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First Person > Dr. Ruth B. Loving

Dr. Ruth B. Loving: Full Interview

portrait of Dr. Ruth B. Loving

Interview Clip #1:
Ruth Loving's Early Life, Education, and Interest in Music

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Audio also available in MP3 format

NM: Today is Thursday, September 17th, 2008.

RL: Not Thursday. This is Wednesday.

NM: Wednesday...

RL: Well, the... [garbled]...'cause I got something else to do on Thursday. [laughs]

NM: ...Wednesday, September 17th, 2008, and we're at the Memorial Libraries at the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association in Deerfield, Massachusetts. And, this is Nathalie McCormick interviewing Ruth B. Loving, with Lee Hines, doing technical assistance.

RL: Can you hold it? I'm...I'm sorry, I have to retract that introduction. I'm Dr. Ruth Loving. I have a humanities...uh, honorary degree in the humanities. I don't use a title all the time; people get after me 'cause I don't use it, but I'm really Dr. Ruth B. Loving.

NM: Dr. Ruth B. Loving...

RL: ...in the humanities.

NM: Well, why don't we start? Would you start with your telling us who you are, your date of birth, where you were born, and tell us some things you'd like us to know about your early life.

RL: Okay...you ready? Oh boy. [chuckles] Um...my name is Ruth...I'm sorry. I started wrong myself. I'm Dr. Ruth B. Loving. I was born in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, on May 27th, 1914...little while ago. Ah...but I left there when I was about four years old because the world war...was coming...one was coming on and my dad and his seven children, Ma, moved to New Haven, Connecticut, from Phoenixville, to work in Winchester...where the guns were being made for our ... army at the time, the United States Army, and uh, I stayed there until I was about oh...twenty–two, twenty–three years old, went to school there, ...graduated from Hillhouse High School, New Haven, and I was their last of seven children who did go and graduate from school there in New Haven. ...One of my sisters went to Boardman Trade... The other one went to ... Commerce High School there, we have in ...New Haven. And the boys, they went through the trade school, ... Boardman Trade School in New Haven. So we all had very good educations ...when we came out of school. ... I was very disappointed...I wanted to go to college because a cousin of mine, an only child, was going to college there. I think he went to Bentley College. But my mother sat down and explained to me that we were poor. We...we uh, they didn't have money like that. Then colleges were just up in the hundreds of dollars which meant a lot of money to them. So I didn't get to go to college. Um...had a fruitful time during the school year. My first participation...I remember when they had a ...drum corps that were open all around the nation at the time, and ... I was at, ...Gregory Street School in the sixth grade. They were organizing a fife and drum corps, and I was very excited because musically...I liked music, and I was about uh, twelve years old, and I remember going home saying, Ma, I wanted to join the fife and drum corps. ...That was back in nineteen hundred and, let's say, um, 1920s. ...Girls really didn't mix with boys. I didn't know it was an all–boy outfit. I knew I wanted to learn how to play the fife, and uh...I remember my brother, one of my brothers, Louis, got excited, said, she can't join that! That's got boys in it, Ma! Said well, if she wants to join, we'll find out from the principal if they'll allow her to join that, she can join it. And they were aghast! And I was the only...I have a picture of that, me in the white sailor suit which was our outfit, joined when I was about twelve years old, and uh ...played in the Gregory Street School Fife and Drum Corps, and I was just as proud as I could be, playing in the uh...only girl...and so that I guess I was like, when we did parades, they wanted to see me, not so much as the other things, and I got kinda used to that, with that kind of an attitude of ...if I wanted to do things that made sense, do them! And this [garbled]...

NM: So what did you do when you finished high school? You graduated from high school...

RL: Well, the things about my high school years were great, for the simple reason I remember signing up to go to Hillhouse High School...then, you had to take a foreign language, and I chose...selected French for the simple reason, I liked French songs, little ditties, and Eartha Kitt was very popular in those days, and I... took French for four years, and J?di parle en francais un petite aussi, today, and um, I'm just wondering why it is youth don't do that today in these schools around here in Massachusetts, have them take a language, but that's another thing. I enjoyed my school life.

Interview Clip #2:
Ruth's Experience in the Cotton Club and Getting Married

Audio also available in MP3 format

RL: Then my mother wanted to know, what did I want to do when I got out of high school, and I said to her, I'd like to be a singer. First, because I was playing the piano, and my mother could get that fifty cents together where I was going to a teacher for fifty cents in those days. ...I was being taught organ, uh, there...at twelve, thirteen years old, from our um...minister of music, Professor [John] Cadette. Only thing I couldn't reach the base pedals on the floor, but he taught me how to play the double console organ, pipe organ there in New Haven, and I learned how to play the organ without using the base notes and how to turn it on...so I had a very musical life, and in time, that my sister, older sister married and went to New York to live, and we began to hear about the two Jewish brothers who opened a nightclub. It was pretty important to people who were coming from overseas I said maybe, ... before I went to New York, that I might be able to get a job singing with Lillian someplace in one of those nightclubs or something, and Ma agreed..."she should go and try." Uh...but they were auditioning the time that I went there ...like in the...oh, June, July area, for dancers ...to be in the chorus line for their fall presentation of Cotton Club. It was becoming kinda well known and I said, well rather than singin, maybe I, I could do a little tap dancing, a little soft shoe that I used to do with my brothers, so I...so anyhow, I auditioned. And uh, during the July and August months, we practiced and did our, our shuffling and tap dancing and soft shoe and had it down, and it opened in September, in the fall of the year for the regular season, the holiday season. And the night, the night they gave us our, our...costume to wear...there was older women who used to take care of me 'cause I was young then...

NM: How old were you?

RL: Eighteen...eighteen, and um... and I looked at ...[the costume] and I held it up and said, wh..where's the other part? Where's the skirt? And she...they just said to me, put it on! I said, yeah, but where's the rest of it, 'cause it was just like a little strip...I learned that was a bra then. And um...there were these little, little panties, and I said, ... uh, I uh, I wanted a skirt, and no...anyhow, I put it on...put it on, and then there were six little...we were given six little...six uh...peacock feathers, with the long...part of their stems to it, that went in the back, the rear of our little pants we had on, so that uh, so that...I'm not even gonna look at your face... so that when we did our shaking and our steps, those feathers would left... and right... when you went left and right. And alls I could think of was, oooh, my goodness, I had nothing down in...in between my little strip across my bra and, and my panties. I said, kept saying to myself, oooohhh, my mother. I hope she not...don't come to the club, 'cause I g...we, uh, we didn't dress like that in those years there in twenties. Anyhow, my sister was allowed to be a guest...to sit along side there near the front row, and I remember when I was shaking, you know, I looked over at her, and all her mouth was wide open and so was her husband's, and I just kept dancing, kept dancing...so when it was over, Lillian came...my older sister came over, walked up, she just....you can't stay here! I'm gonna have to tell Ma what you're doing. I said, yeah, but look at the money I'm getting! Nah! Couldn't...anyhow, she called Ma, and told Ma...Ma told me come home. I didn't even spend the rest of the week. No, Ma wanted me right home before the end of the week. I was not to be in any kind of entertainment like that. And I was...

NM: So you had one performance?

RL: No, I had to tell them I had to go. I couldn't stay! But they had substitute girls to go in...but that was...uh...I think I was very happy to have taken off, because I wasn't geared to undress to entertain. A singer, you know, keeps a well dressed...nice gown. So that was my first experience in entertainment and watching what I was getting into. Ma made me come home. She said, no, no, no...I had to go...but over the years I began to um...be a part of activities. I was hearing the...about the NAACP. My mother was trying to save a little money to pay for her ...dues for the NAACP and we could hear her, people coming up from the southern states, stopping off at New Haven, and I would be listening to the reason why they was coming up from the south, 'cause the way they were being treated, ...like my sister married at the time...he came up from Savannah, Georgia, because his average wage was less than five dollars a day; where he came up, and he... got on the New York pay department, I think, and his pay was then something like five dollars an hour because he drove one o' those great big department of public works trucks. Then I learned and I listened as Ma was telling me this new organization was forming to help the Negroes here in the United States to live a better life. And I'll never forget that I've got to put my pennies in so I could get what they called a youth membership, and I joined the youth membership of the NAACP, and went to their meetings and listened what was happening. And then, she...oh...then later...let's move up a little further...I get married and...Minor Loving...and ...he was a drycleaner, went to Boston because...a crew of 'em hung out together where they would go different states and make the highest monies in that dry–cleaning field, and they went to...so he came to New Haven, but they got a better offer for the group out of Boston about a year or two later. And that's when I married him, and then we went off to Boston...and...to Shay Cleaners who then was opening up a four–hour place. It was a thing then in those years, ... to have the um, a four–year hour cleaners. And oh they was massing it all around cities you went to, and they came and set up one here.

Interview Clip #3:
Ruth talks about the Great Depression, and Voting

Audio also available in MP3 format

RL: Now in between that there time though, there was the, the days of the Depression when, ...everything when I say was rationed, it was rationed. And I remember my ...brothers, ...two oldest brothers, Alexander and Louis. They were out of high school, too, of course; they were older than I was, and they were trying to get jobs. And the only job they could get at the time...Franklin Delano Roosevelt wanted the youth to come and clean up the areas, work in the green areas, so they joined up the Conservation Corps, the young men did. And...

NM: Now were they older brothers?

RL: Yeah, oh yeah. I was the youngest of seven children, and they were the oldest boy after the three girls and um, I had three brothers. And those two got a chance to um..go out to the corps. They were...um...left New Haven, Connecticut, at the time, and I think they were...went out west to where they stayed out there, where they...I think they had dormitories and things. I could hear my mother explaining it to friends where they were at. But they were making good money by the week that they sent home to help their parents and things, and help those...very good. Rationing was, was, was pretty tough in those days. When they say rationing, they were rationing food [garbled 00:13:15] so that if you had so many in the family there, you got just so much and that was it, unless you have extra money to buy it with. And um...that was the depression years...the only thing that I was surprised is I was listening to a man in Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, even though he couldn't walk too well 'cause of his paralysis, he was, in my mind, was a great gentleman because he seemed to be doing things to help the little man. And, everything he...[garbled 00:13:50] time to ...he knew the people couldn't afford to take ...to have retirement fund, but he said, now if you put money away, you'll have it over the years, which is our soc security. And as I grew older, listened to Mama and Dad, heard them talking, they, they figured, oh, that was great. Now, in my mind, I said, yeah, that is kinda great. You don't have to try to put a savings account together 'cause you're automatically saving it, by them taking out of your pay. Then came the Medicare. They knew a lot of people could not afford...that's when we thought the um...the health issues there were pretty high...not comparable to 2008 back there in the twenties, thirties, forties, and the fifties, and...and he...Roosevelt felt very strongly that, that there should be some way where, in along with that money that we're taking out for Social Security, some of it should go for medical care for those of us who couldn't afford it, and that's how Medicare came about. And I lived in those years where in that ... president, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's magic smile, fireside chat that Ma and Dad used to sit down and listen to, and I, I would listen along with them, too. And I could look at their faces. They were pleased with what he was saying. And so I began to be then, wanting to be involved with groups politically like that, and that's what I said, as soon as I got to be old enough then, I was...that was before I was eighteen, that I was going to vote. And I've been voting ever since until today. I don't think...there's one year...I think one year it rained so bad I couldn't get to the, to the polls, but I voted every year, and um...sometimes I was talking to myself when I went 'cause they changed things years ago, and you didn't know it 'til you got to the, to the station there, um...But voting became a part of my life as I grew up. Wherever I went, when I moved to Boston, I registered right away so in case there was election and so forth, I'd be able to vote. Came to Springfield and did the same thing when I moved here to Springfield in the early forties. The um...my life has been a part of, of people and activities. I um, sang in a youth choir and learned to play the organ when I, I got a little older there, I was playing piano, for accompaniments for people, and I liked music and I got to sing. I got to sing with singing groups. Uh...when I moved up to Boston, ...I got so that ...my husband felt very strongly that I should have something I could do in case he died or something. We were just married; he said, in case he got sick and couldn't do it, he said, I know you sing, and that's when you went out to sing, you just couldn't walk up to the microphone. You had to have a license to sing if you wanted to get...as a group. You just couldn't go up and join a group and sing like you do today.

NM: You had a license to sing...

RL: You had a license to...

NM: ...in a group? Or you had a license to sing...on the radio. RL: No, you got a license to sing, as a singer. You could sing with any group, see. And um, that's where I started getting the, entertainment license out of Boston, uh, to sing, ...that word, gig...uh...up there. And, uh, when we moved sh...well, we only stayed up in Boston about three years. We moved down to Springfield. I got...known as Ruth Loving, Loving with the Loving Trio. I had the piano, guitar, and bass. And um...music then seemed to be in the field that I was in.

Interview Clip #4:
Ruth talks of performing, "Anyone can eat at our table", and of Black people moving North from the South

Audio also available in MP3 format

NM: What sort of music did you perform?

RL: Both religious and secular music. Um...so I came up in the church. Church was my ...my activity...for meeting the young boys that my brothers complained about. ...And um, going out, playing for other people; you met people from other churches, other activities. Uh, it took me out with, ...people. ...and I liked people. ...and when I say "people", even though I'm an African American, I mean people. I don't look at a color of people, and when I was a little girl, I remember I had friends and I remember I was taught that, though. I remember the first time I learned about discriminatory action and I didn't know then. I must've been about six years old, and my oldest brother Alexander had a friend, Tony. And I know Tony came in one night and I hear...heard...to...to...to Alec that he wanted to stay and have dinner...he liked the dinner my mother was having, 'cause he had to go home. And I remember I'm listening and Ma says, well you can stay, but you have to go ask your mother first. He lived down the street, and he went back...he came back, the two of 'em, and I'm looking at him again, and uh, he said the mother said he could, but come home when the dinner was over. And uh, I looked up and I said to my mother, he not gonna...eat our dinner! And I remember...Ma said, well absolutely! Now go sit down, go sit down. And she...I could see her fixing a plate for Tony and Alec and the rest of us. And Pa was at the end of the table, and I kept looking at him, looking at him...Tony...and I says to 'im, wasn't gonna eat, 'cause I didn't like Tony. Tony couldn't...couldn't set at the table. He was white. And my mother took me...she says, c'mere. And she took me out to the kitchen, and she...and she said, look. Anybody can eat at our table, you hear me? You don't go by who they are. I said, yeah, but...And she'd, no. Any body can eat at our table, okay? Anybody. Anybody. She says, now you remember that. Remember that as long as you live. Anybody can eat at your table. And as I grew older, I knew then that...I learned that I was looking at him because of his color because I was hearing it as a youngster, you understand? But I had a mother who was wise...

NM: What had you heard as a youngster? RL: Well, as a youngster, you're hearing of the southern people who were coming up from the southern states, and the cousins and uncles and nieces were stopping, who knew Ma and Pa. And you...I'd listen, and they were coming up, leaving their homes that they didn't want to leave because of how they were being treated by the people the worked for who were white. You take the women that didn't want to...had to take care of the children, had to cook the meals and stuff...they wanted to come up here where they could do either one, take care of either the house or the children. And the men came up because they wanted to take care of the families, not on a little bit of money, five or ten dollars a week. They wanted...they knew up North that they had uh...maybe twenty–five or thirty dollars a...that they could get in a couple of days and kinda feed their families. So what I was hearing is...is...these people down South...'cause they weren't treating us like that up in New Haven, Connecticut. I could...hear...to 'em saying that they to go back doors to eat, they couldn't eat at restaurants. I could eat down in Newberry's and um...uh...the five–and–ten cent store, to the Kresge?s, et cetera, and I couldn't understand then at uh...eight, nine, ten, ele...yea...I couldn't understand until I got older this discrimination that were going on.

Interview Clip #5:
Ruth talks about "separation of the races", including school, housing, and bussing

Audio also available in MP3 format

RL: Then there's the kids that went away to college...they was talking about they could only go and sit in certain places down in southern states where a lot of them were going to school at. Then I learned that there was a separation of the races. Race! It was done because of their race, not because they were bad or rebellious or anything. And that's when I...I felt too, along with my mother, that was wrong, and that anybody should be allowed, like Tony, who sat at our table...if he had permission from his mother, he should be allowed to sit down and eat with us. And that's what he should...now that's the way I saw growing up with that. And I'm still that way...same way today, that the uh, cord that we have around this great country should belong to any of us if we want it. We work for it. We should have it. And it should...even the immigrants coming to this city, if they're...they're trying to do the same thing that we did years ago, work for their families to bring them and have the things that they wish for their kind of happiness, they should be allowed to do it. The only thing is, I don't think it feels as though if there're uh, rules and regulations that they're not following to get into the country, I think that needs to be taken care of. But they should be allowed the same privileges as I who live here. And, as I say, my life's been like that...that's how I become involved in activities...PTA in...here...when I first began to have children...here...in the forties, there...uh...Chester Street Junior High School there, the principal...my boy didn't want to go to, ...eldest boy didn't want to go to the junior high school there because he was the only principal that wouldn't allow Parent Teachers Association there in Springfield. And I went to a couple of mothers; we had a lot of Polish people in our area, and French parents, and I remember I went to Miss Zaskalowski, a couple of us, and I said...she says they were having the same problem with their children. They didn't want...they wanted to go to Orange Street School, schools that were out of the area. I said, no, no, no, no...you go to your neighborhood school. And, uh, they weren't gonna go. So many...I said, tell you what. Let's get a hold o' the organizers of the PTA. She said, well, you should be allowed to go to any school to organize. So, know how we did it? I said, well, I'll go down to city council. It was the first time I went to city council in my life in the public area to ask them, "Do we have the right to organize a Parent Teacher Association in any school here in Springfield?" I think ...uh...oh dear...Danny Brunton was the mayor then, way back those years. And, anyhow, he said, uh, he looked...he said, guys...of course, if you have what the PTA wants for a setup and the ... amount of people, of course you can organize! I said well...they wanted to know why I asked the question. I said, because, I said, I got some parents here whose children are going to go to Chester Street Junior High next season who don't want to go because they...I understand he forbids a parent teacher association in this school. I said, well I..so we came down to see if we had the legal right...oh, they said, absolutely. Well, that meant a little battle, but we got the PTA in Chester Street Junior High School. Kids went up there. And I learned then to work with other people, that we needed things done...in the city...and it meant getting things done, uh...better housing, better programs in the school...that's when this bussing started. I was so angry at the bussing. All we asked was have the same programs as...other territories around Springfield, Agawam, East Longmeadow...they were...children were going to great places. We'd read about it; we wanted our children in the north end of the city to do the same thing. But, they thought it would be fine. Bussed some of the children to Longmeadow and different areas, and we...parents were aghast. We didn't want the children...but, they liked it when they got there. They had nice places...the schools were nice. But we went out...you know...we wanted them back in Springfield area. We didn't want to go to the suburbs. And so, over the years, people's problems, if they weren't a part of mine, uh, caused me to be a part of their problems, to...let's see if we can't solve it. If it's wrong, it's gotta be righted. So, if it wasn't school, it was housing. If it wasn't housing, um...it was just where you were at. It...a landlord...we had...I was...in a lot of landlord...tenants' rights over the years there, that...oh...back in the oh...forties and fifties...who lived in disgraceful housing, that paid enormous rents. That's...that was getting tenants' rights, and we...had right to organize, uh, to...against the landlords and stuff. These are the things that ...make life a little better for where we lived at the lower income people, and it kept you doing things and made your city a better city. And, ... during that time, oh...I was singing then, as ...Carl Loving and the Trio. I also ... became a part of the National Guard there. Um...back in the year, let's see, early fifties, there. I remember they were ... calling for... women to supplement the National Guard in Massachusetts state. They needed women who could take care of officers, communication, paperwork, and stuff. So let their National Guard people go, and o'course we had this new Westover field out here.

Interview Clip #6:
Ruth talks of entertaining with the Loving Trio

Audio also available in MP3 format

NM: Now, when did you enlist?

RL: Uh...it was done in 1945. I think they opened it up...and...

NM: So you had not enlisted during World War Two, but you enlisted at the end? Or...

RL: No, it was, it was at the ...it was about the end of the thing, 'cause they had built Westover field for that Second World War, you know, out there. And, ... I'll never forget when they built it, we thought it was just gonna be for soldiers and we got notices sent to our churches, asking...they were going to have a pick–up system in Springfield, where they pick up young women that were eligible, eighteen years old and over, to go out to dance with the young men, because some of'em had to stay over the...overnight before they were shipped out overseas. And they wanted to have entertainment. That was before there was a USO, but it became the USO around the nation, and that...uh, they opened up these clubs on the ...areas where the ...troops were at ...I remember the first time going with a group...about fifty girls from Springfield, and ... we were just as bashful as those young men were. They were being awful careful. We...saying, oh brother. But, uh, dancing got us together ...

NM: Did you dance as a performance, do you mean? Or...

RL: No, no. Dancing. You were girls going there to be friends with the soldiers who would be there overnight, stationed overnight, or during the week, or workers who worked there. There were thousands of them coming in. And they would...they just didn't want the young men just to come in and sit in there...in the lounges, with no activity going on. And they were trying to figure out how to ...let them stay overnight, and yet enjoy what they were doing before they got in...I guess....that, there, uh, unhappy... situation by being a part of the war, you understand. And they asked for volunteer girls, out of the churches first, and then you had to have an age group...belong to a group, and they sent busses in from Westover field to pick you up, either at the churches, or clubs, uh...community centers here. And there...it ended up you had maybe ...eight or nine hundred girls out there. That's a lot of people filling up that big club out there. And, ...we went out there and ...that activity was very exciting. Uh, I sang, of course, because I ...I volunteered with the USO for the simple reason that I...they wanted singers in the trains from the city, and um...I volunteered, and...my children were known as the Loving Trio. The boys tap danced. Holly was a ballet dancer.

NM: Now these were your children.

RL: Those were my children. And they were called the Loving Trio, and they became a part of the USO circuit, as I did, for about six years there at Westover field, to do the entertaining on a regular basis. ... I remember one particular...each of us...of the children had their own... costumes and things, and I remember one night, ...my husband had given my sh...beautiful silver shoes...to Tony, that's the middle boy, 'cause I had three children. And when we got up there, it w...was a November night, snow, and et cetera. I have ... Artics on, and so forth. And I looked around and I says to him...we were going to change up, to get started, and I says, T...okay, Tony, where's the shoes? And he's lookin' at me. And I thought he had it. And I said, wh...wh...where's the bag with my shoes in it? He says, home. And there we are... ...I said, what d'ya mean home? [chuckles] My husband Minor looked him and says, where is it? 'Cause he was about...then he was about nine, ten years old. And he says, he forgot it. He...he...what he had...his costume, you know... to...[big sigh] Okay. So, in the Artics and the evening gown, we performed.

NM: Artics...

RL: That's another picture. I didn't bring it, but I have a picture of me in those Artics and that...evening gown and I...they thought it was part of the act! And uh, I didn't think it was part of the act! But these are some of the cute little things that happened that ... we as a family, we enjoyed going out there and...going up to Rhode Island sometimes, we went up to... USO in Rhode Island, ... where they had some of the ...planes station up there....

NM: Now, when you were going out to Westover, was that before you were married, or you were...

RL: Oh no! We were married. We were married, oh yeah. We were married...as I say, Holly must've been about, uh, seven. Tony, at the time, must've been about uh, eight. Tony...Butch...they's known as the Loving Trio. And the idea is that they were going so much with me that...and they were doing their own dancing ...with being called by the studio they took lessons from, and they, uh...'scuse me... [Tissue break]

NM: Sure...

RL: ...they automatically got used to people, and entertaining, so they had their own... dance... routines themselves that [the]...studio the children were out of, were taught, and they were able to be quiet, because they were quite a site to see, youngsters like...that young, and... it was something that I enjoyed because I was an older person, knew where the kids...working with me...and my husband, and we had quite a year doing that.,/p>

Interview Clip #7:
Ruth talks of getting married and having and raising children, and of motherhood

Audio also available in MP3 format

NM: Now, what year did you get married?

RL: We got married in 1930. No...no....no...it wasn't 1930. [laughs] It was nineteen, uh, thirty–five, because I...we, we lived in, 'bout three or four years up in ...New Haven and Boston, then we came here in the forties, ...to Springfield, ...during the latter part of the thirties that we got back, 'cause I didn't have any children when I first got married, for several years. And I was told I would not have any children. But... that was quite an incident. I went home one Easter...was awful sick, and I...Minor and I had been married in about ...five or six years, and we were always laughed at because we had been married so long and don't have any children. My brothers and sisters all had children. ...Anyhow, we were... making it, and, I remember I went home and I was awful sick and I went to Doctor Glick[man] in New Ha...in, in, in Springfield, and said, um, I, I , I said, I don't know what's making me so sick. I can't keep food down or anything. And uh, well, he says, let's wait a while and see...he said, because, he said, I think you'll be all right. But I went home to Ma, and I was telling her that I didn't feel much like traveling...I was feeling so sick, and she just looked straight at me; she says, you're gonna have a baby. And I says to her, oh no, Dr. Glick[man] told me I would never have any children. And uh, she says, you're gonna have a baby. You're sick in the morning? You can't eat anything? I mean...I told her the stuff I like...couldn't eat any more...nah! Couldn't eat it. That was when my first son was born, Minor. About uh, six, seven months later, I was having a baby. And I said to Dr. Glickman then, I says, I thought you said I wasn't going to have any children! Well, he said, you know, I make mistakes! Well then I was about thirty–five years old then. I have a first child. Then when I had the second one, and the third one, and then I got the razz from my brothers and sisters. They were laughing like crazy. And I said well...and I stopped having...I didn't have any more after I had the three of 'em. But, uh, I was kind of an older mother than ... my ... nieces and nephews got out of my sisters and brothers. ...But being a mother is...was...quite a thing... it was unusual. I liked children ...and growing up teaching them to do the things that I remember my mother taught me to do was like reproduction of me...what my mother taught me. You bring that kind of learning along with you. It turned out alright for you, and you feel it'll turn out alright for your youngsters, your...you discipline your children just the same way Mama and Dad disciplined you. And ...that was back in the twenties, and you...I was growing up. It was nice having children, ...to keep them...let's say, ...happy, too. That's why my husband suggested to me, why don't we send them to dancing classes. And, ...it was very unusual for African Americans' kids go to dance class, but he felt that it would give them something might use...utilize as a work structure when they got out of school. And um, they did. They ...went to ...Anita's dance class...we've been there for...'till they's twelve years old. And I made all their dance clothes. I never forget ...when Butchy came to me...he was 'bout twelve, and says to me he would like...you know, could he talk with me, and yeah...he said, Ma, he says, uh, can I go to store and buy a suit? And I said, why? Look at all the suits you got! He said, I want to go to the store and feel how it is to buy a suit. I said, well ask your father. He said, 'course you can buy...that's the first time he had said that...'course then Holly looked at me. I said, no, no, no. I'll make your Easter dresses! So, um, this is how ...being a parent, how children come to you, and they're growing up and you don't realize it. But they realize it themselves. But...he wanted to know how it is...to get a store–bought suit, at twelve years old, 'cause I always made his suits, and made their dance clothes, and et cetera. Um...being a mother was...and...I'm sure a lot of the mothers feel the same way as I feel... it's something that you quietly do, and you want it to be very correct, you know, because they're going out seeing other children doing things, and they certainly come back and say, you know Johnny did so–and–so and...'cause his mother lets him. And you have to be sure you're telling your children the right thing, that you're saying, well, maybe Johnny's mother lets him do it, but you're not to do it because I don't want you do...it's wrong. And this is being motherhood...it's...it's...if you become a mother, as I have, ...it's a great feeling, but, it's a great challenge. You're leading youngsters down around the road, and you want it to be on the right road, and, as we're seeing today, sometimes some of the children here in 2008 are no go...being led down properly the right road, and they're getting off of it kind of early in life. It's too bad.

Interview Clip #8:
Ruth talks of her military service

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NM: Would you like to talk about your military service?

RL: Yeah. Military service was fine. I remember when we...they asked us...it must've been about...we had to organize everything from the captain, the whole unit...uh...we were known as the Massachusetts Women's Defense Corps. And we were in ...different units across the state, in conjunction with a National Guard unit ...We first trained out of the one–oh–two unit. We were part of their... the Women's Guard, and we worked for a while out of Chicopee where the Air Force unit, uh, Air Force Guard unit was working out of Chicopee at first, and then they came into Springfield to work because it seemed like it was a bigger army that we have down on Howard Street. And, then we began to train down on Howard Street. One of the unique things about though...the office of the Massachusetts Women's Defense Corps... they were secret offices you had throughout the state for emergencies, that the National Guard had, was located ... where the new ...courthouse is in Springfield, Massachusetts. We were located in the Alexander Houses, they called it, but they had to move to another section there in Springfield there, down the street. We had our headquarters in that building, although no one s'pose'd know it... but the military, ...and I was in the field of communication, and the canteen unit, ...they insisted that all women take a canteen course because they didn't know when we might have to just fall in and learn how to just set up the coffee and, and food for the military men. ...But they also suggested other areas we could work in, officers...took communi... I took communications. Uh, I was a little surprised when I found out communication also meant learning the Morse code.

NM: Oh...

RL: Dah, dah, dah dit dit dah dah. You had to learn the who alphabet! After a while, after maybe about seven or eight months, you got it...kinda halfway knew what you were doing...

NM: Do you still remember the whole alphabet in Morse code?

RL: No. Remember, that's been almost sixty years ago? No, no, no. Only thing I remember is S–O–S. Dah, dah, dit dit, no...dah, dah dit...dah dah dah...s'posed to be three dah dahs, and a dit, and a three dah, dah, dahs, that's for S–O–S, okay? Now that's what you did for anybody when anything went wrong. And then you had to...you shorten words almost like um...mmmmm....well, like, "soon" would be S–N. So you only do the two and so that when you read it, you had to read it like you knew what letters to fill in. There's a, there's a word for that... but that's what you'd do. You didn't spell words out. Like "would you go?" is W–D U Y–U and uh, take out the O, and you had to learn that kind of a ...just ordinary speaking in communication so the other person, the other end would get an idea it's not all the, the S–O–S was certainly for 9–1–1 set up. You couldn't use any other kind, otherwise you use, say the Ws and the Ds in the code word that you use. And it was very, very interesting. They were very consistent with that because they were saying that they couldn't have telephones and things that were going out in the fields and...'cause telephone was big business then, but...they couldn't have'em out on the fields. Only the field manager had...carried it...they had some kind of little box set up where they carried the phones out with them in their cars and et cetera. Uh, but we did military...we did military drills, we did the ...parade drills...we had to learn the parade language, left turn, right turn, rear uh, rest, uh, cadence and stuff. We had to learn...we had to learn that. And practice and do it when we were called on... to drill ourselves, to drill the ...twenty–five of us, you know. We had captain, uh, captain, lieutenant, and a lieutenant and captain and all this stuff, just so they had a regular thing–a–ma–jigs, master sergeant, who was Stella P. Thomas at the time, and boy she was a master sergeant, too. You come in there with your shoes untied, you'd...you were given the mark down. Uh...given a job, you know, you wouldn't like to do, she'd have you do, and she wasn't kidding, so you had to watch your Ps and Qs. I have a uniform here...our uniform was a dark brown and those there are the same buttons you see on ...the uh...Minutemen buttons. Uh...They should be shiny, too, but they're not, 'cause they haven't been in...they've been in...in a bag. But that...and we had the regular cup–shaped hats, not the ...flat caps like you see ...that you see the men have, and the brown...brown shoes. Shoes had to shine. You didn't come in with no messy shoes. You had to have shiny shoes and be on time.,

Interview Clip #9:
Ruth talks of her military service, continued

Audio also available in MP3 format

RL: Um...we were really in a military unit. You didn't go there just because you wanted to be a part of a group. You were in the military. ...Six o'clock in the morning, you were there at six. The trucks lined up to take you where you were going at. Um...you...and...these here uniforms that we had...sometimes we wore a white shirt, uh, when we were ...dressed...otherwise you just wore the jacket and your brown skirt, brown stockings and brown shoes. Shoes! Um...we never wore dress shoes. They were all the brown Oxfords that you don't see today. Um...we were treated just like the men, no different. And uh, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it because...now the canteen part of it that we do...work with...when the men were on duty late at night, early in the morning, you fixed breakfast for them, and it usually was a very...uh...Danish pastry, ...not the scrambled eggs, unless they had the truck out...they had the truck out, it had a stove in it, and you went into the back of the truck and you could cook those meals and handed'em out to them on the uh...their tin plates that they carried with them. And, so it was strictly military. It was uh...it was a uh...where the women ...helped in the offices sending out either the communications and et cetera, or you were stationed around, in their ...headquarters and the armies around, in the offices to do paperwork, to ...keep communication going from either statewide or Washington. And you had to be prepared. If you were on duty, you couldn't say, well you know, my kids got sick and you couldn't come in...you...you came in. And um...it was, it was something you knew you were doing because the men that they needed...you could see that they were just coming off of that other World War! And this was the second World War that...going on, and going...to do things that ... they really didn't have enough of the men to stay behind and do some of these activities, and that's why they certainly need...had need for the women and some of the women like myself, who...children were old enough that we could do this kind of...kind of thing, you know. And um, it seemed that right after that, came in ... the other wars...the Korean War, the um...Vietnam War...they were coming right after each one, and it's too bad because it was...uh...to me, it takes our ... growth of our country through our young men, and it's too bad it's like that.

NM: How long did you end up serving?

RL: Well, I served in...we served after the war was over, but I served about six or seven years in the war. And I came off as a Corporal. I hadn't got my stripe; I was Corporal, though. Um...got my...gave us discharge papers and stuff. Um...we were very interested...shortly after that, you know, ...the ... military then got the WACs and the WAVs in, going then. They knew how much they could do, ...and 'lot of 'em went right into the...on the battle...first they didn't want'em on the battlefield, but they finally made it to the battle field ...

NM: So you weren't considered a WAC or a WAV.

RL: No, no, not at the time, no. No we were...it was the National Guard, and the Massachusetts state that wanted this kind of a set up, but it was a military unit for them to do the kind of work that they felt that men should not be doing there, taking the time...like cooking the food, and also, could be used in the office. The men were used...and they could use that man out on the field. And women didn't mind doing it. The um...let's see now...hmmm...I don't know...I, I met some WAVs probably who I knew personally...matter of fact, I know'em...even now, she, she...wait...wait...was she a WAV or the other one? There's a WAV, and there is the...[hesitates and pauses]

NM: The WAC?

RL: Yeah. She wasn't a WAV. She was the other one. The what? The WAVs are the Navy people...girls, and the regular military women...what's their name? I've forgotten even their name! Oh come on now, you're younger than I am!

NM: The WAC?

RL: The WACs. Okay, yeah. Uh...[chuckles] Well, ...I uh...know her, and she was telling me how some of their ...activities were, when she went in, and uh...I guess she's been out years now, ...from being in...but they had much more, ...military ...duties to do than we did. Really, we was just there doing more like secretaries and um...and cooks, when we were in there for the National Guard. But when the WAVs and...they went on over...right over there, over on the battle fields, you see.

Interview Clip #10:
Ruth discusses her work in radio

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NM: Now tell me, you got...you told me last night on the phone that you got your communications license while you were in the service.

RL: Yeah...that's... in order for us to do it, when I was eligible...they, they passed me, ...after I learned the ...signs...and codes and stuff...I was passed and given a license so that I could appear ...like...electronics and stuff...they didn't have like electronics...they just had radio....radio and stuff like that...was coming in, and uh, I got a license for that. When I got out of that in '69, ...I was doing work in ...where I lived at in the city of Springfield there up in the north end, and I got a call one day, ...from WMAS, who wanted to know if I would come over; they wanted to talk with me. I went over there, and ...they wanted to know would I take over uh...from a person who had a program that'd been running for quite a while...was leaving the station, and they wanted to know could I do his...get um...do it uh...a week for radio, something like that, and I said, well, I never did radio programming like that on a radio with a microphone. They insisted and I said, okay. They said, for a month? Yeah, I'll do it for a month, see what it's like. Well that was 1969. And I'm still on, 2008. I was gone for about two years 'cause I had a heart attack in ninety–eight, and I'm still on radio right today, WMAS. We'll be...we will be moving into the ...Basketball Hall of Fame here...we're getting things going...moving in September...I'm still with them. But, uh, with TV and all the other acoustics and electronics that's coming in...I don't know! Radio will still be on, I'm pretty sure, because ...radio happens when we can't go much of any place else. The main thing is people with me. I've been in an awful lot of activities with people, whether they were youth, ...and of course, I'm a senior now...my activities last twenty years have really been around the older person, their activities. Uh...I was a delegate to the ...national White House Council on Aging in 1950...1995, when the Clinton...and that....that was quite a week, ...going down there, ...for...people all over the United States, thousands of us, going through that, going to the book uh...that...making ... resolutions for...across the country that...some became laws, but, uh...the help that we needed, ...to be educated to be called home care workers now. Well we demanded to have... training set up around the country for home care workers, get'em help, like going to college and stuff to be home care workers, and um...that was a fascinating thing. That was when ...Bill Clinton was in, of course, as president. And, I'm still actively engaged around here right now.

Interview Clip #11:
Ruth talks of her Civil Rights work

Audio also available in MP3 format

NM: Would you talk, uh, ...we're, we're going to run out of time soon, and I wonder if you would talk a little bit about your work in the...or your memories of the Civil Rights Movement.

RL: Well, the members of the Civil Rights group, as was telling you, too, that... I belonged to the ... Springfield branch in NAACP when we moved here; we belonged for years. It was quite a working group. ...We were interested when ...Rosa Parks, the lady who ...refused to give up her seat, and we were right with her. And we got so that we had enough money to bring her to Springfield to tell her...tell us about what the time she was going through. And I was... the one who was in charge of that committee, and uh, I...here, I brought you a picture...I'm going to leave it with you...uh, bringing her up here, and we had uh, the ministers helped us out with that there. Uh, Reverend [Abram] Sangry was the head of the council of churches at the time. Uh, Rabbi Schwartz was, ...one of the rabbis there. Uh, one of the churches was the ... Methodist Church that I belonged to...a, uh, Reverend Jones, and ... in this picture that we're in, she was such a very attractive woman. She looked like an Indian with that long black hair. She had it up in a bun. And then there was the time that Martin Luther King came up. We know...we followed him, and the things...activities...send him money down to his area to help him with the work. Some of our youth, our young people in college were down, were going to black colleges down there. And they used to come home and tell us about the activities and what they were doing. They were some of those who sat behind the counters down there. And well...uh...best we could do was send them money, send them uh...donations to keep them going to do the work down there. And some of us who did find the time to join...some of'em left from Springfield to go on that summer march. I didn't because I had children at the time. I needed...couldn't go down there. But these are the kind of things that...that we do over the years because we believe in them. The Civil Rights was...what was happening to the people below the Mason–Dixon line was wrong. And the thing was, all of us who thought it was wrong...we all couldn't go down there, but luckily where we live at, there...we were a mixed group here. It wasn't a black NAACP by no means. It was a mixed group uh, ethnic group there in Springfield that worked together, and as you've seen in the marches, there was an ethnic uh...situation where it was not made of just the blacks. It was made of people who were saying...working together and saying it's wrong what's happening to these people down here. They should have their rights. And um, so when they ...these...those...the Civil Rights uh, laws began to be in...put under operation, it was a great feeling to know that, well...you can sit anywheres you want to sit. Um...yes, you had the right to be heard. Uh...these things are worked right up to the present day, that you know if something happens, you have the law on your side because of your color. You can go down and get yourself a lawyer and say, look, this happened to me and I have my rights. And yes, Civil Rights was a, it was a great, great, great movement. It's not over yet! We're still picking around as live across this...things that are still happening. Uh...only I like to add this on...2009...I never thought I'd live to see a black man being uh...selected to be a possible president of these United States. We've done a great thing over the years. Those who are, who've come along, like Ruth Loving, over the years as senior now...we're still waiting to see some of these great things happen. And we might see this year in our election. But whether it's uh...because of a woman who might be in, or whether it's because of a black man. It's going to be a great year, and we need to keep helping each other as we go along.

NM: Is there anything you'd like to add before we end?

RL: No, other than wherever the people are at, treat them...it's an old thing you heard from the Bible if you were a little kid...and you're an older person now. Treat the person the same way you want to be treated. And when they need help along the way, even if it's only that ten cents or a dollar, give it to them. It'll help them greatly. And it means that your life will be better for it. You'll know that you've helped a little way, or that you've helped somebody along the way. Because you'll be helped when your time comes. And...as I say, um...I've lived a long life. Uh, it hasn't been too bad. The tears always felt like they were not going to run out, but there're times that I've smiled and been happy a lot with other people. And, uh, the war years...I wish they'd stop. Because ...it takes our youth and our young people away that we need to be able to enjoy our old lives with. So...we hope that um...you are doing your things wherever you live at, the people.

NM: Thank you.

 

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