AACHM Oral History: Charles Morris
When: February 21, 2017 at Downtown Library
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Chuck Morris was born in 1938 and grew up in Ypsilanti where he attended Harriet Street Elementary School and Ypsilanti High School. He recalls Ypsilanti neighborhoods and businesses, the Willow Run Bomber plant and air raids during World War II, and the opening of Washtenaw Community College. Mr. Morris attended the Navy and retired from the Ann Arbor District Library where he worked as the bookmobile driver/trainer for many years.
- [00:00:13.64] INTERVIEWER: OK. I'm first going to ask you some really simple demographic questions. And these questions may jog your memory about stories, but as we said at the beginning, we want you to save them till the appropriate time. I'll let you know, and then we can go into more detail that later. So for right now, would you please say and spell your name for me?
- [00:00:41.31] CHARLES MORRIS: Charles Morris, C-H-A-R-L-E-S M-O-R-R-I-S.
- [00:00:48.48] INTERVIEWER: What is your date of birth, including the year?
- [00:00:51.96] CHARLES MORRIS: 1/28/1938.
- [00:00:56.50] INTERVIEWER: And how old are you?
- [00:01:00.09] CHARLES MORRIS: 79.
- [00:01:02.61] INTERVIEWER: How would you describe your ethnic background?
- [00:01:07.95] CHARLES MORRIS: Oh, let's see. Catholic, black, Irish, Jewish, and Scottish.
- [00:01:20.93] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:01:22.90] CHARLES MORRIS: And, First Nation.
- [00:01:25.50] INTERVIEWER: First Nation? OK.
- [00:01:26.40] CHARLES MORRIS: Yes. Seminole, on my great-great-grandmother's side.
- [00:01:31.86] INTERVIEWER: What is your religion?
- [00:01:34.68] CHARLES MORRIS: Basically, I tell people I do not support a ministry.
- [00:01:40.50] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:01:41.88] CHARLES MORRIS: But after that, everything is the same. I always, when I start a prayer-- because of my history, I'll say now, to the Great Spirit, God, thank you, from whatever it is I'm speaking of.
- [00:02:08.72] INTERVIEWER: Speaking of-- OK. What is the highest level of formal education you've completed?
- [00:02:15.90] CHARLES MORRIS: I need one or two more hours to graduate from Eastern.
- [00:02:21.38] INTERVIEWER: From Eastern, OK.
- [00:02:22.92] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah, and I got an Associate Degree from Washtenaw.
- [00:02:26.75] INTERVIEWER: Good. Did you attend any additional school or career training beyond that?
- [00:02:35.75] CHARLES MORRIS: I went to school in the Navy as an electronics technician. And I just did some refresher courses in carpentry and electrical work at Washtenaw Community College.
- [00:02:52.24] INTERVIEWER: What is your marital status?
- [00:02:54.55] CHARLES MORRIS: Married.
- [00:02:58.53] INTERVIEWER: How many children do you have?
- [00:03:00.23] CHARLES MORRIS: One, one boy.
- [00:03:01.50] INTERVIEWER: One.
- [00:03:01.98] CHARLES MORRIS: I should say one grown man.
- [00:03:08.10] INTERVIEWER: What was your main occupation?
- [00:03:15.27] CHARLES MORRIS: Basically, what I retired from was a library clerk. And I was bookmobile driver, and driver trainer.
- [00:03:29.08] INTERVIEWER: We'll learn more about that later. And what age did you retire?
- [00:03:34.48] CHARLES MORRIS: 65 and two months, I think. I think that's what they had at the time. 65 years and two months. And so it was roughly 65 years and two months.
- [00:03:50.96] INTERVIEWER: OK now I'm going to ask you some questions about your memory of your childhood and your youth. Even if these questions jog your memory again, about other items in your life, please only respond with the memories for this part of it.
- [00:04:10.32] CHARLES MORRIS: OK.
- [00:04:11.04] INTERVIEWER: OK. What was your family like when you were a child?
- [00:04:22.96] CHARLES MORRIS: Well I don't know how to really answer that. All I could say is that, I think that I was raised by a family that made me realize that nobody was more special than you, for their color or their religion. And I was not more special than anybody else because of mine. And I think that's the way I was raised.
- [00:05:00.58] Because my mother's family was all Catholic raised in Louisiana, I started out in a Catholic school. My dad went to the Methodist church a half a block one way from the house. And my mother went to the Baptist church, a half a block from house the other way. So we had three different churches, and there was no conflict. One, I was there because that's where I was supposed to go, as far as the family history. And the other was that, God don't care where you pray. It's how you live.
- [00:05:44.32] INTERVIEWER: What sort of work did your parents do?
- [00:05:47.08] CHARLES MORRIS: My dad was a painter, for the Ypsilanti school system. He was the painter for the Ypsilanti school system. And my mother was a beautician. But before that he worked in the bomber plant during the Second World War. And he was also an air raid warden during the Second World War.
- [00:06:13.00] A lot of people don't realize we had air raids in this area, because of that bomber plant out there. Basically what you did was, we went to the neighbor's house to listen to the war news while my dad and a guy named LC Perry, who was a member of the-- he was a dentist. He was our family dentist. He was also a member of the Ypsi school board. And his son was All-American [? man ?] at the end in Michigan. Lowell Perry was one of my neighbors.
- [00:06:53.83] INTERVIEWER: Were there any special days, events, or family traditions you remember when you were a child?
- [00:07:01.34] CHARLES MORRIS: Basically we just had the Christmas dinners. We went to Christmas dinner in Detroit, and we had, basically, Thanksgiving dinner at home. And then, as my family got a little more money, got our own house and stuff like that, then some of the dinners would be at our house, and other ones would be in Detroit at another family member's for the holidays. There was always a family event held on Thanksgiving and Christmas. New Year's was kind of private, yeah.
- [00:07:40.30] INTERVIEWER: And you were in Ypsilanti, right?
- [00:07:42.94] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah.
- [00:07:48.01] INTERVIEWER: How were the holidays traditionally celebrated? Well you've told me a little bit about how you traveled back and forth. Any-- some people went to this house and that house? Any other--
- [00:07:58.60] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah, well it was basically in Detroit. And we would go to either one of my aunts' houses in Detroit, or at our house there in Ypsilanti. Since it was just us, we usually went there. In the good weather, I mean in the bad weather there, usually in the winter and they came out, spent the 4th of July and my mother would always have a 4th of July barbecue. So all the family from Detroit would be out for that. And that was a big event. Especially the fresh-churned peach ice cream.
- [00:08:40.02] INTERVIEWER: How long were you in Ypsilanti?
- [00:08:43.01] CHARLES MORRIS: How long?
- [00:08:44.05] INTERVIEWER: Yeah.
- [00:08:44.35] CHARLES MORRIS: Well, from my first birthday on. We came here in '39, I think.
- [00:08:52.64] INTERVIEWER: OK. You've already told me that you completed all but one course at Eastern. So did you go to high school in Ypsilanti?
- [00:09:07.95] CHARLES MORRIS: Yes. Went there, and because I was interested in model airplanes and stuff like that-- you had two courses. You had the general course, and you had the college prep course. And my dad says, you're going to take the college prep course. And I says, what if I don't want to go to college? He says, I don't care, you're going to know more if you take the college prep course. And I said, yes, sir.
- [00:09:38.76] INTERVIEWER: And that was at Ypsi High?
- [00:09:40.21] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah. And then, you had the regular college prep course, and then you had architecture and engineering. And that required you had plane geometry, you had math, and then you had algebra for two years, and then your senior year, the first semester was trigonometry, and the second semester was solid geometry. And you had to take four years of English, and a foreign language.
- [00:10:17.58] And I got my-- I still have, somewhere, my student handbook that a friend of mine, Levi Simpson-- who was graduated from Eastern and was a track coach at Ypsi for years-- he borrowed it from me because I got one before he graduated so he had one. He used my book till he graduated and gave it back to me because he was a couple years ahead of me, see.
- [00:10:48.40] But I looked at my son's guide book, and I looked on there and I couldn't find those classes that I was looking for. I was looking for the algebra. I was looking for the English. I was looking for the subjects that I knew did really help, even though you didn't think it at the time. And I couldn't find them in the curriculum. And I said, now there's something wrong here.
- [00:11:18.87] And my buddy who took the general course at Ypsi High School, was one or two classes different than the college prep. I don't care if you took stenography, you're only one or two classes different than if you took a regular college prep course. So your whole education system seemed to have been graded higher than it is today. They keep trying to fix it when it was never broke. You just got to have the courses in place and the teachers in place. That's a question later, though, I think.
- [00:11:51.05] INTERVIEWER: That's interesting since there is so much conversation about the differences in the curriculum, in terms of students achieving. And so you say that there were only a couple courses different than the general, and the college prep.
- [00:12:08.27] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah, and the general college prep program. Architecture and engineering, you couldn't take-- you had to take two sciences. So you had to take either-- well you took chemistry. And you took-- oh, what the heck, I'm trying to think of it. And you use it all the time. I can't say it right now.
- [00:12:37.38] INTERVIEWER: Physics.
- [00:12:38.00] CHARLES MORRIS: Physics, right, right. So you got chemistry. And you couldn't take biology, because it wasn't a science in the same sense of what physics and chemistry is. And the thing is, those things you use all your life.
- [00:12:57.31] INTERVIEWER: Now, in talking about the differences in the curriculum today, as opposed to when you were in school, can you tell me any other differences in your school experience when you were there, and the school experience today?
- [00:13:22.95] CHARLES MORRIS: What I'm seeing, and not being in the classroom, being there, is that, the more emphasis is on passing a test, than learning the skills in math, or physics, or whatever, that can really help you. I think one of the advantages that I think we had, and I'm saying the guys, all the people on the south side that went to Harriet Street Elementary. Those teachers made sure you could do three things. You could read, you could write, and you could count. See, so you might not have had all the other advantages. But competition-wise in the classroom, you had all the tools you needed.
- [00:14:13.22] INTERVIEWER: Did you play any sports, or get involved in any other extracurricular activities?
- [00:14:20.13] CHARLES MORRIS: I played football and ran track. I couldn't play to make the basketball team. And at the time, I didn't think about going out for wrestling because that would have probably been the only other sport. So I managed the basketball team and the wrestling team, in different seasons. And I became closer to the wrestlers, because, even though it's a team sport, it's an individual effort on the mat. So they had a greater respect because they knew what each one of them had to go through when they walked out on that mat by themselves. So they were a closer-knit team than most of your regular teams.
- [00:15:11.46] INTERVIEWER: So, you were in sports most all year round?
- [00:15:17.99] CHARLES MORRIS: That was the name of the-- that's what you did back then. And the coaches did that. They wanted you active, because you were in shape all the time. And the wrestling coach used to-- anybody that wrestled in the lower weights ran cross-country. And then all the ones in the heavier weights played football.
- [00:15:39.58] INTERVIEWER: Did you enjoy them? Did you like them?
- [00:15:41.90] CHARLES MORRIS: Yes.
- [00:15:44.16] INTERVIEWER: Kept you out of trouble and busy?
- [00:15:46.33] CHARLES MORRIS: It did more than that. It kept your grades up.
- [00:15:49.59] INTERVIEWER: Kept your grades up.
- [00:15:50.42] CHARLES MORRIS: Because you had to have a two point all year. You couldn't be-- if you dip below a two point in the winter, you didn't run track or play baseball, or tennis, or any other sport. So you had to be eligible year-round. And you had to be eligible at the end of the year in order to compete next year.
- [00:16:13.04] INTERVIEWER: So you went on to Eastern from there?
- [00:16:17.09] CHARLES MORRIS: No, I went to Ferris State for a year. And then, I knew I wasn't ready for college. And my dad was trying get me to go back a year, I said, no, I'm gonna try to find a job. Then I'll figure out what I want to do. And that was in January. And from January till I joined the Navy in August that year, I couldn't find a job.
- [00:16:49.40] And, because of the times, you could apply for a job and the job would still be running a month later as unfilled. So naturally, you knew why you didn't get hired. But my dad, all he said was, OK. Because he wanted me to see what it was like to try to get a job with nothing going for you other than your high school diploma. And that one year of college did more for me than if I hadn't gone at all.
- [00:17:21.38] So what I advise a lot of young men and women nowadays is, go to Washtenaw. Get a year or two in. It'll help you later. Whether you go any further or not, it'll help you later. Because what happened, that one year, when I enlisted in the Navy, I enlisted as a-- well, I got a 91 or 92 at the recruiter. And then we had to take another battery of tests at Fort Wayne and I got a 90-something there.
- [00:17:59.69] In the Navy, in all forces, you have your entry exams, where they check to see what your aptitude might be. And then you have your main battery of tests. And they test you on your communication skills, math skills, basic mechanics, and all of that. And then, from there you qualify for your, what we call a "strike" for, what you can try to be. And I requalified in electronic fields, again, because-- the only thing I was average in-- everything else I was above average in. And I credit that to my dad making me go to school that first year.
- [00:18:48.44] And the only thing I was average in was sonar. And that was listening to the different signals that tell the difference between-- to be able to separate-- the dots and dashes. Because some of them were blurred, slurred, or something like that. Some are real quick. And I only got an average in that. So when I got ready to try for a field, you had a choice of three in the same field. So it was either electronics technician, what was what we call the black shoe Navy. That's the people that go aboard ship. And aviation electronics technician, those are the guys that work with the Air Force. And sonar, which I knew I wasn't going to get because I was only average in sonar. So I ended up-- I went to the aviation electronics technician school after that.
- [00:19:42.95] INTERVIEWER: So how long were you in the Navy?
- [00:19:45.17] CHARLES MORRIS: Four years, and I did two years in the reserve.
- [00:19:48.66] INTERVIEWER: And then you came back and that's when you went to Eastern?
- [00:19:52.37] CHARLES MORRIS: No, I went to Eastern-- me and a couple other buddies of mine that got to serve at the same time, we went to Henry Ford for maybe a year. And then they opened up Washtenaw Community College. And when they opened that up, it was the greatest thing I ever saw in this city.
- [00:20:15.64] People that you never thought would ever be trying to get better than they were, were ahead of you in line, going back to school to get another chance. And that was probably one of the greatest events in Ypsilanti, as far as I'm concerned. That it really got people back on their feet, and another chance at a shot that you didn't have 'cause there was no-- Eastern was a teacher's college and most people who had graduated from high school didn't have-- you had to have almost a B-average or better to be considered to go to Eastern. So when they opened up the community college, here we come.
- [00:20:55.51] INTERVIEWER: How old were you then?
- [00:20:59.11] CHARLES MORRIS: When I got out of the service-- I was 22 when I went in. So I was 26 when I got out.
- [00:21:07.00] INTERVIEWER: Were there any changes in your family life during your school years?
- [00:21:14.01] CHARLES MORRIS: No, no.
- [00:21:15.34] INTERVIEWER: Your mom and dad were--
- [00:21:17.01] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah.
- [00:21:18.75] INTERVIEWER: OK.
- [00:21:21.26] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah, my dad always told me, anytime-- something I fell short in, he would just look at me, and he says, you know what you got to do? And I'd say, yes, sir. He'd say, OK, that's it. So it always meant buckle down and then all the way through my life I knew if I wanted to get it done, then I had to know what to do.
- [00:21:42.85] INTERVIEWER: What to do.
- [00:21:43.30] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah.
- [00:21:45.08] INTERVIEWER: Now, when thinking back on your school years, what important social or historical events were taking place at that time? And how did they personally affect you, if any, and your family?
- [00:22:16.90] CHARLES MORRIS: Actually, there were no drastic changes during that time, except until-- I'd probably say after-- from 1960 on, did you start to become aware of what was going on in the South, and in the North.
- [00:22:43.24] Because a lot of things we grew up in, everything we needed was on the south side. The grocery stores were there, the dry cleaners were there, the soda fountain was there. Everything was on the south side if you needed it. You did your major stuff like clothing and most of your big time shopping you did downtown. But other than that, we were basically self-contained on the south side.
- [00:23:08.86] INTERVIEWER: So, when you say that, are you talking about African-American--
- [00:23:12.30] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah, on the south side of Ypsi, yeah.
- [00:23:14.62] INTERVIEWER: And so there were, you said cleaners, and--
- [00:23:18.08] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah, everything was there. And you really didn't realize it, because you had no problem going to anything downtown. You didn't know. You just went.
- [00:23:33.88] And later on I learned places that my family and friends of mine, couldn't go to downtown. Didn't know-- it affected you later in life when you realized, well, wait a minute. You go through school together, you do everything with the whole system.
- [00:24:01.34] I was into sports, and Ed Shadford was the athletic director at the time. And there was a picture of one of the 1940s football teams. And right in the center of the front row, was a Chinese kid that played varsity football for Ypsilanti High School in the '40s. And that just kind of set your whole mindset about your school.
- [00:24:30.04] So it's almost like an insulator, because you did everything together in school. But you didn't know until you walked out of school, and started going to try to get a job or something like that. Because in our generation, we weren't expected to go to college. We were expected to look for a job. And any time you went to college, to some people it was a surprise. And to other people it was expected, because you'd shown some potential and you ought to use it.
- [00:25:09.10] The transition really didn't come until after you really got away from Ypsilanti and saw the rest of the world. And then you get, what can I say, a more mature mindset of what's going on around you.
- [00:25:25.73] INTERVIEWER: So did the civil rights activities of the '60s impact your family at all?
- [00:25:34.21] CHARLES MORRIS: In Ypsilanti, we didn't have to take giant steps. In Ann Arbor, you didn't have to take giant steps. But you had to take steps.
- [00:25:52.56] All your bases except for-- boot camp was in San Diego for me. But then, my first duty station was Corpus Christi, Texas. And my next duty station was Memphis, Tennessee. So, two impactful things-- three I'd say-- happened.
- [00:26:13.46] Corpus Christi, Texas, the only integrated high school football team in the city of Corpus Christi, won the state championship in football. And some of the players I followed throughout, one of then went to Missouri, and then played for St. Louis when they were in St. Louis. And the other team, that won the same-- Corpus Christi won the championship.
- [00:26:43.49] That day and that night, Corpus Christi Coles, which was the black high school, won the state championship in their division that night, that same day. And that was in the time when it was in transition. There were places you went in, but there were still restaurants and counters you couldn't eat at. And there was movies you could go to, but you had to sit in the balcony.
- [00:27:12.30] INTERVIEWER: In Ypsilanti?
- [00:27:13.93] CHARLES MORRIS: That was in Corpus Christi.
- [00:27:15.45] INTERVIEWER: What about Ypsilanti doing that?
- [00:27:18.17] CHARLES MORRIS: Well, everybody went to the show. So it didn't make-- they had a balcony, but we weren't restricted to the balcony. The main thing I remember-- and this window's still there, but it's disguised.
- [00:27:34.14] Haab's had a great thing, called chicken in the rough, take-out thing. But there was a window in the front. We couldn't go in. You picked up your order at that window outside. And so I never intended to go to Haab's. I did a couple of times because of family and friends wanting to go.
- [00:28:01.65] And I did another time because it was Good Friday, and four of us guys who were veterans decided to go have a steak dinner, because the family was doing something else that we were on our own that Friday. So we all went to Haab's. And my one buddy who was in the Air Force in Europe, and had spent time in France-- all of us ordered the t-bone steak with the sides. And then when the guy said, do you want wine, and my buddy Richard says, yeah, I want so-and-so, so-and-so, such-and-such year. And that took care of that!
- [00:28:43.26] INTERVIEWER: Now you mentioned on the football team, this Chinese person. Were the schools segregated at all?
- [00:28:52.15] CHARLES MORRIS: Only in the sense that you still had neighborhood schools. I still got the blurb that my dad cut out of the paper. If you go to Ypsilanti, you got the old Brown Chapel AME Church. And next to that is a thing that says, Adams School. And then next to that is Lucille's Funeral Home.
- [00:29:20.48] Well that school was an army barracks in the 1800s. Then it became Adams Street School, for the black kids on the south side. Then, in 1919, the NAACP had the school condemned. And they built Woodruff School, which is now some kind of Academy down on Michigan Avenue, across from where the old state police post used to be. That was Woodruff School, that built that for the kids on the south side.
- [00:29:57.29] Then, sometime after that-- years after that-- because I had friends who still went to Woodruff School because they lived that far on that side of Ypsi. And then they built Harriet Street Elementary, which was the school I went to, after St. John's. And that was one of the best things that ever happened.
- [00:30:20.51] Because we not only saw first-rate movies on-- if we weren't bad. Some of the time we didn't get to see them. And I say myself and maybe a friend or two. But that was one of the things was, Mr. Beatty would show the feature films that we saw. A lot of them you could see at the show, well we got one a week.
- [00:30:41.10] And that's when I first saw the Tuskegee Airmen. And we didn't know how historic it was, until years later and we start going through our memory bank and thinking. And then, they start showing what people have done. And then I didn't realize, my Boy Scout Master, Louis Freeman, was a Tuskegee Airman. He was my Boy Scout Master.
- [00:31:06.02] And one of my other Boy Scout Masters, Mickey [? Roberson, ?] he was on the Red Ball Express. He got the Bronze Star for whatever he did for that. And so that's when other things come back, when you think about these people.
- [00:31:27.07] He had a day where he gave out toothbrushes to the kids. And when you see the films of us as kids, we were a scruffy lot, as they say. But some of the kids that became All-Americans and all of this stuff, are in those pictures getting their toothbrush.
- [00:31:47.12] INTERVIEWER: Now, because the neighborhoods were segregated, so the schools were?
- [00:31:53.43] CHARLES MORRIS: We had a few people of color on the north side. But if you're basically south of Harriet Street, and on Hawkins Street, you went to Harriet Street Elementary.
- [00:32:13.53] And that was when I learned things that I wouldn't have learned if I'd have went to another school. Because they would not have shown the Tuskegee Airmen in their gymnasium to all of the kids on the movie day. Then we took our pennies for a saving bond, for the war bonds. Every kid, we brought pennies to school to get a war bond.
- [00:32:39.38] INTERVIEWER: How did you get to school? Did you--
- [00:32:42.03] CHARLES MORRIS: Walked.
- [00:32:42.44] INTERVIEWER: Walked?
- [00:32:42.66] CHARLES MORRIS: Everybody walked.
- [00:32:43.38] INTERVIEWER: How far-- elementary, did you walk to school?
- [00:32:47.10] CHARLES MORRIS: Everybody walked.
- [00:32:48.30] INTERVIEWER: Everybody walked, no buses.
- [00:32:50.44] CHARLES MORRIS: If you lived in the city limits, you walked. If you lived outside the city limits, you rode the bus. So like if you take not Ellsworth, but Hewitt. Anybody west of Hewitt rode the bus. Everybody east of Hewitt walked to school.
- [00:33:13.91] But the school was right dead in the center of the city. In fact it was called Ypsilanti Central High. And then it had a Central Elementary on the first floor until the school expanded and they built another elementary school out there on Forest and North Adams, I think.
- [00:33:44.62] INTERVIEWER: So how long did it take you to walk to school?
- [00:33:47.62] CHARLES MORRIS: For me, it's about less than 15 minutes. But the kids that were coming from Watling, next to where I-94 is, by the time they got to me they were rolling. I couldn't keep up with them.
- [00:34:06.53] INTERVIEWER: Now, you mentioned a restaurant where there was a separate pick-up place.
- [00:34:12.84] CHARLES MORRIS: That was Haab's.
- [00:34:14.02] INTERVIEWER: That was Haab's, OK. And so, what about when black visitors came to town? Were they segregated?
- [00:34:25.28] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah, probably the same as everywhere else. Yeah. Back then it was kind of-- we were talking about it the other night. We were talking about-- when I was growing up, you played softball in the sandlot. But, baseball was what you played when you went to the park to watch the game.
- [00:34:46.37] And some of these guys that played baseball, they played [? for Thoring ?] Tire when they played baseball, which was a hardware place and an auto repair place in Ypsi. They played that at a championship level. And then when they got too old to play baseball, they were still able to play softball at a championship level.
- [00:35:11.12] And one of those guys in softball used to bunt to get on base. And that's almost unheard of in softball, because the field is so short and the game is so fast. But he could bunt himself on base.
- [00:35:27.50] INTERVIEWER: So were these integrated teams, or were they all black?
- [00:35:31.55] CHARLES MORRIS: Probably some of them were.
- [00:35:32.25] INTERVIEWER: Some of them were.
- [00:35:33.08] CHARLES MORRIS: And some of them weren't. And most of the ones that we went to watch weren't.
- [00:35:37.31] INTERVIEWER: OK. OK. OK. This next section is about your adulthood and married life. And covers a pretty long period, from the time you completed your education, and entered into the labor force, and started a family, until your children left home, and you and your spouse retired. So we might be talking a little while here--
- [00:36:10.58] CHARLES MORRIS: OK.
- [00:36:11.38] INTERVIEWER: --and asking questions. So after you finished high school, where did you live?
- [00:36:17.83] CHARLES MORRIS: Well, I went into the service after that.
- [00:36:19.81] INTERVIEWER: Went to the service.
- [00:36:20.60] CHARLES MORRIS: I went to school for a year and then I came back, and then I went to the service. And then, I came back and I worked at Ford, Rawsonville. And then in '60-- well, December '65-- I bought our first house. And that's where I was staying when I got married.
- [00:36:51.05] It was interesting because I had a friend, and she asked me why I was there. Because I had a couple of bachelor buddies rooming with me in it. And I didn't have any furniture, except for my bedroom suite and the kitchen table and stuff. And I got six great big throw pillows and put in the living room, because it was carpeted. And everybody had to take their shoes off when they came in the house.
- [00:37:20.24] But I was advised-- the young lady said, are you ever planning to get married? I said, well, maybe someday. She said, then don't buy no furniture. And I said, what do you mean, don't buy no furniture? She said, because well, if you get married, you don't live in the house, you fish and hunt and stuff like you do now, don't you? I said, yeah. She said, then she lives in the house, let her fix the house. That's a good idea, and that's what I did.
- [00:37:44.61] INTERVIEWER: So, how did you meet your wife?
- [00:37:47.24] CHARLES MORRIS: I was home on leave. And I had friends at Eastern, and at university and we were at a-- I don't know if it was a fraternity function or a sorority function. But I met her at one of the functions.
- [00:38:04.70] And then, I corresponded with her off and on while I was in the service. And then I lost track of her, and then one day, I was in Ann Arbor. Used to be a place called The Town Bar and they had jazz there. And we used to go hang out over there and listen to the music. And I ran into her there. They were celebrating the graduation of one of her friends from nursing school. And then that's how we reconnected.
- [00:38:34.16] INTERVIEWER: So you reconnected and then what?
- [00:38:37.07] CHARLES MORRIS: Well, then things took their progression. We started dating and, eventually we got married. And she took me to meet her grandparents. I still laugh when I think about it, 'cause, Big Daddy, he walks up to me, he says, son, do you drink? I says, yes sir. He went and he poured a pint of whiskey, a shot glass, and a beer in front of me. And I said thank you, and he said, now, you might not be able to handle my kind of whiskey, but that's all I got. I say, yes sir, thank you.
- [00:39:15.65] And I drank my shot and my beer, and when we left, Gloria-- that's my wife's name --she says, he never did that for none of my other boyfriends. And I said, I'm not your other boyfriends.
- [00:39:31.05] INTERVIEWER: So, was your wife from Ypsi?
- [00:39:33.33] CHARLES MORRIS: She's from Detroit.
- [00:39:34.67] INTERVIEWER: Oh, she's from Detroit, OK.
- [00:39:36.51] CHARLES MORRIS: And where she grew up at, before they moved-- I had a friend-- she grew up and lived on Vinewood. And I had a friend of the family, me and her son were good friends. So some summers, I would spend a week or two down in Detroit with him. And he lived on Vinewood down the street. And it's just one of those things, we never would have met at the time.
- [00:40:00.96] But she was near Grand River. And we were near the first cross street when you come around the boulevard from Grand River. And then that cross street that were a block off of Grand River. And I remember all those things. You still had the neighborhood stores. And then the boulevard was a playground. You could play for miles on the boulevard, on the center part.
- [00:40:30.38] INTERVIEWER: So what kinds of things did you do while you were dating? What did you all do?
- [00:40:35.98] CHARLES MORRIS: Well, we went bowling. We went to different functions, and basically just did things you do when you're courting. Like I said, we went to different things, went to clubs. I like jazz, so we went to different jazz clubs in Detroit for the music and stuff.
- [00:41:02.49] INTERVIEWER: So did you get married in Ypsi or Detroit?
- [00:41:05.34] CHARLES MORRIS: Detroit.
- [00:41:05.94] INTERVIEWER: Detroit.
- [00:41:06.55] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah.
- [00:41:07.48] INTERVIEWER: What was that like? How was the wedding like?
- [00:41:10.17] CHARLES MORRIS: The wedding was great, but by the time we got out of the greeting line-- or whatever you call it-- the rest of the family had ate up every grocery in the church. If moms hadn't cooked that day, I might not have ate that day. But they ate up everything, including the wedding cake. The only piece we got was the one that we took the picture with.
- [00:41:36.07] INTERVIEWER: Funny. Let me see. You want to tell me about-- you said you had one child, did you say?
- [00:41:49.77] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah.
- [00:41:50.37] INTERVIEWER: Yeah. You want to tell me about him?
- [00:41:53.53] CHARLES MORRIS: Well, we took him-- he went everywhere. Basically, I took him when I went fishing. When he was older I took him up to Deer Camp, and just tried to do as many things as you can with the guys and what we'd do.
- [00:42:15.29] He learned-- I'll put it this way. He was shown how things got done, and what you had to do to get them done. And sometimes, no matter how you teach them, they don't follow up on it. He had moments that just were-- he'd always say-- I asked him one time, I think it was-- he caught a sheepshead one time. And I told him-- we were fishing with artificial bait 90% of the time.
- [00:42:49.08] INTERVIEWER: A sheepshead, that's a kind of fish?
- [00:42:51.17] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah, that's a kind of fish. It's not one of the world's favorite. But it's what they call a freshwater drum. And so he caught it. He says, can I keep it? I said, sure. So we came back and I was fixing lunch, and I filleted it out. Then I cooked it and he's eating that and then he ate a piece of that.
- [00:43:12.96] He says, Dad, is this that sheepshead? I said, yeah. He said, well, it don't taste good as the other. I says yeah, well, what do you do? He says, well, you throw them back. And he got ready to eat and he stopped, he says, or you save them, give them to somebody that likes them. I said, now you got it. He wasn't thinking about himself. I said, you got a chance.
- [00:43:36.84] INTERVIEWER: So, you went fishing, with him. What kind of other things did you do?
- [00:43:44.09] CHARLES MORRIS: Well, whatever he-- basically, if he wanted to do it, he went bowling. They had the bowling things, where the little kids, you take them to the bowling alley. And I'd go with him for that, and then, whatever function they had.
- [00:44:02.04] When he was in the Cub Scouts, he had to make a little Cub Scout Derby. And he had to make a car. And they're looking at all these designs. I says, let me show you something. I says, all you got to do is, you got a block of wood right? And he says, yes sir. I say, cut the back off, here. Cut the front down here. Put the wheels on it, and paint it. So that you got a streamline looking car, and you did nothing major. Because they're supposed to do it themselves and I know, 8- 9- and 10-year-olds, you're not going to be a craftsman type thing on there.
- [00:44:37.74] So he did that and he's still got it. Looked up one day, and there it was. The wife had put it in a drawer. It was still there.
- [00:44:48.35] INTERVIEWER: Did you have any kind of family tradition that you created, you and you and your family?
- [00:44:57.48] CHARLES MORRIS: We didn't, other than that 4th of July barbecue. Everybody in the family looked forward to that. Then when I had got my own place and moved out, I used to get season tickets to Michigan's game. And when it was the off season they were playing in Ohio.
- [00:45:24.87] Me and my mother would watch the game together, and I would cook dinner. And then we'd have a pint and a six pack and we'd watch the game and eat dinner. And I remember one time-- I had a little garden, so I had all fresh stuff in there. And I don't know what kind of meat we had. But I had turnip greens fresh out the garden, and I had the turnips steamed in butter.
- [00:45:54.27] And mom started eating, and she ate three helpings. And I said, Mom, you know what you did when I had three helpings at your house? She said, yeah, I put your behind out! I said, well you just ate three helpings! She said yeah, but I'm your mother, and you can't put me out! But I was good at it. Any time you can cook for your mother, son, you've made it.
- [00:46:16.60] INTERVIEWER: Did your son go to school in Ypsi?
- [00:46:19.01] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah, he went to school there, yeah. And that's when I looked at the curriculum they had. And I'm saying, there's no guidance in the curriculum that I could see. It was just a list of stuff. Whereas before, it was categorized in what was in the class.
- [00:46:40.83] And I hear different things like they're talking about getting rid of literature and all that stuff. And I'm saying literature is the greatest thing you got. Because when they teach literature, they don't just ask you to read the story. They ask you, what was he trying to say with the story.
- [00:47:01.40] What it does is-- I said, I'll give you an example. I watched Reagan give a speech for an hour, and everybody's clapping. I said, he only did two things. He said the Russians are spending all their money on weapons instead of-- then he'd go through a list of stuff that-- we get household goods and stuff like that, and local stuff. And then he goes through that for the end. And at the end, he says, so we're going to do the same thing.
- [00:47:32.09] That's all he said for an hour! We will do the same thing the Russians do. We're going to spend all our money on weapons instead of domestic stuff. And I'm saying they clapped for a whole hour. He only said two things. He could have said that in five minutes.
- [00:47:48.47] INTERVIEWER: Oh, dear. How did your son fare in the Ypsi school system?
- [00:47:57.58] CHARLES MORRIS: He didn't do as good as he could. He has-- I don't know if he's still got it. But at the time, he had almost like a photographic memory.
- [00:48:10.01] Because I asked him one day, what do you mean the teacher didn't-- Oh, do you mean this, this and this, and how-- I said now, go to work. I said I can make a chart. And all you do is tell me what you did today. And I'll tell you what's going to be on your report card.
- [00:48:31.60] Then he didn't believe me when I told him. He said, well how'd you do that? And I say, I've been to school. I went to school. So I know what you're telling me, and what's real and what's not.
- [00:48:47.23] INTERVIEWER: OK, we're going to go to part four and talk about work and retirement. Some of these questions are fairly long, about part of your life. But I'm enjoying listening to you.
- [00:49:02.93] From the time you entered the labor force, started a family, up to the present time. OK, what was your main field of employment? How did you first get started with this tradition or skill, and what got you interested?
- [00:49:23.93] CHARLES MORRIS: Well, I'll start at the beginning. One thing, when I was in the Navy, I was an electronics technician, but I wound up-- I had a two-year tour in Hawaii, where I played football for the two years I was there. But I still made my rate in this all competitive exams in the Navy.
- [00:49:51.86] So I started up there because I had some wood shop experience. And it wasn't from training, but it was from the boys' club. So I knew a little bit about machinery. So when I went to the wood shop-- we had a hobby wood shop, and all our wood came in the rough.
- [00:50:14.62] It was 1 by 12 oak, 2 by 12 oak, 1 by 12 mahogany, and 2 by 12 mahogany. And they were actually that size. And we had to plane them down. We would plane one side off, so the guys could look at the grain and see if they wanted that piece of wood.
- [00:50:34.25] Well, then the shop chief showed me how to set up the planer, how to set up the edger, how to set up all the saws. I knew how to set up all of the shop equipment we had in there. And in that shop, we did everything from eight-foot sailing prams, all the way up to inboard/outboard repairs because we were in Hawaii. So it was a lot of boat repairs done by guys in the service who had boats over there. And they'd come there and then have to repair them. And then we'd build them.
- [00:51:08.49] And then, we had one officer who actually designed-- he was a commander. He was designing an airplane. And he came into the wood shop to make the frames.
- [00:51:18.86] And so I learned how to basically set up tools. And then when I went to Ford, I was working at Rawsonville. And I got a job machining the housings for wiper motors and alternators. And I would also do the machining sometimes for the break housing reservoirs for your hydraulic brakes.
- [00:51:46.81] And so I worked in different kinds of machining and checking in that area. And then, when I left Rawsonville, I worked for a guy that made custom pallets. And all his wood came in-- we got it in logs. And then we cut it into boards. And then he found out I could run all his machines. And he was basically retired but he had that little machine operation. And so once I got there, he didn't have to do anything.
- [00:52:18.23] But he couldn't afford to pay me what the job was worth. So that's when I came to the school system. And people asked me, why did you come to the school system, working at the library? And I said, 20 days vacation and 10 days sick leave.
- [00:52:38.57] INTERVIEWER: This was the school system in Ypsi, or Ann Arbor?
- [00:52:41.63] CHARLES MORRIS: Ann Arbor. Because the library at the time was under the public schools. So that kind of guaranteed their millage too. Because whenever we needed something, and they needed a little something, it was a package.
- [00:52:54.61] And then Engler made them separated. So wherever you see a district library, that was Engler's doing to get the school systems away from the libraries, or vice versa. But the library was always a help to the school system. And that's why we were able to get--
- [00:53:20.07] When I was driving the bookmobile I'd go down to the bus garage. Because it was under the school system, wherever the bus driver lived and wherever the mechanic lived, they could get an Ann Arbor library card. And so that worked great for all of us, that lived out the district, that were working with the system.
- [00:53:41.45] INTERVIEWER: So what did you do with the bookmobile?
- [00:53:44.03] CHARLES MORRIS: What we did was, we went around the city and we did two things basically. We were the outreach department. So the bookmobile was the primary. And so you went to areas where they were either new, or there was no other services there.
- [00:54:07.63] So a lot of neighborhoods-- like on the west side, you have small houses and stuff. So that was new families. And so that gave them access to mainstream services in the city. In North Campus, in university, we had stops up there. Because that gave their family and their wives city services that they wouldn't get otherwise. Because basically, most of the time you got single transportation, and you don't have time to make all these runs.
- [00:54:37.13] And then we went to some of the old neighborhoods, because they were old neighborhoods and people there were both, shall we say, self-contained money-wise. But a lot of them were seniors. So it was a great service to them, because there was a bookmobile in their neighborhood. And what we did, being the outreach department, we put a satellite library at the senior citizens-- I forgot about that when I was talking about it earlier-- the senior citizens building at, what's that, not West Park, but-- oh, it's down there on Wells, where the--
- [00:55:26.37] INTERVIEWER: Burns Park.
- [00:55:27.37] CHARLES MORRIS: Burns Park, right. Burns Park. And so the senior citizens, they had a satellite library for them. So not only did they have the bookmobile service on one side of the park, but they also had a personalized service on the other side of the park. And we had satellite services like that at various retirement centers around the city. So that basically, what happened was it gave the library real exposure and informed the public of what services are available.
- [00:56:04.18] And we would always be able to-- I'd say, if you need something, just call the reference desk. And whatever it is you need, if they have it, they'll send it out by us to you, in the neighborhood. So that gave them basically hands-on access to the library without leaving their house except to pick it up.
- [00:56:29.92] And another thing from the outreach department, you had not only these satellite libraries, but I mentioned it before. We had a traveling story teller for the mom-and-pop places, the little mom-and-pop daycare centers. And we had a separate library set aside with picture books for all the daycare centers, so they could borrow 30 books a month. And they would have different picture books every month for the kids at their daycare center. And that was part of outreach services.
- [00:57:06.52] Plus we had a totally separate library. And what happened was, we had a library and any books we had that the main library needed, then they'd just come to us and transfer it. Because they needed it in their circulation department. And that happened. And it was hard to explain sometimes that it still belongs to the library.
- [00:57:37.66] But, especially the new books, we only kept them for six months, max. And some, we only kept for three months, depending on the readership and how much they read them, and the size of the collection. Well, we told them, all our books have to come back. They say, well why don't you put them in the queue? I said because, our people can't get them. Well, they can sign up! I said, our people can't get them.
- [00:58:07.12] We only have them for six months, if they're in the queue going all over the city, we don't have them for six months. And they couldn't understand it. Finally one thing happened, that we had a book that we got in January, the last time we checked it out was February. We got it back in July, when somebody took it out of the queue and put it in the regular collection.
- [00:58:31.33] And now we had physical proof that says it won't work. Because those people that used the outreach services, what they check out this week, they read. They never keep a book over two weeks. Usually one week and they're back for the next batch.
- [00:58:49.69] And we put our new books-- when they came out, we would spread them out so that we didn't put them all out the same day, so that they would rotate through the collection. But everybody had a shot at the new ones in rotation. And it worked great. Keep it simple.
- [00:59:10.42] INTERVIEWER: So, how long did you work?
- [00:59:14.67] CHARLES MORRIS: At this library, I worked 32 years, I think.
- [00:59:18.62] INTERVIEWER: 32 Years. Did you enjoy the work? Did you like meeting the people?
- [00:59:21.32] CHARLES MORRIS: It was fun. It was fun. It was the people that made your day.
- [00:59:30.90] I think his name was, Rick [? Redding. ?] We had a kid on the west side, his name was [? Smule. ?] And we had a hell of a time pronouncing [? Smule. ?] So we said we had to get [? a ?] [? muffin ?] because every time he'd come, we'd say Cool [? Smule. ?] Because it helped us pronounce his name. And he was a nice kid. He was a nice kid.
- [00:59:56.11] INTERVIEWER: So, what was your wife doing--
- [00:59:59.29] CHARLES MORRIS: She used to teach--
- [00:59:59.89] INTERVIEWER: --during the years you were working?
- [01:00:00.64] CHARLES MORRIS: --in Ann Arbor. She was a school teacher in Ann Arbor. She taught at Scarlett Middle School. And she taught at-- oh, I can't think of the name of the school right now. But out on Packard, between Packard and Washtenaw, east of--
- [01:00:31.22] INTERVIEWER: Elementary school?
- [01:00:32.35] CHARLES MORRIS: Carpenter-- yeah-- Elementary School. Oh, she taught at the one in Pittsfield, too.
- [01:00:38.07] INTERVIEWER: OK
- [01:00:38.79] CHARLES MORRIS: Pittsfield Panthers, I got one of their t-shirts. [LAUGH]
- [01:00:43.47] INTERVIEWER: What grade did she teach?
- [01:00:45.12] CHARLES MORRIS: She taught elementary. And then she taught junior high school.
- [01:00:48.41] INTERVIEWER: Junior high school, OK.
- [01:00:49.32] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah. But also, she taught graduate classes at Eastern, and at Jackson Community College at different times.
- [01:01:04.05] INTERVIEWER: Now, has she retired?
- [01:01:07.33] CHARLES MORRIS: She retired in, maybe five years ago, I guess.
- [01:01:15.49] INTERVIEWER: OK. When you're thinking back on your working adult life, can you think of any social or historical events that had any impact on you?
- [01:01:41.89] CHARLES MORRIS: Trying to think of the guy's name-- anyway, when I was in circulation, we had a thing called the Wednesday Night Ice Cream Club. And that ended up involving everybody that worked in the evening.
- [01:01:57.96] And what happened was, one day we were sitting there, and he says, Chuck, I sure could go for some ice cream right now. And I looked at the clock, it was a quarter to seven. I said I'll be back in 15 minutes.
- [01:02:10.47] So from here, you go down to the street that Fingerle's on. You go to Washtenaw Dairy. You come up Ashley. Come back up William to come back in the library, in less than 15 minutes.
- [01:02:23.75] So I went and got a half a gallon of ice cream. And somebody said, when will we do this again? I said, OK, we'll do it next Wednesday. We'll do it once a week. Just have it on Wednesday night.
- [01:02:33.95] And so that's what we did. We'd chip in, everybody. We'd get a couple half gallons of ice cream. And the shelvers got ice cream. We got ice cream. Youth department got ice cream. And anybody in the building working that wanted ice cream, had ice cream!
- [01:02:47.31] INTERVIEWER: So that was a social activity.
- [01:02:50.39] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah, it became a social activity at the library.
- [01:02:54.68] INTERVIEWER: So, I was thinking about anything that was going on in the country, historically, socially, that had any impact on you during the time you and your wife were working.
- [01:03:08.66] CHARLES MORRIS: Well, not really. I mean, it was a progression of things. And they all happened in sequence. And you kind of just rode the sequence. And you tried to teach people that you have to be ready to do something.
- [01:03:32.01] And we were talking about sports one time, and I just happened to-- they had the Ken Burns thing on Jackie Robinson. They also showed a picture on there of my friend of mine's dad, named Richard Wright-- no, it wasn't Richard. But anyway, his dad's last name was Wright, and he was at Montreal with Jackie Robinson. And they did show him and Jackie Robinson in that sequence.
- [01:04:08.22] And we'd called him Hoss, and Hoss said people thought that me and Jackie Robinson was roommates. He says, I was in a room by myself. Jackie had Marguerite! But he was one of the great black pitchers back in the day.
- [01:04:30.98] So in fact, he came up and stayed on the campground with us in Canada fishing one summer. And the next time I was down there, he says, man, I get this stuff all the time, talking about all the New Orleans style cooking. He says, cook me that stuff we had on the campground. And so I would cook dinner for him at his house, and go over to his niece's house and eat all the Cajun stuff!
- [01:04:59.27] INTERVIEWER: Tell me what you think is the biggest difference in the main field of your employment. From the time you started until now, what's the difference?
- [01:05:10.92] CHARLES MORRIS: Well, there's two main things. One, the library system has become more impersonal, more like, I'd say business-like. Because I always told the drivers that, we are a guest in the neighborhood. Because these people pay the taxes that pay your wages. So, they are always patrons.
- [01:05:53.60] And when they come to the library, sometimes people would call them "customers." And I would say no, they're patrons. Because they pay your bill, and everything we need in here. And if you want to call the library an art form, then they are a patron of this art, of library services.
- [01:06:16.20] So they are not customers, because they already paid for this. They're just coming in to share what they got.
- [01:06:23.88] INTERVIEWER: So, it's different now.
- [01:06:28.41] CHARLES MORRIS: Well, they did that. I watched two phases of changes. I guess you could call them major changes.
- [01:06:34.65] Because one was in our jobs going overseas. And when I was working at Ford, they did the whole alternator. They had an electronics section. They were all American components. And they were all American-made. They were made right there in Rawsonville.
- [01:06:53.78] And one summer we came back from when they would redo everything in a plant, so you start with your new stuff and whatever you got next year. And they had two guys in the back. And one would take that section, put it on a test. If it worked, he put it in this box. If it didn't work he put it in that box.
- [01:07:18.15] So all those people that were working there at that time, are gone. And then from then on, it just kept going. Jobs kept leaving and this was back in what, '67, '68, somewhere in there, '69. So jobs were leaving here then.
- [01:07:41.64] And you look around and all the little machine shops that used to be up and down the street that made parts for these small plants, they went, too. And so our so-called manufacturing base, we don't have a manufacturing base anymore.
- [01:07:58.98] Because you don't have-- all those machine shops that used to support our manufacturing base are gone. Well most of them are gone. You don't see them. And they were all over the place. And you'd see this little machine shop there and that machine shop there. You don't see them anymore.
- [01:08:18.26] INTERVIEWER: I may have asked you this in a different way, but I'm asking again. What did you value most about what you do for a living?
- [01:08:29.49] CHARLES MORRIS: I think I valued most, was getting people to use the resources that the library has. Because, to explain to them nowadays that when you check a book out, that guy is responsible for everything he says. And in the back of the book they have a bibliography. And everywhere he got his information is stated. When you get something off the internet, he don't do nothing. He just says what's on his mind and if you believe it, you [? hit, ?] because he's got no backup.
- [01:09:11.75] And another thing that I saw on that Jackie Robinson thing. They were telling about how, when he first broke into baseball, first they wouldn't mention that he was on the team. They would give the box score, but they wouldn't tell who he was.
- [01:09:28.65] And what I learned in history, by being at the library, was that when I look at history of US involvement, and we talk about the Tuskegee Airmen, the unit's not mentioned. You look at Air Force history, they're not in there. You look at Army history, not in there. And if the unit is mentioned, it doesn't tell who it was.
- [01:09:57.00] So I tried to look up the tankers. 761st, I think it was. And you can't find them. You have to go back in the index, to start your research in a book. And if you're a person of color, you look for "Negro," "colored," "mulatto," you use key words to see where there's a reference.
- [01:10:25.53] And when I learned about-- I heard a guy one time-- one of the Detroit announcers. They were talking about Black History Month. He says, I don't even see why we need a Black History Month. And I said, I agree. It should be taught all year. Because history don't evolve that way.
- [01:10:46.50] When Ken Burns did his baseball history, he did the history of baseball as it grew. So he told what was happening in baseball with the Negro leagues, with the Indian leagues, with the Jewish leagues. With everything chronologically through history. And history is not taught like that. If it was taught chronologically what each person did in the country, you wouldn't need a Black History Week.
- [01:11:15.69] INTERVIEWER: If they were included.
- [01:11:18.13] CHARLES MORRIS: Yeah. And another thing they did by working at the library. There's a book called The Doughboys, history of World War I. And in it, there's about 14 pages of what the black GIs did in World War I. And there's another book, condensed for schools, and it took the 14 pages out. So in order to make racism work, you've got to keep everybody ignorant. Did anybody else contribute it, because that way, they got no record.
- [01:12:04.53] INTERVIEWER: Tell me how your life changed when you and your wife retired. What was different?
- [01:12:18.12] CHARLES MORRIS: Well, when I retired, I got a chance to do-- I told a guy. I said, all I'm doing now is I got all day to do the stuff I used to have to come home to do, before I could go fishing. Now, I can get it done and go fishing any time I want, I would say that's the only real difference.
- [01:12:38.62] And, psychologists-- everybody's not supposed to be around somebody else all the time. Sometimes, you need to just go sit off in a corner and air out for a day. You get more chances to do that.
- [01:13:03.82] What I did when I retired first, I cooked every day. I cooked everything, all the meals, all that. And one day, she came home and I was sitting there. I'm dressed in my house shoes, in front of the television.
- [01:13:16.56] And she asked me what did I do today. I said, nothing. She said, that's what I thought, you ain't did a darned thing all day! I say, excuse me. I said, let me tell you something. I did nothing all day, just as hard as I could. And that's your first lesson on retirement.
- [01:13:40.21] INTERVIEWER: Oh, dear. OK. And, this is the last part.
- [01:13:50.68] CHARLES MORRIS: Oh wait, I'm going to finish that up, too.
- [01:13:53.95] INTERVIEWER: OK go ahead.
- [01:13:54.79] CHARLES MORRIS: When she retired-- and the guy said, both of you are retired. I said no, she retired. I'm under new management. So it was a different thing.
- [01:14:07.81] That's all I do. They say, man, who cut the grass? I said, I work for the lady in the house, man. Whatever she say do, I do it.
- [01:14:16.86] INTERVIEWER: OK. You all do have some fun though, right?
- [01:14:20.56] CHARLES MORRIS: Oh, yeah.
- [01:14:24.88] INTERVIEWER: OK, now the last part. Tell me how it is for you to have lived in this community. What do you think?
- [01:14:37.30] CHARLES MORRIS: Well, I've watched it grow, in the sense that we're getting more people of color in responsible positions. I watched it grow in law enforcement, where we have more people of color in responsible positions. But the undercurrent-- going by our past election-- is that we haven't grown much at all.
- [01:15:14.56] Put it another way, I think the country regressed. Because basically, he hadn't done anything to prove that he's going to do anything. And the second, he's promised things that are impossible to do.
- [01:15:29.41] There's never been a wall that anybody couldn't cross, or go under, or go around, so that's ridiculous. And to say that people from this country or that country can't come here because of this, especially if you base it on religion, it's basically unconstitutional.
- [01:15:50.41] So as far as promising to bring jobs back as I said, you've got to have a base. And jobs go from the base up. They don't come from the top down.
- [01:16:00.61] And so bringing jobs back, especially when Ford just said they're going to export more jobs-- that means, fundamentally, anybody that's a business man should know. The poor don't pay the taxes. The middle class pays the taxes.
- [01:16:22.57] And Ronald Reagan spent that middle-class base money on outspending the Russians into the ground. And so, when you don't have jobs from the ground up, you've got no base. So all those people and all those jobs that left here, are taxes that this country's not getting. You're destroying your own house from the ground up. And it makes you wonder.
- [01:16:56.17] I say look, you see that? That was a farm field. I say they're building houses on it. You can't eat a house! Build a house where you can't live. Where you can't grow groceries on it and stuff. But that's another subject.
- [01:17:12.89] INTERVIEWER: Yeah. OK. When thinking back on your entire life, what important historical events had the greatest social, historical impact, for you?
- [01:17:34.39] CHARLES MORRIS: Well, I would say, probably the historical impact for what it did for this country would be the life of Martin Luther King. Because he didn't say, us children, them children, those children. He said, all God's children. That takes care of that.
- [01:17:55.67] INTERVIEWER: OK. What would you say has changed the most from the time you were a young person to now?
- [01:18:06.63] CHARLES MORRIS: It's kids having Christmas every day. Because it lowers their incentive to really achieve, to have something. I grew up when Christmas came once a year. All the stores would have a toy land that Christmas.
- [01:18:27.90] And after that, when Christmas was over, it was springtime. So you had roller skates, kites, jacks, tennis, baseball, softball, bicycles, wagons, scooters, all that came out from the warehouse. And that was there for the summer. As soon as fall came, near fall, then it was football time, and basketball, and sleds and skis and ice skates.
- [01:18:55.19] Then that was it. It wasn't a house full of junk. I'm kind of like this, if you're not going to use it or it's broke, then put it in the trash. Because most of the time, most of the guys I knew-- basically you got maybe one toy for Christmas. And you had to pick it out.
- [01:19:17.70] And that's why I still had almost-- most of my toys were still in the house when I went in the service. Because I only got one a year. So those that I valued the most, and one I still have. Because I needed a special carbon set to make model airplanes.
- [01:19:36.92] And I still got that-- I think back in the '50s, early '50s, somewhere between 1949 and '51. That thing was $18. And that was a lot of money back then. And I still got that whole set, and I'm still using that whole set.
- [01:19:57.64] INTERVIEWER: You're still using it?
- [01:19:58.49] CHARLES MORRIS: I'm still using it. I got my wife her own, because she started borrowing my cutting tools to do stuff with her hobbies. I said, OK, here's your own.
- [01:20:12.01] INTERVIEWER: What advice would you give to the younger generation?
- [01:20:16.99] CHARLES MORRIS: I would say, get off the computer and get outside and let the air blow on you. Because it's like I was saying. When you sit down in front of the TV you get nothing done. Even stuff that's simple to do, you get nothing done.
- [01:20:34.64] And what I do-- and I got it from patrons-- was to get my stories on CD, or back before CDs, on tape. And what I did at first was I went through all the old classic books that they still had. And I read all the old classics while I'm working around in the garage because I got my hands free and I can listen to them. If I miss something I can go back and get it.
- [01:21:03.71] I still do that now, but not as much history. Because most of that-- the new history, I'm here. So I'm not looking at it. But that was the best history. I mean it's the best way that I can spend my time productively, while listening to something. You can't do it with TV.
- [01:21:26.30] And I learned in some of those things-- I even had my buddy, years ago we read, what was her name? Wrote Frankenstein. Anyway, we're listening to it. He says, it's not the story but the use of language in a story.
- [01:21:47.24] And this was a guy you would think didn't read classics of any kind. But he was. And so I read it, and it was great. I said, OK.
- [01:21:58.76] So you just get into-- it's just more productive. And I had one thing I got, it was a Western about this Englishman and his family traveling west. And this guide and his Indian chief buddy who'd went to Carlisle School. And one day his buddy was reading the Bible. And he looked at, he says can I read that? He says sure, when you want it? He said, well I'll bring it back when I'm done. He said, OK, go ahead and take it.
- [01:22:31.79] So a couple of months later, he brought the Bible back and gave it to the guide. He says what did you think? He says, great story. He says, [? soon as ?] the white man believe in it, I'll recommend it to my people.
- [01:22:44.67] INTERVIEWER: Wow!
- [01:22:45.65] CHARLES MORRIS: He said, OK. That's why I tell guys, I says, I don't-- I wish I had known. I don't support a specific ministry. I support my buddies at the church and stuff like that. But as far as-- I says, I got too many friends.
- [01:23:05.53] And if I went to a friend's church, I couldn't go to every church all day Sunday, 'cause all of them ain't open all day Sunday. And I'd be all over town going to church. I said now, if some time I can help somebody or I can help somebody here, I'll do what I can.
- [01:23:20.77] Because I did. I fixed a friend-- the phone line was bad. And I went and fixed the phone line. Showed them what was wrong. Showed them what the part looked like.
- [01:23:29.42] And he introduced me to the preacher. And we were talking. He says, well why don't you come by on Sunday? I said, Rev, I work Monday through Friday. And on the weekend. I either go fishing or hunting.
- [01:23:46.48] I said but, if you need me to help you do something between Monday and Friday, you got me. Rev got up, shook my head, and said nice meeting you. Because I'm going to give him what he need. Say, you don't need me there on Sunday. If you need something done, then call me. I'll be there.
- [01:24:06.38] INTERVIEWER: OK, final question. How do you first, personally feel about doing this interview, and its impact on you?
- [01:24:18.91] CHARLES MORRIS: Gave me a chance to run my mouth. But also share some history. And some of the things that can make life easier for you some time.
- [01:24:32.20] We did a little similar thing, we used to keep bookmarks. We got a little budget at the circulation desk. And I'd go to youth department, and they'd have these things that had all these different kind of bookmarks.
- [01:24:46.06] So we'd get the ones that we know the kids would like. And so while the parent is up there checking the books out, the kid can pick out his bookmark. Well that keeps them busy.
- [01:24:56.69] And a lot of times that's the only thing they got to pick out when they got to the library. 'Cause their parents picked out all their books. So they get to pick out their bookmark. So that was one of the great things that happened.
- [01:25:07.93] And sometimes you'd get kids that they're just sitting there. And they just look at you and don't say nothing. And then they get their bookmark. There was one kid, I remember, her dad was carrying her out. And she looked back and she says [WAVES]. I say, now that kind of makes your day.
- [01:25:24.40] INTERVIEWER: Makes your day.
- [01:25:25.63] CHARLES MORRIS: And you have fun with them. One kid was crying. He was up there crying and I look at him. I said what's that you got in there? And he started crying, then he closed his mouth. I said open up! I didn't see, let me see! I said OK! So I learned a lot from kids like that.
- [01:25:46.58] I learned to keep it one-dimensional when you're telling them something. Because we used to give the kids an application. All they had to do is write their name, and be able to print their name and then they could take the application home. And parents would fill it out and they'd bring it back in and then we'd get them a card. And then I could copy everything from then on.
- [01:26:05.68] And we used to always say, fold it one time. And we'd fold it and then they'd get to them and they'd fold it again. OK Then I said, OK yeah. We're the dummies.
- [01:26:17.89] Give the kid a piece of paper. Say, now fold in one time and take it home. Boom. Now no confusion. No confusion, keep it simple. Single digits and you got it. You put too many moving parts in there and you're going to get confusion.
- [01:26:37.11] INTERVIEWER: Thank you so much.
- [01:26:38.56] CHARLES MORRIS: You're welcome.
February 21, 2017 at Downtown Library
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library
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