AACHM Oral History: Dolores and James Turner
Wed, 09/22/2021 - 11:05am
When: September 21, 2021
Dolores Preston Turner was born in Ann Arbor in the early 1940s, and her family lived in a small historically Black neighborhood on Woodlawn Avenue. She graduated from Ann Arbor High School, where she met her future husband, James Turner. She remembers moving into their first apartment in Pittsfield Village as a result of fair housing protests in Ann Arbor in the 1960s. Turner has two master’s degrees and she taught English at Huron High School for 30 years. Dolores and James celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in September 2021.
James Turner was born in Ann Arbor in 1939. He played football and track and was president of his sophomore, junior, and senior class at Ann Arbor High School. He married his high school sweetheart, Dolores, after she graduated a few years later. Turner went on to get his master’s degree and taught at Highland Park High School and Ann Arbor Public Schools for 32 years. He is a member of the usher board and a trustee at Bethel A.M.E. Church. James and Dolores celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in September 2021.
- [00:00:00] JOYCE HUNTER: [MUSIC] We're going to get started. First of all, I wanted to say thank you to James and Dolores for agreeing to do this interview.
- [00:00:25] JAMES TURNER: You're welcome.
- [00:00:27] JOYCE HUNTER: We're going to start with part one, 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.
- [00:00:46] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Okay.
- [00:00:48] JOYCE HUNTER: Whoever wants to start, please say and spell your name.
- [00:00:53] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I'm Dolores Preston Turner, Dolores is spelled D-O-L-O-R-E-S, Preston Turner.
- [00:01:03] JAMES TURNER: I'm Jim Turner.
- [00:01:06] JOYCE HUNTER: What is your date of birth, including the year?
- [00:01:10] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Well, I was born on January 1st, in the early '40s, [LAUGHTER] which makes me very close to 80.
- [00:01:20] JOYCE HUNTER: That's fine. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:01:23] JAMES TURNER: I was born on July the 13th, 1939.
- [00:01:28] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay. That's the day after my birthday, Jim. I'm the 12th.
- [00:01:32] JAMES TURNER: That's right.
- [00:01:34] JOYCE HUNTER: How would you describe your ethnic background?
- [00:01:39] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: African American for both of us.
- [00:01:43] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay.
- [00:01:44] JAMES TURNER: African American. Yeah.
- [00:01:46] JOYCE HUNTER: What is your religion, if any?
- [00:01:51] JAMES TURNER: Methodist.
- [00:01:51] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Methodist. African Methodist Episcopal.
- [00:01:54] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay. I'm going to come back to that shortly and ask some questions about your church. What is the highest level of formal education you have completed?
- [00:02:04] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Well, I have two master's degrees and 30 hours beyond the second master's.
- [00:02:14] JAMES TURNER: I have a master's and I have approximately 90 credit hours beyond that.
- [00:02:21] JOYCE HUNTER: Outside of that, which is a lot, did you attend any additional school or formal career training beyond that?
- [00:02:30] JAMES TURNER: Yes, I did. At Albion College, I took a economics course.
- [00:02:41] JOYCE HUNTER: What is your marital status?
- [00:02:42] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: [LAUGHTER] Married.
- [00:02:45] JAMES TURNER: Married.
- [00:02:47] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: In fact, we have an anniversary at the end of this month, so yes.
- [00:02:52] JOYCE HUNTER: How many years?
- [00:02:54] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: It'll be 60.
- [00:02:55] JOYCE HUNTER: Well, that's wonderful. Congratulations.
- [00:02:58] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: We're proud of that.
- [00:03:00] JOYCE HUNTER: How many children do you have?
- [00:03:03] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: We have one, a grown son who has four of his own.
- [00:03:10] JOYCE HUNTER: You have four wonderful grandchildren?
- [00:03:13] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yes. Three girls and one boy.
- [00:03:17] JOYCE HUNTER: How many siblings do you have?
- [00:03:20] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Well, I had three siblings, but my brother has passed, so there's three of us, and the oldest, my big sister, is 92.
- [00:03:32] JAMES TURNER: I have six sisters and five brothers. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:03:39] JOYCE HUNTER: Jim, you come from a large family?
- [00:03:41] JAMES TURNER: Yes. [LAUGHTER] That's right.
- [00:03:45] JOYCE HUNTER: My mother had 12, so that's great. [OVERLAPPING]
- [00:03:47] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I didn't know that, Joyce.
- [00:03:47] JAMES TURNER: We would've had 12, but the one died at childbirth.
- [00:03:53] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay. What was your primary occupation?
- [00:04:02] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I was an educator and I taught for 30 years.
- [00:04:09] JAMES TURNER: Educator, and I taught 32 years.
- [00:04:14] JOYCE HUNTER: Tell me what you taught?
- [00:04:17] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I taught in the English Department at Huron High School. My master's was in social science, but I went back to school and I got a master's in English and I was in English most of those years.
- [00:04:35] JAMES TURNER: I started out in Highland Park, and I taught world history. Then I decided to come to Ann Arbor, and I ended up teaching American history, economics.
- [00:04:50] JOYCE HUNTER: Very good. If retired, at what age did you retire?
- [00:04:55] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I think for me it was 53.
- [00:05:01] JAMES TURNER: I was 57.
- [00:05:06] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay. So you two retired young?
- [00:05:08] JAMES TURNER: Yes.
- [00:05:08] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah. That was one thing about teaching. You could start right after you graduated from college. I remember that even when I was student teaching, they asked me if I wanted a position at Romulus High School. That's where I did my student teaching and I said yes, of course. I taught four years in Romulus and then I came to Ann Arbor. It's more like 27 years that I taught in Ann Arbor.
- [00:05:42] JOYCE HUNTER: I'm going to move into part two, memories of childhood and youth. I'm going to start with just a question about Bethel AME. Talk to me a little bit about how long you were there and what kinds of things you did as a child at Bethel AME? You can go a little bit older too as well.
- [00:06:05] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Okay. I was born here in Ann Arbor and my folks attended Bethel AME Church, so I was baptized as an infant in Bethel. That was close to 80 years that I've been there. I remember as a kid, we were really active. The young people's department was active. Those are some of my favorite memories because our pastor at that time, he had children our age. There was always something for us to do at Bethel whether it was the Junior Choir or Junior Usher Board, YPD, the Young People's Department. We would go to Camp Baber during the summer, which is the AME camp for the Fourth District. We were really active. It just seems like we were back to the church several times a week. Church and school was the center of our lives.
- [00:07:19] JAMES TURNER: I started out in the Pentecostal church. Then when we got married, I joined Bethel and I've been there ever since.
- [00:07:30] JOYCE HUNTER: Very good. She influenced you, Jim?
- [00:07:34] JAMES TURNER: Yes. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:07:38] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: You'd have to know Jim. It wasn't like he was just a member, but right away he just joined the usher board and later on he became a trustee so he was very active.
- [00:07:54] JOYCE HUNTER: Very good. I do want to ask of course about Bethel AME on Fourth. So tell me a little bit about Fourth Avenue because I know now it's condominiums because the historical site because it still has the church front on it. So talk to me a little bit about meeting and going to church at Bethel and Fourth Ave.
- [00:08:16] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Well, I loved it. It was so much a part of us. There were three girls, one boy and I can remember my dad telling us, ''Well, if you can get up and go to school every day, you can certainly get up one day of the week and go to Sunday school.'' He would take us to Sunday school and it was just a part of our routine and our lifestyle and so I grew up knowing the importance of church. That's one of the values that Jim and I had in common because he too was brought up in the church and that makes a really big difference if you're on the same page when it comes to religion.
- [00:09:14] JAMES TURNER: I joined Bethel and I was impressed with the people there. It was such a cohesive group, it was easy to get along with and so I joined the usher board and I've been usher ever since. I find that with the people that are on the usher board, we were a close group and we worked well together.
- [00:09:39] JOYCE HUNTER: That's great. When you mentioned being on the same page that certainly has helped for you all to have been married for 60 years almost so it's certainly has played a big part in that, I would imagine.
- [00:09:51] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah.
- [00:09:52] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay. I'm going to ask you some more questions about memories of childhood and youth.
- [00:09:56] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Okay.
- [00:09:57] JOYCE HUNTER: What was your family like when you were a child?
- [00:10:01] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I just remember our family being really busy because we'd have a student, sometimes two students, renting a room for us. They were U of M students and after my brother and sister left home, we had the empty bedrooms so my parents would rent those out and then later on they got into fostering children and when I say children, I mean infants, and we would get them when they were just maybe a couple of months old and they would stay with us until they were adopted. Then with four kids you're going to have their friends in and out of the house. To me, I just remember the house always being-- And my parents were so active in the church that they had their friends. They were good times and my parents instilled good, wholesome, clean values in us so I appreciate the way we were brought up. So far, so good.
- [00:11:31] JAMES TURNER: Since I was from a large family, each of us had our own identity and with the order, I was third oldest. Right now both my older brother and sister has passed so I'm the oldest right now of a family. And it was a strict upbringing. Being a Pentecostal there are a lot of things you cannot do. We certainly could not go to the theater, for a while we couldn't play any sports, with Christmas, we end up with just a decoration of a window. It was very strict, but we survived and that was the key thing. We're still going strong today.
- [00:12:20] JOYCE HUNTER: What sort of work did your parents do?
- [00:12:24] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Well, my mother was a housewife and my father was into electronics. He worked for a company here in Ann Arbor, Stofflet's, and they were a radio TV company and I remember we were one of the first families to have a TV. That was one that apparently the company was okay for my dad to bring it home and try it out. Then later on he worked for another company and that was a Micrometrical Manufacturing Company so he was really into electronics.
- [00:13:06] JAMES TURNER: My dad was a custodial engineer. He had two jobs, one with Detroit Edison Company and the other one with Finance Center. He worked there almost all night and then in the day he would work at Detroit so he was quite busy and certainly had a family to support. My mother, she was a housewife and she took care of the family so the responsibility was placed on my dad.
- [00:13:42] JOYCE HUNTER: What is one of your earliest memories as a child?
- [00:13:49] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: There are lots of them. But I think one of my favorite memories is my dad would take us for long Sunday afternoon rides and I know today that sounds kind of boring. [LAUGHTER] But we just enjoyed Sunday afternoon rides and so that's probably one of my favorite memories. It's kind of like my parents had two sets of kids, an older set and then a younger set, so I grew up with my little sister. She and I, we played house and there were just lots of good memories. Maybe I'll discuss this later. I'll let Jim talk about it.
- [00:14:48] JAMES TURNER: My earliest memories since there were a large number of us, we were able to get in the car even though it was crowded but we traveled to visit my aunts. One was in East Lansing and the other one was in Ecorse and that was a lot of fun. Of course, my dad was born in Canada and so he was afraid to go across the border because he felt that he would automatically have to stay there so instead of telling them that he was born in Canada, he just didn't go at all. But once again, we did travel a little bit, and of course, he did take us to certain areas as much as possible and we enjoyed it.
- [00:15:34] JOYCE HUNTER: Jim, speaking of Canada, do you have family there still or did you ever go there to visit?
- [00:15:42] JAMES TURNER: We do have relatives there, but we don't visit. For a while there are quite a few people. My mother was from Pittsburgh and her family, we don't know anything about so it's just that that relationship was discontinued.
- [00:16:07] JOYCE HUNTER: Were there any special days, events or family traditions you remember from your childhood?
- [00:16:14] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Well, one of the things I can remember was the church would have a New Year's eve service, a Night Watch service. Afterwards, my parents and their in-group, I guess you'd call it, would meet at our home. And that's what I meant by it was active all the time and very social. But yeah, and these church members, it was potluck style, would bring food after the Night Watch service, which would end early morning because Night Watch service was at 12 and we would bring in the New Year and then everybody would come over to our house and we'd eat. I enjoyed that because there was always a lot of food. That's probably one of my favorite. And then my birthday is on New Year's. It just started the celebration a little bit earlier. But, that's one of my favorite childhood memories too.
- [00:17:24] JAMES TURNER: Ours was around Christmas time where the family would get together and exchange gifts. Once again, my older sister would come. She would end up with her six children and we had a joyous time and you find that in that certain setting, we were all one large family.
- [00:17:49] JOYCE HUNTER: Sounds like fun.
- [00:17:50] JAMES TURNER: It was. [OVERLAPPING]
- [00:17:51] JOYCE HUNTER: Both gatherings. So, Dolores, are you a New Year's Eve baby, or a New Year's Day baby?
- [00:17:57] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I'm New Year's Day baby.
- [00:17:58] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay.
- [00:17:59] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I was the first baby born that year in Ann Arbor. No, I was the second. A little boy beat me at University Hospital. But yeah, I was the first one born in St. Joe that year.
- [00:18:13] JOYCE HUNTER: Dolores, you would remember that. Thanks for sharing THAT.
- [00:18:16] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: [LAUGHTER] I still have the certificate. [LAUGHTER] Right. I was just an infant.
- [00:18:28] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay.
- [00:18:30] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I do have a certificate of my baptism, as well as being this first baby born in St. Joe Hospital. I always felt it was kind of special being born on New Year's day.
- [00:18:42] JOYCE HUNTER: Yeah. I agree.
- [00:18:43] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Not that I had anything to do with it. [LAUGHTER].
- [00:18:49] JOYCE HUNTER: Which holidays did your family celebrate?
- [00:18:53] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: All of them. Yeah. I'd say all of them. I mean, Christmas and Thanksgiving. Because my two older ones, they married and they had children. It was multi-generational and we would celebrate holidays together. They're very fond memories because as all of us get older things change. You just look back and remember what it was like when we all were young and fresh. I guess you'd say that we took that for granted. We thought well, it would be like that the rest of our lives but as I said, I lost my brother a couple of years ago and so things change. Nothing stays the same.
- [00:19:53] JAMES TURNER: Our favorite--basically I had mentioned Christmas, but we also got together on Thanksgiving, Easter, which we celebrated and then of course, birthdays. When one had a birthday, we'd go over and celebrate that particular point in time, especially as my dad got a little bit older. My older sister, eventually, she passed. Then within a couple of years, about three or four years ago, my oldest brother passed. That's the only reason why I'm the oldest one standing. But certainly we enjoyed the time we did have and of course, during the time in the beginning of my junior year, my mother passed. That left quite a void in our life. I didn't realize that and I still have some type of sensitivity of that particular event that took place, that was a loss that was never fulfilled. Certainly you find that having that of course, my dad with all the children, he ended up marrying within a short period of time. That was very confusing and heartbroken but that's life.
- [00:21:18] JOYCE HUNTER: That's always a hard loss.
- [00:21:21] JAMES TURNER: Yeah.
- [00:21:22] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: It is the loss of a parent because I know our family dynamics changed too when my mother passed in 1992. I mean, she was the one that we gathered around and we spent holidays together. Like Jim said, that is a void that's never filled. But it's part of life.
- [00:21:51] JAMES TURNER: That's one thing we had in common.
- [00:21:53] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah.
- [00:21:53] JAMES TURNER: A loss of a parent.
- [00:21:55] JOYCE HUNTER: Right
- [00:21:56] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah.
- [00:21:56] JAMES TURNER: It did have a tendency to bring us closer together because we had something to share and to grow.
- [00:22:02] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Jim lost his mother in high school and I lost my dad a couple of years before his mother passed and maybe I'll discuss that a little later on.
- [00:22:12] JOYCE HUNTER: I'm going to go down to did you play any sports or join any other activities while in school or outside of school?
- [00:22:27] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I certainly did because when I was in high school, the girls, it was just intramural sports. It wasn't like we had junior varsity teams or varsity teams like they do now. I played soccer. Volleyball was my favorite. Because we lived so close to Burns Park Elementary School, that was almost like our playground. I learned how to play tennis at a very early age because the tennis courts were there. And soccer. I can remember going home to eat lunch and then coming back so that there will be time to play soccer at Burns Park. That was probably the extent--and swimming because most kids that grow up in Ann Arbor, the elementary schools had pools. We learned how to swim. Volleyball was definitely my favorite sport.
- [00:23:40] JAMES TURNER: I was quite active in school. I enjoyed school. Matter of fact, it was kind of my second home. Started out in elementary school, I ended up being the captain of the safety patrol. That was really interesting. Then as I went to Junior High Slauson, I end up in student government. I played football, ran track and basketball. From that point in high school, I ran for the student--well, I was the president of the class, the sophomore class, the junior class, and the senior class. That was quite a feat there. It's just that once again, played football, played a little bit basketball, not as long as I played football and ran track.
- [00:24:36] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: [OVERLAPPING] I was going to say, he sang in the a cappella choir, too.
- [00:24:42] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay.
- [00:24:42] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I don't know how he did all this.
- [00:24:45] JAMES TURNER: Then during that time, while in high school, graduation, and then of course I end up teaching driver's ed and coaching track.
- [00:24:57] JOYCE HUNTER: I want to go back for a minute because you were president of your sophomore, junior, and senior class?
- [00:25:05] JAMES TURNER: Yes.
- [00:25:06] JOYCE HUNTER: That's very impressive. Your fellow classmates must have thought of you very highly.
- [00:25:14] JAMES TURNER: I guess so. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:25:16] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: They probably thought, "Well, somebody's got to do it. And it's not going to be me." [LAUGHTER] But that was one of the things that we had in common is that we both loved school and we were active in school because I was president of the junior class, and we're talking about a time in the late 50s when it was unusual. But yeah, our lives just centered around school and the home, and church, and family. Yeah, Jim has always been active. I think that was one of the things that drew me to him. I have a niece who says he's her uncle who's always on the move, always has a mission [LAUGHTER] or a project or whatever. That's pretty much how we knew each other in high school and we were just attracted to what we were in high school, very serious students.
- [00:26:34] JAMES TURNER: She was a sophomore and I was a senior in high school.
- [00:26:41] JOYCE HUNTER: She got her an older man.
- [00:26:42] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: [LAUGHTER] Of course. Yes. Our families knew each other. We knew of each other, but we didn't really know each other. When we came along, there was just the one high school and that was Ann Arbor High. My mother went to Ann Arbor High when it was on State Street, and so did Jim for a couple of years of high school, and his class was the first one to actually move into the new Pioneer High there on Stadium Boulevard. Jim talks about how they paid some of the students to move the furniture from the old high school there on State Street to Stadium Boulevard. Yeah, Pioneer was only a couple of years old because I remember my parents when they started to build it, my parents thought, why are they building it way out there in the country? Well, as you know, Stadium Boulevard is not the country anymore [LAUGHTER].
- [00:27:51] JAMES TURNER: They paid the students a dollar an hour, but that was the time though.
- [00:27:56] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah.
- [00:27:57] JOYCE HUNTER: I was going to say lot of money [LAUGHTER]. Talk to me about Ann Arbor High in terms of your classes, in terms of racial makeup. In your classes you both were active in leadership roles, so tell me about your classmates, the racial makeup.
- [00:28:14] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: My parents lived on Fifth Ave, but in 1929 they bought a home on Woodlawn, which was right off of Packard, so I was raised on the east side of town, but church brought us all together. Because Jim and I weren't raised in the same church I didn't know him until high school. But I went to Burns Park and Tappan, and the only Black students at the beginning were those who lived-- Because we had area elementary schools. You went to the school that was closest to where you lived. My siblings and I went to Burns Park and then on to Tappan. My brother actually went to the old Tappan. But as far as the racial composition, the only Black kids that I remember were the ones from off of Woodlawn. I'm sorry, it was called junior high then they started well, desegregating schools. They actually brought in kids by bus. But the thing of it, those kids, because they had to catch a bus back home, they weren't really that involved in after-school activities. But yes, they bussed kids from the west side of Ann Arbor to Tappan. Then I remember even kids from Dixboro being bussed into Ann Arbor for school. As far as the makeup goes, once we got in high school, then we all came together. But as far as elementary and junior high, and I only remember one Black instructor and she was a student teacher and I didn't have a Black teacher until I was in junior high. Then when I got in high school, there were just several of them.
- [00:30:26] JAMES TURNER: Yeah. We had, well it's Ann Arbor, a predominantly white community, so we had the structure of the school representing the community. It's just that we were able to get along with just about everyone. Other than there's friction between some East Ann Arbor, they had their particular group, Whitmore Lake, they had their particular setting and students, but we were able to mash together when we got at the high school level. But you find with the makeup that with a lot of students, I had the tendency to try to get along with everyone. It was just that I represented sometimes the under-privileged people because I had to make up for them and represent them, and I didn't want anyone to be bullied, which was always a problem too at that time. But with the school curriculum in Ann Arbor, you had the university level, you had the college level, you had a general, and then you had special ed and most of the Black students were in special ed. We did have some outstanding people, Black, in the college level, in the university level. But that was a distinction and it played a major part in a lot of people in their growth and development. But that was the situation at that particular time.
- [00:31:59] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah.
- [00:32:01] JOYCE HUNTER: I'm trying to understand the difference between the university level and the college level. What was the distinction?
- [00:32:11] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Well, the university, you were prepared to go to any university like the University of Michigan or Michigan State University and college could have been the smaller schools. I don't know if they had junior colleges back then, but community-type schools.
- [00:32:35] JAMES TURNER: The expectation probably was greater with the university than the college students. But we did take the same courses but maybe their grade average had been probably a little bit higher.
- [00:32:54] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Everybody had to take English or social science, but there were different levels.
- [00:33:02] JAMES TURNER: It was just on that course. The university level, you take those classes [OVERLAPPING]
- [00:33:07] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: You take humanities, let's say.
- [00:33:11] JAMES TURNER: It's basically tracking.
- [00:33:14] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: It was tracking. Like Jim said, for the most part, you stayed in that track. Unless you worked really hard or just said no, I want to be on the university level or at the college level, I don't want to be a general student, but those distinctions were there. I think later on we'll discuss discrimination. I have an example of that. But I was going to say, for Jim and me, it was easy because like Jim said, we got along with everybody. Because we were active in school and good students, we could just fit in. I think going to school where you lived, like going to elementary school where you lived, you knew those kids. For me at least--and I was going to say, Ann Arbor was small. So even if you were, let's say on the West side, there still weren't a lot of us, but the kids that I knew from Burns Park were the kids that I associated with when I was at Tappan. Then when we went to the high school, we were all thrown in there, but as long as you were active and a good student, you could like Jim become class president. It wasn't that easy for everybody.
- [00:34:59] JAMES TURNER: There was always that distinction of which side of town you lived. The East side, where you had a higher caliber of people, wealthy people. The West side, you had the middle-class and of course, some people frowned upon that because once again, we didn't have the privileges as others had. There was a distinction in the city of Ann Arbor. The East side, except East Ann Arbor, that was different. Those people-- [LAUGHTER] People were basically on the lower echelon scale, compared to the people in the Burns Park area or Ann Arbor Hills. There was a distinction of classes in the city.
- [00:35:52] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: East Ann Arbor was like on the outskirts of Ann Arbor. The attitude prevailed that if you couldn't afford to live in Ann Arbor, then you lived someplace else. That was very prevalent, but I think as I said, if you got along with any and everybody then it wasn't too much of a problem for you, but for others it was very hard to make that adjustment.
- [00:36:25] JOYCE HUNTER: In terms of housing, affordability is still an issue now in Ann Arbor. People can't always live here, they do have to live other places because of the cost of living and there's been conversations about different groups about affordable housing. So Jim, I want to ask you, were you born here?
- [00:36:51] JAMES TURNER: Yes. Matter of fact, when I was born, my sister and Betty Everett, they noticed the physician coming to our house and he was carrying a black bag. Then once he left, they noticed that I was there [LAUGHTER]. I came in the black bag [LAUGHTER].
- [00:37:14] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I always thought that story was funny. Both his older brother and sister thought that he came out of the doctor's black bag. Betty was a neighbor across the street.
- [00:37:24] JAMES TURNER: Betty Everett.
- [00:37:26] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Betty Everett. She remembers that.
- [00:37:30] JOYCE HUNTER: That's wonderful. You came out of that black bag [LAUGHTER].
- [00:37:35] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Jim was born at home. I was born at St. Joe.
- [00:37:43] JOYCE HUNTER: I'm curious--the doctor delivered you or was there a midwife?
- [00:37:47] JAMES TURNER: No, the doctor. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:37:54] JOYCE HUNTER: I love that black bag [LAUGHTER].
- [00:37:57] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah, I can see why they would think that. They were young.
- [00:38:01] JOYCE HUNTER: I'm going to move on. What about your school experience is different from school as you know it today?
- [00:38:15] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I think today we're more sensitive to some of the issues that we've talked about and have really made an effort to close the gap, but I have to admit maybe because I was young, we were young, and just took things for granted that that's the way they were. If you worked really hard and you wanted to go on and further yourself, we knew that we could do that, but it seemed to take more of an effort to do that besides just wanting to do it. I think it's good that today kids are far more aware, attuned to what's going on. I can remember when I was teaching, the staff would get together and discuss some of the issues that we're talking about now and try to come up with ways to make it more integrated and more school friendly, but that's the big difference. I guess we were naive in a way. I can give you an example of that. When I was in high school, there were a couple of us that were summoned to the principal's office, it was either the class principal or the head principal, I can't remember which one. We were curious why we were called down to the principal's office. What he wanted us to do was to be the eyes and ears of what was going on in the girls locker room. Because the locker room was vacant when we were all in classes, but they had someone breaking into those lockers while class was in session. I remember I wasn't comfortable with that, why he would think that we would spy on other kids. I guess I knew that he didn't come right out and say it, but I knew that he was referring to friends of ours, people who looked like us. When I went home and I told my mother about it, she definitely said-- My nickname is Dodie everyone who's been in Ann Arbor as long as I have calls me to Dodie instead of Dolores. She said, "Dodie no, that is not your job. I'm not sending you to school to spy on classmates or friends." She said, "No, that's a job for the hall monitors or the class principal. That's not why you're going to school." I was uncomfortable with it. Now we would say, we would call it targeting. Now we seem to have a label or we hear about targeting. I think that's what was making me uncomfortable, but I didn't have the words to express. I didn't like targeting in on folks who looked like me and then reporting back that we saw someone maybe go into the locker and steal a wallet or whatever. That was one case of, I'd call it discrimination. But we didn't react to the point that--I remember talking about it with my mom, but I'm sure my mom just let it go, she didn't show up in the administrator's office. That's a big difference and I don't like using labels necessarily, but now kids just seem more aware and they're not afraid to report what has happened to them. I think that's a good thing. We just didn't have that kind of wherewithall or knowledge, we just took it for granted. We were children of the fifties. We did what we were supposed to do. But I did, because I was so uncomfortable, I did draw the line there. It was like, "No, I'm not going to do that." That was more than I intended to [LAUGHTER].
- [00:43:13] JAMES TURNER: What was the question?
- [00:43:14] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah, what was the question? [LAUGHTER]
- [00:43:18] JOYCE HUNTER: How is school different now, than it was when you were growing up. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:43:20] JAMES TURNER: I would say that with the concept of virtual learning, it's just something else. I don't think I could continue with teaching with the demands of the teachers because once again, you're home and certainly you have the students, you have keep track. You end up reporting daily of the activities of that particular student. You find that with the demands of the administrators, that's difficult at this particular point in time, but people are surviving. But there's just more demands, I think on the educators today than it has been in the past. Certainly you find that with those demands, hopefully there's progress, but I haven't quite seen it yet because virtual learning you have students falling between the cracks. What's going to happen to them? Are they going to be able to catch up? It's just that, having that one-to-one basis when earlier we had with the classroom, I think that was probably better. Had a more positive spin than what I see today.
- [00:44:40] JOYCE HUNTER: Thank you. Were there any changes in your family life during your school years? I think you spoke about that a little bit already.
- [00:44:49] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: For me I'd say the biggest change was when my dad died. That was very unexpected and very sudden. But he and I had gone back to Tappan for a father-daughter activity night. We had a spaghetti dinner and then I remember my dad and I had just played ping-pong and then he just collapsed and had a coronary thrombosis, which I have been able to say since I was 14 years old. From 14 on, my mother--that's what I mean about labels. My mother never referred to herself as a single parent. She would not have done that. She was Mrs. Arthur W. Preston, Sr. But it was very difficult for me to go back to Tappan, because of my dad passing there. I remember, we were in the rec room and I remember I had to go back into the rec room for gym class. Sometimes we met in the rec room. And then even as an adult, Jim and I lived up the street in Ives Woods. We voted at Tappan and we voted in the rec room. It just seems like throughout my life that particular incident affected me. I was having a really difficult time. I didn't even want to go back to Tappan. I was a ninth grader. Back then, junior high was 7-9 unlike today. That's another big change too. Now it's 6-8 I think it is. But I remember my mother sitting me down and she said, ''Dodie, you are not going to let that define you for the rest of your life. Your dad would not want that." And he's certainly wouldn't, because I was in a home where education was stressed. The importance of having an education and committing to something and following through with it. At the time, I thought she was being hard on me to expect me to go back to Tappan and act like nothing had happened. But I think she was trying to tell me that you have to go on with the living, you can't bury yourselves with the deceased or the dead, and that's exactly what I did. Especially when she said, ''Your dad would want you to go back to school and hold your head up, and give it your best.'' But that was certainly a very pivotal, I could probably gone either way. I blamed myself when my mother was widowed in her late 40s. My siblings and I were fatherless, and I blamed myself because I thought, if we hadn't gone back to school maybe he would still have been alive. I had to deal with those issues as well as being a teenager. That was probably the event that changed my life the most while I was in school.
- [00:48:29] JOYCE HUNTER: Thanks for sharing that. It had to be very difficult and [OVERLAPPING] thank goodness for your mom.
- [00:48:36] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah. I was going to say, my mom was so strong. I mean, she she still had two younger ones. I think that's what got her through it, too, is that my little sister and I were still there, and that helped strengthen her. She knew that she had to be there for her girls. She was there for us and just a source of strength and I admired her for that. It was a couple of years before she even went to work, and she was able to see both of us off to college, and we had weddings, church weddings. That's probably the person that I look up to the most.
- [00:49:25] JOYCE HUNTER: That's wonderful.
- [00:49:26] JAMES TURNER: She accepted me right at the beginning. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:49:30] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I remember her telling me if you let him go, you're crazy. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:49:31] JOYCE HUNTER: Did you have anything you wanted to add Jim?
- [00:49:39] JAMES TURNER: I just wanted to just mention briefly, towards the end of my junior year, my brother wanted me to go out to Omaha, Nebraska and that's where he was staying. He was stationed in the Air Force. After he served his time there, he stayed there and he wanted his brothers and sisters go out there and stay. I did go out there during that summer between my junior year and senior year. I worked at a car shop. I always had a tendency to find a job. I worked there for briefly a short period of time, and then I decided--it was end of summer. I said, "Well, I just can't stay here." I didn't care too much for Omaha, Nebraska. It was so hot. I said, "I'm going home." I went back, I had one more year, my senior year, and so I finished my senior year in Ann Arbor instead of staying in Omaha, Nebraska.
- [00:50:46] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay, thank you. We're going to go into another section. 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 and your family?
- [00:51:08] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Well, I just remember the civil rights. Early '60s. But by then we had graduated from high school. We were in college, and we married in college. That was our focus: that we wanted to go to school, get our degrees, and Jim knew that I wanted a career of my own and a family. It was in the '60s when women were liberating themselves from being a stay-at-home mom. Actually they wanted it all. They wanted to be a wife, a mom, into their careers too. I guess you could say, I was born at the right [LAUGHTER] time because during the '60s women's lib was very popular. But the civil rights movement, I remember Harry Mial, his organization, I think it was called CORE. It was an acronym for something I don't remember what, but it was about civil rights. They were picketing out at Pittsfield Village. If it hadn't been for them, Jim and I, that was our very first apartment, Pittsfield Village, because they opened up things for us. And it was also my mom, who knew somebody who knew somebody that could get us into Pittsfield. But I think we were one of the first Black families out there in Pittsfield village. We owe that to people like Harry Mial and the civil rights organizations at that time. Jim and I never really got involved with that because as I said we married in college and we were very focused. We had started a family, and we knew that was our priority. But there were certainly groups on campus that were very active.
- [00:53:36] JAMES TURNER: I'd give kudos to Harry Mial because he really stepped up. Before that, Pittsfield Village, it was very difficult to get in and were able to get in because of his action and activities and his forcefulness. Once again when you talk about some of the historical events and social events, since I was in Highland Park, I was able to have a different reflection of the educational system because most of the students were Black and I was familiar with a majority of the white populace. That made a difference altogether, it just turned my attitude, my judgmental scene, knowing that, hey, we had something going. Because the students were different and they were outspoken and we find that once again they were ahead of, especially the ones that were in Ann Arbor.
- [00:54:45] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Sure.
- [00:54:46] JAMES TURNER: That changed my attitude towards our people because I realized that we can move forward if we're able to work together. During that time it was the 1967 Detroit Riot, and you wouldn't believe the destruction that existed, it almost looked like a war zone. You go down Woodward Avenue, you find that businesses were burning, people were out on the street, you find that basically because you had absentee landlords, prices skyrocketed and here you had people who just maybe had a job that were unable to meet their basic needs. That was a root of awakening to see a city torn like that. I mean, with maybe the Middle East that's a common thing, but not in the city of Detroit. That changed my attitude with people, going to Highland Park teaching for about four years before I came to Ann Arbor. And that was a lifelong experience, a worthwhile experience, so I give credit for that. With the other historical events, we find that during this time we have Dr. King, he was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. You have his brother Robert assassinated. It's just that, once again, the turn of the tides and we had a different reflection of what our society should be and then of course later on [NOISE] would be the Twin Towers, and the destruction there. Instead of people like the fire department, the men were going running into the building and you had a large number of people running out of it and they were going to save the individuals. It's just that at long-last we just celebrate that with the 50th anniversary of the Twin Towers. It's just that there's all kinds of events that have transpired during this time, it's just a root of awakening. You wonder, which direction are we going to go?
- [00:57:27] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I was going to add, I am so grateful to those students, I think in the early 70s, who protested at Pioneer High School, the group of Black students. Because if they had not been as vocal--and one of their demands was that Ann Arbor hire more Black instructors. Because I remember the very first time I was interested in coming to Ann Arbor, I remember the administrator that I had to see said that I really should have a master's in the field that I'm teaching. So what did I do? I went back to grad school, I already had a master's but it wasn't in English and I got a master's in English. If it had not been for those kids, I don't think we would've had our jobs, I don't think they would have come as--really, it was just fortuitous. [LAUGHTER] Jim actually went into the administration building to apply for a position here, this was four years later after he had been in Highland Park. I just sat out in the car and Jim came out to the car and he got me and he says, ''Dolores," he says, "they're hiring and she wanted to know if you were interested in it, in a position in Ann Arbor?'' I said, ''Well, yes, of course I am," [LAUGHTER] because I had been commuting to Romulus for four years and making more money there than when we came to Ann Arbor. Soon after we came to Ann Arbor and we were hired, we were pink-slipped. [LAUGHTER] But that all worked out. When I think of civil rights, I think about those kids in the early '70 were not afraid or intimidated. I don't think we would have in the '50s but they were very outspoken and very demanding. Like I said, I never had a Black teacher until I was in junior high and that was a student teacher from the U of M. In high school, there were just a couple of teachers, one in science, one in social studies. When it comes to civil rights I think that we owe our jobs, our positions to those handful of students. I know they were a problem for the administration because they were used to kids who just [NOISE] did what they were supposed to do, went to class, but they were to be reckoned with. That's my memory of civil rights.
- [01:00:17] JOYCE HUNTER: Jim, I want to go back for a second. You mentioned that you taught in Highland Park and that there they were so much further ahead than in Ann Arbor. What were you referring to?
- [01:00:30] JAMES TURNER: Awareness that they were in tune with the Black culture. You find that being informed, they were outspoken. Matter of fact, many of the people there were resource people. You were able to get those particular people into your classroom and that just expanded your horizon because they had the knowledge, they had the experience and basically knew what they're talking about. It's just that, it was a root of awakening but I didn't stay there too long. I stayed there until about four years and I just probably got tired of being on the road. I burned out one motor going back and forth to Highland Park because we lived in Pittsfield Village. It was a good experience.
- [01:01:29] JOYCE HUNTER: We're going to move--well, no we're not. We're going to ask a couple more questions before I move to the next section. Some of these we've already answered. You lived during the era of segregation, so I'm going to skip down to, how did you get to school?
- [01:01:47] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Well, like I said, most of us went to neighborhood schools.
- [01:01:52] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay.
- [01:01:53] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: We could walk to school, Jim went to Mack School and Slauson, that was within the historically the Old West side of Ann Arbor. Like I said, Burns Park was practically, I mean, that was our playground so we walked to Burns Park and then I walked to Tappan or we rode our bikes. We never really took a school bus.
- [01:02:23] JAMES TURNER: Well at that time they really didn't have the system that they have today, as far as picking up students. The ones they picked up was probably from Whitmore Lake--
- [01:02:32] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah, the outskirts of Dixboro.
- [01:02:33] JAMES TURNER: Maybe East Ann Arbor. It's just that many students probably had their own means of transportation. Of course, during my senior, I had my own car, and so that was convenient.
- [01:02:49] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay.
- [01:02:49] JAMES TURNER: It was a refinance car. [LAUGHTER]
- [01:02:56] JOYCE HUNTER: Doing these interviews, some people talk about how Black students had to walk and other students who were even closer got picked up by the bus? [OVERLAPPING]
- [01:03:07] JAMES TURNER: Oh really?
- [01:03:07] JOYCE HUNTER: Yeah.
- [01:03:08] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Could be.
- [01:03:09] JOYCE HUNTER: Yeah. Okay. We talked about who your teachers were. Were there restaurants or eating places for Blacks where you lived and how were Black visitors accommodated?
- [01:03:22] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I was just going to say we know where to go and where not to go. I hate to mention names, but the restaurant's been out of business, the family's probably long gone, but we knew that Preketes didn't want us in there to eat. But other than that and Howard Johnson's at one time I remember that we weren't welcome to eat, but there were other places to go to. There wasn't too much of an issue. But my mother remembers when women couldn't go through the front door of the Michigan Union, that's probably why the League became the women's student union. But that's about all, I never really felt-- The only time, we were at a large family reunion and we were at Metropolitan--I think it was the Metropolitan part toward Brighton maybe. I remember we were all playing volleyball and a car full of guys drove by and said "Go home" and used the N-word. That was really the only time that, in my face, maybe we were referred to that way behind our backs. But I don't remember ever being really, really discriminated against. I guess I'll put it that much. But there was still something in me. I knew I was Black and I was proud to be Black. But I had so many examples of Blacks who had-- And one thing is in the church, Bethel has always had--talk about resources--Bethel has always had people in it that were somehow connected with the university, or they were professionals and that was very influential for us. Then, of course, your friends' parents, and what have you, they were all professional. But other than that, I can't ever remember being called-- It's funny, but when I was teaching, no one ever called me the B-word. At least not to my face. They may have behind my back [LAUGHTER] but I was never called the B-word, you know, like "Mrs. Turner, you're such a --. " But as far as anything hurtful being said to me or about me, I can't recall it. But it's been such a blessing to be surrounded by people who were a good influence on us, whether it was church or school or whatever, and the values that were instilled in us. That's all.
- [01:06:40] JAMES TURNER: With my experience, my family lived on Fourth Ave across from the Bakers and I guess it must have been probably the third grade that my dad-- It was close quarters and of course you're going back in the past where you had to heat the water to take a bath. You had the water, you pour it into the tub and usually the oldest one or the youngest one probably had the first choice and what was left, everything else, all the dirt and whatever, was down the bottom of it. But eventually, my dad, someone in the community offered my dad a house and it was on North Main Street and he could have the house as long as he could have the house moved. My grandfather had a large lot, so they moved the house up onto Summit, that steep hill, right on through, took some of the lights and the wires down. That was quite a feat, but it was done and then once they got on Gott Street, the last block was Black. We would end up in that block there and stayed basically Black, oh, I would say probably about seven years. But that was from the Fourth Ave right up on Gott Street, that last block. That was something. But then when I decided to go, we went to school, I changed schools. Used to be, of course, that Fourth Ave was Jones School, and then we moved on Gott Street and the elementary school was Mack and so it took me a little time to adjust. Every day there was one person who was waiting for me to get out of school and he'd chase me home every day calling me names at the same time. I said, well, I had to make up my mind what I'm going to do, am I going to continue running? So we did make a stand and from that point on, he discontinued chasing me. Those are some things that you learn and you pick up.
- [01:09:10] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah.
- [01:09:12] JAMES TURNER: That was a good experience once again.
- [01:09:16] JOYCE HUNTER: Jim, let me ask you this. You said they chased you and then you took a stand. [OVERLAPPING]
- [01:09:23] JAMES TURNER: Yeah.
- [01:09:23] JOYCE HUNTER: What does that mean when you say you took a stand?
- [01:09:25] JAMES TURNER: [LAUGHTER] I told them I wasn't going to be chased, running anymore. Not for that.
- [01:09:31] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: What did you do, Jim?
- [01:09:36] JAMES TURNER: Within a couple, I would say more than a couple of years, probably about 25 years, you had the neighborhood picnic and he showed up. A few white neighbors, and he was one of them, and we became friends and we got along real well.
- [01:09:56] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay, great. Let me ask you about moving the house. Why did the house have to be moved?
- [01:10:04] JAMES TURNER: Well, see, the gentleman that wanted to get rid of the house, he was going to rebuild and I think there was, not a store, but a plant that they wanted to replace that house with and so he had to build that, but he had to get rid of the house and the house was in good shape. He said, "If you have the means, define that you can move this house, it's yours." It was clear and free, but you had to pay the cost of moving it.
- [01:10:35] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay.
- [01:10:36] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Jim also mentioned that he went to Jones School. For the most part, Jones School was predominantly Black because my older brother and sister, the older set of kids, they attended. My parents lived on Fifth Ave then and they did attend Jones School. Then I don't know if it closed or what? Then kids went to Mack School and that was Jim said it was an adjustment to go from Jones School to Mack School, which was far more integrated.
- [01:11:15] JAMES TURNER: Yeah, Jones continued.
- [01:11:17] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Did Jones continue?
- [01:11:18] JAMES TURNER: Yeah.
- [01:11:20] JOYCE HUNTER: There's a documentary that's being done, or it's completed, and Jones School and it's by the Ann Arbor District Library.
- [01:11:28] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Wow, that's interesting.
- [01:11:29] JOYCE HUNTER: I'll keep you informed on that.
- [01:11:31] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah, in fact, I may have some pictures of Jones School classes because.
- [01:11:37] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay.
- [01:11:38] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah, my brother-- [OVERLAPPING]
- [01:11:39] JOYCE HUNTER: I'll let the person know at the library, or Matt can do it, that you might have some?
- [01:11:44] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah, I might have some pictures of Jones School.
- [01:11:46] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay. I'm going to move now into part three: adulthood, marriage, and family life. After you finished high school, where did you live? Did you remain here, or did you move around through your adult life and what was the reason for these moves?
- [01:12:01] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: No.
- [01:12:03] JOYCE HUNTER: You didn't move?
- [01:12:05] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: No [LAUGHTER]. Jim and I are truly native Ann Arborites so we stayed here in Ann Arbor. I guess Pittsfield Village was probably the farthest we've been from the city.
- [01:12:21] JOYCE HUNTER: As a single person, though, before you got married, did you stay at home or did you--?
- [01:12:26] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah, I stayed at home. Yeah, I've been here. I was born and raised here and educated here and married here, had a family here, and a career here. But we've traveled extensively, but there's just no place like home.
- [01:12:52] JOYCE HUNTER: As a single woman after high school, you remained at home?
- [01:12:56] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I was in school and at home.
- [01:12:59] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay, so Jim?
- [01:13:01] JAMES TURNER: Yes. Since my mother passed after I graduated from high school, I applied for a college degree. Matter of fact, I applied for college and I had some good people. I worked odds-and-ends jobs for this one attorney at the Ann Arbor Trust building and he and his wife basically protected me. They made arrangements for me to go to school. They set up my dorm room and from that point, I was basically on my own. In the meantime, at home, my brother had moved all my personal belongings out of the house and took them over to my grandfather's house, which was next door, and so I lost a lot of my things that I had that had some value to me during that move. But I guess he was forced to move because my stepmother told him it was time for him to get out of the house and so he ended up taking everything that I had as much as possible and so moving there. I was just going back and forth. I stayed at my grandfather's house but I was in school at least the first couple of years.
- [01:14:22] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay. Now I'm going to move on to marriage. I'd like you to tell me a little bit about your married and family life. Tell me about your spouse. Where did you meet? Tell me what it was like when you were dating.
- [01:14:43] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: [LAUGHTER] It was the fifties, the late '50s. [LAUGHTER] My mother absolutely, when she met Jim she absolutely adored him, and she knew Jim's parents. But because they were at a different church and on the West side of Ann Arbor they weren't together that much. But my mother certainly knew Jim's dad in particular because he had lived in Ann Arbor for so long. I just remember after high school we would go to Washtenaw Dairy which is still there. Jim and I spent--it's been over sixty years since we were in high school or something, I don't know--we would go to Washtenaw Dairy and we'd get an ice cream cone. I was really impressed with him because he had a car and back in the '50s, we wore the guy's letter sweater. That's one big difference. I mean, now girls earn their letter sweaters. But we used to, if you had a boyfriend who was a varsity athlete, you wore his letter sweater the day of a game. And kids just, the guys, especially, if they smoked they rolled their cigarettes up in the cuff of their shirt. [LAUGHTER] Maybe you remember, well maybe it's way before your time, Joyce.
- [01:16:27] JOYCE HUNTER: I'm sure it's not way before, but go ahead. [LAUGHTER]
- [01:16:27] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: You remember Fonzie. Was that his name, Fonzie, on television? You'd see him with his shirt sleeves rolled up and the cigarettes. But I would call it an age of innocence in a way where we were protected and sheltered and we weren't nearly as out and about as kids are now. I mean, there wasn't any social media. I think most of the gossip came from our mothers who always were on the phone talking to each other. I'd call it an age of innocence where it wasn't rosy by any means. I've already expressed some difficulties that I had but for the most part, they were just the good old days. We married and like I said, we just had a lot of things in common.
- [01:17:46] JOYCE HUNTER: Jim, it sounds like you had a car and you took her for a date to get some ice cream. Do you have anything you want to add to that? [LAUGHTER]
- [01:17:56] JAMES TURNER: They had drive-thrus, A & W, the Blue Bomber, there was another restaurant out there on Stadium. But where we met, since I was a senior and she was a sophomore, it was during the lunch hour--.
- [01:18:12] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Oh yeah. Oh no. [LAUGHTER].
- [01:18:13] JAMES TURNER: And I saw this person walking by. I didn't think of it. But then when she came back two or three times, crossing over, [LAUGHTER] and grabbed my attention. I said, "Well, what's going on here?" But that's how we first met, during the lunch hour. She was going up I guess to the counter to get some food, had her tray. I were sitting at a table usually with the upperclassmen. Then someone came over and told me that you know Dolores. She seems to be interested in you. I said, "Oh, really?" From that point on with the dating and of course after football games she would come and I would take her home. So that was our connection.
- [01:19:10] JOYCE HUNTER: Well Jim, thanks for adding a little bit more than ice cream to it. [LAUGHTER]
- [01:19:18] JAMES TURNER: We were married at Bethel.
- [01:19:24] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah, we were married at Bethel. Church wedding, but certainly not elaborate because we were both in college then. We knew we couldn't afford anything really big but mostly family and friends, primarily friends of my mom, her little group, and church members. I think they're all gone by now. But for the reception, we went back to our family home. I think there was just punch and ice cream and cake. That was it. It wasn't elaborate by any means. But we can look back and say, yeah, we were married in church and continued at Bethel because we've never lived anywhere else. Just native Ann Arborites.
- [01:20:24] JAMES TURNER: We had a destination afterwards and we went up to Boyne City up North for a honeymoon. It was pouring down rain. We were doing well, so we stopped in Lansing, and then the next morning we continued our trip towards North. That was an interesting point.
- [01:20:54] JOYCE HUNTER: Jim, how did you ask her to marry you?
- [01:20:58] JAMES TURNER: Well--
- [01:20:59] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: He just asked. [LAUGHTER]
- [01:20:59] JAMES TURNER: It was interesting because I didn't get on my knees. We just made an agreement. We thought that this would be our next step.
- [01:21:15] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah.
- [01:21:21] JOYCE HUNTER: That's wonderful. You're a wonderful couple.
- [01:21:24] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Well thanks, Joyce.
- [01:21:27] JOYCE HUNTER: Thank you for sharing that. We're going to move into part four, which is work and retirement. We already know your main field of employment. I'm going to skip down and say, what is the biggest difference--we kind talked about it, but I'll ask you anyway--what's the biggest difference in your field of employment from the time you started until now? You've kind of talked about that already. Unless you want to add something else, I'll go on to the next question.
- [01:22:01] JAMES TURNER: Next question.
- [01:22:02] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I don't even remember what I said. [LAUGHTER]
- [01:22:04] JOYCE HUNTER: What do you value most about what you did for a living?
- [01:22:08] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Oh, I can certainly answer that. [LAUGHTER] I have always loved kids. That started at a very early age. Like I said, my parents were foster parents for, they were called wards of the state. We sometimes had two at a time, but for the most part just one. I've always liked kids. But I have to admit that when we married, like I said, we were just so focused on school and getting a job and having a career. But women wanted it all. I said, I want to be a wife, a mother, but I want a job, I want a career of my own. Teaching just appealed to me. We were just so active in school. We loved school. Since kindergarten, I think I knew I wanted to teach. The thing I value the most about teaching was when I was selected to be an Huron High school's Hall of Fame. I wasn't a coach, I was a teacher, and to be selected into the Hall of Fame, and I suppose you were vetted or whatever. But I was able to get along with students, staff, parents. For one thing, I'm not confrontational, so I would try to work things out with the student rather than with the student and his parents or her parents, and a class administrator. I always figured that discipline was my responsibility. My family used to say, you guys don't have regular jobs. You have the whole summers off. But they didn't realize that there were nights when we were up late, grading papers. I remember Labor Day. [LAUGHTER] Labor Day we didn't really celebrate, because we had to go to school on Tuesday. [LAUGHTER] It's really something, even now, even after we've been retired for decades. I can feel what other teachers are probably feeling like, oh my gosh, back to school. My siblings used to think, well, what do you mean back to school? You've had the whole summer off. That's more than most of us have our whole whole time we're working. Maybe that even made it worse, because you had so much time off, and then there to be thrust in with 150 each semester, so that's 300 kids a year. It was a job, yes. But we were doing something that we loved, our whole life was just centered around school. At least, I speak for myself. We looked up to our teachers, and did what our teachers told us to do. We knew that education was really stressed with my family. We knew that in order to get ahead, an education was necessary. But because we liked school, it just seemed like after we graduated and got our bachelor's, then we worked on our masters at the same time. Then we got paid according to how much graduate work we did and tenure. I don't even know if they have tenure now. But the longer you taught, the more money you made. If you wanted to move up the scale, then you taught many years. Then if you wanted to move across the scale, you increased your education. It just seemed like we were always in grad school or just taking classes for enrichment. I remember, I took 30 hours at WCC, Washtenaw Community College. Those 30 hours were just enrichment classes where I could take classes like creative writing and journal writing. When you asked me what was the highlight of our careers, the highlight definitely was being, a couple of years later they asked me if I'd be, that I had been inducted into the Hall of Fame, if I would like that? So I said, "Yeah, sure." That was the highlight of my career. I have a little certificate too that I was elected, I forget what it's called, golden. The student council had elected certain teachers. They were called Golden River Rats. It had nothing to do with age. [LAUGHTER] I got along with kids. Like I said, I wasn't confrontational. If I had to deal with parents, it was just always on a very--I was very even-keeled. Maybe that's just a personality thing. Yes, I would get mad at some kids, but I didn't hold it against them. It was a new day. On the next day it was like, that was yesterday. Today is a fresh new day.
- [01:27:52] JAMES TURNER: We enjoyed working with the young people, and what they would wear and [OVERLAPPING] of course the activities they were involved in. We actually kind of sucked into their interests. And it kept us going. It provided a sense of energy. One day would be different than the next day. It was always something new and different. You'd never know, especially if you had the class, [LAUGHTER] which you had about 32 people. [OVERLAPPING] You'd just never know what was going to happen. You had to be aware of that, but you also had to keep control. You'd have a tendency to enjoy the students. They would laugh. Of course, they would come back on you. They would tell you what you're wearing. "Didn't you wear that yesterday?" Or, "I know how you dress. You have different sets of clothing and you mix them up. [OVERLAPPING] It's not that you [LAUGHTER] have all of these clothes, it's just that we see the direction you go." But I was interested not just with the young people, but their extra curricular activities, what they were doing outside the classroom. Like some of the athletes, I would take stats for the basketball team, so that got me out to watch the students. Some of those players were in my class. Then driver's head, there was a different setting. That was rather dangerous at times, but still we had fun. Whether they stayed on the road or we'd end up on a lawn, whatever. That was all part of it. [LAUGHTER] It's just that each day was different, and you just never knew what was upon you at that particular time.
- [01:29:54] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I was going to say, even Jim coached track and cross-country, and that remained with him. He still jogs three days a week. That experience just stayed with him, but he's always been athletic. Yeah, going back to school to chaperone a school dance or whatever, it was just like going back to Pioneer High School and it fit us and we fit that setting. It kind of spilled over. It's a generational thing and it spilled over to our son and his four children. Yeah, we would be back to Pioneer for the grandchildren. They went to Pioneer. We'd be back for their games. I remember the first time I picked up my granddaughter at Pioneer by the clock tower, and I just remember my mom doing the same thing. She picked me up by the clock tower. It's just nice to be connected to those things, they are just a part of you.
- [01:31:20] JOYCE HUNTER: That leads right into the next question. And you got into it a little bit, Dolores. How did your life change when you and/or your spouse retired and all of the children left home? You had the one son. You already told me about the grandkids, but say more about that.
- [01:31:40] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I did 30 years. The thing about teaching, you can get a teaching position right out of college. Because like I said, I think I mentioned this when I was student teaching, they asked me if I wanted a job there in Romulus. I student taught in the middle school, but they had built a new high school and they were going to move their ninth graders into the high school so it was 9th through 12th. That was a good experience. Our son ended up working in academia too, he's at the U of M for over 30 years. He's been there about 30 years and he's in IT. But that's strange because he didn't grow up with computers. But as an IT person, that's what he does at the U of M. Then the grandchildren we have four, a set of older ones and a set of younger ones, pretty much the same with me, but it's just nice to see the family extended. Now, during the pandemic, everyone's been vaccinated except for the younger one who is eight or nine years old. It's just a matter of time before she will be vaccinated too. But I retired 30 years and then Jim went on for another year or two. Ever since we've been retired, we've done a lot of traveling around the world, just about about every continent. But that's been enjoyable and then we have a place at the lake and we enjoyed that for over 30 years. He certainly has his interests and I have mine. Socially, I have friends that I spent time with with, and the church certainly. It's always been a priority with us.
- [01:34:16] JOYCE HUNTER: Jim, do you want to add to that?
- [01:34:20] JAMES TURNER: I did with the traveling which we have traveled, and especially driving, which we made one trip across Canada, right across over to the West Coast, and then down come back through the states there, Utah, and right on through. I don't mind driving because since I taught driver's ed at that time, driving was a natural thing for me. We had some good experiences, and it's just that your son is no longer with you, you find that there's more opportunities. We got him through college, paid for it, didn't have the student loans which they have today but we're able to spread our wings.
- [01:35:19] JOYCE HUNTER: I like that, spreading your wings. But before I go on to the last section, I wanted to go back to something you said, Jim, about driver's ed, and you said "even if you ended up on the lawn." [LAUGHTER]
- [01:35:33] JAMES TURNER: Yeah.
- [01:35:34] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah. He would tell me about-- [OVERLAPPING]
- [01:35:35] JOYCE HUNTER: I'm trying to visualize that.
- [01:35:38] JAMES TURNER: Sometimes we would work on turns, and we'd instruct the student to make those sharp turns. It's just that they kept that turn there we just kept right on going over the curb and up on the lawn. We would just kind of quietly, didn't want to get upset. I said, "Well, let's put it in reverse and let's just go back and we'll get back on the road." We end up back on the road and they laughed and it was something, an experience that we were able to go through, but I didn't have any close calls, which was a blessing. You find that most of the students did follow through with my wishes.
- [01:36:22] JOYCE HUNTER: That's great.
- [01:36:23] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: He used to come home and tell us some stories. [LAUGHTER] I remember the first time we took our son out to driver's ed or to practice when he first started. At that time, driver's ed was part of the curriculum, now it's monetized. But first time he took our son out to practice, he ended up in a snow bank [LAUGHTER] with our son. So yeah, driver's ed.
- [01:36:56] JOYCE HUNTER: You had to be patient and have some good nerves to teach driver's ed. [LAUGHTER]
- [01:37:00] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Even the neighbors around Pioneer would get upset when they saw a driver's ed car coming [LAUGHTER] down their neighborhood.
- [01:37:11] JOYCE HUNTER: Yeah. Okay. We're moving into the last part, which is part five, historical social events. Tell me how it is for you to live in this community.
- [01:37:26] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: All you'd have to do is look at our license plates.
- [01:37:29] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay.
- [01:37:31] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Jim's license plate says, "WELUVA2." That's we, W-E, L-U-V, love, A2, Ann Arbor. Mine says "A2BORN."
- [01:37:43] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay. [LAUGHTER] I'll have to watch for that.
- [01:37:45] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah, that's in answer to your question, that we've always considered it very special to have been raised and born here because very few people are. Ann Arbor is such a transient community. People come here to school and then they leave. But even in church, members that were in school here at the university and would come to church, and then they would leave, and it's still that way. Most recently we had a bunch of guys from Google who worshiped with us and they've all gone. Some of them were really positive role models, especially for me because like I said, Harry Mial was certainly one of those people. We've always been proud to be a Wolverine or just an Ann Arborite.
- [01:38:51] JAMES TURNER: Yeah. As far as with the students from Google that did come to church and we more or less connected. As a matter of fact, Dolores has kept communication with this one and we're invited to his wedding in, what?
- [01:39:10] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Atlanta, Georgia, in March.
- [01:39:12] JAMES TURNER: Next year. There was a connection there.
- [01:39:17] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Once again, it was because our attachment to kids. Seeing them do well and the progress that they've made.
- [01:39:26] JAMES TURNER: It is a community of great opportunities.
- [01:39:29] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Yeah.
- [01:39:29] JAMES TURNER: All you just take advantage of was educational. As a matter of fact, Reverend Evans, wanted to know, "Did we ever think about leaving Ann Arbor?" And we said "No."
- [01:39:44] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: It never occurred to us.
- [01:39:45] JAMES TURNER: Ann Arbor's always been our home. We're here to stay.
- [01:39:50] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: We're really rooted here. Even my mother was born and raised here in Ann Arbor. Like I said, we're just rooted here and connected to Ann Arbor. I know it's had its problems, its issues. But as we've said throughout this interview, there have been resources that you can tap into. But Jim, when he went out to visit his siblings in Omaha, he knew that he wanted to go back to Ann Arbor at the end of that summer. He was out there for the whole summer and then he said, "No, I'm going back home." I know some people would say, "Well, you just haven't seen, you haven't been anywhere, " but that's not true. I don't care where we are, we still have a sense of home, and roots, and a legacy as well. Because my father came from Columbia, South Carolina. But he came here as a young man. I know he was in Ann Arbor for the rest of his life. But there's just no place like home.
- [01:41:27] JOYCE HUNTER: When thinking back over your entire life, what are you most proud of?
- [01:41:36] JAMES TURNER: I guess that would be our marriage going on 60 years. It's beyond our imagination, that we're able to stay that long or together. It wasn't easy and it hasn't been easy. But we're able to work out our difficulties and we talk about them. Matter of fact, when we make a decision, it's "Well, let's think about it." Because the decision is final. We're not going to go back. Whatever decision we made, we can live with and so that's exactly what we've been able to do and to move forward. I mean, we have our disagreements, that's not a problem, but it's just once again we're able to resolve those. We're not confrontational, that's a key thing there. If Dolores proves a point, I disagree, we express-- [OVERLAPPING]
- [01:42:32] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Compromise [GESTURES]
- [01:42:32] JAMES TURNER: --that particular point of view and then we just let it go. We voice our opinion, and that's the key thing. I will say that being able to last this long is a blessing. Certainly, I would say that it's been a great ride [LAUGHTER] as you look back.
- [01:42:57] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: I was going to say we had so many examples to follow, our parents. Then with my siblings, we all had been married more than 56 years, I mean, each one. But what Jim was saying, maybe that's why teaching came so natural for us. Some of those same skills that apply in the classroom, you also use those skills in marriage as well. You're tolerant, you listen, you learn. I probably learn more from teaching than I ever did from the books that I studied in college. But those skills are very fundamental and they're skills that you can apply whether you're working with one other person or a lot of people. You just know how to navigate an issue and come up with the pros and the cons and sometimes meet halfway. Those are just very important skills. I'm not saying if you would ask us when we were teenagers if we knew the lessons of life, we certainly didn't. We were just typical teenagers, but I guess with age and life experience, you just learn how to cope better. I certainly cope better with death and dying now let's say than I did when I was 14 years old. When people would say, oh, things will get better, I would just get really angry [LAUGHTER] at that. But we've been blessed to have had a long and healthy life together. That's about it. [LAUGHTER]
- [01:45:12] JOYCE HUNTER: Anybody listening to this, that's great advice from a couple that's been married 60 years or close to 60 years. Thank you for sharing that. Your final question is, what advice would you give to the younger generation?
- [01:45:30] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: Don't think they know at all [LAUGHTER] to listen to what their parents have to say, and what others have to say. At least listen to it and then decide what it is that's important to you. Because I remember my mom wanted me to go into social work because she had dealt with all these social workers when we were fostering children. I knew that that was not for me. Although with teaching, you're a little bit of a counselor and a social worker and those skills applied there. That would be my advice to just listen and learn and then decide what you're going to do, to commit to it, and to follow through with it. I know we passed it on to our son and hopefully he's done the same with his four, but so far so good. The two older ones, one is a civil engineer in DC--and they're both U of M, also--the other one is a health care analyst in Chicago. They followed their hearts, but they've also followed the advice that various ones have had for them.
- [01:47:09] JAMES TURNER: My advice is to be all you can be. Strive to improve yourself. You don't have to be it all at once, but just gradually whether it's new educational endeavors or whether it's to a trade, whatever it is that your life tends to lead towards, do it. Of course, certainly most of all, you've got to believe in God. I mean, He's been our strength, He's been our guide, He's been our protector. The key thing you've got to have a spiritual life. Other things, you got to be patient. You just can't jump into--a lot of young people, they look at some other person, especially one that's well established and they want the same thing. Well, it takes time. They have to be patient and then eventually, they will be able to have the same things. Treat people the way that you'd like to be treated. This society is basically for yourself. It's just that me alone, not anyone else, but it's me, me, me. You got to think about other people other than yourself and work towards that means. Another one is that you set a goal, and once you set that goal, strive for it. It may take time, you may not get to it, but just be patient and hopefully then you're able to reach that goal. Learn from others. In my experience, I tended to see how other people are doing, and how they're doing it, and see if I can do it. The greatest teacher is life. You find that with a lot of people in this day and age, especially talking to an older person that's been through it, would be helpful. It's just that many people do have the opportunity to improve themselves as long as they're willing to wait and endure. It's just that with all the opportunities we have, believe in God.
- [01:49:31] JOYCE HUNTER: Well, thank you so much. That's a wonderful way to end this interview with advice that the two of you have given to young people. I just wanted to say that I truly have enjoyed doing this interview with the two of you. First time we've done a couple. [LAUGHTER] You've done a great job. [LAUGHTER] Any final words you want to say before I have Matt stop the recording?
- [01:50:03] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: No, I don't think so, except what's my grade? [LAUGHTER]
- [01:50:08] JOYCE HUNTER: That's an appropriate question coming from a teacher. [LAUGHTER] I'm going to give y'all an A plus. [LAUGHTER]
- [01:50:15] DOLORES PRESTON TURNER: We have certainly enjoyed it too. We actually prayed about it before coming. We knew that God would see us through it with grace. I hope that we have lived up to his expectations. Just like [LAUGHTER] that seems to be one I think is most important is to live up to expectations, your own as well as others. I remember from Sunday's service when we were streaming, the Reverend said that there are three things that are important: to love God, to love yourself, and to love others as you do yourself. So that is so true.
- [01:51:01] JOYCE HUNTER: That is true.
September 21, 2021
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