AACHM Oral History: Janice Thompson
When: January 26, 2017 at Downtown Library
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Janice Thompson was born in 1939 and grew up in Ypsilanti. She reminisces about visits from her Detroit relatives to her home in the "country," some of the prejudice she faced during her school years, and pranks she played with friends in Ypsilanti neighborhoods. Ms. Thompson received a master's degree in social work, working for a time at the Veteran's Administration hospital and running programs for public housing children.
- [00:00:14.70] INTERVIEWER: So good afternoon.
- [00:00:16.42] JANICE THOMPSON: Good afternoon.
- [00:00:17.82] INTERVIEWER: First of all, I want to thank you for agreeing to do this interview on behalf of the African American Cultural and Historical Museum. Part 1 of the interview deals with demographics and family history. I'm first going to ask you some simple demographic questions. These questions may jog your memories. But please keep your answers brief and to the point for now. We can go into more details later in the interview. Please say and spell your name.
- [00:00:48.66] JANICE THOMPSON: Janice is my first name, J-A-N-I-C-E. My last name is Thompson, T-H-O-M-P-S-O-N.
- [00:01:00.36] INTERVIEWER: What is your date of birth, including the year?
- [00:01:03.24] JANICE THOMPSON: February 7, 1939. I have a birthday coming up.
- [00:01:09.56] INTERVIEWER: We'll have to celebrate. [LAUGHTER] How would you describe your ethnic background?
- [00:01:18.05] JANICE THOMPSON: African American.
- [00:01:20.83] INTERVIEWER: What is your religion, if any?
- [00:01:23.10] JANICE THOMPSON: I don't belong to a specific religion.
- [00:01:30.42] INTERVIEWER: What is the highest level of formal education you have completed?
- [00:01:34.76] JANICE THOMPSON: A master's degree in social work.
- [00:01:41.88] INTERVIEWER: What is your marital status?
- [00:01:44.37] JANICE THOMPSON: Divorced since 1972. No plans to remarry.
- [00:01:52.71] INTERVIEWER: You're happy with your life.
- [00:01:55.57] JANICE THOMPSON: Well, except for the $10,000. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:02:00.87] INTERVIEWER: How many children do you have?
- [00:02:02.31] JANICE THOMPSON: I have four children.
- [00:02:04.80] INTERVIEWER: How many siblings do you have?
- [00:02:07.20] JANICE THOMPSON: I have two half sisters.
- [00:02:13.10] INTERVIEWER: What was your primary occupation?
- [00:02:19.76] JANICE THOMPSON: It seems to me, everything I've done has been social work related. I've had nurse's training and graduated from the LPN school. That's been some time ago. I had planned to go on. But I got cancer and couldn't do it and then didn't go back to college for some time. And then I went back and got an undergraduate and a graduate degree.
- [00:02:44.45] INTERVIEWER: And if you are retired, what age did you retire?
- [00:02:49.96] JANICE THOMPSON: 68. Yeah, I think 68.
- [00:02:57.91] INTERVIEWER: So when you said you went back to school, you stopped and just worked for a little while? And then you went back to school? Just tell me a little more about that.
- [00:03:09.31] JANICE THOMPSON: I got married. And I had children. And in 1964, my youngest daughter was born. Right after she was born, they had been testing me for cancer. It was a long process. But anyway, I started to hemorrhage. So then, I think, at that point, they did more research. And so I had cancer for a couple of years and had surgery, a hysterectomy. They took out everything they could take out of me. My appendix, everything. And they done wonders. So that was good.
- [00:03:57.95] But it took me a while to recover from that. And once I did, I think I worked for a while at public housing. I've worked in public housing as secretary, and social, and coordinator to the seniors and children and started some programs. I worked there for a while.
- [00:04:20.47] INTERVIEWER: And we're going to get back to your work schedule shortly. So just curious in terms of how are you doing health wise are you in remission?
- [00:04:28.03] JANICE THOMPSON: Yes, we hope so. Continually they want to test me. But so far it's been just fine. I've been fine very fortunate.
- [00:04:37.09] INTERVIEWER: Congratulations, that's great. So we're going to move into part 2, which is memories of childhood and youth. This part of the interview is about your childhood and youth. And once again, these questions might jog memories about other times in your life. But for right now, we're going to focus just on this section. What was your family like when you were a child?
- [00:05:09.49] JANICE THOMPSON: My mother was a young mother. She got pregnant when she was 17. Of course, I didn't take all these thoughts into consideration until I was older. But she was a young mother. And that brought out a lot of things. But I won't get into that now because then you'll be like my grandkids. Don't get granny started.
- [00:05:35.56] INTERVIEWER: No, I think that's why you're here, to talk. So that's fine.
- [00:05:42.43] JANICE THOMPSON: So I was with my mother. My mother did not get married until she was pregnant. And they didn't stay married very long. You know how it was back in that day. If you got pregnant, you got married. And that was it. So she did. So I never lived with my biological father. But I knew him. And I knew of him. And my mother being so young, that is the reason-- and it's fortunate for me that I lived with both my grandparents off and on in the same town, in Ypsilanti.
- [00:06:19.57] In Ypsilanti, my maternal grandmother and family lived on Frederick Street. And a lot of relatives from Canada, also family members, lived around. And my paternal grandparents were from a plantation in Newberry, South Carolina then. And wonderful people, my grandparents. I have a lot to say about them.
- [00:06:52.72] INTERVIEWER: Go ahead. That's fine.
- [00:06:57.22] JANICE THOMPSON: As I got older, I used to wonder. They never talked to each other. You would never hear them communicate or talk. But they knew each other well. She might say, Benny, I want you to do this. And he'd do it. But they never-- no loving things or anything. And I just always wonder. I wonder why they are like that? And then when I think about it, as I got older-- because neither one of them had ever had any schooling. I think they had come from Africa. But they don't talk about it. So you have to figure out what it is that's bothering them.
- [00:07:34.26] But anyway, my grandmother did housework, as a lot of elderly black people, or young black women, did. They did clean houses in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. And my grandfather, my paternal grandfather, worked at a plant, a factory, founders or something. And they just now are demolishing that place I think. So he would come home black, have soot and stuff all over him.
- [00:08:09.20] Besides my father, they had three daughters, Anne, Bea, and Cora. And my father was the only boy. I skipped something. So as a grandchild, I also had a cousin that stayed with them. This cousin, he was a year or two younger than I. And he was very dark complected. And I remember, I would get mad. He wouldn't-- Because not only white people would say something about his color, but black people would too. Well, the black ones I'd fight.
- [00:08:58.47] I was just so angry about that as a kid. But his mother was one of my grandparents' daughters. And she was white. She was prominently white. So as you get older, you think about what that could have done to their family situation. At least this is the way I think. Because they would never tell you. But I know that Aunt May wasn't all black. Everybody knew that. But nobody talked about it then at that time. And this was my very dark cousin's mother. So that--
- [00:09:39.78] INTERVIEWER: Caused conflict?
- [00:09:41.22] JANICE THOMPSON: Yes. But anyway, she got killed in a train accident early in life. And my grandparents never talked about her either. So since they couldn't read or write, my cousin-- the boy that this is who I was telling you about, a little of his background-- we would-- grandpa would get paid in cash. I think that was already set up because he couldn't read or write. And he would bring the money home. And myself and Curdy, my cousin, we were kids. We weren't even in the sixth grade. But we knew how to go to the post office and get a money order. So we would do that and write it out for him and pay bills. If we didn't do it, one of my aunts would do it. But it was a different situation for them.
- [00:10:45.20] INTERVIEWER: So let me ask you about this whole thing with color. Because that still continues to be an issue. So you experienced it early on because of your cousin. And so how does the family deal with all of that?
- [00:11:05.60] JANICE THOMPSON: Well, both my aunts and my father went to work for Ford Motor Company after a while. This was after I was getting older and growing up. Nobody-- They never talked about anything. They really didn't. They would not. I did say to my grandmother every now and then. I remember one thing she said. And I never will forget it. She was pouring a glass of something, and she said, when I worked for those people, I always wanted a glass of lemonade or tea with some ice in it. And she was so sincere and felt so strongly about that. And I said, well, you know what? Let's get you some grandma. But she was just like that. She always wanted a glass of iced tea.
- [00:12:05.68] INTERVIEWER: That's when she is working in other people's homes and serving them, correct?
- [00:12:09.43] JANICE THOMPSON: And helping us kids. Curdy and I would take a bath Saturday nights. That's the only night. There was this big tub. And you'd heat hot water on the wood stove. And we'd take our baths.
- [00:12:23.77] INTERVIEWER: Now once again, who is Curdy?
- [00:12:25.39] JANICE THOMPSON: My cousin.
- [00:12:26.04] INTERVIEWER: Your cousin.
- [00:12:26.80] JANICE THOMPSON: The one that his mother was so light complected. So my grandparents raised him. He was always there. I wasn't. I was back and forth. That's a whole different story.
- [00:12:39.04] INTERVIEWER: You'll have time. We'll be talking for a while. So you already talked a little bit about the type of work that your father did and your mother--
- [00:12:49.27] JANICE THOMPSON: My grandfather.
- [00:12:50.34] INTERVIEWER: Your grandfather. That's right it's your grandfather. So let me go back for a second. So were you born in Ypsilanti?
- [00:12:59.84] JANICE THOMPSON: Born at University Hospital in Ann Arbor.
- [00:13:16.62] INTERVIEWER: So you already talked a little bit about some of your earliest memories as a child. Anything else you want to add in terms of some of your earliest memories as a child?
- [00:13:32.31] JANICE THOMPSON: I was a child staying with my grandparents and my mother off and on. I didn't stay with my mother all the time. I was at one of my grandparents' home. Because my mother married a man who was very handsome. Tall, handsome, and a drunk. When he'd get drunk [INAUDIBLE] and violent. And when he got drunk, he'd beat my mother. It was always something [INAUDIBLE] I took this all my-- I was young. I can remember that happening when I was five years old. I remember walking my mother to the police station here in Ann Arbor. She wouldn't press charges, of course.
- [00:14:15.86] I was about five or six years old. Took her to the bus station. Because I had learned to take the bus back and forth.
- [00:14:22.20] INTERVIEWER: At 5?
- [00:14:23.19] JANICE THOMPSON: Oh, yeah. So I took her, and she was bleeding all the way. I can't remember what that time. And we got on the bus and went to my grandmother's house. Well, you see this became a monthly thing. And as I got older, I got tired of it. And I got a little older and a little older. I was 18 when I got really tired of it. And that was that. But it was a miserable, awful time.
- [00:14:55.62] INTERVIEWER: For one thing, that's why, even now, we still need places like Safe House that provide services for battered women, or men in some cases. But certainly, there's still a need even now.
- [00:15:08.86] JANICE THOMPSON: Oh yeah, there's a need. But I found also after being in social work, a lot of times the women will not leave-- But so that was another education. Go ahead.
- [00:15:20.97] INTERVIEWER: No, that's fine. Now were there any special days, events, or family traditions you remember from your childhood?
- [00:15:34.61] JANICE THOMPSON: For the maternal side of our family, yes. They had family reunions in Canada every year. They were just fantastic. I was looking at one of those pictures the other day. There were so many people. Because they were coming from everywhere. And the kids were saying, those Japanese people over there, are they related to us? They'd say somewhere down the line. Or they would say that looking at all the variety of colors here.
- [00:16:09.76] INTERVIEWER: Because we like a rainbow.
- [00:16:10.93] JANICE THOMPSON: Yes. And I'm glad they had that and learned that way. Because they're not color conscious. It doesn't matter. The kids who are dark are dark. But they're people. Everybody is a person individual to them. And color doesn't matter. Although it sometimes affects the kids. Because I've got one granddaughter. She's graduating. She's in college now. But she looks like she's white. She could pass for white.
- [00:16:42.85] But there's never been a problem because of color in our family that I know of. I don't know everything. But I've noticed that they're all really good. Because [? L.B. ?] Is very dark. And he would get-- and I remember before he was born, his father was very dark. And Deena told me that he would ask her, how is your mother going to feel if the baby is dark like that? They don't say those things around me. Because I just-- Don't get talking to me about color. We are all people. And we all-- don't get me started on that. I'm sorry. You said go back and think about it. You don't know how many doors you're opening up here.
- [00:17:34.09] INTERVIEWER: Well the thing of it is that within-- it's interesting because within the black, the African American, community that becomes an issue. And you wouldn't think it. But it's been for years. And it continues to be.
- [00:17:47.45] JANICE THOMPSON: Oh yeah. I know it is.
- [00:17:49.29] INTERVIEWER: Now I wanted to ask you a little bit about the Canada connection. So you have family in Canada. So who do you have in Canada? I'm just trying to make the connection.
- [00:17:59.89] JANICE THOMPSON: Most of the older people, like my grandmother's sisters, and brothers, and in-laws and all that. Most of them have passed now. There are some of the younger kids that are there now. I haven't been in touch with them lately. We have their addresses and all. And we try to contact. We didn't have a family reunion last year. But we had one the year before. And we're talking about getting together now to continue them. Because there are not so many of the family members there living anymore. Because they've all passed. But there are children and grandchildren there. And I don't know them as well. Because getting back and forth. And everybody's so busy now doing their own thing. But we're going to plan to have one in the next year or so.
- [00:18:54.43] INTERVIEWER: That's why it's nice to have family reunions.
- [00:18:56.14] JANICE THOMPSON: Yes it is.
- [00:18:58.77] INTERVIEWER: How are holidays traditionally celebrated in your family?
- [00:19:03.34] JANICE THOMPSON: They eat, eat, eat. And some of them drink and party and have a good time. But since the older members have passed, it's not gatherings like we used to have. Because like my maternal family, I'm the oldest in this area. Am I? Yeah, I think I am the oldest in this area. And I'm going to be 78 on my birthday.
- [00:19:44.56] When I was a kid, growing up I always said, I'm not living in Ypsilanti all my life. And I did. That's a whole other story. And I always believed in taking the kids to travel. And that's some of the problems I had with my husband. Anyway, when I was married, I demanded that we take the kids places. Mackinaw and just different places. I took them to San Francisco with me. I had family.
- [00:20:21.70] Anyway, I moved. After all my kids were grown, I started moving. I moved to Colorado. I lived in Denver a while. My youngest daughter and son were still not in school yet. But when they graduated, Deena graduated from high school in Denver. And she came back to Eastern to go to college. So I moved to California. I stayed there. Worked for a while.
- [00:20:56.38] INTERVIEWER: And now you're back in Ypsilanti.
- [00:20:59.34] JANICE THOMPSON: Well, I had gone and then come back to California again. I was in California when the bad earthquake they had. I was there then. And I worked for the government there. I worked for the Navy and the Army. Those bases are closed now I think.
- [00:21:24.38] INTERVIEWER: Did your family have any special sayings or expressions during your time growing up?
- [00:21:34.74] JANICE THOMPSON: Not that I can think of. Except my grandmother always lied. You ask her, when's her birthday? She'd say 39.
- [00:21:43.84] INTERVIEWER: She stayed 39.
- [00:21:45.37] JANICE THOMPSON: She was 39 from the time I was five until the time she died. [LAUGHTER] How old are you? 39.
- [00:22:00.11] INTERVIEWER: I'm going to go back to a question that I missed here. Did you play any sports or join any other activities outside of school when you were growing up?
- [00:22:11.78] JANICE THOMPSON: I took dancing lessons when I was young, ballet and tap. But that was it. I was a cheerleader in high school. I was more athletic. I've always been a tom boy. Played softball. The boys would let me play with them. I was the only girl they'd let play.
- [00:22:37.04] INTERVIEWER: You must've been pretty good
- [00:22:38.39] JANICE THOMPSON: I was pretty good. My dad was a ball player. And Matt Siegfried-- do you know Matt?
- [00:22:43.95] INTERVIEWER: I know Matt. He gave me your name.
- [00:22:46.13] JANICE THOMPSON: Oh, did he? Matt called me one day. And he said, Janice, I got something for you. You said your dad played professional ball, he went to play professional ball. But he said, I got something for you. I wish I had brought it. I had some of that stuff. He was on a black league professionally--
- [00:23:11.99] INTERVIEWER: The Negro league?
- [00:23:12.14] JANICE THOMPSON: --in 1939. And they had three of the baseball players' pictures. And Matt saw them, and he printed them for me. I cried. It brought tears to my eyes.
- [00:23:24.95] And it told about him graduating. And these three guys were playing in Chicago for the season. And so I've got it in frames at home. And then he also found my great great grandparents.
- [00:23:42.55] INTERVIEWER: Oh, how very special.
- [00:23:44.57] JANICE THOMPSON: Oh, and they're so nice. But the picture that he brought me, that he found online, my grandmother had that picture. I still have the original copy of that one. And then he found them on the internet. On the one that my grandmother had there weren't the two babies. Because one was my grandmother. It was my great great grandfather. But they had their grandbabies. Both him and his wife had one each of them. So one of them was my grandmother, one of the babies. I'll have to show you those.
- [00:24:29.58] INTERVIEWER: I'll have to see that.
- [00:24:31.46] JANICE THOMPSON: Oh, they're just fantastic. And Matt said to me-- the last time I saw him, he said, I think I can get an original of that one of your dad. Because it's dark and faded. I said, Matt, I'm happy to get the one that you gave me. But it's up to you. It was just fantastic to see them.
- [00:24:55.66] INTERVIEWER: And so he did a little research?
- [00:24:59.14] JANICE THOMPSON: He is fantastic at that. He really is
- [00:25:03.49] INTERVIEWER: He's the one who gave me your name. He's on the museum board as well.
- [00:25:07.28] JANICE THOMPSON: Well, see I'm working with him and a few others. There's about six of us on the south side working to give plaques to the fathers. People in the community, who worked during their lifetime in Ypsilanti, trying to fight segregation and all. But it really wasn't all that bad. But Eugene Beatty, principal of the school that's in. His wife taught school in Detroit. And Mr. Francois, if you know some of those names of people. Dr. Bass and all the prominent black people who lived in the community.
- [00:26:03.39] So when thinking back on your school years, you were just starting to talk about school a little bit. What important social or historical events were taking place at that time? And how did they personally affect you and your family?
- [00:26:18.89] JANICE THOMPSON: You mean like Dr. Martin Luther King and those things?
- [00:26:22.85] INTERVIEWER: Well, during your school years. When you were in elementary, middle, high school, anything that you can think of that had an impact.
- [00:26:32.38] JANICE THOMPSON: Well when I was in school, all the black kids went to school on the south side. You familiar with that? All the black kids went to school on the south side of town.
- [00:26:43.28] INTERVIEWER: And talk about that more.
- [00:26:45.62] JANICE THOMPSON: And it was fine. Most of the teachers lived right around in the neighborhood. Mr. Beatty lived around the corner down the block. The principal. And there really was-- the teachers, I can remember where some of them live right now. Miss Vess was in Ainsworth Circle. And Miss Williams was up on First Ave. in the big house. And our relationship with the teachers was different. Because it was like, you do something wrong, they tell you. But they also tell your parents too. You couldn't get away with stuff like these kids do these days. But they lived in the neighborhood. And they were respected. Dr. Bass and Mrs. Bass. Doctor Bass' wife was a scout leader.
- [00:27:41.50] And I was in Girl Scouts. And so there are those people. And there wasn't a lot of prejudice. Have you heard about Ainsworth Circle? Someone could tell you more. But you are familiar with that?
- [00:27:58.12] INTERVIEWER: We should talk about that a little bit.
- [00:27:59.53] JANICE THOMPSON: Ainsworth Circle is that area on the south side that was built, houses nice houses yes, for white people. And what they did was they tried to make it so that there was only one entrance into this neighborhood in Ainsworth Circle, which was true. It was all white, and you wouldn't-- well, now it's just that it's amazing. Every time I ride through there I think about this. And I ride through there a lot. But me and my friends-- my grandmother lived on Frederick and Short Street. That's in between 1st Avenue. Michigan Ave was the main drag. And when I say the south side, south of Michigan Avenue. That's where black people lived. So they built these houses with this one drive into it. It was changed a little bit later. But that was the goal, so I hear.
- [00:28:59.77] Now, Matt could tell you more about this than I can. Because a lot of it I didn't know. But he really got into it. But I said to him, Matt, you know what? When I was a kid, we would go through Ainsworth Circle and raise havoc. And he said, what did you all do? I said, we would run through there ring the doorbell and run. [CHUCKLE] And then he just fell out. But that was irritating to some people who lived there. I never will forget one day. Some lady-- we didn't get far enough. We heard her talking about we had woke her baby up. [CHUCKLE] We had a lot of fun running through there and ringing doorbells every Saturday.
- [00:29:50.68] INTERVIEWER: I'm trying to visualize where that is in relationship.
- [00:29:53.92] JANICE THOMPSON: What do you know about Ypsil?
- [00:29:56.14] INTERVIEWER: I know the south side. So I'm just trying--
- [00:29:59.35] JANICE THOMPSON: You know where-- let's see now, what would be the main-- Well, Harriet Street is on the back side. But if you went up Hamilton Street, the interest would be only a block from Michigan. I'm trying to visualize this while I'm trying to tell you. If you went up Hamilton Street, you could go into Ainsworth right after you-- it's the first block after Michigan Avenue if you turned on Hamilton. And then it's the first driveway past Michigan Ave. First driveway going into Ainsworth Circle.
- [00:31:03.90] INTERVIEWER: So talk to me a little bit about-- you were talking about the south side and Ainsworth-- school in terms of your elementary, middle, high school.
- [00:31:13.41] JANICE THOMPSON: There was no middle school.
- [00:31:14.61] INTERVIEWER: There was no middle school.
- [00:31:16.11] JANICE THOMPSON: We went to Perry School until the sixth grade. You graduate sixth grade. Then you would go to the high school, 7th grade through 12th grade. It was a whole different world for us who had been in school
- [00:31:34.67] INTERVIEWER: And you say a whole different world. Talk to me about that a little bit.
- [00:31:37.59] JANICE THOMPSON: Well, because it was all white, and they did everything. There were very few black kids there doing much of anything. I was not the first black cheerleader. Bobbie Madison, a young lady, she was the first black cheerleader there. Drum and bugle corps, which was a very sophisticated corps, really sharp uniforms. And the horn girl, one black girl, on that. But I graduated from high school in 1957. 57, 56, 55, 54. And it was a long time before she became drum and bugle corps too. That was really sweet.
- [00:32:29.40] The principal was white, of course. Oh, I can tell you a little story about something that happened to me when I was in 7th grade. What happened, our teacher, she was a good teacher. She was white. We had no problems though. So she was a good teacher. Anyway, she told us that there was going to be this contest. You write a paper or something. And if you won, you'd get to go on a trip with the principal to Lansing. Big deal, but It was exciting to us.
- [00:33:06.99] But anyway, not many kids wrote anything. But I did write something. And I won. I can still remember what I wrote. But you wouldn't be interested that. I know.
- [00:33:15.30] INTERVIEWER: I am in a minute, but keep going.
- [00:33:17.60] JANICE THOMPSON: I won. And they announced it over the PA. Janice Wilson won the essay writing contest. I said, oh, OK. So the kids all laughed. They thought that was funny. I told them I thought it was funny too, really. Especially what I wrote about. But anyway, the next day I went to school. And the teacher was late. Well she wasn't late. She had been-- But when she came in, you could tell that something was wrong with her. Because it looked like-- and she probably did cry. Because when I think about her, the type of person she was, she probably did cry. But she told me she wanted to talk to me. And I went out with her in the hall. And she said, I can't remember how she said it now, but the gist of the thing was I didn't win the contest. That it was a mistake. And so I wouldn't be going anywhere with the president. I mean with the principal.
- [00:34:24.45] So it didn't bother me. Well I guess as a kid, I might've been a little upset. I can't remember how I felt. But I remember the situation and the results of it. And so I never did say anything else about it. Because I hadn't told anybody at home or anything like that. Because I didn't trust my mother and her husband. But nobody ever said anything else to me about it. But we figured it out. They didn't want no little black girl going up in Lansing with the principal. So they changed the thing.
- [00:35:06.55] But after then, I didn't have any-- and there were no black teachers at Ypsi High School at all at that time. A little later on Mr. Briggs came I think. Oh, and Leo Clark, he was another important person in the black community. He was a teacher. He was a really smart man.
- [00:35:25.16] INTERVIEWER: I knew Mr Clark.
- [00:35:26.14] JANICE THOMPSON: Did you? So that was it. I'm surprised I even went out for cheerleading. Because you know that there's all this prejudice.
- [00:35:39.63] INTERVIEWER: Talk to me a little bit about cheering and being the only black girl on the squad.
- [00:35:51.40] JANICE THOMPSON: It was kind of an impersonal thing. Because I think there were two Hispanic girls. I think they were Hispanic girls. And everybody else was white. But we never became friends or anything. And I just went and I cheered. I stayed on the squad for a couple of years. And then I decided-- and the cheerleading-- what would you call it? She wasn't really an instructor. But she was over taking care. She was a coach. And she coached different programs for kids.
- [00:36:38.25] INTERVIEWER: So in terms of trying out for it, who made the selection? Was that--
- [00:36:45.84] JANICE THOMPSON: I don't remember. I think it was some of the coaches were involved. So it wasn't just our coach. And they select a committee, or something, of people. I can't remember. But they did finally. I think they thought one was-- [CHUCKLE] As long as you had one, that it was representative. Because even when I went to Lansing, and now this was in the '50s, they would throw stuff at me. They were throwing stuff, like paper and pop things, and they were throwing stuff.
- [00:37:26.58] I think that's probably one of the reasons I quit. They only had one cheer, one black cheerleader back then. So I think they were trying to--
- [00:37:36.51] INTERVIEWER: One cheerleader at a time?
- [00:37:37.92] JANICE THOMPSON: Yeah.
- [00:37:39.54] INTERVIEWER: So who supported you during those times when things were being thrown at you? Or did anybody say anything or try to stop the students from doing that?
- [00:37:51.67] JANICE THOMPSON: Not to my knowledge. I doubt it.
- [00:37:55.24] INTERVIEWER: Now I want to go back for a second. So when you were in elementary and middle that was combined?
- [00:38:04.38] JANICE THOMPSON: Yes.
- [00:38:05.25] INTERVIEWER: So was that predominantly black at that time?
- [00:38:09.25] JANICE THOMPSON: Once we graduated from the sixth grade at Perry School, we all went to Ypsi High School.
- [00:38:18.18] INTERVIEWER: But while you were first to sixth grade, was that predominantly black?
- [00:38:21.45] JANICE THOMPSON: That was all black at our school.
- [00:38:22.53] INTERVIEWER: All black, that's what I was--
- [00:38:24.18] JANICE THOMPSON: On the south side, Perry School was the school that all the black kids went to. And then when you went to high school, it was primarily white. The kids that had finished sixth grade at Perry School all went to the high school. No middle school. Seventh grade was high school then. Now it's a little different. And the same with Willow Run. At that time they went to I think the sixth grade too. Are you familiar with the Willow Run?
- [00:39:08.34] INTERVIEWER: A little, not a lot.
- [00:39:09.39] JANICE THOMPSON: Well, the same thing happened with them. Whatever grade they ended at, which was probably the sixth also, I think. But when they graduated, then they would go to the high school. Everybody went to Ypsi High.
- [00:39:25.82] INTERVIEWER: So some of these questions you've covered, which is great. I do want to ask you a little bit about Harriet Street. So earlier, people talked about there being a lot of businesses when they were growing up on that Harriet Street, black businesses. Do you recall?
- [00:39:44.97] JANICE THOMPSON: Well, I wouldn't say a lot. There were a few. There was a restaurant, which the cab company, Reliable Cab Company, which one of our black neighbors operated. He just had a little office up in the front. And that's where he called the drivers. And it was a restaurant that a family had. The mother and her son operated that little restaurant. I worked there for a minute when I got to high school. And then up there, barbershops. There was a barber shop next to them. And then there was another barber shop below Currie's, a little bit closer. And a cleaners, which Charles Ramsey had. And I worked in the Clint Cleaners when I was out of school and on weekends. Well, they expanded on to that building.
- [00:40:45.92] And there are some shops there. Now there's a hair braid shop and a clothes shop. And still there's a barber shop in there, still Currie's. I don't know if he's still around or not. I don't think so. There's also a neighborhood organization in there where people work out in the community. Is it Hope? No, it's not Hope. I forget what it is now. And Mrs. Goodman had a shop that was really very popular, ladies clothing. And that was there for a long time. It's not there anymore.
- [00:41:37.12] And then the Beer Garden. I call it the Beer Garden. In class, they called it something else, something really classy. But it was the Beer Garden. [CHUCKLE] You hear me? When I was growing up, it was the Beer Garden. And Mrs. Mahaley, I think, owned that. And then they had a restaurant next to it. And this restaurant-- I was really a bad kid when I think about it sometimes.
- [00:42:04.68] The restaurant had these big old fat pretzels. So Sunday-- now, this involves my grandparents, my father's parents. My grandmother's a very staunch church person. And my grandfather was just the opposite. Because on Fridays, when he'd get his money, he'd bring us the bill money, so we could pay the bills. And then he'd get some liquor. And he'd stay drunk from Friday to Sunday. And on Sunday he would sober up. Because he know he had to go to work. That's the way it went for him. She never complained about it. Said he never talked about it.
- [00:42:42.45] But they never knew this. When I was there, and Curdie was there, we would get up. Because we had to go to Sunday School every Sunday. I don't care. And Curdie would say, Janice-- no, I would tell Curdie first. I'd say, Let's go get a pretzel. Let's don't go to Sunday School. And he'd say, Janice, Grandma going to kill us. You know she's going to find out. Somebody's going to tell her that we was-- I said, ain't nobody going to tell her that. They ain't thinking about whether we go. We just had the biggest arguments every Sunday. But every Sunday I was there. Because sometimes we go up to the other place.
- [00:43:23.69] He'd say, And Uncle Jimmy's going to be at church. That was my grandfather's cousin or something. I said, oh, come on. Let's go you chicken. So I'd get him. We Would go up to there and skip Sunday School. [CHUCKLE] And we got away with it. Because I was slick. [CHUCKLE] We never got caught.
- [00:43:45.96] INTERVIEWER: So you enjoyed those pretzels?
- [00:43:48.42] JANICE THOMPSON: I wouldn't do it on a holiday Sunday, like Easter, or something like that, but all the rest of them. We never got caught.
- [00:43:57.43] INTERVIEWER: Good childhood memory?
- [00:43:58.76] JANICE THOMPSON: Yeah, I love it.
- [00:44:02.64] INTERVIEWER: So those were businesses owned by blacks. And, pretty much, that's where people went for the restaurants, and hair, et cetera. So are there other places that you could not go into in terms of restaurants.
- [00:44:16.20] JANICE THOMPSON: Well, some of them, they were so prejudiced, you wouldn't want to go to there. They had some shops that were selling clothes and things. So they'd let you buy. But [? Nana ?] restaurant was one of the places. It's down the hill.
- [00:44:30.23] INTERVIEWER: It's still there isn't it?
- [00:44:31.41] JANICE THOMPSON: It still is. It's different now though. Because I went there. And they're only open a short number of hours or something. But it was really racially prejudiced. Black folks wasn't going to get there.
- [00:44:45.57] INTERVIEWER: That's on Michigan Ave?
- [00:44:48.59] JANICE THOMPSON: Yeah.
- [00:44:49.44] INTERVIEWER: What about when people came here to stay? They were travelling. Blacks came here, where did they stay? Were there hotels? Or where did they stay?
- [00:45:00.33] JANICE THOMPSON: Well, none of our people ever stayed at a hotel. They always stayed with somebody in the family. They weren't any-- there might have been some motels or something. But I'm not familiar with them at that time. Because we had a lot of family in Detroit. So they would come. The kids would come in the summertime. Because they'd get to run around. From Detroit, they would say they're going to the--We're going to the country.
- [00:45:35.58] INTERVIEWER: Coming to Ypsilanti?
- [00:45:38.03] JANICE THOMPSON: Ypsi was the country. Because the apple trees, and the trees, and all this. And they loved coming. The only thing they didn't like, when we first-- my first remembrance, when they started coming, we didn't have an indoor bathroom. Oh yeah, we almost all got beat up about this. But we [CHUCKLE] had to use the chamber bucket, the white bucket with the top on it and stuff. So when the kids, cousins, come from Detroit, it would get full pretty fast.
- [00:46:15.39] And we were responsible for taking it down and dumping it. The outhouse was in the back. I still remember. It was at the point when it was just beginning to be able to get bathroom stuff on the poor side or whatever. So the chamber bucket would get almost full. And all the kids, we'd be up there whispering, who's going dump the bucket. And everybody goes, no, I'm not doing it. So anyway, you would have to. Because there was a stairway up there. And you'd have to take it downstairs and out the back door to the thing.
- [00:46:55.20] Well, there was a little window almost at the top. And we would get that window open to see if we could pour it. Well, we did that. We finally did that. We didn't get away with that one very long, only two or three times.
- [00:47:10.47] INTERVIEWER: I wouldn't think so.
- [00:47:12.25] JANICE THOMPSON: And my grandfather saw, he was the one. And, oh, we all got beat. If child services was here, we could have had him put in jail for that. [CHUCKLE]
- [00:47:25.60] INTERVIEWER: Child protective services.
- [00:47:27.93] JANICE THOMPSON: My grandfather had a belt that he kept hanging on the bathroom door to remind us you'll get a whipping. I remember him whipping my aunt once. And she was grown. He saw the stain. Because it was this old stuff that they made houses with. He saw that. And, oh boy, he came looking for us. We got beat up pretty good on that one.
- [00:48:01.84] INTERVIEWER: And times have changed--
- [00:48:03.33] JANICE THOMPSON: Thank god.
- [00:48:04.87] INTERVIEWER: In terms of that.
- [00:48:06.10] JANICE THOMPSON: It wasn't long, too long after that they had a toilet put in the house.
- [00:48:12.77] INTERVIEWER: So, I'm going to move on to part 3, which is adulthood, marriage, and family life. This set of questions covers a fairly long period of your life. From the time you complete your education, entered the labor force, or started a family until all of your children left home and you and/or your spouse retires. So we might be talking about a stretch of time spanning as much as four decades. After you finished high school, where did you live?
- [00:48:46.23] JANICE THOMPSON: In Ypsilanti. And then after I got married, we moved to Belleville. We had a nice home out there. My ex-husband's father was in the numbers racket. Back in those days, everybody played the numbers. You had to have a numbers book. It was illegal, but everybody played it. And there's somebody always in the neighborhood picking up the numbers. So that
- [00:49:19.46] INTERVIEWER: Like the lottery now?
- [00:49:20.86] JANICE THOMPSON: It is exactly like the-- the government took over. So there's no more. They took it over. But the numbers racket was a big business. And George's father had a numbers racket. And they had a lot of money. My ex-husband's family, they had money. And that's how they got it. No telling what else he was doing. Because they were from Black Bottom in Detroit. It was all kind of stuff going on down there. But the numbers racket was a big thing for them.
- [00:49:49.00] And so they had this big-- I think this might have been one of the reasons I liked George too. Because he had available to him all the things that I thought I wanted after having to fight with my stepfather. And [INAUDIBLE] I was ready to go. So when we got married, we moved out there. Had a really nice home with movie screen in the recreation room. And George had a lot of parties there after college. He was a Kappa. George loved Kappa more than he loved anybody else. His parents, me, his kids. He just died a couple months ago.
- [00:50:30.47] INTERVIEWER: Oh did he?
- [00:50:32.91] JANICE THOMPSON: He taught school in Inkster for a number of years.
- [00:50:36.58] INTERVIEWER: And what was his name?
- [00:50:37.72] JANICE THOMPSON: George Thompson. He was a coach out there for basketball, football for a while, but tennis. And he was a very aggressive person. He was unique. Anyway, we moved out there. And we stayed there. And moved to Ypsi. And by that time, I had two more children. I had Deena and little Greg. I have four kids. Boy, girl they're close in age. And boy, girl close in age, four kids.
- [00:51:20.11] Well, that's when he started teaching in Inkster. And he was always-- it's hard to-- I don't know how he felt. But he was a very assertive person. He didn't spend a lot of time with the kids or whatever. I did. And we'd go some. When he died, he had a mobile home that he would go to Michigan's football games. And they'd drink and party. And everybody depend on him and my daughter now. And he started a driving school not too long after he retired. But anyway, he had this driving school business. And he remarried. And the kids, my oldest daughter and her husband, are trying to run it now and keep it going. Because it's good. Because they don't teach drivers ed in the schools anymore.
- [00:52:25.25] INTERVIEWER: They stopped that a few years ago.
- [00:52:30.25] JANICE THOMPSON: But he was very assertive, very aggressive person. I don't want to talk about him. Because I don't have a whole lot of good to say. [CHUCKLE]
- [00:52:41.75] INTERVIEWER: So we'll keep right on going. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:52:47.24] JANICE THOMPSON: Because I don't have a lot of good stuff to say about him. So I'd rather not talk about him.
- [00:52:51.70] INTERVIEWER: We'll move on to the next questions. [CHUCKLE]
- [00:52:54.91] JANICE THOMPSON: I'd have to be out drinking with him somewhere and [INAUDIBLE]
- [00:53:00.58] INTERVIEWER: Tell me about your children, what life was like when they were young and living in the house.
- [00:53:05.77] JANICE THOMPSON: Oh, the kids were happy as they could be. They got over when George and I-- when I divorced him and moved, we moved back to Ypsi. I think I was working for public housing. And so we lived in public housing, in the new units that were down on Grove. And they were nice.
- [00:53:28.54] And the boys were getting older then. They, of course, wanted to play ball for their dad. That's fine, so they could stay there. They really had two homes. But the girls were always with me, mostly. So what else did you ask? I had four children. Tippy, my oldest son, died. He died in 2002. That was--
- [00:53:54.31] INTERVIEWER: Sorry to hear that.
- [00:53:55.19] JANICE THOMPSON: That was a hard one. Tippy was always my wildcard. He was born in Belleville. When he was born, we lived in Belleville. George's dad really had this nice home built. It was ranch style. It was brick, had fireplaces, movie screen, just really a nice place. I remember Mr Thompson talking about-- Tippy is my oldest son. His name is George. He's the third. But we call him Tippy. He would wake up. And there were deer around and all kinds of animals. And he just loved it. As he grew up, then he loved to hunt. And he got a deer. So I didn't like that so well. But he was my wild card. But Tippy died. His death was like-- I never will forget it.
- [00:55:00.64] I was in bed one night. I can't remember what day it was. He was living in a condo that I had bought. So him and his girlfriend couldn't keep a job. And when hunting season would come, Tippy would quit his job to go hunting. And I'd say every year to him, You quit your job I'm going to kick your butt. Don't you quit your job to go hunting. He may not have done it one year, but after that he went right back. But he loved to hunt and fish and everybody who knows Tippy knows that, see. I said you might-- when he went away to college I think he learned to drink more beer than he did anything. He didn't-- he stayed half a year. That was it. I didn't bother with that, because I know this kid is like that. And he loved to hunt and fish, and that's what he did.
- [00:55:58.00] But anyway, what happened was, he had hurt his foot and he went to the foot doctor. And when I got this call, his girlfriend said, We can't wake him up. And I said, What do you mean you can't wake him up? And she said, Gail gave him some medicine because he was in pain. This is my half sister who was probably-- I don't know-- anyway, she did a lot of drugs and everything. She gave him-- and I said OK I'll be right there. And when I got there they weren't there, and somebody said they took him to the hospital. So I went to the hospital. And when I got to the hospital, the police were there, and there was a lady there--it's a Catholic hospital-- and she was a nun I think, but she didn't have on her nun-- and she walked up to me and she said, she told me that he had died.
- [00:57:16.41] I don't remember how I felt. But then she walked to the room and she was saying-- but I saw him laying on this gurney thing, and he looked so-- he was a handsome kid. He was a very handsome kid, and it looked like he was asleep. And I remember standing there looking at him. That's all I remember. I never did cry. And I don't know. Then everybody left and I was just standing there. And after that I don't know what happened, but anyway, that was in 2002.
- [00:58:05.52] INTERVIEWER: So sorry to hear that. He was your oldest?
- [00:58:08.36] JANICE THOMPSON: He was the oldest. And [? Devee ?] my daughter, [? Devee ?] and Dina both-- all went to Eastern. And they're both-- both the girls got their master's degree. Dina teaches in Northville. She's been teaching out there for almost 20 years now. And she's the only black teacher out there. Northville is still-- there was one other black teacher but she retired. And Dina, they love her. The kids love her. They would go home with her every day if they could.
- [00:58:42.31] And [? Devee, ?] of course, is the director of the senior citizen complex here in Ypsi. But when they reorganized and closed down or something, she lost that job. She's driving a bus now until she can find something, but she's got a job. And [? Devee, ?] they have three kids. And Tippy never did marry. He didn't have any children. And I didn't cry. I never cried. I could never cry. You know how long it was before I could cry? It was years.
- [00:59:25.63] INTERVIEWER: Years.
- [00:59:26.58] JANICE THOMPSON: Years. And sometimes I talk to myself about that. I wonder-- I think I didn't accept it, and nothing was going to convince me that my son was dead.
- [00:59:40.72] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [00:59:42.28] JANICE THOMPSON: And I think I just held on to it, knowing that it wasn't wrong, it wasn't right, or whatever. But anyway--
- [00:59:50.83] INTERVIEWER: So is your youngest child-- was--
- [00:59:56.14] JANICE THOMPSON: The youngest one is Dina.
- [00:59:58.01] INTERVIEWER: Oh, Dina, OK.
- [01:00:00.19] JANICE THOMPSON: Because it was Tippy and [? Devee, ?] [? Delena, ?] and then Gregory my son, my youngest son. He's in California now. Oh, God, they're in a situation. My granddaughter goes to Stanford University. They talk about Stanford like it's heaven, but it's a good school and I understand that. And she played basketball there for three years.
- [01:00:27.61] Well, my son, this is my youngest son's daughter, something happened that they didn't like. I think it was when George died they came home to the funeral, which is Gregory's dad, and [? Leili ?] is her name, she was the point guard for Stanford University. Well, they stayed home longer or something. But anyway, when they got back there was a problem. They didn't-- the coach did, or something they were doing, that they felt they weren't being fair to [? Leili ?] and she had been gone. And I don't know the whole story, of course, and I only hear one side of it.
- [01:01:08.35] But anyway, [? Leili, ?] she didn't play this last season, but Notre Dame recruited her. They just went last week now she signed up. She's going to be playing women's basketball in graduate school. She'll be in grad school because she graduates from Stanford. She's still going to graduate from there because she has been there for three years. She'll graduate from Stanford in April, and then she signed up to play basketball, women's basketball, with Notre Dame.
- [01:01:42.24] And the kids, see they're so protective, Gregory and his wife are so protective of her. The girl never-- they're just overly protective, and I know they are. You know. But that's their kid. So the kids say, [? Leili's ?] going to Notre Dame now. She said they're going to move again. Because every time she goes somewhere they move there. [LAUGHS]
- [01:02:06.74] INTERVIEWER: They follow her, huh?
- [01:02:07.63] JANICE THOMPSON: I don't know. [LAUGHS]
- [01:02:09.97] INTERVIEWER: Is she interested in playing professional basketball?
- [01:02:13.03] JANICE THOMPSON: Well a lot of those players now that graduated from there, a lot of them go to Italy and Switzerland and stuff.
- [01:02:21.45] INTERVIEWER: All right. That's what I was wondering about.
- [01:02:22.54] JANICE THOMPSON: Yeah, and they've been there, and yes, she is looking forward to going there to play, and stuff.
- [01:02:29.06] INTERVIEWER: OK. So we're going to move into work and retirement. I think you probably covered a lot of this, but what was your main field of employment? I just want to make sure we got that.
- [01:02:39.32] JANICE THOMPSON: Social work. Even before I had license. When I worked for Public Housing and started programs, I did that there for kids and senior citizens care too. And then in research I did a lot of that, still talking to people and recruiting people. A lot of time with groups and people. And in the military some. Um--
- [01:03:13.68] INTERVIEWER: So social worker--
- [01:03:14.58] JANICE THOMPSON: And that's what I retired from. Social work, yeah, and research at that time. But even in nursing you use social, [INAUDIBLE]. Same kind of thing. So I include nursing in that too, you know, because it's a lot-- so much the same, in the way you have to deal with people and problems.
- [01:03:38.14] INTERVIEWER: So where did you work, in terms of here, doing social work? Was it at an agency at the hospital? Or--
- [01:03:45.37] JANICE THOMPSON: I worked at a VA hospital for a while. Yeah. But I worked in Health HSR&D. That was our program. We were housed out at Domino Farms for years, and then they made us come to the hospital because most of our patients were veterans at some point. So we should have been there-- so we moved to the hospital. But now they've moved out of the hospital again and out where Pfeiffer-- what is it? Pfizer was.
- [01:04:17.36] INTERVIEWER: Pfizer.
- [01:04:17.63] JANICE THOMPSON: Yeah. So I don't know what they're doing now, expanding, but they're still HSR&D. It's Health Services Research and Development. That's who I worked for all the time. But we were still veteran employees-- federal employees there. So that's where I retired from.
- [01:04:38.38] INTERVIEWER: OK. What is the biggest difference in your field of employment from the time you started until now? What have been some changes, some of the biggest differences?
- [01:04:50.64] JANICE THOMPSON: Not much.
- [01:04:51.99] INTERVIEWER: Not much.
- [01:04:52.61] JANICE THOMPSON: I mean I'm always working with people or kids, one of the two.
- [01:04:56.99] INTERVIEWER: All right.
- [01:04:58.23] JANICE THOMPSON: I believe, and I still believe, that especially, not just for kids who live in public housing, but I believe that travel and life experiences for kids is one of the best ways of teaching them. So when I was at Public Housing I had an opportunity to do some of that because the director would go along with it. So what I did was start a program for the kids and take them places. At the time it was good because I knew a lot of people in Ypsi. At the police station they had a police bus at the time, and Joe [? Craig ?] was working there and he volunteered to drive us. So I took them to museums, and they wanted to go to Cedar Point. That was their idea, I didn't like that one so well, but they wanted to do it. And I know a lot of them wouldn't get a chance to go to Cedar Point if we didn't do it, so Cedar Point. Took them to Wayne State to some of the plays. Just some little things, just to take them somewhere and give them exposure.
- [01:06:17.50] And I said when I retire I'm going to get a program together so all these kids can go somewhere. I'd like to take them to see the sequoias in California, you know. I haven't done very well. I've done some writing, but I would need someone who is good at contract writing [INAUDIBLE]. But anyway, that's just been me. And I think a part of that comes from being with grandparents, because I was also with them when they got sick or something. It was good.
- [01:06:50.28] INTERVIEWER: You know, oftentimes those experiences, children, when they get older will remember the fact that they went to-- you know.
- [01:07:00.03] JANICE THOMPSON: I've heard a couple of them have said that. When they see me I say, ah, I don't remember these kids now. And they're all big kids. But yeah, I think so.
- [01:07:09.61] INTERVIEWER: And my aunt says you're planting a seed. You never know where it's going to grow.
- [01:07:13.93] JANICE THOMPSON: Yeah, that's true.
- [01:07:16.60] INTERVIEWER: How did-- what do you value most about what you did for a living and why?
- [01:07:28.92] JANICE THOMPSON: Say that again?
- [01:07:32.83] INTERVIEWER: When thinking back on your working-- OK, that's not what I wanted to ask you. [LAUGHS] What do you value most about what you did for a living and why? So being a social worker, what did you value most about that?
- [01:07:49.63] JANICE THOMPSON: I guess trying to be a positive person for them and helping people if I could, you know, and learning, and knowing what I'm capable of doing and not capable of doing, because I know a lot of people there's nothing I could do for them, and I wouldn't try. Or I'd think it would take more time and energy, experience, whatever, for me to be in a position to help somebody. I don't know.
- [01:08:29.79] INTERVIEWER: So the idea of helping people.
- [01:08:31.32] JANICE THOMPSON: Yeah. Be good to them. Be good to them. Sometimes people don't have somebody that is very nice to them. You know. They don't have any sort of touch, no support, nothing. So.
- [01:08:48.10] INTERVIEWER: I'm going to go into the final part. That's historical social events. Tell me how it was for you-- you probably talked about it a little bit, but living in the Ypsilanti community.
- [01:09:00.35] JANICE THOMPSON: Oh, I always come back, so you know, I mean, you know, it's home to me. I'm here-- I have just moved to Ann Arbor to-- I live in a university co-op. You know. It took me three and a half years because I was paying the rent. In a nice place it's like $1,000 a month or more, and it was kicking my behind. I'm a retired social worker, remember, we don't make a lot of money. I think I did better because I was working for the federal government, but it was just a lot. And now, you would think I would-- and I am doing better, but-- OK, Courtney is going into nursing school. She graduated from the [? LPN ?] school. She's going to get her bachelors either at U of M or at Eastern. Money. [LAUGHS] I mean they have parents, but-- I'll have to tell you something that's not on there.
- [01:10:04.20] Courtney's going-- [? Sierra ?] is adamant about she was going to school in Chicago. Xavier University. It's a private Catholic school. Good school. Went up on cost, though. She couldn't go there anymore. So she came and she went to Washtenaw now to get an associate's degree, just to get a degree. But she's going to Eastern, or U of M or somewhere. She's in her senior year of college now. That's [? Divi's ?] too. And [? CJ, ?] he's the wild one. I will tell you a little bit about [? CJ. ?] Not much, but I'm going to tell you because a lot of people make it so terrible. And it's not the greatest thing, but it is--
- [01:10:57.90] So I got those three going to college. [? L.B.'s ?] finished. He's teaching, that's Dina's son. Now this was a smart kid, my grandson [? L.B., ?] but he's one of those smart kids that you can't quite get to. Not bad, never done a wrong thing in his life, but he's deep. And I don't care what you say to him or what you try to find out, he'll try and tell you and explain it to you, but he doesn't understand that we don't know what he's talking about. You know? One of them kids. But he's working now, he said he's teaching people at a VA there how to use a computer, and how to set up, and how to use programs and stuff, and he's fantastic at it.
- [01:11:45.51] But his personality is one that you wouldn't look at him, you probably wouldn't think-- [LAUGHS] and don't let him try to tell you anything or explain anything to you. He's just out there. So the other night Dina said, did you talk to [? L.B.? ?] No, Dina, I don't talk to him unless I have to. [LAUGHS]
- [01:12:05.82] INTERVIEWER: So basically you're providing some support as a grandparent.
- [01:12:08.96] JANICE THOMPSON: Oh yeah, these kids. Yes.
- [01:12:12.09] INTERVIEWER: So when thinking back on your entire life, what important social or historical events have the greatest impact? Want me to repeat it?
- [01:12:26.85] JANICE THOMPSON: Mmm hmm.
- [01:12:27.81] INTERVIEWER: When thinking back on your entire life, what important social historical events have the greatest impact?
- [01:12:40.40] JANICE THOMPSON: You know, I don't know.
- [01:12:42.38] INTERVIEWER: You can think about it for a second and come back to it, if you like. When thinking back over your entire life, what are you most proud of?
- [01:12:54.30] JANICE THOMPSON: Well, I'm proud of my kids and my grandchildren for doing like I wanted them to do. Go to school, get an education, be nice to people. You're not better than anybody else and all that. I hate that stuff. That they're doing the best they can, and they're working. The girls are very-- they say that everybody tells them they're a lot like me because they work and they try to go places and do things. And I always liked to travel, and being supportive of them. So they're good.
- [01:13:39.23] But let me tell you a little something you may not be interested in hearing. So you can tell shut up if you want, and I'll shut up.
- [01:13:47.32] INTERVIEWER: I won't do that. [LAUGHS]
- [01:13:48.40] JANICE THOMPSON: My daughter [? Delena, ?] the one that lost her job, she's driving a bus now, but she's got a master's degree. Her and her husband, I give them a lot of credit because they have three children. The two girls I was telling you about that are doing very well, and they have a son [? CJ. ?] His name is [? Cornell ?] [? Grant. ?] Growing up [? CJ ?] was a wonderful basketball player. And if you know people who are into sports and they really like somebody, in high school all the girls were after him and this and that. He went off to college. He didn't stay very long either.
- [01:14:31.44] [? CJ ?] has 12 children. [? CJ ?] has been married once for maybe three months. There's no-- yeah OK, you get all kind of compliments about, Well why didn't you get him a-- why didn't he get a vasectomy? I don't know. I don't know what the problem is. There are some things that happened to him that I think were bad, but still, he didn't have to go out and-- but all of these girls seem very happy about these kids. And some of them got pregnant, I think-- I can't say definitely-- but I believe that some of them got pregnant because they wanted to get pregnant by him.
- [01:15:33.54] But let me tell you how I feel about this now because I guess my daughter would be depressed, of course, you know. This boy makes babies, and-- Even now when she talks to him, he said, Mom they want this. You know? How could you want to have babies out of wedlock? I don't know. Maybe. I don't know. But anyway, a result of this is that-- 12 grandchildren from 16 years the oldest, 15 to 16, to 4 years old.
- [01:16:21.47] Yeah, it's a bad thing. By the time he got a vasectomy-- but the kids are remarkable. And I don't like for people to get around them and talk about, oh, your daddy, well that's their daddy. They know who their daddy is. And they know what's going on with him. I also think he has some other problems, but I'll have to think about how to do more on that.
- [01:16:52.76] But these kids are all doing well in school, two or three of them play piano by ear. They just-- I think [? Cornell ?] played at George's funeral. And they're nice people, nice kids. And they know about their dad, and that he's not-- I guess he does things with them some time but it's pretty hard to do. But I think he also stays depressed a lot. You can understand that.
- [01:17:42.77] And [? Divi ?] and [? Cornell ?] that's [? CJ's ?] parents, do a wonderful job. We have all those kids at Christmas time all the kids during the summer. They do things together and they go places together. These people, these kids, are people. You treat them like people now, and that's what I believe.
- [01:18:02.44] INTERVIEWER: Nothing to do with who their parents were, but they're people. Yeah.
- [01:18:07.33] JANICE THOMPSON: So, right, so I don't have a problem with it anymore. I don't talk about it much because when you tell people that, the first thing-- and you know I understand, but at the same time I don't want to reinforce all this stuff that they're saying. And I'm predicting that these kids are going to be just fine. I think they're just fine right now. You know. So I don't care what you think, but I don't like to get into a conversation about it. They're a lot of fun.
- [01:18:42.04] INTERVIEWER: And they're you're great-- They're your great--
- [01:18:44.98] JANICE THOMPSON: My great grandchildren.
- [01:18:46.09] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [01:18:46.60] JANICE THOMPSON: And I try to keep up with their birthdays. I have a folder. [LAUGHS] I almost brought it with me. I had it, I said, oh God, I've got to get twelve-- And what I decided to do was give them $1 a year for when their birthday come around. Well there's a set of twins in there too. So theirs will be pretty-- and I said, God, I don't know if I should have started this or not. [LAUGHS] So I'm looking for a part-time job. You hear anything good let me know.
- [01:19:19.33] INTERVIEWER: I'll let you know.
- [01:19:19.60] JANICE THOMPSON: Because I got to keep it up. But I owe $12 to one of them now. [LAUGHS]
- [01:19:25.22] INTERVIEWER: OK. So this is your last question. What advice would you give to the younger generation?
- [01:19:45.04] JANICE THOMPSON: Prepare yourself for your future. Think about what you want for your future and how you can get it. And be nice to people and good to your parents, your family and friends. Do what you think is best. I don't know, it's hard to give advice to other people.
- [01:20:13.33] INTERVIEWER: Well that was good. Just say--
- [01:20:15.64] JANICE THOMPSON: Health, wealth and happiness. Just strive for that. Health, wealth and happiness.
- [01:20:22.82] INTERVIEWER: So I just said that was the last question, but actually I'm going to ask you one more, in terms of--
- [01:20:26.72] JANICE THOMPSON: [LAUGHS]
- [01:20:28.49] INTERVIEWER: Why do you feel it's important to do living oral histories, what we did today? Why is that significant?
- [01:20:36.63] JANICE THOMPSON: Oh I think it's very important. I think it's important for your kids-- now that's one of the things-- back to that question. What I've done in my house-- you all have to come see my house. I got pictures around me, every wall-- but I have my grandchildren who have finished college, and children, well I didn't intend the children, but after I started doing, putting all of them in cap and gown in a picture, a portrait, in a frame. And I put me first, and I'm putting them after. There's six of them now.
- [01:21:15.73] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [01:21:16.21] JANICE THOMPSON: So we do that. But you know, and I have pictures of my children, each one of them when they were five years old. They've been hanging out there 50 some years, and they're hanging on a wall. And I think, when I think about them, I didn't think about it much until lately, I think about letting them know that they're loved, and that there's concern about them. But when these kids see their picture in the cabinet, you can see just the sparkle and the loving. You know.
- [01:21:49.25] Now if I took those four grown kids of mine now, one's 52, he died, and he would've been-- and they have a fit if they don't see those pictures hanging up somewhere. And I think these grandchildren-- and I'm doing it now because I want the grandchildren and the great grandchildren behind them to feel that way too. And it's not so much about money, and this and that. It's about love.
- [01:22:18.46] INTERVIEWER: That's true.
- [01:22:19.34] JANICE THOMPSON: That's what it's about. And I now get the feeling that they know that and they feel close. [? Tippy, ?] the grown ones, they always got something to say. And then their kids come in, and their kids will say, that's momma? Is that momma? Or Grandma? Is that her? You know? It's amazing. You have to come to my house. You too, Matt, you can come and see all of my pictures. [LAUGHS] [INAUDIBLE] Woo! I'm sorry. You finish.
- [01:22:49.15] INTERVIEWER: That's OK. So the importance of doing this kind of thing is maintaining history to pass on.
- [01:22:54.67] JANICE THOMPSON: Mmm hmm.
- [01:22:55.44] INTERVIEWER: Right. So--
January 26, 2017 at Downtown Library
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library
Ypsilanti High School
Black American Businesses
Reliable Cab Co.
Currie's Barber Shop
Northern Lights Bar (Ypsilanti)
Black Bottom [Detroit]
Notre Dame University
Veterans Administration Hospital
Health Services Research & Development
Washtenaw Community College
Goodman's Fashion Center
Perry Elementary School (Ypsilanti)
Race & Ethnicity
AACHM Living Oral History
Charles Eugene Beatty
Clyde W. Briggs