carolina.

01:46 1928

01:49 My circumstances. Where was your dad?

01:54 That my dad yet. Where is your dad at that died before you were born on essential? Okay, and then your mom she she was sick and what happened to her shortly after your birth time for a fever and she died later.

02:18 Worn maybe because you're one years old. No dad and your mom had passed away and her mother. What was her name Mary Jane Barnes more with her and she was also in Wilson.

02:38 Which in Wilson is well? Yes. Yes, you are and your mom passes away. It's a Great Depression. Were you aware? I mean obviously at 1 you weren't aware. But what was your childhood like giving the time?

02:57 My childhood was going to

03:00 What is the only way I would think everyone?

03:05 BN how do you imagine kids want their lives to be and how

03:16 Doing stuff and all that kind of stuff.

03:25 Kind of dog do the factor that Arrow? I don't know pretty picture. So

03:42 I didn't really get a chance to.

03:46 Fear the way you guys sell.

03:49 You guys beating me at me. So I want you to paint a picture of what your young years were like during the Great Depression living with your grandma. Would you have enough food was their money? Like tell me the stuff? You told me it's very poor and what it look like.

04:11 Very very bad.

04:24 You know, my grandmother had she had kids or phone just 6 kids write five 6 somewhere and when she took in you and your two older brothers. Yeah. So let's Nine-Nine kids with her husband, 35 35, 20, 27 28. We're all of them still at home though. He might give you a married and Josh is one is that he was still at home?

05:08 And Steve, he was still at home and Lucille was still at home and actually she died and

05:20 I think I'll go buy all the bases that you and your brothers. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

05:32 Is in a big city right back then like what would you say the population was back then?

05:41 I have no idea. It was smaller Country Town Country and if you were struggling for food and stuff like that wear their resources in town that help you or like. What did you guys do? Like I did when I did you make it where are my grandmother did have some place that you go and you can pick up food or something like that every I don't know. I don't know but

06:14 You're on your own if you go out there and you do what you do to make sure your grandma had a sister, right? Yes, you did live in Wilson property in the country. And so what was her role and how was she happy? She's given with food and stuff and you had a story about chickens and eggs. We should we share that with me. So I went with my grandmother. I'll just see your sister like we used to do.

06:59 I was out and she had a level and I was out in the woods messing around I came across a nest of eggs.

07:08 So I don't know why I figured it was free. Fall with me and help. How old are you by the way at this point?

07:26 67907 Kenmore Porsche from my grandmother got ready to leave. I just pick my jacket up with the eggs and jacket and eggs.

07:57 Oh, man, you know she had chickens all over the place, but I went off cross the road and right legs and I didn't know that I was walking and it was great seeing you when you saw those eggs fall out. What were you thinking? I'm thinking.

08:27 I just thought I would let me know where you were you sad because you lost the eggs. Were you were you scared? You're going to get in trouble. Like what we what were you thinking when they spring? Yeah, cuz I had to explain why there was I think it was hanging out with taking it from her sister, but I wasn't so that's why I took him. I mean, I just some eggs and my grandmother was sitting there when it come from either, so I'm the only Witness

09:09 Can you swear I got that right?

09:17 Why are they thought I was trying to text with your with your brothers and some of your uncle's with your grandma your grandma sister would help you guys work at the hospital.

09:47 Do people still hustling right American Hustle today in Chicago? So what kind of hustles did you have to go around and pick up bottles and you know back then they re process to buy a pop bottles and stuff milk. So they pick them up to where we going. Okay, so you would collect bottle.

10:17 Cut lawns during shoes

10:22 Tell me we were waiting for the train right we're waiting for the metro and you were looking down at the tracks and you told me this morning. You told me about something that used to collect.

10:32 Iron on the on the railroad tracks going to replace stuffed and they spikes and stuff on the ground. What kind of River Road and pick up correct me if I'm wrong cuz like I've Heard lots of your stories, but those were like some of your side hustles. But yeah, who's that to buy to make yourself a little box and also to buy and was that money just for you or did you share that money with the family? Like what happened to the little money that you make sure I don't I sent this for me.

11:32 Can you remember anything that used to buy yourself? Candy soda soda food would you say that?

11:47 Getting food was like a main priority when you because you didn't have a lot so tell me about cuz I know that this was the case tell me about the impact of not having food that that had on your education.

12:06 Dampak is yes, but

12:13 How do you mean impact guys? You said you said many times. You told me that when you were in school. You couldn't concentrate you think about eating and I'll be thinking about food right now.

12:41 So many mornings you go off to school with nothing to eat. And then you said you lived close enough that you can go home to eat during the during their recess or whatever, but I wouldn't you know, they had food in cafeteria in the school when I go in I could see you had to pay $0.10 whatever it is, but I didn't have the money so you could meet up so back then there was no like free let you know like so there's no free lunch, even if they knew that you were hungry.

13:26 The school will give you food.

13:29 So, what did you do? I didn't I asked him but I knew that you were going to get it.

13:41 So how far did you go in school? I went to.

13:48 Before I quit

13:51 I was only for 5th grade and why did you quit ultimately the money and nothing is true for your for your brother leave school early. Like I am not lingering on this like it as a way to like, hopefully not to make you feel bad. That sounds like I'm going to bring on that part is

14:30 My childhood as your daughter, like I know that we like as an adult. I know that like we were never Rich we never had a lot of money, but we were never hungry either and when I went to school, I wasn't thinking about food. I was running to the bank and the other thing is from the time that I can remember certainly has the youngest of the family. There was never a moment where School wasn't like the most important. There are like it was clear from you and Mom and it was always understood.

15:09 Cuz I don't actually remember you ever like sending me down and saying Sharon you're going to go to college like I don't remember ever hearing that you can't make a person learn but you put the situation. Where are they?

15:26 Is there is comfortable and you can go out and do what you want to do? Why would your mind tell you to do? You know the thing it's always seems like sort of mysterious to me. How you and Mom cuz you know Mom graduate from school, but she didn't go beyond that. All of us are college graduates on The Barbers get her, you know, she's a lawyer. I have a Ph.D it always

15:59 Like I never understood where that came from for you because it's not as if you had examples in your life to say this is what you need to do. You need to go to school. So my question is how did you get there? Like how did you know like how did you know that this is the direction? You should push your kids. How did you know that you should fill the house with books when that wasn't the life you had like, where'd that come from? That's what you want to do.

16:31 Put

16:33 Put the versus priorities up there what you want to do. Do you want to be rich you want to report you on cars and you have to educate you. Hey, you got to go to school and nobody going to make you do it. You got to do it on your own I get that but how did you know to do it for yourself? Even if

17:03 I think it was a

17:07 I'm very proud of my mother my dead mother and I play with myself. All right, but I always thought you know that I could dream to me one day you won't believe this one day. I'm sitting now and I'm thinking I would like a young.

17:34 You got to go out and get it ain't nobody going to do it for you. You know, you got to go out and make life easier for yourself.

17:46 Any auto can help out the spot.

17:50 So you got it. You got to have to do work. Right and you feel like that was your mom speaking to you. No kids kids.

18:05 Motivated motivated

18:10 How old are you? Do you think roughly when when you had this like this thing happen?

18:17 It just happens to you. Don't know anyone looking for it. Just come to you one day. I guess come too late. I got yourself together. And so what did you do? So so something came to you your mom spoke to you? Yeah when it said get yourself together. Otherwise you going to get left. So what it's so what did you do? Like, what was the process of you? Give me a trade at memora Vape my kids. So just to go back for a second. So you lived your life in Wilson. Ultimately you whine you wound up being drafted into the Korean War 2 years. You went overseas your brother one of your brothers was there with which brother James

19:17 Family, right? Right and ultimately you wind up coming back you working on the docks in Portsmouth know I will tell me the different cuz I have in my on the inside the ship. That was something I was James went into that part time you're doing that and you're roughly how old them like that came out in the 20s and

20:15 I know you mentioned this yesterday that you took steps to extend your education cuz you said you had to leave in fourth grade American College of American Education or something like that.

20:38 It just getting through canvas products. So they sent you material what you sent it back to them and they send you move it to her, right? So.

20:48 Then I got to thinking.

20:52 So where am I going? I mean I must have something doing this. I must have something motivation in my life. So I figured that okay, if I go, I'm going to come out and get your AR Bill take up a trade.

21:10 Then you can help motivate your kids and hope you do, you know the kids on why I like you you don't really quickly before we go back to the education thing. Were you scared when you get drafted because like they're not cuz I will see you. I know that you could get killed but I don't have nothing anyway. All right, so it's a crapshoot. I'm having to you come back and do what you got to do. And if it don't you shut up. I don't have no money so I could not take the trailer to the GI bill was like today if

22:10 I mean, I guess we live in a crazy world is so that I can see why people don't join the military, but it's definitely an Avenue today. Yeah, that's a depressing thought you knew you're going to use the GI bill you go to Korea you come back you start the correspondence and you are living in United Wilson anymore. Where you at now when you're working in the shipyard, Portsmouth, Virginia in your early twenties in Portsmouth, Virginia to Chicago cuz my brother my brother had a relative live in Portsmouth. So they remove the voicemail and then you guys followed but how did you get from Portsmouth to Chicago? Because as far as I know you didn't have any relatives here, you didn't know anybody here.

23:10 So high, I feel like I have nothing to lose but I got to try. So anyway, you could have gotten schools in Chicago magazine and just to let you know that I started looking at it right in the bed looking at it looking at days and days out.

23:45 I got to thinking this is a good Avenue for me. And then I had to do all the paperwork and then

24:02 But where'd you get the money to get up here?

24:05 I worked in a shipyard like that much money like no I went in I I save $25 a month paper tomorrow and I get to set it aside so I can know what I was doing. I was saving Bond savings bonds bright and it burns buy for $500.

24:40 So I took that money. I'm watching Chicago Cubs Chicago. So school is going to be paid for it because you're the GI bill they were going to pay for what you needed to have money to live. Yeah. I have a back-up plan for the $500 for a backup just in case I hope I didn't need it. But if I did I could reach back that $500 bonds work you can you take your money you buy the bond. So when you came up here, did you physically have $500 or did you have $500 worth of savings bonds before you came up and you didn't know anybody so when you took the bus here to help you get situated and where where did you live when you first got to Chicago YMCA one night night.

25:40 Help us get living quarters and individual like you had to share with people. They were other men who were going to coin tell me about coin Institute where you learn how to do TV and work on to fix TV electrical wiring and air conditions and all that stuff and you did all of it. Like you didn't just focus on everything I could possibly text. It's so how long were you in like how long the program is that? You're going to rain? Did you know you're also working while you're going to school?

26:31 What a part-time job living in this little place. You're in right? What was the next episode of major?

26:55 Like life change after that.

26:58 Well of living together and you got different people's, you know, everybody's different you got to learn how to live with other people navigate navigate. Okay, and yes, I've been in the Army. So it was kind of easier for me to to just about the gesture that yeah, you describe yourself. I'm pretty sure you said it in the interview today, but I know you said it in the past and you definitely said it last night. We're talkin you describe yourself as a loner. Yeah, where'd that come from? Cuz you were surrounded by people to mean

27:42 All right. I don't know why I could see these guys my age and they didn't want to go nowhere and yes, it would sit on the corner and talk and I was three years is too long. I can go to school and all that stuff and I just

28:05 What is this where I'm not a follower, so I'll follow follow you have a lot of friends because he will follow myself. Sometimes. I'm just my trailer I can think better when I'm by myself.

28:34 Can I ask a question about what like what was what was the next major event? Really the next major event at least from my perspective is Mom and getting married and starting at your mother-in-law. And then you get married bam. You have the first child right? And it bam bam bam bam. You have an awesome like that. It was back-to-back and

29:04 You were living in like what was the first place you and Mom had before before that was born. What was their first place? Where was watching Boulevard? And then what you had not and then the other kids and that was public housing rent.

29:40 You know what's of people who are born into public housing spend their whole lives in public and you did not go down that run right you and Mom have family movies, August 2nd.

29:55 I'm not sure. I want to go out you have to go to bathroom.

30:03 Out in the hallway

30:07 Crazy

30:10 I think you pull it straight straight out the door.

30:40 You guys got your pretty early so we got

31:09 If I say something that will it be cut out of the of the recording a rape? Yeah, I'll tell you afterwards.

31:22 The experience of interviewing him and talking to him is very interesting because he's

31:29 It's clear that he's waiting like he still speaking to you. I keep trying to get him to this talk to me, but he is very distracted.

31:41 Right, right, right. You got nothing. Oh, yeah for sure.

31:47 Yeah, he should get these.

31:56 Sexy question I'm asking because

32:00 I think part of it is because he's a loner he's a very he's always kept his own counsel. And so

32:09 I think he's fine with the idea that anybody could like clicking and hear his story because he can't see them hearing his story. And right now he's like

32:20 I'm saying these things about my life and there's somebody who doesn't know me who's hearing my story and yeah, it is worth it. Cuz I was thinking if the tables were turned like I I would have any problems like just like keeping my focus here, but it definitely would be an interesting.

32:39 It would be interesting to see if I would self-censor. Absolutely.

32:47 Right, right. Right, right. It's definitely want her to do it, but

33:00 Generationally, I'm just you know, they're there just very bad generation. Very private their very very private people and it's on the one hand like like a I think a self-sustaining mechanism that they absolutely needed but the downside of that is it makes it hard to get their stories because even with their own like loved ones, there's a you know, this reluctance to like go certain places. It's this isn't about judging you. I just want to know, you know, this is very interesting from that perspective. Yeah, like I want to know and you know the fact that you're 91, right like

33:40 How many chances are we going to have so I can get you to tell the stories so

33:50 But we do have two openings today.

33:54 Yeah, I'm going to I'm going to work on her we're going up. We're going to lunch afterwards and I'm going to work on it. And if she doesn't do it today, I'm going to get her to come. I think once she can actually hear his I'll be fine.

34:12 Okay. Now I'm have to try and the kids if you're living at 1314 West 15th Street. So what I was saying is that lots of people who are born into into public housing stay in public housing. How did you go from? 1314 West 15th Street Markham. How did that happen? And why why did you even want to make it happen. I know I want to go.

35:02 My house so hot but I did I say but but why did you like I guess my question is lots of people. I'm sure who started in that in that housing project with you. Why were you like what what motivated you why did you want to get out?

35:21 From me and the kids and they don't want to sell bird. You got more oxidized you can play on a backyard. So if you know, it makes it better for the kids. So you saved mom was born where

35:46 How much is ATT and I don't want to Sidetrack but I do want to ask this question. You were one of the first or the first black actual electrician at ATT house. You know that I told you that that had to be something by the way.

36:10 Would you would you say that?

36:13 You faced.

36:16 Racism on the job as the first black electric and what made you keep going back? Cuz I'm sure when easy.

36:25 Why do you keep going back when you were being treated poorly by by racist circumstances? So I figured I could beat the system easily swayed. So your saver you're working two jobs. Mom was working. How did you manage to get out to Mark? And cuz there are plenty of neighborhoods in Chicago on the southwest side where you could have bought houses white. Why did you make it all the way out to Markham funnel into neighborhoods women?

37:04 Did you look at places in the city like houses to buy in the CSA? And then you ultimately chose Markham you were the second house on the Block we're on is that right 3rd Larry for but I hear stories and they feel like my memories cuz I've heard in my whole life about you and Mom I'm taking the kids out there to watch the house being built. So you are like on the weekend you go out there.

37:37 We would 7 shares you still in that 57 Chevy, you know, I don't know if you know this or not. But as a kid one of my dreams is that I was going to get wealthy enough that I could buy you a red 57 Chevy Sunday.

38:02 Subscribing

38:04 How much is 6 Ram 6 round pay more than that, I guess about 13 14 today $70,000.50.

38:19 But yeah the family so you got to say I love that car. So you wind up in Markham. Ultimately. I remember as a kid about living in Markham is we had a better library right? Then our little school had Ralph Bunche. God bless. It did not have a very good library and we had a ton of books in the house where they come from.

38:49 Come from I'm planning you guys. I want you to have access to this and if you can go to the library and be more I thought it would be more.

39:02 Airport

39:04 Easier access to be able to have it right in the house. Most of the books right as you can read anytime you get ready, you know, so I remember the encyclopedia the first ones that I can remember we're red and then that second set that came along with the SEC way and gold and I think there's a story behind that set of encyclopedias with weight.

39:34 Some of the ones that when your brother won a contest

39:41 At what kind of Concepts what kind of contest was?

39:46 I forget them what exactly what that what it was doing a joke remember maybe I was alive but I was a little kid, but apparently he had to like write a joke joke you have his mom says we can remember the joke because it's pretty cool that he won that set of his I guess there's one if you go to biology I think of human biology or something go to the H's in the it has this really cool like map of the human body and it's like you can see through it and it's layered over like the muscles but I just used to stare at that thing fascinated by it. And you know, I talked about I talked about them to my friends at school and they're like, I never seen anything like that. It was really cool to like have

40:46 Those things in the house, where is the people that I was going to school with? They haven't had to go to the public library when let's face. It. Markham's library at the time. It was much nicer now time. It was pretty limited and the school library was pretty much non-existent. So we had this like enormous Advantage because we have the stuff look at her fingertips, you know today course people have computers, but we had the encyclopedia and that was something the other thing that was that stands out about my childhood is that you would take us places you and Mom and tell me about that because it's not like you and Mom when you were little

41:27 You did a lot of traveling or went to place is so hot. Like where did that come from for you?

41:33 How did you know to do that for us? I don't really do this in me videos things you should do.

41:41 Because they have the kids know these things I do and all that stuff and it just reading about it. But it's a feel it. It's a different and these are some of the signs

42:00 I thought you should know and it was okay with me to that we used to take was to go to the airport and it's not that we are flying out out anywhere. We would have a picnic and we like watch the planes what was behind that for you? I'll tell you what, I thought would it would still be white. Why did you take us to the airport?

42:32 Educational, you know. Right brain go somewhere. I knew exactly like watch these planes and never once dawned on me that we weren't going anywhere like that somehow that was a deficit that we weren't getting on the plane and going anywhere. I thought it was awesome to like sit there in like what's the planes fly and I realized as an adult like the first time that I went out of the country you like my first trip out of the country. I went to Dublin Ireland and I remember thinking and I was and I was scared cuz I never been out of the country, but I remember thinking to myself. I wonder how much more afraid I would be if I hadn't had all those experiences when I was little I'd like going to the airport at 1 or so before

43:32 Before we have to wrap up. I want to ask you one question. And that is how would you define the American dream? And do you think you lived it? Do you think you're living it?

43:43 Yes, I think so. Find it for me first. Why are you see this thing as you try to do develop right before your eyes, you know, you can say hi to you and your brothers and sisters and brothers are y'all went to college and then and then and you look so, you know, that's not bad.

44:10 But the first time I was playing I was on I want went to

44:16 My mother and my grandmother died when you were coming home career, I came home.

44:23 And when I came home or are you for a funeral then I had to go back. So here's what I figured I bring one. Okay, I will miss my plan. And if I miss my printer won't send me back. So what I did I called him up and said look, I don't have no money.

44:48 I can't make so they say.

44:55 Where are you? I found a reference Street in Portsmouth, Virginia.

45:00 20 minutes from now.

45:04 In the world truck, 20 minutes

45:09 Get away with anything. Yeah, but this is where I'm going to get your going back. I was coming over coming over Pacific.

45:33 I have to look at the wing.

45:36 And smoke was coming out.

45:39 Hell I'm saying know what I ain't no damn playing before so I'm looking at this some more.

45:47 Ascendant do they notice?

45:51 So what happens if we had to stop and illusion Islands?

45:58 And get it fixed.

46:00 But hey, I could have went down over there weren't we're going to wrap up soon. But I want to tell you what I think I think that in general in our society people think of the American dream as being intimately connected with money and wealth and it's not at all how I think of the American dream and I think that's because I'm the daughter of you and Mom because that's not how you like projected it in my mind like an American success story is one of starting someplace wherever that place is and then moving right and when I think about the journey that you made from some little town in Wilson, North Carolina right at the start of the Great Depression,

46:56 And leaving school in fourth grade and not having a dad your entire life when you were one.

47:05 2 today be 91 years old on your own home having five children who all went to college and some on there like graduate degrees is pretty impressive. Right? And I think that it's it's an unfortunate thing that in our society that kind of story is the thing that we Harold like the thing we hear old is, you know, the technocrats who developed Google or Amazon or the billionaire that's impressive in like whatever it's great. Many of them were born in the money so many self-made and I think that we would be a completely different Society in a better one if we recognized all the men and women with live the kind of life that you and Mom have lived like

48:02 It humbles me right that I come from you and that I come from Mom. So I just want to say that I think your life has been an amazing success, and I'm really really glad that you were willing to come into this booth and it and I know it's awkward and tell your story for the world to be able to hear not just like, you know, me and the siblings and other people in the extended family to hear, but the fact is anybody now can like press a button and pick up a boner look online and hear about your story, and I thank you for for spending time in an awkward situation in order to let the story be heard. So, thanks.

48:53 Nope.

48:57 This is been a nice trip. And is it I think that

49:04 My situation I think it was very lucky, you know, you could have been either way. I mean, I'm going out to a swimming hole.

49:19 And I couldn't swim but I seen what anyway I didn't know about this, but you don't know where I'm 19 years old. She can't keep up with me. So we watch the kids went down to the swimming hole swimming and your parents something happened at least tried to the kids. Everybody started running and jumping over there was all quicksand.

49:51 Addiction act you have to jump over a reminder to tell me a quick favor and all of a sudden. I don't know what happened. I don't know how I got to this day. I do not know how I got out of the ditch, but quick and grab you so something mysterious when you say imma go back to me, but maybe with your mom. You said that look like directed you she could have been directing you. I have no complaints.

50:41 All right. We're good K. Can we do this again?