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AACHM Oral History: Thekla Mitchell

Sun, 11/08/2020 - 9:27am

When: September 21, 2020

Thekla Mitchell

Thekla Mitchell: Thekla White was born in 1921 in Newport, Arkansas, the youngest of nine siblings. At age 22, she traveled to Ann Arbor to visit her sister. After getting a job at Cunningham’s Drug Store, she decided to stay. She worked at the University of Michigan Hospital as a nurses’ aid and laboratory assistant in the Pathology Department for 24 years. Known as “Dimples” to friends and family, Mrs. Mitchell was active in community organizations including the Ann Arbor Civic Club and the Order of the Eastern Stars.

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Transcript

  • [00:00:15] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Good evening. We want to welcome everyone to this very special occasion where we have the opportunity to interview one of our long time Ann Arbor resident, Thekla Mitchell. Because we are in this very unique, unprecedented time in history, we are social distancing and we all have a mask on. Mrs. Mitchell is 99-years-old and she's very cautious about her health and we are too. We will enjoy our time together, I'm Debby Mitchell Covington, and I will be joined by Myles Dean, and we will just spend a little time visiting with Mrs. Mitchell.
  • [00:01:13] MYLES DEAN: Hi Mrs. Mitchell.
  • [00:01:16] THEKLA MITCHELL: Hello.
  • [00:01:16] MYLES DEAN: It is wonderful, I'm just ecstatic to see you. Can you tell me, when were you born?
  • [00:01:30] THEKLA MITCHELL: I was born August the 2nd, 1921.
  • [00:01:37] MYLES DEAN: Wonderful. Where were you born? Can you tell me your hometown?
  • [00:01:43] THEKLA MITCHELL: Newport, Arkansas.
  • [00:01:45] MYLES DEAN: Well, Arkansas, okay. Can you tell me, what were your parents names?
  • [00:01:54] THEKLA MITCHELL: My father's name was Jenkins, J-E-N-K-I-N-S, White Senior.
  • [00:02:02] MYLES DEAN: Jenkins White Senior, and your mother's name?
  • [00:02:08] THEKLA MITCHELL: Fannie Lou White.
  • [00:02:13] MYLES DEAN: F-A-N-N-I-E?
  • [00:02:15] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes, L-O-U.
  • [00:02:18] MYLES DEAN: Okay. Fannie Lou White.
  • [00:02:20] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:02:24] MYLES DEAN: All right. How many siblings did you have? How many brothers and sisters?
  • [00:02:28] THEKLA MITCHELL: I have four brothers and three sisters. Should I say a half-brother?
  • [00:02:44] MYLES DEAN: Yes.
  • [00:02:45] THEKLA MITCHELL: I had a half-brother?
  • [00:02:50] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:02:51] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Was your half brother your father's son?
  • [00:02:53] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah. My father's son.
  • [00:02:54] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [00:02:55] MYLES DEAN: Okay, by your father. All right, [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:02:59] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Aunt Dimples, where do you fall in line?
  • [00:03:02] THEKLA MITCHELL: I'm the youngest.
  • [00:03:03] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: I'm sorry, I just called you Aunt Dimples, do you want to tell us why I might have called you Aunt Dimples? [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:03:11] THEKLA MITCHELL: Because my mother and father called me another name that I will not say and my older sisters and brothers didn't like it, and they start calling me Dimple, Aunt Dimples?
  • [00:03:29] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yes, and your last name is Mitchell?
  • [00:03:33] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:03:33] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: So tell me who you married. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:03:37] THEKLA MITCHELL: Your uncle. [LAUGHTER] Romie, R-O-M-I-E, Mitchell.
  • [00:03:46] MYLES DEAN: All right. Romie Mitchell.
  • [00:03:50] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Did I pronounce your name correctly? Could you tell us your name and how to spell it.
  • [00:03:56] THEKLA MITCHELL: Thekla, T-H-E-K-L-A.
  • [00:04:02] MYLES DEAN: So the H is silent?
  • [00:04:05] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes it is.
  • [00:04:07] MYLES DEAN: Yeah, okay. I've always said Thekla. You are married, divorced, widowed?
  • [00:04:17] THEKLA MITCHELL: I'm a widow.
  • [00:04:18] MYLES DEAN: Widowed. Okay.
  • [00:04:23] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: You said you were widowed twice?
  • [00:04:25] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:04:27] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:04:29] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: So Aunt Dimples, you had seven total in your family or eight?
  • [00:04:40] THEKLA MITCHELL: You mean children? [NOISE] Four brothers and then four girls and then my half brother made nine.
  • [00:04:50] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. Nine.
  • [00:04:51] MYLES DEAN: Yeah, large family.
  • [00:04:53] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Where did you fall in line?
  • [00:04:54] THEKLA MITCHELL: I'm the youngest.
  • [00:04:56] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:04:57] MYLES DEAN: Okay. Good.
  • [00:04:59] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Were there any benefits to being the youngest?
  • [00:05:01] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:05:04] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Like what?
  • [00:05:07] THEKLA MITCHELL: I didn't go through a lot of things that the older ones had to go through from what I can here.
  • [00:05:15] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [00:05:15] THEKLA MITCHELL: What I've heard.
  • [00:05:17] MYLES DEAN: Okay. So you learned from them?
  • [00:05:22] THEKLA MITCHELL: Oh, yes.
  • [00:05:26] MYLES DEAN: Okay. Any children?
  • [00:05:30] THEKLA MITCHELL: No, I never was a mother.
  • [00:05:32] MYLES DEAN: No children. Let's look back at growing up in Newport Arkansas, [LAUGHTER] can you tell me, where did you go to school?
  • [00:05:52] THEKLA MITCHELL: Well, first of all, we were in the country, Newport was the town.
  • [00:05:59] MYLES DEAN: Okay. Then you lived in the country?
  • [00:06:01] THEKLA MITCHELL: Oh, yes. Grew up in there and so I went to country to school.
  • [00:06:05] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:06:06] THEKLA MITCHELL: Then after that we ended up going to Newport High School.
  • [00:06:12] MYLES DEAN: Okay. Was it segregated?
  • [00:06:15] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:06:18] MYLES DEAN: Okay, and it was segregate. So when you and your siblings went to school, did you have a bus or did you have walk?
  • [00:06:29] THEKLA MITCHELL: No, we walked.
  • [00:06:30] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Was it a long walk?
  • [00:06:32] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes, a long walk in the cold or hot, whatever.
  • [00:06:36] MYLES DEAN: You had to walk?
  • [00:06:37] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:06:38] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Was it a one-house school or was it. [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:06:41] THEKLA MITCHELL: We had two rooms.
  • [00:06:43] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [00:06:44] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:06:45] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah.
  • [00:06:46] MYLES DEAN: It was a two-roomed school, that's interesting to know.
  • [00:06:50] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: So like the elementary [OVERLAPPING].
  • [00:06:51] MYLES DEAN: There was one of those, who was that benefactor, that philanthropists who built all those schools in the South, I think it was Joel Rosenberg, wasn't it? I don't know. You don't know about the Rosenberg schools, those are law schools for black kids. [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:07:17] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: So what did your parents do for a living?
  • [00:07:19] THEKLA MITCHELL: Worked in the cotton fields in the gardens. They grew cotton, and corn, and vegetables, and everything that you grow in the country?
  • [00:07:34] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Now, did you work out in the fields?
  • [00:07:36] THEKLA MITCHELL: I did, yes, and on the rib, few years. Like when I was a teenager.
  • [00:07:54] MYLES DEAN: When you went to school, [NOISE] what were some of the activities that the students did? Like when you were a child in school, what kind of games did you all play or any special celebration that you all had?
  • [00:08:20] THEKLA MITCHELL: I know we played ball.
  • [00:08:22] MYLES DEAN: Played ball, like baseball or kickball?
  • [00:08:26] THEKLA MITCHELL: No, not kickball. We played some basketball and some softball.
  • [00:08:33] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:08:33] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Did you play sports in school?
  • [00:08:37] THEKLA MITCHELL: Some basketball.
  • [00:08:39] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: You were on the basketball team?
  • [00:08:40] THEKLA MITCHELL: A girls team [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:08:45] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:08:47] MYLES DEAN: On the girls basketball team?
  • [00:08:49] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:08:51] MYLES DEAN: Okay, and did you all have a swimming pool or anything like that?
  • [00:09:00] THEKLA MITCHELL: We didn't know anything about swimming pools.
  • [00:09:02] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:09:03] THEKLA MITCHELL: No, we didn't do that.
  • [00:09:04] MYLES DEAN: Yes. Okay. I just thought I'd ask [OVERLAPPING] because my parents didn't have. I knew that a lot of black schools, they didn't build pools for [OVERLAPPING] black high schools. I was just curious if you all [LAUGHTER] were fortunate.
  • [00:09:20] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: What's one of your favorite memories of being in high school?
  • [00:09:25] THEKLA MITCHELL: In high school?
  • [00:09:26] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yeah. [LAUGHTER] Anything you remember about being there, going to high school? Did you guys have parties, or anything like that?
  • [00:09:38] THEKLA MITCHELL: No, we didn't have parties. We had to do schoolwork, and so we didn't do parties.
  • [00:09:50] MYLES DEAN: Did they have the prom, the senior prom?
  • [00:09:57] THEKLA MITCHELL: No. When my brother, Oscar, graduated, but he was six years older than me. He had a graduation. He was on when our grandma graduated [OVERLAPPING] from high school.
  • [00:10:16] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That was a big deal back then.
  • [00:10:17] MYLES DEAN: Yes, indeed.
  • [00:10:19] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Very big deal.
  • [00:10:23] MYLES DEAN: What was the highest level of school you went to?
  • [00:10:36] THEKLA MITCHELL: Oh, God. I think it was at 10th grade. Excuse me, 12th grade, because my brother, when he graduated, he graduated from the 10th grade, as far as I can remember. Tenth, 12th, I don't remember.
  • [00:10:52] MYLES DEAN: Okay. [OVERLAPPING] That is okay. If you don't remember, it's okay.
  • [00:11:00] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: So do you want to talk now about once she left Arkansas?
  • [00:11:05] MYLES DEAN: Sure.
  • [00:11:05] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Do you want to talk about when you left Arkansas? Where did you go and why did you go there?
  • [00:11:11] THEKLA MITCHELL: I came to Michigan to visit with my sister and my niece, her daughter, [NOISE] for a vacation. [LAUGHTER] I was 22 years old then. It was like I came here in September, and I stayed. First of all, [LAUGHTER] maybe I shouldn't say this. I didn't have any money to go back home. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:11:45] MYLES DEAN: So you stayed?
  • [00:11:49] THEKLA MITCHELL: What?
  • [00:11:50] MYLES DEAN: And you stayed?
  • [00:11:51] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah, I wrote my mother and father a letter to send for me, and they did. But by the time the mail could get from here to there, and then them sending me the money to come home, I had gotten a job working at Cunningham Drug Store.
  • [00:12:09] MYLES DEAN: Oh, my goodness.
  • [00:12:10] THEKLA MITCHELL: [LAUGHTER] But first of all, I had to get a Social Security number.
  • [00:12:16] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:12:17] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: So you got that here?
  • [00:12:19] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:12:19] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [00:12:20] MYLES DEAN: This is in Ann Arbor?
  • [00:12:22] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:12:22] MYLES DEAN: Cunninghams in Ann Arbor?
  • [00:12:24] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes, on the corner of Main and Liberty.
  • [00:12:28] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: You have a great memory. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:12:30] MYLES DEAN: Yes, indeed.
  • [00:12:31] THEKLA MITCHELL: That was my first job where I got a paycheck with my name on it. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:12:37] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That was pretty exciting. Do you remember how much you made an hour?
  • [00:12:40] THEKLA MITCHELL: No.
  • [00:12:40] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. [LAUGHTER]. That first check looked good though, didn't it?
  • [00:12:44] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:12:45] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Where did you work after that? Or did you stay here the whole time, or?
  • [00:12:50] THEKLA MITCHELL: I stayed here, but I did go home for Christmas for vacation, but back to Michigan. Then I worked, I can't say just how sooner, but when I lived there, I know I worked at Kresge on the corner of State Street and Northern University.
  • [00:13:12] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: On campus?
  • [00:13:13] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes. [LAUGHTER] But after I was here though, about two years, we left and went to California because I had three brothers out there and went for a vacation. I ended up living in California about two years. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:13:34] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That weather got you, didn't it? [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:13:36] MYLES DEAN: Yes, and those palm trees.
  • [00:13:37] THEKLA MITCHELL: Then I went and left California and went back to Arkansas to visit my mother and father, and back to Michigan.
  • [00:13:47] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:13:47] THEKLA MITCHELL: I've been living here ever since.
  • [00:13:51] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: So do you remember what year that was that you came back?
  • [00:13:54] THEKLA MITCHELL: No. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:13:54] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. That's all right.
  • [00:13:55] THEKLA MITCHELL: But I've been in Michigan, like when I first came here [inaudible] like 77 years.
  • [00:14:03] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Wow.
  • [00:14:04] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:14:04] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: So this is really home now.
  • [00:14:06] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:14:08] MYLES DEAN: So you've been in Michigan 77 years?
  • [00:14:13] THEKLA MITCHELL: Mm-hmm. [LAUGHTER] Maybe 77 years.
  • [00:14:15] MYLES DEAN: Well, can you tell me, do you remember where you lived 77 years ago?
  • [00:14:24] THEKLA MITCHELL: When I first came here, I lived on Bleeker Street [OVERLAPPING] in Mr. and Mrs., should I call their name?
  • [00:14:32] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: You can.
  • [00:14:32] MYLES DEAN: Sure.
  • [00:14:37] THEKLA MITCHELL: Mr. and Mrs. Ernest James (phonetic), and I was at work three or four weeks, Ann Arbor. Across the street from there was this man in [inaudible] who had an antique place named Wickliffe. They sold [LAUGHTER] antiques. [LAUGHTER] But I lived on [OVERLAPPING] [inaudible]. It was crazy.
  • [00:15:08] MYLES DEAN: I'm sorry. Was it Witcliffe or Wick?
  • [00:15:10] THEKLA MITCHELL: No, Wick.
  • [00:15:12] MYLES DEAN: Wick?
  • [00:15:12] THEKLA MITCHELL: Wickliffe, I think. I hope I'm saying and pronouncing [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:15:15] MYLES DEAN: Okay. They own an antique shop, right?
  • [00:15:23] THEKLA MITCHELL: That's where they lived.
  • [00:15:25] MYLES DEAN: Oh, where they lived, they had an antique shop?
  • [00:15:28] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:15:28] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yeah.
  • [00:15:28] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:15:28] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes. [LAUGHTER] I don't know [inaudible] but they sold antiques.
  • [00:15:34] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Where else did you live in Ann Arbor?
  • [00:15:37] THEKLA MITCHELL: I lived on [inaudible]. I lived on [inaudible] [LAUGHTER]. I lived about three or four places in [inaudible] street. Then I lived on Crompton Street, and I lived on Miner, the last. [LAUGHTER] That was my last address. I lived on Miner Street. Then before moving here, I was over by the post office on for stadium.
  • [00:16:07] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: How long were you on Miner; do you remember?
  • [00:16:11] THEKLA MITCHELL: About 30 years, maybe.
  • [00:16:13] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Wow.
  • [00:16:14] THEKLA MITCHELL: I'm not sure. But [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:16:16] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: At least 30 years?
  • [00:16:18] THEKLA MITCHELL: After I married your Uncle Romeo, that was we got a household on Miner Street, and lived there, but I moved from there [inaudible].
  • [00:16:27] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Right. So what was it like in that neighborhood when you lived there?
  • [00:16:33] THEKLA MITCHELL: It was nice. It was nice.
  • [00:16:36] MYLES DEAN: Which street?
  • [00:16:37] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: On Miner. On Miner Street?
  • [00:16:38] THEKLA MITCHELL: Mm-hmm, and it was mixed.
  • [00:16:43] MYLES DEAN: You had black and white, or [OVERLAPPING] maybe other ethnic groups?
  • [00:16:52] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes, black or white.
  • [00:16:52] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: You knew your neighbors pretty well?
  • [00:16:57] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes, I think so. [LAUGHTER] I remember some [inaudible]
  • [00:17:05] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Oh, yeah? [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:17:07] MYLES DEAN: I remember her.
  • [00:17:09] THEKLA MITCHELL: Do you? [LAUGHTER] And dogs you call Ross?
  • [00:17:13] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Ross?
  • [00:17:14] THEKLA MITCHELL: Roslin.
  • [00:17:14] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Roslin.
  • [00:17:15] THEKLA MITCHELL: But she called her Ross.
  • [00:17:16] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. You know the rushes, right? Were they [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:17:22] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes, Betty was a sister-in-law, Charles, and what was her name? I can't recall her name. But anyway, Charles Jr. still lives in the Ann Arbor area.
  • [00:17:40] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yes.
  • [00:17:43] THEKLA MITCHELL: He had a sister named Loreta.
  • [00:17:48] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: We remember her. [OVERLAPPING] Did you know the-
  • [00:17:51] THEKLA MITCHELL: Morrises?
  • [00:17:51] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yes.
  • [00:17:53] THEKLA MITCHELL: Jimmy Morris, who worked for the Ann Arbor News, and his wife worked in the university, yes.
  • [00:18:00] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: You worked at the university too, right?
  • [00:18:02] THEKLA MITCHELL: Twenty four years.
  • [00:18:04] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Wow. [LAUGHTER] What did you do there?
  • [00:18:08] THEKLA MITCHELL: I held [inaudible] two different things. When I first went there, I worked in housekeeping. Then I transferred into nursing. In nursing, I worked on their contagious unit. Of course, you work with babies to adults, whoever was contagious at the university. Then I filed a transfer from nursing to the laboratory as a laboratory aid.
  • [00:18:46] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [00:18:47] THEKLA MITCHELL: Then I worked as a nurses' aid and then a laboratory aid. That's when I retired after. I will say, I don't know how many years, but put it all together, I would say 24 years.
  • [00:18:58] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Wow. That's wonderful. [OVERLAPPING] Now, probably, if you had stayed at the university in that position today, you would have probably seen all these COVID-19 patients [OVERLAPPING] and stuff, if you'd worked in infectious disease.
  • [00:19:15] THEKLA MITCHELL: Anybody was contagious.
  • [00:19:16] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yes.
  • [00:19:17] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:19:17] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yes.
  • [00:19:18] THEKLA MITCHELL: We had taken [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:19:19] MYLES DEAN: Were you there during smallpox?
  • [00:19:24] THEKLA MITCHELL: Anything that was contagious.
  • [00:19:26] MYLES DEAN: Right. Well, there was an epidemic, I don't know, late '50s, I believe.
  • [00:19:31] THEKLA MITCHELL: I don't know, but if it is contagious [inaudible] [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:19:32] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That's where you were, and they'd see you.
  • [00:19:36] THEKLA MITCHELL: We were just across the hall from TB. They was doing [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:19:42] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yeah, tuberculosis.
  • [00:19:42] MYLES DEAN: Oh, really?
  • [00:19:43] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah, contagious on [inaudible] . We was at 8011 East [inaudible] But anyway, were sitting on this thing.
  • [00:19:56] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: You told me a story once about when you worked at a restaurant. Was it called the George?
  • [00:20:04] THEKLA MITCHELL: I worked at George's Place.
  • [00:20:06] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: George's Place.
  • [00:20:07] MYLES DEAN: George's Place?
  • [00:20:09] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah.
  • [00:20:09] MYLES DEAN: Do you remember when you worked there?
  • [00:20:12] THEKLA MITCHELL: No, but when I left there, I went to the university. But I used to work there. But when I first [LAUGHTER] was hired in, I was the dishwasher, but it was those mechanical dishwasher, you rack them up and send them through.
  • [00:20:32] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Right.
  • [00:20:32] THEKLA MITCHELL: But then [LAUGHTER] there was a lady there, she didn't know how to read and write. She was of another race. I could take orders and write down orders. [LAUGHTER] So I got the job working on the counter serving those students. What do you call people who made up the hood?
  • [00:21:01] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Students?
  • [00:21:03] THEKLA MITCHELL: No, they were students, but I'm just trying to provide any and everybody's.
  • [00:21:06] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: The public?
  • [00:21:08] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes. I could serve them sandwiches and dinners, and called in orders to the cook. They gave the other lady the dishwashing job, and I got to always [inaudible] [LAUGHTER] enjoy.
  • [00:21:25] MYLES DEAN: Isn't that something.
  • [00:21:27] THEKLA MITCHELL: What kind of restaurant did I tell you it was?
  • [00:21:30] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Greek?
  • [00:21:30] THEKLA MITCHELL: They were Greek, George's Place. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:21:35] MYLES DEAN: Okay. It was a Greek restaurant. [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:21:36] THEKLA MITCHELL: You know, now there is a bank there in that building.
  • [00:21:41] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Is there?
  • [00:21:41] THEKLA MITCHELL: I forget what bank, but it's a bank in that place where that restaurant [inaudible].
  • [00:21:48] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. You talked about being a black woman and starting off as a dishwasher and then because of your intelligence, the white lady ended up washing dishes and you ended up being at the front. Did you ever experience any racism in your life?
  • [00:22:11] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes, I grew up [LAUGHTER] where there was racism in the South and in Michigan too.
  • [00:22:18] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: What was the difference between the racism in the South and the North?
  • [00:22:23] THEKLA MITCHELL: Well, it was much worse than here, but I don't know how to phrase that. But anyways, we all know there are some that get along with you and that you deal with.
  • [00:22:42] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Right. What kind of experiences did you have in the South?
  • [00:22:47] THEKLA MITCHELL: Being called [inaudible] who you really are. [LAUGHTER].
  • [00:22:54] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Calling out of your name.
  • [00:22:58] THEKLA MITCHELL: The N word. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:22:59] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That was prominent.
  • [00:23:01] MYLES DEAN: Yes.
  • [00:23:02] THEKLA MITCHELL: The other race would be riding the school buses, and we'd be out there walking. [LAUGHTER] They put down the window, and we were called the N word. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:23:17] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That was normal.
  • [00:23:18] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:23:20] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Do you ever remember a racist experience you had in Michigan?
  • [00:23:33] THEKLA MITCHELL: I don't know how to explain it. But I tell you what, there was a hat shop, I don't remember the name on street [inaudible] years ago. Black people could go in, but then you were not allowed to try on their hats.
  • [00:23:52] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Wow. In Ann Arbor?
  • [00:23:54] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes, but I don't remember the name of the store. But you could go in there and buy a hat, but you could not try it on.
  • [00:24:02] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: In the North?
  • [00:24:03] THEKLA MITCHELL: That's in Ann Arbor. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:24:07] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: This is a place that's called a real liberal place.
  • [00:24:11] THEKLA MITCHELL: It was back in the '40s.
  • [00:24:14] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Back in the '40s. You came in there in '43?
  • [00:24:17] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:24:17] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. What did Ann Arbor look like back then?
  • [00:24:23] THEKLA MITCHELL: What a change. Things have changed so, so much. You wouldn't believe the old Ann Arbor compared to today. The trees in Ann Arbor, when I came here, they would meet in the middle of the street. They would get the tree branches [inaudible] . They were so different. When I came here, I came here on the train. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:24:59] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: You came here on the train.
  • [00:25:01] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:25:01] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [00:25:02] THEKLA MITCHELL: With Rhoda and Louise. That was the little [LAUGHTER] train station.
  • [00:25:12] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: On De Paul Street? [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:25:14] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes, they had a little train station. Now it's a restaurant.
  • [00:25:19] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Gandy Dancer.
  • [00:25:20] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:25:26] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: When you got off that train in Ann Arbor?
  • [00:25:30] THEKLA MITCHELL: So different, all the bricks.
  • [00:25:34] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: The streets were made of bricks.
  • [00:25:36] MYLES DEAN: Right.
  • [00:25:39] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Over on De Paul. You came from dirt roads to brick streets. [LAUGHTER] That was a big difference for you.
  • [00:25:51] THEKLA MITCHELL: There were changes.
  • [00:25:55] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That was pretty brave of you to just take off and leave home.
  • [00:26:01] THEKLA MITCHELL: I came for a vacation.
  • [00:26:03] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. [LAUGHTER] You didn't expect to stay. [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:26:08] MYLES DEAN: [inaudible] then stayed.
  • [00:26:08] THEKLA MITCHELL: But my sister, Rhoda, worked at the Bomber Plant.
  • [00:26:10] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: In Willow Run?
  • [00:26:15] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes. Her daughter was not of age, and she needed a babysitter.
  • [00:26:19] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [00:26:20] THEKLA MITCHELL: See, I was a bit older, I was 22. [LAUGHTER] I could be the babysitter when she went to work at night.
  • [00:26:30] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [00:26:31] THEKLA MITCHELL: Liberty and Misty, we lived in [inaudible] on Beakes Street.
  • [00:26:34] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. All of you were living there?
  • [00:26:36] THEKLA MITCHELL: In a one-bedroom. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:26:38] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Wow, the three of you shared a bedroom. That was a close family.
  • [00:26:44] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah, but Rhoda had been working night, so it would be the two of us. [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:26:45] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Basically, the two of you.
  • [00:26:48] THEKLA MITCHELL: [LAUGHTER] Oh, boy.
  • [00:26:56] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Your niece, what was her name?
  • [00:26:59] THEKLA MITCHELL: Louise. Betty Louise Bostick now.
  • [00:27:03] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay, so you're connected with the Bosticks?
  • [00:27:06] THEKLA MITCHELL: She's my niece, my sister's daughter.
  • [00:27:10] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. There were quite a few Bosticks in the area, right?
  • [00:27:13] THEKLA MITCHELL: I guess, Frank's mother and father and his sisters. My niece [inaudible] gone into the service. But anyway, yes, he had his sisters.
  • [00:27:31] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: You are pretty close with the Bosticks because you kept [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:27:35] THEKLA MITCHELL: The relationship. It was Louise's in-laws.
  • [00:27:42] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Right. Louise ended up having a number of children.
  • [00:27:45] THEKLA MITCHELL: Six.
  • [00:27:46] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Who grew up here in Ann Arbor.
  • [00:27:48] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:27:50] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: What was it like being a part of that family?
  • [00:27:53] THEKLA MITCHELL: I think it was nice, everybody staying in their lane. [LAUGHTER] But it was nice.
  • [00:28:08] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: What did you guys do for holidays? What was that like?
  • [00:28:15] THEKLA MITCHELL: I would celebrate, a lot of times, with Louise because she had children.
  • [00:28:23] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Right.
  • [00:28:25] THEKLA MITCHELL: I was not married, I was a single, and so we was older than Louise, then Frank [inaudible] most times after he was out of the service instead of the house with the children, and they made barbecues instead, so yeah, we did.
  • [00:28:44] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: What was memorable about Christmases together?
  • [00:28:47] THEKLA MITCHELL: It was nice. When I could, I'd go home to Arkansas. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:28:51] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay, you'd go home.
  • [00:28:52] THEKLA MITCHELL: To see my parents.
  • [00:28:54] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. I remember reading about when folks came up North and went back home. Even my parents did the same thing, but they'd always get dressed up and go home looking real good.
  • [00:29:09] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:29:11] MYLES DEAN: Driving a nice car.
  • [00:29:12] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yeah, so people knew you were doing well up North.
  • [00:29:15] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah, we were driving, but we got there.
  • [00:29:19] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yes.
  • [00:29:22] THEKLA MITCHELL: I was so happy when I could take the plane ride [LAUGHTER] from Michigan to Little Rock, Arkansas.
  • [00:29:29] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yeah, that was so much quicker. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:29:32] THEKLA MITCHELL: Then we had to take the bus from Little Rock to Newport. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:29:36] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:29:37] THEKLA MITCHELL: But it was fun.
  • [00:29:40] MYLES DEAN: What was it like the first time you got on an airplane?
  • [00:29:43] THEKLA MITCHELL: Oh, exciting. No, that wasn't right. The first trip was when I went to California, we went on the train, the three of us.
  • [00:29:55] MYLES DEAN: That was a long ride. [LAUGHTER].
  • [00:29:57] MYLES DEAN: Did you have to go to Chicago first and then change?
  • [00:30:02] THEKLA MITCHELL: We left here, Chicago. Yeah. Oh, that's been so many years ago. That was way back in the '40s.
  • [00:30:10] MYLES DEAN: Yeah.
  • [00:30:12] THEKLA MITCHELL: Three days and two nights.
  • [00:30:14] MYLES DEAN: Three days and two nights, that's a long trip. [OVERLAPPING].
  • [00:30:16] THEKLA MITCHELL: Something like that. Two nights and three days, something like that, but it was a lovely trip.
  • [00:30:21] MYLES DEAN: Did you go with your sister Wilder?
  • [00:30:24] THEKLA MITCHELL: The three of us.
  • [00:30:25] MYLES DEAN: Oh, the three of you.
  • [00:30:26] THEKLA MITCHELL: Louise, Wilder and me.
  • [00:30:27] MYLES DEAN: Louise, Wilder, okay. That was nice.
  • [00:30:31] THEKLA MITCHELL: We were going to see my brothers.
  • [00:30:35] MYLES DEAN: So you said the first time you got on an airplane, it was exciting. [LAUGHTER] You weren't scared at all?
  • [00:30:43] THEKLA MITCHELL: No. [LAUGHTER] Hey, young people back in the day, aren't they afraid? [LAUGHTER] No, it was exciting. I got to go on the airplane to Little Rock, Arkansas.
  • [00:30:58] MYLES DEAN: So when you came to Michigan and as you lived here, what kind of activities were you involved with or organizations?
  • [00:31:12] THEKLA MITCHELL: Me here?
  • [00:31:13] MYLES DEAN: In Ann Arbor?
  • [00:31:14] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah, I belonged to the Ann Arbor Civic Club.
  • [00:31:20] MYLES DEAN: Oh, tell us about that.
  • [00:31:23] MYLES DEAN: Oh, okay.
  • [00:31:24] MYLES DEAN: It was a group of ladies and we would meet once a week, go from house to house, have dinner, [LAUGHTER] had a lot of fun, and stuff. Then we started giving dinner dances. The other place is not out there anymore, it was over on, was it Maple? I'm not sure, I better leave that one alone, but we used to have dinner dances and stuff. Then, you know the first black restaurant that I went to here, his name was Smith. It ended up being Como Club. Have you ever heard of Como Club?
  • [00:32:26] MYLES DEAN: No.
  • [00:32:26] THEKLA MITCHELL: You ever hear Como Club out on Greene Street?
  • [00:32:30] MYLES DEAN: Have you heard of it [OVERLAPPING]?
  • [00:32:31] MYLES DEAN: Yes.
  • [00:32:33] THEKLA MITCHELL: It used to be a restaurant, and I can say his name was Smith. He then had his wife, a son and a daughter, and you'd get all dressed up on Sundays and go to dinner [LAUGHTER] out there. Then there was the Midway Lunch down on Ann Street.
  • [00:32:53] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:32:54] THEKLA MITCHELL: Where they sold alcohol, beer, and they also served dinner.
  • [00:33:00] MYLES DEAN: Oh, okay.
  • [00:33:01] MYLES DEAN: Where was this?
  • [00:33:02] THEKLA MITCHELL: On Ann Street.
  • [00:33:04] MYLES DEAN: Okay, Ann Street.
  • [00:33:06] THEKLA MITCHELL: Midway Lunch.
  • [00:33:07] MYLES DEAN: Midway Lunch.
  • [00:33:09] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah, Midway.
  • [00:33:09] MYLES DEAN: Midway Lunch, okay.
  • [00:33:12] THEKLA MITCHELL: Mr. Keaton, he was the owner, and his sister-in-law was named Pauline, and her husband was a city councilman or something.
  • [00:33:25] MYLES DEAN: Oh, really?
  • [00:33:25] THEKLA MITCHELL: Lived around the corner of [inaudible] in 4th Avenue.
  • [00:33:30] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:33:31] THEKLA MITCHELL: Many years ago. [OVERLAPPING].
  • [00:33:32] MYLES DEAN: [inaudible] , 4th Ave.
  • [00:33:33] MYLES DEAN: Midway Lunch. Who was Midway Lunch owned by?
  • [00:33:37] THEKLA MITCHELL: Mr Keaton. David Keaton.
  • [00:33:39] MYLES DEAN: David Keaton.
  • [00:33:39] THEKLA MITCHELL: K-E-A-T-O-N, I think.
  • [00:33:42] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:33:43] THEKLA MITCHELL: I think.
  • [00:33:46] MYLES DEAN: His wife, Pauline?
  • [00:33:48] THEKLA MITCHELL: No. That was his sister-in-law.
  • [00:33:50] MYLES DEAN: Oh, okay.
  • [00:33:51] THEKLA MITCHELL: I couldn't think of his wife's name, but that was Mrs. Keaton's sister named Pauline. But Pauline's husband was some city councilman person.
  • [00:34:03] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:34:03] THEKLA MITCHELL: Councilman, years ago.
  • [00:34:07] MYLES DEAN: So that's some of the stuff you did as a part of civic club, were there other clubs that you were involved in over the years?
  • [00:34:16] THEKLA MITCHELL: I joined after marrying your uncle, I belonged to the Eastern Stars.
  • [00:34:24] MYLES DEAN: Oh, okay. [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:34:25] THEKLA MITCHELL: I am still a paid-up member.
  • [00:34:27] MYLES DEAN: Wonderful. So did you hold any positions with the Eastern Stars?
  • [00:34:32] THEKLA MITCHELL: No, no. I was just on the star, I was Adah. If you don't know the Eastern Star, you don't know [inaudible] , but it's five points.
  • [00:34:43] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:34:44] THEKLA MITCHELL: I was one of the points.
  • [00:34:45] MYLES DEAN: Okay. What did it take to get on the point?
  • [00:34:48] THEKLA MITCHELL: Oh, no, first of all your husband, brother or father had to be a Mason.
  • [00:34:58] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:34:58] THEKLA MITCHELL: Belong to the Masonics.
  • [00:35:00] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:35:01] THEKLA MITCHELL: See that's a private organization.
  • [00:35:03] MYLES DEAN: Yes. [LAUGHTER] [inaudible] was?
  • [00:35:07] THEKLA MITCHELL: Master member.
  • [00:35:09] MYLES DEAN: He was a Master member?
  • [00:35:10] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:35:11] MYLES DEAN: Okay. What does that mean?
  • [00:35:16] THEKLA MITCHELL: He was one of the Master members. When they all joined the Masons, they all had to go through a private [OVERLAPPING].
  • [00:35:26] MYLES DEAN: Okay, inauguration [OVERLAPPING] .
  • [00:35:28] MYLES DEAN: Ceremony.
  • [00:35:29] THEKLA MITCHELL: Whatever that it take to be made.
  • [00:35:32] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:35:35] MYLES DEAN: That means his level was high.
  • [00:35:36] THEKLA MITCHELL: But anyway it's private, you can't get into the Eastern Stars either. So that's how I could have become an Eastern Star.
  • [00:35:48] MYLES DEAN: Because he was a Mason?
  • [00:35:49] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes. [OVERLAPPING] Excuse me, my brother [inaudible] was one too.
  • [00:35:54] MYLES DEAN: Oh, okay. So that you could be a Eastern Star. You said you were one of the points?
  • [00:36:00] THEKLA MITCHELL: I was on the points. You know like that star?
  • [00:36:05] MYLES DEAN: Yes.
  • [00:36:06] THEKLA MITCHELL: With that one point, and this is five points to a star, and I was only one point as Adah
  • [00:36:15] MYLES DEAN: Okay, and the Adah means what?
  • [00:36:18] THEKLA MITCHELL: It's in the Bible.
  • [00:36:20] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:36:21] THEKLA MITCHELL: You ever read the Book of Esther?
  • [00:36:24] MYLES DEAN: Oh, yes.
  • [00:36:25] MYLES DEAN: Yes.
  • [00:36:25] THEKLA MITCHELL: They tell you about the five wise women.
  • [00:36:28] MYLES DEAN: So Adah was one of the five wise women.
  • [00:36:30] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes, ma'am.
  • [00:36:31] MYLES DEAN: Well, I'm telling you [OVERLAPPING].
  • [00:36:32] THEKLA MITCHELL: Now, that's enough.
  • [00:36:32] MYLES DEAN: [OVERLAPPING] [LAUGHTER] That's okay because I know that you are a wise woman.
  • [00:36:39] THEKLA MITCHELL: No, but I'm telling you, you read the Book of Esther.
  • [00:36:44] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:36:44] THEKLA MITCHELL: You two read about it, it's in the Bible. See all this is based on the Bible. They are called the Mason in the Eastern Star.
  • [00:36:51] MYLES DEAN: From the Book of Esther? [OVERLAPPING] You're going to make me go back and read this tonight.
  • [00:36:58] THEKLA MITCHELL: It's the Book of Esther.
  • [00:37:01] MYLES DEAN: The five wise women, and Adah was one of them?
  • [00:37:05] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:37:05] MYLES DEAN: Okay. So you did the Civic Club, the Eastern Stars, those are two organizations. I've heard about the Dunbar Center. Do you know anything about the Dunbar Center in Ann Arbor?
  • [00:37:19] THEKLA MITCHELL: I was a member but it was for seniors. The one that I went to, I went on when we were seniors. I didn't go when they were younger.
  • [00:37:27] MYLES DEAN: The Ann Arbor Community Center?
  • [00:37:29] THEKLA MITCHELL: The Ann Arbor Community Center.
  • [00:37:29] MYLES DEAN: Okay, tell us about that.
  • [00:37:35] THEKLA MITCHELL: Many years ago it was called the Dunbar Center, and I don't know why, but they'd left that and they bought a building on Main Street and it's called the Ann Arbor Community Center. This is where we, the seniors would meet. We'd play games, have lunch, just socialize. It's really nice.
  • [00:38:04] MYLES DEAN: Did you take trips?
  • [00:38:06] THEKLA MITCHELL: Oh, yes. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:38:07] MYLES DEAN: What was your favorite trip that you remember?
  • [00:38:10] THEKLA MITCHELL: We went to so many different places. We went to Detroit, and I'm afraid of getting out in lots of water, but we went one day and had dinner on the Detroit River.
  • [00:38:28] MYLES DEAN: Oh, cruise ship. A cruise? A luncheon?
  • [00:38:31] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah, it was like a [OVERLAPPING].
  • [00:38:34] MYLES DEAN: A boat?
  • [00:38:34] THEKLA MITCHELL: We all went, I was shaking about being in the water, but it was so much fun. We went different places. I can't name all the places. We went different places.
  • [00:38:52] MYLES DEAN: This is through the community center activities?
  • [00:38:55] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:38:55] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yeah, the senior citizens group.
  • [00:38:57] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:38:58] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Do you remember any of the leaders of the senior citizen group?
  • [00:39:07] THEKLA MITCHELL: I can't recall the names either.
  • [00:39:09] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That's okay.
  • [00:39:12] THEKLA MITCHELL: But I'll tell you who was over there. You know Mr. Hill and Mrs. Hill?
  • [00:39:19] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yes.
  • [00:39:19] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:39:21] THEKLA MITCHELL: You now Mrs. Hill? Last I heard was she lives at Glacier Hills.
  • [00:39:25] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: She's still with us.
  • [00:39:27] MYLES DEAN: She is.
  • [00:39:27] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: She's still with us.
  • [00:39:28] MYLES DEAN: I don't know what happened to her.
  • [00:39:29] THEKLA MITCHELL: But I don't mean the hospital, I mean, live in the area.
  • [00:39:32] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Right.
  • [00:39:33] THEKLA MITCHELL: The residential area.
  • [00:39:35] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:39:35] THEKLA MITCHELL: But I guess she was a patient there one time. Wasn't she was a social worker?
  • [00:39:39] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yes, at the University of Michigan Hospital.
  • [00:39:43] MYLES DEAN: Maiden name, Louise.
  • [00:39:44] THEKLA MITCHELL: Phyllis.
  • [00:39:45] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Phyllis.
  • [00:39:46] MYLES DEAN: Phyllis, you're right.
  • [00:39:47] THEKLA MITCHELL: [LAUGHTER] Phyllis Hill. There's a lot of people. So many people and names.
  • [00:39:58] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That's okay. It sounds like you have a lot of good years here. I know that you're a big University of Michigan fan. [LAUGHTER] How did you become such a big fan of the University of Michigan, especially football?
  • [00:40:19] THEKLA MITCHELL: [LAUGHTER] Well, it started at Pioneer High because my grand nephew, he's a grand, Keith. [inaudible] was my niece, so he'd be my grand, wouldn't he?
  • [00:40:34] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Right.
  • [00:40:34] THEKLA MITCHELL: Okay. Keith Bostic , he was a football player. He was recruited and went to the University of Michigan and he played football. We would go to the games, [LAUGHTER] I got carried away. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:40:57] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: What do you mean you got carried away?
  • [00:40:59] THEKLA MITCHELL: Because we were all applauding for whatever team he was on. He was on Pioneer, and from Pioneer he played for Michigan, so I was applauding Michigan. [LAUGHTER] I'd been going with his mother and father and other family members, with the grandmother. [LAUGHTER] We'd go applauding for Keith. So that's how I became a [LAUGHTER] football fan. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:41:29] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: So Keith got you into the football business. Then Keith went on to play professional ball, did he?
  • [00:41:38] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes. He went through the Houston Oilers. I don't know how he used to play for them and then he went on to some other one, and then ended his career. But yeah, he played football for quite a few years and he lives in Texas.
  • [00:41:57] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: What kind of person was he growing up, Keith Bostic NFL? [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:42:05] THEKLA MITCHELL: Nice, quiet. [inaudible] [LAUGHTER] He was really a fan. To you. I was looking at my TV because usually it shows whose calling. [NOISE] Hello? [BACKGROUND].
  • [00:43:05] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: We can edit it out. Do you have some questions you want to ask? [BACKGROUND]
  • [00:43:14] THEKLA MITCHELL: Okay, thank you. Reminding me of my appointment Tuesday with Dr. Winston.
  • [00:43:17] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. We were talking about Keith and football and how you became a fan. Now you have some other famous young people in your family.
  • [00:43:42] THEKLA MITCHELL: You think they want me to talk about all that?
  • [00:43:45] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Absolutely. It's a part of your history. [LAUGHTER] [BACKGROUND]. It seems like they're pretty talented young men, especially. [BACKGROUND].
  • [00:44:02] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah, but I don't know.
  • [00:44:02] MYLES DEAN: Well, I do have a question. It says, tell me a little about your married life. You told me something about your family life, but tell me something about your married life, you husband. [LAUGHTER] I mean, what kind of work did he do?
  • [00:44:25] THEKLA MITCHELL: He was a carpenter.
  • [00:44:26] MYLES DEAN: Tell me where he is from. Okay.
  • [00:44:28] THEKLA MITCHELL: He was a carpenter and he was from Georgia. [LAUGHTER].
  • [00:44:40] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:44:40] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: So what else do you want to tell us about him?
  • [00:44:42] MYLES DEAN: Yeah.
  • [00:44:43] THEKLA MITCHELL: He was a nice person. Who was he? [inaudible] he was at Second Baptist Ypsilanti.
  • [00:44:57] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: He was a trustee?
  • [00:44:58] THEKLA MITCHELL: Trustee.
  • [00:45:00] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:45:01] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:45:07] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Did he have a nickname for you or anything? [LAUGHTER] Look at you blushing. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:45:17] THEKLA MITCHELL: [inaudible] a lot of people because he said child, he'd called you a child.
  • [00:45:21] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yeah.
  • [00:45:21] MYLES DEAN: A child?
  • [00:45:29] THEKLA MITCHELL: Child.
  • [00:45:30] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Chile, C-H-I-L-E?
  • [00:45:30] THEKLA MITCHELL: D. C-H-I-L-D, like your child.
  • [00:45:30] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:45:30] THEKLA MITCHELL: I was little [inaudible] [LAUGHTER] Oh, boy. [LAUGHTER] [inaudible]
  • [00:45:53] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Tell us about the McFadden boys. I'm sure people would like to know about the young man that came from Ann Arbor that were in your family, [OVERLAPPING] in addition to Keith.
  • [00:46:07] THEKLA MITCHELL: Kimario, but I don't remember the teams he played for, but he played professional football for a while, but he's not now. Then his brother, Kamil.
  • [00:46:22] MYLES DEAN: They were your great grandnephews, or?
  • [00:46:26] THEKLA MITCHELL: Great, great. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:46:27] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Great, great grand nephews.
  • [00:46:31] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:46:32] THEKLA MITCHELL: Then Kim with his daughter. Those are Kim's boys.
  • [00:46:34] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: The McFadden?
  • [00:46:40] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:46:41] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Scott McFadden, [OVERLAPPING] he's from a longtime family?
  • [00:46:45] THEKLA MITCHELL: Scott is their father.
  • [00:46:47] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Right, Kamil and Kimario?
  • [00:46:51] THEKLA MITCHELL: Kamil and Kimario.
  • [00:46:55] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: And Kamil-
  • [00:46:57] THEKLA MITCHELL: Was playing in the movies for a while.
  • [00:47:00] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: He was in Guardians of the Universe. [OVERLAPPING] He did the voice-over, and then he played in K.C. Undercover with Zendaya.
  • [00:47:16] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:47:16] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yes, and that was on television that ran for a long time.
  • [00:47:20] MYLES DEAN: I don't remember. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:47:22] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: I remember you were telling me [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:47:23] MYLES DEAN: There's some celebrities in the family.
  • [00:47:24] THEKLA MITCHELL: Too many to remember. [LAUGHTER] Kaya is a computer engineer.
  • [00:47:37] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yes.
  • [00:47:41] THEKLA MITCHELL: [inaudible] .
  • [00:47:41] MYLES DEAN: Okay. Is that what she's doing?
  • [00:47:45] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yeah, and Kim has done a wonderful thing. Kamil and Kimario's mom, she cultures other mothers on how to bring their kids into the movies and into sports.
  • [00:48:01] THEKLA MITCHELL: I don't know enough [LAUGHTER] about it.
  • [00:48:02] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That's okay.
  • [00:48:03] THEKLA MITCHELL: You try to tell [inaudible]
  • [00:48:06] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That's okay.
  • [00:48:06] THEKLA MITCHELL: I can't keep up with everything. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:48:08] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: I know, but you keep up with a lot. Is there anything else you want to tell us of that memory, or something, if you had words of wisdom.
  • [00:48:26] MYLES DEAN: Yes.
  • [00:48:27] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: What would you share with the young people today?
  • [00:48:31] THEKLA MITCHELL: Get an education. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:48:41] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [00:48:41] THEKLA MITCHELL: [inaudible] poor education.
  • [00:48:41] MYLES DEAN: Another question I also had is that, it's nice to know when people have favorite sayings. Do you have any favorite sayings, favorite poems [LAUGHTER] you'd like to repeat, or anything like that?
  • [00:48:59] THEKLA MITCHELL: I don't know. I've seen so many things. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:49:03] MYLES DEAN: Do you have any favorite sayings they used to say to you as a kid?
  • [00:49:07] THEKLA MITCHELL: Oh, boy, [LAUGHTER] I can't think.
  • [00:49:11] MYLES DEAN: What did your mother used to say?
  • [00:49:13] THEKLA MITCHELL: [LAUGHTER] I can't think, but I'm always reminded here for what momma said. Now, I can't even think.
  • [00:49:28] MYLES DEAN: You're right. [LAUGHTER] We haven't think of home.
  • [00:49:28] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yeah.
  • [00:49:28] MYLES DEAN: I [inaudible] sometimes.
  • [00:49:36] THEKLA MITCHELL: I can't [inaudible] too much of a write-up already. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:49:38] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Is there anything else you want to share with us? We thank you so much for the time that you have given us.
  • [00:49:46] MYLES DEAN: Yes.
  • [00:49:46] THEKLA MITCHELL: Thank you [OVERLAPPING].
  • [00:49:46] MYLES DEAN: Thank you. Just in this little time, you've given us so much information and interesting things. It's wonderful that you remember many names and places, and I do have a little question. What was it like living on Beakes Street, which is a Kerrytown area, between Second Baptist in Ann Arbor and Bethel AME Church. Did they have a farmer's market then and/or anything around in that area between [OVERLAPPING] Jones School and the market?
  • [00:50:26] THEKLA MITCHELL: They had a farmer's market ever when I first came here, but not near as large as it became, and I remember Jones School too.
  • [00:50:36] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:50:38] THEKLA MITCHELL: But I didn't go there, but Louise went to school with Jones. Yeah, I did.
  • [00:50:40] MYLES DEAN: The neighborhood, did you have a lot of friends in that neighborhood? When you lived on Beakes, [OVERLAPPING] did you have some friends?
  • [00:50:54] THEKLA MITCHELL: You knew in [inaudible] within that time, you go to work and back home.
  • [00:50:58] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:51:00] THEKLA MITCHELL: We walked [LAUGHTER] to the theater.
  • [00:51:04] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: On State Street?
  • [00:51:06] THEKLA MITCHELL: On Michigan and State.
  • [00:51:08] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay, on Michigan and the State theater. So do you like movies?
  • [00:51:15] THEKLA MITCHELL: I used to love it. We used to walk [LAUGHTER] in the snow [LAUGHTER] in the winter time going to the movies. The State Street one was the last one built because the Michigan theater was here before State theater. State theater was so pretty [LAUGHTER]. I was so busy. One time, looking at [inaudible] [LAUGHTER] way too much seat.
  • [00:51:49] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:51:55] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: I love the way you can laugh at yourself [inaudible] . I love that.
  • [00:52:00] MYLES DEAN: Now, the two things which is really interesting, what did you do when you worked at Cunningham's Drugs?
  • [00:52:10] THEKLA MITCHELL: I would work behind a counter, serving sandwiches, coffee, making Sundays, milkshakes, lemonade, toast and butter [LAUGHTER].
  • [00:52:28] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: I remember that Cunningham's counter.
  • [00:52:30] MYLES DEAN: I do to.
  • [00:52:31] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes, it was one of a counter.
  • [00:52:36] MYLES DEAN: Yeah. I have an older cousin. She just passed away, used to order [inaudible] crispy all the time.
  • [00:52:43] THEKLA MITCHELL: I told you, I think it's where I met [inaudible] sister.
  • [00:52:49] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [00:52:51] THEKLA MITCHELL: Do you remember, [inaudible] Bacon?
  • [00:52:57] MYLES DEAN: Yeah.
  • [00:52:57] THEKLA MITCHELL: Her sister and I, we used to work there [inaudible] ended up with [inaudible]
  • [00:53:03] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [00:53:04] MYLES DEAN: Yeah.
  • [00:53:04] THEKLA MITCHELL: [LAUGHTER] He had a sister named Corinne. Back in the day we're baking.
  • [00:53:17] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:53:20] MYLES DEAN: Wow.
  • [00:53:21] THEKLA MITCHELL: Mr. Newman, you remember the guy they used to call? Someone called him "Big Train." But he was in the television business.
  • [00:53:33] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Oh, right. Don.
  • [00:53:34] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:53:34] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Was it Don Newman? Don on TV?
  • [00:53:37] THEKLA MITCHELL: Don Newman used to work down on Main Street in the TV Police.
  • [00:53:41] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [00:53:42] THEKLA MITCHELL: I think that's when Frank Newman bought their first television.
  • [00:53:46] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Oh, really?
  • [00:53:48] THEKLA MITCHELL: They were married.
  • [00:53:49] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: [LAUGHTER].
  • [00:53:51] Don Simons: That's beautiful.
  • [00:53:52] THEKLA MITCHELL: The Newman's.
  • [00:53:53] MYLES DEAN: Yeah, and had a lot of sons.
  • [00:53:56] THEKLA MITCHELL: I know he had three. The Newman's. They all come out the father.
  • [00:54:04] MYLES DEAN: Okay. Yeah. Because Pearl Newman [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:54:08] THEKLA MITCHELL: Oh yeah. Pearl Newman did have several sons. Her husband then was in the service, Wayne.
  • [00:54:21] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:54:21] THEKLA MITCHELL: Wayne Newman. After he was out, they ended up getting married.
  • [00:54:30] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Do you remember the elks?
  • [00:54:31] THEKLA MITCHELL: [LAUGHTER] Yes.
  • [00:54:34] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Did you ever go there?
  • [00:54:35] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes. [LAUGHTER] Elks that large. [LAUGHTER] That was another entertainment beside the Midway lunch?
  • [00:54:46] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yeah. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:54:50] THEKLA MITCHELL: Right. People go up on the hill. They call it, go with the elks.
  • [00:54:56] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:54:56] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Were there many places for Black people for entertainment?
  • [00:55:01] THEKLA MITCHELL: No. Those were the only three places that I knew about.
  • [00:55:08] MYLES DEAN: Okay. When you worked at Kresge, S.S. Kresge-
  • [00:55:17] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah. I worked around counter.
  • [00:55:18] MYLES DEAN: Then you also worked at the [OVERLAPPING].
  • [00:55:20] THEKLA MITCHELL: Serving food. Did you don't know they had a guy called Pin head.
  • [00:55:24] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: [LAUGHTER].
  • [00:55:27] THEKLA MITCHELL: His Aunt was the cook.
  • [00:55:29] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [00:55:30] THEKLA MITCHELL: Wow, I almost called her name. But she's been gone for years. She was the cook. Cooking and baking [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:55:37] MYLES DEAN: At Kresge's?
  • [00:55:39] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes, and [inaudible] stayed in North University.
  • [00:55:44] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: On campus?
  • [00:55:45] Don Simons: Okay. Yeah. So the students, were they respectful to you?
  • [00:55:54] THEKLA MITCHELL: Oh, yeah. Most of them were nice. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:56:00] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Is there anything else you want to share with us? [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:56:03] MYLES DEAN: Yes.
  • [00:56:04] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: What is this like? What is this experience like for you just sitting, and thinking, and talking about your life?
  • [00:56:09] THEKLA MITCHELL: It takes me way back. [LAUGHTER] Oh Lord, way going back.
  • [00:56:18] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: First of all, you look amazing. You're beautiful. You've always been beautiful. I remember when Uncle Romie brought you home and we were like, "Oh, my goodness, she's so beautiful." You bought us the best Christmas gifts.
  • [00:56:34] THEKLA MITCHELL: I know. I used to love going shopping for kids, because see I've been used to shopping for Louise's kid. The Christmas I used to love to go shop and get something, and hide it and [LAUGHTER] wrap it up, putting somebody's name on it. [LAUGHTER] But it was so much fun. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:56:54] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yeah. When you were growing up, did you ever think that you'd live to see 99 years?
  • [00:57:03] THEKLA MITCHELL: No. I didn't even give it a thought. [LAUGHTER].
  • [00:57:07] MYLES DEAN: Have you lived longer than all of your sisters and brothers?
  • [00:57:10] THEKLA MITCHELL: No. No. I had a brother, he passed away, I think it was 2007. He was a 102.
  • [00:57:19] MYLES DEAN: Wow.
  • [00:57:22] THEKLA MITCHELL: I had a brother who was 95 when he died. My father was 93, Wilkar was 90, and then the others, they were younger. But my mother passed away at 71.
  • [00:57:38] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: You went to your brother's 100th birthday, right? In California?
  • [00:57:42] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah. I got pictures. Did I show them to you?
  • [00:57:45] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Maybe.
  • [00:57:46] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah. I got loads of pictures [LAUGHTER]. But the poor guy, he was really sick before he died.
  • [00:57:53] MYLES DEAN: Can you tell me about the photos, the older photos on the wall?
  • [00:57:58] THEKLA MITCHELL: Oh, that's my father.
  • [00:57:59] MYLES DEAN: This is your father?
  • [00:58:00] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [00:58:01] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Can I take it down?
  • [00:58:02] THEKLA MITCHELL: No. It may not go back up again.
  • [00:58:05] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [00:58:05] THEKLA MITCHELL: Frankie put those up-
  • [00:58:07] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [00:58:07] THEKLA MITCHELL: - when I first moved here. The lady in blue is my mother.
  • [00:58:11] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [00:58:13] THEKLA MITCHELL: In the green, who I never knew, is my grandmother. [NOISE] I'm not sure, but I believe she is.
  • [00:58:19] MYLES DEAN: Your grandmother did not look any older than your mother. You're young-looking.
  • [00:58:26] THEKLA MITCHELL: That's not a picture. That's a paintings, but it's made from a picture. Because way back in the day, they didn't have pictures in color. They were all in black and white. But my brother Oscar had a friend in California who was an artist, and he did that in [OVERLAPPING] a painting. [OVERLAPPING]
  • [00:58:45] MYLES DEAN: Right. I've seen it done before. It looks like a photo. It looks like a retouched photo.
  • [00:58:53] THEKLA MITCHELL: Just a painting, but I put it on in that frame. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:58:57] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: It's held up beautifully. [NOISE]
  • [00:59:02] THEKLA MITCHELL: Now they're all gone, they left me here by myself. [LAUGHTER].
  • [00:59:06] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: They left the baby by herself.
  • [00:59:08] THEKLA MITCHELL: Here's what momma used to say, "You got to learn how to work because momma may not be with you always." [LAUGHTER] I had to learn to work, they were trying to help me out, and she made them get out of the way, and I had to learn on my own. So I say it paid off. [inaudible] [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:59:38] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That's good.
  • [00:59:44] MYLES DEAN: Thank you so much for just giving us such wonderful memories of yours. I tell you, I just want to say this, and then I think my parents just thought the world of you. They just thought you were the nicest person. As a matter of fact, when I called up ready to get married, I asked my dad about it. If there's anything, just let me know because I was living in New York, but I was getting married in Ann Arbor. Even though my parents weren't together anymore, my father had remarried by that time. No he hadn't been remarried.
  • [01:00:24] THEKLA MITCHELL: I met her. The second wife?
  • [01:00:26] MYLES DEAN: Right. Yes.
  • [01:00:28] THEKLA MITCHELL: She was from Little Rock, Arkansas?
  • [01:00:30] MYLES DEAN: She was from El Dorado, Arkansas.
  • [01:00:33] THEKLA MITCHELL: Oh, okay. I knew it was Arkansas. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:00:40] MYLES DEAN: At that time he wasn't married, but it was my mother who said, "What about your dad's friend, Mr. Carpenter?" I'm like, "Oh, okay. I'll put him on the list." But I didn't think I had forgotten some people on that list [inaudible].
  • [01:01:07] THEKLA MITCHELL: [inaudible]
  • [01:01:07] MYLES DEAN: When you came to my wedding, I was so very happy to see you, so much that the next day or two after the wedding, I was sitting at my desk because we hadn't gone back to New York yet. I remember Mr. Mitchell called to tell my dad he had a great time and everything, and I was like, "I was just so glad to see Mr. and Ms. Mitchell there." I never want to forget about some of the old people that I've known for many, many years in this town. I'm so happy to get your memories down.
  • [01:01:48] THEKLA MITCHELL: Thank you.
  • [01:01:50] MYLES DEAN: You're still a great person with a wonderful personality and you're beautiful. Man, if I live to be 99, I want to grow up to be you.
  • [01:02:00] THEKLA MITCHELL: [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:02:04] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: This is really special because Uncle Romie and [inaudible] was your dad, who Uncle Romie called Tom.
  • [01:02:15] MYLES DEAN: Right. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:02:16] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: They were good buddies. They were both carpenters. It's such a pleasure to be able to sit and bring this history together, this long-term connections between you and I and Aunt Dimples, together here to just talk about the history, your history, your life. You have just been an amazing woman, and I'm so glad that you have been in my life.
  • [01:02:47] THEKLA MITCHELL: She was like seven.
  • [01:02:49] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Six years old, something like that. [OVERLAPPING] Six or seven years old then. You've just been wonderful, you and my mother, [inaudible] Mitchell.
  • [01:02:59] THEKLA MITCHELL: Boy, she was my next sister. [inaudible] lovely lady. I've got a picture of her too, you know. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:03:11] MYLES DEAN: She was.
  • [01:03:11] THEKLA MITCHELL: She was genuine. Is what they say, genuine?
  • [01:03:17] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Genuine [LAUGHTER] is what they say?
  • [01:03:19] MYLES DEAN: Her funeral, Mr. Romie's funeral, Mr. Thomas Mitchell's funeral, I went to all three.
  • [01:03:28] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Tell me about your relationship with her. You said she was your next sister.
  • [01:03:34] THEKLA MITCHELL: Well, she was. I don't know how they [inaudible] it, but we never have crossed unkind words, never, never.
  • [01:03:47] MYLES DEAN: That's wonderful.
  • [01:03:48] THEKLA MITCHELL: Every time she sees me, and you give the kind of hug your mother gives. [LAUGHTER] That woman can squeeze.
  • [01:03:55] MYLES DEAN: Squeeze it tight. [LAUGHTER] Yeah. She was such a modest lady [OVERLAPPING] and I always talked a lot of the Mitchell Family. People don't know and they don't say things enough when they know you, it's a hello and goodbye kind of thing, but I just want to say that I thought the world of the Mitchell family.
  • [01:04:28] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: You might not have known this, but my brother [inaudible] was in love with [inaudible] .
  • [01:04:37] THEKLA MITCHELL: No. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:04:40] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: My goodness. He loved [inaudible] .
  • [01:04:43] THEKLA MITCHELL: Did he?
  • [01:04:45] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yes, [LAUGHTER] he loved her. From Mr. Tom, which we called him Mr. Tom because Uncle [inaudible] called him Tom. It was just like that kindred spirit, like we were extended family, really. [OVERLAPPING]
  • [01:05:01] MYLES DEAN: Exactly .
  • [01:05:01] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Then being in the neighborhood and you went to Slauson, didn't you?
  • [01:05:06] MYLES DEAN: Yes. I went to Slauson.
  • [01:05:08] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: We all went to Slauson.
  • [01:05:11] MYLES DEAN: Then you all went to Huron.
  • [01:05:12] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yes, and you all went to [OVERLAPPING] Pioneer, which had that split. [inaudible] Go ahead.
  • [01:05:20] MYLES DEAN: I can ask you off the record.
  • [01:05:22] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: We're just talking. Go on.
  • [01:05:24] THEKLA MITCHELL: This is [inaudible] [OVERLAPPING]
  • [01:05:26] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: It's all right.
  • [01:05:26] MYLES DEAN: The area your parents are from, has just the most interesting cultural community [OVERLAPPING]
  • [01:05:45] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Whose parents?
  • [01:05:46] MYLES DEAN: Debbie's father and uncle.
  • [01:05:48] THEKLA MITCHELL: Oh, and my mother.
  • [01:05:49] MYLES DEAN: Where they're from?
  • [01:05:50] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Savannah, Georgia.
  • [01:05:51] MYLES DEAN: Yeah. In that area, in the sea islands, and all those things had such a wonderful culture that many people around here have no idea.
  • [01:06:05] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Right.
  • [01:06:07] MYLES DEAN: They'll talk about it a little bit here and there, but when I went down there and I experienced it for myself because one of my friends from Fisk lives down there, but she lives in South Carolina's side.
  • [01:06:25] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [01:06:25] MYLES DEAN: I just loved it, and I said, "I see why," and it brought me back, and I said, "I see why women visit Georgia frequently." I was telling her, I said, "There's a family, that I grew up around, that I see the culture in them now," it brought it home for me, that I was just so amazed and wish more people could experience it or learn about it. I just want to say that. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:07:18] THEKLA MITCHELL: My parents and I are [inaudible]
  • [01:07:19] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: They're not?
  • [01:07:22] THEKLA MITCHELL: No, my parents.
  • [01:07:24] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Where are they from?
  • [01:07:25] THEKLA MITCHELL: Mississippi.
  • [01:07:27] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Really?
  • [01:07:27] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [01:07:28] THEKLA MITCHELL: My parents. But I was born and raised in Arkansas. I never even been to Mississippi. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:07:34] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: You've never been in the Mississippi?
  • [01:07:35] THEKLA MITCHELL: No.
  • [01:07:37] MYLES DEAN: Your mother and father were both originally from Mississippi?
  • [01:07:41] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes. They were all Mississippians.
  • [01:07:45] MYLES DEAN: Which town? Do you remember?
  • [01:07:50] THEKLA MITCHELL: I'm not sure. Did they say Egypt? I'm not sure. I think Egypt in Mississippi, but my father's older brother came to Arkansas and that the living, I guess, seemed to be better in Arkansas.
  • [01:08:13] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Right.
  • [01:08:13] THEKLA MITCHELL: That it's worse in Mississippi, and my father and mother ended up coming too.
  • [01:08:19] MYLES DEAN: Going to Arkansas?
  • [01:08:20] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes. My older sister, I think, was born in Mississippi.
  • [01:08:24] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. Oh, wow.
  • [01:08:26] MYLES DEAN: My relatives are from Mississippi and Tennessee, many around the Memphis area or Western Tennessee, and then my father's father, we found out that he was born in Mississippi. We think his father was a white man from Arkansas. [LAUGHTER] It is like a real thing, going through his ancestry and find out why I'm from [OVERLAPPING] [inaudible] family.
  • [01:08:58] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: [LAUGHTER] Yeah.
  • [01:09:00] THEKLA MITCHELL: My father said his father didn't like white men.
  • [01:09:03] MYLES DEAN: Really? There's a lot of that though.
  • [01:09:07] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: I know. More to come. [LAUGHTER].
  • [01:09:10] MYLES DEAN: It's so nice to be able to talk to you. I have enjoyed every minute [NOISE] [OVERLAPPING] of listening to you.
  • [01:09:22] THEKLA MITCHELL: You can't get a picture of my mother and father?
  • [01:09:27] MYLES DEAN: I've enjoyed every minute of listening to your stories.
  • [01:09:31] THEKLA MITCHELL: That's my father, my mother.
  • [01:09:34] MYLES DEAN: Hopefully, you can do some things. I'd love to get an opportunity to see you again.
  • [01:09:41] THEKLA MITCHELL: I hope and pray.
  • [01:09:44] MYLES DEAN: Yes. Yes.
  • [01:09:47] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Well, thank you.
  • [01:09:48] MYLES DEAN: All right. Thank you [OVERLAPPING] for suggesting her because some of the older citizens, we forget about when we don't see them and I might [OVERLAPPING] as well. Yeah. Excellent, because [OVERLAPPING] we could let too many stories just leave and we didn't get them in. You're being able to remember names and places.
  • [01:10:16] THEKLA MITCHELL: Sometimes.
  • [01:10:18] MYLES DEAN: Well, you remembered a lot.
  • [01:10:19] THEKLA MITCHELL: [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:10:20] MYLES DEAN: A lot.
  • [01:10:21] THEKLA MITCHELL: I remembered names, yes.
  • [01:10:26] MYLES DEAN: [LAUGHTER] Yes, I'm sure.
  • [01:10:27] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Did you like The Lungs?
  • [01:10:30] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [01:10:30] MYLES DEAN: That's it.
  • [01:10:30] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes. I remember. [LAUGHTER] The Lungs, I remember when they opened that place.
  • [01:10:39] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Oh, really?
  • [01:10:39] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [01:10:40] THEKLA MITCHELL: Oh, yeah, I was here. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:10:44] MYLES DEAN: The name was Thompson too, wasn't it?
  • [01:10:46] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes. But you know, I did not know that he was not the daughter whose father was so happy he died.
  • [01:10:54] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Oh, wow.
  • [01:10:56] THEKLA MITCHELL: But it doesn't matter because I grew up. Because I used to live on Kingsley too.
  • [01:11:05] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [01:11:06] MYLES DEAN: Okay.
  • [01:11:07] THEKLA MITCHELL: His mother lived on Kingsley and come back when I say I'll be going on the barbecue place.
  • [01:11:11] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay. You bought a house. Did you buy a house on Falter?
  • [01:11:20] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [01:11:20] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That's right, because you own.
  • [01:11:22] FEMALE_1: No suitable content on emergency.
  • [01:11:23] MYLES DEAN: I remember when you lived on Falter. It was right there by Summit.
  • [01:11:26] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [01:11:27] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yes.
  • [01:11:28] MYLES DEAN: I remember that.
  • [01:11:29] THEKLA MITCHELL: The third house off of Summit. I was there when my first husband died.
  • [01:11:36] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That was a bustling neighborhood.
  • [01:11:38] MYLES DEAN: It was. Lots of children too. Now, there's not very many children living there in the neighborhood.
  • [01:11:47] THEKLA MITCHELL: In Lincoln, you believe it, you're back in the day you could buy a house for $1,000 down.
  • [01:11:55] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: A thousand dollars down? Wow.
  • [01:11:57] MYLES DEAN: Now, they cost 400,000, 500,000, 600,000, [LAUGHTER] and 700,000.
  • [01:12:01] THEKLA MITCHELL: It was back in the day. That's one thing made me [LAUGHTER] stay at the university because I have had been there long enough. I was talking on the phone for one time for someone and he told me, "You know, you don't have your house finance through the university."
  • [01:12:19] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Wow.
  • [01:12:20] THEKLA MITCHELL: They did that and they take it out of my paycheck.
  • [01:12:23] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: I didn't know that.
  • [01:12:25] MYLES DEAN: It's a lot of people [LAUGHTER] [inaudible] [OVERLAPPING] I wish they could have done it to me.
  • [01:12:29] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: I didn't know that.
  • [01:12:31] MYLES DEAN: [inaudible] [LAUGHTER] [inaudible] when you were little?
  • [01:12:37] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah. It was first financed through a bank. Then you got to put your call when you get your money back, when you switch from the bank to the university.
  • [01:12:50] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Credit union?
  • [01:12:50] THEKLA MITCHELL: Huh?
  • [01:12:51] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: The university credit union?
  • [01:12:54] THEKLA MITCHELL: No. I say, when you switch from the bank to let the university take all of your payment. You get a money back from them. I had to call them, make a down payment on your new car. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:13:08] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Oh, wow.
  • [01:13:09] MYLES DEAN: Oh, boy.
  • [01:13:10] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Is it the equity?
  • [01:13:13] THEKLA MITCHELL: I don't know. I don't remember what it's called now. But listen, it was a black lawyer named Mr. Williams here in Ypsilanti. He was in with the people who sold Pontiacs. [LAUGHTER] Brett Harman. Because the little car I had was red and white. The motor was good, but it was so rusty. [LAUGHTER] I wanted another car. He said, "Well, I know where you'll get get a car," and I said, "Where?" He said, "What kind do you like?" I said, "I like the Buick." You all know they don't see a Buick, they see Pontiacs. [LAUGHTER] He called Brett Harman and he said, "You go down there whatever day he said to go." Then I came back in a brand new car.
  • [01:14:06] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Wow.
  • [01:14:06] MYLES DEAN: Wow.
  • [01:14:06] THEKLA MITCHELL: But he's got that money from the bank there that I switched from the bank to university like my paying the down payment. [LAUGHTER] I came back with a new car. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:14:19] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: What a blessing.
  • [01:14:21] THEKLA MITCHELL: Monthly payments.
  • [01:14:22] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Yes.
  • [01:14:24] THEKLA MITCHELL: [LAUGHTER] He didn't paid for it, but he down payment.
  • [01:14:29] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That's beautiful.
  • [01:14:30] THEKLA MITCHELL: First time I own a Pontiac.
  • [01:14:35] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Then when did you start to driving Cadillacs?
  • [01:14:37] THEKLA MITCHELL: [LAUGHTER] That was in the roaming little time. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:14:40] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That's roaming little time. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:14:40] THEKLA MITCHELL: [inaudible] wanted to trade our car. I wanted the Cadillac, he told me no. We left, I was so mad. [LAUGHTER] After looking at him, he said no. [LAUGHTER] I was so mad when we look, I said, "Let's go back," and we went back. The man [LAUGHTER] came back laughing [LAUGHTER] "Is she wild?" [LAUGHTER] We got a new Cadillac. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:15:21] MYLES DEAN: You got something.
  • [01:15:21] THEKLA MITCHELL: In every cent, we then get them. Because we didn't have children. He had a son but he was an adult.
  • [01:15:29] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Right.
  • [01:15:31] THEKLA MITCHELL: By then, they were.
  • [01:15:32] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Army?
  • [01:15:34] THEKLA MITCHELL: No. [LAUGHTER] Black folks didn't [inaudible] [LAUGHTER] They didn't take black folks. If they're black folks, they had to go to the army first, [LAUGHTER] but he was here.
  • [01:15:51] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Navy?
  • [01:15:51] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yes.
  • [01:15:52] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Okay.
  • [01:15:55] THEKLA MITCHELL: Navy. [LAUGHTER] But he was an adult. We didn't have children, so why couldn't we have one?
  • [01:15:59] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Exactly.
  • [01:16:00] MYLES DEAN: That's right.
  • [01:16:02] THEKLA MITCHELL: We have been talking, he said to us one time when he was old [inaudible] like we got to guess, [inaudible] "Do you know what you're doing?" [LAUGHTER] He only looks at me. [LAUGHTER] I don't know why he'd look at me [inaudible] [LAUGHTER] I said, "Do you ever know what we can do?" I said, "But I'll tell you what, as long as we can work and I can work, we can make payments." [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:16:29] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: There you go.
  • [01:16:37] MYLES DEAN: That's right.
  • [01:16:43] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: There you go.
  • [01:16:44] THEKLA MITCHELL: [inaudible] looking at me. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:16:44] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: Can't we do this?
  • [01:16:45] MYLES DEAN: Right.
  • [01:16:45] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: That's funny.
  • [01:16:45] THEKLA MITCHELL: Oh, boy. But we had so much fun. He never was sorry about it.
  • [01:16:51] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: No. He was happy with you. He was the happiest man with you.
  • [01:16:58] THEKLA MITCHELL: God, no, we were happy with each other. [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:17:03] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: He was a good man.
  • [01:17:05] THEKLA MITCHELL: Absolutely.
  • [01:17:09] MYLES DEAN: So nice, this man [inaudible]
  • [01:17:12] THEKLA MITCHELL: [LAUGHTER]
  • [01:17:12] DEBBY MITCHELL COVINGTON: We're going to turn off this thing now.
  • [01:17:16] THEKLA MITCHELL: Yeah, you did all for me. [LAUGHTER]
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September 21, 2020

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Subjects
Farming
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Cunningham's Drug Store
Kresge's
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George's Restaurant
University of Michigan Hospital
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